Preview: Lumia Camera + Lumia Denim

And if that reads like a bunch of gibberish to you, sorry. But if the stars align properly—you have one of only a few high-end Lumia handsets and actually get the Lumia Denim firmware update delivered to that handset—then you’re in for a treat. Denim enables you to download a new version of the Lumia camera app that includes some impressive new features.

Still confused? 🙂

As you must know, Microsoft makes the Windows Phone OS, and the latest version of that OS is Windows Phone 8.1.1, which is sometimes called Windows Phone 8.1 with Update 1. Complementary to that, Microsoft also owns the Lumia line of Windows Phone handsets, thanks to purchasing Nokia’s mobile devices product line in 2014. And with each new Windows Phone OS version, Nokia (now Microsoft) delivers a firmware update to Lumia devices. So if you get one update via your wireless carrier, you get the other too.

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I explained what’s new in the latest Lumia firmware update recently in Lumia Denim Explained. If you’re a Windows Phone fan, you know that there is a big controversy around the fact that Microsoft can’t actually just ship updates to users. Instead, mobile carriers can block (sorry, “test”) these updates indefinitely, causing some hard feelings. Here in the US, for example, Verizon has yet to deliver the previous set of Windows Phone/Lumia firmware updates (Windows Phone 8.1/Cyan) to Icon users, let along Windows Phone 8.1.1/Denim. So this is a sensitive topic in some circles.

But let’s take the next logical step. As you may know, it’s been several months with no new flagship phone—the last Windows Phone flagship was the Lumia 930, announced in April 2014 and then released in July 2014. I recently purchased this wonderful phone in unlocked form—you can get it from for just north of $380 right now, by the way—and recommend it highly. (I’ll publish a formal review soon.) Despite this, Lumia Denim actually includes some new features that will only be exposed on flagship and higher-end phones.

This list of phones is short. It includes only the Lumia Icon, Lumia 1520, Lumia 930 and Lumia 830, and in the latter case, some of the features aren’t as full-powered as they are on the other devices. (The Icon, 1520 and 930 have essentially the same innards, and are still very much high-end phones today.)

Among the Denim features that are only available to users of these four phones is a new version of the Lumia camera app. This app is available in other forms today on other Lumias, or on pre-Denim Lumias. For example, the Lumia 930 I recently purchased still uses the Nokia Camera app. This was the name of Lumia Camera before the Nokia sale to Microsoft. And you can find something called Lumia Camera Classic in the Windows Phone Store. Despite its name, this is really an older version of Nokia Camera.

Anyway, if you do get the Denim update and do have a high-end Lumia—the Lumia Icon, Lumia 1520, or Lumia 930, plus the mid-level Lumia 830—you will find that your current camera app will eventually be auto-updated to Lumia Camera. And this new app has some neat new features—on those phones only—which I’ll be testing over the next few weeks. (If you have another Lumia, you will still get the new Lumia Camera app, but you just won’t see any of these new features.)

These include:

Moment Capture. When you long-press on your phone’s Camera button, Lumia Camera will take a 4K-quality video at 24 frames per second (it’s Full HD, or 1920 x 1080 on the Lumia 830), where each frame in the video is a standalone 8.3 megapixel still photo you can save separately (2 megapixels on the 830).

Rich Capture. This new camera mode enables auto HDR, Dynamic Flash and Dynamic Exposure, so you can shoot images without fiddling around with settings and then edit them afterwards. Plus Rich Capture takes multiple shots simultaneously, so you can pick the best one every time. It also works with and without flash.


Improved imaging algorithms. While my Lumia 930’s ability to take high-quality low-light photos is still astonishing to me, that’s getting even better in Denim. Now, you can “capture even crisper photos in daylight or low light, with [Microsoft’s] latest generation of imaging processing algorithms.”

Better performance. If there’s one knock against the otherwise market-leading camera technology in Microsoft’s high-end Lumia devices, it’s performance. Lumia Denim makes things faster. It starts up faster and the time between photo snaps has been reduced to milliseconds. I already think the Lumia 930 is plenty fast. But I can’t wait to see how this changes things in the side-by-side tests I’ll be performing.

I should have a Denim-equipped Lumia 930 in my greedy hands soon.

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