First shots from the Nokia Lumia 1520 analyzed

Being in the Netherlands, I can only hope to get my hands on the Nokia Lumia 1520 anywhere soon, but the major US blogs all published their reviews today, like  The Verge and  Engadget. But there's one European website that already could test the Lumia 1520, and it's one of the best of the continent: AllAboutWindowsPhone

And although I can only advise you to read Rafe Blandford's in-depth review of the Lumia 1520 in full, I was happy to find (only on this site) a few 5MP shots in their original format, and I'd like to focus on those in this post. Note that in his article he writes he'll be looking at the Lumia 1520’s camera performance, including video capture, in more detail in a later review, but I'm already very happy with these first snaps and the fact he's sharing the original files as well.

In the introduction of the Camera chapter, Rafe Blandford writes:
"The Lumia 1520 has a 20 megapixel camera, with an accompanying dual LED flash, but the critical numbers are f/2.4 aperture and a 1/2.5" sensor size (compared to 1/3" on most generic flagships). Also included in the PureView branded camera is Nokia’s implementation of optical image stabilisation (OIS) and 6-element Carl Zeiss optics. These characteristics put the Lumia 1520 into the very top tier of cameraphones. Indeed, of the smartphones currently on the market, it’s really only Nokia’s own Lumia 1020 that has a better baseline specification."

I took the liberty to "borrow" a few of the shots Rafe published and I asked my PureViewClub friend from the other end of the world, Bigley Ling (aka "bigs") to share his opinion on these first results. You'll find the shots below - click on the shot to see the original format as share on AllAboutWindowsPhone.

Everything below is written by Bigley Ling.

5 shots from the Nokia Lumia 1520

I guess we can call this an example of a portrait shot. What is immediately noticeable is the sharpness of the whole image, and while the sensor is not as large as the 1020's massive 41MP sensor, it still renders nice somewhat defocused background. Colors looks rather natural, and there is none of this over saturation, or warm color filtering we have become accustomed to with the Lumia 1020 images.

Of interest is the detail in the eyes of the Pigs in focus. It is really quite impressive with eye lashes and whiskers around that region holding an amazing amount of detail, while not looking over sharpened or noisy. There is clearly noise reduction taking place even at ISO 100, but it is just enough to preserve detail yet not look noisy at all.

This is a classic test that will push smart phone sensors to the limits when it comes to rendering fine details throughout the frame. We will ignore the horse and rider as they are far enough they are actually part of the background. The 1520 does an impressive job with this oversampled 5MP result, and most of the grass in the fore and middle ground shows exceptional detail for a 5MP image. Do note though the bottom left and right corners of the image does suffer from corner softness.

The green grass color has a nice saturation to it, which seems to be quite natural and does not have the same "radio active" look the 1020 sometimes renders when it comes to green grass. What is of interest is the background trees where it intersects the sky. This is where the clarity of the image starts to drop and fine details are still present but look somewhat smudged possibly due to the limitation of the oversampling 20MP sensor, and possibly due to noise reduction. The blue sky seems devoid of noise which indicates the presence of noise reduction.

A close up shot captured in in lower light is good example for OIS where the shutter speed is only 1/20 and details at a higher ISO. It seems Nokia has listened to it's fans, and has modified the noise reduction algorithm to be more like the 808. There is clearly visible noise shooting at ISO 320, but the noise is more noticeable when zooming in and pixel peeping. It is clear that not only is there visible noise, but also some detail smudging due to some noise reduction applied.

It can be hard to find a good balance between noise and water color noise reduction, and it seems with Nokia Black, the fine tuning has paid off with this somewhat optimized image. Where the 1020 is oversampling 7 pixels to 1 approx, the 1520 only has the ability to over sample 4 pixels to 1. For this reason we are seeing more aggressive noise reduction taking place at this ISO and evidence of reduced details captured. Color wise, the image again looks extremely natural and not over warm.

It is as if the saturation, and contrast, and sharpening has been turned down compared to what we would see in a 1020 image. Even so, the saturation and contrast is still more than what you would get from an 808 image. Could this be the balance or compromise we have all been looking for?

Look at that red and green. With just the right amount of sharpness, this image has the pop factor, and depending on ones display, the image has a kind 3D like appearance. The definition upon inspecting individual leaves is impressive, and each grass blade can be accounted for.

Again though the far extend corners are slowing softness, but this is really only visible if you pixel peep 100% on the 5MP image. What is interesting is the green grass. It does look intense and stands out. I think this is borderline "1020 radioactive with current firmware" but I think it still passes as being normal grass.

As with Shot 2 is very similar, with trees, blue sky and green grass. It is good to see consistent whitebalance with the 1520, where both these scenes are rendered similar. Looking at the left hand side of the frame this times shows something that we have not seen in Shot 2 and that is the left hand side of the frame possibly is exhibiting a bit of distortion and softness.

It is most evident looking at the grass and trees to the left of the frame pixel peeping. If this is visible at a 5Mp level, this issue will be amplified 2x when viewing the full resolution 20MP image. More samples needs to be tested and full resolution images need to be available to confirm this. Also other factors like focus point could be a factor to why we are seeing this detail loss on the left hand side.

Conclusion
So far based on samples, a quick view of 5mp pureview images, one can see the standard trait of all corners having softness which seems to be inherited from the 1020. If this softness is visible at 5mp, one can only imagine what it would be like at 20mp.

Overall image quality is very good, and the 1520 camera quality seems to fit in nicely in between the 1020 and the non oversampling 920,925 and 928. I think the evolved image processing puts the 1520 alot closer to the 1020 than one might think for time being since the images do seem more "natural" and "real". An added bonus is that pureview 5mp images now have a softer tone to it, and does not seem to be putting emphasis on sharpening noise like the 1020 does in pureview mode with the current firmware.

The 1520 camera is not so much an evolution in camera hardware but rather an evolution in the software imagine processor which seems rather mature. If this is what 1020 owners have to look forward to with the upcoming "Nokia Black" I think it should a peace users that previously thought the 1020 images was poorly processed and excessively noisy.

Bigley Ling, Christchurch, New-Zealand

Source: AllAboutWindowsPhone

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