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Panasonic CM1 review

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Panasonic CM1
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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Class-leading images
  • Handy manual controls
  • Shoots RAW

Cons

  • No OIS
  • Very expensive
  • Feels a little cheap in parts

Key Features

  • 4.7-inch Full HD LCD
  • 20.1-megapixel 1-inch sensor
  • Snapdragon 801 2.3GHz CPU
  • Manufacturer: Panasonic
  • Review Price: £749.00

What is the Panasonic CM1?

The Panasonic CM1 is a camera that happens to do everything an Android phone can do. Yes, including phoning your mum and sending YouTube cat video links over Whatsapp. Panasonic calls it a Communication Camera, but feel free to think of it as an Android phone with photos that beat those of every other phone to date.

It would be easy to make comparisons with Samsung’s phone-camera experiments like the Galaxy K Zoom and Galaxy Camera 2, but the Panasonic CM1 is different. Here, there’s no optical zoom, which some think is the main difference between phone cameras and dedicated cameras.

What’s actually more important is sensor size. The Panasonic CM1 has a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor more than four times the size of the sensor in the Samsung Galaxy S5.

So while the £799 price makes the phone seem ridiculous, you need to consider that Panasonic’s own 1-inch sensor Panasonic LX100 camera costs £700 itself. And you’re not going to be sharing many cat videos with that.

The Panasonic CM1 is not going to work its way out of a tiny niche, especially with no plans for mainstream subsidised distribution in the works. But we like what it’s doing.

SEE ALSO: Best Phones Round-up

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Panasonic CM1 – Design and Handling

Like other heavily camera-centric mobile phones, the Panasonic CM1 is not remotely thin or light. It’s 15.2mm thick, blooming out to 21.1mm by the camera lens. We call 10mm thick phones chunky these days, so don’t expect something that will slinkily slip into your pocket.

It size is closer to the optical zoom cameras we’ve seen over the last couple of years, the last being the Galaxy K Zoom, which is actually a little slimmer despite using a zoom lens. The Panasonic CM1 does look smart, though, if you can get on with its hybrid style.

Like Panasonic’s LX and TZ series compacts, it has a stark two-tone silver-black finish. From the front it could almost pass for a 'normal' camera.

Related: Best Android Phone 2015

Panasonic CM1

If you’re thinking of jumping ship from an iPhone, though, you do need to consider its sheer girth. Panasonic has sensibly used a slightly smaller-than-average 4.7-inch screen to keep the dimensions sensible, but at 204g it’s 40 per cent heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Given the lofty price, the Panasonic CM1 doesn’t feel all that expensive in places either. Its front has a textured leather-effect plastic finish, but this feels a little cheap as it’s not rubberised or softened. It’s obviously plastic when you get your fingers on it.

When shooting at least, we’d have preferred to see an area of rubbery grip on the front, although naturally this might feel a little odd when the Panasonic CM1 is used as a phone. There are no easy solutions here, but we’re not sure the hard plastic finish was entirely the right choice.

Panasonic’s relative inexperience in the field shows in some areas, too – Panasonic designed a series of Eluga phones back in 2012, but they were never actually released in the US or UK. The CM1 has a tray for its Nano SIM slot and a cap that goes over the Micro USB socket. We found both pretty awkward, and even ended up damaging the SIM tray just trying to put a SIM in. A word of warning: be careful.

It’s not looking so hot for the Panasonic CM1 so far. The finish is a shade cheap and the phone – sorry, Communication Camera – predictably is far chunkier than more normal Android phones. However, there’s a lot to like in the hardware, too.

Our favourite part, and something that feels almost as important as the large sensor, is the robust control ring that sits around the lens’s perimeter. This, in tandem with the solid two-stage physical shutter button, give a traditional camera-like feel that just isn’t found in any other phone.

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A proper manual control dial also proves this is the most serious phone-camera hybrid yet. The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom and Nokia Lumia 1020 offer some manual control, but it’s all found within touchscreen menus, adding another layer between you and your photos. Here, with one hand on the control wheel and another on the shutter button, you get the real camera experience. It’s more than just point ’n’ shoot.

There’s also a flick switch on the side – or the top plate if we’re looking at the CM1 as a camera – that takes you instantly to the camera app. Plenty of phones offer quick ways to get to the camera, but with the Panasonic CM1 there’s a pleasing tactility to it.

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danielfrisbee

September 17, 2014, 2:13 am

It's a lovely looking design. Almost steampunk in it's traditional look alongside such new-fangled portable computer-tech. Shame it's so reassuringly expensive as to guarantee only people with too much money will get to try it.

Sean Cameron

September 17, 2014, 2:32 pm

I love the concept and would totally get one, however the design would become something of an issue once the honeymoon period wore off. What the Lumia 1020 achieves that very few other devices have so far is being a phone first and then a camera. Simply gluing a camera to a phone doesn't gel well in terms of functionality.

toboev

September 17, 2014, 6:04 pm

Which is it, 28mm or 35mm? Both are mentioned in the article.
Also, is there any lens cap or protection?

Prem Desai

September 19, 2014, 9:00 am

How much?

I'll keep my existing phone and camera (separate) devices and spend some of the money towards buying trousers with bigger pockets!!

Joe

September 19, 2014, 11:47 am

In terms of 28mm/35mm It has a 28mm lens which is the equivalent of a 35mm full frame lens due to the smaller sensor. This is a common way of describing lenses in cameras but can get a little confusing! If you need more information, google 'crop factor' with regards to lenses and sensors.

I don't know about the lens cap, I would presume not as a physical mechanism would add bulk etc...

toboev

September 19, 2014, 3:46 pm

Thanks for your reply.

A 1" sensor represents a "crop factor" of about 2.7 relative to full frame. So a physical 28mm focal length lens on a 1" sensor would give the angle of view equivalent to a 76mm lens on a full frame camera, not a 35mm lens.

No, it is just the usual, the staff can't proof read their own output.

You can just about make out in the picture that the lens is marked 10.2, which I take to be its true focal length, giving an 'equivalent' of about 28mm.

Joe

September 19, 2014, 4:25 pm

Ah yeah you're right, good spot there with the 10.2! I just presumed that someone else had done the maths with the crop factor but thanks for clearing that up :D

TerFar

September 19, 2014, 5:01 pm

I'll wait to see the photos, but at that price and that size, the photos will have to be really special to make it interesting. The Samsung K looked a winner until I saw the battery life. You'd definitely need to carry a spare battery around with it.

Dave Granger

September 25, 2014, 8:35 pm

Does it have OIS?

Jacques Cornell

October 12, 2014, 1:23 pm

I sure wish they'd put their energy into making a shirt-pocket camera with high image quality. Thinkin' here of an LF2 with a (smaller) f2.8-4.0 version of the LX7 lens.

ElectricSheep

January 27, 2015, 12:41 am

I'm sorry, but for this money (and humongous physical size) not having image stabilisation or a xenon flash is unforgivable. And yes, the 16GB on board storage is a joke for a £750 gadget. Missed opportunity.

A. Mir

January 27, 2015, 4:23 pm

Buy an RX100 and an iPhone/Android. Case closed.

Jacques Cornell

January 27, 2015, 5:21 pm

You must have giant shirt pockets.

A. Mir

January 27, 2015, 5:57 pm

I have a giant Willie. Thanks for your concern.

Jacques Cornell

January 27, 2015, 7:04 pm

Like I said, you must have giant shirt pockets, especially if it's already crowded down below.

scum

February 4, 2015, 12:48 pm

LX100 is 1" sensor?

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