Panasonic’s Latest Smart Camera Bet

Panasonic’s Latest Smart Camera

Is it a phone-like camera, or camera-like phone? Panasonic’s Lumix CM1 has everyone confused including executives at the Osaka-based company.

While the gadget can make phone calls and has the size and screen of a smartphone, the answer lies in its Leica lens and a textured black body that is reminiscent of an old-school camera. This is a hybrid device for shooting photographs and video. And it’s one that has turned heads in the camera industry.

“When I talked about the product at a meeting of executives, they asked me over and over whether it’s a phone or a camera,” said Takuya Sugita, vice president of Panasonic’s AVC Networks Company, during a recent interview. “But this is a camera.”

The Lumix CM1 “communication camera” is Panasonic’s latest attempt to stave off the collapse of a non-professional digital camera market battered by the emergence of competitive camera functionality in smartphones.

The device comes equipped with an Android 4.4 smartphone operating system, a 2.3GHz quad-core CPU and a SIM-card slot. The 20 megapixel Leica lens and 1-inch image sensor give the CM1 the capability of capturing super high-definition 4K video images or crisp photographs of pollen specks on a flower, beyond the reach of the current generation of smartphones–the latest iPhone has an 8 megapixel lens.

Users can set aperture and shutter-speed settings just as they might on a single-lens reflex camera. They can also mount conversion lenses with macro, wide-angle or fish-eye specifications.

Panasonic is not alone in trying to find new products to breathe fresh life into the digital camera market. Sony Corp.’s6758.TO -3.25% QX range and, Nikon Corp.’s7731.TO -0.96% android-installed cameras spring to mind.

But at the recent Photokina photography trade show in Cologne, Germany, the CM1 won praise and an award for its surprising quality associated with much bigger dedicated cameras.

The device is packed with the latest communications wizardry for fast and simple uploading images to social networks or transfering photos via wifi.

“With telecommunications perfumes technology, we believe our consumer electronics products can deliver a lifestyle-changing experience to our customers,” Sugita said, noting that while Panasonic quit the consumer smartphone business last year, it has kept its tech specialists in place. “That’s why we have kept the team together even though we failed in the personal smartphone business.”

Sugita said the CM1 will be available in Germany and France in limited quantities later this year, but no decisions have been made on whether to make it available in other markets, including Japan, other parts of Asia or the U.S.

Panasonic’s Latest Smart Camera

 

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