Nokia Lumia 520 review: Best buys
5MP camera leaves room for improvement
The Nokia Lumia 520 boasts a 5 MP camera which is capable of taking pictures of up to 2592x1936 pixel resolution.
The camera UI is pretty simple - you have your viewfinder and a couple of controls on the right. Those are the still/video camera toggle and the Lens button. On the left you have an arrow that takes you to the images taken with the camera, alternatively you can do a swipe gesture too.
The camera app on Windows Phone offers extensive settings, ranging from scenes and effects to white balance, contrast, saturation, sharpness and ISO among others. You have a dedicated Macro focus mode but no face detection.
Holding the shutter key will wake the phone up with and launch the camera app. The Lumia 520 is not the fastest shooter around and it takes it a couple of seconds before a photo is taken. This is a longer delay than we're used to from smartphones of late.
Lenses are an interesting take at feature add-ons, enhancing the camera functionality without making a mess of third party apps each with its own UI. Lenses are accessible directly from the native camera app (they show up in the list of installed apps too if you want to pin a Lens to the start screen).
Nokia has preloaded the Smart Shoot lens, which is by far the most powerful, and you can also download the Panorama and Cinemagraph lenses.
Smart Shoot uses Scalado technology (Nokia owns the company) - it shoots multiple photos and lets you pick which one to save (a sort of burst mode). You can also pick the best face and cycle through each facial expression a person made while the camera was snapping photos. The third option is Erase, which will remove moving objects (e.g. someone walking in front of the landmark you're trying to shoot just as you press the shutter).
Panorama does what it says - you press the shutter and then align the camera as instructed (the app will put circles you have to aim for). It's good, but you always shoot right to left (can't switch direction), which is a bit annoying.
The Nokia Lumia 520 fares surprisingly well as far as image quality is concerned. The level of detail is great for the 5 MP league, while contrast and dynamic range are pretty good, too. The noise levels are fairly high, though, and the colors have a slightly unpleasant cold cast.
The close up mode or otherwise macro is great. The Lumia 520 can focus from a really close distance.
Cinemagraph creates photos that are mostly static, but a part of them is animated. You have to hold the phone steady while shooting. When you're done, the Lens will offer two (sometimes three) areas that can be animated and when you pick an area, you can tweak the animation, trim it, and set the loop pattern.
Here's a Cinemagraph and a panorama we shot with the Lumia 520.
Photo quality comparison
The Nokia Lumia 520 enters our photo quality comparison tool, where you are free to face it with any of the smartphones in our data base - the tool's page will give you information on what to watch out for.
Camcorder doesn't impress
The camcorder interface is identical to the still camera's and has plenty of features too. You can change the white balance, sharpness and the video resolution among other things. Sadly, LED flash is missing here.
The Nokia Lumia 520 captures 720p videos, which are pretty smooth, but lack in detail. Colors are again off and the higher than needed saturation doesn't help either.
Bitrate is reasonable at 10.5 Mpbs and the framerate is firmly at 30 fps. Sadly, the Lumia 520 captures only mono sound at 98 Kbps bitrate and 44 kHz sampling rate.
Here's a 720p video sample we've uploaded to YouTube.
Video quality comparison
The Nokia Lumia 520 is ready to bump heads with the likes of the Lumia 720 and Lumia 620 in our video quality comparison tool. Once again you should consult the tool's page for information on how to operate it and what to look out for.