The Photography Show 2015 - Part 3 - Micro Four Thirds - The Panasonic CM1

I remember a few years at the Focus On Imaging show visiting the Panasonic stand to see the world launch of a new camera and expecting to have to stand in line to see it. In fact it was empty with lots of reps standing around looking for something to do. It shows how the popularity of mirrorless cameras has increased that at the The Photography Show 2015 both Panasonic and Olympus had huge stands and lots of people. Both were running 'entertainment'. Panasonic had gymnasts and boxers and Olympus had demos and a somewhat tacky free back massage for DSLR owners, which presumably also extended to those who use an OM-D camera + Battery grip + 40-150mm f/2.8 lens!! They also had a camera 'clinic' as well, which was somewhat more useful.

However, it was good see that this system has taken off and finally caught the imagination of UK photographers. Indeed, I was interested to see that this year lots of people were walking around with mirrorless cameras in sharp contrast to previous years when DSLR's were carried by the majority of the people at the show. Sometimes to ridiculous lengths, with whole outfits complete with huge telephoto lenses, camouflage trousers and photographers jackets with bulging pockets full of kit. This year was certainly slightly less macho, though CaNikon man was still very much in evidence. 'Oooh that's a big one!!'

The Panasonic stand had my product of the show, the CM1 camera phone at the top of the page. This has had a somewhat muted release in the UK, but Panasonic were seriously pushing it, complete with giving away bars of chocolate with wrappers that looked like the camera. I was hoping to see one and when I did and was run through what it could do by one of the reps, I was smitten and bought one before I left at one of the retail stands. And I have to say having been out with it yesterday I'm very impressed.

Because even before considering it's phone and Android internet communicative possibilities it's actually a seriously fine camera. Using, I presume, the same Sony 1' sensor as in the Panasonic FZ1000, this little wonder (and it is small) creates wonderful images. Leica have come up with an almost miraculous and also very small 28mm (35mm / 'FF' equivalent) DC Elmarit lens f/2.8 lens. This creates, by some distance, the best image files I've ever seen on a smartphone. Better than my Nokia 1020 and way better than an iPhone. These 20MP files are sharp, have great dynamic range and look like what they are, created by a 'proper' camera that has a phone attached to it.

I'm going to be reviewing this seriously after finishing these show posts, but from handling it and the early results I've got, I think this is as innovative and modern as the Leica T. It looks seriously classy too. And I may well be completely wrong about this but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a Leica version of this at some point. Just how 'cool' would that be. A Leica smartphone. Eat your heart out iPhone users!!!

So m4/3 continues to come up with new and productive ways to get quality images from (mostly) small packages. For me the CM1 looks like the start of a line of photographer orientated smartphones, which I don't believe will ever take over the smartphone market, but will convince many serious photographers finally that there are products that they don't have to make compromises with in the 'smartphone revolution.'

I've already written at length about the wonders of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II and what that can offer and Panasonic are equally impressive with their products. And it's maybe this show visit that is beginning to convince me that 'small footprint' mirrorless interchangeable may well take a higher share of the DSLR market than I might have imagined it would. As a pointer to this you won't actually find much about the Fuji X stand in these posts because, quite simply, I couldn't get near it. It was several people deep at the counter, which was both surprising to me and also pleasing to see. 

Maybe it is the case that 'conventional' photography and stand-alone camera sales are in an inevitable downward spiral, but seeing what both Panasonic and Olympus have come up with recently, I have no doubt that both will prosper and the m4/3 alternative I embraced and promoted when it appeared a few years ago is set fair for the next few years at least, I'm sure. At least it's coming up with more than bigger and bigger lenses and more MP's. And while the twin giants of Nikon and Canon, impressive though their products still are, seem to be stuck in a conservative time warp, I suspect m4/3 will continue to make steady inroads into the consciousness of DSLR photographers. Maybe Olympus are onto something with their back massage gimmick after all!!