Thursday, July 11, 2013

Nokia introduces the Lumia 1020 camera / phone; coming to AT&T for $299 subsidized

Although the phone was already outed by AT&T by the time Nokia got around to its press event, Nokia officially unveiled its Lumia 1020 on Thursday.

As expected and as Nokia teased, the Lumia 1020 sports a huge upgrade to its past Windows Phones: a 41-megapixel camera. The PureView branded camera also sports optical image stabilization, six-lens Zeiss optics, and a xenon flash.

In terms of more "common" smartphone specs, the 1020 sports a 4.5-inch AMOLED PureMotion HD+ screen with a resolution of 1280 x 768. It also has the same 1.5Ghz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor as the earlier Lumia 920 and 925, but ups the RAM to 2GB.

All that seems to indicate the phone's real upgrades from past Lumias is the camera, and there's no denying that. The 41-megapixel backside-illuminated PureView camera sensor can't, to be clear, take images at 41 megapixels. It can, however, snap photos at 38 megapixels with a 4:3 aspect ratio or 34 megapixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio. That's not the real key to the 41 megapixel sensor, though, or why it's so important.

Nokia's PureView system uses algorithms that use data from multiple pixels -- seven, to be exact -- to create what the company calls a superpixel. According to Nokia, superpixels not only eliminate image noise in low-light conditions, they also make noise virtually nonexistent in normal lighting. The superpixels also deliver a more accurate representation of the subject.

When it takes a high-resolution image the Lumia 1020 is also saving what Nokia CEO Stephen Elop calls an "oversampled" 5-megapixel image. That also improves the 1020's digital zoom. Consider this: As you zoom in the amount of oversampling on an image is reduced until you reach the limit of the actual resolution.

Thus, if you are taking a 5MP image, you can zoom in until the camera is no longer oversampling but simply using the native resolution. You get no interpolation or upscaling.

At a resolution of 5MP, the Lumia 1020 will give users approximately a 3x digital zoom for photos and a 4x zoom for 1080p video (6x for 720p).

Speaking of that 5MP image, it's a good thing the Lumia 1020 has 32GB of internal storage. When it saves the high-quality oversampled 5-megapixel photo for sharing, it also saves a full-resolution version that can be used for enlarging and cropping.

The hardware and basic camera software is one thing, but Nokia has added a new Pro Camera mode feature. With it, users haveaccess to white balance, ISO (100-3200), exposure compensation, shutter speed (4 seconds to 1/16,000 second), and focus.

Instead of a phone with a camera, the 1020 sounds more like a camera with a phone. The question is, will consumers want to buy it? We shall see soon enough: It will launch on AT&
T on July 26 for a rather hefty $299 subsidized price in yellow, black, and white.

Nokia said that China and some European markets will get the 1020 some time later this quarter.

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