The fast-growing compact interchangeable lens digital camera category



Olympus E-P1 (left) and E-PL1 (right)  

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Ever since the introduction of the Panasonic DMC-G1 and Olympus E-P1 Micro Four-Thirds cameras, the compact interchangeable lens camera (CILC, my term) category has been smokin’ hot.  The compelling combination of digital SLR-like image quality along with compact bodies and lenses seems to be just what a lot of photographers are looking for.  If you are a serious photographer they won’t replace your digital SLR, but much like myself you may find a CILC perfect for travel and for those times you would prefer to leave the SLR bag at home.  If you aren’t as serious and want the best camera and image quality you can get without going to an SLR, a CILC will blow away most any compact camera.  There is simply no comparison.Since last year Panasonic and Olympus have improved or added to their Micro Four-Thirds model lines. I wrote about the Olympus E-PL1 earlier this year.  I finally received get a review sample from Olympus and later this week will have some sample pictures and comments about my experience with the camera.  In the picture above you can compare the E-PL1 to my E-P1. The E-PL1 is slightly smaller, has a plastic body and includes a pop-up flash.  My initial impression is I prefer my E-P1 (especially since the price has gone down to $569) but the E-PL1 makes for a great way to get started with a CILC with a lower cost, less weight and the utility of a built-in flash.

Canon and Nikon are rumored to be entering this category soon.  Samsung has already jumped into the fray with their Samsung NX10. Reviews of the NX10 have been very mixed and I recommend you stick to the Olympus and Panasonic models for now.  You can also add a new dark horse candidate to the CILC cameras that belong on your shopping list.

The dark horse on the horizon?  It’s definitely Sony.  This week I was introduced to Sony’s NEX-3 and NEX-5 cameras and I became an NEX-5 owner in very short order, though I have not been much of a Sony fan lately.  I was blown away when I saw how tiny the NEX cameras are and believe me, pics on the web do not do them justice.  You really need to hold one in your hand to “get it.”  I will write more later this week, but for now let me say that the NEX-5 is a technological tour de force that is unmatched in the category, though using it sometimes it feels more like using a cell phone than a fine photographic instrument.  I am flabbergasted at what Sony has accomplished with these cameras, despite their quirks and flaws.  If they make the next NEX body seem more like a camera and less like a gadget they might well own the CILC category. I am looking forward to telling you more about the NEX-5 later this week.

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