A few years ago, when the Nokia N8 had just been released, I did a post titled N8 v a DSLR. It turned out to be hugely popular because the notion that a cameraphone could challenge the almighty DSLR, was a a concept that was almost unbelievable. At that point in time I did not suggest that the N8 was better than the DSLR, but that it was good enough for day light shots, and in the night you’d find it lacking – still it was a sign of things to come.
(Click through on any image for the full resolution shot)
Fast forwards a few generations of Nokia smartphones, the birth of the 41 MP PureView with the 808, the Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) packing Lumia 920, and finally to the big culmination – the Lumia 1020. Since the N8, Nokia has marched on and improved three aspects tremendously:
- Low Light Performance – We have a better 6 part lens, improved sensors, and OIS that lets the shutter stay open longer to let more light in and prevents camera shake. Plus, all this while Nokia has been fine tuning its algorithms that play a critical role in camera quality, sometimes even more than the hardware – ask the Nexus 5 users.
- Zoom – With a 41 MP sensor, you can now get lossless zoom without the device packing a bulky optical zoom lens. In the 1020’s case, this is in a body that’s 10.4 mm thin.
- Camera Software – The new Nokia Camera application is the best camera app on any smartphone platform. Its as plain as you like, but if you like tinkering with settings, there’s everything you could possibly want. What’s more, the changes that you make to things like ISO, Exposure etc are shown live so that you get an idea of what you need to do in order to get that perfect shot. There’s also Smart Camera’s added functionality that lets you change faces, get motion blur, action shot and things like that. Add to that lenses like brilliant Nokia Refocus app, and you have a package that’s literally unrivalled.
So with these improvements at the back on my mind, I decided against taking my DSLR along for my trip to Seoul, for the Tizen Developer Summit. The 1020 would be my only goto camera.
It was raining when I landed, but since I did not have a lot of time in Seoul, staying put at the hotel wasn’t an option. With an umbrella in hand I set out to explore Dongdaemun, where the market stays open till 4 am and some places are virtually open 24 hours. In that situation it would have been impossible to take the DSLR along, but with the 1020, I was shooting from under the umbrella, one handed, walking along the street only pausing for a second to snap a picture. The good thing about the Nokia Camera is that now you can simply tap to set exposure, much like the iPhone. This was something was missing on Lumias, and I’m very happy to see that included.
Given the situation, some of these pictures are truly remarkable. They have almost no noise, the colours are great, and with the 1020 I can even re-frame later. Something even a DSLR won’t let me do.
Putting the zoom to good use.
Look at the depth of field in that shot.
The way the glistening roads shine in the picture is amazing.
The best part is that I wasn’t TRYING to take a good photo. I was merely walking along, and pausing to take random pictures.
This is one of my favourites, the colour and the lights look really nice.
This was a very dark street indeed, yet the photo doesn’t really let you feel that.
All these photos just to go show that getting a nice low-light shot isn’t a thing of chance with the 1020, it consistently produces pictures like that.
Then there are pictures like these. Since its a day photo where the light’s good, most modern camera phones can let you take something similar, no bigge.
But they won’t give you a 35 MP shot, that when seen at full resolution lets you read what’s written on those locks. Click through and see for yourself.
I’ve included this shot, just because I think its a great example of the 1020’s capabilities in daylight.
And here’s the 35 MP version, just look at the detail in the photo.
Finally, with the ability to control focus manually, you can also get shots like these.
Or with the control over shutter speed, you can even light paint.
When you add the ability to edit on the go to with powerful optics, it becomes a truly compelling solution. Most ‘connected cameras’ don’t come close to what the Lumia 1020 is capable of. Creative Studio from Nokia is great for adding filters, adjusting colours, and general editing. If you want to make a Collage, Fotor is a great option too. Instagram is officially coming to Windows Phone, but till then there’s always the excellent 6tag app.
I had used the Lumia 1020 before, but this was the first time that I actually used it as my daily driver on a trip and as you can tell, I have come away truly impressed. The only real reason that I lug my DSLR along is for the low light shots, and if the Lumia 1020 can give me the kind of quality that you see above, there is no reason for me to carry the extra weight around. Also, we haven’t even talked video recording yet. Something where the Lumia 1020 completely tears into DSLRs – HAAC mics for great audio capture, continuous auto focus, zoom and optical image stabilisation. Plus, because of the size, you can film from various angles that aren’t possible with something more bulky.
I will admit that the title of this post is a little over reaching, but that’s how good the 1020 is. Will it kill DSLRs? No. Should it kill DSLRs for amateurs who only buy DSLRs so that they can get high quality photos while shooting in the auto modes? Totally.
Given the choice would I rather take a Lumia 1020 on a trip or a DSLR? I don’t even have to think about it anymore – the 1020 wins with ease.
PS: On most occasions you hand your camera over to a stranger and request that he/she take a picture of you in front of whatever tourist hotspot you are visiting. Then you hope that the person you gave the camera to isn’t a complete noob and takes a well framed, blur free photo. With the 1020, that’s no longer a worry – OIS takes care of the blur, and I usually ask whoever is taking the photo to shoot from a little further away than what most people do. Then with the 1020, I can myself re-frame, use the rule of thirds etc, and get a pretty nice photo. This is something no other camera does for you.