Very rarely has the title of "flagship" been more deserved than it is on the Nokia Lumia 1020: it's the best Nokia phone ever made.
What Is It?
A Nokia Lumia with a giant camera bolted-on.
The 1020 packs a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 4G capabilities and a 4.5-inch 1280×768 screen with 332 ppi. It’s a gorgeous device, but the real party piece comes when you turn the phone around.
There, you’ll find a 41-megapixel PureView camera: technology we thought could only belong in a lab, let alone on a phone you can slip easily into your pocket. The camera is the 1020′s main event, and boy is it quite a trick.
That. Freaking. Gorgeous. Camera. That is the best thing about this phone.
Just look at these image tests. They speak for themselves.
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Nokia Lumia 1020
Samsung Galaxy S4
Nokia Lumia 925
The Lumia holds its own against even the best Android camera, which in our opinion is still the Galaxy S4. Android cameras wish they could snap like this. Here's hoping the new Sony Xperia Z1 comes out to give it a run for its money.
The Lumia name means quality, and that hasn't slipped on the 1020: you get a solid, sturdy device that won't quit. Strangely, the 41-megapixel doesn't add that much weight to the device when you hold it, but it can't be described as comfortable to hold or carry around. We'll get to that.
The software under the hood is still the same Windows Phone 8 that we've all come to love, with a few tweaks above your average Lumia. Because it's a high-end mobile shooter, the Lumia 1020 comes with a few Pro-branded apps, including the incredible Lumia Pro Camera app.
Snapping a shot on the 1020 with the new Lumia Pro Camera app is unbelievably good. With it, you can adjust any of the settings you like before grabbing your snap, like the ISO, exposure, brightness compensation, flash and focus light control. You even get a nifty slider for manual focus, although macro shots do leave a bit to be desired.
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You'll get more than a day of battery on the Lumia 1020 when using it just as a phone, but be mindful that using the huge camera sucks power. If you plan on going out to do a long day of shooting, you can grab a brilliant case accessory that turns the phone into a compact shooter. The shooter case also includes a secondary battery to keep you charged throughout the day. Incredible.
While the camera is good, we wouldn't call it perfect. For example, in over half the shots the 1020 dumps an inordinate amount of yellow into the image. Check this peacock photo for example...
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Samsung Galaxy S4
This image was shot on a completely white background and still yellow persists in the image where very little was present. You can fix that up in post or by tweaking the white balance in the Lumia Pro Camera app, but on a 41-megapixel camera, you'd kind of expect them to sort that out before shipping.
On a design note, the phone won't lie flat on its back thanks to the camera jutting out of the rear. You shouldn't expect it to with a camera sensor that large, but it's worth getting a screen protector for flipping it on its front on flat surfaces, or just looking after it a little better when you go to put it down.
Curiously, the camera makes quite a noise when you're using it. Various clicks and buzzes. Nokia knows this and has included a little card in your box that informs you of the noise and tells you why. Apparently it's because the optical image stabilisation gear works by floating the lens on ball bearings to compensate for motion. Interesting.
Also, there's literally no reason this thing doesn't have a microSD card slot. When camera files are this big (>3MB per file uncropped), it needs one.
Finally, (and I know we say it on every Windows Phone 8 review) we're still on ecosystem lacking a few apps in Lumia-land.
Should You Buy It?
Absolutely. It's the best Windows Phone 8 device on the market right now.
Nokia has balanced the best of both worlds by straddling a phone and camera, and as a result, has ended up with ahigh-end fixed-lens compact camera with a mobile antenna. It's more portable and takes better quality pictures than a Galaxy Camera, and it's a beautiful phone to boot.
It's a tad expensive if you're not going to be using it for shooting all the time, but if you're a camera enthusiast who loves a great-looking smartphone, why not buy the device that does both incredibly well?
Bottom line: this is the best phone Nokia has ever made.