Nokia’s Lumia 925 has been in our hands for a little while now, and when to comes down to just pure photography–this is the best damned phone you can probably get your hands on for a budget price. It also has a solid build quality and excellent LCD screen, but for what it’s worth, the phone also runs on the operating system that is behind the rest: Windows Phone. This results in a major disconnect if you’re coming from an Android phone or iOS device. But if you’re not tethered to either of those, the Lumia 925 is a nice option.
Pros and Cons
– Excellent build quality and feel in the hand
– Great screen
– Bright, vibrant colors
– Nokia Pro Cam in the camera app that every operating system should have
– Better feeling than an iPhone
– Though not really a con, it runs with Windows Phone; which is still very limited
Specs taken from the company’s website
- Display size: 4.5 ”
- Display technology: ClearBlack, AMOLED
- Touch screen technology: Super sensitive touch
- Main camera sensor: 8.7 MP PureView
- Flash type: Dual LED flash
- Maximum talk time (2G): 18.3 h
- Maximum talk time (3G): 12.8 h
- Maximum standby time (3G): 440 h
- Maximum music playback time: 55 h
- Wireless charging: Yes, with accessory cover
- Processor name: Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4
- Processor type: Dual-core 1.5 GHz
- Main camera
- Main camera sensor: 8.7 MP PureView
- Main camera focus type: Auto focus with two-stage capture key
- Camera digital zoom: 4 x
- Carl Zeiss Tessar lens: Yes
- Sensor size: 1/3 inch
- Main camera f-number/aperture: f/2.0
- Camera focal length: 26 mm
- Camera minimum focus range: 8 cm
- Camera image formats: JPEG/Exif
- Flash type: Dual LED flash
- Flash operating range: 3.0 m
- Flash modes: Off, Automatic, On
- Main camera features
- Main camera – other features: Touch focus, Landscape orientation, Exposure compensation, Auto and manual exposure, Auto and manual white balance, Still image editor, Face recognition, Full screen viewfinder, Geotagging, Optical image stabilization, True 16:9 sensor, PureView, Backside-illuminated image sensor, Automatic photo upload to web services, Full resolution photo and video upload, Creative Studio, 6-lens optics
- Digital camera add-ons: Nokia Smart Camera, Cinemagraph lens, Panorama lens, Bing vision, Nokia Pro Camera
- Photography apps
- Nokia Smart Camera: Shoots a sequence of photos, making it easier to capture great moments. Choose your Best Shot or combine the photos into one picture, make a strobe effect to emphasize motion, remove unwanted objects or choose the best faces for great group shots.
- Cinemagraph: A magical blend of photo and movie-like animation, creating pictures that seem almost alive. Helpful on-screen assistance lets you select the animated area of your picture and easily create and edit a cinemagraph. You can share your cinemagraph with friends via social media, email and messaging.
- PhotoBeamer: PhotoBeamer is an innovative and easy way to show your pictures on any screen. Point your Nokia Lumia at any screen displaying www.photobeamer.com and enjoy your photos anywhere with family and friends. It’s a mobile projector that’s always at hand.
- Image capturing
- Capture modes: Video, Still
- Scene modes: Automatic, Night Portrait, Sports, Night, Close-up, Backlight
- White balance modes: Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Daylight, Automatic
- Light sensitivity: Automatic, ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200
- Photos viewed by: Camera Roll, Month, Timeline, Photo editor, Favorites, Album, Photos from social networks
- Secondary camera
- Secondary camera resolution: 1280 x 960 pixels
- Secondary camera f-number/aperture: f/2.4
- Secondary camera – other features: Video recording, Still image capture, Video call, HD 1.2 MP wide angle
Taken from our First Impressions
When you first unbox the Lumia, it is wrapped in a soft, velvet-like case. And when when you take it out of said case, you’ll have this big, gorgeous AMOLED display staring you in the face. It’s beautiful, but you won’t know that until you turn the device on.
The front has a couple of touch sensitive buttons–but we wouldn’t really call them buttons per se. You’ll find a back, home, and search button here. For the most part, you’ll be focusing on the back and home button.
The side of the phone has the core key buttons for working with the phone. These buttons are volume buttons, the on/off/wake up/sleep button, and the camera button. Excellently enough, the camera button can wake up the phone from a slumber when held down. It will also automatically bring up the phone’s Pro Camera app.
The top of the phone sports a headphone jack, charging port (which is the same as Android phones) and the slot for the SIM card. To top said slot, Nokia gives you what they call a SIM key. It’s basically this grippy thing with a skinnier thing that you stick into a hole on the top–mind your wandering mind.
This design is an interesting deviation from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and HTC devices.
The back of the phone is where the sweet spot of the camera is: no, we’re not talking about the limited edition Superman case that Nokia provided for us, we’re talking about the camera. Nokia’s camera was designed with a Zeiss lens–which is one of our favorite lens manufacturers.
Above the camera is a flash. It isn’t a true flash though. Rather, it’s an LED.
The Nokia Lumia 925 has to be one of the most solid feeling phones that we’ve held so far; but it’s a bit too sleek feeling. And for that reason, we wish that there were some texture to the back panel for better grip. The phone fell off my desk once onto my camera bags, and sometimes I had half a mind to put some gaffer tape on the back of the unit for better grip. However, I didn’t. The Superman case that they provided to us didn’t really give much slip resistance either.
Texture aside though, the phone feels quite nice and very solid. Even if it hit the ground during that slip, we’re positive that the screen might not have cracked and that the phone wouldn’t have received a ding at all.
Focusing with this phone’s camera is very standard. One can either touch the screen to focus or they they press the camera button on the side of the phone. But something that this phone has on any other out there is the fact that it can also manually focus when using the Nokia Pro Cam app. And the manual focusing is really awesome. For what it’s worth though, you’re using a small sensor device, so most of what you’re shooting will be in focus anyway unless you get really close to your subject.
When it comes to focusing in low light though, don’t try to go after fast moving objects at all such as at a concert–you’ll have a field day trying to nail focusing.
Ease of Use
The Lumia 925 sports the Windows Phone OS. It’s quite nice to look at and the rotating buttons that constantly update are also really neat. But for what it’s worth, I couldn’t sit there and try to make this phone act as my primary phone due to way the system works. It’s proof to me that Windows Phone still has a while to go to catch up to the likes of Android.
Despite the fact that I couldn’t get it to work as my primary phone, that doesn’t at all mean that the system is totally horrible. In fact, there are some beautiful and really cool features to the ecosystem. For example, the way that it displays photos and the menus are perhaps better than anything Steve Jobs could have created.
This also has to apply to the phone’s camera roll. Maybe it’s something about the screen, but the way that the camera roll looks to me is kind of captivating.
But beyond the way that the phone handles photo, there are some odd things about it. For starters, the best way to manage email is to use the phone’s native email app. I couldn’t find a better version in the App store at all. But for what it’s worth, it still isn’t the Gmail app if you’re a Gmail user. You can’t access folders and more. It can be quite limiting if your company does business through Gmail for Business as The Phoblographer does.
The Microsoft Windows Store has everyone else beat though on looks. It is significantly snazzier than Apple iOS 7 App store and Android’s as well. In fact, we’re not quite sure what Apple was thinking with iOS 7.
A smartphone really couldn’t be a smartphone without some sort of utility to it. The phone natively has the Weather Channel app on it, and it also looks quite gorgeous due to the phone’s LCD screen.
And of course, browsing your favorite websites also is an important part of a smartphone. The text on the LCD screen looks clean and crisp, but sometimes there are weird errors. For example, when going to the Phoblographer’s website, Internet Explorer will have this weird issue where it will have an error saying that it cannot download the site, but when you press the back button it will appear with no issues.
It’s a problem that we’ve been looking into, but can’t figure out. Additionally, there are other websites with the same problems.
As far as social media goes, there is a weird disconnect. Sure, the ecosystem has an official Twitter app, but what about Facebook? Instead, you’ll need to use the People app. It’s a bit too weird and too text-based a system for me to warm up to.
And of course, what would a phone be without testing the call quality. It’s also very good, but we’ve heard clearer calls before.
This is where we’re a bit torn. The image quality and camera on this phone are very good. But for what it’s worth, it’s still a phone with a small sensor. It’s a tad ridiculous to expect the same results that one can get from a DSLR–and we really can’t. However, what gives this phone its edge is the Nokia Pro Cam app with more power than anything else out there.
Low Light Performance
We tested the low light performance of the Nokia Lumia 925 at one of the craziest things one could test it at: a giant annual Burlesque Festival. The difference between this and a real concert is that often at concerts with major players, the lighting is pretty good. In small bars and venues though, the lighting sometimes isn’t so stellar. At the 11th Annual Burlesque Festival in NYC recently, the phone couldn’t keep up with the fast moving dancers and the crazy lighting situations.
But that’s just the focusing. And indeed, if one wants to get better images in low light, we recommend switching on Nokia Pro Cam and manually focusing. Don’t rely on autofocus because a machine can’t do something better than you can really tell it specifically to–this is one of the key rules of programming.
As far image quality, the low light performance is like that of most modern point and shoots. In fact, we’d even go as far as saying that it can be a bit better. Part of this has to do with the fast aperture lens on the phone despite the fact that real point and shoot cameras have real glass in their lenses and not plastic the way that the phone does.
The camera tends to smudge details, but not a lot. A bigger problem with it is the dynamic range available.
Overall, what we have to state though is that this phone will not be a replacement for a dedicated camera unless you are converting to black and white. And for that, we recommend using the other great app available to this phone.
By far, our favorite app for shooting images on the Nokia 925 has been Hipstamatic’s Oggl. We reviewed the app recently and awarded it an Editor’s Choice rating. Oggl makes using the Lumia 925 really fun and the phone allows you to embrace the flaws that phones still have to their images. Interestingly enough, this mentality is the total opposite of what Nokia is going for with the Pro Cam app. However, we’re overall still not sure how many folks will always sit there shooting in manual mode with their phone unless they’re frustrated with the way that their automatic functions work.
Nokia Pro Cam
Nokia’s Pro Cam app is one of a kind–it allows the user to have full manual control over the image; but it surely has some flaws. For what it’s worth, the interface isn’t the most intuitive; but once you get the hang of it it will come like second nature, sort of. The app allows the user to fully control ISO, shutter speed, white balancing, focusing, and exposure compensation. By the nature of design, phone cameras do not have variable apertures with the exception of the Samsung Galaxy Zoom.
When manually setting the exposure, we really wish that the exposure setting would be a bit more prominent in telling us whether we’re achieving a balanced image or not. A simple indication such as red for -/+3, yellow for -/+ 2 or 1 and green for spot on would be greatly appreciated.
Though the addition of this feature is very cool, it probably won’t work for most people in most situations unless there is a problem with backlighting or something along those lines. We can see lots of creative control being given with the phone though when it comes to long exposures–but that will require a special tripod as well.
Extra Image Samples
Nokia’s Lumia 925 is an excellent phone. In fact, there really is nothing wrong with the phone as it is. However, we really wish that it were an Android based device and that Nokia Pro Cam was still just limited to Nokia devices. If the company did that and still found a way to keep their phone’s flavor of Android constantly up to date, this phone would be blowing many others out of the water. If Windows Phone were more advanced, we’d probably be leaning a bit more towards it.
One of the biggest selling points about this device is the camera; and indeed the amount of control that one gets is really nice. It is one of the best camera’s that we’ve tested–but for what it’s worth we were able to get comparable pictures from the Samsung Galaxy S4. What the Lumia’s main power is though is the Nokia Pro Cam app that allows for manual control.
If you’re not tied down to Android or iOS, then the Lumia 925 is a good phone to consider.
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