Canon G7X compared to Panasonic CM1 smartphone - Is there still any point in buying a point and shoot compact camera?

The answer to the question in the title is Yes, if you want a zoom lens. Because currently, smartphones don't offer that option, apart from Samsung having a go at it. But there is no doubt that for many, that focal length choice isn't that important and more and more people are perfectly happy with what the cameras in their phones offer them.

But then the Canon G7X is, despite it's point and shoot styling a different kind of compact zoom camera. It has a 1" sensor, a cracking lens and the ability to shoot pretty good HD video. Check out these posts for some sample images and video. But then also the Panasonic CM1 is no ordinary smartphone. The same 1'' sensor as the G7X, 4K video and 4K Photo functionality (The ability to select an 8MP video frame from the footage) a Leica lens and pretty much the same functionality and options you would expect from a 'proper' camera. Fixed lens yes, but a very good fixed lens and a camera I've been using a lot lately. 

So here's my usual likes / dislikes list for both cameras.

CANON G7X

Things I like

  • Great Lens
  • 1" sensor
  • Excellent video
  • Flip up screen
  • Silent shutter
  • Nice zoom range
  • Fast lens - f/1.8 - 2.8
  • Nice sharp images
  • 20MP images
  • Surprisingly fast operation
  • Excellent light gathering aperture settings
  • Excellent touch screen

Things I don't Like

  • 'Canon Colour'
  • Poor battery life
  • No viewfinder
  • Screen not great in bright sunlight
  • No 4K video
  • Too small (Yes a camera can be too small)
  • Cranky (It sound like a crank!) lens ring
  • Canon design (What design?)
  • Nasty plastic feel

PANASONIC CM1

Things I like

  • Great Lens
  • 1" sensor
  • Great menu options
  • Excellent 4K video (even at 15 fps)
  • m4/3 type image quality and colour
  • Makes phone calls!
  • Accesses the Internet!
  • Nice sharp images
  • Stylish - very classy feel
  • 20MP images
  • 4K Photo option and the ability to 'grab' 8MP stills from video
  • Excellent touch screen

Things I don't like

  • Terrible battery life
  • Screen could be better in bright sunlight
  • Lens ring a bit fiddly because... (see below)
  • Exposed lens. Needs care in handling
  • Some aspects of the Android operating and some of the apps are pretty 'buggy'

So a bit swings and roundabouts, but it has to be said that both cameras are capable of astonishing results for their size. And it shows yet again, just how good that 1" Sony sensor, which is also in the Sony RX100 series, RX10 series, Panasonic FZ1000 and Leica V-LUX (Typ 114) is. And the steady march of the 1" sensor is confirming my (and others) belief that this is going to be THE sensor in the years to come. The CM1 may be the first smartphone to have one, but it won't be the last and if point and shoot compacts like the G7X do survive, that sensor will have a lot to do with it. And the follow up versions of course.

It may sound strange, but I have to mention that both cameras work very on tripods. They look strange too, but when I'm shooting stills and video that's where they sit. I've had to buy a 'claw' type attachment for the CM1 but to get the best out of that 4K video, it's essential. 

So do I have a preference? Well yes, the CM1 because it's a much nicer camera to look at and it has that 4K video. And even, as I've indicated it's only 15fps, and it also introduces a crop factor for the footage, it is great quality, particularly when edited down to 1080 HD. But don't underestimate the G7X. It's cheap, it's versatile and very inconspicuous. No one will take any notice of you at all using it, but it's quietly doing it's stuff creating very nice 20MP images, which are capable of large scale and high quality reproduction. And that fast zoom is really useful. I shot all the 'camera porn' images for my previous post using it, and as you can see it's pretty impressive. 

So, small and / or smartphone cameras doesn't have to mean compromised image quality any more and bothe of these cameras are testament to how things have greatly improved over the years. And that 1" sensor is surely dealing the final death blow to those cheap and nasty little micro compacts with their micro sensors whose only use is landfill. Because when you have a compact like the GX7 and a smartphone like the Panasonic CM1, why bother with anything else. Unless of course you really want a camera for under £50 that makes your smartphone shots look like they were shot on a 10 x 8 View camera.