10 months after it released the Lumia 920, with what turned out to be the best screen and camera in the world, Nokia has announced its new flagship device: the Lumia 1020. The 1020 shares most of its features with the 920, such as the same 4.5-inch 1280×768 daylight-readable, usable-with-gloves touchscreen — but the camera, oh the camera, is now an image-stabilized 41-megapixel backside-illuminated (BSI) PureView sensor that will blow your mind. The Lumia 1020 will be available exclusively from AT&T in the US from July 26, priced $300 on-contract, and in China and “key European markets” later this quarter.
The Lumia 1020′s 41-megapixel camera
Almost the entirety of Nokia’s event in New York focused on the Lumia 1020′s camera — so let’s start there. The 41-megapixel sensor in the Lumia 1020 is brand new, featuring backside illumination (BSI) for improved low-light performance, and optical image stabilization (OIS) to reduce camera shake, which improves low-light performance and reduces shakiness in videos. The original 808 PureView, which also had a 41-megapixel sensor, did not have either of these two features. The Lumia 920′s camera had both BSI and OSI, but it was only 8MP.
To squeeze 41 megapixels into the Lumia 1020, the image sensor is huge — 1/1.5″, or about 9x7mm. For comparison, this is significantly larger than most compact point-and-shoot cameras, which generally only have sensors in the 1/1.6″ to 1/1.8″ range. The iPhone 5 camera sensor has a surface area of 15.5mm2; the Lumia 1020′s sensor is about four timesthat at 60mm2. By using a larger sensor, each of the individual pixels is larger, resulting in less noise.
More importantly when it comes to noise, though, is oversampling. By default, every photo you shoot with the Lumia 1020 will capture both a full-res shot (31MP @ 16:9, 38MP @ 4:3, see above), and an oversampled 5MP image. Oversampling essentially takes the average of seven pixels to create a single, larger superpixel. This process increases light sensitivity (for low-light photography), and massively reduces noise (because the noise in one pixel is overridden by the other six). For more information on oversampling, see our original 808 PureView story.
Further improving low-light performance is the sensor’s backside illumination and the optical image stabilization. For a complete rundown of how backside illumination works, read our story about why BSI is the future of digital photography. In short, it allows more photons to hit each of the individual photosites on the silicon sensor, resulting in higher sensitivity. Optical image stabilization, in the case of the Lumia 1020, is a mechanical system that floats the sensor on top of ball bearings, and then small motors are used to move the sensor to counteract movements detected by a gyroscope.
Having so many pixels, the ability to oversample, OIS, and BSI, means the Lumia 1020 also shoots rather good 1080p video, too, as you can see in the video below.
Rounding out the Lumia 1020′s camera, there’s a six-element wide-angle (26mm) f/2.2 Carl Zeiss lens at the front. From the sample images that we’ve seen (included at the bottom of the story), this lens seems to perform admirably. Interestingly, the camera software that comes with the Lumia 1020 will allow full manual control — from focus to white balance to exposure compensation.
In short, the Lumia 1020′s 41-megapixel camera is sensational, and should provide unprecedented and unparalleled image quality, both in normal and low-light situations. There are some sample images at the end of the story that show the resolving power of a 41-megapixel sensor.
Camera grip and wireless charging shell
If having a bigger image sensor than most point-and-shoots wasn’t enough, the Lumia 1020 can also be slotted into a camera grip ($80). The camera grip adds an extra 1,020 mAh battery, a two-step shutter, a tripod mounting hole, and a handle that’s ergonomic for one-handed shooting. Like other recent Lumias, the 1020 also comes with a wireless charging shell. On stage in New York, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop says that future Lumias may have wireless charging built-in.
Appendix: All the non-camera bits
When Nokia wasn’t talking about the Lumia 1020′s camera, most of the event was spent talking about Windows Phone 8 and the 1020′s AT&T exclusivity. Windows Phone 8 is now up to 165,000 apps, and the Lumia 1020 will come with Hipstamatic’s Oggl Pro, for applying fancy filters to photos before being uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (No, still no word on an official WP8 Instagram app).
The 1020 will ship with Nokia’s Here Maps, and the new augmented reality view.
Rounding out the rest of the phones’ specs, the device itself is 130mm long, 71mm wide, and weighs in at 158g. The large camera does add some depth to the phone, but at 10.4mm it’s not that chunky. There’s a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor at 1.5GHz, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of flash storage. The display is the same 4.5-inch WXGA unit found on the Lumia 920 (PureMotion HD, a touchscreen that works with gloves), and there’s all the usual WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. There’s a 2000 mAh battery, which should be good for the usual 5-6 hours of continuous use. By virtue of its Qualcomm SoC, the Lumia 1020 supports WCDMA and HSPDA 3G and 4G LTE in most markets.
For a good idea of the “Pro Camera” software that comes with the Nokia Lumia 1020, and a handful of other features, be sure to watch the videos embedded above and below.
Now if you excuse me, I’m off to spend some quality time with my Canon 6D, which might soon be gathering dust…
Now read: The history of digital photography