Nokia officially unveils Lumia 1020 in attempt to reinvent cameraphones

Nokia officially unveils Lumia 1020 in attempt to reinvent cameraphones

We knew it was coming. Teases and “leaks” have been rampant for the past few months, picking up steam as today grew closer. But finally this morning in New York, Nokia took the wraps off the 41-megapixel, PureView branded Lumia 1020.

Promising to change the way people “take, create, shoot and share photos” forever, the 1020 unveiling was all about the camera. The presentation began with a short history of photography, and tailed into Nokia’s rich imaging history (by 2008, Nokia was selling more cameras than Kodak). Nokia head Stephen Elop didn’t mention Windows Phone until about 30 minutes into the presentation.

Let’s get the specs out of the way (check the full spec sheet here on Nokia’s website). You get a 4.5-inch OLED screen (not yet know if it’s AMOLED like the 928, 925 ), the aforementioned 41 megapixel camera (more on that later), a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 32GB of storage, fronted by Gorilla Glass 3, all in a package that weighs 158 grams, lighter than both the 920 and 928 but slightly heavier than the 925. Other dimensions are nearly identical, save for a millimeter here and there (it’s the thickest of the devices at 71.44, but this takes into account the bump out for the lens). You also get an added 1 GB of RAM to help process those massive pics. The 1020 will feature wireless charging via a snap-on cover.

Other than the 2GB of RAM, the phone is essentially a sibling in the 92X line. Until you get to the camera, that is.

The Carl Zeiss (of course) fronted device features six lenses, along with OIS and a BSI image sensor. It also brings along the 928’s Xenon flash. The device also packs Nokia’s new Pro Cam app to make taking full control of your photography even easier.

So what did we find out today that we didn’t already know? The biggest revelation was in how the 1020 uses that massive photo rig. Confirmed was that, along with either a 34 or 38 MP image, the phone will snap a identical 5 MP image as well, perfect for sharing.

Elop also touted the oversampling of video, along with a rich audio recording experience.

But what did Nokia mean by “reinventing zoom”? AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega said it best when he made his brief appearance. Zoom used to happen before you took the picture, with the 1020, it happens after.

The demo on stage had Nokia’s Juha Alakarhu taking a pic of Elop and Nokia teammate Kristina Bjorknas. On the camera, Alakarhu slid his finger up and down the right side of the screen to zoom in on just Elop before pressing the shutter. What happened next is what could flip smartphone shooting on its ear. Despite zooming in on Elop, Alakarhu was able to zoom OUT after the pic was taken to put Bjorknas back in the frame.

Think of the 1020 doing to zoom what the Lytro camera did to focus and depth of field.

Without trying to sound like I understand how this happens, Nokia says it is using what it calls oversampling and superpixels to capture more than you actually see. And the post-image zoom works the other way too. Bjorknas showed a picture she took of a haystack, and zoomed in to literally find a needle in a haystack.

Nokia officially unveils Lumia 1020 in attempt to reinvent cameraphonesNokia promises no loss of quality when zooming due to the six-lens design.

The team at Nokia had to re-engineer both the PureView sensor and the OIS to work for the 1020. Gone are floating springs to compensate for camera shake. In it’s place are ball bearings (it’s all ball bearing these days) and tiny motors that Elop said you could actually hear working.

It seems there might be some loss in speed to compensate for the image size, something that might be irksome to pro photogs, but at first brush, it certainly seems like the 1020 will take smartphone shooting to a new level.

Elop also announced a new SDK for Nokia imaging tech on Windows Phone, along with updates and new apps from FlipBoard, Yelp, Path and CNN. Bigger still was the announcement of an exclusive app from Hipstamatic, Oggl Pro, that will allow for direct sharing to Instagram among other sites. And in a press release, Nokia also unveiled that Twitter’s Vine was coming to Windows Phone (no word on timing).

Also outed was the Nokia Camera Grip, a $79 snap-on accessory that adds additional battery, tripod access, and a two-step shutter, making the 1020 even more camera-like.

Elop also promised that Nokia was doing more than ever to train AT&T sales staff and that AT&T, Microsoft and Nokia were teaming up to market the 1020. During the Q/A, after a particularly harshly-worded and unprofessionally delivered (though pretty spot-on) question about how “AT&T has been a dreadful partner”, Elop put the onus back on Nokia to deliver the third ecosystem, stating they were fully committed to getting better at this.

He also made a coying reference to “getting even better at it later this year”, leaving open the notion that Nokia isn’t done innovating for 2013, or that Nokia was planning big things for Windows Phone 8.1

The new device is hitting AT&T in the US on July 26 for $299 with a two-year contract. It will spread globally through this quarter to Europe, China, and a few Latin American countries. The rest of the world, if they’re getting it, should have it by year’s end.

Check out the intro video below, and let us know in the comments if this is swinging you toward Windows Phone.