Much hay has been made about the 41MP image sensor which Nokia has built into the back of the Lumia 1020. As many people still don't have a lot of experience using Windows Phone, the question becomes: Is this a real feature, or is this a gimmick?
There's a certain brinkmanship at play when discussing premier smartphones. They've become integral to how we share experiences and communicate. They're an extension of our voice. Crucial to that experience for many is the camera which comes bolted onto the back. Opinions regarding the perceived "quality" of phones are often met with visceral responses and criticism. To say a phone has a better camera than another phone is like drawing a line in the sand, inviting challengers to engage in combat with you.
The Lumia 1020's 41MP camera is the best camera currently available on any smartphone, phablet, or tablet. It's better than most point and shoot cameras.
The question remains however, as most people share their smartphone photos through online services like Facebook/Instagram, Flickr, Twitter, G+, etc, and those services often compress the native resolution of your camera for easier uploading/browsing/downloading, will most people see the benefit of having 41,000,000 dots.
Nokia's PureView camera design offers some incredible photo manipulation tricks which are all but transparent to the end user who first picks up the 1020. First, while you can use the full resolution images, most people wont actually engage with them. The camera under stock settings will actually save two versions of every pic you take, one full resolution and one down-sampled to a 5MP. That 5MP pic is what will often be sent in an email or uploaded to your favorite social networks.
This might seem like a cop out, but down-sampling provides for two advantages. One, you can use it to digital zoom. The camera can zoom in on an image with far less image degradation by literally cropping into the middle of the image. The resulting 5MP image from that zoom is radically better than any other traditional smartphone camera's digital zoom. You start with a lot more info to work with in your pic, so cutting some info away just doesn't hurt as bad.
Second, down-sampling the full res image can actually improve the image. Through a process called "pixel binning", complex software algorithms can be used to retain detail while reducing noise and graininess from your image.
These technological tricks working in combination with the Lumia's fantastic lens, optical image stabilization, and the improved Nokia camera app provide an unparalleled experience for mobile photography. A brute force approach allowing users to take even better pics of their pets and meals.
Is it a marketing gimmick partly designed to get your attention? Yes.
Does it also happen to work? Absolutely.
Hit the slide show for examples of zoomed in pics from the Lumia 1020. Click here to see video samples from the Lumia 1020.