Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Microsoft Lumia 950 Camera Comparison

Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Microsoft Lumia 950 Camera Comparison

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.

Oversampling

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

[image-comparator left=”http://fortheloveoftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/WP_20151121_11_39_30_Pro.jpg” right=”http://fortheloveoftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/WP_20151121_11_38_19_Rich.jpg” width=”100%” left_alt=”Nokia Lumia 1020″ right_alt=”Microsoft Lumia 950″ classes=”hover”][/image-comparator]

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.

Lumia 950 Rich Capture
Lumia 950 Rich Capture

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.

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.

  • Harsh Verma

    Hey great detailed article covering all aspects! Will it be possible for you to uploads originals on onedrive ?

    • Well, those are the originals. If you open the carousel and click “view full size image”, you’ll get it

      • Would you mind to compare oversampling vs full resolution vs RAW vs 4k 8mp picture (when you do a video, and than save the frames)? Would be pretty interesting.

  • counterblow

    that 950 has a nasty red shift. This confirms my own findings that overall pleasing pictures are coming from the 1020 but the 950 wins in a few specific circumstances.

  • Marin

    It’s very hard to judge the quality based on downscaled 5-6mp images.

    You shot mostly macro shots where smaller sensored cameras turn out better due to shorter minimum focus distance and deeper depth of field.

    What about RAW shooting and post processing? Dynamic range and noise?

    I used to have couple of 1020s and they were terrific. Sure, it’s slow and doesn’t support fancy, useless features or 4K, but both 1080p video and images it delivers are amazing.

    “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.”

    Care to elaborate? Not supporting some gimmicky features doesn’t make a phone obsolete. It’s still perfectly good for phone calls, browser, email, navigation etc and with the best camera on the market (bar Nokia 808 for daylight shots).

    Not being best on synthetic benchmarks is absolutely irrelevant for such a device.

    • Well, yea. Neither the Lumia 930 nor the LUmia Icon supported LTE on AT&T. Using the Lumia 1020 after WP8.1 was released was miserably slow. Is phone calls, browser, email, and navigation really your standard for “this is still a good phone”? Also, it’s most certainly not hard to determine quality from a 5 MP image, especially since that’s what 1020 users are used to seeing, unless you dig up the 38 MP image specifically. I’d also point out that if you view a 5 MP image at full size, it’s still larger than your display unless it’s 4K.

      • Mayush Jain

        Thanks Rich for the ‘rich’ review 😉 since many reviewers think it’s marginal improvement over 930 and frankly after seeing your review i feel it’s a worthy successor to both 930 & 1020 but the leap is not big as it was in case of 1020 when it was launched …. can you plz clarify what are the things 950 still can’t do like the 1020 ….. can i finally build a coffin for 1020 or is it still gonna be glued to my pocket for a few more years … plz help me decide

    • The “downscaled” pictures, are better. At least on Lumia 930

    • Alessandro Dutenhefner

      “You shot mostly macro shots where smaller sensored cameras turn out better due to shorter minimum focus distance and deeper depth of field.” That still is the “best case scenario” photos from a Lumia 1020. If he compared dinamic photos with moving objects, HDR pictures, low light pictures, basically any other scenario the 950 would have been a LOT better than the 1020, not just a little.

      Also what would be “gimmicky” features? 1020 cant run games like 930/1520/950, better video recording, better sound recording, faster browser, email and navigation, Miracast, Hey Cortana,etc… by your definition iPhone 1st generation is not obsolete, which even Apple fans would disagree.

    • Mayush Jain

      But he’s right about how slow the 1020 is …. one does not buy a phone camera for still life photography …. I’ll agree with you on video though it takes the best 1080p videos till date and the zoom is damn clear … only one area of video is irritating no tap to focus in video while being recorded …. nowadays my year old lumia doesn’t focus properly and pics come out mostly blurry. … i wanna ditch my 1020 but I’m afraid whether I’ll end up buying something less than 1020

  • TheMelonOfWater

    Hey Rich, the reason I like the 1020 is because of the 38MP images. I delete the 5MP images. Can you post a full resolution photo from the 1020 and the 950 to compare the quality?

    • I don’t use the 38 MP images from the 1020 in comparisons because most won’t be able to tell the difference. You would need to view the full size image on a display that’s at least 4K to be able to tell the difference. Even then, the screen has to be pretty large. 1440p is still 3.7 MP, and that’s at 16:9! 4K is around 6 MP at 4:3, 8.3 MP at 16:9. 1080p is about 2 MP, so most people reading the comparison won’t be able to see it. It would just take up too much storage and slow down loading times.

      • CyberAngel

        UHD televisions are getting more common.. I hope you’ll reconsider very soon…

  • Hey Rich, great comparison, thanks! Which of these 2 awesome cameras would you say produce the more “true to life” colors in their pictures?

  • Thanks for the comparison. I tested the 950 vs my 1020 in the microsoft store and still the 1020 was world better than the 950 at macro details. I always look at the up close of the $10 bill I took a while back with my 1020 and am amazed at the detail. I didn’t have a $10 bill with me to replicate on the 950 but I took a picture of my leather gloves on the 1020 and 950 and the 1020 came out much clearer. To solve the focus distance I always just backup and zoomed in with the lossless optical zoom on the 1020. Seemed to reduce the overall focus distance. Would you be able to take a close up on a $10 bill or $50 bill on the 950? If you can make out the “United States of America” on the $10 and the word “Fifty” on the $50 bill clearly then it’s probably close enough to the 1020 to warrant my switching (My 1020 is a dinosaur like you said, just hard to go to a worse camera). Thanks!

  • Peter White

    I would say, L950 has a lot of advantages (fast, rich capture, etc.), BUT it’s difficult to overcome a bigger sensor of L1020, see e.g. BOKEH that is more natural in case of L1020.

    • Mayush Jain

      Exactly i already own a note 3 i bought 1020 just for it’s camera prowess, the dslr like detail and bokeh(the best ever) … wish they released 1030 instead

    • Dimitris Rizopoulos

      Difficult? Pure physics says it is IMPOSSIBLE to overcome a bigger sensor, period. There is a reason why people go full-frame…

  • dzano

    What is with you and flowers?

    • I think it’s the best way to see how each phone handles different colors

      • CyberAngel

        comparison to a DSLR camera pictures as a reference is needed

  • Leandro Leite da Silva

    Only flowers ?

  • Mark Reed

    My issue is I have no team I like more, just want the best (for what I use) and at this time photos and videos are my main need+a big screen, which leaves me stuck between the 950 XL and Galaxy S6+.

    Apps and all the pros and cons aside, I just want the better camera/video between them, and going back a year or more I would go to Lumia no problem, but Samsung have made big leaps in both audio capture and low light.

    The 950 XL reviews (camera wise) have been good, audio is amazing as always, but some of the videos I have seen are very hit and miss, most comments been “firmware will fix it” and perhaps it will, but that falls into will they/can they/how long.

    I wish the 950 XL videos blew me away, it would make this easy (loved the 1520 bar the very poor low light videos) but for now it seems to be slipping away.

    Does anyone have both? thoughts? any camera vs? (not seen one yet)

  • Bijak Riyandi Ahadito

    just wondering if the real colour of the flower in the 8th photo is closer to purple or red because it’s totally different there

  • Mayush Jain

    Thanks Rich for the ‘rich’ review 😉 since many reviewers think it’s marginal improvement over 930 and frankly after seeing your review i feel it’s a worthy successor to both 930 & 1020 but the leap is not big as it was in case of 1020 when it was launched …. can you plz clarify what are the things 950 still can’t do like the 1020 ….. can i finally build a coffin for 1020 or is it still gonna be glued to my pocket for a few more years … plz help me decide

    • I don’t think there’s anything the 1020 can do that the 950 can’t do. You have more megapixels so you get better lossless zoom on the 1020. That’s about it. On the other hand, the 950 is much faster, focuses faster than any other Lumia, has Rich Capture, 4K video, 1080p 60 fps video, higher resolution front camera, a better camera app, Living Images, and I’m sure there’s more features to come.

      • CyberAngel

        bigger sensor is better

  • Manu

    “Microsoft isn’t supporting the 41 MP sensor anymore.” ????
    Have you seen finished the W10 Mobile for Lumia 1020? It will come in February, so don’t be so fast before see the final build. In fact, the Lumia Camera will be the Windows Camera, so the 1020’s can be running perfectly. Just and upgrade can be set from 5mpx to 8mpx for using in the phone. Is a minor upgrade.

    A great photographer works with great optics, GREAT SENSOR and RAW. If you say that the bigger sensor of 1020 can be more noisy that 950’s, put it here the DNGs of each one and you will be able to say which is superior.

    I know: the are many reasons for choose a 950, even a 930: Rich Capture, 4K, slow motion, 4 HAAC mics, animated photos, core sensor, more speed, QHD display, etc… but, in the paper, 1020 camera is superior: the oversampling is better. The zoom is better. The noise is much less.

    Cheers.

    • I’m pretty sure that if they were going to support it, they would be supporting it. There’s a reason that’s the only phone allowed to keep Lumia Camera. Also, there’s not going to be a successor, so obviously they’ve found that it’s easier to just let people keep Lumia Camera than spend actual man hours on building in support for a two and a half year old phone.

  • bong Labador

    please compare lumia 950 vs lumia 830 in lowlight shooting.

    • I don’t have a Lumia 830. That phone was way to expensive for a lower mid-range phone.

  • Sergy Ortiz

    I keep thinking new Lumias (950/XL) add to much saturation to the final results. You can notice that when you look at the DNGs, the post processing is just too agressive.

    I loved the way that Nokia handled it before, with little, almost none, postprocess and more natural images.

    Also, I’ve noticed that while recording video it overexposes the scene, if there is any light on, it will result easily in flares.

    Great work Rich!