I wanted to start this off by saying “the Just Don’t Make ‘em Like they used to” but let’s be frank, no one ever made em like this.
HMD is doing a solid job reviving the Nokia label by delivering attractive handsets, with the appropriate feature sets at competitive prices. Looking forward to the future of this company, there are some old school Nokia philosophies we hope HMD will revive. The more daring experiments. The more audacious designs, and the bigger specs. We want to see a few more risks.
Nokia is responsible for so many warm fuzzy nostalgic smartphone memories, but in our current camera obsessed culture, the Lumia 1020 is one of our favorite phones to revisit. The mega sensor smartphone that actually got a proper release here in the united states, and got some real marketing muscle from Microsoft, while managing to maintain a reasonable phone form factor.
Not just a resolution champ, the Lumia 1020 camera sensor surface area delivered low light performance and natural bokeh the likes of which we’d never seen before on our shores. The execution was tactical and simple. A big camera sensor is likely an expensive individual component, so taking the well worn tech and manufacturing of phones like the 920, and bolting on this delicious oreo, was a safe way to reign in costs.
Looking back, this hardware gets so much right. Point and shoot camera ergonomics, with a dedicated shutter button, it avoids the unpocketable trap of zoom lens phones like the Galaxy Zoom. It’s also refreshing revisiting this polycarb frame. Sure cheap plastic will feel cheap, but this phone doesn’t feel cheap. It’s still sexy hardware.
It’s just a shame that Microsoft lacked the consistency and the fortitude to make Windows Phone a real threat to iOS and Android. It’s still my favorite user interface, live tiles are great, and it runs phenomenally well on lower power hardware. This is five year old hardware, dual core cpu, 2GB of RAM, and it’s still able to provide a reasonably smooth experience on a newer build of Windows 10. That’s a great argument in favor of efficiency. I just don’t have the same confidence in a Galaxy S4 running Nougat as well, even with substantially more powerful internals than what Nokia graced the Lumia 1020 with.
Of course the main story here is this camera. We’re just dancing around it, that’s why you’re really watching this video. Large sensor, partnership with Zeiss, Image stabilization and a real shutter. This thing is a beast. It’s super slow, but the output from this shooter still handily competes with modern phone cameras.
Current phones have more consumer friendly modes, pretty color super saturation HDR processing, artificial software background blur, ai and ar options, and significantly snappier shot recycle times, but photo to photo, its tough to beat the super high resolution shots from this pureview, especially when comparing raw files. In general, well ahead of the curve for manual options, and this interface is still one of the most organic for quickly adjusting photo settings and staying focused on your subject.
This phone was never intended to run windows 10, and it introduces a clumsy combo of Lumia and Microsoft camera apps, but it does fix one issue from this phone’s windows 8 days. Where I prefer the Lumia camera app for stills, the Microsoft camera app has better support for video and autofocus performance.
As a phone photog, it’s just so much fun revisiting this gadget even if the experience is ultimately bittersweet. We never saw this line, this idea evolve. We never got that Lumia 1030 or 1050. Big baller camera hardware bolted onto a faster chipset with more RAM, a quad microphone array, a higher resolution display. It could have been epic.
It’s where we’re apprehensive and hopeful for a resurgent Nokia under HMD. The pieces look like they’re in place. HMD is made up of a sizable number of classic nokia alumni, the Nokia Zeiss partnership is back in place, yet early efforts from the two companies have been more than a bit underwhelming on the photography front.
Now we’re seeing rumors of a Nokia 10, an exciting number for us old Lumia fans, could this finally be our follow up to the Lumia 1020? Instead of another single mega sensor, those rumors pointing to a penta-lens array of cameras on the rear. Maybe different focal lengths, maybe a crazy zoom, some even suggesting a multifocusing and multi focal length experiement akin to a lytro camera. It’s not exactly what we purists were hoping for, but honestly, any experiment, any risk in this market will be a welcome one.
That is, if it can live up to the Nokia name of old.