We’ve all heard the phrase that the best camera is the one you have on you, and now with the Panasonic CM1, that could finally be true. It’s possible to have a smartphone that takes amazing pictures. With a 1-inch sensor, Leica lens and some useful software tools, this is easily the best camera setup ever built into an Android device.
It’s clear from the outset that the CM1’s form factor has been designed with the camera being the biggest focal point. And that’s because technically, this is classed as a connected camera, rather than an Android phone with a great snapper.
Although we wouldn’t have complained a few years ago at a phone this thick, 21mm is pretty hefty for a smartphone in today’s market. And it’s not particularly light either at 204g (over 7 ounces). The front panel of the device is a rather unremarkable black rectangle with no design flourish, a 4.7-inch screen and some generously sized bezels.
Surprisingly, for a phone this thick, it’s not uncomfortable to hold at all. It’s small enough to be a good one-handed device, with my index finger resting conveniently underneath the camera. It felt balanced in hand, and not at all top heavy.
Even for a regular smartphone, the 4.7-inch full HD panel on the CM1 would be decent. Pixel density is an impressive 469ppi and it’s sharp. Text is smooth and crisp while videos and pictures show good color accuracy. I would say that it makes the perfect camera viewfinder, if it wasn’t so terrible in bright daylight. The last thing you want on a camera is to not be able to see what you’re shooting outdoors. Except many a time, I was shooting blind. I could still almost make out the bright blue highlights telling me when objects were in focus, but without using a hand to shield the screen, it would almost be impossible to shoot outdoors in the summer.
I’ve already put together a pretty extensive post showing off the camera’s qualities. It’s an impressive camera in more ways than one. Not only is the sensor huge at 1-inch, it has 20 megapixels and can shoot in 4K, but its software enables you to do virtually anything you want. You can manually set exposure sensitivity, white balance and shutter speed to get all kinds of effects. Whether you just want to grab more light in a night-time shoot or do some cool slow-shutter effects, the CM1 can handle it.
What I really liked was how Panasonic has incorporated the manual ring around the lens which you can alter functions for. You can set it to zoom in and out, change focus manually or adjust other settings like ISO and shutter speed. The addition of the physical shutter button is awesome, although you can just use the virtual one on-screen if you want too.
Overall quality is superb, and the ability to save images as RAW files means you don’t lose any quality that you might by using JPEG. Simply put, this is probably the best camera ever built into an Android device. Colors are gorgeous, clarity is out of this world. At least, when you compare it to your average smartphone camera, which is perhaps unfair.
PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY
With a camera running Android, you could be forgiven for assuming the smartphone performance side of things would be neglected in favor of camera experience. But that’s not the case at all. Snapdragon’s 2.3GHz quad-core 801 chip combines with 2GB RAM to offer an experience that’s very smooth. It’s not instant and snappy like some of the best flagships, but at the same time, it’s definitely more responsive than some of the more heavily skinned smartphones. That’s because it runs a very thin skin on top of Android 5.0 Lollipop. It’s almost identical to the regular Google Now Launcher, apart from the lack of a Google Now home screen.
I was impressed by the battery too. It’s a 2,600mAh cell (50mAh more than the Galaxy S6) which should comfortably achieve about 4 and half hours of screen-on time. It’s equipped with Qualcomm’s Quick-Charge technology and can go from 0-100 in about 80 minutes.
Clearly, the CM1 is a niche product. It’s not going to be the smartphone for everyone. It’s big, bulky and has a small screen (by flagship standards). But I like it a lot. If you’re someone who has little regard for the smartphone side things and would happily sacrifice thinness and a big display to have a great camera in your pocket all the time, this could be your perfect device. It’s available to buy for a hefty $999 from Amazon in the US and for £699 in the UK.
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