Can the Lumia 1020 take on a compact system camera?

How does the Lumia 1020 camera compare to the Olympus E-PL5 - and to the iPhone 5?

Now comes the real test. The Nokia Lumia 1020 has been touted as a point-and-shoot killer by some blogs, and even a DSLR replacement by others. Give us a break. The 1020 is definitely easier to carry around and use compared to larger cameras, but it will never compare with a DSLR.

But how does the 41MP PureView camera on the Nokia stack up against a decent compact system camera like the Olympus E-PL5? Let's find out.

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

There's that sad Lumia 1020 macro shot again. Not much to say here besides the fact that the Olympus E-PL5 stomps all over Nokia in this category.

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

The first desk/phone photo was taken by the Olympus E-PL5, and it's pretty clear that the winner here is the Olympus. The image is brighter, cleaner, sharper and has better color accuracy than the Lumia 1020.

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

Now this flower shot is where things aren't so black and white. The Lumia 1020 did a bit better with color and saturation here, and it seems a bit sharper than the Olympus, too. We think we're going to give this one to the Lumia 1020.

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

In this ocean scene again, we can see that the Olympus has better dynamic range in the top image. The Lumia tends to underexpose, and as a result you lose some shadow details. The clear winner here is the Olympus because you have that much more flexibility if you want to edit the image.

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

Nokia Lumia camera sample comparison

The first image is from the Olympus E-PL5, and the second one is the Nokia. Because the Olympus does a better job of balancing the two sources of light, colors look a little better, too. The Lumia has better contrast, but overall we have to give this one to the E-PL5 for better balance, color and dynamic range.

Lumia 1020 vs. Olympus E-PL5 conclusion

So, it's obvious that the Nokia Lumia 1020 isn't going to be replacing a modern compact system camera. Megapixel counts generally don't mean much when it comes to sensor size and image processing. The bigger sensor and better image processor usually wins.

The Olympus, being a Micro Four-Thirds camera, also has interchangeable lenses and better controls and options. It has more in common with a DSLR than the Lumia phone, so there really is no sense in comparing the two.

If you want a compact camera for more serious still photography, don't count on the Lumia 1020 to handle that job for you. A nice compact system camera like the Sony NEX-6 or Olympus E-PL5 will do a better job, at a cost.

But if you just want the best images you can possibly get out of a smartphone, the Lumia 1020 is still the king of phone cameras.