Panasonic’s first smartphone in a year is more camera than phone

If you’ve ever wanted a smartphone that’s all about the camera, Panasonic is preparing the device for you. The Lumix Smart Camera CM1, announced at Photokina in Cologne on Monday, is an Android smartphone with a 1-inch image sensor and a Leica-branded lens.


While the Lumix CM1 is bound to draw comparisons to other photo-focused handsets like Samsung’s Galaxy Zoom line, it’s really an entirely different beast. The CM1 is packing a 20-megapixel, 1-inch sensor — the same size that goes in mirrorless cameras like the Sony Rx100 — and has a protruding, prime f/2.8 Leica lens on the back. That combination should result in significantly higher picture quality than camera-oriented phones with tiny smartphone sensors and kludgy zoom lenses. Also aiding the camera experience is a dedicated shutter button and a manual lens ring that can adjust aperture and shutter speed.

The rest of the specs fall in line with other smartphones — a 4.7-inch 1080p display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, LTE support and 16 or 32 GB of storage with support for microSD cards up to 128GB, which will be useful for the RAW photos and 4K video the CM1 can produce.

Panasonic officially announced that it planned to stop developing consumer smartphones in 2013, so it was quick to point out today that the Lumix CM1 — which uses Panasonic’s Lumix brand — is more of a camera than a smartphone, saying that it should be thought of as a capable camera with communications capabilities. Cameras are usually replaced less frequently than high-end smartphones. When the Lumix CM1 goes on sale later this November in France and Germany it will cost €899 ($1,163), which is priced closer to to the mirrorless cameras that it will compete with, even though the CM1 will not have the ability to swap out its lens.


Now that [company]Panasonic[/company] has stuck a 1-inch sensor in a smartphone, I think the logical next step is to make a camera-focused tablet, because tablets have a longer upgrade cycle, thickness matters less, and a capable imaging tablet running Android could spur an interesting ecosystem for aftermarket mounts and accessories.

The most important thing for prospective buyers will be photo quality, and although test shots are not yet available, the Lumix CM1 should handily beat the vast majority of cameras currently on smartphones.