While most smart devices are tacking on a camera to a phone or tablet PC, Panasonic is trying an approach from the opposite direction: combining an Android phone with a high quality digital camera. And as we hear today from the International Consumer Electronics Show, the new device will hit store shelves sometime in 2015 for $999.
First revealed at Photokina 2014 in Cologne, Germany, Panasonic's new Lumix CM1 surprised everyone with its new "connected camera" concept. The device is a 20-megapixel camera with a 28mm Leica lens and the availability of full manual control over settings, making it a much better camera than one would get on any normal smartphone. This makes it a camera first and a smartphone second.
But the smartphone side of the CM1 pie isn't exactly an afterthought. The CM1 features a 4.7-inch full HD display, a 2.3 GHz quad-core processor, 4G LTE capability, and it runs Android 4.4.4 Kitkat right out of the box. That's almost like tacking on a Sony Xperia Z2 or an HTC One M8 on the back of high-end digital camera.
The camera can also serve as a camcorder with 4K video capture capabilities, but only at 15 fps. MicroSD is on board to expand the 16 GB storage slot and 2 GB of RAM round out the impressive specs.
The Lumix CM1 was originally available in very limited supply to French and German markets earlier in 2014, but this CES announcement is the first we've heard of availability in the U.S. along with that $999 price tag.
CNet took an extensive look at the CM1, documenting the camera's quality in various situations, as well as benchmarking the phone side. Their final opinion is positive as the site compliments the device's design overall.
"Yes, the Panasonic Lumix CM1 costs an awful lot of money, and no, it's hardly what you'd call small, but if photography is your passion then those costs are worth putting up with to put this cameraphone in your pocket," the review states. "Its huge sensor and high-quality optics help it achieve image quality that's unrivalled in the smartphone world, while the full manual control of all settings allows for a wealth of creative shooting options."
Digital Trends had similar praise for the CM1. "It's pretty fascinating that Panasonic was able to pack so much punch in such a relatively compact device," the site points out. "Samsung could take some lessons here for its Galaxy Cameras, because this Panasonic is sleek."
But TechRadar wasn't as impressed as the review site listed its top five reasons to avoid the Panasonic product. "1. Battery life will be awful. 2. Photo quality won't make a difference for most uses (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). 3. It will be more expensive than your average smartphone. 4. There are cameras with better sensors and lenses that have Wi-Fi connectivity for smartphone control, editing and sharing. 5. If you drop this and break it, as we tend to do with our smartphones, you will have broken your nice smartphone and your nice camera all in one; phones are easy to replace, cameras are usually easy to fix, this CM1 probably won't be."