Nokia Lumia 1520: .JPG and .DNG shots analyzed and compared

On one of the first days I had the Nokia Lumia 1520 with me, of course I wanted to make some shots with it and with some other smartphone cameras. It was another typical dull autumn morning in The Netherlands - somewhere between light and dark grey, like the clouds were not sure if they were going to rain or not.

I went to work on my bike and brought the Lumia 1520, Lumia 1020, 808 PureView and even the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. With those devices, I made quite a few shots from exactly the same scene - a tiny "beach bar" near a small lake. I captured it in the several resolutions available on these smartphones, but with everything else on "auto".

So suddenly, I had 45 (>500MB of) shots and no time to compare them - not a clue either still, how to work with the raw .DNG shots in a clever way, since this is all new to me (and I'm sure I'm not the only "fanatic mobile photographer" to learn about this :-).

So I asked our PureViewClub member Peter Meijs, aka Pixel Peter, to see what he could get out of all these shots. Everything you will read below was written by Pixel Peter (thank you, Peter! :-)

About the files
Marc sent me a bunch of pictures taken with his 808 PV, Lumia 1020 and the phablets Lumia 1520 and even the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Of course with the Lunia 1520 he also captured full resolution 20 MP raw-dng pictures.

Strictly speaking I should call these 20 MP pictures dng files because they contain digital data from the sensor and no pixels. As far as things stand now you can only work with dng files on your PC or Mac. You have to copy your dng files to your computer and (on a PC) in Windows Explorer this is what you see. 

All pictures below can be seen full screen by clicking on them, they will open in a seperate window.

No Codec The dng files are only visible as icons and not as picture thumbnails. Normally this is no problem because right after the icon the thumbnail of the 5MP picture is displayed.

But when you copy all you dng files to a separate map you only see icons and you are lost. But there is a solution, you can download a free codec from Adobe's site.

DNG Codec 2.0

(click CODEC to download).

After installing the codec the view in Windows Explorer changes to: With Codec For some reason (unknown to me) the dng thumbnails show up very dark but will (I hope) give you sufficient visual information when copied to a separate map.

The cool thing of the rather big codec (17.2 MB) is that once installed you can open dng files in all windows photo applications you have on your PC like in Photo Viewer and (from there) in Photo Gallery to edit your picture.

But, be aware that editing, although now in full resolution, will be done as a JPEG. To get all the benefits of raw editing you have to open your dng file directly in a raw editor like LightRoom, Photoshop or one of the many raw converters out there.

The Lumia 1520 compared to its peers
Marc took a great number of pictures of a small cottage on the Media Park in Hilversum. Nokia Lumia 1520 2 Flash-5punt3MP It must have been a dull day because the highlight-shadow contrasts in the pictures are low. So we can't compare things like clipped highlights/shadows and say nothing about the dynamic range of the different smartphones/phablets. But the cottage is colorfull and there is much foliage surrounding it.

To compare the detailing and definition of the 4 devices this test scene is usable. But how do you fairly compare the Lumia 1020 with 41 MP, the Lumia 1520 with 20 MP and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with 13 MP?

My approach was to open in Photoshop the 5 MP pictures of the 1020 and 1520 and the 10 MP picture of the Note 3 but downsizing the last to view them all, highly magnified, at the same (virtual) print size. 200%-1520-5MP-1020-5MP-Note3-10MpAgain; click on the picture to see the details!
From top to bottom, the 1520, the Note 3, the 1020.

The 1520 balances nicely sharpness and noise reduction.
The Note 3 does even better and shows a sharper picture from left to right.
The 1020 shows a picture we are familiar with; too sharp and with visible artefacts. Fortunately we know Nokia will come up with a better algorithm for the 1020 jpg's.
Unfortunately in the shots Marc provided me with, the Lumia 1520 has nothing in between 5 MP and it's raw 20 MP resolution.

What would be the result of the Lumia 1520 using the 20 MP dng file? Again using the "same virtual print size" approach in Photoshop I compared all 3 Nokia devices at their highest resolution. I replaced the "Note 3" by our good old 808 PureView as a well-known reference. 200%-1520-1020-808

From top to bottom, the 1520, the 1020, the 808 PV.

I opened the 1520 dng file in Photoshop via its raw converter plugin (ACR) straight away without any editing. To bring it to the same virtual print size as its two 41 MP Nokia brothers (sisters?) I had no other possibility than to upscale the 1520 picture in Photoshop with the best method Photoshop offers for enlargements. Click on the picture to see the details!

Here we see once more that "size matters" - which in this case means that the double picture count of the 1020 and the 808 matters. The unedited 1520's full res dng file is unable to give the same sharpness.

We also see clearly noise in the 1520 picture. The 1020 (not yet with the Black update) is sharp with artefacts and the 808 is sharp without atefacts. No surprises here.

How would be the comparison with the 1520 dng edited in a raw converter? To answer that question I opened the 1520 dng in the Adobe Camera Raw plugin for Photoshop and edited it to the best (arguably) I could.

I did some sharpening, noise reduction, and some basic modifications.

Settings1520dng-ACR-Edit Settings1520dng-ACR-Edit-Basic

Now the "all Nokia" comparison looks like: 200%-1520Edited-1020-808

Once more: click on the picture to see the details!
I am quite happy with the result. Now the 1520 is no longer a leap behind the 1020. It's not as detailed and noise free but the difference is not that big anymore. And, no surprise, the 808 stays the best.

The pixel peeping above is only for comparison reasons and only of practical use when you want to make big quality prints. By far the most 1520 users will only work with the 5 MP jpg pictures to share by mail, on the internet or make manageable prints or photobooks.

For all these purposes the image quality of the 1520 is outstanding. And you can use the 5MP picture for that! No need for difficult editing in a raw converter. Next comparison shows what I mean: 200%-1020-1520-5MPsAgain, don't forget to click on the pic to see what this is all about: a direct comparison of the 5MP jpg pictures of the 1020 (on top) and the 1520.

You'll see no big difference in sharpness. And it seems that Nokia allready uses a better sensor to jpg algoritm (vs the 1020) resulting in acceptable sharpness, without artefacts and noise.

November 25, 2013
Peter Meijs aka Pixel Peter

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