Sony Xperia Z3 vs Nokia Lumia 1020: The Gold Standard Test

Sony Xperia Z3 vs Nokia Lumia 1020: The Gold Standard Test

By Rich W Woods

The Sony Xperia Z3v is has come to Verizon this week and the Sony Xperia Z3 is coming to T-Mobile on October 29, so as always, we compare the camera to all of its competing cameras.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is the gold standard of smart phone cameras. It has a 41 MP Pureview camera with a Carl Zeiss lens, a real xenon flash, and support for taking RAW photos. While the Nokia Lumia 1020 was released almost a year and a half ago in July, 2013, it is one of few smart phones released that long ago that remain relevant.

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Sony Xperia Z3 vs Nokia Lumia 1020: Specs

Obviously the Sony Xperia Z3 is going to have better specs than the Nokia Lumia 1020. It is being released next week whereas the Nokia Lumia 1020 was released a year and a half ago; however, that doesn’t mean the Sony will have better camera specs.

Sony Xperia Z3 Nokia Lumia 1020
Processor 2.5 GHz Quad Core Snapdragon 801 1.5 GHz Dual Core Snapdragon S4 Pro
Display 5.2″, 1080p, 424 ppi, LCD 4.5″, 720p, 332 ppi, AMOLED
Body 146x72x7.3 mm, 152 g 130.4×71.4×10.4 mm, 158 g
Camera Resolution 20.7 MP, 5248×3936, 2.2 MP Front 41 MP, 7152×5368, 1.2 MP Front
Video 4K – 30 fps, 1080p – 60 fps, 720p – 120 fps, Front 1080p – 30 fps 1080p at 30 fps, Front 720p – 30 fps
Aperture F/2 F/2.2
Camera Sensor 1/2.3″ 1/1.5″
Storage 16/32 GB 32 GB
Price $699 $599


This is a camera comparison but we’ll quickly brush over the specs. The Sony Xperia Z3 has a much better processor than the Nokia Lumia 1020, but the Nokia Lumia 1020 has a better display. Of course, the Nokia Lumia 1020 has a better camera.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell how good a camera is from a spec sheet. Sure, sensor size, aperture, software, and sometimes megapixels make a big difference, but in the end, it is real world application that matters. After all, when I compared the Sony Xperia Z3 and the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, they were slightly different and they use the same sensor and software.

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Sony Xperia Z3 vs Nokia Lumia 1020: Rear Camera

The Sony Xperia Z3 uses a 20.7 MP rear camera while the Nokia Lumia 1020 uses a 41 MP camera. I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz words before, but megapixels don’t matter. This is because a 720p display is less than 1 MP, a 1080p display is less than 2.1 MP, a 1440p display is less than 3.7 MP, and a 4K display is less than 8.3 MP, so in most cases, the resolution of the photo is more than the resolution of the display. The one thing that megapixels are good for is zooming in on the photo after taking it without losing quality.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 has three camera modes: 5 MP JPEG, 5 MP JPEG and 35 MP JPEG, and 5 MP JPEG and 35 MP DNG. It is important to remember that with the third setting, if the user decides to zoom in on the photo, it will only use the low resolution file.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is certainly a better option for professional photographers, with RAW support and manual controls, but the Sony Xperia Z3 certainly has some great features as well. The user can do manual controls, but he can also do a live stream on YouTube. This can be a handy feature for people that have special events or are sick and have relatives in different countries.

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Due to some recent confusion, I should note that you can click or tap to enlarge the photos.

Nokia Lumia 1020 Sony Xperia Z3

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When I do camera comparisons, I don’t look at the photos side by side until I am putting the review together. This keeps the words I write above the photos separate from the words I write after. In other words, I’m seeing the photos side by side at the same point in the article that you are.

That being said, I am blown away. The Sony Xperia Z3 is better in low light, a complete first in a comparison against the Nokia Lumia 1020. It’s super fast, it focuses better, and the pictures are beautiful. The Sony Xperia Z3 has a manual mode, so the only thing you are missing out on with the Sony Xperia Z3 is RAW support, which is rumored to be coming with Android Lollipop.

It is important to note that since there are so many manual controls on the Lumia 1020 as well as RAW support, it is literally possible to take a photo and turn it into anything you want. If you know how to work with RAW photos and you know how to use manual controls, it is absolutely possible that you can make the photos from the 1020 look even better than those of the Sony Xperia Z3.

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Sony Xperia Z3 vs Nokia Lumia 1020: Front Camera

Neither of these phones have high resolution front facing cameras. The Sony Xperia Z3 uses a 2.2 MP front facing camera and the Nokia Lumia 1020 uses a 1.2 MP front facing camera. As I mentioned above, resolution doesn’t matter in a rear camera because the resolution of the photo is higher than the resolution of the display.

This is not the case with front facing cameras. 1.2 MP is just north of 720p and 2.2 MP is just north of 1080p. This doesn’t mean that a 1.2 MP front facing camera isn’t good. Take a look at the comparison of the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact and the iPhone 6.

As with all of the Sony Xperia Z3 camera comparisons, the front facing camera doesn’t measure up. While the front camera on the Nokia Lumia 1020 isn’t great, it does the best it can with what it has. Sony really needs to push out a software update for this.

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All Sony Xperia Z3 Camera Comparisons

All Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Camera Comparisons

All Nokia Lumia 1020 Camera Comparisons

About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.

  • Brian McMahon

    Nice comparison, Z3 is really up there with the 1020. One thing which is always evident in the 1020’s photos is soft corners, while the Z3 produces better focus across the shot. One of the reasons i shelved my 1020 and got a G3.

    Still good to see the 1020 is still relevant but Android hardware is getting there fast now.

    • Great analysis. The only thing I would disagree with is “Android hardware”. There has always been good Android hardware. It’s the software that really does it.

  • Great comparison, I own the Z2 and 1020, in terms of daylight shots the SONY Z3 has narrowed but not nailed it. On closer inspection the foliage looks artificial on the landscape shots. Lots of digital noise on the leaves. Close up flowers are better in the Z3 and for 1020 to trounce that it needs to go RAW mode and tweaking.
    I am not at all surprised that with ISO 12800 rating the Z3 has beaten the 1020 on low lights.
    Great review and please do a 20MP versus 38MP comparison next time if you can.

    • rwoods716

      Yes I used the low resolution photos from the 1020 and 8 MP photos from the Xperia Z3. Occasionally I use the high resolution photos with the 1020 and some of the newer ones with the Z3. I typically don’t because there is not much of a difference for this purpose. Like I said, if your monitor is 1080p it’s less than 2.1 MP, 1440p is less than 3.7 MP, and 4K is less than 8.3 MP. For the amount of space the image will take on the screen, it wouldn’t make a difference. The purpose of the higher resolution photos are for resizing the image. It wouldn’t serve much of a purpose just to post the high resolution images. Also, it would take up a hell of a lot of server space. Great analysis, by the way.

      • Agreed but I was mostly interested if the digital noise on Z3 could have come down. The extra pixels in the 1020 surely help but currently in Android world the Z3 has no equal period and even without OIS its the night photo champ.

  • Kwang

    Impressive to know 1020 always leaves a blue sky on its landscape when the Z3 would have white out. I own a DSC Sony TX-1 and its the same issue. Somehow maybe because its Sony.

    • Yep overexposure can be a bane with SONY but sometimes it does yield details that the 1020 leaves behind unless you process the DNG file.

  • Curren

    Most the photos in low light taken with the 1020 are not a true representation of what that camera can do but in most of those photo the Z3 was just pathetic, so much noise they are absolutely useless and with flash the pictures are also incredibly bad. How can the Z3 be better in low light is beyond me.

    • DaReal

      Yep, same as my thoughts. The tester has absolutely no sense of IQ or noise.

  • dan

    tester has no idea how to do a camera comparison. use low light setting with flash on z3, but standard setting with flash only on lumia 1020? you must be nuts.

    • rwoods716

      I didn’t use a low light setting on the Z3. I used standard settings on both.

  • i think 1020 in day light sony z3 plus in dark mode 2 phones in two times

  • in description of each image, it says low light with flash for Z3, with as 1020 only flash.

    • I can assure you that both photos were taken in the same lighting conditions, regardless of the description

  • Respond To Nonsense

    stumbled upon this review. I dont know what you’re looking at when comparing, but, albeit the 1020 low light images are a bit darker, they’re so much more detailed. Z3 is giving you washed out pictures due to noise reduction.. Horrible. Blown out skies too. No, certainly not impressed. I own both LG G4 and 1020. I constantly switch back to my sluggish but impressive 1020. No match for any (new) phone.