What About Android-based Cameras?

panasoniclumixRecently, Panasonic announced their newest Android-based camera (a digital camera that runs Android as an OS, as compared to an Android smartphone that just so happens to have a digital camera attached). The Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM10 is effectively a smartphone with a giant camera lens that just can’t make phone calls (but oddly, you can text with it if you have LTE activated). That pretty much sums up the new Lumix, but if you need more proof, have a look at the specs:

  • Snapdragon 801 processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB of storage with a MicroSD slot
  • 2600mAh battery (that’s kinda underwhelming
  • 4.7″ 1080p display (for viewing the photos you take, etc.)
  • Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and even 3G and LTE (data and SMS only, no voice calls).
  • Android 5.0
  • Weighs 203g while being 15.2mm thick at the camera section
  • Presently only available in Japan for 100,000 yen ($850)

Of course, the Lumix CM10’s claim to fame is its 28mm F/2.8 Leica DC lens with 1-inch CMOS image sensor and manual focus ring that can take photos at a resolution of 20MP and videos at up to 4K. That’s getting into the more technical aspects for all of you photographers out there, but it is the highlight of the whole thing. But to put it simply, this is a very impressive camera, with slightly higher-end smartphone parts, coming at a price that I wouldn’t pay, but if the Lumix meets your needs, I imagine that’s an acceptable price, and thankfully it’s at least running Android 5.0.

To my science and tech podcast, Sovryn Tech, and to the Dark Android Project itself, I often get asked what I think about these Android-based cameras. Panasonic is only one of many companies–Samsung included–that has been releasing them, and it appears that even at steep prices, they’re selling. People want these things.

Personally, I’m not a photographer. I have tons of respect for people that have photography as their profession, hobby, or interest, however. And it’s an industry that paying out serious money for isn’t uncommon. The fact that, like the Lumix CM10, it is such an expensive affair, it kinda goes against one of my goals at the Dark Android Project, and that goal is to create a device on the cheap that you can trash if need be.

Obviously, I would not recommend trashing these not-cheap Android-based cameras.

Frankly, with the release of various Nokia phones that had massive cameras on them, or the add-ons that you can put onto iPhones, or even the quality of Samsung smartphone cameras now–and the coming release of the very impressive and reasonably priced Android smartphone, the ASUS Zenfone ZOOM–I don’t really see the point to Android-based cameras. Larger cameras are getting put right into smartphones and even some tablets, so the advantage of these slim-profiled Android-based phones (as compared to the Android-based phones that look like classic, monster cameras, which are a different story) seems nonexistent.

I can see the appeal to using these cameras like an iPod of sorts, instead of having to get a full-on smartphone, but with the pricepoint of them, and not having GPS built-in…it all just comes off as pointless. Yeah, there might be the chance that a community will build around these devices and you’ll be able to get custom ROMs for them like CyanogenMod, etc., and the specs are often pretty good, but there’s just not enough here to warrant the price, and there’s no real privacy/security advantage (what I call DAPS) to make it Dark Android worthy. I love that there’s an Android device getting released that doesn’t have a security-questionable fingerprint reader or other biometrics, but if you’re concerned with privacy, there’s the argument that having a better camera is actually less “private” than having a not so good one (allowing for less accurate pictures for the Google/NSA to collect). So for me, the whole field of pocketable Android-based cameras is a worthless mess, especially when smartphones are getting better and better at being cameras.

Bottom line, no, I don’t like these things, and I can’t think of any reason to recommend them, Dark Android or not.

But if the idea of small Android-based cameras appeal to you, these devices interest you no matter what I think. If you’re a person of a degree of nimiety, well, maybe you don’t mind buying them, either. And that’s fine. But for the average person, or if you’re interested in creating a Dark Android device, I don’t recommend these small Android-based cameras. For any reason.

If you really want a good camera, just get one that’s built into a smartphone like with the coming ASUS Zenfone ZOOM.

Carpe lucem!