Phoneography with the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone for #SummerSwitch

I recently became a participant in Microsoft Canada's #SummerSwitch, a challenge to switch to the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone for 30 days, and they gave me this:

Nokia Lumia 920

photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera, and then run through the Pictures Lab app and edited with Effects' HDR filter

The phone is this big with a larger 9.7 x 5.8 cm display size, which I like quite a bit:

Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone

photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera, and then run through the Pictures Lab app and edited with Effects' 1953 filter

As you may have figured out by now, until recently, 100% of the photos on this blog have been shot with one of three different generations of the iPhone since 2009, I have a whole blog dedicated to just phoneography here, as well, and I have nearly 4000 iPhone photos saved on my Flickr account. This might make you wonder why I am cheating with the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone for 30 days, but don't let it worry you. I never actually married my iPhone. We've been living in sin this whole time, and I'm polyphoneous, and my iPhone's okay with this arrangement.

Ahem.

Anyway, we've had a long spate of wet weather here in Regina, Saskatchewan, so I was thrilled to finally be able to take the Nokia Lumia 920 out for a proper test drive this afternoon with the Palinode when it wasn't either raining or completely clouded over.

I took a few photos that turned out like this before I figured out that I had the camera set for close-up shots:

blurry Aidan

photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera

I only mention the issue above because it actually points to something I really like about the camera in this phone. There are base camera settings I can actually adjust with the Nokia Lumia 920 — Scenes (allows for automatic settings based on the type of situation), ISO (affects light sensitivity), Exposure Value (affects brightness and contrast), White Balance (affects colour balance), Aspect Ratio (affects photo dimensions), and whether or not to use the Focus Assist Light (helps auto-focus in low light) — and you can't adjust these specific settings with the iPhone 5 native camera, which I have always felt is a major drawback.

Once I changed the camera's Scene setting back to Auto from Close-up and lowered the Exposure Value to -1/3 (I find the default camera setting tends to take overly bright images), everything was fine.

Aidan

photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera and edited with Crop, Rotate, Auto-fix using auto-fix, and then run through the Creative Studio app using the Quartz filter and edited with Adjust's Colour Balance and Clarity

I am blessed with a very patient Palinode who stops and looks off meaningfully on command while en route to the grocery store.

The one issue that I think this camera suffers from is an inability to take a truly crisp picture, which is surprising, because the Nokia Lumia 920 boasts about an 8.7-megapixel PureView backside-illuminated sensor paired with an f/2.0 autofocus Carl Zeiss lens and optical image stabilization. It's image stabilization technology does do a marvellous job, but it can't make up for what is just simply the camera's natural fuzziness.

I hunted around through reviews online to see if this was due to some error on my part, but it appears to be just a fact of this particular camera, so, unless you want every image to be in a dreamier soft focus, you need to sharpen your images. Lowering the Exposure Value to -1/3 or lower in the camera's basic settings seems to help reduce this fuzziness, as well.

I'm not a fan of having to sharpen images after the fact, especially because many app filters do a certain amount of their own sharpening or softening, which means that your attempts to sharpen the image in addition to make up for the camera's shortfall will add more noise to your image that would not otherwise be there.

Below are before and after examples. The image on the left is unedited, and the image on the right has been edited for both colour and clarity:

WP_20130622_042 Aidan, sharpened

left photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera, no further editing
right photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera, and then run through the Creative Studio app using no filter and edited with Adjust's Colour Balance, Clarity, and Vibrance

The Nokia Lumia 920 also seemed to have a hard time metering bright situations. When I attempted to shoot a wide shot of a distant building, it couldn't give me building detail very well without compromising the quality of the sky and vice versa. I had to choose one and lose the other, which made some daylight photography of broader scenes a frustrating problem.

On the other hand, the Nokia Lumia 920 camera handles lower light better than most phone cameras, which helps to lessen the impact of the problem with sharpness in lower light that other phone cameras have. Also, you have the option of tapping the screen to auto focus on a particular part of the image and release the shutter rather than use the camera button on the side of the phone, which lessens camera shake in close-ups.

For example, it handled the dappled sunlight in a fairly shady spot beautifully when I shot these lilacs:

lilacs

photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera, and then run through the Creative Studio app using the Quartz filter and edited with Blur's Focus Object and Adjust's Colour Balance, Clarity, and Vibrance

There aren't many great photo apps to choose from in the Windows Store, and the ones that are there largely lack quality, but, luckily, the native camera functions and apps — its Crop, Rotate, and Auto-fix functions and its Creative Studio and Photo Lab apps I'm showing you here, as well as the Cinemagraph lens, Smart Shoot lens, Panorama lens, and Bing vision I am not showing your here for brevity — are fairly intuitive to use and offer quite a range of capable editing ability, so if your photos do lack sharpness or it takes you a little bit to figure out the camera settings, you can still create beautiful images.

My one great, ginormous, huge disappointment app-wise is the Flickr Windows 7 app. It is a free app that doesn't come with the phone, but it is one I use frequently on my iPhone 5, so I installed it right away. I wouldn't mind so much that it lacks most of the functionality of its iPhone version, but its Windows version rarely even performs its basic functions properly. Its uploads so rarely actually work, and its titles so rarely show up on the other end, that I have now defaulted to uploading my photos to Skydrive, which is Windows' handy dandy cloud storage, downloading the photos from Skydrive to my laptop, and then uploading them, finally, to Flickr on its main web interface. It's pathetic and frustrating and Flickr should do better.

I know that the Flickr app should not be held against Windows at large, but the experience of the device depends very much on the experience of the apps it offers, so limited external apps that are often of low quality lessen my experience of what would otherwise feel like a much greater device.

To get on with things, let me tie up the grocery trip loose end I've left dangling here. Suffice it to say that we bought a mop and eight bags of frozen fruit. These are exciting times. Also, this entry is getting long, so we should get moving.

Before I head into the snappy shortlist of Nokia Lumia 920 camera pros and cons, though, here is an example of old-time-iness I created with Photo Lab that features our beloved Wascana Lake:

old timey Wascana

photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera, and then run through the Creative Studio app using the Ivory filter, and then run through the Pictures Lab app and edited with Effects' B & W filter and Borders' Dirty frame

And here is an example of Creative Studio Play's Colour Pop, which makes it incredibly simple to isolate colour groups in photos with the tap of a finger. I chose to bring out the blue sky and the red on the sign:

don't drive over people

photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera, and then run through the Creative Studio app with no filter and edited with Play's Colour Pop and Adjust's Clarity

Yes, that sign really does say PROCEED ONLY AFTER PEDESTRIAN CLEARS THIS HALF OF ROADWAY, because apparently drivers don't know that you are not supposed to run over people right in front of your car at intersections. Who knew?

Oh, and I can't help myself. Here's one more of the Palinode, because he's so damn handsome.

Aidan

photo details: taken with the Nokia Lumia 920 camera, and then run through the Creative Studio app using the Quartz filter and edited with Adjust's Colour Balance, Clarity, and Vibrance

In closing, here are the pros and cons of the Nokia Lumia 920 camera:

PROS:
  • Larger 9.7 x 5.8 cm display screen
  • An 8.7-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor paired with an f/2.0 autofocus Carl Zeiss lens
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Combination auto-focus and shutter touch screen option
  • Ability to alter basic camera settings such as Scenes, ISO, Exposure Value, White Balance, Aspect Ration, and Focus Assist Light
  • Fairly intuitive and comprehensive native camera functions and apps
  • Shoots fairly true to visible colour
  • Handles low light conditions quite well
  • Full-resolution photo and video uploads
CONS:
  • A noticeable lack of image sharpness without editing
  • Limited app options
  • Available apps are largely low quality
  • Metering difficulty in bright situations
All in all, I am more impressed than I thought I would be with the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone camera. I would be more likely to carry it in addition to rather than instead of my iPhone 5 camera, even with all of its features, simply because I prefer a much sharper original image. Still, the Nokia Lumia 920 camera excels where my iPhone 5 camera misses, so I don't think I'm letting this one go.

I'm allowed to carry more than one phone camera, right?



I am a participant in Microsoft Canada's #SummerSwitch, a 30-day challenge to switch to the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone. Products and compensation for reviews have been supplied by Microsoft Canada. Opinions stated in product reviews on Schmutzie.com are strictly my own, and I am under no obligation to provide a favourable opinion.