Compact system cameras group test


If certain manufacturers with vested interests are to be believed, sales of compact system cameras (CSCs) – the new term for what we were last year referring to as compact/DSLR hybrids – are up a whopping 276 per cent year on year. At the same time, sales of digital SLRs have dropped 9 per cent over the last 12 months. However you intepret the figures, what is certain is that interchangeable lens cameras that will (almost) fit in your pocket offer steadily better value as well as technical advancements and innovations – such as the ability to shoot in 3D in some cases.

That said, no one would argue that CSCs are set to replace digital SLRs entirely. But they may well do so at the mass-market consumer level. This would leave the DSLR in the hands of the amateur enthusiast or professional who needs the quality achievable from physically larger lenses and sensors.

The lure of the six cameras we’ve rounded up here is chiefly convenience. Yes, they do boast near DSLR-like quality, but with the portability of a compact camera. If your priority is really a pocket fit, however, the best solution is to attach a fixed-focal-length, short-barrel pancake lens, rather than a physically larger zoom. A couple of the manufacturers featured currently offer bundle deals that include a pancake lens alongside the basic camera body.

As the lenses for our CSCs are swappable, it’s also worth bearing in mind that, as when choosing which DSLR to buy, you’re not just buying the individual camera, but locking yourself into the system that goes with it. This means taking time to research the range of compatible lenses and accessories such as supplementary flash, clip-on microphones and optical or electronic viewfinders (EVFs).

Photographers opting for an Olympus Pen or Panasonic G series camera have a slight advantage in that the two cameras share (and have co-developed) the same Micro Four Thirds system, with each bringing out their own respectively branded add-ons. Older Four Thirds DSLR lenses, again from Olympus and Panasonic, will work via adaptors, while third-party adaptors that also allow, say, a Leica lens to be used on a Sony NEX, are beginning to surface.

So, without further delay, let’s determine which CSC option offers the best deal for those wanting near DSLR quality, but without the perceived bulk and learning curve that normally comes with such a model.

Find the best price