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Best Compact Interchangeable Lens Cameras
by Laura Hicks -  11/7/2012

[click to view image]Small and highly capable cameras that feature a "mirrorless" viewing and rely on an electronic viewfinder and DSLR-sized sensors to capture and record images. These cameras are great for the more advanced photo enthusiast or pro looking for an always-available camera.

The newest class of digital cameras to the holiday guide is mirrorless compact interchangeable lens cameras. This class of cameras has given the user the flexibility of interchangeable lenses like the DSLR photographers, but the convenience of a smaller size due to a mirrorless design. Whether you are a budding photographer or an amateur shooter, this type of camera is designed for the creative person who loves the flexibility of multiple lenses. Find our top choices for mirrorless cameras in the link below.

If you don't see the perfect camera in the list we've provided, be sure to seek out buying advice in our "What Camera Should I Buy?" discussion forum. Our forum members, moderators, and staff will graciously offer their insight in helping you pick the best camera for you.


#1 Olympus OM-D E-M5


[click to view image]The Olympus E-M5 is more than just a pretty face. It matches classic style with fast auto focus, a full feature set and great hardware like a built-in EVF. It's costly, but it's likely to please photographers of any skill level.

The OM-D E-M5 is the latest addition to the Olympus fleet, a micro four thirds system standard interchangeable lens mirrorless digital that Olympus has chosen to differentiate from its PEN system cameras by the designation OM-D system. This differentiation is more than just a marketing exercise as the E-M5 features a built-in electronic viewfinder and overall body shape much more reminiscent of the OM-1 than its PEN brethren - Olympus views the OM-D system as a fusion of PEN and DSLR technology and features. Beyond that, the E-M5 features a new live MOS sensor with 16 megapixel resolution along with a newly-developed TruePic VI processor, dust and splash proof weather sealing, and five-axis image stabilization. Olympus claims the camera has the world's fastest AF system among cameras with interchangeable lenses (albeit when using the kit lens only), and the camera offers an up to 9 frame per second (fps) continuous shooting rate.

At $1,299.00 including the 12-50mm lens this camera is top pick for the mirrorless category.

Rating Average: 9 out of 10

Read the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Review

#2 Sony Alpha NEX-7


[click to view image]The NEX-7's new Exmor APS-C HD CMOS sensor is the same physical size as that in the earlier cameras, but receives a healthy boost in resolution to 24.3 megapixels from just over 14 (the new NEX-3C and NEX-5N are up to 16 megapixels). That sensor produces a 1.5x crop factor in 35mm equivalents and is paired with Sony's latest generation BIONZ image processing engine. The native ISO range is from 100 to 16000. In addition to the new built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), Sony is also claiming a 20 millisecond (ms) shutter lag time. The 3.0-inch LCD monitor articulates through a range of 125 degrees. A built-in flash supersedes the clip-on version of the earlier cameras and an auto-lock accessory shoe permits advanced shooting applications: the shoe supports the full range of Alpha flashes and monitors, as well as adapters to accommodate studio lighting. Equipped with the 18-55mm lens, the Sony NEX-7 retails for $1,249.99.

If you find the Sony NEX-7 a little too pricy, you might want to consider the NEX-6. The NEX-6 is available at a price point of $999.99 with the 16-50mm lens. The new NEX-6 will be available in time for the holiday season.

Rating Average: 9 out of 10

Read the Sony Alpha NEX-7 Review

#3 Fujifilm X-Pro1


[click to view image]Fujifilm's X-Pro1 is the newest and most advanced edition to Fuji's premium X series digital camera line, a mirrorless interchangeable lens system camera with the retro look of a classic rangefinder 35mm film camera. The X-Pro1 features a newly designed 16 megapixel CMOS sensor whose color filter array introduces a higher degree of randomness of its pixel units than a more conventional sensor. The X-Pro1 will initially be offered with three interchangeable prime lenses - 18, 35 and 60mm, respectively.


The biggest drawback to the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is the hefty pricetag of $1,699 for the body only.

Rating Average: 9 out of 10

Read the Fujifilm X-Pro1 Review

#4 Olympus E-PM1


[click to view image]The E-PM1 is the smallest, lightest, and most portable PEN camera to date -- and has been dubbed the "PEN mini" by Olympus.

"Mini" also applies to the current MSRP of $399, making the E-PM1 the lowest priced of the current PEN offerings (although you can still find the now discontinued E-PL1 model for less than $300 in many retail stores). The E-PM1 shares image capture hardware basics with much of the PEN family: a 12.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, the latest generation TruePic VI image processor, high ISO settings of 12800, full 1080i HD video with Dolby Digital sound recording and reengineered autofocus systems. The camera has a RAW shooting capability. Feature sets (and in the case of the EP-3 body shape) are the major points to differentiate the models with the PM1 being the least feature-rich of the three.

Although the new E-PM2 is arriving in stores just in time for the holidays, we find the price of the E-PM1 all too tempting; $399 retail price with a 14-42mm lens included.

Rating Average: 7 out of 10

Read the Olympus E-PM1 Review

#5 Nikon 1 V1


[click to view image]The Nikon 1 V1 is a capable shooter in its own right. Those looking for a little more zoom reach from current Nikkor lenses can enjoy 2.7x magnification thanks to an effective FT-1 adapter. The Nikon 1 V1 presents the unique combination of a built-in viewfinder, compatibility with F-mount Nikkor lenses (thanks to an adapter) and a big 2.7x crop factor.

The Nikon 1 V1 retails around $399 with a 10-30mm lens included.

Interested in stepping up to Nikon's 1 V2 instead? The V2 retails at $799.95 and uses an upgraded 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor with an ISO range of 160-6,400. It also houses a new Expeed 3A image processor that works in unison with Nikon's Advance Hybrid AF has a range of cameras that are available in a mirrorless format.

Rating Average: 8 out of 10

Read the Nikon 1 V1 Review

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