I have shared my thoughts on the Nokia Lumia 1020, both in a full review, and in an explanation of why I will be returning mine. However, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few sample photos to demonstrate the capabilities of the 1020, […]
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Nokia Lumia 1020 vs the iPhone 5: Camera Showdown

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I have shared my thoughts on the Nokia Lumia 1020, both in a full review, and in an explanation of why I will be returning mine. However, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few sample photos to demonstrate the capabilities of the 1020, as well as the differences between it and the iPhone 5.

 

Outdoors at Dusk

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iPhone 5 Automatic Mode Photo- I did not use HDR or set the exposure on the darker area. The resulting photo is noisy and underexposed in the darker areas.

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Lumia 1020 5 Megapixel Photo- The same shot, also in full auto. It is a little better, but still quite underexposed.

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This is from the Nokia 1020 using manual settings. I set a slow shutter speed of 1/8, and the OIS allowed me to take the photo without a tripod without blur. It is overexposed, but it does show off the low light potential of the Lumia. However, it does take working with the manual settings to unlock that potential. You can’t depend on the auto in low light.

 

Outdoors in Cloudy Daylight

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iPhone 5 Auto Mode photo.

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iPhone 5 HDR Photo- This is one of the few advantages that the iPhone 5 has over the 1020. You can see the difference in detail between the bright areas in these 2 photos. The HDR version is correctly exposed.

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Lumia 1020 5 Megapixel Photo- This is very similar to the iPhone 5 non-HDR version. In adequate outdoor light, the cameras produce similar results. Unfortunately, unless Nokia adds and HDR mode, users will have to rely on the Exposure Braketing feature in Pro Cam, and roll their own enhanced photos with editing software, such as Photoshop.

 

Flower Bed

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iPhone 5 Auto Mode Photo

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Lumia 1020 5 Megapixel Photo

 

Flower Close Up

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iPhone 5 in Auto Mode Photo- The iPhone 5 is a very good outdoor macro camera. You can get very close to the subject and still get good focus.

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Nokia 1020 5 Megapixel Reframe- The Lumia 1020 doesn’t do true macro pictures without a lot of messing with the manual focus. Even then, you still can’t get as close to the subject for the original shot. On the other hand, because the high resolution image captures so much detail, you can usually take a normal photo and reframe it close in to get the same results.

 

Grass

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iPhone 5 Auto Mode Photo- As you can see, the detail is good, but the color processing is a little on the cool side, making the yard look a little dull.

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Nokia 1020 5 Megapixel Photo- This picture is more detailed than the iPhone 5’s, but suffers from the opposite issue. The color here is actually a little too saturated. The color of the yard is actually somewhere in between these two photos.

 

Grass- Zoomed In

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iPhone 5 Auto Mode Photo with Digital Zoom- This photo isn’t too bad for having used digital zoom. There is actually a descent amount of detail preserved. However, the results often aren’t this good. Digital zoom should always be avoided, if possible.

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Nokia 1020 5 Megapixel Reframe- Here is the biggest strength of the 1020 on display. This is a 3X zoom reframe of the grass photo above. Just look at how much detail is visible here. No other smartphone can do this. Honestly, there are plenty of low-end point and shoot camera that couldn’t pull this off, even with optical zoom.

 

Panorama

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iPhone 5 in Panorama Mode

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Lumia 1020 with Panorama Lens- Because this photo isn’t taken with the Pro Cam app, there is no high resolution version of the photo to start with. To be brutally honest, the iPhone does a better job on this one. The color range is better, and the sky has much more detail. It’s an example of how this camera quickly becomes more ordinary when you step out of the Pro Cam app.

 

Indoors- Low Light

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iPhone 5 Auto Mode Photo- The noise level isn’t too bad, and some detail is visible. However, this is obviously not the iPhone’s strength. The dark areas are definitely underexposed.

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Lumia 1020 5 Megapixel Photo in Auto- The dark areas of the photo are more visible and detailed here. There is noise present, but you can always use the high resolution photo to edit some of that out in a desktop editor. Unfortunately, the bright area of the photo is overexposed, which is one of the few issues with the 1020.

 

Indoors- Low Light with Flash

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iPhone 5 Auto Mode with Flash- Well, I’ve seen worse results from the iPhone 5. The lighting isn’t too bad, but there is a lot of noise here. The bright area also ends up overexposed. Apple really needs to upgrade this flash in the 5S.

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Lumia 1020 5 Megapixel Photo with Flash- The 1020 has a large Xenon flash, and you can see the results here. The photo is evenly lit, the bright area has better exposure, and the noise is under control. However, there is one weakness. Pictures taken with the flash tend to end up a little too warm, but that is easy to fix with a good photo editor.

 

Video

iPhone 5 Video- The iPhone 5 wins on exposure and color saturation.


Lumia 1020 Video- What the 1020 lack in color balance, it makes up for in crisp detail. It also has the capability to zoom while shooting, which is a big plus. The only problem is that you are limited to 2-finger zooming, and it is difficult to do smoothly. (Correction: Ron in the comments below was kind enough to point out that 1-finger zoom is actually available in Pro Cam on the 1020)  It is also with mentioning that the sound recording on the 1020 is in a different class than other smartphones.

At the end of the day, the Nokia Lumia 1020 clearly outperforms the iPhone 5. But that really shouldn’t come as any surprise. The 1020 has vastly superior specs, and it is technically a generation ahead of the 5. However, I wouldn’t expect the coming 5S to be a massive leap forward, so this is still a valid comparison.

The iPhone 5 actually holds its own in daylight shots taken in ideal conditions, and outperforms the 1020 in panoramas, as well as general color saturation. The inclusion of an HDR mode also helps the 5 out in situations with difficult exposures. The iPhone is also capable of shooting photos in faster succession than the 1020, which can actually be quite slow when producing high-res images. It can also shoot pictures while taking video, which the 1020 currently can’t.

However, the 1020 is still the superior camera in every other respect. Because of the 35 or 38 megapixel high resolution photos that the Pro Cam app produces, the 1020 is capable of virtually lossless 3X zoom. It can also zoom while shooting video (4X in 1080p, 6X on 720p). Also, the flash and focus lamp on the 1020 give it the ability to take usable photos indoors, and the manual adjustments available in Pro Cam make other low light and specialty shots that would be impossible for other smartphone camera possible. The 2-stage dedicated camera button, true optical image stabilization, and optional Camera Grip just add icing to the cake.

So, while the iPhone 5 does have a few advantages, as well as a wealth of third-party camera and photo and video editors, the Lumia 1020 is still the winner of this camera showdown any way you slice it. Have you tried the 1020 yourself? Have you also had a chance to compare it with the iPhone 5? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter @jhrogersii, or on Google+.

 

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