Panasonic GM1 and Nokia Lumia 1020 cameras compared for image quality.

I decided to do some tests to see how the Nokia Lumia 1020 phone camera compares to a Panasonic GM1 for image quality. And since the results are similar, to all other m4/3 cameras. It was a jpg. only test since my Nokia doesn't shoot raw.(However see* at bottom of page) 

The 1020 has a built in 4.1mm f/2.2  fixed aperture and fixed focal length lens, so to get a meaningful similar comparison I shot the phone images in 4:3 ratio and used the 12-32mm zoom at 13mm on the GM1 at f/4. I shot at ISO 200 and ISO 1600.

Firstly about the Nokia 1020. It's a Zeiss designed lens and the sensor is a 1/1.5'' version. Interesting article about the lens at the Phoblographer HERE

Here is a diagram of the Nokia multi-format sensor from that article.

Below is how the the two sensor sizes compare to each other. As you can see the differences in sensor size, pixel count and therefore pixel size are quite dramatic.

Above is my still life test. Both cameras were tripod mounted and were focused and fired using their touchscreens. 

So here's a comparison at ISO 200. 

Here's a comparison at ISO 1600. 

Below are two samples where I've added some sharpening to the Nokia file in Phtoshop.

So the GM1 captures more detail and more dynamic range. However the colours are not accurate and the 1020 is pretty near spot on. 

Now it would have been a major surprise if the Nokia has managed to equal the GM1. The GM1's pixel size is several times bigger than the 1020. Plus the lens on the Nokia is a much smaller, less sophisticated optic than the Panasonic zoom. However, taking that into consideration, the Nokia does a decent job. Surprisingly, the ISO 1600 results are reasonable. However it's difficult to know how much in camera noise reduction is going on with the Nokia. 

The Nokia also produces a 5MP versions of each images.

This is the ISO 200 version.

This is the ISO 1600 version

As you can see the higher ISO image is actually pretty decent.

Just to add in a couple of the things the 1020 can do that the GM1 can't.

Firstly the amazing 1020 fill-in flash. Please note the camera was very close to the test subjects.

Now that's very good indeed.

The Nokia can also focus much closer.

My Conclusions.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 isn't a DSLR or Mirrorless alternative in a smartphone, in terms of image quality. But then there is no surprise in that. 41MP (or 38MP for 4:3 ratio because of the multi-format sensor) crammed onto a very small sensor is what it is and Nokia haven't managed to defy the laws of physics. But for a phone camera I don't think that it's going too far to say that it's actually pretty good, by any standard.

The 100% pixel-peeping blowups above also won't make that much difference in terms of reproduction, for print and especially electronic. And there are some areas in which the camera works better than the m4/3 camera. Colour Balance, great fill-in flash (which in many cases trumps the better high ISO performance) and the ability to focus closer. The 1020 obviously looses out in interchangeable lens function, the ability to produce raw files and aperture control. (There simply isn't any)

So for a 'happy snapper' 'selfie addict' and 'point and shooter' (and I plead guilty to one and three) it's a pretty decent camera. Nice crisp 5MP files for Social Media uploading and the larger files for decent sized printing. But then I'm not just a happy snapper. I'm asking this camera to produce stock image files that I can sell. So is the image quality good enough for that?

Well the answer is obviously yes, since that's what I'm doing. And the files are firstly being accepted by my picture libraries and secondly are selling. And of course, whatever we might think about the relative quality of the pixels from each camera. There is this.

And in a marketplace where I sell images that have no camera / lens info available to the people who buy them, this is a compelling factor in many cases. The Nokia 1020 4:3 files are the largest I've ever produced from a digital camera. While many feel that this is far from the whole story and that the Nokia files are 'over-pixeled' (a point of view I share) this perception of a size advantage was not lost on me when I decided to buy the 1020. On those websites that have a zoom function that allows potential buyers to look closely at the image files they are considering buying, the Nokia files look really good. So any notion that the GM1 files are actually 'better' than the Nokia files, even when upsized, is lost to the vast majority of my potential customers. 

And the fact is that these files CAN be reproduced in print at very large sizes and for purposes that require high quality. Because I chose to compare the 1020 files with a m4/3 camera, which has a sharper 'out of the box' rendition than many other cameras. If I had compared the Nokia files with a Nikon D3200 and some of the Canon ***D series cameras for example, then the sharpness / detail difference would have been much less apparent. Some have written that no camera phone could possibly compete with a DSLR or Mirrorless / CSC camera, but they have obviously never experienced the aforementioned D3200's output, which still holds the dubious distinction of producing the softest files I've ever seen.

So, I'm not going to pretend that the Nokia 1020 produces image quality that it doesn't. There is still an advantage for a larger sensor and interchangeable lenses in terms of image quality. Because I used a zoom on the GM1 that is far from the best lens I could have attached from the camera. But then I'm not using the Nokia to produce the highest resolution, highest quality files I can. I'm using it for lots of other reasons that I have been outlining in my previous posts about the camera. However, though I am compromising on the image quality and I can get better with my other cameras, it's a compromise that I'm willing to make because of those other considerations. 

And those compromises are not enough to affect the way I make a living. If they were I simply wouldn't have bothered to buy the Nokia. It's clear to me that even with it's image quality deficiencies compared to my other cameras, it produces images that are satisfactory for what I want and need. That then allows me to use it for all the reasons I bought it. Simplicity, ease of use, anonymity, cost, time saving etc. I never thought I'd be using a smartphone for my work anyway, so the fact that it produces decent images is a bonus for me. It does in fact produce quality that is better than I imagined and I was sure I would have to downsize the images significantly to get them accepted by picture libraries. The fact that I'm not having to do that shows just how good the results are. Picture libraries are not in the business of accepting image files to sell to customers that they think will give cause for complaint, so that is a further indication that the Nokia 1020 produces good images. 

*Finally, I would point that that there is an update that allows the shooting of raw .dng files on the 1020. However, since the endless processing of raw files is something that I'm trying to avoid I'm not that inclined to use it, though I may (or may not) try it in the future. I have had a look at some samples and there is an improvement in dynamic range but I couldn't see any sharpness or detail resolution boosts. Plus since the camera is very power hungry and the file saving is quite slow, creating and saving raw files is going to do nothing to help that. Plus I have all sorts of ways to sort out any dynamic range issues in Photoshop and have some simple quick ways of restoring blown highlights which is the main problem. And as I've indicated most of the point of me using a smartphone to take pictures is to get away from endless 'fiddling' and editing. 

UPDATE - I have now updated my 1020 and it shoots RAW 38MP DNG files. For my first impressions see new post HERE.

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