Nokia Lumia 1020: A Great Camera In A Real Phone

Nokia Lumia 1020: A Great Camera In A Real Phone

Phones in cameras so good now. Sort of. They’re good when you compare their output to the smudgy, iffy images we put up with so many years, but an S95 can still blow them out of the skies. Maybe that changes with the Nokia Lumia 1020, which we’ll meet today.

The camera is 41 megapixels, and according to leaked photos found on Flickr it will have a f/2.2 aperture. That’s down from f/2.4 on the PureView 808, which was the first Nokia camera with a 41MP camera. It shoots in 16:9 or 4:3. Like the PureView 808, it simultaneously saves a 5MP oversampled image that will be super sharp. The 1020 takes the oversampling tech to video too.

It will be an AT&T exclusive “for now”. (Ugh.) It will be out July 26 for $US300 (on a 24-month contract). Pre-orders start July 16. Global announcements will be made “this quarter”. Colours are yellow, white and black.

Nokia’s making a big deal about zoom, so here’s a quick explanation of how its tech works. Because it shoots so many pixels on the 41MP sensor, it doesn’t have to lose any actual “pixels” when it zooms in, it can go to 6x zoom by just cropping down on the original image taken (sort of like how the D4’s 1080p crop mode works).

The way to think of it is that the full, unzoomed images actually throw out a bunch of data. You know how Apple’s retina method sends four pixels to populate what used to be one pixel? The PureView sensor, more or less, does the same thing, so it’s sending that “retina” packet to a non-retina screen. But that data’s all there, and so you can “zoom” in and access the data that would have been lost otherwise. The 1020 saves the “oversampled”, smaller image (which has lost some data), but also saves the full file so you can zoom all around the image and zoom wherever you want later on.

The 41MP sensor also has the optical image stabilization of the 920 and 928, which required totally retooling the stabilisation rig. It uses a series of ball bearings around the sensor now.

The phone is styled the same as other Lumia phones, in coloured polycarbonate, but it’s got a large, circular area on the back that houses the camera. It looks fine looking at it up on the screen, actually, but we’ll see what it looks like in person soon.

There’s also a new camera app, called Nokia Pro Camera. It gives you easier access to manual settings, like manual focus, exposure, ISO, shutter speed and other controls. There’s a dial on the right side that you can set to any setting, and slide with your thumb. It looks pretty awesome in the demo. You can even do stuff like set a long exposure and light paint with a phone — a trick that’s typically more of a thing you’d associate with a DSLR.

There’s a new SDK to make lens apps for Lumias too. Early ones include CNN, Vyclone, Yelp, Foursquare, Pinterest, Hipstamatic and other stuff.

The original PureView 808, despite running Cretaceous era Symbian software, has amassed a fiercely loyal following, just from having a damn good camera in a (mostly) reasonably sized and stoutly built phone. Seriously, it’s one of the most popular camera phones on Flickr, which demonstrates that 1) it’s that well loved, and 2) people who care enough about photos to put phone pics on Flickr use this thing. The 1020 should be just as good, with a slight improvement to the lens, and the optical image stabilisation of the Lumia 920 and 928. So really, it’s a DBZ fusion dance phone of the Lumia 928 and the PureView 808, both of which we like quite a bit.

We’ll have to wait until we hold the phone in the flesh, and see how it compares with the high-quality point-and-shoots out there, but in theory at least this should be interesting.

Here’s what else we think we know about today’s announcement. The Lumia 1020, which runs Windows Phone 8, will reportedly have a 4.5-inch AMOLED screen at 1280×768 resolution (same as the Lumia 928). Hopefully it will have the crisper screen found on the 928, which sort of blows away the 920, even though they’ve got the same specs.

There’s also a snap-on “camera grip” case that doubles as an external battery pack for $US80. The flash for still images is the same wonderful Xenon flash we saw on the 928.

Other rumoured specs include a 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon chip, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

Nokia is also talking about its Here Maps and some more interactions that you can do, a lot with augmented reality, and it really does look cool. Unfortunately, we’ve found Here to be populated with incomplete, not very current data about locales, even around high-traffic areas. The good news at least is that all the Lumia phones will get all the Here features.

We’re at the launch event live, so we’ll have more details as they’re announced.