The Nokia Camera main screen is a very clean affair. Video, shutter and Smart Camera buttons are to the right. Some shooting parameters can be accessed at the top. The row of icons can be collapsed if you don't want it to occupy your preview image.

Like previous Nokia smartphones the Lumia 1520 ships with the uninspiring standard Windows Phone camera app but Nokia also includes the much better Nokia Camera. This new camera app combines the functions of the previously separate Nokia Pro Cam and Smart Cam apps and launches by default when you long press the shutter button on the phone.

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Basic shooting is straightforward if you've used a smartphone camera before. A half-press of the shutter button locks the focus but, unlike on compact cameras or DSLRs, not the exposure. The latter is linked to the focus point which can be moved by tapping on the screen. Face detection is on by default and makes sure faces are in focus.

Nokia Pro Cam works just fine in point-and shoot-operation, but across the top of the frame is an expandable row of icons that allow for a larger-than-usual degree of manual control. Here you'll find the usual settings for flash mode, ISO, white balance and exposure compensation but also parameters for shutter speed and focus. The latter two are not usually available on mobile phones.

Sliding the soft shutter button to the left opens up these wheel-style controllers for a range of shooting parameters.
Tapping on the parameter icons at the top of the screens opens the same controllers individually rather than all at once.

This is very good news for mobile photographers who want better control over shutter speeds. Many camera apps let you set the ISO manually, but don't report what shutter speed the camera picks. This means you’re left guessing how high you need to crank sensitivity to avoid blur. Nokia Camera reports shutter speed which allows you to adjust ISO appropriately. Alternatively you can simply select the shutter speed and let the phone pick the ISO.

Tapping each icon pops out a wheel-style controller on the right side of the screen (or bottom in portrait orientation) that’s easy to use with a little practice and provides audio feedback via a click sound. Alternatively, by hitting the tiny settings icons at the top of the screen you can slide the soft shutter button to the left, which simultaneously deploys all the control wheels as if they were concentric rings and requires less precision.      

Next to the soft shutter button to the right of the screen you''ll also find the buttons to access the video mode and Nokia Smart Camera features. In the latter mode the camera captures a series of images which is then used for a variety of effects which are explained in more detail on the features page of this review. 

Tapping on the three dots at the top right opens up a few more options in the menu.
"Lens" is a Microsoft term for an add-on to the camera app that also works as a stand-alone app.

The triple-dot options menu at the top right of the screen lets you switch to the front camera, toggle a self-timer, set the parameters for bracketing and add more Nokia "lenses", such as Cinemagraph or Panorama. Via “Settings” you can access less frequently used parameters, such as aspect ratio, capture resolution or face detection. While the options just under the triple dot are true toggles when possible (i.e., tapping “front camera” switches to the front camera directly), the drop downs under Settings annoyingly make you choose one of two settings. So switching from 4:3 to 16:9 takes a needless extra tap (and we’d really like to see that option on the first level menu, or even the main screen, anyway — it’s something you’re likely to change far more often than some functions right under the triple dot).

Despite our minor quibbles the Nokia Camera app is one of the best pre-installed camera apps we have come across. However, if you really prefer to use the standard Windows Phone camera app you can set the shutter button to open it instead of Nokia Camera. This can be done in applications section of the phone settings. The app offers several manual parameters (ISO, white balance and exposure compensation) and some helpful scene modes (Night, Night Portrait, Sports, Backlight and Close-up) but only saves 5MP files, so you miss out on the 20MP JPEG and DNG files.