Nokia is furthering its photographic prowess with the Lumia 925, a powerful smartphone with an excellent camera that promises much. The Finnish firm’s PureView technology has made an appearance in the Lumia range before, having been seen on the brilliant Lumia 920, but the new flagship has updated, Carl Zeiss imaging hardware and a bagful of extra software features to boast about. So how does the handset shape up and can it compete with recent camera innovations from the likes of HTC and Samsung?
1.5GHz dual-core processor
4.5-inch AMOLED dispay
16GB internal storage
8.7 megapixel camera
1080p video recording
Windows Phone 8
Design and Build
The Lumia 925 takes its design cues from existing Nokia handsets such as the aforementioned Lumia 920, although the device has a polycarbonate-coated aluminium frame that hasn’t been seen before. In support of its imaging capabilities, the handset’s form factor sits well in the hand in landscape mode and its physical camera button is very easy to reach. As is also the case with the volume and lock keys, the camera button just about juts out of the bodywork, making it easy to press without spoiling the handset’s stylish curves.
Nokia has included a 4.5-inch, 332ppi AMOLED display that does an excellent job of showing off the bold colours of the Windows Phone 8 software to the full. Although the screen doesn’t have the same kind of dazzling brightness and clarity that has recently been seen on the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 there is little to complain about when browsing around the handset’s UI and the difference is only noticeable when viewing photos and videos.
While there’s nothing wrong with the Lumia 925’s performance in this area it doesn’t quite match up to Samsung and HTC’s recent innovations, although pictures do appear clear and crisp. Nevertheless, the Nokia has one big advantage with its display; it shows up well under sunlight and is great for outdoor use.
Under the Hood
Like almost all other Windows Phone 8 devices, the Lumia 925 makes use of a dual-core, 1.5Ghz processor and 1GB of RAM, stats which do seem a little lacking in these days when Android high-end handsets have quad-core chips almost as a requirement. However, the smooth quality of the WP8 UI is apparent here and there are few hold ups or problems with performance when using many of the phone’s functions.
However, when turning to the more advanced photo-editing options there is a bit of lag, particularly in the rendering of preview images in Smart Camera. After taking a shot and selecting the editor there can be a wait of several seconds before each preview is ready and while this is only a very short amount of time we can’t help but feel that a faster processor would have made an improvement.
Packing a 2000mAh battery, the Lumia is well equipped for everyday use and lasts a day on one charge as long as you don’t overdo power-draining tasks like streaming online video or playing 3D games for too long.
However, the camera and its related editing functions do sap power, meaning that heavy of use of the Lumia 925’s photographic capabilities is best avoided unless you know you’ll be back near a plug socket within a few hours.
Operating System and User Interface
Windows Phone 8 allows manufacturers little adaptation so there is none of the elaborate re-skinning that is seen on Android handsets here. However, several of Nokia’s own services are included, many of which further the handset’s camera capabilities.
Smart Camera is the Finnish firm’s answer to what HTC has done with its Zoe suite, capturing a short clip in place of a single image and allowing you to edit it into a final, idealised image. After capturing a clip, users are presented with previews of what Nokia’s software can do with it, including picking out the best frame, removing unwanted objects and replacing awkward facial expressions with cut out sections from other frames. The interface for all these features is a little difficult to navigate at first, although the full frame previews are impressive and final images are of a high quality.
Also included is the excellent Photo Beamer app which Nokia purchased from its developers some months ago. This offers a brilliantly simple way of displaying photos on a computer screen without connecting the handset.
Camera and Video
On to the Lumia 925’s stand out feature; the PureView camera. Its 8.7 megapixels may not seem up to competing with the 13 megapixel sensors now being employed by Samsung and Sony but don’t let statistics fool you, this is probably the best smartphone camera we have ever seen and it outclasses anything that other firms have to offer.
Where even the best camera phones can leave some noise on the finest details of images, the Nokia’s Carl Zeiss lens ensures that even when zoomed in fully the pictures are crisp. The PureView technology combines a six lens arrangement with optical image stabilisation to capture outstanding images that surpass anything else we’ve seen.
A further point to be made is the handset’s low light performance, which is absolutely incredible. There are options for changing factors such as ISO and shutter speed but the Lumia’s automatic settings are more than capable of working out what is needed for a particular scene to be captured. Even on Night mode, when the shutter is open for a full second to capture as much light as possible, the image quality is brilliant, with the optical image stabilisation being used to its fullest in this situation.
Video also makes use of the stabiliser and footage is very smooth and free from jumps. While the Lumia’s video prowess isn’t quite as startling as its photographic capabilities it is impressive nonetheless and the handset will be a good option for anyone wishing to capture high-quality footage with their smartphone.
Performance and Verdict
While it’s not strictly accurate to say that Nokia has built a very good phone around an excellent camera, this is kind of what its feels like when using the Lumia 925. The device is not as camera-centric as the 808 PureView appears to have been, but that’s to its advantage and anyone who isn’t too interested in mobile photography will still find many uses for a handset such as this.
However, anyone who does make heavy use of their device’s camera would be well advised to think about the Lumia 925 since Nokia has created what is quite simply the best smartphone camera we’ve ever tested. We have been hugely impressed by the Lumia’s performance and the device betters even the quality of images that we captured when using the Galaxy S4, HTC One and Xperia Z. Nokia makes no secret of the focus it puts on and the pride it takes in its camera technology, and the firm has every right to hold its head high with the Lumia 925.