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  • Let's talk about the Nokia Lumia 920, the 520 and Nokia PureView camera features.


    I’m going to start with a tale of woe relative to my beloved Nokia Lumia 920.  I’ve used it since launch day in November 2012 and still really enjoy it.  It’s funny how – on launch day – it was considered a colossal personal device.  As phablets have proliferated, time has changed the perception of the Lumia 920.  During the first three months of use, people would poke me about my huge phone.  Then came big Galaxy phablets, and well, here we are with a Lumia 1520.


    Around last fall, I began to notice a gradual deterioration in battery life.  Things reached a fever pitch when – two days before a long-planned trip to Disneyworld – the 920 became incredibly hot while sitting on its DT-900 wireless charger.  After reading a bit about gradual decreasing battery life as a result of firmware and app updates, I decided to perform a factory reset.  Bricked!  There’s a lot out there about endless ‘spinning gears’ and how to rectify through a factory reset.  (Here’s further reading on the topic for those interested.)


    On the day before my vacation, I frantically approached my carrier and was directed to a factory repair store as my warranty was still good for TWO MORE DAYS!  After hearing my story – and considering that I was leaving for a vacation the following day – the person at the store replaced my 920 with a new device.  She also mentioned that she’s seen the battery life problem on other Lumia 920s and the only common denominator was use of the wireless charger.  That’s interesting – I hadn’t yet heard of any issues with Qi charging on the Lumia 920.  However, it’s also interesting that new Lumias don’t come with wireless charging ‘on-board’.  Hmmmnnnn…


    With my new red 920 in hand, I had a great vacation experience and experimented with the Nokia Pro Camera app – since renamed the Nokia Camera.  More on that in a bit.


    Other Extremes – Lumia 520




    Having been intrigued by consistently positive reviews, I grabbed an unlocked Lumia 520 for $59 on Cyber Monday.  What a great phone.  The size, screen, weight, responsiveness, battery life and consistency of the WP8 experience are all superlative.  I’m the exception to the bigger-phone-is-better rule so I quickly adapted to the small size of this device.  I also love the idea of the replaceable back cover.  For me, the Lumia 520/521 is the Apple iPhone 5C that fruit fans wished it would be.  No wonder it’s already the best-selling Windows Phone.


    With the Lumia 520, the Windows Phone ecosystem finally has the extremes covered at both the high and low end.  With the Lumia 520 representing the low-end – and numerous recent promotions – there should be lots of newly-activated WP8 devices in the marketplace.  That’s great news for Windows Phone users!  I’m confident that I’ll be using the 520 during the summer since it fits in just about any pocket with room to spare.  I understand that’s not important to everyone, but it is to me.


    Nokia PureView Camera – The Benchmark


    The one thing I found lacking in the Lumia 520 is– not a surprise – the camera quality.  Since obtaining the Lumia 920, I rely on it as my day-to-day camera.  Only when I used the Lumia 520 did I realize how great the PureView camera is in the 920.


    One of the best features of the camera is emergence of the Nokia Smart Camera and Pro Camera apps.  Originally introduced on the Lumia 925, and later through the Amber Update, the Smart Camera app was prominently featured at the introduction of the Lumia 1020.  Since the Amber Update, the Smart Camera and Pro Camera apps have been combined and rebranded as ‘Nokia Camera’ and made available to all Lumias with PureView cameras.  You’ll recognize this app with its unique touch-enabled interface for photo features like white balance and shutter speed.  The interface is an intuitive way to learn about photographic adjustments.


    Note - you have to download and install the Nokia Camera app and also adjust your settings so that it becomes your default camera app since it will not replace the built-in WP8 ‘Camera’ app.  Yes, that’s slightly confusing, just remember to search for and install the Nokia Camera app and you’ll be good to go.


    Lights, Camera, Action


    My favorite feature is currently known as the ‘Smart Sequence’ setting that allows customization of ‘Action Shots’.  It’s worth viewing this page and video from Nokia that shows how this works.  To take pictures using Smart Sequence, you first have to select the icon that resembles ‘burst mode’ in other digital cameras.

    smart sequence

    Smart Sequence will take a series of ten 5 megapixel images so it’s best that you hold the device very steady during this operation.  Note that pictures taken with the Nokia Camera app are tagged as such in the Photos app.  If you’d like to experiment with Nokia Camera’s effects, touch ‘captured by Nokia Camera’ or ‘open in Nokia Camera’:

    open in nokia camera

    Assuming that the target picture was taken using the ‘Smart Sequence’ option in the Nokia Camera app, you’ll see your picture rendered in five categories of effects, listed in the following order:

    • Remove Moving Objects
    • Change Faces
    • Best Shot
    • Action Shot
    • Motion Focus

    Here are two examples of pictures that I altered using the Action Shot and Motion Focus effects:

    action shot motion focus

    The Action Shot interface allows you to show or hide any of the ten pictures that were taken during the Smart Sequence operation.  In the example on the left, the image in the foreground is clear with the background image slightly faded.


    The image on the right uses the Motion Focus feature to blur the background while maintaining focus on the subject of the picture.  Once you’re finished, you can save the end result as a separate file that can be further edited in apps other than Nokia Camera.  While my example is not perfect, the effect is neat and fun to play with.


    Exclusive features like these enhance the picture-taking experience on Nokia WP8 devices.  While my devotion never wavered, learning about new and unique features like this maintains my dedication to Windows Phone 8 – it’s true love!


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    I had the exact same experience with battery life on my 920, except it kicked in at 13 months of ownership and not 11 months. Thus, I now have a 1520, and I use my 920 within SIM as a Zune.
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