First off, I’ll start with a disclosure, I’m not a Lumia 1020 fan, but not because I think their camera ideas (huge sensor, oversampling) are bad – in fact I think they are great ideas, and other OEM’s should follow their lead on that, but because I’m not a fan of WP8, and I think Lumia 1020 will be dead on arrival because of it, since at the end of the day, I feel that it will be just like 808, an expensive niche and awkward device, that uses a very limited OS.
However, that’s not exactly what I want to discuss here, but because I am a fan of their camera ideas, even I thought it would be a lot better than it really seems to be. After all it uses a 2/3″ sensor that appears be at least 4x bigger, than the regular 1/3″ sensors we see in smartphones today.
So here’s what I found on DPReview. Their article was a lot less critical, but to be honest, I think they were a little too excited, and didn’t analyze the results properly and objectively, and a lot of commenters called them out on it. But I didn’t need anyone else opinion to see that the Lumia 1020’s camera just isn’t “4x” better than everything else – and for me to use such a camera in the future (even on an Android device) it would need to be radically better. Otherwise, the bump on the back and the extra price is just not worth it for a slight (up to 2x) increase in quality.
I also have to say that I find it very unusual that neither TheVerge nor Engadget compared the camera with other phones’ cameras, which I don’t think has happened in a long time (they usually compare them), and it should’ve especially happened with the Lumia 1020. You can’t really see how good a camera is in isolation, or rather you can, but it’s a lot harder to know what’s better than other cameras, and how much better it is exactly.
As you can see, yes the Lumia 1020 appears to be more noise-free than Galaxy S4, but the comparison is also unfair because the S4 one is blown out to its full resolution (so it seems to have more noise than it should), instead of comparing the same proportions, and when used at full resolution, the Lumia 1020 suffers from the same problem in such “comparisons”:
If you look at both the pictures above, you’ll see that actually the difference between Galaxy S4 and Lumia 920 is a lot bigger than the difference between Lumia 1020 and Galaxy S4, so the Lumia 1020 doesn’t seem like something extremely special and magical, but rather like just an incremental or at best generational improvement in quality.
For example, we may see Galaxy S5’s camera match it, or even beat it, next year, and it’s possible Motorola X, Nexus 5 and Sony i1 “Honami” will match it just a few months from now, and maybe even surpass it (crazier things have happened) – and all without any such huge compromises in design. Sony will actually use a larger (than most) 1/2.3″ sensor, but from the leaked pictures so far, it doesn’t look like it will affect the phone’s (very thin) profile at all.
Now here are some sample pictures taken not with Motorola X, but with a phone that uses the same technology. Aptina, which sells technology, says the pixels are twice as sensitive, which means you get 2x less noise on a camera with the same resolution and same sensor size.
Even if Motorola X, Sony i1 and the next Nexus can’t beat Lumia 1020’s camera this year, all they need is to get dangerously close in quality, and that should be enough for all Android users, because it means if they are really fanatic about camera quality, too, they won’t have to give up Android (a huge thing to ask), and they won’t have to buy phones with very large bumps on the back that really stand out either.
Plus, with the fierce competition that exists in the Android world, and with all the companies trying to one-up each other, I think we’ll see phone cameras that can clearly beat what Nokia has next year (also without compromising on the design too much). It already happened with Lumia 920.