Camera Shootout: Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Sony Xperia Z1

Ever since the days of the old, keypad, candy bar phones, many phone users had to debate the perennial dilemma – who has a better camera, Nokia or Sony? This debate slowly fizzled out as Sony adopted Android and grew bigger, while conversely Nokia adopted Windows Phone and shrunk massively. Not only that, the camera quality of Sony’s handsets started to drop somewhat after they adopted Android. After their separation with Ericsson in 2011, it did not improve massively either. Nokia, within half a year had announced and released their best shooter yet, the 808 PureView. It, however, was not the final product that Nokia wanted. It was merely a test-bed for the Nokia Lumia 1020. They announced their compact camera killer in July of this year. Within two months, Sony responded. And it struck hard. It was their first proper cameraphone in years. The Xperia Z1. Not only has this monster of a phone been producing top quality photos, it has also been smashing Android benchmarks one after another, more of which can be seen here in our Z1 Preview. Statistically, the Z1 will definitely sell much more than the Lumia 1020 mainly due to the fact of its operating system. The Z1 is on Android, which has a whopping 79% market share, while Windows Phone has a mere 3.3% of the pie. However, there are some people who could care less about the respective operating systems. Others simply want to see who is best. That’s why we here at Twenty First Tech are bringing you the cameraphone shootout of the decade – the Nokia Lumia 1020 vs the Sony Xperia Z1.

First, let’s get down and dirty with each device’s camera specs. The Nokia Lumia 1020 can shoot at 41 MP (38 MP effective, 7152 x 5368 pixels), has a Carl Zeiss PureView lens, optical image stabilization, auto/manual focus, Xenon & LED flash. Nokia recommends keeping the image at 5 MP, because generally a downsampled image gives you a better result. This beast has a humongous 1/1.5” sensor – the biggest yet in a camera – 1.12 µm pixel size and of course, Nokia’s PureView technology. On paper alone this will send quite a few compact cameras whimpering to their mothers, but its real world performance will be judged below.

On the other end of the battleground stands the Xperia Z1, clad in its exclusive IP55/58 armour, dust proof and water resistant over 1 meter and 30 minutes. That, however, is another story. Today, we’re looking at what it has on its back. This droid can shoot at 20.7 MP, but prefers to downsample itself down to 8 MP in its Superior Auto mode, which takes less effort to operate, and gives you generally cleaner images if you are confused about which setting should go where. It also has a Sony G Lens, 1/2.3” Exmor RS image sensor and BIONZ image processing engine. Again, on paper, this is the best non-Windows Phone (and Symbian if you’re reminding me of the 808) cameraphone, so every smartphone manufacturer should watch their back, including Nokia.

However, let’s get down to the meat of this article – the photos. The following photos have again, graciously been provided by unleashthephones.com, and the full galleries for each device are found here (Z1) and here (Lumia 1020).

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-1

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-1

In this first comparison, the 1020 produces a better image, as the Z1 overexposes its shot resulting in a brighter, and less natural image.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-2

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-2

In the second comparison it is the 1020 doing the overexposure resulting in the outlines of the flowers being extremely difficult to distinguish. The Z1 is flawless here, however.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-3

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-3

The story repeats itself here, with the Lumia 1020 again struggling to find the perfect exposure, and inadvertently causing the sky to look washed out. The Z1 however has no problems and can produce an image with extremely realistic colours, as well as keeping the sky properly exposed resulting in a clear blue sky, and sharp white clouds.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-4

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-4

In this image however, the Lumia 1020 manages to come out top by producing a much clearer image, no doubt helped by its larger image sensor.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-5Z

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-5Z

Here, the Lumia 1020 takes it by a hair, simply managing to produce a slightly sharper image than the Z1, although that might have to do with the differing zoom lengths.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-6

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-6

The Lumia 1020 is the unquestionable winner here, as great as the Z1’s camera is. The 1020 produces an image with much more accurate colour representation than the Z1, as well as managing to get a sharper image.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-7

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-7

The Lumia comes beats the Z1 yet again here, but only just. The Z1 does manage to get the object in focus – the pole – much sharper, but fails to capture the surrounding light being thrown by the signboard.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-8F

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-8F

These two images were taken with the flash on, an immediately you can see the Lumia 1020’s wonderful Xenon flash working its magic. Each object is gloriously lit up, and the light bulb’s yellow tint is cast upon each one of them too. The Z1 also produces a very good image, but loses out in terms of lighting and colour representation.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-9

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-9

Incredulous as it may seem, these images were taken without flash, and instantly the stark contrast between the Z1 and Lumia 1020 is visible. Again, with the help of its gigantic sensor, the Lumia is simply able to capture much more light, while the Z1 struggles in this aspect.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-10F

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-10F

These shots were taken with flash on, and for its inferior LED flash, the Z1 does a very good job. However, at the end of the day it is the image that matters, and in this aspect the 1020 takes the cake.

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-11

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-11

Here, the gulf is wider than ever. If I hadn’t know better myself, I would be screaming DSLR at the Lumia’s shot. It is that ridiculously good. The Z1 is not too shabby itself, and it certainly produces better images than any other cameraphone (exceptions obviously being the 808 and 1020).

Sony Xperia Z1:

Z1-12 Z1-12Z

Nokia Lumia 1020:

1020-12 1020-12Z

Back in the daylight, one can barely find fault with any of these two devices. If I had to choose though, I would just give it to the 1020 (and I cannot emphasize enough how small this just is) simply because it manages exposure slightly better and manages to get the clouds in the photo.

So those are the photos. Remember, if you would like to see the full set at full resolution, visit the links at the start of these images.

The Lumia 1020 is unquestionably not just a king here, but a God. Its images are so clear, so true to life that sometimes I really cannot distinguish its shots from a compact camera, and on rare occasions, an SLR. Sony is completely not at fault here. In view of their OmniBalance design philosophy, they limited the camera size so that the phone would have no noticeable bulge, unlike the Lumia 1020. They put in the best camera that fit, while Nokia put in the very best camera. The Lumia 1020 is a clear winner due to its larger sensor and much higher megapixel count, which it can actually utilize due to a larger sensor. The Z1, while not having as large a sensor as the Lumia 1020, has the largest in the non-Nokia side of things, as well as having the largest megapixel count. It does lack an Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS), which LG has managed to pack in their G2, but nonetheless produces images heads above the G2. Sometimes the Z1 also produces such great images that it becomes hard to differentiate the shots from that of a point-and-shoot, so non-Windows Phone fans, don’t lose heart.

My final words are these. If all you care about is the camera, and can live with any OS, go for the Lumia 1020. It does have a noticeable lens bulge, but it is not as impossible to hold single-handedly as the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. If, however, you cannot stand Windows Phone, or are too much of an Android and/or Sony fan, by all means, go for the Z1. You aren’t losing that much in terms of camera quality. Both are extremely good cameraphones. Do also look out for another piece by me on the Z1’s low-light capabilities on Wednesday, 2 October, as I’ll be attending a closed-door session with Sony about the Z1’s camera.

With that, I thank you for being together with me. Leave your thoughts about these two super-cameraphones in the comments below, and do stay tuned to any future articles by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter!

One thought on “Camera Shootout: Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Sony Xperia Z1

  1. Wow great post! You have really done a lot of research work. I like the way you explain such a complicated thing in much simpler way. While most of other bloggers try to explain in technical terms which is very to difficult to understand for non technical person. Keep doing the great work.

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