Olympus PEN E-PL1
The retro styling of the original Olympus PEN Micro Four Thirds model went west when the PEN E-PL1 appeared. Yet this was a small price to pay for a what turned out to be an absolute delight for anyone seeking an affordable way in to the world of interchangeable lenses on a compact camera. With fewer dedicated controls, a smaller screen and mono audio on its 720p video recordings, Olympus had a less demanding user in mind with this model, which incidentally featured a built-in flash, missing on its predecessors.
Inexperienced users could configure the camera easily using its range of art filters, scene modes and iAuto live guide prompts, that helped make sense of more subtle changes. Enthusiasts keen to tap into the image quality offered by the same 12.3Mp sensor featured on the pricier PENs were not going to be disappointed either. Along with a choice of six lenses, these PEN models had a comprehensive range of accessories to tap into including lens adapters, optical or electronic viewfinders, underwater kits and an external stereo mic attachment. For those with cost, quality and compactness as major factors in their camera buying decisions, the Olympus PEN PL-1 took a lot of beating.
Sony NEX-5 with optional external mic accessory
Inescapable in compacts these days, the two main distinguishing features of Sony’s NEX-5 and NEX-3 cameras were the video capture capabilities, at 1080i and 720p respectively, plus a £100 difference in price. Like the Samsung NX10, these cameras featured APS-C sensors and just three lenses with the new E-mount – the 18mm-200mm zoom was the most recent release and it bordered on comical given how it dwarfed the camera body. However, the thinking behind the NEX was simple: big sensor, decent glass, useful auto settings and basic manual control. Sony dispensed with a shooting mode dial – as most never move it from auto – and junked the idea of a built-in flash, serving it up as a clip on accessory instead. Given that the NEX managed to capture decent images even up to ISO 3200, many could live without it.
Married to the 18-55mm kit lens, the NEX-5 seemed more in balance when dangling around your neck and easily manageable in large pockets. Even though the idea was to deliver quality pics and simple operation, the NEX offered various expansion options. The flash accessory slot could also accommodate an external mic and Sony offered an A-mount adaptor to allow users to tap into lenses with the Minolta Konica mount utilised by the company’s Alpha DSLRs. Other lens mounts were available from third parties such as Rayqual and Novoflex. Despite the 3D and sweep panaroma gimmickry, Sony demonstrated that the NEX cameras had certain priorities that photographers would understand, the optics being a prominent feature in more ways than one.
dude there is no std. 12mm prime of µ4/3
Sorry Viet 1, there is Lumix 12mm 3D which is a novelty lens really. Then there is 14mm (28 eqv) prime which is to be bundled with the GF2. But that's it, there is no mention of a 12mm standard prime for m4/3 in the near future.
...am off sick with man-flu trolling the comment columns *ho-hum*
You have a point too
But it really depends on your needs. I won't dispute on the usefulness of modern DSLR's amenities. They are some pros' bread and butter, especially those working in areas where speed is prime (sports and weddings comes to mind). But how many photographers are making a living on their cameras ? And which pros exactly need to suck dry their memory card capacity in less than a minute ?
One should never forget a whole generation of reporters brought back worldwide acclaimed images from all over the world using only a leica, a 35mm lens, and tri-X.
The good camera is the one that's ready in your hand when something happens. If you don't have problems carrying your EOS 1D around your neck, by any means, do it. Maybe I'd like it too, but I can't. It's too big for me, it breaks my back, it scares away people from scenes I'd like to picture, and it would be much too expensive to replace if it got stolen or damaged. My e-p1 on the other hand is always at the ready, unobtrusive, light, produces almost dslr quality, and doesn't make people think I'm pointing a shotgun at their head.
In fact, it so much fits my needs like a glove that I sold my DSLR system since I got it. It covers 90% of the pictures I wish to snatch. The 5% of situations I need something really small, I use my LX2. And the 5% I'd like faster AF, well, I'm doomed, so be it. Most of those times, I'd be doomed anyway because any DSLR would be tucked out of reach either at home or at the bottom of my bag. But if I only had a DSLR, I would miss more than half the pictures I currently make. I've been making more images with the e-p1 in a year than I made with my dslr in 4, with almost a constant keeper ratio.
So, it's really a case of "to each his own", I guess.
So not really the best compact cameras, then
Which part of "compact" is not clear? These cameras are as compact as a bloody great bulky thing with a big ol' lens slicking out of it.
Compact cameras look at Panasonic TMZ10 (phenomenal value, optical quality and control), the teenzy but quite clever Sony Cybershot TX9, and the Canon S95 (good as the G12, but much more...well... compact).
None of these are compacts.
Compacts are roughly cuboid shaped one-piecers that fit easily in your jeans / jacket / handbag.
All the cameras here defy the dictionary definition of the word compact - they're just slightly smaller DSLRs (albeit without the optical viewfinder).