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Nokia's Lumia 1020 smart phone hopes to be the best camera

Consumer Reports News: July 12, 2013 02:38 PM

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Nokia yesterday took the wraps off its new flagship smart phone, the Lumia 1020, a Windows Phone 8 device that strives to be the best camera the phone world has ever seen. According to the specs, it's certainly a top contender.

Its star component is an improved version of the 41-megapixel sensor that debuted on the Nokia 808 PureView about a year ago. It can capture an impressive amount of image detail so that photos appear well defined even when significantly cropped. Nokia claims these characteristics eliminate the need for optical zoom, which--as we saw on Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S4 Zoom--can make the phone quite bulky. Another benefit: The phone always keeps a copy of the original image, so you can always restore something you inadvertently cut out by zooming in too close.

The Lumia 1020's image sensor is back-lighted to improve performance under low-light conditions, and it's supported by a mechanical image stabilizer to minimize shaky pictures and videos in unsteady situations.

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Less impressive are its relatively slow 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor and moderate-capacity 2000 mAh battery, which is non-removable. Internal storage seems generous at 32 gigabytes, but not when you consider that each high-resolution shot is 12 megabytes, and each minute of HD video will eat hundreds of megabytes. Like the Lumia 920, this model lacks the microSD card slot that would have allowed you to increase storage.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 will be available exclusively from AT&T on July 26 for $300 with a two-year contract. I expect to review a press sample for you within a week or two. In the meantime, here are some other interesting features I saw on the phone at the press event.

It's primarily a camera. The press conference was almost entirely devoted to the Lumia 1020's image-taking prowess. Other picture-perfecting assets include Zeiss optics with six lenses and a new viewfinder dashboard called Pro Camera that presents an arc of a half-dozen individual controls for manipulating exposure levels and other adjustments. To prevent unpleasant surprises, the effects of your tweaks are instantly shown on the Lumia's gorgeous 4.5-inch Super AMOLED display. A yellow line will appear under individual control symbols to warn you when a particular adjustment will mar photo you plan to take.

Above all, Lumia's versatile, yet simple, controls make should make it a cinch for even novice shutterbugs to perform some fun and fancy tricks, including photographing light trails, time-lapse photography, and slow-motion video.

It should sound awesome. The Lumia 1020 claims to have a new sound-recording technology that incorporates 3 microphones, allowing it to capture events like rock concerts in stereo, handling sound pressure levels six times louder than "conventional" smart-phone microphones. We shall see. Sadly, the benefits of this technology will not apply to phone voice quality.

Better mapping/navigation. Nokia also enhanced its Here Maps and Drive navigation software, which will now show you details about public transportation and better, faster suggestions for bypassing traffic along your route. LiveSight, a Here Maps feature that superimposes the location of businesses you're searching for while viewing maps in street view, now allows you to save such views so that you can revisit them later, or when it's more convenient.

Mike Gikas

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