FITTING IN THE MIDDLE
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING BETWEEN A DSLR AND A POINT-AND-SHOOT? COMPACT SYSTEM CAMERAS ARE THE BEST OPTION
If you own a DSLR but don’t really want to carry the heavy camera and its lenses all over the place, then maybe it is time you bought a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (MILC), also called a compact system camera. A relatively new segment, these cameras bridge the gap between bulky, but versatile, DSLRs and handy, but underpowered, compacts. Trust us, you will be hearing a lot about these cameras in the coming years. The first compact system cameras where launched in 2008 by Panasonic and Olympus. The idea was to provide DSLR-like control and picture quality in a much smaller build. So these cameras have looked more like miniaturised DSLR than large compacts. On one hand, like DSLRs, they have large sensors – up to 12 times larger than point-and-shoots – and can take multiple lenses. On the other hand, these cameras are compact and give users features like LiveView and scenes; more common in point and shoots. Some of the new models, like the Sony NEX-5R and the Samsung NX 1000, give access to Wi-Fi and apps, tremendously adding to the usability of these models. Almost all models of compact system cameras provide a picture quality akin to those of DSLRs. This USP of theirs is achieved by their large sensors. This feature also gives them great performance in low-light. So most of these cameras have high ISOs of 12800 or above and don’t always bother to packs in a flash. Last year, we tested the Olympus OM-D EM-5 which had the best low-light results we had ever seen, thanks to is amazing 25600 ISO. Now, more models have this feature. Plus, at least two models we tested this time have touchscreens, which make them much more easier to use. Compact systems cameras can be a bit intimidating as they have many features and tweaks. It is also a bit complicated to change the settings quickly if you are not in Auto mode. The Canon EOS M and the Panasonic Lumix DSC-GX1 lets users select the area of focus by just touching the screen. This is a feature that saves a lot of time while composing frames. Also, LiveView lets you take pictures discreetly, especially when the camera has a swivel LCD monitor.
However, compact systems cameras are yet to become really popular, mostly because they continue to be costly. With most of the cameras in this segment costing as much as mid-level DSLRs, people haven’t really started picking them up, at least not in India. But in the longer run, they work out cheaper than a DSLR package as the lenses of a compact system are relatively cheaper.