The major success story of 2011 continued to be the Compact System Camera (or CSC). Offering quality almost on a par with a digital SLR from a more portable body while featuring an interchangeable portable lens, it’s not hard to see the CSC’s appeal and how it could revitalise an industry stuck in the doldrums.
Olympus and Panasonic introduced the first CSCs in late 2009, and released third-generation models – the E-P3 and Lumix GF3 – in early summer 2011, to appeal to a wider range of consumers. As development partners, both companies were notable for introducing what was claimed to be the world’s fastest autofocus (AF) system for interchangeable lens cameras – down to the use of contrast detection, rather than phase detection technology.
Sony counter-attacked with three new upgrades of its 2010 NEX camera system, its own take on the CSC, with the NEX-C3 leading the charge in the early summer and making a USP of Sony’s 3D technology. Here 3D images weren’t captured via an optional £250 3D lens module as with the Panasonic, but through camera software. Unlike Fujifilm’s very impressive standalone FinePix W3, which features a lenticular rear screen for viewing 3D shots, the MPO files from the Sony and Panasonic models were only viewable via a 3D-equipped TV set. Expect to see more lenticular screens in 2012 as standard on 3D-enabled cameras.
This year Fujifilm took on the professional’s favourite Leica with its pricey £1,000 FinePix X100 compact. The gorgeously retro design and built-to-last construction took its inspiration from a rangefinder camera and was aimed at enthusiasts. Its bright and sharp fixed lens produced excellent image quality.
As for more traditional digital SLRs, Canon and Nikon impressed us with entry-level and mid-range models – the EOS 600D and D5100 – adding the sort of built-in digital effects filters and shooting guides we’re now seeing on compact system cameras to make them more approachable. The useful addition of tilt-and-swivel rear LCD screens was also welcome.
Like the most recent snapshot models, these latest DSLRs were also smaller and lighter than their predecessors. Trends for 2012 should include continued downsizing, improved user friendliness and faster capture and processing.
Product name: Canon EOS 600D
Price: £679 (body only)
One of the best all-round new consumer DSLRs to emerge this year with an angle-adjustable LCD screen, a comprehensive feature set with full manual and auto control, full HD video capture and stunning picture quality for movies, plus 18-megapixel stills.
Compact System Camera
Product name: Nikon 1
Price: From £549
Nikon is one of the latest entrants into the burgeoning Compact System Camera (CSC) category, promising compact proportions but DSLR quality. It has not one but two new models – the Nikon 1 V1 and 1 J1, announced in late September. Of the major players, that currently leaves only Canon without a competing CSC, with Sony, Pentax, Samsung, Panasonic and Olympus all fielding compact interchangeable lens alternatives.
Product name: Casio Exilim EX-TR100
Casio’s Exilim is a touchscreen fixed-lens camera in a metal frame, which feels and looks like a flattened smartphone. This design allows the body to be flipped out at a variety of interesting angles while its frame acts as a handgrip. It’s an interesting modernist take that references the design of early Nikon Coolpix compacts with their own separate rotating lenses and body.