Lumia 1020: White Balance Issues Bring Yellow-Tinged Photos to Nokia’s Famed Camera

Heralded as the best camera phone ever made by many reviewers–our review included–the Nokia Lumia 1020 brings a large sensor camera with an extremely high megapixel resolution to digital smartphone photography. With stellar imaging capabilities on board, Nokia had made a huge investment in Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 platform, but it looks like despite the two company’s close collaboration, the camera is still not without fault, suffering from white balance issues under indoor lighting conditions when used with and without a flash.

In our test of the camera at the It Can Wait premiere of Warner Herzog’s From One Second to the Next documentary detailing the dangers of texting and driving, images captured with the Lumia 1020 exhibited a yellow tinge.

As seen in the image below, the background should be white, not yellow-tinged.

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For the test, I had used the Galaxy S4 Zoom from Samsung, a camera with a 16-megapixel sensor, Xenon flash, and 10X optical zoom with Google’s Android OS while my friend Jeb Brilliant from The Mobile Perspective had captured similar images using the Nokia Lumia 1020, a 41-megapixel camera with a large sensor, Xenon flash, Zeiss optics. and lossless digital zooming technology coupled with optical image stabilization on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 platform.

lumia1020all_large_verge_medium_landscapeWhile the Nokia was able to nail a few shots with auto white balance, for the most part images were unusable straight out of the camera. Adjusting the white balance to one of the preloaded settings sometimes help, but wasn’t a perfect fix and most of the times the adjustments did not help with the resulting out of camera image.

The white balance issue when used with a flash was detailed in our review of the preceding Lumia 928 on Verizon Wireless. With that phone, we had noticed that when using the Xenon flash, the white balance was thrown off leading to orange skin tones. The Lumia 928, however, did not seem to exhibit odd white balance behavior when the flash was not activated. The white balance issue was not apparent, or seemingly noticeable, with the LED flash on the Lumia 920 on AT&T Mobility.

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With the Lumia 1020, we noticed that the camera performs admirably well under most conditions, including outdoors, under low light with and without the flash, and even indoors with many types of indoor lighting. Under stressful lighting conditions of the red carpet, the Lumia 1020 didn’t perform too well.

Curiously however, the Symbian-powered 41-megapixel Nokia 808 PureView did not exhibit any of the white balance issues that are mentioned, at least on a noticeable level to an amateur photographer, suggesting that the white balance tuning may be a software issue related to Windows Phone. This is surprising considering that both Nokia and Microsoft are promoting a very close collaboration in designing the camera app on the Lumia 1020.

In general, both the Galaxy S4 Zoom and the Lumia 1020 had white balance issues, but the Samsung didn’t suffer to an extreme as the Lumia 1020′s out of camera images show. Where the Lumia 1020 really shines is the low light performance. The Lumia’s images appear to be sharper and there’s less blur.

And despite my harsh analysis of the Lumia 1020, it’s still my favorite everyday camera and the device is the smartphone that I carry around everyday.

Sample Photos Captured With Nokia Lumia 1020

It looks like the camera was able to achieve proper white balance on this one.

It looks like the camera was able to achieve proper white balance on this one.

White balance off again

White balance off again

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Sample Images Captured with Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom (Unlocked International GSM/HSPA+ Model)

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Slight yellowing of the background when flash was used, but not as bad as on the Lumia.

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Slight white balance issue here again with the Samsung, but it doesn’t look as extreme as the yellowing on the Lumia’s out of camera image.

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Image captured without flash are more blurry. Optical image stabilization and low light performance of the Galaxy S4 Zoom don’t appear to be as good as the Lumia 1020. We’ll have to test more before we render our final verdict.

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Comments

  1. Breakthru says

    “Curiously however, the Symbian-powered 41-megapixel Nokia 808 PureView did not exhibit any of the white balance issues that are mentioned, at least on a noticeable level to an amateur photographer, suggesting that the white balance tuning may be a software issue related to Windows Phone.”

    The megapixel count is pretty much the same, but the sensor size is a bit smaller on the 1020. Could still be a software issue, of course, or even the lens.

  2. Anang Taz says

    Before you want to buy Nokia lumia 1020 , We recommend that you first know about Complete Nokia lumia 1020 Review,Explaining about the specs, test the camera, the interface is comfortable to use and application, as well as speed in trying some applications.
    Just watch the video of his impressions in >>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8p8yChqp0w

  3. Fred says

    VZ spent months promoting its flagship 928 windows phone it introduced mid May. By mid august “flagship”is selling for free on VZ. 2 factory resets, a bottomless pit of soft ones, battery life, audio,text, failed back up issues I returned mine. Too bad takes great photos, very user friendly, vey quick good looking phone, awesome low light photos. Got lost twice after I downloaded a Nav app from maquest, advertised as a turn by turn voice activated nav app that adjusts to drivers route. It did none of that(why I got lost waiting for it to do so). The 928 is promoted as 17 hrs of continuous use(21 standby). Yeah if you use it for emails, calls and photos. Nav, music or game apps will chew battery hog 928 w inside 3 . Windows store 5 star reviews, pure fiction. super buggy apps including MS;s skydive, stopped auto and manual uploading my photos ;back up then failed, that did it for meNice phone when it works though

  4. Bob Schoettger says

    The yellow in artificial lighting is a significant issue – otherwise an excellent camera phone.

  5. Tim Mackey says

    so quick to criticise, with a poorly conducted test.

    Incandescent artificial light is usually yellow anyway, and you would see a similar ‘warm glow’ if you shoot with 35mm film without flash in a low light setting. some camera processing software will compensate for this by artificially altering the background, while others will reproduce as faithfully as they can the light coming in to the lense.

    the comparison photographs taken with the S4 are taken at either different zoom level or closer proximity to the subject, resulting in a different light input to the lens, and different reflection from the walls. FFS take the same photo from the same point if you are going to the trouble of posting a comparison study. you take a photo of a large white wall with a red carpet reflecting articifial light on to the wall and you wonder why the photo has a yellow hue. you then take a different photo, closer to the subject, with the camera pointing more towards a different wall with different light reflection, and there is less of a yellow hue. go figure.

    this article reads like you wanted a certain outcome before you started. if you want to write a fair study, take equivalent photographs, and document the different outcomes of the adjusted white balance options on the lumia.

  6. Tomek Stolarz says

    Unbelivable.

    Didn’t you notice, that in these photos the light conditions change most probably ?

    In the pictures, where you can see yellow light – there was apparently a yellow light source turned on.

    Look at the pic signed “White balance off again” – proper white on the right, very strong (awesomly strong) yellow on the left. I can’t imagine how to take a picture with a proper white balance on one side and a so disastrously bad white balance on the other side. In my opinion the white balance is on the right, while on the left there is a yellow light source.

    Check your sources, because this result it technically quite impossible.

  7. Imran Kholwadia says

    I own the Nokia 1020 and agree that the post processing after taking a photo can ruin an image in certain conditions. There is a white balance issue regardless if it is set to auto or manual. Hopefully this will be rectified in an update. I would also suggest they allow the user to save presets in pro cam.

  8. Anas says

    This is unbelievable, A phone promoted to have the best camera has the shittiest camera ever, Almost every picture taken indoors or in light comes out in yellow color, what the HECK? this is a crappy phone im cursing myself why did I buy it.

    • halladayrules says

      @Anas, I feel your frustration, but the camera nor the hardware itself is not to blame, but rather the poorly put together software that is bundled with the camera, otherwise known as the Nokia Pro Cam app. As Imran Kholwadia pointed out, the post processing on the Lumia 1020 is absolutely horrendous, there is limited zooming capabilities within the app, no way to define presets, the shutter lag between shots. It needs to be fixed.

      Most of the yellow-tinged photos can be rectified by manually adjusting the color balance of the photo using “Nokia Creative Studio”. Manual post-processing is time consuming and I shouldn’t have to adjust the white balance for every single shot!

  9. Srini says

    I have been an owner of Lumia 1020 since 4 days :) and I noticed the same problem, well definitely bit disappointing but I haven’t tried in outdoors yet. So far my indoor pictures suck :’( hope it goes well in outdoors. Do we have any workaround until Nokia comes with fix?

  10. sWozzAres says

    I too had WB issue’s with the 1020, then I spent 30 minutes learning how to use the thing and the problem went away. It’s not the camera at fault, it’s the user.

  11. RK says

    To:sWozzAres
    Can you explain how to achieve good WB with Luma 1020, please? Because its WB is tragical in outdoor also, Lumia is unpredictable in this !

  12. Lee says

    Just taken ownership of my 1020 and unless i am missing something, when taking pictures in a dark room the flash bleaches out the definition. Camera set in default settings which surely should be acceptable. Also has the well documented yellow hue when taking pictures indoors with artificial light. Can anyone help

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