Lumia 1520 camera performance review. (updated)

| February 9, 2014 | 16 Replies


I‘ve only used Nokia phones as my camera, and over the years, Nokia kept giving me reasons not to buy dedicated cameras, as such every Nokia that focused on photography I had to snatch it right away.

I never had the cash or the heart to buy a Lumia 1020 because I already had the 808, so when the Lumia 1520 came with its full HD screen, high internal specs and inbuilt wireless charging, I couldn’t say no and I had to sell three used phones to cover its cost.

So do I regret it? Does the camera live up to its Pureview name? lets find out.


Camera specs:

  • 20MP sensor with OIS (2nd generation)
  • Carl Zeiss optics.
  •  Fixed aperture of 2.4f .
  • 1/2.5” sensor size.
  • Maximum shutter time of 4 seconds and a minimum of 1/16000 second.
  • Maximum ISO of 4000 and a minimum of 100.
  • Manual focus with flash focus assist.
  • 30fps/1080p videos.
  • Amazing directional audio recording quality with a four mics setup.
  • dual capture of high res pics and with Pureview down sampled 5mp images.

Advantages & shortcomings:

  • Lumia 1520’s sensor size isn’t big for its pixel count, some noise is to be expected, luckily its not as troubling as the Lumia 1020 situation.
  • Carl Zeiss optics continue to be other OEMs Achilles heel, Nokia lucked out with the exclusivity deal.
  •  2nd generation OIS can act up sometimes and give some stuttering although only for a little while,
    OIS also continuously moves the camera, so perfectly framing your pictures at night might be a bit of a challenge.
  • 2nd generation OIS gives perfect video stabilization performance where you can fully zoom on a subject and still get a perfectly stable scene.
  • The aperture on the Lumia 1520 is small 2.4f which seriously affects its handheld  low light performance.  (Lumia 720 has a big 1.9f, Lumia 920 has a respectful 2.0f, Lumia 1020 has a moderate (2.2f)
  • Mostly due to the small aperture Lumia 1520 focusing skills aren’t close to the Lumia 92X series, focus assist will be needed for indoor shots.
  • The smaller aperture also means better city scenes photography as lamp posts will not hurt the picture as much, it also makes for a prettier long shutter pictures both at night and even daylight.
  • Nokia Camera is buggy still, needs a timer option for sequence mode, but on the other hand its the best Camera UI on a phone to date.
  • Nokia Story Teller is a couple of features shy of replacing the stock gallery, and it performs wonderfully on a big screen.


It was early morning the sky was filled with clouds with the sun struggling to shine in, an HDR shot meant I could show both how cool the sky looked and  the bike.

It was early in the morning the sky was filled with clouds with the sun struggling to shine in, an HDR shot meant I could show both how cool the sky looked and the red bike.

HDR Photo Camera remain one of my best purchase choices, it deserved every penny, and its responsible for the HDR shot above.

Refocus can be used creatively to take impossible shots, Using the option: "all in focus" makes photographing challenging textures like this one a rewarding experience.

Refocus can be used creatively to take impossible shots, Using the option: “all in focus” makes photographing challenging textures  a rewarding experience.

Its shots like the above that makes me excited about what Lytro technologies might bring to smartphones in the future.

Close up shots on the Lumia 1520 are not a problem, also color reproduction is truer to life.

Close up shots on the Lumia 1520 are lovely, also color reproduction is truer to life.

If a camera had a signature it would be its Bokeh effect, Look at the far away branches, it’s a creamy almost oil paint Bokeh that transcends the quality of close up shots to another level.


I wanted to capture a silhouette picture, the bonus was that sunshine ray.

I wanted to capture a silhouette* but that sunshine ray was a surprising bonus.

* A silhouette is a picture where the subjects in it are made of a solid single colored shapes usually black.


I'm willing to bet the architect who made this is into wall rock climbing. :)

I’m willing to bet the architect who made this is into wall rock climbing. 🙂

You may not know it but using a big screen makes framing photos a lot easier, the built in grids in Nokia Camera are welcome additions.

Greenery scenes are true to life, full of details and all around fun, I used to play in this park twenty years ago as a kid.

Greenery scenes are true to life, full of details and all around fun.

I know the above park is nothing special but  I used to play in this park twenty years ago as a kid and as such it represents so much more for me.


Action shot

Nokia Camera smart sequence can produce some good pictures.

I’m hopeful that Nokia will out grow the 5mp limit and use a higher mp count, specially since they look awful on a 1080p screen once you zoom even a little bit.

At night the Lumia 1520 didn’t manage to impress me all that much, as the Lumia 920 produced way brighter scenes.

I was all but ready to quit on the night photo shoot, I was cold and without a single good shoot out of 10!

I saw this helmet in a store's window, I switched to 4:3 to capture it.

I saw this helmet in a store’s window, I switched to 4:3 aspect ratio to capture it.

Once I switched to 4:3 night pictures didn't look so bad!

I just love the colors in this shot! I lowered the brightness just a bit to add a little bit of a dramatic effect.

I always maintained the theory that my Lumia 920 takes better picture in 4:3 aspect ratio, it made sense to me that OIS would work better in a square like situation where it can control wobbling from all directions while it would be a lot harder for it to compensate vertical wobbles in a 16:9 picture. ( I would love it if anyone could back this theory up or disprove it.)



lovely hotel

This master piece hotel was a nice subject to shoot, perhaps I’ll revisit it soon for some close up shots.

Photography needs lots of planing ahead, I really should have came at 3 am to photograph this hotel it would’ve looked a lot better.

Lumia 1520 handles artificial lighting a lot better than its siblings due to its lower aperture.

Food photography, yummmm.

Potato skins with a lovely dipping sauce.

Cuteview :)

Cuteview 🙂 I must note its hard to take good pictures of people in the Lumia 1520 indoors without flash assist and the actual flash!

Update: Reasons for picking it over the Lumia 1020:

  •  Full HD 6″ 1080p LCD screen vs HD 4.5″  720p AMOLED screen.
  • High end internals vs early 2012 specs.
  • Thinner profile.
  • 3400mAh battery is still bigger than both the Lumia 1020 battery 2000mAh and the Camera grip battery at 1000mAh.
  • Snapdragon 800 means battery consumption is managed perfectly that means I don’t shutdown anything to save battery not even the glance background vs Lumia 1020 super fast discharging during games, navigation, 4g data and  tethering.
  • No over heating during intensive tasks.
  • SD Card slot vs internal storage only.
  • Built in wireless charging vs dedicated cover that isn’t the Camera grip.
  • Faster camera launch, faster shot to shot ratio, shorter close up range.
  • Better camera performance in city scenes better long exposure shots in well lit areas.
  • incredibly loud speakers with better audio recording.
  • huge screen makes framing subjects a lot easier.
  • Better performance all around specially in photo editing and capturing apps. (Nokia Smart Sequences is way faster on the Lumia 1520.)
    All of the above add up to an easier time recommending the Lumia 1520 over the Lumia 1020, of course 6″ isn’t everyone’s cup of tea this is why until we meet the Lumia Icon, Weight and sheer size would be the Lumia 1020’s best attributes, along with the extra zoom of course.

    Update2: Stand by for some video samples. 🙂

Thanks for reading, If you’re looking for a full review of the Lumia 1520 check our own @AliQudsi Review of it, also check Jay’s unboxing of the red Lumia 1520 too.




Category: Nokia

About the Author ()

I love mobile photography, I have a serious 8 years relationship with Nokia , and a love/hate affair with Microsoft. you can follow me on twitter @nabkawe5