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CostHelper > All Electronics > Cameras > Compact System Cameras

Compact System Cameras Prices, Reviews and Specifications

     
 


First introduced in about 2004 and becoming increasingly popular, compact system cameras range from beginner-friendly models used primarily in automatic modes to those designed to function as lightweight backup cameras for professional photographers. With no official name for models in this category, compact system cameras may also be referred to as mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, compact interchangeable-lens cameras, hybrid cameras, SLR-like cameras or DSLR-like cameras.

 
 
Canon EOS M Compact System Camera
$715-$850
The first compact system camera produced by Canon, the EOS M has an 18-megapixel sensor that is the same size (APS-C) as the sensors in many entry-level to mid-range digital SLR models, but the camera has an overall size, weight and appearance that makes it more similar to a point-and-shoot camera than a DSLR.

It does not have a viewfinder, but does have an LCD screen with touch-screen control (similar to smartphones) for focusing, zooming, taking a picture and more. This camera doesn't have a built-in flash, but it some retail markets (like Canada) the standard kit includes a small external flash unit.

The EOS M takes still images in JPEG and RAW formats, and records 1080p full-HD video. Canon has created a new line of EF-M lenses (two were available when this camera was introduced in fall 2012), plus with an optional adapter ($200) this camera is also compatible with EF and EF-S lenses. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Nikon 1 J1 Compact System Camera
$397-$5,380
The Nikon 1 J1 is a compact system camera designed primarily for casual photographers who want to step up from point-and-shoot models but aren't ready for the complexity, cost and size of a digital single-lens reflex camera. The J1 does well outdoors and in good light.

The 10-megapixel, 13.2mmx8.8mm CMOS sensor is somewhat smaller and with lower resolution than most cameras in its class. The J1 takes still photos in JPEG or RAW (uncompressed) formats; records 1080i full-HD video; and can capture fast-motion snapshots with still images or a slow motion movie vignette, with one press of the shutter button.

The J1 is typically sold in a one-lens kit; a two-lens kit that is either wide-angle (close ups or scenery) or zoom (telephoto); or a two-lens zoom kit in pink with a pink leather strap and two pink lens hoods. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Nikon 1 J2 Compact System Camera
$457-$850
Like its predecessor (the Nikon 1 J1), the Nikon 1 J2 is a thin and lightweight compact system camera designed primarily for casual photographers who want to step up from point-and-shoot models but who will mainly rely on this camera's many automatic features.

The J2 is identical in size and quite similar to the J1, with a 10-megapixel, 13.2mmx8.8mm CMOS sensor (somewhat smaller than most in this class). Minor upgrades to the J2 include: a higher-resolution LCD monitor; additional photo effects and screen modes; video autofocus; and the addition of autofocus (locked on the first frame) to the high speed burst mode (continuous shooting). Unlike the J1, when the lens is retracted on the J2 the camera turns off automatically.

Nikon simplified the number of kits available with the J2, and dropped the suggested retail price almost $100 below the price for the J1. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Nikon 1 V1 Compact System Camera
$299-$1,150
The Nikon 1 V1 is a small, lightweight and relatively fast compact system camera that uses the same size sensor as its less-expensive linemate, the Nikon 1 J1, but the V1 includes a 1.4-million-dot electronic viewfinder and a proprietary accessory outlet (hot shoe). The V1 has more manual override settings than the J1, but these are buried within the menu, making them less accessible to experienced photographers who want more control over their images.

Still images can be stored in JPEG or NEF/RAW formats, and in continuous shooting mode the V1 can take up to five frames at a speed of 10, 30 or 60 frames per second using the electronic shutter. The Smart Photo Selector feature captures several images and only records the best one. The V1 also captures 1080p full HD video with a built-in stereo microphone, and can take still images and video simultaneously.

The V1 does not have a built-in flash, but can use an optional proprietary speedlight attachment ($140-$150). [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Nikon 1 V2 Compact System Camera
$747-$1,150
With the November 2012 introduction of the Nikon 1 V2, Nikon made a number of upgrades to the high-end model of its Nikon 1 compact system camera series. The V2 is bigger than its predecessor, the Nikon 1 V1, and its sensor has been upgraded to 14.2 megapixels resolution (although the sensor size remains the same).

Other changes include a built-in, pop-up flash and a handgrip to make it easier to hold the camera. The mode dial has been moved to the top of the camera and now includes the usual set of manual and semi-manual mode settings, so it's no longer necessary to go through the menu to override the preset automatic modes. These changes appear to be designed to make the V2 appeal to serious photographers as well as amateurs trading up from point-and-shoot cameras.

[See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]
 
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Compact System Camera
$999-$1,300
The Olympus OMD E-M5 is a somewhat bulky and hefty compact system camera that combines a retro traditional-film-camera exterior with modern high-tech features. Faster and more sophisticated than point-and-shoot cameras, the E-M5 is also sealed against weather and dust, making it a relatively rugged option without the size, weight or cost of the average digital single lens reflex camera.

With 24 automatic scene-select modes and 16 art filter/effects settings, the EM-5 captures still images in JPEG or RAW (uncompressed) formats, and records 1080p HD video. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5 Compact System Camera
$549-$800
Also called the Pen Lite, the Olympus Pen E-PL5 is a relatively lightweight compact system camera that uses the same 16-megapixel sensor as the top-of-the-line Olympus OM-D E-M5 compact system camera, but without the weatherproofing, electronic viewfinder or other bells and whistles on the OM-D E-M5.

The E-PL5 has a touch-sensitive LCD screen (tap on the screen to adjust the focus or snap the shutter) that flips out and tilts for more flexible viewing; the E-PL5 retails for $100 more than the entry-level Olympus Pen Mini E-PM2, which only has a fixed, non-tilting LCD screen.

The E-PL5 captures still images in JPEG or RAW formats, and records 1080i full-HD video (up to 29 minutes per clip on the normal setting). It doesn't have a built-in flash, but an optional external flash is included in some kits. It typically comes with a 14-42mm kit lens with a 3X optical zoom. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Olympus Pen Mini E-PM2 Compact System Camera
$449-$700
Also called the Pen Mini, the Olympus E-PM2 is an entry-level compact system camera that uses the same 16-megapixel sensor as the top-of-the-line Olympus OM-D E-M5 compact system camera, but the E-PM2 is much more compact and lightweight. It offers a variety of automatic settings for beginning photographers wanting to step up from a point-and-shoot model, as well as full manual controls for photography enthusiasts.

There is no built-in viewfinder or flash, but an attachable electronic viewfinder ($160-$250) or flash ($160-$250) are available, and an external flash is included in some kits.

The 3" LCD touch-screen controls the shutter release, autofocus and other settings without having to push a button or turn a wheel. However, the LCD screen is fixed in place, without the flexible tilting adjustments possible on the Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5, which retails for about $100 more. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5KK Compact System Camera
$599-$1,099
The Panasonic Lumix G5 compact system camera is a "mirrorless" (no bulky optical viewfinder) alternative to an entry-level digital SLR camera for budding photographers who want more than a point-and-shoot can offer. It has both a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and a high-resolution, touch-focus LCD screen that rotates 180 degrees to the side and tilts. The viewfinder and LCD screen can be used simultaneously, for greater flexibility.

The G5 is the successor to the G3 (there is no G4, presumably because the number four is considered unlucky in Japan). It captures still images in JPEG and RAW formats, and record 1080p full-HD video. The G5 offers 23 scene guides for beginners to choose from, as well as manual controls. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Compact System Camera
$449-$950
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is a relatively fast, mid-size compact system camera that combines the manual override and customizing options that photography enthusiasts demand with the touch-screen controls and wide variety of automatic modes that appeal to relative beginners who want more than a point-and-shoot model can offer. The touch-enabled LCD screen controls many shooting settings without the need to push a button.

The GX1 stores still images in both JPEG and RAW formats, records 1080p/60i full-HD video, and can captures still images from video. It has a built-in, pop-up flash plus a hot shoe (outlet) for power attachments like an external flash. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Pentax K-01 Compact System Camera
$338-$1,310
The Pentax K-01 is larger than most other compact system cameras, making it closer in size to digital SLRs than to compact or subcompact point-and-shoot cameras. The K-01 is a strong choice for owners of Pentax DSLR cameras, because the K-01 can use older Pentax K-mount lenses without an adapter.

This camera uses the same size sensor (16 MP APS-C) found in Pentax's DSLRs, plus a 3" TFT-LCD monitor with a crisp 920k-dot display. There is no viewfinder and the monitor doesn't fold out or tilt, so the camera has to be held extended away from the face, like a point-and-shoot model.

The K-01 takes still images in JPEG and RAW (DNG) formats, and captures 1080p full HD video at 30 frames per second, for up to 25 minutes in a single file. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Samsung NX1000 Compact System Camera
$449-$800
The Samsung NX1000 is one of the smaller compact system cameras, and will appeal to those interested in high-tech features. It has a Wi-Fi setting (on the mode dial) for instant image sharing. There are free apps available that beam photos directly to an iOS or Android device, or that turn those devices into a remote viewfinder for the camera.

There's also a Social Sharing menu to post photos and videos on Facebook, Picasa, YouTube or Photobucket. One feature that's unique to the NX series is the iFn button that allows the user to quickly adjust certain settings, such as shutter speed or aperture, by moving the focus ring on the lens.

Most NX1000 kits includes an external flash, but there is no built-in flash. There is also no viewfinder, and the LCD monitor does not fold out or angle, so the only option is to hold the camera directly in front of the user's face (rather than holding it up to the eye with a viewfinder). [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

 
Sony Alpha NEX-F3 Compact System Camera
$18-$779
The Sony Alpha NEX-F3 is an entry-level compact system camera that can be a good step up from a point-and-shoot or a lightweight backup for an experienced digital single-lens-reflex owner. It's relatively compact and lightweight, but still has an APS-C-size sensor, similar to those in some DSLRs.

The 3" LCD display folds out and tilts up to 180 degrees, for flexible viewing, including shooting self-portraits. The NEX-F3 doesn't come with an electronic viewfinder, but one can be added ($300-$350). In addition to still images, the NEX-F3 records 1080p, with manual control of zoom.

One downside is that the battery pack can only be charged inside the camera, so a backup battery could be a necessity. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]