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Panasonic’s Lumix CM1 smartphone-4K camera hybrid launches in U.S. for $1K

At Photokina 2014 in Cologne, Germany, Panasonic has announced – much to the surprise of almost everyone – a new “connected camera” called the CM1. There’s much to debate about what the CM1 is and isn’t; for one thing, we’re not even sure what to call it. Is it a camera phone? Is it a phone camera? Is it a smart camera?

Updated by Les Shu on 6-15-2015: Panasonic announced that the CM1 is now available nationwide via Panasonic’s online store and Lumix authorized retailers. The device can be preordered for $1,000.

Updated by Jeffrey Van Camp on 1-05-2015: During its CES 2015 Keynote, Panasonic revealed that the CM1 — originally announced back in Sept. 2014 — could hit U.S. shelves sometime in 2015. 

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive category yet in which we can put the CM1, although it is, by concept, quite similar to the Samsung Galaxy Zoom, which was the first device to provide full compact camera functionality within the confines of a smartphone-size body. The difference between the Panasonic CM1 and the Galaxy Zoom, however, is that the Panasonic has a large 1-inch sensor and a relatively fast 28mm-equivalent f/2.8 fixed focal length lens, while keeping an overall slim profile.

The CM1 provides the full range of functionality that you’d expect from a great compact shooter.

On the camera side, the CM1 provides the full range of functionality that you’d expect from a great compact shooter (it is, after all, branded as a Lumix product, the name given to Panasonic digital cameras). Besides the already-mentioned 1-inch sensor – which, by the way, resolves 20 megapixels – and the Leica-designed 28mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens, the device comes with the full array of PASM as well as automatic shooting modes.

Thanks to the large 4.7-inch Full HD display, the CM1 delivers a very detailed and bright live preview that includes all the shooting information you expect from a regular camera, including aperture value, shutter speed, histogram, as well as general camera settings. On top of the device, there is a camera activation lever and shutter button in addition to the power button and volume rocker.

The display is standard size for a high-end smartphone at 4.7", but extraordinarily large and detailed for a camera.

The display is standard size for a high-end smartphone at 4.7 inches, but extraordinarily large and detailed for a camera.

Another nice addition to the CM1 is the direct function ring around the lens that lets you switch a number of camera settings. These include the aperture, shutter speed, ISO value, and more, depending on either the shooting mode or your personal preference. This is a feature we otherwise only know from “proper” cameras, which all the more makes us think the CM1 really is a camera with added smartphone functionality, and not the other way around.

As befits a proper compact camera, the Panasonic CM1 can also shoot Full HD video. To further set it apart from the compact camera crowd, the CM1 also has a 4K video mode – albeit restricted to 15 frames per second, so it won’t quite replace your GH4; it’s possible, however, that it’s more in-line with the LX100, which was also just introduced here at Photokina. However, the 4K video mode can be useful in order to capture burst shots to make sure the “decisive moment” isn’t missed, an idea similar to what Panasonic is promoting as 4K Photo.

Size wise, the Panasonic CM1 really isn’t much larger than most smartphones.

On the smartphone side, we find all the latest specifications you’d expect from a high-end Android device. Besides the large FHD display, the CM1 has a powerful 2.3-GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16 GB of internal storage, LTE connectivity as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC. The power needed to run the camera and smartphone functions comes from a 2600-mAh battery.

Size wise, the Panasonic CM1 really isn’t much larger than most smartphones. Put side-to-side with a two-year-old 4.3-inch Sony device, the CM1 is hardly larger overall. However, it is noticeably thicker, but not so much that you couldn’t put it in the pocket of your jeans or jacket. In that regard, it’s pretty fascinating that Panasonic was able to pack so much punch in such a relatively compact device. Samsung could take some lessons here for its Galaxy Cameras, because this Panasonic is sleek.

The Panasonic CM1 is also a powerful Android smartphone.

The Panasonic CM1 is also a powerful Android smartphone.

So what we have here is both a high-end, 4.7-inch smartphone that runs the latest Android 4.4 KitKat, as well as a powerful compact camera that promises high image quality thanks to its combination of a medium-fast prime lens and large sensor. Now, if you’ve already gotten your credit card ready, know that it’s going to cost you. At $1,000, it’s expensive for a phone or a camera, but there’s also nothing else like it.