Choosing a... Compact system camera
If you’re ready to step beyond the basic controls of a compact camera, or you want greater flexibility than an ultra-zoom can offer, a compact system camera (CSC) is the next logical upgrade. With interchangeable lenses, manual controls and stellar image quality, these cameras give proper digital SLRs a run for their money.
There are three competing types of CSC mount, and the one you buy determines the number of compatible lenses and accessories you have available. Samsung’s NX-mount is arguably the most limited in terms of lens selection, and the company has confirmed that it’s shutting down its European camera business, so it’s best to avoid these altogether if possible.
Sony’s E-Mount has a slightly wider range, but Micro Four Thirds offers the widest variety. Both Panasonic and Olympus cameras use this mount, and the lenses are interchangeable between manufacturers.
Micro Four Thirds cameras are typically more compact than other types of CSC because the image sensor is physically smaller – with a 22mm diagonal, it’s roughly 30% smaller than an APS-C sensor. The APS-C sensors that Sony and Samsung use in their CSCs are the same size as those in traditional digital SLRs.
Like digital SLRs, CSCs come at a wide range of prices. Available from as little as £200, there’s a CSC to suit every budget. Most come with at least one kit lens, but if you already have lenses for a particular CSC mount, you can buy the body on its own and save money.
Once you’ve settled on a particular mount, you should pay attention to a camera’s features. Articulating screens and integrated viewfinders will help you compose shots, while extra physical controls and a hotshoe mount will give you flexibility for manual shooting.
Touchscreens are great, but they’re no replacement for physical dials when it comes to changing shutter speed and aperture. An integrated flash is much more convenient than a detachable one, as you can never forget to take it with you.