Camera Operation

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 camera app layout, with framing grid and histogram enabled

Unlike most smartphones with a dedicated shutter button, on the CM1 a long press of the button does not open the camera app. Instead, right next to the shutter button there is a camera switch that allows you to switch between the home screen or any app you are currently using and the camera app. It's unusual, but once you get used to it the switch works pretty well. Of course, the camera can also be opened via its icon on the home screen and a short-cut on the lock screen.

Once the camera app is up and running it's quite obvious that the CM1 is not your standard smartphone. The amount of information and settings can be overwhelming for smartphone-only shooters but users of advanced digital compact cameras will feel right at home. 

Tapping on the mode button opens up a virtual mode dial.
The Quick Menu offers access to a range of frequently used settings.

In the top left corner of the screen you'll find the shooting mode button which opens up a virtual mode dial. Here you can choose from PASM modes, two auto modes, panorama mode, a range of scene modes, two user-definable modes and the iArt filters (which we'll talk more about in the features section). Below the mode button is the location of the optional histogram and the front camera switch. At the bottom of the screen there is an icon for the 4K Pre-Burst mode and the menu button. A tap on the latter gives you access to a wide range of settings, including image size and format, metering mode, video settings, touch shutter mode and focus peaking.

On the right edge of the screen you'll find the video, shutter and review buttons. A tap on the button at the top of the row opens up the currently active function of the adjustment dial around the lens and lets you change it. At the bottom the Quick Menu button gives you access to frequently used camera settings, just like on a Panasonic compact camera.

Another way to access most of those settings is to tap directly on the icons displaying the currently selected parameters at the top of the screen. They are a little small, so you have to aim well, but it's nice to have several options for changing settings. At the bottom of the screen shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance information is displayed. Tapping in this area opens up the setting that is currently assigned to the adjustment dial.

Depending on the mode you are in the adjustment wheel at the front can control exposure compensation and other parameters.
The settings menu is much more comprehensive than other smartphones and more in line with an enthusiast compact camera.

In terms of AF modes, in the settings menu you can choose between face detection, AF tracking, 23-area or 1-area modes and operate the CM1 just like a digital camera, using the soft shutter or physical button to capture an image. The latter allows you to lock AF and exposure with a half-press. Additionally you have the option to configure touch settings in the menu. A tap on the live view image can actuate the shutter, set the focus or lock exposure or focus or both.

If you prefer to focus manually the CM1 might be the right smartphone for you. Manual focus has been available on smartphones for some time, but the small sensors of conventional smartphone cameras provide nearly unlimited depth-of-field. Therefore the usefulness of the feature tends to be limited. Despite the larger sensor, due to its wide-angle lens and F2.8 maximum aperture, the CM1 is still not great for blurring the background in portraits but there is at least some flexibility in terms of where you put the focus in your image. To help with that the CM1 offers focus-peaking. The edges of objects in focus are marked in blue color. In addition, you can magnify a portion of the frame for better visibility. Using those two options combined allows for very precise focusing in manual mode. 

The click-dial around the lens in combination with focus-peaking allows for precise manual focusing.

Overall, the Lumix DMC-CM1 camera app offers a degree of control that is unheard of on a smartphone. It is essentially the user interface of an enthusiast digital camera ported to a touchscreen. The concept works surprisingly well, also thanks to the excellent manual adjustment wheel. At first the sheer amount of options can be a little confusing, but once you've found your preferred configuration the camera it is a joy to shoot with.