Travelling with Lumias


The last time we went off on a “jolly” was to Washington DC in February, and despite the cold weather, we were looking forward to a change of scenery, and hopefully the chance to take some interesting photos. I had decided to give my Lumia 1520 phablet beast a proper run on its own so I left the 1020 at home, and while the 1520 did capture some decent photos, I couldn’t help thinking if those photos would have come out better if I’d used the Lumia 1020 instead. Answer: most likely! Still, the 1520 performed well (with Denim firmware under the hood) and the large battery capacity meant that I could go all day without reaching for my portable battery charger. It’s always nice to see a decent percentage of battery left at 6pm!

The 1520 worked a good shift in the Botanic Garden and I enjoyed trying out different compositions with the plants and flowers; they provided great subjects. One photo I took (very spur of the moment too) was selected as Photo Of The Week on Phones Show Chat, which was quite an honour! I was just interested in the pattern of plant and light. It was a particularly sunny day outside so light streaming in through the windows provided some very interesting images with light and shadow.

Remember you can click on all the photos below to see them at full-resolution:

Phones Show Chat winner!
Phones Show Chat winner! (Lumia 1520)


Great light inside the Botanic Garden
Great light inside the Botanic Garden (Lumia 1520)


Later in the day we went up to the top of the Washington Monument, and it was really here that I wished I had my 1020 (or even 808!) with me. The views were quite spectacular and very detailed on this bright clear day, and while the 1520 did an admirable job, once I started zooming in I could see the limitations of its 20MP sensor; I couldn’t help but wonder how much better the 1020’s 41MP powerhouse sensor would have performed here.

At the top of the Washington Monument. Can you spot The White House?
Lumia 1520: At the top of the Washington Monument. Can you spot The White House?


The 1520's close-up attempt on my brunch!
The 1520’s close-up attempt on my brunch!


Using the new HDR feature in Lumia Denim
Washington Monument: Using the new HDR feature in Lumia Denim on the 1520


We recently returned from a trip to England and Norway, and because I only had my Lumia 1020 with me this time, it was quite comforting to know that any photo I took was going to be the best I could manage with this fantastic device. (My 1520 was being repaired, as a ‘crumb’ of some sort had managed to find its way into the camera module, and I didn’t want it obscuring the lens in any way – that would be catastrophic for any future photo days out!)

My Lumia 1020 has been a stubborn one in my attempts to unlock it from the grip of AT&T, but I finally got it unlocked recently and it was very happy to accept my UK Three SIM card. My travel tip for anyone going to the UK is to get hold of a Three SIM card and top it up with £15. You can then use this balance to buy an “Add On” (the £15 one gives you all the minutes, texts and data you’d need for a trip of up to 30 days) and you’re all set. You should, however, double-check in your Three account that international roaming has been set up. I discovered (after I’d left the UK) that mine had not, and on arrival in Norway I couldn’t use my phone at all. Three does allow usage in a few other countries under their “Feel At Home” scheme (USA and Norway included), but roaming needs to be activated while you’re in the UK. Another lesson learned! Of course my Lumia 1020 being an AT&T-branded device, has no internal radios for LTE bands for anywhere other than the US, which meant the best speeds it could manage in the UK were 4G or “H” (think T-Mobile 4G before they activated their LTE speeds). Perfectly fine for browsing here and there and getting map directions on the go. Interestingly though, my wife’s 1020 which is an international version (and with Denim already!) picked up “H+” speeds, which I think are comparable to US LTE speeds.

Incidentally, to anyone wondering if Denim makes a huge difference to the aging 1020, I’m afraid it doesn’t really. Certainly all of the Lumia Camera 5 stuff bypasses it completely – which we knew already – and the only benefits are those that were available under the Developer Preview anyway, such as Folders and Battery Saver with its nice percentage live tile. There might be a nominal increase in speed when starting the camera, but if it’s there, it’s not a massive improvement, just a small one.

In Oslo, Norway. I used the sun as this lamp's new bulb!
In Oslo, Norway with my 1020. I used the sun as this lamp’s new bulb!


With my trusty yellow Lumia 1020 I captured some excellent shots of the newest family members, and I do have to thank my xenon flash for capturing the fast-moving toddlers – the shots without it are just blurry and unusable. It’s a cost on battery life, obviously, but worth it to get the shot. The xenon flash also came in handy in the pub for some shots of old friends. Here, the presence of just an LED flash would have probably been enough, but seeing as I needed to stand quite a distance away to get everyone in, the extra power of the xenon meant that the shot was properly lit. However! And here is yet another lesson learned: if you are trying to take a shot in dim conditions (like the aforementioned pub) it is almost crucial for you to have your focus light set to Auto. I had mine set to Always Off thinking I didn’t want to blind people with it unnecessarily, but on attempting to capture all of my friends sitting along a large couch, the phone struggled to focus without enough light and the shot was totally out of focus. A little embarrassing to say the least! But once I’d remembered to reactivate the focus light, all was simply splendid, but it’s one of those small but important things to remember. The Lumia 1020 is extremely capable, but even it needs a little help sometimes!


A Norwegian art installation (Lumia 1020)
A Norwegian art installation (Lumia 1020)


The Oslo opera house (Lumia 1020)
The Oslo opera house (Lumia 1020)


I don’t think Lumia owners should shy away from playing around with the ‘Pro’ tools within the camera software. On one evening in London, I was surprised to see a famous Soho landmark return to the streets: the iconic Raymond RevueBar neon sign, which had been removed years ago, but had been replaced recently under a development deal. (The actual strip-club is no longer underneath the sign, just FYI!) Capturing the sign using my Auto settings was a bit messy; the camera allowed the ambient light to leak in and the result was less than pleasing. But on a second attempt, and this time dialing down the exposure by -1.7 (if memory serves) I was able to capture the neon sign perfectly. Just another tip: use those pro settings once in a while!

Lumia 1020 on AUTO
Lumia 1020 on AUTO


...and after adjusting the exposure: much better!
…and after adjusting the exposure: much better!


My Lumia 1520 returns next week, and I’m looking forward to getting that back so I can enjoy the immersive, massive screen again, along with all of the Denim goodies that come with this device, such as “Hey, Cortana” and the new “Lumia Camera 5” tricks. While I am using these two awesome Lumia phones and their respective strengths, I think my patience will be satiated for another six months or so until the rumoured Lumia 940 is launched, at which point the Lumia portfolio will finally have its long-awaited flagship, and I might consider using that as my main phone. Until that time, I will be taking both the 1020 and the 1520 with me on any trips or days out.

And despite a sort of “stalled climb” in the Windows Phone world with major apps being chopped and development of Windows 10 taking precedence, I am still a huge fan of the operating system. It does everything I need, and in a way I love. So, despite the allure of the iPhone 6 or the HTC M9 or Samsung Galaxy S6, I am firmly sticking with Windows Phone. My 1020 and 1520 give me no end of joy when I’m using them, and I honestly don’t see any reason to jump ship. I am looking forward to Windows 10, but I am actually more eager to see what happens to the Windows ecosystem once 10 is out of the gate. I’m hoping that Microsoft get it right, and that developers (and consumers!) start to take more notice of this excellent, engaging and totally capable operating system.

Here’s to more travelling with Lumias! Cheers!

Heading back to the USA (Lumia 1020)
Heading back to the USA (Lumia 1020)