Scott Hanselman

Trying a Nokia Lumia 1020 - A Camera with a Phone Inside

September 10, 2013 Comment on this post [50] Posted in Reviews | WinPhone
Sponsored By

My current Lumia 1010 tile layoutI've had an iPhone since the iPhone 3G. My main personal phone is an iPhone 4S. I'm always checking out new phones, however, most recently the Blackberry Z10. The last time I tried a Windows Phone was a Lumia 800, where I made a list of apps I would need before I would ever consider switching from iPhone. I also checked out one of the first Windows Phones in 2010.

My family is a mixed one, with two iPads, my wife's Lumia 920 phone, my iPhone 4S, the kids' iPod touches, a Surface RT, an Xbox and a PS3. I'm also spending a month testing a Samsung Galaxy S4.

However, last week a buddy loaned me a yellow Nokia Lumia 1020 running Windows Phone 8. A good friend recently switched to the 1020 solely for the camera. Let me repeat that. He has been #teamiphone since the beginning but he decided the camera was good enough to switch. That got my attention as my 4S camera kinda sucks. It's fine for Instagram but not for capturing two growing kids.

I swapped the SIM card from my iPhone and customized the crap out of my home screen. I can't stand defaults. Live Tiles really are the star of the Windows Phone.

I'll do a full review when I've spent time with this phone, but I can talk about the camera now. Insane.

Full sized images are 7712x4352 and about 10 megs. The deal, it seems, isn't that you necessarily want to  keep the 34 megapixel images, but rather that you can zoom and crop them and still see thing clearly. Phrased differently, rather than an optical zoom, you take a super super high res image then digitally zoom. It's amazing. You can zoom in on a license plate from 100 feet away.

Here's an example (I've blurred these people as I don't know them).

A picture at a cafe

Now, zooming in on the red car, digitally.

Zoomed way in on a license plate

That's just a silly example. A more significant one is taking a picture of a group, then wanting to crop a shot of just some of the people and having it NOT looking like a crappy crop. These kind of operations are trivial.

If you want to download the full 10 megabyte version of this image, I put it up on Azure Storage here and if you like, zoom around it on Zoom.It.

Here's the original file, copied straight off the Lumia 1020 via a USB Cable.

Lego Jabba

Let's zoom in - only by cropping.

Jabba's buddy close up

Seriously, I could do this all day.

LEGO Hobbit

And then cropping.

LEGO Hobbit close up

I also tried the Camera Grip for the Lumia 1020. It's an extended battery, grip and a button that makes the phone act more like a camera. You get the whole half-button press to focus" then "full press to snap" behavior. This also speeds up the shutter actuation feel to instantaneous, since the half-squeeze starts the focus. The continued full press is instant. It really feels like a Point and Shoot.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I do work for Microsoft, in the Azure division. However, I am not my job. I review lots of tech and gadgets and I stand on my record of impartiality. I use what I like. This review (and future and past) is my own, and done on my own, outside of work. No one reviews or edits these. Misspellings and errors are mine.

The Nokia Lumia 1012 Camera Grip

I'll keep trying it out and explore the actual phone features, but I am deeply impressed with the camera. In order to consider switching though (and I assume you'd feel the same way) I would need:

  • 95% of the apps (or equivalents) that I use in an average week.
  • Reliable Bluetooth phone and audio in the cars my wife and I have
    • Streaming audio works fine in my Prius. Having some trouble with the phone, but working on it.
  • Good battery life
    • It's OK, but the camera flash definitely hurts the battery if you spend all day taking pics.
  • Support for Google Mail and Calendar (personal) and Outlook (work)
    • Check.

More review and details to come as I explore. Your thoughts?

Sponsor: Big thanks to Infragistics for sponsoring the feed this week! Download Your Free HTML5/jQuery Grid:  Prepare to launch eye-popping, performance-driven HTML5 applications with Ignite UI. Believe your eyes - you can download the world's fastest, most reliable jQuery Grid now - no strings attached!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Hosting By
Hosted in an Azure App Service
September 10, 2013 8:16
If this thing ran Android, or there was a ROM port for it, I'd be all over it without hesitation. But alas.
September 10, 2013 8:24
It's a very interesting phone no doubt. Too bad I'm on T-Mobile. Man, I dislike exclusives, I'm not switching carriers for a phone. =/
September 10, 2013 8:45
I have had one since it came out, really love it. Camera is awesome, and the screen is also really nice. Especially love that you can use touch while wearing gloves, golf is so much better now, can use apps to track my game without removing gloves.
September 10, 2013 8:58
Andrew - As a long time Android user, going back to the original Droid, I'm glad Lumias don't run Android. Even with all the custom ROMs I've run over the years (especially Cyanogen), Android is really inefficient with CPU and battery. I waited to switch to Windows Phone until I was convinced it would be at least as good, and when the Lumia 928 hit I did my homework and switched. I can use the thing all day and have a nearly full battery at night. It never ever stutters or locks up or reboots on me. I don't have to root it to get rid of crapware. I actually get OS updates. And I don't have to pay for sixteen cores to try to get some performance out of a quirky operating system.

Android served me really well for years - I really think it was the best option until recently. But now, I'm really glad that my Lumia runs Windows Phone 8.
September 10, 2013 9:01
Thanks for the great review. Just one point - the imgur page you linked doesn't download the full 10MB original - the "download full resolution" link on there only gives me a 616kb file.
September 10, 2013 9:13
I had an Android Galaxy for 2.5 years but I recently switched to Samsung ATIV S (with WP8) and can't even understand why I lived in the dark.

I just wish MS would update the OS more frequently. The only thing that WP8 is missing right now is a notification center.

Scott, how much does the battery (plus camera grip) last with your typical usage? Do you reach two full days?
September 10, 2013 9:18
How is it for taking pics of rapidly moving subjects, like kids? I've heard its slow to focus and load the camera app, which gives me pause even with the great image quality.
September 10, 2013 9:34
@Kam I have 2 fast moving kids and the Lumia 1020. It's both better and worse for taking pictures of kids. It's worse for the reasons you mention. I don't really notice that it takes long to load the camera app because it's not that much slower, but it is. The time in between photos is very noticeably slower though. That's fixed mostly by the smart cam app though as it has "best shot", "change faces", etc from 10 shots that it takes really quickly (in a few seconds). What is BETTER for kids though is the flash, lens and software. Almost never get a blurry shot anymore from them jumping around so much which is great! Worth it overall!
September 10, 2013 10:06
@kam Over all it's better for kids / fast action. It takes longer to save because the image is larger but there is no need to worry about zooming. Just snap the shot and crop it later.

Here's an example shot I took with mine and posted to my facebook timeline. (faces marked out by me). The zoom keeps so much detail you don't have to worry about it.

<img src="" title="Hosted by" />
September 10, 2013 10:13
I am also in need of a fitbit app that can sync. It is a shame that the market still isn't seeing value in the MS ecosystem :(

1020 Camera with the smart cam app is really something special. Also build quality and durability of Nokia phones are a bit overlooked in my opinion.
September 10, 2013 11:01
Hi Scott,

I was wondering a while ago if I would move from android to wp8
which I did. The nokia Lumia 920 had a nice price drop in the Netherlands. I have updated it to GDR2 now and am looking forward to GDR3 and/or 8.1.
I am trying to create an app for it and am struggling with the 3 limited tile templates. Looking at writeablebitmapex at the moment. Some live tiles cannot be reached as normal developer (like the contacts/persons animated tile)

The things I love:
- awesome camera
- nice OS (responsive
- good battery life
- all must have apps are there

The things that can improve:
- notification center
- instagram app
- sonos app
- todoist (native) app

There are feature requests who could need your vote:

but the software and hardware of the Lumia's are really nice! I am really enjoying my 920. My next phone will also be a Windows Phone!
September 10, 2013 11:04
"and customized the crap out of my home screen. I can't stand defaults."

The Iphone doesn't even allow you to do something else than the default... You have to do what Apple wants, or by another brand phone.
September 10, 2013 11:28
Thanks for the review!
Interesting device! FYI, Acer recently announced 4K video camera in its phone - this is crazy :)

Phone's camera is good for "point & shoot" style of photography, but for perfect pictures in low-light situations I recommend DSLR - especially for taking pictures of children.
September 10, 2013 12:32
Today we will see new iPhone but I don't think that they will have better camera than this Lumia. In any case as for me Android is not the case because of it's lags, I have used Galaxy 4 and with all 8 cores, it's just not as fluid as my Omnia 7 with single core!
So Windows Phone or iPhone and if you are interested in taking really good photos Lumia is the best choice.
September 10, 2013 14:12
If you want to customize your home screen, I have a small app that might give you some more customization: Group Tiles at I hope you don't consider this as spamming :).

I really enjoy reading your blog and your newsletters of wonderful things! Waiting for your full review of the 1020.
September 10, 2013 14:17
"I've blurred these people as I don't know them" That's not the criterion. The criterion for not blurring people is consent, which is missing by default. Need consent from known people, too, before you put them on the web where their pictures will never go away.
September 10, 2013 14:31
I've been taking 34/38 megapixel images for a while on the 808. Here's one from Switzerland last year.
September 10, 2013 17:13
A great way to look at these photos would be with deepzoom (seadragon) which can now run without silverlight using some html magic. Just go to and you can submit an image and get a direct or embed link. Takes a little while to process.

The 10MB image link doesn't work you get a 641k file otherwise would have added a deepzoom link.
September 10, 2013 17:34
Scott, there is an app called MyFitnessPal that can be linked to FitBit for a full communication to enter food and Cals, also there are some 3rd party fitbit apps that are great (but don't allow food entry) FitBit tracker is one of them, this app allows you to even pin to the home screen individual goals!
September 10, 2013 18:02
I have an immediate family totaling 8. I have the 920 and it's the only Windows Phone in the mix. 4 iPhones, 3 androids.

I am the only one who never complains about my phone.

the pictures are awesome and the only time I drag out my Canon 5D is on vacation.

I can't imagine what the 1020 would be like. Some day I won't have to.

love the hardware and the software.

nice review, Scott.

September 10, 2013 18:14
I don't understand why everyone seems to want a Notification Center for Windows Phone 8. It has one: it is called the Start screen. Live Tiles are more useful to me than Notifications ever are in iOS and Android, and they are kinder, subtler, more unobtrusive, and already baked into the "home" screen. (No need for an overlay or a separate screen, just scroll through the Start screen every now and then...)
September 10, 2013 18:26
Nokia has chosen to use the camera as a way to differentiate. I have a 928 and the picture quality is quite good. Nokia also provides a lot of apps for taking pictures and manipulating images.
September 10, 2013 18:36
Please apply for that CEO position. No one else at msft should be allowed to give another keynote again!
September 10, 2013 18:39
I've had the Lumia 1020 for about a month. Took on vacation and it was awesome. I had a DSLR camera in my pocket the whole time. Took some pretty amazing pics. You know what they say, the best camera is the one you carry with you. As for a smartphone, I'm really impressed with it. Has a great app selection. It doesn't have every app found on other platforms, bit it does have some nice exclusives too. Nokia has done a great job at putting a this gem together.
September 10, 2013 18:42
@Jon, you speak of OS updates, but if you've noticed Google has moved away from the big releases being OS updates and more towards software updates. Also, I'm fairly certain Kin (or whatever it was called) users, if they actually exist, were without updates and I'm fairly sure I recall a big backlash about Lumia 800/900/etc. users not being able to update to WP8 on just a year old/less than a year old hardware (I understand the reasoning behind it, but it is still worth considering).

I use Nexus devices and I don't experience the pervasive lags that people speak of with Android. Did with the HTC Thunderbolt, however. Battery life on my Galaxy Nexus is actually on par with the life of the Lumia 800 I had. Even with a consistent background agent instead of the "thing" WP7 had (this was addressed with WP8, if I recall though).

At the end of the day, it really depends on what you're looking for. Apple doesn't need to announce a camera update that gives Lumia 1020 pictures because most iOS users are really only after pictures to toss up on social media (hence you don't hear the eye roll inducing iPhone Killer label used). But please, stop with the iPad photography. Nokia has been meandering at best in recent years trying to differentiate itself from competitors and focusing on the camera is a great way to find a niche they take. iOS you go to for a list of things (app selection, business, government allowed usage, BYOD, etc.), larger devices is for the most part Samsung's niche at this stage, and Nokia has been pushing for camera quality. HTC for sound, I guess, haven't bought a Beats audio HTC device to confirm. Winner, consumer choice.
September 10, 2013 20:13
I have a lumia 900... Like the os, but until windows phone gets about 20% market share its just pointless to consider.

As far as cameras go... Canon sx510 super soon is pretty fast, handles low light and now with WiFi its easy to sync photos up to other devices.
September 10, 2013 21:02
I just (today) switched from a `Galaxy S4` to the `Lumia 928`. I am struck with how incredibly fast and snappy the OS is. I am definitely missing some apps:

- Wunderlist
- Mint
- Flipboard

Those are the three biggest for me though, everything else can be viewed via a mobile web app. I am shocked how many games are available for the device though.

I am nervous but excited at the same time. I've used both iOS and Android and am now completely bored with both of them. Into the anon!
September 10, 2013 21:05
For those asking about the time in between pictures, it is a little bit long about 2 seconds to process if taking full resolution. Nokia has an app Smart Cam for taking rapid shots and Microsoft Research also has an app called Blink that work great for rapid shots. The issue with both is that you lose the image quality, but if you need to capture action it is not only a great option but probably the best option on any platform I have used.
September 10, 2013 23:14
@Max while the start screen does serve as a notification center, it is only partial. There are two types of notifications in WP: Tile and Toast. The start screen shows you the Tile notifications, but not the Toast ones. If you miss those because you're away from your phone, you'll never know. Case in point is the Bing News app: you get a breaking story toast notification, but nothing shows up on the tile. So technically a WP Notification Center would be used for toast notifications, while the home screen serves as the tile notifications.
September 11, 2013 3:04
@Sam, per the dev camp I attended for WP7, it was intentionally designed so that notifications didn't linger. That said, there were a couple things that were intentional that changed in WP8 (background agent, for example) that were against the course of WP7 so there's always that possibility.

I do commend Microsoft for attempting to save data usage/battery /reduce "noise" for end users, but I prefer the ability to turn on/off those types of things at my discretion. Wish Android and iOS adopted the metered data connection option from Win8 (possibly WinPhone 8?)
September 11, 2013 5:07
Hey Scott, give the Nokia Pureview 808 a try, it will BLOW YOUR MIND!
September 11, 2013 6:06
@Max Battcher - The way I put it is Live Tiles show the state. A notification center should show the change in state. And the main use case is your phone beeps, you take too long to look at the screen and you have to look through everything to find what was wanting your attention.

I do think Microsoft needs to do much better with updates. I have an 8X (on contract with vodafone aus) and a Lumia 920 (unlocked). Neither has received GDR2. Vodafone had okayed the release but since HTC has decided to wait for GDR3 (Having had a HTC Trophy before Vodafone Aus are awesome with getting the updates tested and accepted quickly, while HTC are terrible, I don't think we ever got tango or 7.8). As for the 920, I have no idea why I haven't got it.
What happened to Microsoft allowing us to force an update through like they originally told us?
September 11, 2013 6:28
What app is showing your calendar week view on the second page of tiles?
September 11, 2013 8:39
Brian - Week View 8
September 11, 2013 8:52
I don't understand Nokia. The 41megapixel camera is not new. It was available on the Nokia 808 last year using Symbian OS at a time before Nokia used Windows Phone OS. Why didn't they use it in Android phones? They would have sold millions of phones knowing that a ton of users would switch to get access to this high pixel camera.

@Jon Galloway: My Android phone is on a charger at home and at work. I don't worry about battery life, plus I carry an extra battery. So your idea of not making Android phones with this camera doesn't really hold. There are Android utility apps which monitor each running app and its power usage. Let users worry about battery life instead of not making such a phone. Does Windows Phone even support such a feature?
September 11, 2013 13:05
Hey Scott, what app do you use to manage your gmail? Does it have support for managing labels? I use them a lot and so far this has prevented me from switching from Android to WP8.
September 11, 2013 17:08
Love the screen shot of your tiles. How'd you scrape that off your phone?
September 12, 2013 1:16
Doug - I just took a dozen screenshots and stitched them together in Paint.NET

Imre - I'm just using Mail.
September 12, 2013 1:39
I like windows phones. Simply the best business phone I have ever owned! However getting my new iPhone 5 was like coming home to a warm pair of slippers and all the hard work from you guys at MS has, sadly, be forgotten.
September 12, 2013 12:23
J - I feel the same with iPad, but as a phone WP has a really good integration with social networks so I use it @home just to read all the news in one place, while me wife uses iPad )
September 12, 2013 16:43
I like what I've seen with Windows Phone but haven't been able to pull the trigger and switch. I've been an iPhone user for awhile now. I've tried Android a couple of times and but although the apps have gotten better I still find iOS apps more polished and the OS more stable in general. I have the same concern with the Windows Phone. It's still missing some key apps. The 1020 looks great and the camera is very cool but $299 is a hard price to swallow when I can get an iPhone for $200 or less and an Android phone for $200 or less. For me, that camera looks awesome but I don't need it at that price point.
September 16, 2013 18:23
Recently I discovered this petition to FitBit for releasing a Windows Phone app.

Maybe it helps. I would love to have a proper FitBit app on my Lumia 920.

September 27, 2013 22:10
@Doug, Hold the Windows key down and press the Power button on the side to take a snapshot of the screen to your camera roll. Love my Lumia 920 and am looking forward to the 1020 when Verizon gets it so I can switch back away from AT&T.

@Scott, keep up the reviews. *thumbs up*
October 08, 2013 17:28
I'm able to click amazing photos at 38 MP resolution on my Nokia Lumia 1020 through the Nokia Pro Camera. However, when I use the default Windows Phone 8 camera app, I'm able to click photos only at 5 MP. Is there something wrong with my phone or is it the same for everyone else?
October 09, 2013 4:36
I bought a Lumia 920 when they were released and eventually gave up because the apps were so disappointing. They either didn't exist, or were really feature poor in comparison to the android and iphone apps. I love the sound of the photos and the ability to crop, but until the Windows app market is comparable I'd have a hard time switching back. Keen to read what you thought of the Samsung S4. :)
October 11, 2013 20:34
One of the reasons I really enjoy your reviews is because you force yourself to use the item as your primary device and live with it for a while. I am curious if you have been using the 1020 as your daily driver this whole time and when you will be ready to complete your review. I am anxious to see your impressions.
October 12, 2013 1:59

I hear ya on the bluetooth car connection. I have a 2012 Fusion and a VZW 928 and it is the pits unfortunately. I have GDR2 on the phone. I can't disconnect a call with the steering wheel controls and occasionally it won't hang up when the other party disconnects, texts sometimes get read - probably about 70% of the time. Can't originate a text via Sync either. According to Ford my Sync system is up to date also. :(
November 01, 2013 13:46
Scott, how's things so far with the phone? Any impressions so far?
November 07, 2013 10:32
camera is really nice.
November 19, 2013 17:19
Love this phone. The camera is so robust. The performance is awesome. And the design is also captivating.

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.