iPhone 11 Pro has an unlikely rival in this 7-year-old phone

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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

the iPhone 11 Pro has one of the best camera configurations available on all high-end phones today. He can take pictures that can give DSLRs a run for their money and can continue to shoot well when the light dims. But how far has this technology really gone in recent years?

To find out, I opposed the iPhone to Nokia Lumia 1020. Released in 2013, the Lumia 1020 was in its time the ultimate example of the prowess of mobile imagery. Its maximum resolution of 41 megapixels was a first and its wealth of features meant that it was well suited for photographers who did not want to carry a compact camera all day.

“In the 1020, Nokia pushes the boundaries of the smartphone camera with a combination of raw image capture prowess and cropping ability that makes it one of the most talented smartphone cameras we’ve tested . ” Jessica Dolcourt explained in CNET’s opinion on the phone.

This piece is not intended to form buying advice – no one should try to determine whether to buy a new iPhone or 7-year-old phone running an outdated operating system. If you are, you should really read why using an obsolete phone can be a serious security risk. But I thought it would be interesting to see how two top level shooters of their time compare and to see how far the phone cameras have come.

All images were taken in standard automatic camera modes. They are all in JPEG format, unless otherwise indicated. By default, the Nokia Lumia takes 5-megapixel JPEG photos, which we will see throughout this exhibit, unless otherwise noted.

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Nokia Lumia 1020

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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iPhone 11 Pro

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

First, this sunny view in the Dean Village of Edinburgh. I’m already impressed with the Lumia 1020: it got excellent overall exposure, with controlled reflections in the sky and lots of shadow detail. I knew that this kind of scene would not be a challenge for the iPhone, with its automatic HDR mode, but I did not expect the Lumia to be so close. Sure, the iPhone shot has more shadow details and more vivid, punchy colors, but I like the more natural look that the Lumia got here.

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Lumia 1020 at 200% harvest

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iPhone 11 Pro at 200% harvest.

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Cropping this image to 200%, however, reveals more notable differences. The Lumia plan lacks detail, with some of the fine masonry looking pasty. Lumia’s JPEG is only 5 megapixels, so I opened the raw DNG file in Photoshop and added sharpness, which the iPhone automatically applies.

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Lime Lumia 1020 DNG with sharpening, 200% cropping.

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By cropping in the same area, it’s clear that it didn’t make much difference.

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Lumia 1020.

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iPhone 11 Pro.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Again, I am impressed with the way the Lumia 1020 captured this scene on the north coast of Edinburgh. The overall exposure is perfect, with well-preserved reflections and shadows. The white balance is also decent, and there is a fair amount of detail when zoomed in. Sure, the iPhone shot is brighter, with more shadow details, but it’s a tight competition.

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Raw file processed by Lumia 1020.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Working from the raw Lumia DNG file, I only made a few adjustments in Lightroom to lift the shadows and adjust the color balance to create this final image. I don’t think anyone can guess that this photo was taken on a phone made in 2013.

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Lumia 1020.

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iPhone 11 Pro.

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I found these shells on the beach higher up on the coast. The iPhone shot is sharper, but otherwise there is little difference between the shots.

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Lumia 1020.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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iPhone 11 Pro.

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The difference between the two phones is much more visible here. The iPhone shot is brighter, with sharper details on painted words and tree bark.

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Lumia 1020.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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iPhone 11 Pro.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

The difference is also clear in this example; the iPhone shot presents exposure, contrast and more beautiful details.

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Lumia 1020.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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iPhone 11 Pro.

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The iPhone 11 Pro really starts to go away in low light. The iPhone version of this riverside scene is brighter, with much more detail on the trees and leaves.

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Lumia 1020.

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iPhone 11 Pro.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

The story is pretty much the same here. The Lumia 1020’s shooting is darker, with a lot of fine detail completely lost.

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Detail of the cropping of the Lumia 1020.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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Detail of the cropping of the iPhone 11 Pro.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

When cropping up close, there is a big difference in brightness and detail.

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Lumia 1020.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

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iPhone 11 Pro.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Back inside, I had to take a snapshot of my wonderful red-haired boy Toulouse, who was happy to pose for the camera. Again, the Lumia 1020 struggled to achieve uniform exposure, losing detail in the highlights outside and a lot of deep shadows inside. The color balance is also disabled, giving a green tint to the beautiful Toulouse. The iPhone shooting is brighter, with precise colors.

What have we learned?

It’s no surprise that the iPhone 11 Pro takes the best pictures – I didn’t expect for a second that the conclusion would be something else. But I’m impressed with how close the Lumia 1020 is to certain shots. He takes his best pictures, like all cameras, in good light. And in some coastal scenes, the Lumia offers decent competition to many phones today. It handles exposure well and although it does not have an HDR mode, it is possible to remove certain highlight and shadow details by modifying the raw DNG file.

Lumia’s low-light skills don’t compare as well, however. Again, it’s not a surprise, especially since nighttime filming has been at the heart of most flagship phones for some time now. The iPhone 11 Pro, OnePlus 8, Pixel 4 and Samsung Galaxy S20 all have dedicated night modes that can take excellent images in low light.

It is clear then to see where advances in imaging have been made in recent years. That said, if there is anything to take away from this exercise, it’s that you don’t need to have the latest and best equipment to take good pictures. And while that doesn’t mean going to buy a 7 year old phone, it might make you wonder if you really need to upgrade your iPhone X 2017 to the best camera, or if you can always give it a little of life. again.

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