Nokia Lumia 1020, we thoroughly tested its 41 Mpix camera

Nokia Lumia 1020, we thoroughly tested its 41 Mpix 1 camera

This article tries to answer the question that (inevitably) arises when meeting the Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone : Does a mobile phone that have a 41 Mpix camera make you no longer need another camera at all? To know all the features of this smartphone I recommend that you read, if you have not already done so, this excellent analysis of the Nokia Lumia 1020 previously published on .

Nokia Lumia 1020 vs "real" cameras

Among photography fans there is a kind of tribe, of which I am a part for better or for worse, who like to take photos but are also very attracted to cameras, lenses and accessories themselves. We enjoy the "apparatus" necessary to take photos. This has a danger and that is that, in search of the perfect camera, the ideal lens or the essential accessory, you end up spending more time testing cameras and lenses than taking photos itself . A very real danger, believe me.

Those who are passionate about photography and especially about “photographic gadgetry” almost unanimously consider that the cameras of mobile phones or smartphones are practically a joke. There are very prestigious photographers who get upset when pictures taken with mobile phones are mentioned to them. They believe that, for them, what comes out of a mobile cannot be considered photography. I fear that the present we are witnessing, and not even the future that is about to arrive, is going to run over them like a steamroller. But that is another story. I don't want to lose sight of the amazing technological marvel that is the subject of this article.

A phrase that is also said a lot among photography fans, and that aims to put some sanity in the endless search for the perfect photographic equipment is this: " the best camera is the one you carry with you ." That is, a camera, no matter how good it may be, is of little use if the photographic occasion arises suddenly and finds us without our super-camera on top, surely stored at home and with nothing at hand with which to capture that moment that is presented. before our eyes. Obviously finding ourselves face to face with an important moment and not having a camera available can be a small misfortune.

And this is where mobile cameras come in and the change brought about by smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 1020 . Until now, a “serious” or aspiring photographer, given that it is not always possible to carry a large camera, had to settle for one of two options: carry a high-quality compact or bridge, or simply give up capturing those unforeseen photos.

The new generation redefines the rules of the game

That is changing a lot. We are witnessing the launch of a new generation of mobile phones with quality cameras, such as this Nokia Lumia 1020 , the Sony Xperia Z1 , the LG G2 smartphone or the cross between a mobile phone and a Samsung S4 Zoom camera as the most prominent examples. Each one contributes its own solutions to the challenge of taking good photos with a mobile phone, although all agree on equipping a sensor with many megapixels. Coincidentally following the path compact cameras traveled before.

We are going to briefly review the set of technical decisions that these Nokia mobile rivals employ because I think they illustrate the situation very well. LG , Samsung and Sony include sensors 13, 16 and 20.7 megapixels respectively. And in the case of the Sony and Samsung models, its sensor is the same physical size as most compact cameras, and therefore higher than the usual one in mobile phones. The physical size of the LG sensor is somewhat smaller. Additionally, LG and Samsung models also have an optical stabilizer on the lens.which, in LG and Sony smartphones, are also very bright .

As you can see, they all contribute very interesting things, but none of them include them all. Well, none except the protagonist of this article: Nokia Lumia 1020 . It has a sensor of no less than 41 megapixels , a physical size similar to that of the bridge cameras , halfway between the compact and the APS-C reflex. It also has an extremely bright lens signed by none other than  Carl Zeiss and equipped with optical stabilization . Of course, it can be said that, on paper, it has it all.

An almost infinite sensor

What is most striking is that brutal 41 Mpix resolution , although dosed in a different way than what we are used to, because not all of them will end up being part of your photos, it depends on the aspect ratio with which you configure the camera .

This huge sensor 7.712 "‰ í -" ‰ 5,360 points are effective 34 Mpix (7.712 "‰ í -" ‰ 4,352 pixels) making photos with the 16: 9 format of flat TVs and 38 Mpix (7.136 "‰ í - ”‰ 5,360 pixels) in photos with the 4: 3 aspect ratio of lifelong televisions. To understand it, think that the sensor is a size larger than any of the photos you can take with it. The chosen format will take advantage of the entire width of the sensor or its entire height, but not both at the same time.

This, which may seem like a disadvantage, seems to me much better than the usual option, which consists of the sensor having the most square format, generally 4: 3 and the 16: 9 photos are a crop on it, which in the end you want say they have fewer actual pixels than desirable.

First you take the photo, then you choose the zoom

And what is the purpose of incorporating a 41 megapixel sensor in a mobile? What to do next with such large photos? Well, this is the main novelty that the Lumia 1020 brings . It seems that in order to avoid a bulky lens, but still having zoom (up to 3x), Nokia engineers have "simulated" the effect of a zoom "wasting" megapixels.

The system is as follows: first the photo is taken with the fixed focal length which is 25mm in 16: 9 format and 27mm in 4: 3 format and, after the photo has been taken , with it on the screen, that is when You can zoom the touch screen and crop the part of the photo that you want to keep. It sounds a bit weird, but it works really well, as you can see in the photos below.

Vertical landscape

This is a photo taken without any complications from a high floor to a scene not especially aesthetic but with many details and with the sun entering from the side. What is impressive is the level of detail that the tiny lens of this smartphone can capture. It should be remembered that vehicles such as the one in the extension were moving and that the lettering on the side can be read quite well. And, above all, that it is a photo taken with a smartphone camera. The kind that fits in a pocket.

The reflections that sneak into the photo, which is known as flare, are nothing to rave about, but that, in my opinion, hardly detracts from what the sensor of the Nokia Lumia 1020 is capable of capturing . Below you have another image where we put the sensor in trouble with the sun and the surprising results it offers.Horizontal landscape

This photo, shot shortly before the previous one, has the sun entering practically from the front, at a very annoying angle, despite which the camera of the Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone does a great job with the rest of the elements of the photo. Although they are not wonderfully exposed, the automatic mode manages to respect a good exposure for many of them. A very representative case is that of the graffiti on the wall at the bottom right of the photo. It is quite well exposed despite the camera having to juggle the sun coming in from the top left.

Smartphone + apps = photo camera

Accustomed to photography with “big” cameras, I can assure you that I was very surprised by the quality that the camera of this smartphone is capable of offering. Much. Regarding the operation of the camera of any smartphone, it is convenient to clarify one point, everything they do as cameras they do through apps. And to take photos it includes several apps, each of which is a slightly different camera.

Let's say you share a sensor, lens and screen but the intelligence of the camera varies a bit from one to the other. With each app, the camera of a smartphone, and this one in particular, behaves like a camera that had a different firmware. They share all the mechanics, but the brain that makes the decisions is not the same.

The photographic applications included in this smartphone are:  Nokia Pro CamNokia Smart CamPanoramaCamera and, to expand their possibilities,  Nokia Cinemagraph and  Creative Studio . The one that takes advantage of all its possibilities as a camera is the first, Nokia Pro Cam , which can be used in automatic mode without further complications but which, if you wish, lets you choose many parameters of the shot. It doesn't quite reach the same level as the controls on a high-end compact, but it comes very close. Very much.

The Nokia Smart Cam and Cinemagraph apps are designed to take photos with curious effects and share them with your friends and family. Panorama is used for that, to make panoramas and Camera is the traditional  Windows Phone application . If you allow me a tip, use Nokia Pro Cam in automatic mode and avoid the Camera app at all costs . And regarding the other two, surely you will play with them the first days and then you will not open them again. The Creative Studio appIt will help you to make simple retouching, you can save a nondescript photo by introducing a blur or color effect. You will not use it every day, but you will appreciate that it is there when you need it.

Don't leave home without Nokia Pro Cam

If you are interested even very little in photography, you will only use Nokia Pro Cam . In fact, I recommend that you configure the Nokia Lumia 1020 so that this is the photography app that is activated when you press the button on the right side that acts as the shutter-release button. And this reminds me that I haven't told you about the fire button yet. As you get used to it, you forget the touch button on the screen as  the physical button behaves like a regular camera and  activates the autofocus when half pressingand it only takes the photo when we press it fully. What's more, if you acquire the additional grip that gives it a real camera shape and expands its battery, you will have at your fingertips a larger button and almost indistinguishable from that of a compact camera. It looks cumbersome but it is very effective. At the very least, ask to test it the day you test the phone.

Regarding the controls that Nokia Pro Cam allows to operate , these are its main features:  automatic white balance or with four predefined valuesautomatic or manual focusautomatic or manual sensitivity between ISO 100 and ISO 4000automatic or manual shutter between 1 / 16,000s and 4 seconds; exposure compensation up to +/- 3 EV ; exposure bracketing +/- 0.5 EV, +/- 1 EV, or +/- 2 EV;  shot timer or  automatic face detection . The  xenon flash can be set to automatic mode, activated, deactivated and  focus light it can also be activated or deactivated at will.

I don't know about you, but they would seem like a very respectable series of specifications to me if we were talking about a compact camera with aspirations, but they are those of a mobile camera!

Photos too big?

And how is a smartphone capable of "moving" photos of almost 40 Mpix? Here again the witty Nokia engineers have found a curious solution. Nokia Lumia 1020 is configured by default to save two copies of each photo , one with all the resolution it is capable of and a 5 Mpix “thumbnail” . If you don't make any changes to the photo, they will both be the same image.

If, after taking the photo, you enlarge it to cut out part of it, that is, to zoom back, the 5 Mpix image will be the one in this cutout. The high resolution one will continue as you took it. Thus, if you regret the crop, by clicking on the crop icon in Nokia Pro Cam again , you can go back to working on the original image. Look at this example. This photo of a work table is centered on a bottle of water. In the crop you can see the real quality that the camera has captured.

Table detail photo

The smartphone treats these two images as one , the interesting thing is that the image that you will share with everyone is the 5 Mpix image and that, only if you connect the phone to your computer will it be possible to extract the two images, the large one and the 5 Mpix. The truth is that, for almost any use, you will not miss having the 40 Mpix image directly, but it will be interesting to access it to know the true quality of the camera.

Of course, nothing to move the big image over WiFi or another system that we are so well used to today. Here the Nokia engineers have not excelled since you can only extract the images at full resolution when you connect the Nokia Lumia 1020 with a USB cable to a computer . It seems something little thought within such a well combined set. I imagine some later firmware update will fix it.

You can configure the Nokia Lumia 1020 to only save the 5 Mpix image, but then all this will not work and you can only use it as a phone with a 5 megapixel resolution camera. The zoom (a posteriori) will be available but with much lower quality than that shown in the test photos. Unless you have big storage problems, I recommend that you leave it configured to save the two photos. The possibilities it offers you are enormous. And it can be said that they are the ones that give meaning to the camera of this mobile.

As a summary I dare to say that Nokia have managed to do a small miracle. In a smartphone that on the outside does not seem to have an unusual camera, they have incorporated photographic capabilities that bring out the colors of any other smartphone and many mid-range compact, if not all. Obviously it cannot replace a bridge camera, much less a digital SLR, but in return it will always be in your pocket. It is like thinking about it.