Conclusion - The Good

  • Class-leading image detail across the ISO range
  • Better dynamic range than conventional smartphones
  • Extensive ISO range (up to 25,600 in extended mode)
  • Well-balanced noise reduction
  • Native 3:2 aspect ratio will appeal to many photographers
  • Dedicated two-stage shutter button
  • Excellent adjustment dial on the 'lens barrel'
  • Camera app offers lots of options and coherent user interface
  • User-definable shooting modes
  • 1-inch sensor allows for some flexibility in terms of depth of field
  • Manual focus with focus peaking
  • Raw files offer lots of flexibility in editing

Conclusion - The Bad

  • Flash images show blur, color casts and little detail
  • Inconsistent white balance under artificial light
  • Some corner softness
  • Lack of OIS in combination with slow shutter speeds can lead to image blur in low light
  • Small panorama output
  • Ghosting and strong fringing in HDR images
  • Very low quality front camera
  • Screen more difficult to view in sunlight than competition
  • 4K video mode only records at 15 fps
  • Slightly longer than usual processing times, especially when shooting Raw
  • Bulkier than most conventional smartphones

Overall Conclusion

With its 1-inch image sensor, adjustment dial and comprehensive manual settings and image options the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 offers image detail and operational control that is unheard of on more conventional smartphone cameras. Additionally, the ISO range up to 25,600 allows for more flexibility when shooting in low light and the Raw files offer noticeably more editing leeway than those captured by cameras with smaller sensors.

However, CM1 owners have to be willing to accept some compromises. The lens shows some noticeable corner softness, white balance under artificial light is inconsistent and the flash mode produces results that are virtually unusable. Video quality is average at best and we weren't too impressed by the CM1's screen either. It offers full HD resolution but is more difficult to view in bright light than the screens on most current high-end devices. The phone components of the Panasonic work as they are supposed to, but the DMC-CM1 is noticeably bulkier than conventional smartphones and the lens has no protection from scratching, so carrying it in your pocket might not be ideal. 

Essentially, the Panasonic CM1 is the device of choice for all those who want their smartphone to offer the looks, feel, control and image image detail of a premium compact camera. You'll have to accept the drawbacks mentioned above, though and at a current street price of more than $1000 owning a CM1 is not exactly cheap. That said, despite a few flaws, it won't be easy to find a smartphone that performs better as a still camera.

Features & Operation

The DMC-CM1 offers by far the best camera control of all current smartphones. The Lumix camera app is essentially the user interface of an enthusiast compact camera ported to Android and works remarkably well. The click-dial around the lens allows for very quick adjustment of all important shooting parameters and, in combination with the focus-peaking feature, is also great for manual focusing. Add the two-stage shutter button to the mix and you've got yourself a smartphone camera that in operation feels very much like a "real" camera.

Compared to most Android flagship smartphones the CM1's imaging feature set is quite limited though. Panorama and HDR modes are on board but don't perform particularly well, and the filter options aren't anything to get excited about. Of course there are plenty of additional features available in the form of apps from the Google Play store, just make sure they are fully compatible with the CM1. Camera apps especially may not support the device's Raw mode and full ISO range.

Image Quality

The Panasonic CM1 captures the best image detail of all smartphones in bright and low light, with well-balanced noise reduction and sharpening. Thanks to its extensive ISO range, it is capable of capturing images when other cameras have long given up and the high sensitivities also allow for the use of faster shutter speeds to freeze motion in low light, something that most smartphones can't do. Dynamic range is also noticeably better than smartphone cameras with smaller sensors. This is especially obvious when shooting Raw, which allows for good highlight recovery in post processing. Processing Raw files using your own parameter mix can also yield better detail in high ISO shots, and it's a great option to have.

However, the CM1's images are not free of problems. At F2.8 you'll see fairly strong corner softness that gets better as you stop down, but never completely disappears. White balance can be quite inconsistent under artificial light and the flash images are pretty much unusable, with strong color casts in mixed light, lack of detail due to very high ISO settings and blur that is caused by very slow shutter speeds and camera shake. Hopefully Panasonic can have a closer look at those issues at some point and provide a software update.

Video quality is average at best, 1080p footage shows some compression artifacts and, due to the lack of any stabilization, tends to be shaky when not captured on some kind of camera support. 4K mode shows much better detail but only records at 15 frames per second which results in sightly jerky motion. Several current high-end smartphones offer better video options.

The Final Word

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 is clearly a niche product and the closest thing we have seen to a 'photographer's smartphone'. It's not as slim, nor does it have as nice a screen as current conventional high-end smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or Google Nexus 6. However, if you are willing to live with a few compromises and want the best possible still image quality and camera control from your smartphone, there are currently few alternatives.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1
Category: Mobile Phone
Camera and Photo Features
Screen Quality
Ergonomics and Handling
Video Quality
Still Image Quality
Speed and Responsiveness
With its physical shutter button, adjustment dial and excellent camera user interface the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 offers the best photographic control of all current smartphones. Image quality, especially in low light and when shooting Raw, is closer to enthusiast compact cameras than to other smartphones. The CM1 is pretty bulky, the screen is difficult to view in bright light and flash and video performance are pretty mediocre. However, if you want the best possible image quality and control it's hard to find a better smartphone for photography right now.
Overall score

There are 48 images in our Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.