What Nokia PureView flagship to choose: the Lumia 1020 or 1520? Or still the 808 PureView?

What Nokia PureView flagship to choose: the Lumia 1020, the newest Lumia 1520? Or still: the 808 PureView? I'm getting the question more and more often these days - and boy it's a pretty tough one to answer. Like so often in life, it all really depends on your personal situation and preferences.

So I'll just share my thoughts here for whoever is pondering on the same issue. This has become a pretty long post, and to those who already know what they want or like what they have, there might be not much news to read in this post, but you might be willing to add a few suggestions of your own.

I'll illustrate this post with some of the shots I got from all three devices, working with them over the past months or even years. Click on the shot to see the original on Flickr (or OneDrive). Like this shot very dear to me, captured on the first day I could actually use the Nokia 808 PureView I had been looking forward to so much.

Nokia 808 PureViewClub - Now Famous Husky 640 x 480

Nokia 808 PureView
The first PureView device (and flagship), the Nokia 808 PureView with its overwhelming 41MP camera is getting harder to get, although it has become pretty cheap now if you'd like to settle for a second hand device. Where I live people are offering it roughly for somewhere between 150 and 250 euros. Would it be a good choice? That depends on what you expect from it.

Its OS won't receive any more updates, part of its functionality (like the weather service) isn't supported anymore and might even drain the battery if you use 3G (I use my 808 offline only).

Although you'd be buying into a "dead OS", making calls with it won't be a problem of course. Standby time is absolutely excellent (especially if you turn 3G off). And although it's not as easy to share your shots, it's not impossible - you could even choose to only use WiFi.

Nokia 808 PureView - Fish 19There are other advantages when choosing this "old" device (available since june 2012). The camera settings menu is still very rich and versatile, although you can't manually change exposure time.

Its 16GB internal memory is extandable with a micro-SD (up to 64GB according to some, I use 32GB). It has HDMI out and supports USB-on-the-Go (both of which I never used in the years I worked with it).

It has a strong Xenon flash (stronger than the one on the 1020, the 1520 has a double LED). Pushing the "wake" button for a longer time will start a very strong flashlight too (which I used a lot!). You can actually exchange the battery of the Nokia 808 PureView, or even put a ridiculously large one in.

And I should not forget to mention that with the 808 PureView, Nokia introduced Rich Recording as well, another major innovation brought the the mobile industry (soon after eagerly "borrowed" by HTC). In the next video you'll see how Rich Recoring handled the sound of the concert by  Chic featuring Nile Rodgers - both with the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the 808 PureView...

But: one of the most converged mobile smartphone cameras ever realized, is now running on a more or less dead OS. On a side note: too many people blame Stephen Elop for this, but in my years running this club I heard from several trusted sources within Nokia that mr. Elop has been instrumental in getting the Nokia 808 PureView to the market. Nobody knew it existed and he could have killed the project altogether, but he didn't. Just saying.

If you don't care about the "dead OS" and you can live without 3G, if you would only need it as secondary phone if at all, if you just need a very good, more or less connected pocket camera that even makes calls, I guess you're still pretty safe - although I'm not sure what Nokia service will be like when you buy a second hand 808 PureView.

Update: my remarks about the battery being drained as a result of services discontinued by Nokia (like the Weather service), are based on people sharing this problem publicly (like on Twitter). The solution mentioned was to turn 3G off. Meanwhile I've learned from others (over at AllAboutSymbian) this problem in fact doesn't exist with the Nokia 808 PureView running on 3G. I'm sorry I put so much emphasis on this, since I now understand it doesn't seem to be much of a problem at all. 


Nokia Lumia 1020
The Lumia 1020 has a much larger and more sensitive screen (last Mobile World Congess I saw Sony demonstrating that you can now use their smartphone with gloves :-). I have a weak spot for big screens and I do prefer the Nokia Lumia 1020's screen without a doubt over that of his predecessor.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is the second Nokia PureView device with a 41MP sensor. The new sensor has a bit smaller size and hence bit smaller pixels than on the Nokia 808 PureView. To many ardent fans of the 808 here at the PureViewClub, it was physically impossible the Lumia 1020 could be better than its predecessor, and all my comparisons have shown that with its .JPG compression the Nokia 808 PureView has been hard to beat indeed.

But: the imaging team at Nokia has been working very hard on the software of the Lumia 1020, and after the update to Black, the Lumia 1020 even supports Raw .DNG - and I've shown on many occasions here what you can achieve with that!  I have to admit I'm still not much of a Raw .DNG user myself though. I noticed many more passionate mobile photographers more or less like to depend on the pre-installed .JPG output.

That's why the built-in software is so extremely important, and we've seen major changes coming to the Nokia Lumia 1020 with the Black update, also apart from Raw support. Much better compression, much better colours and contrast - a much better JPG result in general. This isn't new by the way - owners of the Nokia 808 PureView have seen major improvements coming with software updates.

Church Veenendaal - Nokia Lumia 1020 - 5MP b

With Nokia Camera, you still choose an enormous amount of different settings to get the exact shot you'd like: white balance, distance, ISO, shutter time, exposure value - but there's no seperate ND-filter and there still are no controls for sharpness, contrast, brightness and saturation.

At the time of writing 89% of the people reacting on the poll here think that it would be fantastic when Nokia would add those (you can still leave your vote, I think about closing it when it reaches 1020 votes :-) To be honest, I'm not sure if I would use these extra settings myself.

There's one more fantastic advantage of using Nokia Camera on the Lumia 1020: it will enable you to capture two shots at the exact same time - one in 5MP and one in 34/38MP (depending on aspect ratio) - or Raw .DNG.

On the Nokia 808 PureView you always have to change the settings in between shots if you want the same scene in different resolutions. And although it's easy to change the resolution and aspect ratio on the 808 (I still miss a 16:9 / 3:4 button in the screen of Nokia Camera) - it's so much easier to be sure you get the exact same shot when you use the "double shots" option on the Nokia Lumia 1020.

And of course you can "play" with your shots in Nokia Camera: "Zoom Reinvented" is just one of the slogans Nokia has been using to promote the Lumia 1020 - it was a slogan that appeared to be completely absent during the Mobile World Congress (just like you wouldn't find the word PureView anywhere there).

Nokia Lumia 1020 - Autumn - 0

To really use Zoom Reinvented you need to shoot in 5MP and 34/38MP (high-resolution). That will give you much more to work with, and you can really dig into the details of your shot (an app like SoZoom is using the high resolution result as well).

Or: you can "zoom out" again, since the high resolution shot will give you everything you thought you didn't need when you zoomed in. That has proven to be extremely practical more than once for me. If you only make a 5MP shot, you can still adjust the horizon and crop your shot in different formats (1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9).

I don't think I have to explain the major advantages of the Lumia 1020 running on Windows Phone. The once limited Store is now piled up with all the apps you need. I can't think of any I'm missing to be honest, in fact: I couldn't think of one application missing at all - but I'm quite sure some dedicated apps you might know from Android or iOS isn't there yet. So be it, I guess it will come in the near future.

There a quite a few different imaging apps in my collection as well, but I must admit that apart from a few like Pro Camera, I hardly have time to  give them all a try. Except of course for Nokia's own imaging applications like Nokia Refocus and Nokia Smart Cam. Oh and and the funny Tiny Planets app I wrote about recently.

Also, the Nokia Lumia 1020 offers Rich Recording like the 808 PureView, but it adds Optical Image Stabilization Nokia introduced with the Lumia 920 - enabling you to make incredible shots under not so great or even dark circumstances. I'll share this recent hand-held shot once again as an example of what it makes possible. Captured on a Sunday evening in Barcelona - can't help but love this shot :-)


The internal memory of the Nokia Lumia 1020 is 32GB and there's no micro-SD slot. Last but not least, the Lumia 1020 supports NFC ("tap to share") and wireless charging. I probably can even think of some more advantages (like it's pretty light), but this will have to do for now.

If I had to choose between the Nokia 808 PureView or the Nokia Lumia 1020, choosing the last one would be a no brainer for me, really. But if you ONLY want it for the 41MP sensor (and Rich Recording), the 808 is still a very impressive device.

So the 808 could still be a good choice and most likely a cheaper alternative if you can get it, with a few imaging features you won't (yet) find on the 1020, but also some things you might really miss, like OIS - enabling you to make hand-held shots like below - coming from the Nokia Lumia 1520, the third and most recent Nokia PureView flagship I'll share my thoughts about in this post.

Nokia Lumia 1520

Nokia Lumia 1520
This is the device with which the Black update was premiered, but it didn't just stand out for that. In a lot of respects this is Nokia's best Windows Phone so far in term of specifications. It has got a whopping screen size and quality. Flying to Barcelona I've been looking at not much else than this fantastic screen, watching several videos I copied to the micro-SD - since yes, the Lumia 1520's 32GB internal memory is expandable.

Also, it's the first quad-core processor Nokia has ever used in a Windows Phone, so it's blazing fast - although I must admit the 1020 doesn't really strike me as being slow, let alone twice as slow as the 1520. The battery however is much more powerful so you will notice a difference in that respect. It has wireless chaging and NFC, just like you find on the 1020.

Update: I have to admit I simply forgot about the fact that the Nokia 808 PureView supports NFC as well.

Also, the OS is exactly the same, but the 1520 will show you more applications in your screen: six small tiles in a row if you wish, whereas the 1020 can't show more than four. The amount of available applications is identical, but working with Office files will of course be much easier with the big screen of the 1520. This is really the smartphone to get work done with.

Some complain it isn't "pocketable" and you "can't use it with one hand". Well, it is pocketable in the inside pocket of my jacket (which always proves to be very practical  like being able to put the little "hand cinema" away in the plane :-). It won't fit your jeans, that's for sure. But that goes for just about any other smartphone with a large screen (I do hate the word "phablet").

The same goes for "not being able to use it with one hand" - that's something Steve Jobs used to be really keen on: the size of the iPhone was "just perfect". Look at it now.

Nokia Camera is exactly the same application on your 1520. The only important camera difference is - of course - the size of the sensor: 20MP, which means 19MP effective in 4:3 aspect ratio and 16MP shooting in 16:9. Do you notice that difference? Yes of course you do: the Lumia 1020 has a sensor twice this size, so no wonder. But still, the Lumia 1520 is capable of making some great shots with high quality, and it's even easier to show them to others on the 6 inch screen.

Nokia Lumia 1520 - Muenster Dom - 5

Let's not forget the Nokia Lumia 1520 was the first smartphone (in history) with camera software that supports Raw. DNG. So if you're familiar with software like Photoshop, Lightroom or Glimp, you can get the very best out of its Raw output.

Are their other differences you should take into account when mobile photography is what you're after? Well yes, I guess. The Lumia 1520 isn't as easy to hold as the Lumia 1020 - in my opinion that is.

Its camera button is a bit thinner, which makes it less easy to get a good grip on with your index finger. Although the difference might be subtle, it's there - but there's always the software button of course.

The big screen will give you a great view on what you're capturing, but the device does feel quite large for a camera and is sort of slippery (if you have the matte black or yellow version that is). I'd advise anyone getting the Lumia 1520 to buy the official cover as well.

There's another subtle difference, concerning Rich Recording. The Nokia Lumia 1520 also offers " directional recording" I recently wrote about. Not only will it record extremely loud volumes without any distortion, it will even let you "hear what you see". This means the audio recording will focus on the sound in front of the camera, muffling the sound in the back. Check the post I linked to, it's another innovative recording technique - again: on a smartphone, mind you.

To conclude a small, but important difference: the Nokia Lumia 1520 works with the nano simcard, not the micro version we were all used to until now. Not sure why that was necessary in such a large device, but it's the way it is. So now it's easy to "make the switch" if you use an iPhone, but you can't swap your simcard between your previous Lumia (or Android) and the 1520 if you would like that option :-)

If you made it 'till here, you've been reading well over 2000 words and I guess that's all I have to share on this matter for now. I could have included the Nokia Lumia 920 as a very reasonably priced alternative, or the  Nokia Lumia 925 with its lovely design as well, but I hope you´ll understand I didn't - it's long enough as it is, right?

In short, if people ask me what's the best PureView device at this moment, or what's the very best smartphone camera in general, I guess you now know my answer. UpdateBut I'd like to emphasis that different from what I wrote before, there doesn't seem to be a problem with the Nokia 808 PureView draining the battery on 3G - and it does support NFC as well :-)

But there may be several reasons to choose otherwise - ranging from "still great value for money" to "I need more than just a good shot on my smartphone". Like I said: it all depends on your personal situation and preferences. Hope this helped, don't hesitate to let me know below, share your own view or ask away if you still need to know more.

Ship - Nokia Lumia 1520 - 5MP

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