Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Nokia Lumia 920 Review


  • 1280x768 pixel PureMotion HD+ display with gloves support
  • Built-in wireless charging
  • Built-in Dolby audio processing
  • Fast lens+OIS yields amazing video even in low light
  • Low light performance is quite good
  • OS is extremely fluid without any lag or jitter


  • Slightly bulky
  • Wireless charging pad not part of standard retail package
  • Low-light mode's aggressive noise reduction impacts detail
  • Lack of apps for the Windows Phone 8 OS can be a little frustrating

The Lumia 920 is Nokia's latest flagship, and runs the spanking new Windows Phone 8 OS. There is a lot of hype around the PureView camera, but isn't as exceptional as Nokia would have you believe. However, it is still quite amazing, besting the iPhone 5 in most situations, including low-light environments and video quality. The lack of apps for the Windows Phone 8 platform is honestly not a deal breaker. You do get a lot of WP8 and Nokia exclusive features anyway. If you're in the market for a new high end smartphone, the Lumia 920 should be something you definitely consider.

The Nokia flagship has finally landed, with the Lumia 920 now adorning store shelves in all Nokia Priority stores across the country. We’ve been really excited about this phone and the camera isn’t the only reason. When Nokia first unveiled the device, the Lumia 920 had impressed us with its
high-resolution curved glass display (which is meant to works even with gloves on), its sturdy and gorgeous polycarbonate body, and wireless charging.
We spent a lot of time with this and we’ve got a lot of things to say about it and therefore, we’re going to approach this review a little differently. We’re going to break it down into three sections; Camera, Hardware, and Software, as everything about this phone can be covered under these three heads.
Optics: Not Perfect, But Better than the RestLet’s face it, if you’re looking at the Nokia Lumia 920, the camera is what probably has your interest peaked. Nokia has been hard-selling the camera on the Lumia 920, making some tall claims about image stabilization, low light performance and more, but we won’t take their word for it. We had the Lumia 920 square up against the iPhone 5, which many consider to be the best camera phone in the market currently.
The imaging tech in the Lumia 920 carries the PureView branding, bringing Optical Image Stabilization, (a first in a cell phone camera), along with a fast aperture of f/2.0 which lets light onto an 8.7 megapixel BSI sensor. In a conventional OIS system, there is generally one floating lens element that moves to compensate for shake, but in the Lumia 920, the five lens elements that form the entire optical assembly of the camera move together. Nokia says that this allowed them to miniaturize the OIS system sufficiently.
We shot with the Nokia Lumia 920 extensively for the last few days, taking it everywhere we go and using it as our primary camera. If you’re contemplating doing the same thing, please don’t, because even though the image and video quality is good, it will not replace your point and shoot or DSLR camera. Our first experience with the camera on the Lumia 920 was a slightly disappointing one, seeing as all the amazing manual shooting features of the PureView 808 have been stripped from the camera interface of the Lumia 920. Instead, we get a set of six shooting modes (Auto, Closeup, Night, Night Portraits, Sports, Backlight), all of which are actually pretty effective, except Auto (the irony)!
Our second gripe with the camera on the Lumia 920 is that the ‘touch-to-focus’ function is a bit flawed. While you can tap an area of the screen to focus, after a certain amount of focussing, the camera will proceed to take the shot automatically, even if the selected area is still out of focus. The iPhone 5’s camera interface on the other hand, separates the touch-to-focus and shutter mechanism, allowing you to choose if the focus was adequate before actually taking the shot. There is no way to just do a touch-to-focus and in case you do disable the touch-shutter feature (and use the physical shutter button), then the camera won’t focus anywhere but the centre of the screen.
The third, and possibly the biggest flaw with the Lumia 920’s camera is the shutter button itself. We’ve consistently noticed (on our review unit and units in stores) that pressing the shutter button requires extra effort, which will invariably cause a little bit of shake. This doesn’t matter much during bright day light, but in low light, results in blurred images. The Optical Image Stabilization should technically compensate for that momentary shake, but in most cases, it didn’t. We’re guessing the OIS works better for video than it does for stills, because our videos did turn out rather stable.
Looking at the images we shot with the Lumia 920, there’s no denying that Nokia has once again done something special with the camera. We shot 80% of our test shots using the appropriate setting (e.g. Closeup setting for macro shots, Backlight setting for shooting subjects that were backlit, etc.,), and with these, the camera performed splendidly. Of course, we had to use the touch shutter for shots that were ‘creatively’ framed, but we worked with it. The low light capabilities of the Lumia 920 are really being raved about, so we did a few tests for ourselves.
When shooting in low light, the shutter speed of the Lumia 920 slows down significantly and the images do come out brighter looking and better exposed than that from the competition, but a closer look reveals something more. When ‘pixel-peeping,’ that is, examining the image at 100%, you realize that there are very aggressive noise reduction algorithms at work, which effectively reduce the level of detail carried by the image. However, if you don’t want to do anything but show off these images on the web, then the Lumia 920 is produces great images even in low light, but we wouldn’t recommend prints larger than 16x12 inches.
Lumia 920 and iPhone 5 camera comparison (1)
When shooting on auto settings, the camera did a fairly decent job of exposing for the right white balance, but the colours seemed to be a little washed out every now and then. Turns out the reason for that is the Matrix metering being used on the Lumia 920. There are three primary kinds of metering modes – Spot Metering, Center Weighted, and Matrix Metering. While many cameras use Center Weighted as a means to measure light, the Lumia 920 sticks to the Matrix mode which can be a blessing or a boon. It works exceptionally well indoors, but can be unpredictable when shooting outside under the harsh sun, or when shooting a subject with a strong backlight in the frame. Nokia bypasses the backlighting problem by introducing a “Backlight” scene mode, which works rather well, but if the camera is in “Auto” scene mode, it won’t switch to Backlight mode on its own.
Now the video quality on the Lumia 920 is definitely something to be impressed with. The Optical Image Stabilization works wonderfully and the amount of light being let in through the f/2.0 aperture ensures good quality video. Of course in low light, noise starts to develop quickly in the shadow areas, but the red channel picks up noise almost just as quickly. This affects even point and shoot cameras, so we’re not surprised. While the Nokia Lumia 920 won’t outperform a point and shoot camera, it does offer very stiff competition to the iPhone 5 for images shot in good light, beats the iPhone 5 in low light shots, and definitely trumps the competition as far as video goes.
Lumia 920 and iPhone 5 camera comparison (2)
But wait there is more! Nokia has packaged in three virtual lenses that take the experience of shooting still images a notch higher. We have a lens for shooting panoramas, one which is called Smart Shoot that eliminates the “photo-bombing” phenomenon, and an app that lets you create Cinemagraphs. Each of these lenses works pretty well, and we especially love the panorama lens, though it’s a little tricky to use.

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