So, remember last year when the Lumia 920 was announced, and I declared I’d buy it to use as my personal smartphone? That was pretty cool, and so was the experience of actually following through with it. The 920 has served as trusty sidekick ever since, earning high marks in durability, in vacation photography, and in overall After The Buzz performance. It’s been a pretty excellent smartphone, one I’m proud to carry.
But … there’s always been a “but.” The 920’s camera, awesome as it is, is branded “PureView.” That’s the same branding that Nokia used to launch its 808, the Symbian-powered 41-megapixel monster that took MWC 2012 by storm – but the Lumia 920 doesn’t have a 41-megapixel camera. Rather, it features a shooter with some handy optimizations for low-light and stability, but which clocks in at the decidedly less-impressive resolution of 8.7MP.
Our own Anton D. Nagy spoke to this disparity in an editorial from a few months back, and it’s always been a bit of a cloud hanging over my otherwise-excellent 920. Yes, yes – “resolution isn’t everything,” you’ll say, and I fully agree. But having seen the 808 PureView -the genuine article- in action, with its magical pixel doubling and lossless zoom rendering some incredible photos … I always longed for a Windows Phone from Nokia that was a “true” PureView device. You see, Anton D. Nagy wasn’t the only one waiting with baited breath for the Lumia 1020. And as of July 26th, it’ll replace the Lumia 920 as my daily-driver of choice. (Not to worry: we’ll make a video of the buying process so you, too, can experience the magic.)
Here’s where I’d usually break the editorial down into subcategories discussing all the features and improvements that led to my decision. But let’s face it: the 1020 is an awful lot like the 920. You don’t even need to watch Adam Lein’s comparison video from the NYC launch event to know it. That said, we happen to have it handy, so here it is:
So there are marginal upgrades in terms of display technology (AMOLED always trumps LCD in my book) and dimensions, with the 1020 shaving some mass and thickness from the chunky 920, despite its much beefier optics. There’s also Gorilla Glass 3 onboard to protect the display, and a barometer has been added to the sensor package – a touch that tricorder nerds like me will appreciate. None of this is really groundbreaking, though, and the 1020 actually sacrifices one feature I loved from the 920: built-in wireless charging. Yes, it’s still available via a chunky accessory, but it’s not the same.
But all that is secondary. The story of the Lumia 1020 isn’t that of slimmed dimensions or a blacker display, but of the finest camera available on a smartphone. And unlike the 16MP smartphones of yesteryear, the Lumia 1020 isn’t just a stunt: the phone’s 41MP camera really looks able to live up to the hype of its earth-shattering 41MP resolution. Check out its base feature list, taken from Nokia’s official spec sheet for the 1020:
That’s a fair bit of capability. And maybe it’s true that – oh, hang on a sec, there’s more:
So, yeah – even more features. Like I was saying, though, there might be almost – oh. Wait, hang on. Last time, I promise:
Okay, now I’m certain that’s all. So go get a refill of your coffee or whatever and just absorb that feature list for a while. I’ll wait.
The concession I was trying to make above, before I was overrun with specs, is this: that feature list might be too much for some users. Heck, even I find a lot of this stuff daunting, and I deal with smartphone cameras all day long. Like the 808 PureView before it, the Lumia 1020 does its best to blur the line between professional photography and casual smartphone shooting. That kind of aspirational endeavor is hugely appealing to me in and of itself, but Nokia’s already proven that it’s not just talking the talk; the 808’s pictures are probably the best you can get from a smartphone.
But where the 808 was a Symbian-powered proof of concept that never saw the light of day in my country, the Lumia 1020 is a Windows Phone, backed up by a 165,000-title app store and the second-largest carrier in the United States. Now, its “Lumia” name isn’t without its issues. In fact, as I write this, my Lumia 920 sits in Adam Lein’s hands, bricked due to a reset bug and with a front-facing camera lens full of dust due to a manufacturing defect. The Lumia line isn’t perfect, but it’s proven itself in an area I care deeply about: mobile photography.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 represents a dream kicked off by the 808 PureView, deferred by the Lumia 920, teased at MWC 2013, and finally fulfilled this morning. If it works as well as its predecessor, its camera promises the finest shooting experience ever delivered on a smartphone, with dedicated viewfinder software written specifically to take advantage of its complex ball-bearing and motor-driven optical stabilization. Of course there’s plenty of opportunity for failure that comes along with such complexity, and we’ll be putting the phone through our most demanding battery of tests when we receive it. Nokia’s made a lot of promises here, and it’s not a guarantee it’ll be able to deliver in full.
But the principal promise, authentic PureView performance on a non-zombie platform, has finally been delivered upon. That means the risk I cited above is one I’m excited to take. And while I have some concerns about how many folks will feel the same, I’m quite certain I’m not alone in my excitement.