Nokia Lumia 1020 hands-on review

Nokia's eye-dazzling 41MP smartphone has landed and we've had a chance to get hands, and more importantly, eyes on its best bits – is this the smartphone to kill the compact camera?
Nokia Lumia 1020 main

Nokia Lumia 1020 main

Nokia just launched the Lumia 1020, and as soon as the the stage lights dimmed on Stephen Elop’s dazzling white shoes, Stuff was hot-footing it to the hands-on area to get up close and personal with what’s billed as a “game-changing” camera phone.

Build quality

nokia lumia 1020 samsung galaxy s4 comparison

nokia lumia 1020 samsung galaxy s4 comparison

Nokia Lumia 1020 rear

Nokia Lumia 1020 rear

nokia lumia 1020 samsung galaxy s4 comparison white

nokia lumia 1020 samsung galaxy s4 comparison white

The Lumia 1020 has a polycarbonate unibody, much like existing Lumia devices, and it feels comfy in your hand despite the rather large size; the edges are pleasingly curvy and there are few unsightly seams or breaks in the “flow”. The phone is a wee bit top-heavy due to the camera unit, which protrudes slightly, but that’s entirely forgiveable given what it’s housing.

Camera

Nokia Lumia 1020 camera

Nokia Lumia 1020 camera

Nokia Lumia 1020 camera app

Nokia Lumia 1020 camera app

While we got a chance to play with the much-vaunted 41MP Pureview camera, Nokia wouldn’t allow us to take our photos away with us to look at in more detail. But going by our on-screen zoom-in sessions, images are gloriously clean and clear – at least by phone camera standards. We took our shots indoors, in decent but not amazing light. When viewing them back, we had to zoom in a long way before noise became too apparent.

Zoom reinvented

Coming to the Nokia Lumia 1020 launch it was obvious from the "zoom reinvented" titled invite that the 41MP camera would offer, well, zoom. But the ability to shoot, zoomed in, then afterwards zoom not only further in but back out again is lifestyle changing.

It means you won't have to worry about framing a shot right, or zooming in to get what you want. Just whip the 1020 out, point, and shoot – then zoom and crop afterwards. It's clearly something Nokia has intelligently recognised as a problem in today's snap-and-go culture – and fixed.

Pro camera app

nokia lumia 1020 pro camera app

nokia lumia 1020 pro camera app

The Pro Camera App may not be used by everyone, but it’s useful to have on board for those that fancy themselves the next, er, Rankin or something. The fact that you can manually focus may be something of a gimmick (tap to focus works just fine) but seeing the depth-of-field shift as you move your finger down the slider is still pretty cool.

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The Screen

nokia lumia 1020 zoom

nokia lumia 1020 zoom

The 1280x768 resolution screen isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind compared to the sharper displays found on the likes of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, but it’s easy on the eyes nonetheless. Like other high-end Lumias the screen is fashioned from lovely curved glass.

Augmented reality

Foursquare app

Foursquare app

The augmented reality part of Nokia's HERE Maps has been updated with pin and pause options. That means you can hold the phone up to find an area, hit pause, and bring the phone back down before clicking into a site. It's a simple but necessary update, as is the ability to pin certain search types, like restaurants only, to your home screen for instant augmented reality checks of nearby eateries.

Verdict

nokia lumia 1020 grip

nokia lumia 1020 grip

The Lumia 1020 has an amazing camera for a smartphone – there’s little doubt in our mind that it’s better than cheap point-and-shoots and another nail in their coffin. As a smartphone, our initial impression is that it’s much the same as the Lumia 925 and other Nokia Windows phones. But the camera is the thing that could not only boost Windows Phone and Nokia, but shake up the camera world like never before.

Want a list of hardcore specs? See the table at the bottom of this article