Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (part 2)

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 poses a few interesting questions. Like: isn't this a very good compact camera that offers smartphone functionality? Or: am I really going to spend this much money on my next smartphone? And last but not least: am I actually any good at photography at all?

More than ten years I've been working with all of the important mobile and smartphone cameras and I've seen how their  technology developed from its charming first even-lower-than-VGA-resolution into the amazing quality of the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020. Recently we've seen many other devices perform extremely well with more modest sized sensors and lenses (like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4). I've been working with "hybrid" devices like Samsung's Galaxy K Zoom. So yes, I really think I know what I'm talking about - and yet I feel like a novice with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1.

The first "point and shoot" interfaces gradually got better and recently we've all been pampered with smart and versatile software like Nokia/Lumia Camera - allowing us to control one or more settings: Nokia Camera would figure out the rest. In manual settings, Samsung's camera software on the K Zoom is already more complex - and less "forgiving" - since it won't allow you to control just a few settings: you simply have to control all if you go that way. But when you see the manual settings on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 - so elaborate, offering so much choices - it's humbling, at least when you're only used to work with smartphone cameras. Like me.

A few days ago I went on a short trip to Amsterdam to see some of its famous Light Festival. The weather wasn't too good during the boat trip, so in fact I got the best shots before (in the afternoon) and after (at night). I brought many smartphones for comparison but I ended up focussing on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 and Nokia Lumia 1020. I made dozens of shots with both cameras (not always enough I discovered later) and had to kill a lot of darlings to arrive at the selection I'm going to share with you here. Moreover, I did one thing some of you will curse me for - I thought the Lumia 1020 still was in its 5MP + DNG setting, but at home it turned out it wasn't. So I can only share the RAW files from the Panasonic with you, which I will do for those who are interested in them (link below).

I will share my selection of shots in - more or less - chronological order. You'll see the complete scene first (as captured with the Lumix DMC-CM1 and the Lumia 1020), followed by two crops (Panasonic and Nokia). There are many ways to compare, in this case I once again decided to resize the shots coming from the Panasonic to 5MP... I know it has disadvantages - you will loose detail - but it will give you a good impression and by now I think I believe it's still a better way than comparing 5MP to 18MP shots. Moreover you'll find the original shots on Flickr for you to compare in detail as well (link below).

First, you'll see some street scenes from Amsterdam. The church you'll see (in several shots) is the Church of Saint Nicholas (1887), opposite Amsterdam Central Station.
Panasonic DMC-CM1

Nokia Lumia 1020

Crop from DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Crop from Lumia 1020 (5MP) 

If I remember correctly, this was done with all settings on auto - I really should take notes the next times I´m shooting. When I feel I'm in a bit of a hurry, I'm often tempted to choose Intelligent Auto (Plus), but I've noticed I'm usually more pleased with what I get from the manual settings. Maybe that's just vanity (look what I can do). The auto settings do a pretty good job in this example, showing more detail than the Lumia 1020.

I suddenly realize I should always make at least a few shots in the Intelligent Auto settings as well, to compare with what I managed to do myself. The scene above was captured very close to Amsterdam's Central Station, like the next street scene on the once infamous "Zeedijk". You can see the shots I got are a lot more similar than in the previous example.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Nokia Lumia 1020

Crop from DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Crop from Nokia Lumia 1020 (5MP)

I'm a bit surprised getting this much "closer" with the crop, but I didn't accidently zoom in (also, the 34MP result is exactly the same, check the originals on Flickr). Knowing the originals are very similar, I'm not sure why the crops (from 5MP) are this different really... You're more than welcome to help me out here. I do remember I've been working in manual mode and my guess is that accouts for the differences: colours are deeper, detail is a bit better once again.

The next scene is only a few steps away from the previous scene - you're looking at the Oudezijds Achterburgwal in the late afternoon sun (it's the Northern part of the famous tourist area called "Red Light District" and I'm sure you'll understand I won't share any of the people working or visiting there, although there's not much going on in daytime and the area has been "cleaned" from illegal prostitution and drugs quite effectively in the past years).

These two shots are in fact difficult to compare - sun may be very bright one moment, the clouds may cover its rays within seconds. Judging from the results below, that's exactly what happened when switching devices - you can tell by the shades on the building in the first shot. Nevertheless, both shots are good enough to share I think.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Nokia Lumia 1020 (5MP)

Quite honestly, I don't remember the sunlight being this less strong in the second shot, but it's a question of seconds and your eyes adjust faster than you're sometimes aware of. Hence, the crops will show very different colours and detail, but still, I think both shots (sunny and shaded) are worth having a closer look at.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1020 (5MP)

In the next scene, you see another, maybe even more striking example of the very same effect - the crazy bright "golden" light during an approaching rainstorm when I captured the shot with the Panasonic, the sun being covered when I captured it with the Nokia Lumia 1020.

But: it's not entirely true. I captured this scene in several shots with the Lumia 1020 - also in the bright light of the setting afternoon sun. But although the light is gorgeous, for some reason all these shots turned out to be unsharp. Why - camera shake, wrong focus, I simply don't know. There is only one shot I got that's really sharp - and that's the one when the sun was covered. Again, I still think both shots are worth comparing, not just in terms of light, but also because of the detail.
Panasonic DMC-CM1

Nokia Lumia 1020

Again, I made several shots with the Nokia Lumia 1020 - five in total. Only this one turned out to be really sharp, as you will see in the crops. So if you're out shooting, do remember to take more shots of the scene you really like, your mileage may vary, too. To show what I mean, you'll find the unsharp shot coming from the Lumia 1020 on Flickr as well.

As for the Panasonic, I was able to make three shots before the shower hit the scene. In the resized .JPG, you'll see some of the details are burnt in the bright sunlight on the Panasonic, but you'll also see some amazing detail in the ornamented rooftops in what I got from the Nokia Lumia 1020.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)
 
Nokia Lumia 1020

It wouldn't suprise me if you can get a much better result from the RAW file of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 - and you're more than welcome to give it a try, all the files are on OneDrive (you can share the result below if you like).

The incidental showers gave me a good excuse to find refuge in a little bar (Captain Zeppos, also in the heart of Amsterdam). Here's you'll see the very small alley where it's at (called Gebed Zonder End, meaning "endless prayer").
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Nokia Lumia 1020

Panasonic Lumix DCM-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1020

This looks interesting - a bit "darker" result coming from the Nokia Lumia 1020 again, whereas light conditions were exactly the same. With the Lumia 1020 I did focus on the bright part of the scene though. Differences are marginal in fact and in this case I don't feel like I have a strong preference (although th Panasonic appears te be a bit sharper). Let's have a look inside - here's the (pretty dark) bar.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Nokia Lumia 1020

This time in manual settings (Panasonic ISO 125 and 1/6 sec, Nokia Lumia 1020 on ISO 100 and 1/5 sec, white balance automatic on both) the Panasonic again shows "warmer" colours. Maybe I could get a bit better (warmer) result when fooling around with the exposure compensation on the Lumia 1020, but this is something that's really hard to judge on the display of the phone in fact: it just looks fantastic on both devices, you'll only notice the (slight) difference on the computer display for instance. Let's have a look a two crops.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1020 (5MP)

No complaints I'd say. Also the Panasonic crop looks "warmer" and more "pleasing" to me, but that's a matter of personal preference I guess. From the boat trip I only managed to get one shot I think is really worth sharing - from the Lumix DMC-CM1. It's not easy when you're on a moving boat to capture some light sculptures in near darkness - longer shutter times are impossible since no matter how steady you can hold your camera, you're still on a floating boat. That's why I put the Panasonic on Intelligent Auto (it chose ISO 3200 and 1/50 sec) and was happy to get this.

After the boattrip I went for a walk and made some night shots with both devices. I made several shots on both devices of the next scene and these are the best I managed to get. I didn't use the flash but I'm not sure if I worked with manual settings or had both devices on automatic... The Lumix DMC-CM1 captured it with  ISO 800, the Nokia with ISO 1600 - both needed 1/4 sec.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Nokia Lumia 1020

Brightness is remarkable coming from the Lumia 1020 - must be the higher ISO setting in this case. It shows more of the scene, but it tends to look less "natural", whereas the Lumix DMC-CM1 seems to get it "just right" (always a dangerous statement). This is the Oudezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam, and when you know that you can actualy read that on the signs - in both results.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1020

Being brighter, no wonder the Lumia 1020 shows more detail, and in fact the bridge appears to be sharper, the name of the canal a bit easier to read. This really is quite an achievement I'd say, although again, the complete scene doesn't look as natural - that's something we often see in nightshots coming from the Lumia 1020. Changing exposure value might help there as well, I should keep that in mind.

The next subject is definitely very hard to compare. This also is part of the Amsterdam Light Festival, a card house with lighting cards... They won't simply switch on and off, they'll start glowing slowly and not even all at the same time. Fascinating to watch, not easy to capture, absolutely impossible to capture in exact the same way in fact. But I tried :-)
Panasonic DMC-MC1

Nokia Lumia 1020

Now this looks very similar, but the differences are remarkable when you check the crops. Mind you, the Panasonic was on 1/60 second and ISO 1400, the Lumia 1020 on 1/4 second (!) and ISO 100. You would expect the Panasonic to get the sharper detail, but the opposite is true this time...
Panasonic DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1020 (5MP)

Wow. Just wow. I applaud the Nokia Lumia 1020 for getting a shot this sharp - maybe this is an example where you can see it really helps to have OIS (1/4 sec!), although I didn't really "miss" it in the previous examples. Amazing nevertheless. Let's have a drink. Cheers!
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Nokia Lumia 1020

Very comparable results I'd say - the famous Dutch beer brand is more readable in the shot coming from the Lumia, other than that I don't really notice any major differences. Let's have a look at the strong stuff.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1020 (5MP)

Comparable detail I'd say. A bit better definition in the Panasonic's result I guess, but nothing to panic about I'd say. After all these bottles it's time to return to the train station. From there I captured the same Saint Nicholas Church you've already seen in two of the previous shots.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Nokia Lumia 1020

Also in this case, I made several shots (4 on the Lumia, 3 on the Panasonic) and selected the best I got. Just like with the cards, the Lumia 1020 wins this round with asthonishing detail as you will see. Both shots are handheld, but I rested my hands on a wall. The Panasonic was on ISO 400 and 1/4 sec, the Lumia 1020 on ISO 100 (!) and 0.6 sec (!).
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1020 (5MP)

Wow, it definitely looks like I should have dared to choose a lower ISO with the Panasonic (lowest being 125), since again the detail coming from the Lumia 1020 is astonishing!

To conclude, just a few nice shots I captured that day as well. You'll find the originals on Flickr and OneDrive (the RAW files from the Panasonic). From the Lumix DMC-CM1, flowers behind a mirroring window:

From the Nokia Lumia 1020, the light on the ceiling of Bar de L'Europe.

Also from the Nokia Lumia 1020, this is what happens if someone doesn't notice the small iron gate on a canal.

And from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, the Kloveniersburgwal in Amsterdam, shot with strong backlight.

Only fair though, to add the incredible result I got from the Lumia 1020 on the same spot in very similar lighting... - you'll find quite a few more on Flickr.

Update
And one more, after loyal club member Bigley Ling from New-Zealand asked for a shot with a much longer shutter time from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 - this one is captured in 0.62 seconds at ISO 125 (!) during my walk back to the station in the pitch dark night. I definitely love the atmosphere of this shot. You'll find the 18MP original on Flickr and the RAW file on OneDrive (links below). 

Update 2: more from the same scene
And still, in the reactions I read complaints it's still not good enough... Well, here are three other shots from the same scene, for comparison this time. I should have added these earlier I guess, but it didn't really seem fair since I do not like the result I got from the Lumia 1020 at all in this case - yet, it's the best I got from several shots. But now that so many people are asking for more "proof" the Lumix DMC-CM1 actually can perform very well - even with a shutter time of 1 second - here you go:
Panaosonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (ISO 400, 1 second shutter time)

Nokia Lumia 1020 (ISO 1600, 1/4 shutter time)

Nokia Lumia 1020 (ISO 100, shutter time 3.8 sec!)

They might look similar at first sight, but check out these crops.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 (resized to 5MP)

Nokia Lumia 1020 (5MP, ISO 1600)

Nokia Lumia 1020 (ISO 100)

Less noise in the last scene, but it seems that in this case Nokia's OIS couldn't really cope with the longer shutter time. Or: it simply isn't as good as what I got from the Panasonic, on 1 second shutter time even (without OIS).

Like I said, I guess I should have shared these shots and crops earlier, but I don't think they do the 1020 complete justice - but quite frankly, this simply is the very buest I managed to squeeze out of it from the bridge that night. And I kinda liked the very dark shot I got from the Panasonic in the same scene (the one I shared earlier). Now you've seen the brighter version as well, and I hope to have satisifed you curiosity about longer shutter times on the Panasonic at the same time.

Conclusions so far?
To answer the questions from the introduction of this review. Yes, it appears to me the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 is compact camera first and smartphone second. Yes, it's a lot of money for a smartphone camera, but I do think it's worth it.

I've been thinking of selling it since I can't really afford to buy a device like this, but it's incredbily hard to part from it since I'm quite sure I can get so much more out of it and frankly I'm sometimes overwhelmed by the results I managed to capture with it. In other words: I'm not done with it yet.

And if there's one thing the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 has taught me: I don't know much about photography at all. Nokia Camera only gave me the impression I did - and it did teach me some of the basics I guess. I'm not trying to be modest: especially in the lowlight shots I see much room for improvement, and I'm sure it's not the device needing it, but me. Having said that, it would help to have OIS, which the DMC-CM1 lacks. Some of the results above of the Lumia 1020 prove that.

Meanwhile, on my request, Panasonic Netherlands has been so kind as to send me the Lumix GM5 and even the FZ1000 for comparison. GM5 looks very impressive, the FZ1000 downright intimidating - it's huge. But apart from its amazing lens size and fantastic zoom capacity, it also boasts a 20MP 1 inch sensor. It'll be a very strange comparison indeed, but still I'm looking forward to see if the shots coming from these devices are in fact much better than the ones coming from the DMC-CM1. Here you see both devices captured by it.

A colleague was impressed to see these and told me he actually owned the Lumix GM1, but admitted he usually doesn't bring it since he trusts his smartphone to make shots that will suit his needs. There you go: looks like real cameras are for dedicated photographers and professionals, more and more people expect good quality shots from their smartcam anyway. That's why I'll keep looking for the best smartcam here at the club.

All .JPG (5MP, 17.7MP, 34MP) you've seen in this post are in a dedicated album on Flickr, you'll find all RAW files from the Panasonic in a folder on OneDrive. Again, I'm sorry I trusted the Lumia 1020 to be on the 5MP/DNG setting, so now you won't have the chance to compare the RAW output from both devices - I hope to make up for that soon.

If you like what I'm doing - and still want to make a contribution to the Lumix DMC-CM1 - please don't hesitate to make a donation using PayPal, the button is on the right hand side of this page. Thank you very much in advance, I'll add you to the list of sponsors. Looking forward very much to read your reactions below!