Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Guide

1020 back up

As the Nokia Lumia 1020’s impressive 41 megapixel camera and Xenon flash have been receiving a lot of acclaim lately, we thought we’d take an in-depth look at what’s really going on under the yellow hood.

Physically having the horsepower to get the perfect shot is grand, but with so many manual options the ‘point and shoot’ approach mightn’t deliver the best results.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 sample image 1, click to enlarge

What does having 41 megapixels really mean?

First thing’s first, everything you shoot on the Nokia 1020’s 41 megapixel camera, won’t be a 41 megapixel shot – as a default, for no more than storage reasons, you’re shooting  oversampled 5 megapixel photos. If you were to set the aspect ratio to 16:9, you’ll be taking 34 megapixel photos, or change that to 4:3 and you’re looking at 38 megapixel photos.

To access the aspect ratio settings:

  • Launch the Nokia Pro Cam app
  • Locate the three dots in the bottom right hand corner
  • Select ‘settings’ and then ‘capture mode’.
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Nokia Lumia 1020 sample image 2, click to enlarge


Although 5 megapixels sounds like a poxy amount in comparison to the advertised quality, this is easily sufficient to post on Twitter or Facebook – images will look sharp, bright and balanced. And, if this is what you want to do with Nokia’s camera, an automatic setting will be more than adequate.

We should mention that although it’s stated as 5 megapixels, the image will look a lot better than a 5 megapixel shot on a standard smartphone camera, again due to oversampling.Oversampling works in such a way that a camera crams more pixels into the space of one pixel to produce a higher quality image. Instead of a 5 megapixel sensor capturing a 5 megapixel image, on the Nokia 1020 you have a 41 megapixel sensor capturing a 5 megapixel image.

If you’re shooting in the higher quality forms mentioned above (34 and 38 megapixels), you will have to edit them on a computer before sharing. If you were to share them online or send between devices directly from the handset, it would massively eat into your data plan (sending over Wi-Fi will be fine). However, as the images are such a high-spec, cropping them won’t reduce quality.

1020 smart cam

What about all those other settings?

Unfortunately if we were to give a full detail on all aspects of digital photography you’d be sat reading this all day, so we thought we’d put together a basic guide to the 1020′s camera settings.

When using the Nokia Pro Cam, the settings along the top of the display read (from left to right), flash, white balance, focus, ISO, aperture and shutter speed. The last three are attributed to the image’s overall exposure – this is important when trying to capture the perfect photo. Below we’ve given a brief description of each element.

  • Flash

Choose whether or not to have your image illuminated by the inbuilt Xenon flash

  • White balance

This ultimately alters the temperature of the image, giving the impression of warmth or lack thereof. This should be changed  to suit the weather or lighting conditions of your surroundings.

  • Focus

Consists of three options: Auto focus on anything by half pressing the shutter button on the side of the handset, alternatively you can tap the screen. Macro focus brings out detail in the foreground and Infinity focus looks at the bigger picture – perfect for wide angled landscape shots.

  • ISO 

This setting stems from when photos used to be captured on film. The difference in numbers depicts how sensitive the ‘film’ is to light. Again, this has to be matched with your surroundings.

  • Shutter speed

Determines how long your shutter will stay open. The 1020’s lens ranges from 1/16000th seconds (for sports for example) to 4 seconds. Long exposures are great for slow moving object to create effects, i.e. the moon and stars.

  • Aperture

Controls how much light gets in, in exactly the same way the iris in your eye dilates to let more light in. Remember, the smaller the number, the bigger the hole. The measurements are referred to as f-numbers, i.e. f2.8 (big hole) or f22 (small hole).

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Nokia Lumia 1020 sample image 3, click to enlarge

With a small amount of tutelage, amateur photographers will be well on their way to understanding and executing the elements of digital photography in no time. Get the above settings right and great images can be captured with relative ease. And, if not, there’s still the comfort of the Auto settings on hand. All in all the Nokia 1020 may be more a camera with a phone attached than the other way round, but it’s refreshing to use a camera with a familiar smartphone interface.

Click here to read the full handset review, and click here for the Nokia Lumia 1020 Complete Guide.