Mirrorless or CSC (compact system cameras) are the new thing, have to say I am not convinced, many of them don’t have a viewfinder or make do with a electronic viewfinder (ev). Proper cameras need a viewfinder. Just a little bias on my part, you make up your own mind but go and try one, handle it, take pictures before you splash the cash. The only remaining camera shop in Oxfordshire is T4 cameras in Witney
Tech Radar says In the old days, if you were serious about photography you bought a digital SLR. But now CSCs (compact system cameras) offer the advantages of a DSLR, including a big sensor, interchangeable lenses and advanced controls, but in a smaller, lighter body without the mirror mechanism – hency why they’re also called mirrorless cameras.
But mirrorless cameras (compact system cameras) come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some look like DSLRs, some look like supersized compact cameras. Some have viewfinders and some don’t. The fact is that we’re all looking for slightly different things, so we’ve ranked the 10 best compact system cameras you can buy right now based not just on specs, handling and performance, but size, simplicity and value for money too.
1. Olympus OM-D E-M10 II
The brilliant E-M10 II ticks boxes you probably didn’t even know about
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16.1Mp | Viewfinder: EVF |Monitor: 3-inch tilting display, 1,037,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8.5fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
Compact size, lenses too
Smaller sensor than some
Pricier than original E-M10
We loved the original E-M10 for its size, versatility and value for money, but the E-M10 II adds features that take it to another level. The old camera’s 3-axis image stabilization system has been uprated to the 5-axis system in Olympus’s more advanced OM-D cameras, the viewfinder resolution has been practically doubled and the continuous shooting speed, already impressive at 8fps, creeps up to 8.5fps. Some will criticise the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format (roughly half the area of APS-C) but the effect on image quality is minor and it means that the lenses are as compact and lightweight as the camera itself. It’s small, but it’s no toy – the E-M10 II is a properly powerful camera.
Panasonic’s flagship CSC has a brand new sensor, but it’s pricey
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 20.3MP | Viewfinder: Tilting EVF |Monitor: 3-inch tilting screen, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps | Maximum video resolution: 4K
New 20Mp sensor
Mag-alloy build, dust and splash-proof
Larger than the old GX7
Expensive at launch
Panasonic’s compact system camera range is pretty confusing. You might expect its DSLR-style G-series cameras to get the best and latest tech, but actually it’s the the box-shaped GX8 that’s the first to benefit from Panasonic’s new 20Mp Micro Four Thirds sensor – this has performed really well in our lab tests, putting it on the same level as a good DSLR. The GX8 also comes with 4K video and the ability to grab 8Mp stills from it (it’s like continuous shooting at 30fsp). The rear screen is tilting and so, unusually, is the electronic viewfinder eyepiece. It’s a very good camera, but the price is a sticking point, and the Sony A6000 (above) gives you more for your money.
4. Fuji X-T1
Classic handling, beautiful images – the X-T1 doesn’t put a foot wrong
Not so long back the X-T1 was our favourite compact system camera, but things change quickly in the world of cameras, and it’s been pushed out of the top spot. Price has proved the X-T1’s main enemy – it’s a great camera, but the newer Fuji X-T10 is almost as great and much cheaper. The Olympus E-M10 II has come along with its brilliant blend of size, features and value, and competitive pricing means the Sony A7 II is now very good value for those who value performance above all else. The X-T1’s external manual controls for shutter speed, lens aperture and ISO setting are still a joy to use and we love the results from its X-Trans sensor, but its rivals are just getting stronger.
This market is also swamped, I am not sure how anyone makes a decision, this is particularly the case as it is impossible to get your hands on a selection of cameras to find how they feel to you. The biggest problem I have with this size of camera is that my sausage fingers just cannot work the tiny controls but if you are less digitally challenged you may find these articles useful
Specs: 16MP CMOS sensor, 12x optical zoom , Full HD video
The Nikon Coolpix S6400 appears to have just about everything you want from a digital compact camera of its class. With a 12x optical zoom, 3-inch 460,000-dot touchscreen, 16 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, Full HD video recording, a host of direct controls, 20 scene modes, small, lightweight body and a modest price tag, what more could you ask for?
The Nikon S6400 does a number of things pretty well and offers a lot of flexibility, from its wide range of creative filters to its responsive touchscreen, accurate AF system on down to the all-important thing: great image quality.
Sporting a 20x zoom lens offering an angle of view equivalent to a 25-500mm lens on a 35mm camera, the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS should be very well equipped for those who wish to travel light. A 12MP rear-illuminated CMOS sensor, coupled with the latest DIGIC 5 image processor, enables this camera to take great quality images, even in low light. The image stabiliser system will also help with taming camera shake when shooting at low shutter speeds.
Full HD video can be recorded and output via the built-in HDMI interface and global positioning information can be recorded for sharing on image and video sharing websites. Advanced photographers will also appreciate the inclusion of manual exposure options, whereas a wide range of automatic shooting options are also included for those who are less technically inclined.
The Canon Powershot SX260 HS sweeps our Best mid-range compact camera trophy.
Specs: 18MP CMOS Sensor, 20x optical zoom, 1080p video at 50fps, GPS
An 18MP Exmor R sensor promises excellent quality low light images, despite the relatively high resolution. A 20x optical zoom lens providing an angle of view equivalent to a 35-500mm lens on a 35mm camera should cover most photographic situations when travelling.
High quality Full HD 50p videos can be recorded, and a GPS function is included for tagging images with your position. Plenty of artistic picture effects and easy creative options are also included to get your creativity flowing.
Specs: 16MP CMOS sensor, 12.5x zoom, take still images while recording HD video, dual Image Stabilisation
Although a 12.5x zoom range may seem quite modest when compared to other travel compacts on offer, the 24mm wide angle will certainly be handy for shots in cramped conditions, or large buildings you may encounter on your travels.
Just like many other travel-orientated compact cameras, GPS tracking is included and a rear-illuminated 16MP CMOS sensor should provide decent quality in low light conditions.
Unique to this camera is the ability to take still images at the same time as recording video clips, enabling you to capture high quality stills to complement your high definition video.
Specs: 14.1MP CMOS sensor, 20x optical zoom, 1080p HD video, touchscreen interface, 3D still images
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 (or Panasonic Lumix ZS20 in the US) replaces the TZ20 (ZS10) as Panasonic’s flagship TZ camera and pushes the zoom range from 16x to 20x, with a focal length equivalence of 24-480mm.
In other respects the TZ30 is very like the TZ20 having the same touchscreen LCD display, GPS technology and a raft of automated shooting modes as well as more advanced options for experienced photographers.
However, HD video can be shot in 1080p at 50 frames per second rather than the TZ20’s 1080 interlaced. And, although the sensor is still a 14MP 1/2.33-inch device, it has been redesigned to produce cleaner images across the sensitivity range. There’s a lot packed into this relatively small camera.
Specs: 16MP EXR CMOS sensor, 20x optical zoom, ISO 12,800, 1080p video, 8fps high speed continuous shooting
If you’ve ever struggled to capture the perfect shot of Minky The Whale jumping through a hoop at Sea World, then the Fuji F770 EXR has the solution. It is capable of taking full resolution shots at a blistering pace of eight frames per second, and if you wish to share where the image was taken via popular image sharing services, GPS information can be recorded too.
The rear-illuminated 16MP EXR CMOS sensor has a few tracks up its sleeve too. It can be optimised to take high resolution 16MP images, or images with improved dynamic range at reduced resolution.
By combining neighbouring pixels, sensitivities of up to ISO12,800 are also possible, making this camera ideal for shooting with in adverse conditions.
Olympus PEN E-PL3
Olympus PEN E-PL3 front viewStreet price: £249 w/14-42mm lens
The Olympus PEN E-PL3 is just a little bigger than most compacts, but this CSC packs in a Micro Four Thirds 12.3MP Live MOS sensor with an ISO range that tops out at 12,800.
Another Olympus staple is the sensor-based image stabilisation system that also means handshake can be countered whatever lens is attached to the camera.
The metal finish delivers a quality feel, the AF is pretty fast (in Single AF mode at least) and unless you’re going to be shooting at high ISOs a lot, the 12.3MP chip delivers pleasing results. Even though it’s been superseded by the E-PL5, the E-PL3 still has a lot going for it.
Best for: High-end performance in a compact body
Sony Cyber-shot WX300
Sony Cyber-shot WX300 front viewStreet price: £229
Fractionally larger than a pack of cards, the Sony WX300 manages to cram a 20x optical zoom lens within an ultra-petite body. The zoom range is equivalent to a 25-500mm focal length in 35mm terms – making it ideal for anyone who fancies a small, but powerful camera that’s capable of zooming right in to the heart of the action.
Thankfully there is Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation built in to reduce hand shake and another neat feature is the 10fps frame rate.
Overall, the Sony WX300 packs in a lot within an extremely small body and is a very attractive option for those wanting a long zoom from a camera that’ll slide into a pocket or bag with ease.
Best for: The ultimate in pocketability
Canon PowerShot S110
Canon PowerShot S110 front viewStreet price: £299
The Canon PowerShot S110 is one of our favourite pocket-sized compacts that’s perfectly suited for those looking for a quality compact with creative control.
The Canon Powershot S110 sports a 12.1MP sensor and DIGIC 5 image processing engine. The 5x optical zoom covers a decent range of 24-120mm, with a four-stop lens-based IS system.
The Canon Powershot S110 delivers just the right balance for colour, and exposures are pretty consistent.
There’s no doubt the Canon Powershot S110 is one of the most polished true pocket-sized compacts available.
Best for: Compact size with advanced functionality Read more
Techradar has done a good job of pulling together a list of the best cameras in each sector, no mean feat considering the array of different camera types that now exist. The popularity of compact system cameras (CSCs), the sort of small mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, has exploded over the last year, due to the quality images and flexibility of use they deliver. If you like to keep up with the latest advances in camera technology, you will have had your hands full for the past year, since the popularity of compact system cameras has resulted in even more new models being released and more manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon, including Nikon and Fuji. Although choice is generally a good thing, the vast array of CSCs on the market today can make choosing the right one a daunting prospect. See their full report here
Once there were compact cameras and DSLR cameras, then we had bridge cameras and now MIL cameras If you don’t know what is being talked about these are examaples The Panasonic Lumix G Series ,the Lumix DMC-GH2, the Sony NEX and the Olympus Pen Series. Pentax is also taking grip on the market with it’s oddly designed Pentax K-01.
While not an entirely new technology, mirrorless cameras manufacturers have been enjoying a steady rise in interest of the compact cameras among amateurs and professionals alike. Initially marketed at serious amateurs who were looking for more from their point-and-shoots, but were not interested in a DSLR, the mirrorless camera, has helped fill a gap in camera technology. Their lightweight design offers users the comforts of carrying only a compact camera and their DSLR sized sensors produce images which rival some of the most popular DSLRs on the market..….MORE
These cameras are becoming much more popular, they are chosen because they are smaller than conventional dslr cameras but look and feel more like a dslr than a compact camera. Many of these cameras also have inter-changeable lenses, so they are more like dslrs than compacts. Compact cameras have also improved beyond all recognition in the recent years and most offer a range of exposure and control options that you would expect on a dslr, so the question is why do people still opt for a full size dslr.
One of the defining points of a compact camera is their size, it is in the name, to achieve this things have to get smaller and the sensor is much smaller than on a conventional dslr, the sensor size definitely has an impact on quality and the smaller it is whilst retaining the megapixel count generally means poorer quality, especially with reference to noise but also sharpness. These cameras use software to resolve these issues of noise and sharpness but this is a fix for something that is wrong and so not ideal. A guide to this can be seen in the Canon G10/11/12 The G10 offered in excess of 14 megapixels but with the small sensor size the quality, noise, was less than desirable and the subsequent cameras in the range had reduced megapixels such that the G12 now has only 10.4 megapixel. These cameras are at the top of any serious photographers list when looking for a compact, I bought a G10 and if I am honest don’t use it as much as I expected because of the quality, well noise at higher ISO settings. I had mistakenly thought it would give me similar results to my Canon dslr cameras and have been disappointed.
Sensor size then has an impact on quality, the number of pixels crammed onto a sensor also seems to have an impact on quality, I have had 5 different dslr cameras and only when I bought a full frame sensor dslr 5D Mk2 did I realise what it was I missing from film, that intangible thing called quality, almost certainly measureable, not by me of course, but something that looks and feels right. You would be correct in understanding that the software and hardware improvements going into new cameras means that noise and increase in ISO options continues and much of what I say here might eventually be tosh but for now it seems quality does indeed relate to size. In full size dslr cameras there are 3 sensor size options, the previously mentioned full frame sensor as found in most of the the professional level cameras and the others are the APS C and the APS H, this article explains it in detail and this graphic shows the relative sizes. The size of the micro four thirds sensor is about half that of the full frame sensor
So the micro four thirds, there are a number of manufacturers who have embraced this market, the obvious being Panasonic/Lumix, and Olympus, but there are also contributions from Samsung, and Ricoh, this site gives an explanation of the benefits of the system and this suggests the best on the market
Understanding that these cameras are not just full size dslr cameras without a mirror and all the space and weight that takes up is important, the sensor is also smaller than that found in dslr cameras and even with all the wizardry of the most recent software the resulting images cannot be as good as those obtained by a dslr.
You have to eventually make a choice based on quality, convenience, usability and that magpie thing that makes most people want new shiny things. I believe that for people actually interested in photography, wanting to make images that have meaning and impact, quality and functionality a full size dslr is better than a micro four thirds camera even though they are heavier and less convenient but as they say “you makes your choice..”
This BJP article is not an exhaustive evaluation of four of the best compacts on the market but it does reveal details about the cameras you may have missed from full review such as you might get from DP Review. I know when I was buying a compact I was interested in having a viewfinder, having enough pixels to enlarge the image to a decent size and having aperture and shutter priority, I chose the Canon G10, now replaced by the G12. I must say that I hardly ever use my compact because I prefer the experience of shooting with a dslr. The thing is a dslr is making photographs for me whereas the compact is making pictures. Any way the four of the best are here