Aug. 17--I'm a fan of Windows Phone. The live tiles Microsoft cooked up are, at
least for smartphones, a useful, fun and unique way to navigate through your
But sales have been lagging behind iOS and Android. Microsoft and Nokia need to do something to get people's attention on the platform.
Well, how does a 41-megapixel camera grab you?
Yes, the Lumia 1020 sports a camera capable of capturing an utterly ludicrous number of pixels at once. Even most high-end SLR cameras don't reach that figure.
Naturally I had to try this out, and I was able to borrow AT&T's version.
For the most part, the Lumia is shaped like all the others, with its signature rounded sides and bright body colors. But there's a big difference -- the lens juts out of the body. It's less than a quarter of an inch, but it doesn't blend well with the rest of the body and makes the phone just slightly uncomfortable to hold.
The Windows Phone operating system doesn't vary much from model to model, and that's still the case here. You'll get the same animated live tiles that automatically give you new information or shift through photos on your phone or social networks.
Everything runs smoothly, web pages pop up quickly and apps run without a hint of hitching or slowdown. It's a solid phone. But that's not what I'm here to write about.
The phone not only sports a beefier camera, it has photo software more advanced than the stock Windows Phone app. The Nokia Pro Cam app gives you tighter control over things like white balance, shutter speed and other options you'd usually find in cameras more advanced than point-and-shoot. Despite the added complexity, the single swipe menu for all the options was easy to use.
Yes, you can set everything to automatic if you'd like, and you can even still use the stock Windows Phone camera app if you'd like -- but it only takes pictures with about 5 megapixels.
I asked World Photo Editor Christopher Smith what he thought about the camera's capabilities, and he was floored by the amount of details it produces. You can zoom into pictures almost endlessly and they'll still have an incredible amount of detail. Even the pictures I took with the camera looked great, and I'm a horrible shot.
Yet he felt the general tone of the pictures wasn't quite as strong as a dedicated SLR camera. Keep in mind that modern cameras are about much more than megapixels. There's a number of factors, such as light processing capabilities and software, that can have a bigger effect on photo quality than just megapixels.
Despite the somewhat less-than-SLR quality, the shots the Lumia 1020 produced were vastly better than anything Smith had seen on a smartphone before.
The system has some quirks, though. Every picture you take produces two files -- a 5-megapixel version and a 41-megapixel version. If you choose to email a photo or share it on social networks, the phone will send out the lower-resolution version, and I wasn't able to find a way to send out the bigger file.
The camera can zoom in a bit, but not by much -- even the iPhone can zoom in much farther than the 1020. That's an odd omission for a camera with detail to spare.
Finally, the panorama function is almost completely worthless. You have to click the screen, wait for the camera to get ready and then pan it slightly to the right -- and only the right -- to a target dot, then wait for the phone to get ready to do it again.
The result is a weirdly connected, low-res mess that doesn't match what the iPhone and other panorama-enabled smartphones can do. And that's assuming you can even get it to work. Two out of three times I got a "Where are you?" error warning that commanded me to try to aim the phone exactly where I had it at the start.
But no matter. Even with the quirks, the Lumia 1020 takes better photos than any other smartphone on the market, and it nearly matches the performance of typical SLRs at half the price.
Nokia Lumia 1020
Pros: Solid overall performance, incredibly detailed pictures, overall ease of camera use, reasonable price
Cons: Awkward lens protrusion, bad panorama capabilities, weak zoom, some photo quirkiness
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