A couple of years a ago, when the first mirrorless compact camera was launched, many believed that it would not make a significant impact in the market as many people would find it difficult to move away from conventional digital single lens reflex cameras, owing to their quality. An understatement, the concept, initially did not take off as expected. However, last year in 2011, a significant amount of cameras flooded the market and many consumers adopted this concept of cameras and purchased them, as opposed to buying traditional DSLR cameras or high-end point and shoot cameras that are the mainstay in the market and sell more in comparison.

Why choose a Mirrorless compact camera?

While purchasing an interchangeable lens camera, one should know what the advantages of this breed of cameras are. The basic thing to understand while considering an Interchangeable lens camera is that one would want a camera that is pocketable, while still retaining features that are not found on standard compact digicams, such as manual controls, high quality images and being user-friendly.

The 14-42mm lens that is bundled in the kit

The 14-42mm lens that is bundled in the kit

Here is a look at some of the key advantages of Interchangeable lens cameras:

The size of the camera

This is one of the biggest determining factors, which one would have to bear in mind, while going to the market for a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. These cameras are a lot similar in size to compact point and shoot cameras and can easily fit in one’s pocket. However, if paired with a lens, this feat will not be possible; unless of course it is a pancake lens, which flushes against the body without much protrusion. The weight is another big deciding factor and these cameras are only slightly heavier than compact cameras. They can be toted around easily and shooting with one hand is possible. Some of these cameras feature the retro styling as well, which can appeal to a potential buyer as it is pleasing to look at as well.

Full manual control
Many consumers opt for DSLR cameras because of the range of settings on these cameras. Compact cameras allow users to adjust very few settings, while leaving out other, much needed manual controls, such as the ability to tweak aperture priority, shutter priority and the full manual mode. Interchangeable lens cameras, therefore would be an ideal option, as they give users the ability to adjust various settings easily for the ideal shot. This genre of cameras can truly be termed as the bridge between compact point and shoot cameras and DSLR cameras.

The ability to change lenses

Consumers buying a compact camera have to settle with the fixed lens that comes with it therefore leaving users limited to what is part of the body. With mirrorless cameras, the body is a lot smaller than DSLR cameras, hence the lenses are also a lot smaller in comparison. As mentioned earlier, size is a big deciding factor that one has to bear in mind while opting for a mirrorless compact camera and hence manufacturers launch lenses that are a lot smaller as well. To make these cameras pocketable, brands have launched lenses known as pancake lenses. These are fixed focal length lenses that are not obtrusive and fall almost flat against the body of the camera. Apart from these, the normal and wide-angle lens are also not that big. However, a telephoto lens may be on the larger side. With the ability to change lenses, one can get the maximum out of a camera and brands tend to bundle up more than one lens along with the body of the camera.

Flagship model of Olympus

Flagship model of Olympus

Ease of use

Mirrorless cameras have been designed as a go between a point and shoot camera and a DSLR. These cameras, by no means have been crafted to work as replacements for either of those cameras, but rather have a niche of their own. These cameras are also designed for those looking to step up from a standard compact camera. Hence, there's ease of use, here that is similar to standard compact cameras, but with all the neat abilities to tweak settings.

Ability to view images instantly

Cameras with Interchangeable lenses have been manufactured with the ability to provide information, like autofocus and preview on the display what is going to be shot by using the imaging sensor. This makes it a lot similar to compact cameras. Many mirrorless cameras come without a viewfinder, giving one the option to preview the content to be shot, on the display itself.

Does it fill the gap between DSLR cameras and compact point and shoot cameras?

There has been a gap between compact and DSLR cameras for a while now, there has been space for new format cameras to fill this void. Bridge cameras having manual controls was one segment that was aiming to fill the block, however, their size crippled this prospect. Another segment of cameras are professional point and shoot compact cameras, however, the sensor size is a lot smaller than DSLR cameras and they usually do not provide the image quality that is expected from them. When Panasonic and Olympus introduced the micro four thirds interchangeable cameras, these became the only contenders who actually managed to bridge the gap between a DSLR and compact camera as they provide really great image quality, small compact form factor and are extremely easy to use. The lens size of these cameras are also significantly larger than those on standard compact cameras.

What are the type of Interchangeable lens cameras?

When one thinks of mirrorless cameras with Interchangeable lenses, the first thing that usually comes to mind are micro four thirds. This is right to a very large extent as the first manufacturers to launch mirrorless compact cameras were Olympus and Panasonic who adopted these type of lenses on their interchangeable lens camera bodies. Mirrorless cameras ushered in a new breed of cameras from different brands, such as the Pentax Q series, Sony NEX series and the Nikon 1 series

Here are some of the models for those who are interested
Sony NEX-3K – Rs.18,000
This camera has been really popular and has been Sony’s answer to their competitors' products. This camera features Sony’s NEX lens mount and uses an APS-C size sensor. It features a 14.2 megapixel sensor and HD movie recording capabilities, which can shoot at a resolution of 720p. It comes bundled with an 18-55mm kit lens that should be more than sufficient for casual photography. An interesting mode found here is Sweep Panorama, which lets one capture a 180 degree panorama.

Sony NEX-5K – Rs.22,500
The other offering that was launched from Sony was the NEX 5 and the only difference between the two models feature-wise is that this one comes with full HD 1080i video recording capabilities. Physically, the body of the Sony NEX 5 is made of magnesium alloy, which puts it at a higher price than the NEX 3.

The Sony Alpha NEX-3 makes quite a statement

The Sony Alpha NEX-3 makes quite a statement

Nikon 1 J1 with 10-30mm Lens – Rs. 29,050

The highly anticipated mirrorless camera from Nikon has finally been launched in India after making its international debut, last year. The sensor size is smaller than that of a micro four thirds and this camera features a 10.1MP sensor. This interchangeable lens camera can shoot videos at full HD 1080p and has the neat ability to capture images, while recording a video clip.

Olympus PEN E-PM1 with 14-42mm Lens – Rs. 28,500

This is the smallest PEN camera available from the brand that has been one of the first to enter this segment of cameras. The E-PM1 features a micro four thirds Mount and comes with a 12.3 Megapixel sensor. It can record videos in full HD AVCHD and can record in RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG formats. 3D still image recording is also possible on this camera.

Avilable in a range of colors

Available in a range of colors

Olympus PEN E-P3 with 14-42mm Lens – Rs. 37,500

This camera was announced at the same time as the PEN E-PM1 and is the third generation from the E-PL series. It boasts of some neat features, such as the ability to quickly autofocus and a 3-inch OLED touchscreen display. It features a micro four-third, 12.3 MP sensor and comes with a stock lens of 14-42mm. It can shoot videos at HD 1080i using AVCHD and the AVI format putting it on par with the other brands manufacturing mirrorless cameras.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3W – Rs. 39,900

This is one of the best mirrorless cameras that were launched last year and it sports some features that make a user not want anything more from a camera. It is a bit bigger than other mirrorless cameras and is also based on the micro four thirds system. It comes with a pancake lens and also with a 14-42mm lens. It comes with a 12.1 Megapixel Live MOS sensor and the screen has touchscreen capabilities. Videos recorded through this camera can be played back on a HDTV in full HD 1080p in the AVCHD format.

The internals of a micro four thirds camera

The internals of a micro four thirds camera

What is the future for mirrorless compact cameras?
As of now, it seems that brands are pushing for these cameras and consumers are adopting it. These cameras are not just designed for those wanting to upgrade from a standard compact camera, but also for professionals looking out for a pocketable solution, as opposed to their already owned DSLR. It appears that since it is a budding technology, it only has room to grow from here on.

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