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I’m a card carrying member of the heavy, bulky DSLR Canon fanboy group, so getting my hands on a Lumix DMC-CM1 was something that took a bit of warming up to. But at the end of the day, it’s what camera you have in your pocket that matters most, and this has turned out to be a mighty pleasant surprise.
By first impressions it looks like a lens bolted onto an Android phone, protruding somewhat from the squarish frame of the phone. But a better description is that it feels more like a camera with a smartphone built around it. You’ll take a photo imagining a smartphone quality shot, and then you’ll realize how much sharper, crisper and better your photos come out.
When the camera is activated, a smaller lens extends from the main body. The lens itself has a nice grippy focus ring, which acts as a control for whatever UI element you’re twiddling (like shutter speed, zoom, or aperture). It weighs about 50% more than a Nexus 5 at about 200g, but the heft feels comfortable, as does the synthetic leather wrap. It touts a 2600mAH battery, which is potent enough to keep you running for a day, unless you take a lot of videos and play around with your phone when you’re bored.
What’s remarkable is the f/2.8 Leica lens, 1 inch sensor (the same size as the Sony RX100) and 20 megapixel resolution. The lens itself is set at 10.2mm with a 2x optical zoom; with the crop factor you’re effectively shooting at 28mm on a 35mm sensor.
The phone runs Android KitKat 4.4.4 on a Qualcomm Snapdragon S801 chip and comes with the Panasonic/Lumix camera and photo management software. The hardware buttons on the device are standard volume, power, as well as a camera toggle button and dedicated shutter button. There’s a microSDXC and SIM slot.
The Leica brand is fairly prominently displayed, but that “L” on the lower right stands for Lumix.
The black bit doesn’t extend unless the camera is turned on, but it’s still fairly thick.
The camera software is okay, but crams a lot into an interface that might appear intimidating to the beginner camera user; the defaults out of the box are okay, but there are far too many (software) buttons. There’s no consistent vocabulary for going back a screen – sometimes there’s a back button, sometimes the arrow to the right brings you back, sometimes there isn’t one and you just tap on the screen. Still, it’s worth noting that pretty much anything you want to be able to do on a “full” camera, you can do, include controlling white balance, ISO up to 12,800, aperture priority, shutter priority, exposure and lots more.
And those three buttons at the bottom? I have no idea what it does, and I can’t even switch between whatever options they denote.
Take a look at the photos below, and then the 100% crop section below it. Unfortunately I’m not much of a people shooter, as you may already know, but I have no doubt that this would work well for the social occasions, or your “I love to take pictures of what I eat” friend.
f/2.8, 1/80 seconds, ISO 125, Kyoto’s Ginkakuji
f/2.8, 1/60 seconds, ISO 320, Akasaka Sacas illumination
f/6.3, 1/320 seconds, ISO 125, a view of Mt. Fuji
f/2.8, 1/60 seconds, ISO 500, Taiwanese xiaolongbao
The following is a 100% crop from the photos above, which should show you the amount of detail you can get from the 20 megapixels given to you with each photo.
ISO quality degrades significantly after ISO 3200, but it’s fairly acceptable there unless you do find yourself shooting in the full darkness, at which point even the smaller ISOs can be marginally acceptable to print with.
This is a camera to convince the DSLR-toting Android fan, or even those who are considering a portable phone with a great lens for the everyday moments that shouldn’t require a conversation about how expensive the camera you’re holding may be. It’s discrete but powerful, versatile and slightly complicated, but nothing to intimidate someone who already knows their aperture preferences or ISO. But if you’re one to take a lot of photos and twiddle around with your phone when you’re bored, it’s probably worth carrying a battery charger for some backup. This is the phone for the photo enthusiast, and though it won’t certainly replace any camera kit, it will be a worthy companion. One can only hope the price on this goes down somewhat!