Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review

The 41 megapixel Nokia Lumia 1020 is currently one of the highest resolution cameras available, find out how it performs in our review.

| Nokia Lumia 1020 in Camera Phones
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Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review: Nokia Lumia 1020 Black (6)

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is Nokia's premium smartphone, and also their top of the range camera phone, featuring a 41 megapixel sensor, Xenon flash, Carl Zeiss f/2.2 lens with optical image stabilisation, a 4.5inch screen, and it is running the Windows smartphone operating system. It is the second Nokia PureView phone to feature a large 41 megapixel sensor, updating the Nokia PureView 808.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Features

Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review: Nokia Lumia 1020 Black (7)

The Nokia Lumia 1020 (and the 808 before it) uses a large high resolution 41 megapixel sensor, and combines pixels for better image quality, as well as providing "lossless" zoom, this can be used for stills photos, as well as video recording. On the previous model, you had to choose between the full resolution, or alternatively a lower resolution "PureView" photo, with combined pixels for lower noise, and better colour. With the new Lumia 1020, you can now save both the high resolution 41 megapixel image, as well as the 5 megapixel resized image - which is said to be the optimum resolution for photos from the camera.

As well as a large sensor, the camera features a Xenon flash, a bright f/2.2 Carl Zeiss lens equivalent to 26mm, and optical image stabilisation for improved low light performance. A dedicated two-step shutter release button, lets you pre-focus and then take the shot with a full press. You can also use this to unlock the phone and go straight into the camera mode, without having to unlock the phone and then start the camera app.

An optional camera grip gives the smartphone the look of a digital camera, with a larger shutter release button, tripod socket, and additional battery to give extended battery life. The camera has a number of scene modes including: Automatic, Night portrait, Sports, Night, Close-up, and Backlight. White balance modes include: Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Daylight, and Automatic.

Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review: Nokia Lumia 1020 Black (14)

The Nokia Pro Camera App lets you take both full resolution photos and lower resolution photos, letting you zoom into the photos afterwards. You also can use the zoom, adjust exposure compensation, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, as well as use manual focus. Full HD video records with stereo sound, and 6x zoom can be used without loss of quality. 

Key Features

  • 41 megapixel 1/1.5inch BSI sensor
  • Carl Zeiss Tessar f/2.2 lens, 26mm equivalent
  • 3x high resolution zoom
  • Optical Image Stabilisation
  • Xenon Flash, AF assist light
  • Full HD Video, stereo sound
  • 4.5inch AMOLED touch screen, 15:9  WXGA (1280 x 768) 
  • Dual-core 1.5 GHz processor
  • 6x zoom FullHD video without image quality loss
  • ISO100 to ISO4000
  • 15cm macro focus
  • Photo Geotagging, A-GPS, A-GLONASS
  • 32GB mass memory, 2GB ram
  • Available in black, white and yellow

Nokia Lumia 1020 Handling

Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review: Nokia Lumia 1020 Black (10)

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is quite a large smartphone, weighing 158g, which is slightly heavier than the Sony Xperia Z, and also heavier than most other smartphones, although lighter than the predecessor, the Nokia PureView 808. The raised circle on the back where the camera lens, flash, and AF light live, gives the phone an additional area of grip which can help where a smoother phone may slip out of your hand - depending on how clumsy you are, of course. The smartphone feels extremely well built with a slightly rubbery feel to the matt black construction, and features Gorilla Glass to protect the screen from scratches and other damage. 

Focus can be set by simply using the touch screen and selecting the object that you want to take a photo of, and then you can press the photo button on the screen. The shutter release can be used to pre-focus and then take the shot. Along the top of the screen, when holding the camera in landscape orientation and using the Nokia Pro app, are the main camera controls with options to set the flash, ISO, shutter speed, white balance, exposure compensation and manual focus.

To use zoom you simply slide your finger up the screen to zoom in, and to zoom out slide your finger down the screen. You can also pinch to zoom if you prefer. You can switch from Nokia Pro Cam to view the last photo, letting you crop, zoom and rotate the photo.

Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review: Nokia Lumia 1020 Black (2)

The Lumia 1020 runs the Windows smartphone operating system that is neatly designed, and quick to respond, with access to all the major social networks, letting you upload photos straight to Facebook, Twitter and other sites. While Windows doesn't yet have as much app support as Android and iOS, it is a modern and easy to use system that is quite easy to get used to.

Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review: Nokia Lumia 1020 Black (5)

The optional camera grip makes it feel very large, bulky, and heavy, but the additional battery life provided, as well as the improved grip, may seem worth it to some. Another benefit of the camera grip is the addition of a tripod socket, letting you use the camera on a tripod. On the side is a button which when pressed will show you how much battery life is in the attachment, as well as the usual microUSB socket for charging. The internal battery is rated at 2000mAh, and should provide a reasonable battery life, although, as with the majority of smartphones daily charging is recommended particularly if you use the smartphone a lot for battery intensive things such as sat-nav.

Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review: Nokia Lumia 1020 Black Lens Open Af Light
Nokia Lumia 1020 - Lens Open AF Light

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Nokia Lumia 1020
Shutter Response 0.1s
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.85s
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.85s
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo / Unlock 40.0s / 5.5s
Shot to Shot without Flash 38mp / 5mp 5.0s / 3.5s
Shot to Shot with Flash 38mp / 5mp 4.5s / 3.0s

Focus is surprisingly slow, and shot to shot times are poor, taking 5 seconds between shots when shooting 5mp and 38mp photos with the camera saving both, the camera is quicker when just saving the 5mp photos. Strangely, the camera is also quicker when using the flash.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - The camera features a Xenon flash, which gives it an advantage over the majority of other smartphones, which instead simply feature an LED or twin LED flash. This means in low light conditions, you can take a photo of someone as though you're using a standard digital camera with a real flash. There is some red-eye in the photo, however, the ability to zoom into the subject gives a much better portrait shot than every other smartphone without zoom, as it lets you get a closely cropped photo of the subject.

Colour and detail is good, and skin tones look good as well. Exposure is reliable, and outdoors photos have plenty of detail, whether the full 38 megapixel image or the resized 5 megapixel image (which are impressively detailed and better than usual 5 megapixel photos). Some images can look a little over saturated, but for the majority of people this will give a pleasing look.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Lens test images

Lens Performance - Exposure is very reliable, and exposure compensation was not needed. Vignetting wasn't noticed, and the lens appears resistant to flare, although as with other smartphones it is easy to get fingerprints on the lens and therefore it's important to ensure the lens is clean.

Resolution and detail is excellent, as would be expected with a 41 megapixel sensor, and the Carl Zeiss lens is capable of delivering very good results, particularly in the main area of the image. However images become soft towards the corners. Chromatic aberrations can be seen at times towards the edges, however most of the time this can't be noticed unless you are looking at the full size images, at 100%. There is also some barrel distortion visible in the corners. 

Due to the camera's closest focusing distance being 15cm, you can't get particularly close to the subject for macro photos, however using the zoom you can get a close looking macro shot, although at the lower resolution of 5 megapixels.

Nokia Lumia 1020 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - ISO can be set manually from ISO100 to ISO4000. Detail remains good up to and including ISO800, and noise is particularly low in the 5 megapixel images, with sharp and detailed images being produced. Above this noise becomes more noticeable, and the camera has struggled with our lights at the higher ISO settings of ISO3200 and ISO4000. The High-res / full resolution photos show more noise, although detail is good, and results are still quite good, up to and including ISO800. 

Nokia Lumia 1020 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs very well under tungsten or fluorescent lighting, with the presets giving very similar results. This means you shouldn't need to use the presets. 

Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review: Nokia Lumia 1020 Panoramic

Panorama mode - Pressing the left/right arrow on screen lets you switch to another photo app, such as Nokia Cinemagraph, Nokia Smart cam, the standard Camera, Nokia Pro Cam, Panorama, and Bing Vision. The panoramic mode isn't as simple to use as other panoramic sweep modes on other smartphones and cameras, instead you press the screen to start, then line up a dot as you pan the camera, when the dot is lined up, you hold the phone still while it takes a photo and then continue panning. Once complete the phone stitches the photos together. Results are quite good producing a well stitched and detailed photo.

Digital Filters - There are very few effects or creative colour shooting or editing options with the built in apps, instead you will need to look for additional apps to edit photos. However there are a small number of different apps, such as Cinemagraph and Nokia Smart Cam which can be used to create more interesting shots.

Video - The camera records 1080p video (Full HD, 1920 x 1080), at 30fps, 25fps and 24fps. You can use 6x zoom without image quality loss simply by sliding your finger up and down the screen, and how smooth the zoom is depends on how quickly and smoothly you move your finger. Optical image stabilisation helps keep the video stable. Continuous auto focus is available and audio is recorded in stereo. Quality is good, and the ability to zoom in is impressive. 

Value For Money

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is available for £510 sim free with 32GB built in, which makes it very good value for money for such a high resolution camera, and is up against the following cameras:

Samsung Galaxy S4, 13 megapixel, 16GB, £412
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, 16 megapixel, with 10x optical zoom, 8GB, £399
Apple iPhone 5S, 8 megapixel, 16GB, £549
Sony Xperia Z1, 20.7 megapixel, 16GB, £569
Sony Xperia Z, 13 megapixel, 16GB, £409
HTC One, UltraPixel (4megapixel) sensor, OIS, 32GB, £485

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Verdict

The Nokia PureView 808 was a serious camera in a smartphone, and arguably one of the best cameras in a phone ever produced, however due to the use of a dated operating system, and rather large form factor, it was not considered a great success. The Nokia Lumia 1020 improves on the camera with a bright f/2.2 lens, optical image stabilisation and improved camera software, as well as offering a thinner more smartphone like form factor, as well as the much more modern Windows smartphone operating system.

If you have no ties to Android or iOS, then the Windows powered Nokia Lumia 1020 makes an excellent smartphone with simply the best camera on any phone available today. The low light performance is significantly better than other smartphones, thanks to the Xenon flash, optical image stabilisation and bright f/2.2 lens. 

The Nokia Lumia 1020, not only provides the highest resolution digital camera, this side of a medium format Digital SLR, for significantly less money, but also includes a number of unique features such as a Xenon flash (rare in a smartphone), optical image stabilisation (not so rare these days), as well as providing 3x zoom in stills photo mode (at reduced resolution), and an impressive 6x zoom in Full HD video without quality loss. While others include optical image stabilisation, but no Xenon flash, the Lumia 1020 combines it all, without the large size associated with a real optical zoom lens, such as on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. or the alternative attachable Sony Cyber-shot QX10.

Beyond this, you also have a number of manual controls, and accessories that could make this a rather impressive digital camera in its own right. Thankfully, it also comes with a modern, useful and easy to use smartphone operating system. Making this an all round excellent choice for both a smartphone, as well as a digital camera. For someone who wants the highest quality possible from their camera, regardless of whether it's in a smartphone or a compact camera, the Nokia Lumia 1020 is definitely recommended.

Nokia Lumia 1020 PureView SmartPhone Review:
  The Nokia Lumia 1020 delivers impressive high resolution images with a real flash and optical image stabilisation.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Pros

41 megapixel sensor
Bright f/2.2 Carl Zeiss lens
Optical image stabilisation
Manual controls
2 year warranty
Xenon flash
Great for portraits and low light
Shutter release button
3x zoom available for photos
6x zoom available in FullHD videos
Optional camera grip accessory 

Nokia Lumia 1020 Cons

Quite large compared to the competition
Macro focus could be better
Softer towards the corners
Slow shot to shot time
Sluggish focus speeds
Lacks effects in built in apps


Nokia Lumia 1020 Specifications

Front Camera
PixelsNo Data
Max ApertureNo Data
Smartphone Cameras
Smartphone Cameras
    Additional CamerasNo Data
    Max Aperturef/2.2
    35mm equivalent26mm
    Optical Zoom0x
    Image Sensor
    Pixels41Mp (Megapixels)
    Pixels (W)7712
    Pixels (H)5360
    Sensor TypeBack-lit CMOS (B.S.I.)
    Sensor Size1/1.5inch
    Sensor Size (width)No Data
    Sensor Size (height)No Data
    Aspect Ratio
    • 4:3
    • 16:9
    LCD Monitor
    LCD Monitor4.5in
    Screen resolutionWXGA (1280 x 768)
    Touch ScreenYes
    Focusing modes
    • Autofocus
    • Face Detection
    • Touch AF
    Exposure Control
    Shutter speeds shortest1/16000sec
    Shutter speeds longest4sec
    ISO sensitivity100 - 4000
    Movie modeYes
    Video Resolution
    • 1920x1080 FullHD
    • 1280x720 HD 720p
    Video FPS30, 25, 24fps
    Stereo SoundYes
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationYes
    USBUSB 2
    Internal Memory32000MB
    Power Source
    Battery TypeInternal Lithium-Ion
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsNokia Lumia 1020, Nokia AC-60 MicroUSB Charger, Nokia Charging and Data Cable CA-190CD, Nokia Headset WH-208, Quick guide, SIM Door Key

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    stu8 Avatar
    stu8 14 6 Wales
    3 Oct 2013 2:55PM
    I`d rather spend the 510 on a fairly decent camcorder.
    josa Avatar
    josa 11 25 Czech Republic
    3 Oct 2013 4:05PM
    Incredible IQ for a phone, I am tempted but don't use a phone at all...
    Dimpisharma Avatar
    8 Jan 2014 12:01PM
    Nokia lumia 1020 based on windows 8 operating system. Latest functionality with excellent camera Carl Zeiss f/2.2 lens.
    ninadgaonkar Avatar
    12 Jan 2014 5:12AM
    only 3X zoom for 38 megapixels.
    isn't it disappointing??
    jregier Avatar
    25 Jun 2015 9:26AM
    Hi there,
    we have just released some nice RAW development tool for Nokia Lumia 1520, 1020 and 930. This will take the image quality to the next level. It is free of charge. Check out here:



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