At the time of writing this particular sentence, I’ve been using the Microsoft Lumia 950 for less than 48 hours. If you’re a Windows Phone fan, it’s certainly the phone that you’ve been waiting for.
Microsoft has included all new camera technology in the Microsoft Lumia 950 and the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL. About a year ago, I wrote an article that said that the Nokia Lumia 930 dethroned the Nokia Lumia 1020 as the best camera on the market.
The reason I said this is for a couple reasons. For one thing, the Lumia 1020 is super slow. It takes about five seconds to launch the camera and another few seconds to actually take the picture. The Lumia 1520, 930, and Icon (which all have similar hardware) are much faster, which is important. The quality, in most cases, is just as good as the Lumia 1020.
Then came Lumia Denim. The Nokia Lumia Icon, 930, and 1520 were all upgraded to Lumia Camera 5 which added great features such as Rich Capture. This allowed the user to adjust exposure using a simple slider mechanism.
While camera software and firmware has greatly improved, the Lumia flagships jumped ahead of the Lumia 1020. Of course, the Lumia 1020 still outperformed them in low light, but then we saw the Lumia 830, which was frankly amazing.
Now that the Microsoft Lumia 950 is here, Lumia camera technology is at its all time best. We know that there is never going to be a successor to the Nokia Lumia 1020, so this is as good as it’s going to get.
Let’s see how the Microsoft Lumia 950 compares to the Nokia Lumia 1020.
One more thing I want to talk about before we look at samples is oversampling. Oversampling is the technology created by Nokia that takes a high resolution image and condenses it down to 5 MP.
Nokia, before it was bought by Microsoft, believed that 5 MP is the perfect size for an image. With the Nokia Lumia 1020, you take a picture and you get two images. One of those images is 5 MP and the other is either 35 MP or 38 MP, depending on if the aspect ratio is 16:9 or 4:3, respectively.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 has three settings: 5 MP JPEG, which only saves the 5 MP file, 5 MP JPEG and 38 MP JPEG, which saves both, and 5 MP JPEG and 38 MP DNG file, for those that know how to edit RAW files.
The 5 MP JPEG is the file that you use, that you see. The Lumia 1020’s display is WXGA, or 768×1280, so the display itself is around 1 MP. If the user decides to reframe the image, it uses the higher resolution image to crop it.
Of course, the Lumia 1020 is the only phone allowed to keep the Lumia Camera app upon upgrading to Windows 10. This is because Microsoft isn’t supporting the 41 MP sensor anymore. The new Windows Camera app doesn’t allow for oversampling or even choosing the size of the image with the Lumia 1020.
The Microsoft Lumia 950 is a completely different story. The Microsoft Lumia 950 offers an 8 MP JPEG, 19 MP JPEG, or an 8 MP JPEG and 19 MP DNG. There is no more small and high resolution JPEG, one to be used for sharing and the other for editing.
Note that the high resolution file for the Lumia 950 is either 16 MP or 19 MP, depending on if the aspect ratio is 16:9 or 4:3, respectively.
This is interesting because the Lumia 950 uses Windows Camera, not Lumia Camera. Other phones, such as the Lumia Icon and Lumia 930, also lose the option to create two JPEGs at a time; however, they offer the option of a 5 MP JPEG or a 19 MP JPEG, rather than the 8 MP JPEG that we see with the Lumia 950.
Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Microsoft Lumia 950: Rear Camera
The Nokia Lumia 1020 was renowned for its 41 MP rear camera. Of course, it used a 1.5 GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 Plus (which was all that Windows Phone 8 supported), so that super camera was very underpowered, making it very slow.
Also, the 41 MP isn’t what made that camera great. 41 MP is great for taking a photo and zooming in on the photo without losing quality. A 4K display is 8.3 MP, around 6 MP at 4:3, so you could zoom in on a photo at 6x and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
No, what made the camera great was the sheer size of it. The Lumia 1020 has a large bulge on the back of the phone, making it unappealing to the mainstream and really appealing to photo enthusiasts. The larger sensor allowed more light to enter.
The Microsoft Lumia 950 is 20 MP and it has the largest aperture of any Lumia to date at f/1.9. The sensor size isn’t as big as the Lumia 1020, coming in at 1/2.4″ while the Lumia 1020 comes in at 1/1.5″.
The camera on the Microsoft Lumia 950 is also super fast. It focuses as fast as any phone out there, which is a really big deal. Companies like Apple, Samsung, and HTC are all using phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and LG and OnePlus are using laser focused to produce cameras that focus quickly and perfectly to produce a laser sharp image.
One issue with the Nokia Lumia 1020 is that it’s tough to take a photo really close up. A lot of the shots below are macros. I had to pull the Lumia 1020 back for a lot of shots because it just won’t focus when it’s too close. Of course, this problem is solved when the user can crop any of those 41 MP.
|Nokia Lumia 1020||Microsoft Lumia 950|
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Nokia Lumia 1020 – Microsoft Lumia 950
One thing that really surprised me is the big difference in low light. They’re both a little noisy, but there’s a big difference there. The Lumia 950 looks much better.
A big thing to note is Rich Capture. You’ll notice that when you take a picture with a flash, the foreground of the image is super bright and the background is super dark. When you don’t use the flash, the whole image is just dim but the background isn’t as dark.
Rich Capture takes two images, one with and one without the flash. The slider allows the user to choose the image with the flash, without the flash, and anywhere in between.
Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Microsoft Lumia 950: Front Camera
The front camera on the Microsoft Lumia 950 is a massive improvement on the front camera of all previous flagship Lumias. That’s because we haven’t seen a new flagship Lumia in a year and a half and we haven’t seen actual new parts in a Lumia in two full years, back when it was acceptable to use a 1.2 MP front camera, like the Lumia 1020 does.
The Microsoft Lumia 950 uses a 5 MP front camera, just like the Lumia 540, 640 XL, 730, and 735. It’s just the first time we’ve actually seen it on a flagship.
I must apologize, but due to an issue with WordPress, I have to swap the order of the images here.
|Microsoft Lumia 950||Nokia Lumia 1020|
The Bottom Line
When I started writing up comparisons, it would always be camera comparisons, just like this. Then I started adding benchmarks to the mix, making them full comparisons. Since they were full comparisons now, I also started adding specs and discussions about other features.
There was no sense in doing a full comparison here. The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a dinosaur. Despite being two and a half years old, the camera is still relevant, but nothing else is.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 became a dinosaur overnight when Windows Phone 8.1 was released. There are a couple things to note. With the exception of the Nokia Lumia 1520, the Nokia Lumia 1020 was the last flagship phone to provide LTE and Glance on AT&T. Well, up until the Microsoft Lumia 950.
Nevertheless, I think that the results that we’re seeing here are enough to show that people should be taking the Microsoft Lumia 950 seriously, rather than simply assuming that since it’s 20 MP, it must be the same as the Lumia Icon, 930, and 1520.