Compact System Cameras:

The Inbetweeners

CSCs are Serious Cameras that can make Picture Taking fun again

A woman with a Sony Nex compact system camera digitalThe Compact System Camera, (CSC) is a hybrid system that gives you the practicality of a compact camera with the flexibility of an SLR camera. Essentially it is the size of a medium compact camera, able to easily fit into a handbag or pocket ( with a pancake lens attached), but it has a range of lenses that can be fitted, just like an SLR.
These types of cameras might seem to be an unnecessary luxury, had the manufacturers not chosen them as their technological playground. Not only are they stylish, extremely competent and practical, they are also awash with exciting features. The Nikon J1 and V1, for example, offer Motion Snapshot Mode which allows you to take a second of footage around a still shot, which you can turn into a favicon, can shoot a mind-blowing 60 Frames per Second and shoots full HD video.
So these cameras are not just expensive gimmicks. Purists might baulk at their size and their lack of the ( traditional ) single lens reflex and viewfinder, but they can’t criticize the technology behind them. CSCs can satisfy ‘normal’ requirements with aplomb, but are also pushing the boundaries of creative photography by offering the user features which have not yet been fully explored. They will appeal to those who want to put the fun back into photography, or who want to step up from the normal compact cameras, but don’t want to have to carry a heavy bag of equipment when they go to a party or to see their friends.
Most CSC cameras have lenses which are unique to the manufacturer and the range. It is worth checking whether there is an adapter available to use other lenses from the manufacturer. Panasonic and Olympus have developed their CSC ranges jointly and so the lenses for their cameras are interchangeable. It is also worth checking if the camera will record video in full HD and if it uses the new AVCHD compression format, or the more usual MPEG-4 system. Some cameras will record sound in stereo and have an external Mic socket.
Although the range is only a few years old, manufacturers see this as a niche with great potential and there are plenty of cameras to choose from. The styles vary from Fuji’s and Pentax’s retro feel and Leica look-a-likes, to the ultra modern looking Nikon V1. However, all of them can pretty much match their D-SLR counterparts where it matters and often offer more on top. If you are thinking of moving up from compact cameras, or are tired of carrying around your heavy lenses, and want excellent quality images with some exciting features, then a Compact Systems Camera could well be for you.

Compact System Cameras Reviewed on this Site listed according to price lowest – highest:

Nikon J1   Olympus E-PM1   Lumix G3  Sony NEX -F3

Nikon V1    Lumix GX1    Lumix GH2    Olympus E-P3

Fujifilm X-Pro 1    Olympus OMD E-M5    Sony NEX-7