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Compact system cameras (CSCs) are the digital cameras which offer the features of digital single-lens reflex (DSLRs) cameras at smaller, lighter, compact and portable sizes. For those photographers who find DSLRs difficult to handle, the best compact system cameras have the potential of meeting their needs of capturing professional photographs with ease and without compromising the quality.

The best compact system digital cameras have support for features found in DSLRs like interchangeable lens, viewfinders, better low-light performance, faster response and manual controls for various settings like aperture and shutter speed.

DSLRs use the prominent 35mm sensor size for excellent quality pictures and the compact system cameras also tend use the similar larger size sensors like APS-C. 35mm and APS-C are among the other standard sensor sizes like 1/2.5, 1/1.8, 2/3 and 4/3. In any digital camera, larger sensor size translates to the better image quality.

One of the main reasons behind the compactness of these cameras is due to the replacement of optical viewfinders with electronic viewfinders - because the optical viewfinders found in most DSLRs use mirror system, and that has been eliminated. Also called as mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, some of the compact system cameras even eliminate the use of viewfinders and rely on the LCD screens or external viewfinders called hotshoe - for image previews.

Optical viewfinders:
Optical viewfinders allow you fix your shot by viewing it through the narrow lens, inbuilt in most professional cameras. One of the main advantages of optical viewfinders is that there is no delay between what you see and what you capture, which is due to the technology of mirror system. Hence optical viewfinders find useful in setting the right aperture and exposure. These viewfinders help you in composing shots in broad daylight and also save power by eliminating the need for a display screen as in electronic viewfinders.

Electronic viewfinders:
Electronic viewfinders are latest viewfinders which project the picture to be shot on the camera's display screen, which consumes power. Electronic viewfinders may have noticeable lags between what you see and what you capture, but these viewfinders show you the complete coverage an image to be captured. Since there is no usage of mirror system, the digital cameras with electronic viewfinders are compact.

Browse through our list of best compact system digital cameras based on various authoritative reviews around the web.

Browse All Top Compact System Camera »

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Compact System Camera


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Olympus OM-D E-M1
Olympus PEN E-P5
Fujifilm X-M1
Samsung NX300
Samsung NX2000
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Compact System Camera
Olympus PEN E-P5 Compact System Camera
Fujifilm X-M1 Compact System 16MP Digital Camera
Samsung NX300 Digital Camera
Samsung NX2000 Compact System Camera
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Release Date
Sep 2013
Jun 2013
Jun 2013
Mar 2013
May 2013
Camera Type
Compact System Camera, SLR-style mirrorless
Compact System Camera, Rangefinder-style mirrorless
Compact System Camera, Rangefinder-style mirrorless
Compact System Camera, Digital camera - Mirrorless system, Rangefinder-style mirrorless
Compact System Camera, Rangefinder-style mirrorless
Resolution
16.0 Megapixel
16.0 Megapixel
16.0 Megapixel
20.0 Megapixel
20.0 Megapixel
Image Sensor Type
CMOS
CMOS
CMOS
CMOS
CMOS
LCD Screen Size
3.0 in.
3.0 in.
3.0 in.
3.3 in.
3.7 in.
Image Sensor Size
21.64 mm
21.64 mm
28.28 mm
28.26 mm
28.26 mm

  • With gorgeous images - even in low light, incredible speed, and a wealth of high-end features, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the best Micro Four Thirds camera that money can buy. It's an easy Editors' Choice award winner.


  • Overall, our main criticism of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 lies not with its performance or feature-set, but with its price. £1299 / $1399 body-only is a lot to pay for a compact system camera these days.

  • Rating Unavailable

    The Olympus OM-D E-M1 surpasses everything that we have seen so far from an ILC. Providing amazing performance and image quality that rivals a lower level pro mode dSLR, this much smaller camera is ready to go anywhere and perform in all situations.


  • An excellent entry in the Micro Four Thirds universe, the Olympus PEN E-P5 should please a lot of folks, but it's also expensive given that it doesn't deliver best-in-class photo quality.


  • The Olympus PEN E-P5 is an extremely impressive mirrorless camera, but we prefer its sibling, the Olympus OM-D EM-5.


  • Ultimately the E-P5 joins the E-M5 as a fantastic compact system camera, albeit again a rather pricey one. It's different enough to its older sibling to warrant careful consideration - smaller, lighter, in some ways more flexible, and with some genuinely useful extra features - so much so that we can recommend the new Olympus E-P5 just as highly as our favourite compact system camera of 2012.


  • While it may not be the best overall camera available for less than $1,000, the Fujifilm X-M1 does deliver the best photo quality in its price class.


  • The mirrorless Fujifilm X-M1 features a big APS-C image sensor that's capable of capturing some excellent images, but it's just a little slow to focus and fire.


  • Ultimately, while we actually preferred the X-E1 to its big brother, the X-Pro1, the same can't be said about the X-M1, despite it being significantly cheaper and shipping with a good kit lens. The lack of a viewfinder is the main problem - for us, it just feels wrong to pick-up an X-series camera and not be able to hold it up to your eye. The X-M1 does offer the same fantastic image quality as the other two X models, though, so if you prefer to compose your images at arms length, then the Fujifilm X-M1 will more than meet your needs.


  • The Samsung NX300 is a speedy mirrorless compact that captures excellent images and offers well-executed integrated Wi-Fi for easy online photo sharing.


  • The NX300's new 20.3 megapixel sensor delivers excellent still image quality, with a very usable ISO range of 100-6400, plus 1080p HD video at a range of frame rates complete with auto-focusing, full control over the exposure settings, stereo sound and a wealth of other options. The NX300 offers all the advantages that a camera with a large APS-C DSLR sensor has, namely better performance at higher ISOs and greater depth-of-field than the smaller Micro Four Thirds format, although the trade-off comes in the form of comparably bigger lenses.


  • The Samsung NX300 really does earn the title of the flagship NX mirrorless camera. It offers a classic leatherette skin draped over a sleek metal body. It is solid and sturdy--the best made NX of the entire lineup. Its image quality is clean and sharp, only giving way to serious pixel degradation at ISOs above 6400.


  • The Samsung NX2000 mirrorless camera has a huge touch-screen display and great Wi-Fi support, but it's a little slow to focus.


  • Sharing the same core DNA as the other NX models, the new NX2000 offers a much more phone-like interface than either the NX300 or range-topping NX20, with built-in wi-fi and NFC connectivity too, so for some people it will actually offer a more familiar handling experience. The fact that it delivers exactly the same excellent image quality as its more expensive siblings is the icing on the cake, making it easy for us to highly recommend Samsung's so-called entry-level compact system camera once again.


  • The Samsung NX2000 sits very comfortably between the NX1100 and the NX300--offering users a high quality camera for a reasonable price. If fact, at the time of this review we were able to find the NX2000 for about $600 (making it the same price as the NX1100. That's a $150 savings over the NX300. But is the price difference worth it? Not in my book. I would spend the extra money to get a camera with a little more beef and a hybrid AF system.

    I'm not saying the NX2000 is a bad camera. It's not.


Top 5 compact system camera:

  1. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Compact System Camera
  2. Olympus PEN E-P5 Compact System Camera
  3. Fujifilm X-M1 Compact System 16MP Digital Camera
  4. Samsung NX300 Digital Camera
  5. Samsung NX2000 Compact System Camera