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By 10 October 2012 | Categories: feature articles

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DSLRs are awesome, but the weight and bulk associated with carrying one around makes it easy to simply leave it at home. Compact system cameras (CSC) provide a viable alternative, since they are much smaller (as there is no reflective mirror inside the body) while also providing interchangeable lenses. Here are six of the best.

Sony NEX-6

Sony NEX-6

Sony's NEX cameras have impressed us quite a bit in the past when it comes to image quality, following Samsung in introducing regular sized APS-C sensors (as found on larger DSLRs) into these compact system cameras (CSC).

The recent NEX-6 makes a play for the higher end of the market, aimed at those who can't quite afford the excellent top-of-the-range NEX-7 (R16 000). On the NEX-6 you get a 16.1 megapixel APS-C running on Sony's latest Bionz processor, a number of quick-access dials and onboard Wi-Fi for wireless photo sharing. One of the stand-out features? The same have-to-have True-Finder OLED electronic viewfinder as found on the NEX-7, which contains a massive 2 359 000 dot resolution.

The Sony NEX-6L will be available locally at the end of November, retailing for R12 000 with a 16-50 mm lens. 

Canon EOS M

Canon EOS M

Although Canon pitched up very late for the CSC party, it certainly made an entrance. Boasting a 298 g body, the EOS M should be very appealing for owners of Canon equipment, being compatible with the full line of Canon EF and EF-S lenses thanks to the optional Mount Adapter EF-EOS M.

Three more things have us exited - the inclusion of an 18 megapixel APS-C sized sensor; a hybrid autofocus for snappy focusing; and a 3" (1 040 k dot resolution) Clear View II touchscreen at the back which should make navigating menus a breeze. The lack of an viewfinder, though, might be a problem for some.

It comes with a 22 mm pancake lens and flash for approximately R8 000.

Samsung NX20

Samsung NX20

We're big fans of Samsung's NX compact  system range, which offers cameras with a large amount of features, good image quality and decent design. Their flagship NX20 has now arrived in SA, right after winning the prestigious EISA award as best CSC against some stiff opposition.

It's easy to see why, as it comes packed to the hilt with features, including an excellent shooting speed of eight frames per second, a 3" swivel AMOLED (640 k dot resolutions) at the back and an electronic viewfinder with a 1.4 million dot resolution. There's also Wi-Fi onboard, with Samsung including direct photo sharing on Facebook, emailing of images and automatic downloading of photos onto PC.

Yours for R8 500.

Fujifilm X-Pro1

Fujifilm X-Pro1

With a price tag of R20 000 for the body alone, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 (five things to consider) will not be nesting in many camera bags soon.

But we can say that for that amount you get excellent image quality (APS-CX-Trans CMOS sensor), a retro body that will last close to forever, and a number of easy to use mechanical dials. It's also the only CMC that provides a dual optical/electronic viewfinder, instead of only an electronic one, that many purists claim is difficult to work with.

Also keep an eye out for the recently announced X-E1, which contains the same sensor but with a smaller body and better price.

Nikon 1 J1/V1

Nikon 1 J1/V1

If you are set on a Nikon compact system because of your investment in their lenses, the 1 series with the F-mount adapter FT1 should work a treat.

When we tested the J1 (R6 800) earlier this year, it provided the maximum results for a minimum amount of effort, but in terms of price it did not set the world alight. And while the J2 has made its appearance overseas, this camera with its higher resolution on the screen at the back and lower price, will not be making it to our shores.

Looking for a unit with an electronic viewfinder? The V1 should suite you better, but comes with a higher price tag of R9 700.

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1

Olympus was one of the first to market with a compact system camera in 2009, with their PEN cameras, which are based on the Micro Four Thirds system. Its sensor is smaller (18 x 13.5 mm) in size than APS-C sensors (25.1 x 16.7 mm), but still much larger than those found inside compact cameras.

In the 12.3 megapixel Olympus PEN Mini (256 g) you have one of the smallest CSCs available. Together with a pancake lens, this will make photography a lot less cumbersome than dragging a big DSLR around. It is ideal for novice photographers looking for a camera with more punch than a regular point and shoot. R6 000.

Also read our review of the excellent Olympus OM-D E-M5 compact system camera.

 

Article first appeared in TechSmart 109, October 2012, The Digital Imaging Issue.

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