Sony Xperia Z1 goes head-to-head with the Nokia Lumia 1020 in camera shoot out


Sony Xperia Z1 camera disassembled

When the Sony Xperia Z1 was announced a few weeks back, one of the biggest things the Zed1 had going for it — aside from its beefy Snapdragon 800 processor — was Sony’s much touted 20.7MP camera. Equipped with a Sony G Lens, Exmor RS for mobile sensor (largest of any Android smartphone), and Bionz for mobile image processor, the combined efforts were said to produce camera performance unlike any other in its class.

All About Windows Phone decided to put Sony’s claims to the test, pitting the Sony Xperia Z1 against reigning champ, the Nokia Lumia 1020. There’s a lot of technicals behind the cameras, but essentially both devices use very similar 8MP oversampling to produce images with a lossless zoom at about 1.8x. This might not sound very evenly matched given the Lumia 1020’s 40MP sensor is almost twice of the Xperia Z1’s, giving the Lumia 1020 the obvious advantage in low light. But in well let conditions, it will be about image processing and optics.

Before we start, output resolutions are 8MP on the Z1, vs 5MP on the 1020. Also, the Sony Xperia Z is still using firmware build number, with Sony expected to release an updated build to improve the Z1’s auto-mode. With that out of the way, let’s get started (click for full size images).


Sony Xperia Z1 vs Nokia Lumia 1020 1


Sony Xperia Z1 vs Nokia Lumia 1020 shade

Lossless zoom (2.5x Lumia 1020, 1.8x Xperia Z1)

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Nokia Lumia 1020 2


Sony Xperia Z1 vs Nokia Lumia 1020 dusk

Indoor/low light

Sony Xperia Z1 vs Nokia Lumia 1020 indoor light


Alright, so the Nokia Lumia 1020 was clearly the winner here, by a large margin. With all the hype coming out of Sony’s camp about the Xperia Z1’s new image capabilities, we were honestly hoping for closer fight. All of Sony’s images came with a weird contrast, loads of noise/filtering, and strange blue tinge in all the pics. In only 1 round did the Sony Xperia Z1 actually best the Nokia Lumia 1020, and that was in the macro shot (Z1 had much better contrast, saturation, and exposure). Other than that, it was a massacre.

We can’t wait to pit the Sony Xperia Z1 against other Android devices once/if the device ever comes to US shores. In the meantime, let us know if you were surprised by the results in the shootout, and for you some of you out there that value a good shooter in an Android device, if this affected your future purchasing decision at all.

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. We need more bezel!……………. ;-)

  2. The problem is – there are no good shooters in Android universe. They mostly lack the basics needed today for decent shots – like the OIS. LG G2 has OIS but with tons of bloatware

    1. Hopefully the Nexus 5 will be the go-to phone when it comes to showing others how camera is done. It has the same OIS as the G2 I think.

      I mean Vic Gundotra did say this: “+sizar adam We are committed to making Nexus phones insanely great cameras. Just you wait and see. ”

      source: https://plus.google.com/+VicGundotra/posts/GRiKrc41oGL

      I bet he hates all the people that keep linking to that comment xD

  3. Idk…the lumia seems over saturated to me.

    1. the z1 is washed out… id rather have color than a bleached out photo

  4. I actually liked the Z1 better. The Nokia seems dim and surreal, like a dream. Then again, I also hate instagram effects. I must just suck at being able to tell what good photography looks like.

    1. i dont like the z1 cuz all the colors blend together,white and yellow both look white, maroon and red are both red.

  5. Yeah the nokia was gloomy in a lot of its shots.

    1. Nokia smoked it because of a shaky cameraman :P

      1. That’s true also, but the colors look washed out on the sony.

  6. Please T-mobile, bring the Sony Xperia Z1 to USA.

  7. compare the z1 to the 1520 wen its out! den it will be 20mp vs 20mp! nokia will still win!! :D

  8. If you like oversaturated colors and poor white balance then I guess the Lumia wins. It is very easy to add some saturation to the Sony after the shot. You can’t easily get correct colors back in the Lumia shots and the Lumia oversaturates EVERYTHING. With web sized shots it is impossible to tell anything about resolution of either. It is also hard to tell anything about noise levels in the darker photos without larger photos to compare.

    In the top daylight shot it was a little hard finding something neutral to read off of because a lot of the whites were blown out. I took a sample of the Starbuck’s grey wording on both. The Lumia measures: R:123, G:129, B:96. The Sony was a clear winner in daylight white balance at R:161, G:161: B:154. I don’t know the spots but it isn’t believable to me that they are really that color brown in the Lumia. The Sony red bricks are believable.

    In the park scene the hypersaturated greens in the Lumia were just too ridiculous to even look at anything else for me. I suppose if people love Instacrap filters then that look might be wonderful. If you want grass to look like grass, not so much.

    I don’t understand the point of the goose photo comparison. If the geese were shot to where they filled the same amount of the frame in each photo then I would have something to go on.

    Not sure what you were going for in the twilight shot either. They weren’t shot at the same exposure so the Lumia has a lot of blocked shadows where there are details in the Sony shot. I don’t like the white balance in either of these but again overall the oversaturation of the Lumia makes it the loser for me.

    In the low light shot, taking a sample of the shirt in the area that is presumably white the Lumia measures R:226, G:193,B:176. The Sony R:218, G:218, B:219. White Balance doesn’t get much better than that. The white balance of the Lumia is abysmal. Just look at the skin tone.

    1. its not necessarily about loving instagram filters. I never put filters on anything i post, but i would pick the lumia photos over the z1’s in most of these cases. Z1 isnt bad but it looks pretty blown out with colors almost looking like they are washing together. The yellows are too white. And different shades of similar colors blend together. It just doesn’t look appealing.

    2. WB is easy to rectify, especially with the sophisticated Pro Cam app that allows you to easily change the WB to whatever you want it to be.

      Now, how do you add back missing details into the Z1’s image?

  9. Eh, that’s what the new Sony has to offer? I think I’ll stick with my Note 2 then.

  10. Looking at the last pics: Lumia only wins if the walls were orange. Really, who has orange walls?

    1. Even so, the color in the Z1 look horribly washed out. Neither picture is ideal, but I’d personally prefer the Lumia over the Z1 even in that instance.

      1. washed out versus completely wrong color that makes him look like he has a nasty sun tan? I’d go with washed out

      2. Washed out is simple to deal with … dial in -1/3 exposure and it is solved forever. You can’t get real colors back so easily and the Nokia’s white balance and saturation are terrible.

    2. I love how this has gone from sky-high praise for the Z1 to dissing a competitor. In this sheep-bot infested forum there’s ZERO praise for Android’s supposed camera-king, eh? Pretty sad it’s come down to “I don’t care if my Android camera-king is darn noisy, low details, blurry mess, at least they didn’t mess up the colour”.

      Come on, let’s start hearing some good things about the HOHOHONAMI, shall we? Or there’s no good cameras in the Android world worth talking about?

  11. you guys are blind. the lumia is way better. z1 is way too bleached. maybe turn the ISO down

    edit: and look at the better detail in the lumia. Look at the starbucks sign. you can barely see the siren’s face on the z1. and compare the sidewalks in the twilight shots

    1. Turning the ISO down won’t do anything. It would just result in a slower shutter speed to get the same shot and likely blur moving objects more. Dial in -1/3 exposure compensation and that is solved forever. There is absolutely no way any detail judgement based on web sized photos makes any sense whatsoever. A 6mp camera will resolve a lot more detail than these are showing. It is much more likely that whatever you think you are seeing or not seeing is a compression issue.

      1. The 1020’s OIS gives you a 2-3 stop advantage over a non-OIS. I’m sure dialling ISO down by another 2-3 stops equivalent would not be an issue with the 1020. 1/6s – 1/8s shutter speed on the 1020 is clean, crisp, easy. With a bit more effort I can do 1s-1/3s. Yep, OIS. Something somebody at Sony forgotten.

  12. They both suck.

  13. to me the sony shooter looks more realistic to me, and the 1020 just looks cartoony. maybe living in detriot all my life has made me prefer non over vibrant things

  14. Lumia wins by a long shot. so much more rich and pleasing to the eye. if I was looking through my shots with friends id want the rich ones. sony looks blurry sometimes and pale , and well , sick almost, . 1020 here I come

  15. The writer of this site is so wrong the score is 3 for z1 and 2 for lumia in 2nd and third picture it only wins, catlett is right look at the skin of the last pic so yellowish on lumia. the man is moving so it got blurred on z1.

  16. Almost all of the pic of 1020 is yellowish except the 2nd and 3rd, is that sponge bob on the last pic of 1020 a yellow man?

    1. It’s Nokia’s idea of a ‘golden’ phone

  17. Is that the capabilities of the largest sensor on a phone?that’s why nokia is dead now.

  18. The Nokia has better detail and less digital noise. The Nokia under exposes and the Sony over exposes (both can be corrected easily by the user).

    But what on earth is going on with the Nokia yellow/orange colour cast? In the image (made using a calibrated monitor) I have corrected the Nokia image and lo and behold it is about the same as the Sony.

    Personally I would loathe having to correct every snapshot (‘cos that’s what these phones are for) I took, so I would take the Sony with a nudge down on the exposure.

    1. And they gave the Lumia a 10/10 on that test! The color looks horrible. Your corrected picture looks like a 10.

      1. Fairly easy to fix a colour issue, either with appropriate WB adjustment or post-processing. Can’t do that with a horribly smeared image from the Z1 where all details have disappeared.

    2. Depends on the pictures. Look at the one of the street with the houses. The Nokia photo is one blurry mess all over while the Z1 photo shows roof tiles and window frames even in the back of the image.

      1. Dude, did you just mix up the 1020 and Z1 photos? That noisy blurry image was from the Z1 while the tack sharp one was from the 1020!

        1. “Dude” you sure did mix em up. The blurry one is the one from the 1020. Underexposed and still blurry.

          1. If you insist, then I fear that perhaps you got problems with your eyesight. Here, I offer to give you a free eye examination:

            Please look at the 2 tests below, let me know which one is sharper with less noise. The Left image or the Right image?

    3. Out of those three shots, I’d take your color corrected Nokia shot over the other two. Chances are, it is just a white balance issue which can be set in a menu I suspect. Won’t know though because I don’t want a Windows phone. I also know that I can avoid Sony phones for a while. I really wanted one but not after seeing the images from this test.

    4. Man, check the pictures and ask yourself again if the nokia’s camera offers better detail… you can’t even see the leaves on the last picture (before last, I’m not counting the last, who knows if he moved)

      1. Check the 100% originals and you will see how much better the Nokia is.

  19. The colour on the 1020 is horrible, and unless Steve is jaundiced in the last pic everything is a yellowy green. The only shot that seems to show a clear advantage to the 1020 is the last one. Not really enough to have me jumping to Windows Phone.

    1. But it also has Internet Explorer! Only smartphone to have it!

      1. Unless it’s IE6 – no sale ;-)

        1. Also Bing! Don’t you want Bing!?

    2. The 1020’s image is clearly better in all areas that matter (sharpness, detail, noise). The colour can be handled pretty easily if you know how to (i.e. adjust the WB before snapping). There, fixed your colour issue, any more objections to the 1020’s superiority in sharpness, detail, noise over the Z1’s fuzzy pictures?

      Anyway, nobody is asking anyone to jump to Windows Phone. This is just a camera comparison. No need to be so insecure and jumpy ok?

  20. The Nokia was the winner? Man, sad to see people writing such a crap and hope you get boycotted by readers.

    1. I said the same thing, I had to scratch my head once I read the verdict

  21. Kind of disapointed with both actually.

    1. Yeah, they keep hyping smartphone camera’s like these things could replace a DSLR. In reality even the best ones are are still worse than a current model P&S.

      Of course for Facebook or Instagram they will do fine, but then pretty much any smartphone camera does.

      1. Generalization? Or you have exact knowledge of what you are talking about?

        1. Generalization of what?

  22. windows phone sucks so bad they had to add camera to it

  23. Alright so the Lumia was clearly the winner here, if you like everything in a nice shade of urine.

    1. Resorting to insults already eh? I wonder if all Android fans behave the same…

      1. All Android fans… All iPhone fans… All Samsung fans… Its a preference. Each beats the others in some category, none wins in all of them. The Lumia has a very yellowish color to it, and it looks unnatural.

        1. Switch the OS around and that same fanboy will call it “majestic golden” color instead. My point is that there is no need to use this kind of language in what should be an objective discussion about cameras.

  24. For many of the photos the Lumia was sharper, but the color was horrible. Color looked more realistic on the Z1 than the Lumia.

    I do question the scoring because the Lumia got 10/10 on the Daylight Test (test 1) and the color does not look that natural. It should not have received a perfect score.

  25. are you sure you labeled the photos correctly…looks like u labeled them backwards…..

  26. On the lumina side the pics looked over saturated with color

    1. +1 – and in all honesty, the Sony looks the opposite – the whites tend to look blown out.

  27. Obviously NOKIA is the winner, the only one, neither Iphone 5Something can beat that beast..¡¡¡¡

  28. The 1020 is great, but it always throws too much yellow into the picture – plus it’s sloooow shot to shot (for obvious reasons). If you look at it in some other comparisons with cameras like the 5S or even the S4, it’s painfully obvious how saturated the 1020 is. Don’t get me wrong, it still takes great shots, but I’d only want it over the 5S or S4 in situations where I’m taking a huge panoramic shot and need all those megapixels, otherwise I’ll go for the speed and accuracy of the 5S, S4, X (now), etc.

  29. Neither one is overly impressive. I’m biased towards Android so I’ll pick the Z1 all day. In the end apps that correct exposure, saturation, etc, make both cameras better than they can perform on their own. When is Phandroid going to post a shoot out?

  30. I thought the Xperia Z1 was much better. I won’t buy either phone but as far as the camera IMO the Xperia was much better. Don’t know what everyone else is looking at ???

    1. If you look at the posting history of most of the people who are raving about the Nokia it will become clear. Some just like the over-saturated fake photo look but most of them would have said Nokia regardless of which label was on which photo based on their posting history.

    2. It’s pretty simple actually. 3 things that people care about in photos:

      1. Details
      2. Noise
      3. Clarity/sharpness

      Aside to the guy catlett below: Before this, Sony fans were raving about how the Z1 would destroy the 1020. Now that 1020 is proven to be miles ahead in terms of details, noise and clarity/sharpness, those Sony fans have retreated to their tiny corner of “saturation” and “colour” as if that’s the only thing that matters in photos. Rave all you want about your colour but at least be honest that Z1 got destroyed in terms of details, noise level and clarity/sharpness. Can we agree on this?

      1. In those three aspects, sure. Just look at the picture itself though… What looks BETTER? Many go either way… I wouldnt say either got destroyed. Its just preference. AND if Sony wanted to, they could make a smartphone based around the camera. Theres more to the phone than just the camera and that is most likely why Sony already crammed it into the space they could use. Thats not bias, thats pretty honest. You prefer your camera, i prefer the phone. Just the way it is.

        1. Colour is more a software issue, and can be fixed with the correct manual White Balance setting or even a subsequent software update on the auto WB setting. Poor details, sharpness and noise are often physical optical limitations. The point here is not which phone is better rather which one takes better pictures. Too many people confuse their fanboyism with objectivity which results in them contorting and twisting the reality to fit their narrative. Android can be a great OS, and Sony might even make good phones (who knows) but its pretty clear the 1020 took better pictures in many important aspects like noise, clarity and details, and the color issue is easily fixable pre or post capture or even a subsequent software patch. But the fanboys here will clutch at the color straw like their lives depend on it.

  31. Look at the 1020 picture with the bench. I didn’t know grass can glow.

  32. It is very funny to me how you journalists keep comparing the photos from Z1 with the 1020 of Nokia, don’t you know that the optic is different, the Z1 has fixed lenses while the 1020 has optical zoom which is much better. For me, the 1020 is a small camera which can be used as a phone while the Z1 is a phone which can be used as a camera. If you want a phone with a big hump then go to 1020.

    I would really love to see these journalists comparing two cameras, they will certainly keep complaining that a compact point and shoot does not give as good a photo as the one from an entry DSLR despite the manufacturer of the compact camera keeps boasting that its is the best camera on the market.

    1. there is no optical zoom on Lumia 1020. They have lossless zoom using the 41mp camera instead

    2. Your entire argument is invalid.
      Comparing a point and shoot with a DSLR is a worthwhile comparison. Cost vs quality. Portability vs features.

      Comparing the Nokia vs the Sony is also worthwhile. 2 heavy hitting camera phone options, showing their strengths and weaknesses. Every company tries to hype their product, this comparison shows if the hype is true.

      Personally, I feel the Nokia shots were over saturated or had a funny tint, but much sharper. Overall, if the Sony can make low light shots natural and brighter, it’s a win for Sony.

      1. “Overall, if the Sony can make low light shots natural and brighter, it’s a win for Sony.”

        LOL @ “making the lowlight shots brighter” part. Of course that is every camera-maker’s dream. You make it sound like it is a simple software tweak. Sorry it is not, to collect more light the entire optical assembly needs to be physically reworked. With 235% larger sensor and OIS, the 1020’s lowlight shots will definitely be brighter with less noise.

        Try harder, Sony. GG.

        1. Derp. Look at the pictures. Unless I have magic eyes, the dusk outdoors shot was brighter on the Sony and the indoor while being blurry, was more natural color which in turn makes it look brighter.

          1. Ah, sorry, I think I misunderstood your original comment.

            Yes, the Z1’s image was certainly brighter, but this says nothing about image quality, it is purely a matter of exposure setting. In this case, I would say the 1020’s exposure was correctly set, while the Z1 was overexposed.

            Having said that, what is clear about that dusk outdoor shot is that the 1020’s image is of a much higher quality compared to the Z1, in terms of details, crispness and noise control. The Z1’s image is actually quite poor. I would suggest that you view both images at 100% instead of from the thumbnail.

            So there you go, another pro-Sony argument torn to shreds. You will have only one valid argument, which is that the 1020’s colour choice is more saturated. Of course, this is to cater for general population preference. But once Nokia implements a software update to allow option for less saturation, the Sony fans will crawl back into their holes crying because their camera will be totally owned and they won’t have that colour excuse any more.

            Of course, for us who actually know photography we know which camera has won the technical battle, and we know that colour preference is a VERY simple remedy.

            Now, let’s see Sony actually remedies its inferior image quality. THAT’s the tough part.

          2. Yeah totally, the quality is trash on the Sony. I would hope/think you’d be able to adjust the color temp and balance out the pictures on the Lumia, which of course at that time would hands down crush the Sony pics. I would need to play with the phone to be sure though, I’ve seen dumber things! ^_^

  33. most of the time nokias photos here are good but somehow like not realistic, its more like an application editor for photos are used while z1 is not that good though but i doubt they use or edited some features. it looks like my ordinary android phne has a better shot than z1 here. the one with the beer it looks like the its not stable a photo that moved for z1 nice shot for nokia and the one with the forest thing i doubt the leaves are that green outside its not a painting right its like edited in the case of nokia its like they have pastel color editor. what i like is whats more realistic not whats good when you take the shot its like faking it out. by the way i heard z1 has this extra add on lenses why not try it for the review.

  34. Honestly, I think the Sony looks better in every picture but the last. I don’t know where you get that the Nokia looks so much better….

    1. I have to agree, the nokia only “wins” in their opinion because the color pops out to the eye more… But… the pictures (with the exception of the water) look TO unreal. They look like paintings, which someone else said, and not life. You cant expect to take a dull environment and make it shine with 50 colors… The nokia pictures probably look better than your eye would see it. Still a great camera phone, but Sony has the tech and the experience to realistically beat every product in every category if they wanted to. One step at a time. Baby steps. More revenue and profit for them. Both great phones, but i prefer the z1 in most reviews regardless of the authors stated winner. But everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    2. Agree! The only shot the Nokia won was the last shot which was much sharper.

  35. Basically the Lumina is a Camera with smartphone features. It has nearly double the megapixels and a moving lens. It’s not an even comparison. Camera alone, no one should beat the Lumina. As a smartphone the Lumina is average at best. In an overall smartphone v smartphone feature comparison I’d give the won to the Z1.
    All of that being said. Based on the photos posted, I’d say the Sony won.

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  37. Lol, if you can only benchmark a phone by comparing its camera feature, then someday what if Nikon decided to enable you to make a call through your DSLR and upload photos to Social network like Facebook, Nikon will beat iphone, sony or nokia for sure – i mean imagine you can make a call from your Nikon D4 and upload pics ??

  38. The nokia photoes have a yellow case and i dont like that . but when i going to deside which mobiles take beter and reality photo i look the sky in their photos. lumia alweys have reality blue skye and xpeia have so light blue sky like most sumsong phones. just lumia and iphon take the reality blue sky.

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