Due to a nice little drop in the middle of the street, my Lumia 920 died recently. I was nearly ready for a phone upgrade, but Sarah and I wanted to switch to Verizon so we could have better coverage in rural areas. We went in to a Verizon store and I reluctantly bought a Lumia Icon.
In a lot of ways, the Icon is a step back from the 920. The speaker phone is worse (in the back and easily muffled). The camera aperture is worse (2.4 vs 2.0). Lastly, the screen is worse (OLED vs IPS).
Other than build quality, the Icon has one noticeable advantage over the 920; RAW photography. Forget about the 20 megapixels, they mean nothing. I’ve compared countless images between my broken 920 (8MP) and the Icon (20MP) and picture detail is not significantly improved with the Icon. At phone size, we’re running into sensor size and lens quality limitations, so 20MP doesn’t really give you much in real world performance.
The RAW output of the Icon is a true game changer. You get so much more latitude in color correction and noise / sharpening algorithms. If you want a real in-depth analysis of how RAW affects smartphone photography, head over to Connect’s (dpreview) article on shooting RAW with the Lumia 1020.
What I offer below is some real world samples of the Icon in action during a trip to San Francisco. You will see that the camera performs much better with close up objects versus landscape-style photos. This works well for me because I don’t take a ton of landscape photos. Compared to my trusty 920, the Icon falls down a bit in low light. This is due to aperture and sensor size differences. The Icon is simply trying to do more with less (aperture) and more with the same (sensor size). If you want to see all the EXIF data, head over to the Flickr album.
You can click the images below to view them full size. They’ve been imported into Lightroom 5.5 and lightly color corrected for accuracy. I left the default noise settings enabled, so that’s the noise you see.