If you weren’t paying close enough attention, you’d think Nokia announced a smartphone instead of a camera today.

During its presentation in New York City today, Nokia spent over a half hour  talking about the Lumia 1020’s 41-megapixel camera — and for good reason. The Lumia 1020 may just offer the best camera of any smartphone so far, and owners will be very impressed by its output.

The problem? The Lumia 1020 runs Windows Phone — though you wouldn’t know it.

The best smartphone camera ever?

First, let’s talk about that camera. Nokia spent a lot of time today gushing about how the 1020’s tech allows it to effectively take impressive photos in wide variety of camera-unfriendly situations. In cases where you’re taking photos in low-light situations, or of objects that are moving very fast, the Lumia 1020 certainly lives up to Nokia’s hype. I was duly impressed.

As far as the phone’s physical dimensions go, the Lumia 1020 has the same look and feel as devices like the Lumia 920, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.  It’s a solid, well-made device that doesn’t have the greasy feel of Nokia’s recent Lumia 925, which I wasn’t crazy about.

What’s also worth noting is that the Lumia 1020’s camera hardware does make the phone bulge a bit — so much so that the 1020 doesn’t actually sit flat when you place it down on a surface. Not a deal breaker, certainly, but it is a bit jarring.

One problem I did have with the device, however, was Pro Camera, Nokia’s new advanced camera app. While the app is indeed powerful, it’s also extremely complicated, and demands a bit of more advanced photography knowledge on the part of users. But, then again, that’s the “pro” part.


Okay, great camera — but what else?

The Lumia 1020’s “what else” question is one that Stephen Elop was forced to answer during today’s presentation — though he didn’t do the greatest job of doing so. While he admitted that the Lumia 1020’s camera was its main selling point, he also cited some the features the device inherits from previous Lumias as its major pull– its screen technology, wireless charging, etc . Oh, and it also runs Windows Phone.

“These features make the Lumia 1020 a competitive device relative to competitors but  it also goes one big step further because of the image technology,” Elop said.

Besides the camera, Nokia is essentially selling the Lumia 1020 on features that are by this point nine months old. And I’m not sure that will be enough to attract consumers who aren’t interested in using their phones primarily as cameras.

The Windows Phone problem, again

The big problem, however, is that even with the Lumia 1020, Nokia is still failing to solve one of the fundamental problems that has plagued its Lumia efforts since the beginning: giving people a compelling reason to invest in Windows Phone in the first place. Much of that isn’t really Nokia’s fault, of course, but it seems as if the company is completely sidestepping the Windows Phone problem by dazzling people with one tiny component of the overall smartphone experience.

The Lumia 1020 isn’t a Windows Phone so much as it is a camera that just happens to be running Windows Phone.

This is especially a problem when your consider the Lumia 1020’s price. At a time when smartphone buyers can get a iPhone for $.99  on contract,  a $300 smartphone running a still-fledging OS is a tough sell — no matter how nice its camera is.