A lot of people were feeling a hearty mix of awe and confusion when Panasonic quietly launched the CM1—an Android phone enclosing a high-end point and shoot camera with a large one-inch sensor and full manual controls. The CM1 was only to be available in a few regions like Germany and France, but now the hybrid shooter is on its way to the USA this summer.
Rewind back to September, 2014. The Photokina photography trade show was in full-swing in Germany, and Panasonic drops the CM1 to pretty much everyone's surprise. It's a 4.7" Android phone with a 20 megapixel one-inch sensor. That alone makes it capable of taking brilliantly high-quality shots. Add in the ability to shoot 4K video and a slim, pocketable profile and you've got one compelling device that many see as the future of phone/camera hybrids.
If you're as excited as we were back in September, there are a few reasons to temper your mood. First off, early reviews coming out of Europe point to a rather clunky experience, one that doesn't do such a capable camera justice. As of now, the CM1 only runs Android Kit Kat, and it's not clear whether it will bump up to Lollipop before its US debut. When we were briefed on the launch, Panasonic was very clear in emphasizing that this thing is a camera first and phone 2nd, which kind of sounded like an excuse for it being a kind of shoddy phone!
The CM1 will arrive sometime this summer as an unlocked GSM version for $1000. That means it will work only on AT&T and T-Mobile. Panasonic is in talks with other service providers for future versions.