Camera UI: Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Not long ago, I started a series of posts about smartphone camera user interfaces (with Sony's Xperia Z3).The Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 proves to offer the most extensive and elaborate one ever on a smartphone. In this post you'll find over 50 (!) screenshots of what you may expect to find in its menu.

In the past years, I've seen very basic user interfaces for the smartphone cameras (like on the LG series or the new Moto X), elaborate ones (like the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom / Note 4), quite complicated (Xperia Z-series), incrediblly versatile (Nokia 808 PureView) to remarkably intuitive (Lumia Camera).

The camera of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 works with Panasonic's " Venus Engine" you'll also find in many of its other cameras. Without a doubt, it's the most sophisticated camera UI ever in a smartphone. Below, you'll find over 50 screenshots to give you an impression of its vast possibilities.

Is it a good thing, a smartphone camera user interface this sophisticated? I guess it depends on where you come from. If you are used to previous "typical" smartcam software (however diverse those may be), it's something to get used to - not to say it's even kind of intimidating.

The Venus Engine is far from simple and it's not very intuitive even: it's professional in the sense that it really helps when you know what you're doing. If you're a professional photographer, the Lumix DMC-CM1 might be the first smartphone camera you really appreciate for the fact it has elaborate settings you're already familiar with. If not, you'll either have to learn how to work with them, or enjoy the use of the more "basic" options you'll find in the device as well.

I'll try to make it as easy as possible, so I'll start with the most basic options: what Panasonic calls "Creative Control". Simple ways - maybe I should use the word "filters" - to achieve the result you're looking for. For this, I only need two screenshots:

Now if you're a more ambitious (mobile) photographer, you might not even go here - nevertheless, it might be interesting to experiment with settings like these.

The next step would be to work with predefined settings for specific scenes, comparable to what you'll find in the Galaxy Note 4 (or K Zoom). Panasonic offers 22 of them and I'm going to share them all (!) below. I cropped the screenshots so you won't have to scroll more than necessary.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 Screenshot scenes 6.jpg

Now that was probably more than enough to your taste, right? Thing is, not all of you will appreciate exactly the same available settings: you choose what might interest you, and what not.

Of course, there are quite a few more settings available, and I'm not even pretending I made screenshots of them all. I do think I got the most important ones to give you an idea and I'm happy to share them below. I'll start with some of the available settings in manual:

At the bottom, you see a few data in the middle of the screen. Just touch those to get to a menu like this - Aperture, from f/2.8 up to f/11 

In the same menu, maximum shutter speed appears to be no less than one minute

What about ISO? Lowest value is 125 (which surprised me a bit, ISO 100 being the lowest in Lumia Camera, and 40 on for instance the Galaxy cameras). 

Highest however, is no less than ISO 12.800...

Of course, here you'll find all options for white balance as well:

In order of their appearance, here are some of the many other options you'll find in the "quick" menu - like Photo Style:


Recording quality:

Picture size:

Image Quality:

Drive mode:

Metering mode:

Auto/Manual Focus:

Autofocus Mode:

Touch settings:

Now it probably won't surprise you there are more settings - if you touch the MENU button on the low left corner of the "home screen", you will find these:

And then of course, there is the 4K burst mode( that has become available recently), allowing you to pick the best from a burst of shots

When you accept this little warning, you'll see the next basic menu:

You may choose the quality of the shots you can get from "bursting" a scene: 8MP or 2MP.

That concludes this overview of a lot of different possibilities and settings on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 so far - I'm quite sure I didn't capture them all, but I bet this is already a lot more than you expected.

Now I'm wondering. Smartphone cameras have become good, very good even. For professional photographers though, the very best smartcam would probably never be an alternative for the DSLR - and it wouldn't be fair to expect so. The best camera may be "the one you have with you", but still.

Generally speaking, the average consumer tends to be perfectly happy with the results from his or her favorite smartphone brand. I've noticed especially iPhone users couldn't care less about the quality other brands offer. No wonder, since they have no alternative (except when leaving iOS). Moreover, the iPhone camera has seen major improvements.

There's another brand with a very loyal fanbase, even now that it has ceased to be: Nokia has taken mobile imaging to a tremendous level since devices like the N95, N8, 808 PureView and Lumia 1020. All the commotion about the rumoured "Lumia 1030" has shown a huge interest in the next high-end Lumia smartcam from Microsoft Mobiles.

Now all of a sudden Panasonic - absent in the mobile industry since the Eluga - enters the arena. Not with a good smartphone with impressive camera specs, but with a great compact camera on the largest mobile OS with full smartphone capacities. With a sensor even larger than the one in Nokia's epic 808 PureView.  An interface that looks nothing less but overwhelming...

I'm not saying the Lumix DMC-CM1 is "the missing link". But is does appear to fill a gap. A few years ago I believed the 808 PureView had taken care of that (and in a way it did), but times change. Are we waiting for the next hybrid device? Who expects the very best imaging quality from a smartphone? Who wants to communicate with a great compact camera?

A device like this is completely irresistable to me as it will be for many of this club's visitors. It's obvious Panasonic knows it is not a mass product - so far they only released it in three countries (Germany, France and the UK), and only at a few carefully selected retail stores. The Lumix DMC-CM1 costs more than most expensive current smartphones - at €899 it's the same as the iPhone 6 Plus 64GB (and it's only surpassed by the iPhone 6 Plus 128GB). I'm sure millions of people would choose the iPhone 6 Plus. I wouldn't.

To conclude: I've seen "trigger happy" bloggers posting shots that didn't do this device justice. I've noticed professional photographers adding updates to their original reviews, having discovered new possibilities later. It might all happen to me, but I'm going to take as much time as I need to feel I "know" the Lumix well enough to be able to do a fair comparison with the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020. I know many of you are really looking forward to the results as much as I am, but I´m asking for your patience. Bear with me - the Club might be open 24/7, I'm not working here full-time...