In a country that readily laps up anything and everything Nokia, the Finnish giant is being very cautious while launching the Lumia 920 in India. This is Nokia's big ticket item, which it hopes will finally turn its fortunes around. And Nokia seems to have left no stone unturned from its end. While the Windows Phone 8 store is steadily growing, Nokia has made sure that it delivers the best that it can from the hardware standpoint, as the software gradually matures over time. With an official launch scheduled sometime in January, Nokia organised a little hands-on session in the meantime so that we could get to know the phone better. Is the handset worth everything it was hyped out to be? Could this be the best camera in a phone for low-light yet? Let’s find out.
Design and build
While we didn’t get a whole lot of time with the phone, what we had was good enough to formulate a solid first impression. Starting with the build and design, Nokia hasn’t deviated too much from the first-gen Lumias. The basic form factor remains pretty much the same as the 920 is carved out of a single block of polycarbonate. This unibody approach makes it durable as there’s less chance of anything snapping off if it falls. It is extremely well-built and sturdy in your hands, albeit a bit chunky. This extra bit of heft could be attributed to the image stabilisation used in the camera, so we guess there was no avoiding it. At 185g, it’s very much manageable in your hands, although it might get uncomfortable in your pocket. The size is not a big deal either.
Very good sunlight legibility
The 4.5-inch IPS display is nothing short of amazing. Due to the high pixel per inch count (332ppi), it is ‘Retina-grade’ and images and text look sharp and vivid. The display is also super sensitive, more than usual, so even the slightest gestures are easily picked up. The buttons are all placed where they should be and are within reach of your thumb. It’s good that Nokia decided to place the power button on the side as placing it on top would have been uncomfortable.
Well placed buttons
The phone is powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm SoC (MSM8960) which doesn’t do much for the UI but helps in image and video processing. The interface is smooth for the most part, but the stutter bug will pay you a visit occasionally. This could just be an issue with the pre-sale unit or WP8 itself; we’ll know for sure once the phone is officially launched here. The 920 does not have expandable storage, so you’ll have to make do with the 32GB onboard memory.
The PureView camera
Next, let’s dive straight into the one feature that everyone’s raving about – the PureView camera. This time, the PureView title refers to the optical image stabilisation onboard rather than the 41MP sensor. Nokia calls it floating lens technology, where the camera lens actually balances on a bunch of springs so it can compensate for user movement. That coupled with a large aperture value of f/2.0 and we’re looking at some pretty god low-light shots. Let’s head straight to the samples.
This is with very little ambient light
This was taken in the corner of our labs with very low ambient light. Even with the flash off, the Lumia 920 will fire it while focussing and then capture the image. The result is pretty remarkable as you can see, however, there was this minute blur that we simply couldn’t get rid of, no matter how steady our hands were. Check out our in-depth comparision with the iPhone 5 right here.
The Smart Shoot lens in action
You can do more with the camera than just low-light photography though. Nokia has added this feature called lenses, which allows for some fun effects. Smart Shoot captures a sequence of images in succession, allowing you to select the best one. You even have the option to remove certain objects or people from the image. Basically, it scans through all the images and everything that’s static stays, but if there’s an anomaly, like a person walking past, it gives you the option to remove it. This works decently although we would have liked more control over what objects to remove.
The next is Cinemagraph, which essentially creates a GIF of any still image. You focus on one moving object in the frame and just keep the phone steady till it’s taken all the shots. After that, you get to select which areas can be animated. You get three pre-selected points of animation, which you can toggle on or off.
Finally, we come to video recording. The image stabilisation actually does wonders over here as well. We tried to forcefully shake the phone quite vigorously, which is the wobble you see in the video, but it manages to cancel out slight shakes very well. This is also true for stills. You can half-press the shutter to focus and shake it up and down without the image in the viewfinder getting affected much.
Has huge potential
After spending about an hour with the handset, we must say that the Lumia 920 has huge potential when it launches in India next month. Nokia is still tight lipped about the pricing, but we'd guess it would be anything between Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000. The device is built like a tank and the finish and choice of materials easily rivals the top dogs like the One X and even the iPhone 5. The hardware is all there and now all that’s left is for the software platform to mature, and fast. Apps are always going to be the deciding factor between platforms, which could offset the sales of the 920 in the start. But even without apps, the Lumia 920 is a good phone and has some powerful imaging capabilities. There are plenty of features in the 920 that we still need to put to the test once we get our hands on a retail unit, but for now, we feel that the Lumia 920 has potential for greatness.
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