Nokia Lumia 1020 Australian Review: The Best Lumia Yet

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.

What's Good?

That. Freaking. Gorgeous. Camera. That is the best thing about this phone.

Just look at these image tests. They speak for themselves.

Click here for the uncropped Lumia 1020 images on Dropbox

Click to enlarge..

Nokia Lumia 1020

Samsung Galaxy S4


Nokia Lumia 925

iPhone 5

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.

Click to enlarge...

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.

What's Bad?

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...

(Click to enlarge...)

Lumia 1020

iPhone 5

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.


    Got the 925 so unable to get this now

      Well not really.

      You're free to do whatever you want. Sell your 925 and buy this, cut off youer contract and pay ti out and get this.

      Or you can just buy this and have 2 phones. We live in Australia, you're able to do what you want with your phone situation if you're willing to spend.

        Actually, you can do whatever you want in your mobile situation as long as you are willing to spend.

    It might be the best Lumia yet, but it's still average compared to a lot of existing handsets already out.

    Last edited 09/09/13 1:52 pm

    When will we stock it in Australia? I've been waiting for this since day one.

      I think it's 17th of September.

      Last edited 09/09/13 1:20 pm

    Should You Buy It? Absolutely.

    I think not.
    WP8 is less supported than other OSes. It is not that clear if Microsoft will update it when a new version of the OS comes up. It is nice for a phone to be able to take photos, but taking photos is less important than making phone calls and browsing the Internet.; I dislike this over emphasis on the camera.

      Less Supported than the other OS's? Are you nuts? Do you think just just spent around $7B dollars (Buying Nokia....) on something that they are going to abandon any time soon?! That purchase guarantees that Windows are in the phone market (and every other portable computing market) and in it for the long haul. Looking forward to the Lumia Surface!

      As for the Lumia 1020 it is basically a great phone (Lumia 925) with an awesome camera on it. Not for everyone but certainly for those that like themselves a great phone with a great camera.

        Remember the Kin? or Windows Phone 7? I'm not seriously suggesting for a second that Windows Phone 8 is going to be abandoned, but its only fair to point out that Microsoft have done this to consumers before. Windows Phone 7 was the worst as they shafted their most loyal early adopters of their brand new OS.

        A few other minor quibbles - While the camera on the 1020 is undoubtedly superb, it takes a bit more work to get excellent photos out of it than your standard smartphone camera (be prepared to take more time on composition and post processing than usual). The strange white balancing issue has been reported in several reviews (hopefully this is addressable with a software update). And finally the speed at which is takes photos can be limiting at times. Its certainly understandable, given it has to process such a huge image, but I would still find the slow speed annoying when I just want to take a few quick shots of something. I know there's a separate basic app to take rapid-fire successive 5mp shots, but who is going to open that rather than the fully featured ProCam app? (they really need to build a fast 5mp option into the ProCam app itself).

        It should also be mentioned that in order to access the full resolution images from outside the Procam app, you need to connect it to your PC (3rd party apps can only access the down-sampled 5mp pictures). And speaking of apps, that's the only reason I have no interest in this device. I realise not everyone needs or wants access to the best range of apps, but I certainly do, and WP8 is light-years behind the competition in that regard (especially if you use a lot of Google services). If this was running Android I'd pick it up in a heartbeat, but with Nokia now sold to MS I think its time I kissed that dream goodbye :)

          well interesting comment
          Its funny that the same naysayers who could not live without instagram as the
          overriding issue.
          now have the best camera in the market and instagram?

          I think I need my waders as the BS is getting a bit deep.

          If you don't like it personally then say that but nitpicking with an agenda
          is childish.

      The updates question is a valid concern

      But I doubt it will be the same situation as the shift from WP7 to WP8 though, that shift was to move the phone os onto the same kernel as Windows 8, and from now on they will share that same base, which should result in better support moving forward.

      As for the emphasis on the camera, that is exactly what this phone is about, its like that Galaxy S4 Zoom or whatever its called, if you want a Lumia that doesn't put an emphasis on the camera, then get a 925

    I hate to say it but the overall the photos of the one year old iPhone 5 look equal or better than the Lumia 1020 photos. What's more the interface of the Lumia seems interesting in first place but impractical as a snapshot camera.

    I also expect Apple to further improve their camera in what ever phone they'll be releasing tomorrow so most of these samples will need to be updated to give a real comparison.

      You'd have to use it before saying its interface is 'impractical'. I've got the Nokia Pro software on my L920 after getting the amber/gdr2 update, and it is absolutely amazing, the manual controls are boss and the pictures I can now take with my 920 are even better than what it could take originally prior the update, and better than any other point and shoot camera's ive ever owned.

      I also expect Apple to further improve their camera in what ever phone they'll be releasing tomorrow so most of these samples will need to be updated to give a real comparison.

      Every single year people with iPhones are saying this...
      but wait until the next one, it will be better...
      the fact is... IT ISN'T!
      some VERY slight changes to the apple phones and people rave on about them...

      I have used both, and, the iPhone feels like a toy, it really does, its a jack of all trades, master of none.
      well, maybe not a jack of all trades as there are a few things that it can't do very well at all, or even at all.

      today the others are shyt compared to the 1020
      that's the facts -
      When new stuff is released then a new review?

      I hope they all do keep leap-frogging each other ... its good for everyone.

      don't be a sore loser.

    Well lets hope its more reliable than the 920. After 3 phones all returned for lock ups and freezes 2-3 times a day I changed to HTC. Which is a shame because the 920 was a nice phone.

      I feel for you mate. Only reason I replaced my first phone was the rattling noise of the OIS was ridiculously loud when vibrate was set to on, replacement phone was alot more toned down. Mine has probably frozen once, and restarted a few times during the first few months I had the phone, but the updates have ironed them out, now its a solid toy :D

    @tom99, cannot see how you reach that conclusion re images!!

    As a reference look at this

    The iPhone5 or whatever iPhonex is released this year or - probably - next year will still not approach the imaging capability of the Lumia 1020.

    At least Nokia is trying to get something different out there. We should applaud that a manufacturer is trying something different (no one is anywhere near 41 megapixels). Otherwise, the S4 (or any other Android phone) is no different to the iPhone - good camera, good apps, can call and receive calls. Ho-hum.

    This goes for the people who really like to take photos with their phone - I know a lot of people who do that. Remember that a lot of people ridiculed the Note's size, and look where the market is now. So good for Nokia - at least you're not doing a "me too".

    Dammit, I'd given up on WP8 and was tossing up between the GS4 and the One, then the LG Optimus G came on the scene, and now this. Grr.

    Guys I just thought I'd share (again) my flickr page. Why? Well it's 99% Nokia 808 pictures, which is the prelude to this Lumia 1020. Nokia 808 packs the SAME 41 megapixel camera but arguable is implemented far far better. BUT.... the Nokia 808 is packing Symbian not Win. For me it's not a deal breaker, I can take great pics, make calls, txt, email and use satnav all fine (in fact a better experience than my old S2. Also the 1020 doesn't have the same features as 808, bear this in mind.
    Anyway... never ever rely on a gizmodo for a review of a phone like this, go to dpreview for a proper review.

    And here's my Flickr Page;

    I'm also guessing the user of the camera doesn't know how to take a macro with this camera. Luke, try holding the subject about 15cm from lens, then use zoom in, focus and snap. If it's anything like 808 it will produce decent macro's/bokeh effect like these;

    Last edited 09/09/13 6:56 pm

    A smart phone is only as good as its apps, and windows phone does not have the ones I use.

    I'll Stick to my HTC One

      Just out of interest what apps do you use that you cannot get on the WP marketplace?

        I use windows phone and it is lacking on the app front. The great absence of google apps is the only sore point for me but aside from that, I think one of the worst things is that background processes only run once every 30 minutes. This makes clock live tiles, etc, not all that live.
        If 8.1 does nothing to address this problem, I think it will be a major issue that keeps developers away.

    Windows Phone - Dead.
    Nokia - Deader than Windows Phone.
    Enjoy your very soon to be completely orphaned but super expensive handset.

      Hey Steve,
      Windows phone is far from dead. It has a growing user base, some exciting prospects over the next few years (merging base with windows RT) and in some European markets, it is even beating the iPhone.
      Even though in Australia it has a virtually non existent market share, don't be a dick who judges a platforms worth based upon your own singular market. Half the reason it is getting a raw deal is because of US based tech blogs writing about it's mediocre market share in their own backyard.
      I'm an android dude who decided to have a go with windows phone and it is seriously not too bad at all. If it gets some major players developing more apps for it, it will soon be approaching Apple market share levels easily in the next few years.
      The problem is that if that doesn't happen and 8.1 does not deliver anything decent, I will then concede it is going the way of Blackberry.

    "Nokia Lumia 1020 Australian Review: The Best Lumia Yet"

    I'm glad it's better than the previous models.... I'd be worried if it wasn't....

    If only it came on an Android

    can i just update,
    I have had the 1020 for 2 weeks now, and compared to the 920, its a totally different phone.

    it is soo much better, better build quality, much brighter screen, and the camera is amazing!

    app support? yeah, not all apps are there, BUT with what there is, i'm happy, i don't have 30 fart sound apps anymore, but who cares.

    I have the Sony Xperia Z1, the hardware goes well. I changed from a 4S to it and yes I regret it whilst Andriod undoubtedly has a lot of apps you need them to configure a good experience. It just lacks integration, install new launchers, messaging apps, configure everything to try and get it good, I may as well work for google.

    Now I am stuck, considering getting a windows phone I like the quality of this phone but don't really want a hulking camera out the back. Is there a phone like this without the camera?

    Microsoft is looking to integrate its mobiles, surface, xbox and laptop/PC's to integrate the home and looks and sounds like they are gaining market share.

    The only google apps I use are gmail and google+ both available on the web if no apps available.

    Trying to get Telstra to let me return the Z1 hopefully.

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