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Indoor photo comparison: Lumias 1020 and 930

Ever since getting hold of a Nokia Lumia 930 I’ve been pretty impressed with the photos it has produced for me, but of course, as a Nokia Lumia 1020 owner, I’m always thinking, ‘Would that shot have been better on my 1020?’ Both devices carry the “PureView” label, albeit in different guises, with the 1020 having inherited the original and mammoth 41MP sensor from its cousin, the Symbian-powered Nokia 808 PureView, and the 930 going for a slightly slimmed-down version at 20MP. The 1020 has a huge 1/1.5″ sensor, and the 930 has a smaller 1/2.5″ sensor. How do they stack up? Would it even be a fair test with these camera module differences?

Well, it was time for me to put it to the test, albeit a very unscientific one. As it is a gloomy, rainy day here in New York, I thought just for now I’d do an indoor comparison, including xenon vs dual-led flash to see if there is any real difference – with non-moving subjects of course!

With all of the photos it’ll be 1020 on top, 930 underneath. Every photo was taken on Auto settings without flash (except for the one with!) and the photos are unedited, except for the ‘reframed’ crops, which was done in “Nokia Camera” on the phones. Also, even though there are underlying hi-res images on both the 1020 and the 930, I’ve only used the 5mp ‘sharable’ version from each, to try and keep things as even as possible.

First up, a shot of the bookcases in our living room, with ambient light provided by a lamp to the right and a lamp behind me (no bright overhead lighting or sunlight through the windows – there wasn’t any!) :

WP_20141101_11_29_04_Pro
1020

 

930
930

 

I focused (tap-to-focus) on the red license plate. I reframed both photos to see the detail picked out by each device:

1020
1020
930
930

 

Not too difficult to see which one wins. On further investigation into the two photos, the 930’s picks out clearer details on other objects on the shelves. I noticed this when I took the photos, which is why I wanted to see if using the flash would make any difference.

1020 with xenon flash
1020 with xenon flash

 

930 with dual-LED flash
930 with dual-LED flash

 

Looks to me like the xenon does make a difference, with the 1020’s shot being brighter, richer in colour and with finer details being picked out this time.

Next up, in the brightly-lit (overhead fluorescent lighting) kitchen:

1020
1020
930
930

 

The first thing to notice is how wildly different both these Lumias shot the white wall, with the 1020 going for a bluish tint, and the 930 producing a greyer-yellowy tone. I have to say, going by the two posters, I would say the 930 captures a more natural scene with warmer tones, and more realistic tones. I wanted to try out the detail again, so I reframed both efforts, focusing in on the text of the poster on the left:

1020
1020
930
930

 

It’s easy to see which phone wins here, with the 1020 producing crisper edges to the text and a clearer ‘Underground’ logo. I should point out that the poster is white, and on closer inspection, the 930 has produced a noisy, pink image. The 1020’s bluish-grey isn’t superb either, but at least it’s a better overall crop.

Next up is a close-up of a plant on the window ledge. Some light coming in from the grey overcast day outside:

1020
1020

 

930
930

 

Pretty good shots from both phones, the 1020 being more vibrant, but the 930’s being closer to reality. I tapped-to-focus on the leaf covering the glass ‘watering mushroom thingy’, so you can see some blurring in both shots further away from that particular leaf.

Next up is another close-up of a mini-pumpkin which I placed right under a lamp to help with lighting:

 

 

1020
1020

 

930
930

 

It’s the 930’s turn to give the bluish-grey tint, with the 1020 showing off its famous yellow tint. Both shots are fairly close to reality though, but I have to give it to the 1020 which captured the rich browns of the wooden chest top well. The wall behind is white, but I think the dark lampshade does cast a shadow somewhat so I can’t be too harsh on the dark areas on the wall.

Once more I reframed, this time onto the stalk of the pumpkin:

 

 

1020
1020

 

930
930

 

Another tough one to call, but again, the more realistic colours are produced by the 930. However, I think both phones do a good job at capturing the tiny details on the stalk, so not much to sway one or the other.

So that’s it for now, but the test was not really conclusive either way. It does demonstrate how tricky taking photos indoors can be though, because when light is limited, the phones have to work harder and sometimes their algorithms can produce wacky formulas that lead to all kinds of incorrect colour tints and white balance issues here and there as the software does its best to balance all of the factors that it thinks will produce a good photo.

Looks like we’ll all have to go a buy manual 35mm cameras after all… ;^)

The 1020's photo of the 930
The 1020’s photo of the 930
and the 930's shot of the 1020!
and the 930’s shot of the 1020!

 

Of course there are also the other differences I could mention, of which the most obvious is the speed at which the 930 can take the next photo. The 1020 takes a while to process the image you just shot, before being ready for what’s next, and this can be somewhat disappointing, especially if you’re shooting an event that requires multiple shots. And of course we can’t forget that this little comparison of mine was done before Microsoft have released the Lumia Camera and Denim updates. It would be rather more interesting to see this comparison again in a month or so once those updates have hit. I doubt any camera enhancements are coming to the 1020 however, with its creaking and aging internals not able to cope with what Denim contains, but we’ll just have to see. And maybe we’ll all be pleasantly surprised. Or not!

Cheers!  :^)

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