The Nokia Lumia 1020's 41 megapixel camera is, simply put, a beast. It sets the smartphone apart from its contemporaries, with the gap made wider still by its excellent colour reproduction, exceptional low-light shooting and digital zoom performance. Nokia's hardware and software allows photographers to capture more detailed images, zoom, crop and cut photos that feature greater clarity and detail than what most smartphone currently cameras are capable of.
As for what the rest of the Lumia 1020 offers users? Well, that's another story.
Available to Rogers and Telus cellular customers, the Lumia 1020 with its matte finish and 10.4 mm x 130.4 mm x 71.4 mm size, feels and looks like any number of other monolithic Android or Windows Phone 8 handsets on the market today, save the camera lens and flash assembly jutting out of the back of the handset. Unless you have large hands or long fingers, this protrusion likely won't get in the way while you're holding it. Unfortunately, unless you have large hands or long fingers, you also won't be able to reach the top of the Lumia 1020's 4.5-inch 1280 x 768 display. But the same follows for a lot of handsets these days. While the phone is well built and feels solid to the touch, it doesn't offer the same confidence-inspiring heft offered by premium handsets like the iPhone 5s or the HTC One M8. In short, the handset feels… adequate. You likely won't destroy it through the casual abuse most of us heap on our smartphones during the course of a two-year cellular contract. But there are other handsets out there that are a whole lot more hardy.
The same can be said for the 1020's internals. Other than its gobsmackingly great camera, there's not much here to write home about. Under the hood, Nokia's packed 2GB of RAM, a Dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor – this is merely average hardware, and faster smartphones are already available. It's also worth mentioning that the handset comes with 32GB of non-expandable storage space. This could become an issue for dedicated shutterbugs who plan on using the Lumia 1020 for a bit of mobile gaming, listening to music or watching a few HD movies when they're not taking pictures. Apps and media take up a considerable chunk of onboard storage space, which doesn't leave a lot of room for the 11MB photos taken with the smartphone (and larger still, as each photo you take also has a lower resolution five megapixel copy of it stored on the hardware as well.) You could argue that using steaming media services like Netflix or Spotify for media or Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service could help to mitigate the lack of storage on the 1020, but unless you're near a Wi-Fi source, all of this relies on your phone plan's data. That sort of thing can get expensive, quickly.
There's also the unavoidable fact that the Nokia Lumia 1020 runs Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system. This is neither good nor bad, but it definitely is different than what most users will be familiar with if they're migrating from an iPhone or an Android device. Making good use of the OS' live panels with their constant information, navigating the operating system's features and tweaking the 1020 to do your bidding can feel alien to the uninitiated. So if you're thinking about buying a Lumia 1020 handset, you'd do well to spend some time with it first to see if you enjoy working with the OS. And while Microsoft has taken steps to beef up the number of applications available via the Windows Store, it can't beat the selection of titles available for iOS or Android powered devices. To avoid disappointment be sure that the apps you want are there before investing.
There's no better camera phone on the market right now than the Nokia Lumia 1020. Shutterbugs will love the beautiful images the hardware can produce. But its mediocre internals, a lack of expandable storage and mediocre selection of downloadable apps downgrades what could be an amazing smartphone to a merely adequate one.