Introduction, build and handling
Photographers have joked for years about putting a phone in a camera and now Panasonic has gone and done it with the Lumix DMC-CM1. It’s not just big talk; inside the CM1 is the same 1-inch type sensor with 20.1 million effective pixels found inside the excellent Panasonic FZ1000 – the best bridge camera around right now.
Further boosting the CM1’s photographic credentials is Leica DC Elmarit lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and 6 elements in 5 groups, including 3 aspherical elements. This has a fixed focal length of 10.2mm, which equates to 31mm in 35mm terms when shooting with an aspect ratio of 4:3, or 28mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.
Like many compact cameras and mobile phones, the CM1 has a collection of automatic shooting options, but it’s also possible to use shutter priority, aperture priority and manual exposure mode. Sensitivity may be set in the range ISO 100-25,600 and shutter speed can be varied between 60 seconds and 1/2000sec.
As usual with Panasonic cameras, the appearance of JPEG images can be varied by using one of a collection of Photo Styles; Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery and Portrait. Plus it’s possible to adjust Contrast, Sharpness, Noise Reduction and Saturation, of colour images. There’s also a collection of 18 filter effects called Creative Control options which can be used to apply effects such as Cross Process, Bleach Bypass and Retro to JPEGs – but they can be used while shooting raw files simultaneously.
As the CM1 uses the Android 4.4 (Kitkat) operating system there area huge range of apps that can be used in conjunction with the camera, including one of my favourites; Snapseed. However, even without extra apps it’s possible to adjust JEPGs and apply a collection of effects with a range of colour, frame, brightness and contrast options being available.
One of the big selling points of the FZ1000 is that it can shoot 4K video and this has also been carried into the CM1, although only at 15fps. Full HD footage can be recorded at 30fps. Videos are recorded in MP4 format.
Stills and video may be saved to the camera’s internal memory (16GB) or an optional microSD card that can be inserted into the dedicated slot.
Build and handling
From the back, the CM1 resembles are fairly large phone with the 4.7-inch 6,200,000-dot touch-screen that has an aspect ratio of 16:9 taking up almost the entire area. The front however, looks like a fairly minimalist camera with a comparatively wide lens barrel occupying one side.
There are just four controls on the top of the camera (or side of the phone if you prefer to think of it that way). Working left to right is a customisable volume toggle switch (I set it adjust exposure compensation), the power button, a sliding switch to bring the camera to life or set it to sleep and the shutter release. If you prefer, however, the shutter can also be tripped via the button icon on the touchscreen or by using Touch Shutter mode.
An icon in the top left corner of the screen indicates the selected exposure mode. Tapping this brings up a virtual dial that allows you to choose between all the available options. A strip down the right hand side of the screen gives a route to the key controls. Tap the top one in aperture priority mode, for example, and you can choose between setting aperture, exposure compensation, sensitivity and white balance. Once one of these features is selected it can be adjusted either by tapping the desire setting on screen or by rotating the ring around the lens barrel. Tapping the shutter release hides the list, leaving the selected option available for adjustment via the lens ring. It’s the sort of system that you find yourself using instinctively without needing to delve into an instruction manual.
Tapping ‘Q. Menu’ on-screen opens the Quick Menu which gives a route to up to 12 features including metering mode, focus mode and file format. Any of the features can be selected and adjusted with just a couple of taps on the screen.
The main menu is also accessed and navigated by tapping the screen. Thankfully the screen is very responsive to touch so you don’t find yourself double-tapping on a frequent basis.
The camera settings can be displayed around the screen, but if you prefer an uncluttered view they can be hidden by tapping the Disp icon. There are three display options to toggle through; one that hides all the data, a second that adds an electronic level and the third which shows all the settings data plus the level.
In bright sunlight it can be very hard to see an image on the screen. Boosting the screen’s brightness helps, but that’s only possible if you can make out the necessary icon on the screen. Even at the brightest screen setting, however, it can be very hard to see the location of the active AF point and to be 100% confident that the subject is sharp.
While the camera is generally nice and responsive, it takes 2 or 3 seconds to write images, whether they are being stored in the internal memory or to an inserted microSD card. In single shot mode this means that there’s a slight delay before you see the captured image and you can take a second. In continuous shooting mode, there’s no delay until you stop shooting and then it’s only a couple of seconds.
Panasonic CM1 as a phone
By Matthew Hanson
Much has been made of Panasonic DMC-CM1 the camera, but how does it perform as a phone? Although the emphasis has been put on the camera, the specifications for the phone are pretty impressive, with a high performance Snapdragon 801 system on chip powering the device, with a 2.3GHz quad-core processor at its core.
This is the sort of hardware that is found on some of the top performing smartphones of last year including the HTC One M8, Sony Xperia Z3 and the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. The 801 has been succeeded by a newer version, but it’s still a formidable chip, and means that the Panasonic DMC-CM1 performs quickly and smoothly during phone tasks. The 2GB of RAM is also pretty large by smartphone standards, so you can be confident that the Panasonic DMC-CM1 Phone is a suitably powerful phone for the price.
It runs Android 4.4 (also known as KitKat), which is a feature-packed mobile operating system from Google. Again, it’s not the latest version (that would be Android 5.0 Lollipop), but it still does and excellent job of running things behind the scenes. You’re able to download apps from the Google Play Store, making the Panasonic DMC-CM1 an extremely versatile device.
Android 5.0 is a free upgrade, but it relies on the manufacturers supporting it and bringing it to their own devices, and although we haven’t heard what Panasonic’s plans are regarding upgrading the Panasonic DMC-CM1 to Android 5.0, there’s a decent chance it will happen – and you’ll get some nice extra features for free.
The 4.7-inch touchscreen has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, which leads to a high pixel density of 469ppi (pixels per inch). The higher the pixel count, the sharper the image, which makes the Android interface look particularly nice on the Panasonic DMC-CM1.
Browsing websites, watching YouTube videos and looking over the photos you’ve just taken all look great on the screen as well, and the onscreen keyboard is easy enough to use as well.
Notifications of new emails, messages and phone calls can be slightly obtrusive if you’re using the Panasonic DMC-CM1 as a camera, but a small LED just above the screen will flash when you receive a new notification, which is an informative, yet unobtrusive, solution – though you’ll need to turn off vibrations and sound cues if you want to be completely undisturbed.
The Panasonic DMC-CM1 also comes with LTE connectivity, which allows for super-fast mobile internet. This makes browsing the web when out and about nice and quick, and the included Chrome browser does and excellent job of displaying web pages. You can also upload and download photos quickly – though you’ll want to check your mobile contract before sending raw images, otherwise you might get a bit of a shock when you get the bill.
Lab tests: resolution
We’ve carried out lab tests on the Panasonic CM1 across its full ISO range for resolution, noise (including signal to noise ratio) and dynamic range. We test the JPEGs shot by the camera, but we also check the performance with raw files. Most enthusiasts and pros prefer to shoot raw, and the results can often be quite different.
We’ve also picked out three of its chief rivals so that you can compare their performance directly.
• Panasonic TZ70/ZS50: This is a more usual choice for keen photographers looking for a pocket camera. The TZ70 matches the manual controls of the CM1 and has a 30x zoom lens but a much smaller sensor.
• Panasonic FZ1000: Panasonic’s big and powerful bridge camera is a million miles from the CM1 except in one vital respect – it has the same sensor.
• Canon G7 X: The CM1 uses a relative big sensor even by compact camera standards, and it’s a size starting to appear in high-end compacts, too, like the Canon G7 X. But can the CM1 really approach the Canon’s performance?
Panasonic CM1 resolution charts
JPEG resolution analysis: This is where the size and resolution of the sensor in the Panasonic CM1 pays dividends. Its results are on a par with the Panasonic FZ1000 and Canon G7 X, which are both highly regarded cameras. The CM1 is way ahead of the TZ70, which has a smaller 1/2.3-inch 12-megapixel sensor.
Raw (converted to TIFF) resolution analysis: These results are repeated in the raw files, where the Panasonic CM1 matches and even narrowly beats the FZ1000 and Canon G7 X at higher ISO settings. Again, Panasonic’s smaller sensor travel camera, the TZ70, lags behind.
Lab tests: dynamic range
Dynamic range is a measure of the range of tones the sensor can capture. Cameras with low dynamic range will often show ‘blown’ highlights or blocked-in shadows. This test is carried out in controlled conditions using DxO hardware and analysis tools.
Dynamic range is measured in exposure values (EV). The higher the number the wider the range of brightness levels the camera can capture. This falls off with increasing ISO settings because the camera is having to amplify a weaker signal. Raw files capture a higher dynamic range because the image data is unprocessed.
Panasonic CM1 dynamic range charts
JPEG dynamic range analysis: Again, the CM1 comes out top for dynamic range, although all four cameras are so close together that it would be hard to spot the difference in practice. The TZ70 does better here, but with this camera Panasonic chose to use a lower megapixel rating (12Mp) to produce better overall performance.
Raw (converted to TIFF) dynamic range analysis: The CM1’s raw files fare slightly less well. It’s better than its TZ70 stablemate, but the Panasonic FZ1000 and Canon G7 X are better still.
Lab tests: signal to noise ratio
This is a test of the camera’s noise levels. The higher the signal to noise ratio, the greater the difference in strength between the real image data and random background noise, so the ‘cleaner’ the image will look. The higher the signal to noise ratio, the better.
Panasonic CM1 signal to noise ratio charts
JPEG signal to noise ratio analysis: Interestingly, the CM1 shows slightly more noise than the rest at low ISOs but maintains its performance as the ISO setting increases so that by ISO 1600 it’s coming out on top.
Raw (converted to TIFF) signal to noise ratio analysis: The story is slightly different with the raw files, where the CM1 turns in a mid-field performance ahead of the TZ70 travel camera but a little behind the Panasonic FZ1000 and Canon G7 X.
The signal to noise ratio charts use laboratory test equipment, but we also shoot a real-world scene to get a visual indication of the camera’s noise levels across the ISO range. The right side of the scene is darkened deliberately because this makes noise more obvious. Here are two samples from our ISO series.
ISO 100: Click here to see a full size version.
ISO 6400: Click here to see a full size version.
Overall analysis: The Panasonic CM1 holds its own against two of the best compact cameras on the market right now. More to the point, its lens and processor do seem to squeeze the maximum potential out of that big 1-inch sensor. As a camera, the CM1 isn’t just good by phone standards, it’s good by proper camera standards.
Performance and verdict
Although images taken at ISO 1600 and higher can look rather smoothed over and ‘painterly’ at 100% on-screen, the results from the CM1 generally look very good at normal viewing and sharing sizes. Lower sensitivity images have a good level of detail and sharpness. Unlike with some camera phones, the in-camera sharpening system also works sympathetically, not making edges look harsh or introducing halos.
Click here for a full size version.
Click here for a full size version.
The camera’s Multi metering system does a good job with exposure and there were only a few occasions during this test when I needed to use the exposure compensation control.
As well as enabling a good level of detail and decent noise control, having a 1-inch sensor gives the CM1 good dynamic range. This means that images have a wide range of tones (for a compact camera) and highlights don’t burn out too easily, nor do shadows turn deep black too quickly.
Click here for a full size version.
Click here for a full size version.
While the CM1 offers a collection of white balance settings, including manual (called ‘White set’), the automatic option is likely to be the most commonly used and it works very well in most lighting conditions, producing natural looking images. Shots taken in heavily shaded conditions can look a little cool, but not excessively so and this can be easily corrected using an app or on a computer. Those who shoot raw files and use Adobe Photoshop have the full gamut of Adobe Camera Raw adjustments available to them.
In bright light the CM1’s autofocus system is fast, but there’s often a little backwards and forwards adjustment. It doesn’t seem quite as smooth as an iPhone 5S’s AF adjustment, but then it is moving larger lens elements. In most situations it gets the subject sharp, but there are times when it would be nice to have a smaller AF point so that finer details can be targeted.
Click here for a full size version.
Many photographers have a hierarchy of cameras with an SLR or compact system camera sitting at the top, a compact camera in the middle and a phone at the bottom. While the CM1 would never replace an SLR or CSC, it doesn’t feel like a step down from a compact camera. In fact, it has a larger sensor than many compact cameras, making it a step up in some cases. It also allows much more control over settings than many compacts and phones, plus there are lots of apps available to add extra features. It’s very easy to share images, too.
Reflections are always a problem on a screen in very bright light, but the CM1’s screen suffers a tiny bit more than the screen on a iPhone 5S, which makes composing images tricky. The camera also takes a little longer to process shots, which while not a major drama, seems a little behind the times.
My only other concern with the CM1 is that the lens is rather exposed and I worry that it could be scratched fairly easily if carried in a bag along with keys and the usual paraphernalia of life.
The Panasonic CM1 offers a level of control that few camera phones afford. For a start there’s the full gamut of exposure control modes including aperture priority, shutter priority and manual as well a collection of automatic options. It’s also possible to record raw as well as JPEG files. Further good news is that the control is handed to you via an intuitive interface with a responsive touchscreen, a few physical buttons and a lens ring.
The key selling point, however, is that having a larger sensor than other ‘phones and many compact cameras enables the CM1 to produce high quality images in a wider range of conditions than most phones.
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