Many critics are arguing that the new Nokia Lumia 1020 has the best camera of any smartphone. It’s so good, they say, that it rivals – or even tops – the quality of many point-and-shoots.
And Nokia hasn’t relied on fancy apps or image processing to make the Lumia’s pictures look great. It’s returned to photography basics. Let’s take a look.
Bigger Is Better (Sensors and Lenses)
Before cameras went digital, the general rule in photography was this: the larger the film size, the better the image quality (including wider dynamic range, wider tonal range, and better color depths). In today’s digital world, the general rule remains the same. The bigger the digital image sensor, the better the image quality.
The Lumia 1020 has the largest image sensor you can buy in a smartphone—58.10mm². Its size (in surface area) rivals many compact point-and-shoot cameras. For example, the Nokia Lumia 720 point-and-shoot camera has an image sensor that measures 15.50mm² and the Canon PowerShot ELPH 530 camera’s image sensor measures 28.3mm².
The second important factor in photography is the lens. Generally speaking, the more light the lens can channel to the image sensor, the better. It helps you shoot clearer images and to shoot without a flash in darker environments.
The diameter of the lens is called its “aperture.” Aperture size is measured by an f-number. Generally, the lower the f-number the better. The Lumia 1020 has a lens sized at f/2.2; for comparison, the Canon PowerShot ELPH 530’s lens opens to f/3.4.
Nokia also modified their default camera application to include quick access to manual controls on the app’s home screen, giving serious photographers access to shutter speed, ISO, focus, white balance and exposure settings.
Because of its giant image sensor and lens, the camera on the back of the phone looks a lot like what we’re used to seeing on a compact point and shoot. It looks a little strange on a phone, at least right now.
But the insatiable consumer demand for photos leads me to believe that it could very well become the new norm. After all, according to a recent report in USA TODAY, every day 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook. About 40 million go up on Instagram, and Flickr gets 4.5 million uploads.
Read more on the Nokia Lumia 1020.