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Getting Back In Touch With Recent CSC System Cameras - A New Wish List!

I've been talking about film quite a lot recently, and I've kind of lost touch with the current trends and models of cameras, so I thought it might be a good idea to do a round up of some popular CSC cameras.

(If there's some models that I've missed that you think I should have used, please mention them in the comments at the bottom.)

Christmas 2010 is also on it's way, so if you're in the market for a new piece of kit, now's the time to start hinting to your better half about what you really, really, want..... (and need!)

A big trend over the last couple of years is the introduction of CSC's (Compact System Cameras), which are meant to offer the image quality of a dSLR, complete with inter-changeable lenses, but without the bulk.

By doing away with the optical viewfinder and therefore the mirror, these types of cameras are incredibly small, with huge electronic LCD screens on the back for composing. The Olympus Pen E-PL1 (above left) has proved to be a particular favourite, with 12 Megapixles, in-camera image stablization, 720p video recording, and an ISO capability of 100-3200. Available for around £400 with the 14-42mm Zoom Lens, it's a credible alternative for anyone who wants real quality digital images without the size of a dSLR. The Olympus uses the Micro Four-Thirds lens mount system, so there are quite a few optional lenses available. 

What we've got on the left is the Olympus Pen E-P2, the more expensive cousin of the E-PL1. Offering the same basic specification, Olympus have added an accessory port so that an electronic viewfinder can be added, as you can see in the photo.

A common complaint against any LCD-Screen only cameras is that it can be difficult to see that screen in bright sunlight,  but with this new finder Olympus have addressed that problem.

The finder can be articulated through 90 degrees, so it's easy to tilt it for unusual camera angles, or for putting the camera in imaginative places...

The E-P2 is quite a bit more expensive though, pushing £800 with the bundled finder and 14-42mm lens.

 The Lumix DMC-GF1 from Panasonic is another worthy entry into the Compact System Camera category. 12 Megapixels, 720p Video recording and ISO 100-3200.

The 3" screen is large and bright enough for most situations, and the camera itself is small enough to take anywhere.

Look to pay around £500 for the GF1 with the bundled 14-45mm lens.


The Sony Nex-5 is an incredible looking camera. Metal body, metal lens... a fantastically well-built piece of kit that shouts quality, which it should for the princely sum of £500 with the 18-55mm kit lens.

The Nex 5, and it's cheaper little brother, the Nex-3, offer a resolution of 14 Megapixels, 720p video recording, a tilting 3" LCD, and an APS-C image sensor.

Let's not skip too quickly over that last point. These two tiny cameras have a digital image sensor the same size as found in Sony Alpha dSLR's. That means superb image quality and high ISO performace.

With a lens adapter (the £150 LA-EA1) you can use Sony Alpha lenses on the Nex-3 or Nex-5, and even old Minolta AF Glass too I suppose...

Sony are offering a 16mm f/.8 Pancake lens, which can be fitted with optical adapters that can be screwed on to the front of it, taking the lens wider or all the way to a fish-eye.


I've only scratched the surface today looking at these Compact System Cameras, but they are an exciting alternative to a compact or a full dSLR, offering excellent features and image quality in a smaller form factor.

My choice? It would have to be the Olympus Pen E-PL1, I love the way it looks, and the image quality seems fantastic too. But then again the Nex-5 just looks so different...

Thanks, Rob.

What Do You Think?

Do you shoot with a Micro-Four-Thirds or CSC Camera? What do you like about it, or what are you disappointed about? Are dSLR's a dying breed, or perhaps CSC's are a flash in the pan? Please add your comments below!

Reader Comments (4)

Hi Rob ,

I love these Compact system cameras , I agree with you on the E-PL1 ! However i still cant get my head around those new Nx Cameras from sony , from a visual standpoint it looks like the body can barely support the lens and the overhang of said lens would leave me terrified of catching it on something !!!!!!



October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Clark

Hi Matt,

Ha! You're right, these cameras are something else, especially the Pen, but the styling of the Sony is growing on me.

I think that when Canon and Nikon make their own CSC's we'll see the market explode, especially if they're compatible with SLR lenses

Cheers, Rob.

October 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterRob_Nunn

Hi Rob,

The Compact System Cameras do seem to be taking the market by storm now after a somewhat sluggish start. As you mention the image quality jump when utilising a bigger sensor is awesome and will often take someone upgrading from a usual compact by surprise.

Having been lucky enough to regularly handle these cameras I have to admit I have more of a personal leaning towards the Olympus and Panasonic models and excited about the possibilities of adding vintage lenses to these systems, (via a simple adapter much as the traditional 4/3rds systems). The Sony is a rather 'ugly' looking duckling and unfortunately feels a little front heavy when handled but is otherwise a very capable system. Samsung have recently jumped into the market too, again very capable cameras but a little too 'plasticky' feeling for me. No news from the Canon/Nikon front on CSC's but if the market share continues to grow then we shall expect something from them.
LCD viewing worries seems to be an instant concern with most people but when using the screen for composing and not looking backwards and forwards to the subject they are more than bright enough and capable. (People don't seem to realise how quickly our pupils constrict when looking up at the bright scene and back to the LCD which seems to cause the most woes, reflectivity being actually hardly an issue.)

If I was to want a camera for general 'out and about' shooting it would definitely be the Olympus Pen all the way for me, nice handling, very compact and some great features. If only Fuji had made the X100 with an interchangeable lens system then that would've been a definite winner if only just for the retro looks!

Ah, all this talk of different camera systems kicks in the old gear acquisition syndrome, so many great choices nowadays!

Enjoyable stuff Rob :-)


October 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

Hi Victor,

CSC's seem to be capturing everyone's attention recently, perhaps it's a back-lash against the sheer complexity of dSLR's, we want to return to a simpler times, with great photography in great, small, cameras.

Cheers, Rob.

October 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterRob_Nunn

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