Mirrorless EVF Cameras

Digital technology not only has changed the way we take pictures, but it’s changing the way cameras are designed. The vast majority of photographers use either compact digital cameras or digital SLRs. The popular compact models are conveniently small, but don’t take interchangeable lenses, and their tiny sensors limit image quality, especially at higher ISO settings. Digital SLRs are more versatile and can produce much better image quality, but are relatively bulky.

In recent years, serious attempts have been made to provide the best of both types in a single device. The Four Thirds System builds DSLRs around a smaller sensor than found in other DSLRs (yet one much larger than those found in compact digital cameras). Sigma’s DP series puts a DSLR sensor in a compact body. These methods produced excellent cameras, but each fell short of the ultimate goal: The Four Thirds System cameras weren’t all that much smaller than “full-size” APS-C-format DSLRs, and Sigma’s DP compacts don’t take interchangeable lenses.

Enter the Micro Four Thirds System, which was introduced by Panasonic with the Lumix DMC-G1 in 2008. Featuring a standard-sized Four Thirds System image sensor, the G1 reduced camera size tremendously by replacing the SLR’s bulky mirror box, focusing screen and pentaprism (or pentamirror) finder with a compact, eye-level electronic viewfinder (EVF).

Four Thirds System pioneer Olympus followed with a Micro Four Thirds System model that was even smaller: The PEN E-P1 has a flat design more like a compact camera than a DSLR, eliminating the eye-level EVF (composing is done via the LCD monitor, as with compact digital cameras).

Panasonic answered with a flat model (the Lumix DMC-GF1) and more “mini-DSLR-”format models, Olympus introduced more flat models, and today we have seven Micro Four Thirds System cameras in production. All Micro Four Thirds System cameras accept the full range of Micro Four Thirds System lenses, plus, via adapter, regular Four Thirds System lenses and pretty much any lens for which an adapter is available.

More recently, Samsung introduced the NX10, which puts a larger APS-C-format sensor in a “mini-DSLR” body with a built-in eye-level EVF. The NX10 features a new NX lens mount and accepts new NX-mount lenses, with an adapter for Pentax-mount lenses in the works.

The newest members of the mirrorless, interchangeable-lens club are the most compact yet, despite housing big APS-C-format, 14.2-megapixel Sony Exmor HD CMOS sensors. The Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 both feature stylish “flat” bodies and a new Sony Alpha E lens mount. Besides a new line of compact Sony E-series lenses, the NEX cameras also can use Sony (and Minolta Maxxum) DSLR lenses via an adapter.

These mirrorless cameras with DSLR-sized sensors are often called EVF cameras (Electronic View Finder) or, more intriguingly, EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens), although not all actually have eye-level electronic viewfinders. All do have full-time Live-View external monitors; Samsung’s NX10 and all Panasonic models except the GF1 have built-in eye-level electronic viewfinders, the Olympus PEN E-P2 and E-P1L accept detachable eye-level electronic viewfinders.

Many DSLR users (especially those with smaller hands) likely will find the “mini-DSLR” models more comfortable to use, while compact camera users will prefer the “flat” form factor.

Olympus Pen E-P1

ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: $799 (w/14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 lens)

INTRODUCED 6/2009

No, it’s not technically a D-SLR, and it’s really a whole new category of digital camera. Olympus’ new E-P1—the company’s first Micro Four Thirds System model—offers a size and weight closer to that of a compact digital camera, but with the creative possibilities of interchangeable lenses. It’s a knockout design, and we see a lot of potential in this new format.

To clear up any confusion about the new Micro Four Thirds models being introduced by Olympus and Panasonic, note that “Micro” doesn’t apply to the camera sensor. The 12.3-megapixel sensor used in the E-P1 is the same-sized sensor used in the Olympus Four Thirds System D-SLRs. The difference between the two systems is that Micro Four Thirds omits the mirror and pentaprism used in SLRs. The drawback is that there’s no optical viewfinder; the benefit is a much smaller body and smaller lenses.

MULTIPLE EXPOSURES: In-camera multiple exposure lets you get creative by layering two images into a single composited shot.

VERSATILE LIVE VIEW: You don’t have to buy special lenses for image stabilization using this system. Sensor-shift stabilization built into the camera stabilizes the image no matter what lens you use.

SHADOW ADJUSTMENT: Olympus Shadow Adjustment Technology helps retain details in the darker parts of the scene for more balanced exposures.

TRUEPIC V IMAGE PROCESSOR: The image sensor and TruePic V processor work together for enhanced dynamic range and excellent image quality even at higher ISO equivalence (up to ISO 6400). Speaking of lenses, because the Micro Four Thirds System employs a smaller lens mount, lenses designed for this system can’t be used with Four Thirds cameras. However, you can use Four Thirds System lenses and Olympus OM lenses with their respective optional adapters.

As there’s no optical viewfinder, you’ll rely on the three-inch, live-view LCD for composition. It’s a beautiful display, and the anti-reflective coating is effective in most situations, though we did have some difficulty getting a good view in extremely bright outdoor conditions.

The E-P1 can capture up to three frames per second, in bursts of up to 10 RAW images or about 12 JPEGs, depending on your resolution and compression settings. You can set the camera to capture both RAW and JPEG files simultaneously, too. In addition to still images, the E-P1 also records 720 HD video clips up to seven minutes in length and 14-minute standard-definition clips. There’s a built-in stereo mic, too.

STANDOUT FEATURE: The six Art Filters first introduced in the E-30 are here, and can now be applied to RAW images and even movies. Effects include Pop Art, Soft Focus and Pin Hole.

1. SDHC Memory: 1. SDHC Memory: The E-P1 uses SDHC format memory. Olympus recommends Class 6 (133x) or faster SDHC for movie capture.

2. M.Zuiko 17mm ƒ/2.8: Designed specifically for the E-P1, this fast ƒ/2.8 lens provides a moderately wide angle of view in an exceptionally compact design that perfectly complements the E-P1’s sleek profile. List price is $299.

3. Face Detection: The camera’s Face Detection autofocus system can identify up to eight subjects at once, even if they’re moving.

Olympus PEN E-P2

ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: $1,099 (with 14-42mm zoom and EVF)

INTRODUCED 11/2009

Olympus’ second mirrorless model, the E-P2 shares most of the EP-1’s features, but adds some improvements. For one, it accepts the clip-on VF-1 electronic viewfinder, which provides the convenience of eye-level operation when desired (and tilts up to 90° for easy low-angle shooting), and makes for easier viewing and composing in bright light. For another, it allows you to set shutter speeds and apertures manually for video recording—handy for controlling depth of field, and for macro work. The E-P2 also adds continuous autofocusing (the E-P1 has only single-shot), and Diorama and Cross-Process to the EP-1’s six Creative Art Filters.

Like the E-P1, the E-P2 has a 12.3-megapixel High Speed Live MOS sensor with ISO settings up to 6400, built-in sensor-shift stabilization that works with all lenses and a sensor-dust removal system. Also, as is the case with the E-P1, there’s no built-in flash, but you can attach accessory flash units (including the tiny FL-14, or the powerful wireless FL-36R or FL-50R) via the hot-shoe atop the camera.

The E-P2 can do 1280x720p HD and 640x480p SD video at 30 fps, with CD-quality stereo sound, via built-in microphone. This is the same as the E-P1’s video capability, but the E-P2 also can accept (via the EMA-1 microphone adapter) an optional external stereo microphone.

Like the E-P1 (and all Micro Four Thirds System cameras), the E-P2 can use all Micro Four Thirds System lenses, plus regular Four Thirds System and other lenses (via adapter). As with the E-P1, you can display one image on the LCD monitor and use it as a guide to position and record another over it, making it a snap to do things like put a big moon in a lacking landscape. And also like the E-P1, the E-P2 records images and video on SD or SDHC memory cards (Class 6 SDHC recommended for video).

STANDOUT FEATURE: The E-P2 comes with a detachable electronic viewfinder that can tilt up to 90° and incorporates dioptric correction.

1. The stylish black body is small enough to pocket.

2. Despite its tiny size, the E-P2 features a 3.0-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor with full-time live view.

3. Built-in microphones unit record CD-quality sound. You also can connect an external stereo microphone via an optional mic adapter.

Olympus PEN E-PL1

ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: $599 (with 14-42mm zoom)

INTRODUCED 2/2010

Olympus’ “economy” mirrorless model, the E-PL1 is probably better suited to the compact-camera user moving up to an interchangeable-lens camera than to the DSLR user looking for a smaller alternative. It’s simple to operate in point-and-shoot mode, but makes it more difficult to set things manually than with the E-P1 and E-P2.

Like the E-P1 and E-P2 (and most of Olympus’ DSLR lineup), the E-PL1 features a Four Thirds-format 12.3-megapixel High Speed Live MOS image sensor. Like the EP-1 and E-P2 (but unlike Olympus’ DSLRs except the new E-5), the E-PL1 can do HD video: 1280×720/30p HD and 640×480/30p SD video. A new red video button starts video recording; press the shutter button to shoot a still image, and use those two buttons to toggle between still and video recording.

A new Live Guide lets you see the effects of various settings before you shoot; when you like what you see, press the shutter button to record it. Six Creative Art Filters (including a new Gentle Sepia one) let you add effects easily to still images and video. Sensor-shift image stabilization works with all lenses (albeit with just three shutter speeds of compensation vs. four in the E-P2) for still images, with electronic stabilization for video.

Other differences between the E-PL1 and its higher-priced brothers are a 2.7-inch LCD monitor (vs. 3.0 inches in the E-P1 and E-P2), a mostly plastic rather than metal body, a mono built-in microphone (stereo sound is available via the EMA-1 adapter and an external stereo mic), a top shutter speed of 1/200 sec. (vs. 1/4000 sec.), a top ISO setting of 3200 (vs. 6400) and no control dials. The E-PL1 does have a built-in flash unit (and will accept the same accessory flashes as the E-P1 and E-P2), and will accept the clip-on VF-2 EVF (unlike the E-P1).

STANDOUT FEATURE: The Pen panache at a lower price.

1. The Mode dial provides quick direct setting of shooting modes and access to Creative Art Filters, scene modes and movie settings.

2. The red direct button provides one-touch toggling between still and video shooting.

3. Unlike the E-P1 and E-P2, the E-PL1 has a built-in pop-up flash unit.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2

LIST PRICE: $799 (with 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 lens)

INTRODUCED 3/2010

HD VIDEO CAPABILITY: The G2 can shoot 1280x720p HD video in AVCHD Lite format (which allows for more “footage” per GB on your memory cards) or Quick Time Motion JPEG format (which makes for easier editing in the computer) at 30 fps. A built-in microphone provides mono sound via Dolby Digital Creator, and a jack is provided to connect an optional stereo mic. The G2 can autofocus during video shooting, and with the optional 14-140mm HD lens, AF noise is minimized so the built-in mic doesn’t pick it up.

12.1-MP LIVE MOS SENSOR: While the G2’s 12.1-megapixel Live MOS image sensor produces the same 4000×3000-pixel image size as the G1 and GH1, it’s more closely related to the 12.1-effective-megapixel sensor in the super-compact GF1, with 13.1 million total pixels vs. 14 million for the G1 and GH1 sensors. The new Venus Engine HD II makes its debut in the G2, providing more processing power and better noise reduction. ISOs range from 100-6400 (up from 3200).

QUICK AF: While the contrast-based AF systems used by DSLRs in live-view mode are quite slow (DSLRs use quick phase-detection AF for non-live-view shooting), Panasonic introduced a quick contrast-based AF system in the G1. The G2 builds on that and even can handle many moving subjects.
FOUR FORMATS: Th
e G2 lets you shoot still images in any of four formats: Four Thirds System 4:3, full-frame 35mm 3:2, wide-screen HDTV 16:9 and square 1:1. Panasonic introduced the Micro Four Thirds System with the Lumix DMC-G1 back in 2008. Since then, the new system has been joined by more Panasonic G-series models. The newest include the G1’s successor, the Lumix DMC-G2.

The G2 (like the G1, GH1 and new G10) looks like a DSLR, but isn’t: It omits the SLR’s mirror and mirror-box assembly. This, in fact, is the key to its very compact dimensions. A high-resolution, quick-refresh, eye-level electronic viewfinder replaces the SLR’s optical viewfinder, but otherwise these Micro Four Thirds cameras function just like DSLRs, only smaller. Incidentally, while the camera and lenses are “Micro,” the image sensor isn’t: Micro Four Thirds System cameras utilize the same 17.3×13.0mm image-sensor size as standard Four Thirds System models.

All Micro Four Thirds System cameras can use all Micro Four Thirds System lenses, regardless of manufacturer. They also can use standard Four Thirds System lenses, and other lenses, via adapters—in fact, they can use pretty much any lens for which an adapter is available.

Also like other Micro (and standard) Four Thirds System cameras, the G2 incorporates a very effective sensor-dust-removal system. A Supersonic Wave filter vibrates at 50,000 times a second each time you switch the camera on to shake dust off the sensor assembly. There’s no built-in sensor-shift image stabilization, but a number of the lenses incorporate MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization). Images can be stored on SD, SDHC or the new high-capacity SDXC memory cards.

STANDOUT FEATURE: The G2’s 3.0-inch 1,440,000-dot tilt/swivel LCD monitor adds a wonderful new idea: touch-screen operation. You can select the AF area merely by touching the subject on the live-view image, make camera settings, trip the shutter and more, all via the touch screen. You even can use the touch screen in video mode. (All settings also can be made in the conventional manner, if desired, but the touch screen makes for quicker, simpler operation.)

1. Very Compact Body: At 4.9×3.3×1.7 inches and 13.1 ounces, the G2 is much smaller than DSLRs, even Four Thirds System models.

2. High-Res LVF: The G2’s eye-level live view finder features 1,440,000-dot-equivalent resolution and a quick 180 fps refresh rate to minimize flicker; 1.4x magnification (35mm camera equivalent) further enhances viewing.

3. Handy Control Dials: Many camera settings can be made directly by rotating a dial to the appropriate icon. Contact: Panasonic, www.panasonic.com

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1

LIST PRICE: $1,499 (w/14-140mm ƒ/4-5.8 lens)

INTRODUCED 3/2009

Canon’s long-anticipated mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera finally materialized in Summer 2012. The new EOS M is built around an 18-megapixel APS-C image sensor and DIGIC 5 processor (similar in performance to the new EOS Rebel T4i DSLR).

Okay, we know it’s not a true SLR (as a Micro Four Thirds camera, it lacks the mirror and pentaprism), but it looks and shoots like one, and takes interchangeable lenses. And it brings to fruition the promise of the original Four Thirds System: dramatically smaller cameras. The GH1 is noticeably smaller than the smallest true D-SLR.

The GH1’s 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor is the same size as standard Four Thirds System sensors (17.3×13.0mm); it’s the cameras that are “Micro,” not the image sensors. Both still and video image quality are very good—a new Venus Engine HD accounts for part of this good image quality.

LENS VERSATILITY: The GH1 will accept all Micro Four Thirds System lenses and, via adapters, Four Thirds System lenses and even lenses from other D-SLRs. Note that full functions are provided only with Micro Four Thirds lenses.

DUST REDUCTION: A Supersonic Wave Filter in front of the Live MOS image sensor vibrates 50,000 times a second to literally shake dust off the assembly each time you switch the camera on.

MEGA O.I.S.: The GH1 doesn’t have sensor-shift stabilization, but a number of its lenses (including the 14-140mm zoom sold with it) contain Optical Image Stabilization systems that effectively counter handheld camera shake.

FOUR ASPECT RATIOS: You can shoot in 4:3, 3:2 (35mm format), 16:9 HDTV) or square 1:1 aspect ratios, maintaining the same angle of view with all but the square format. While contrast-based autofocusing is slower than the phase-detection systems used in most D-SLRs, Panasonic’s version in the GH1 is quick, and even includes AF Tracking for moving subjects. You can select any of the system’s 23 AF points or let the camera choose the most appropriate one. You can change the size of the AF point in four steps when choosing the point manually.

t’s easy to customize images to your taste with the GH1. My Color Mode lets you adjust color, brightness and saturation. Film Mode lets you start with a basic “look,” then fine-tune contrast, sharpness and noise reduction. Multi Film Mode lets you make three different images at one time, using three Film Mode settings.

Newcomers to photography will enjoy iA mode, which uses Face Detection AF/AE, Shake Detection, Subject Detection, Motion Detection, Scene Detection and Light Detection technologies to make it easy to get good images automatically. Even in tough lighting situations and with difficult subject matter, the camera’s “brain” figures out the best settings and sets them.

STANDOUT FEATURE: The GH1 provides full AF operation during video shooting, as well as control of aperture and shutter speed. Video formats include 1080p full HD at 24 fps, as well as 720 HD at 60 fps, plus standard video. There’s a built-in stereo microphone and a jack for an external mic. VERDICT: Sold with a video-optimized 14-140mm ƒ/4-5.8 zoom lens featuring near-silent AF/AE operation, the GH1 combines excellent still-image quality with tremendous video capability.

1. Free-Angle LCD: The GH1’s 3.0-inch LCD monitor shows 100% of the image area and tilts and rotates, making live-view operation in both still and movie shooting easy at any shooting angle.

2. Eye-Level Electronic Viewfinder: For those who prefer SLR-style, eye-level viewing, the GH1 provides a 1,440,000-dot, eye-level Live View Finder in addition to the LCD monitor.

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3. Easy Dial Controls: Two dials atop the camera provide direct setting of many items.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10

ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: $599 (with 14-42mm zoom)

INTRODUCED 3/2010

Panasonic’s “economy” mirrorless model, the G10 has much in common with the G2 (which was introduced at the same time), including the 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor, Venus Engine HD II processing and built-in pop-up flash unit. The main differences are that the G10’s 3.0-inch, 460,000-dot LCD monitor doesn’t swivel or provide touch-screen features, its built-in eye-level EVF is a lower-resolution unit, and it lacks the G2’s top video format. But it sells for $200 less, and is a very good alternative for those whose budgets don’t cover a G2.

The G10 can shoot 1280x720p HD video in QuickTime Motion JPEG format (a more computer-friendly format than AVCHD), along with 848×480 WVGA, 640×480 VGA and 320×240 QVGA video, all at 30 fps. Sound is mono only, via a built-in microphone. Like the G2, the H10 can autofocus during video shooting, and the optional 14-140mm HD zoom minimizes AF noise so the built-in mic won’t pick it up. Like the G2, the G10 can use the new fast, very high-capacity SDXC memory cards (as well as SD and SDHC), a boon to video enthusiasts.

Like the G2, the G10 features a host of automated shooting features and built-in help for newcomers, plus full manual control when you want it. With Face Detection, the camera automatically detects and optimizes exposure and focus for human faces in a scene. You can register up to six people (with up to three different expressions per person) by name, and the camera will automatically recognize and optimize AF and AE for the selected person’s face when it appears in the frame. Panasonic’s Intelligent Resolution Technology performs signal processing pixel by pixel to optimize three areas: outlines, areas with detailed texture and areas with soft gradation. The results are sharper, more detailed images across the board, at all ISO settings.

STANDOUT FEATURE: Many G2 features, for a lot less.

1. The G10’s 3.0-inch, 460,000-dot LCD monitor provides full-time live view, but doesn’t tilt and swivel like the G2’s.

2. TThe built-in EVF provides eye-level viewing, albeit at lower resolution than with the G2.

3. The G10 does share the G2’s handy handy control dials.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

LIST PRICE: $899 (w/20mm ƒ/1.7 lens)

INTRODUCED 9/2009

The newest Micro Four Thirds system camera from Panasonic is similar to the new Olympus E-P1 in its sleek, compact form. These two models are the smallest interchangeable-lens cameras currently available, so if you’re looking for the ultimate in portability, this is it.

Like the other Micro Four Thirds system cameras, the mirror and pentaprism are eliminated, making the ultracompact design possible. Full-time Live View in the GF1 helps to compensate for the absence of an optical viewfinder. If you miss your optical viewfinder, an optional Live View finder provides 100% field of view and snaps neatly into the accessory hot-shoe. This is a nice option for bright outdoor shooting conditions, when viewing an LCD can be difficult.

In addition to 12-megapixel still images, the GF1 can record 720 HD video, as well as standard-definition video. One noteworthy video feature is the Movie Program mode, which allows you to adjust the depth of field during video recording to blur backgrounds or foregrounds for creative effect. It’s a nice option to help make your videos more visually interesting.

SMALL, LIGHT DESIGN: Removing the mirror not only helps reduce the size of the camera body, but also the size of the lenses for the system.

FACE RECOGNITION: Not only can the GF1 detect faces for autofocus, but it even can learn the names of your three favorite subjects and recognize when they’re in the photo, giving them AF priority.

INTELLIGENT ISO: One of the challenges of shooting action is changing settings on the fly while things are happening in front of your lens. Intelligent ISO watches your subject, and if it moves as you take the shot, the camera automatically increases ISO for a faster shutter speed.

MEGA O.I.S. LENSES: For handheld photography without a tripod, use Panasonic’s O.I.S. image-stabilization lenses. Cameras are increasingly including settings that reduce the amount of time you’ll spend at the computer with postprocessing. The GF1’s My Color mode includes seven preset effects for different creative looks, each of which can be manually adjusted for color, saturation and tonality. Working in Live View, you can preview the effects before you shoot. It’s always safer to shoot “straight” and make these types of enhancements in the computer so you’re not stuck if you decide you don’t like the effect later. With some practice, you’ll know exactly when and how to use these settings.

Another trend in new cameras is the inclusion of guides and alerts that help photographers better understand their camera settings and presumably learn to make more use of manual controls and overrides to achieve the “look” they’re after. The GF1’s Peripheral Defocus scene mode lets you set a focus point and “defocus” its surroundings. It’s a simplified approach to manually selecting a wide aperture. There’s also an on-screen meter that graphically displays the aperture and shutter speed combinations that will provide a good exposure under the current conditions to help new photographers learn to use more advanced exposure modes like aperture and shutter priority..

STANDOUT FEATURE: The Intelligent Auto (iA) suite of technologies practically guarantees good results with smart exposure and scene selection, face detection and other quality assurances in both still and movie modes.

1. Full-Time Live View LCD: 1. SDHC Memory: As there’s no eye-level finder, the 3.0-inch LCD offers full-time Live View operation for composing shots and adjusting camera settings.

2. Movie Record Button: Movie Record Button: Some cameras with movie modes don’t make it easy to find the feature. The quick-start button on the GF1 puts HD movie recording front and center.

3. Ultracompact Lens: The 20mm ƒ/1.7 available as a kit lens with this camera is extremely slim and offers a constant maximum aperture of ƒ/1.7—excellent for limiting depth of field and shooting in low-light conditions.

Samsung NX10

LIST PRICE: $699 (with 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 lens)

INTRODUCED 1/2010

Camera manufacturers have long sought to provide the desirable features of an SLR (top image quality, interchangeable lenses, convenient eye-level viewing, etc.) without the bulk. A bit of history: Olympus’ OM-1 35mm SLR noticeably reduced the size and weight of the SLR back in the early 1970s, but the size of the 35mm image frame and the SLR mirror box set a bulk limit below 14.6-MEGAPIXEL APS-C SENSOR: Inside the NX10’s tiny body is a big APS-C-format DSLR image sensor, a 14.6-megapixel Samsung CMOS unit that delivers RAW and JPEG images up to 4592×3056 pixels.

HD VIDEO: As one would expect in this age, the new NX10 features HD video capability, with the ability to shoot 1280x720p HD, 640×480 SD and 320×240 clips at 30 fps, with mono sound when desired, using the MP4 (H.264) format.

INTERCHANGEABLE LENSES: The NX10 features a Samsung NX lens mount, and initially three lenses will be available: an 18-55mm kit zoom, a 30mm “pancake” lens and a 50-200mm tele-zoom. An adapter for Pentax SLR lenses is also in the works, which should add great focal-length versatility,

SENSOR-DUST REMOVER: Each time you change lenses with an SLR, dust can enter and settle on the sensor unit. Once there, the dust will appear in every image you make. Most of today’s DSLRs feature a built-in sensor-dust remover, which uses ultra-high-frequency vibrations to remove any dust that settles on the sensor assembly. The DSLR look-alike NX10 also has this vital feature. which no camera designer could go. When DSLRs went digital, smaller sensors could have made for smaller cameras, but most camera makers adapted their large 35mm SLRs to digital duty. The Four Thirds System, featuring a smaller 17.3×13.0mm image sensor, promised smaller DSLRs, but those produced weren’t all that much smaller.

More recently, in 2008, the Micro Four Thirds System was introduced, featuring the same Four Thirds sensor, but doing away with the SLR mirror box, focusing screen and pentaprism finder. The result: cameras that are noticeably smaller than DSLRs, with some even providing eye-level electronic viewfinders so they can be used like DSLRs rather than held at arm’s length like compact digital cameras.

Now, we have a new player. Samsung’s NX10 puts a larger APS-C-sized DSLR image sensor into a tiny body with a built-in eye-level electronic viewfinder that’s about the same size as the Micro Four Thirds models.

STANDOUT FEATURE: The NX10 provides the look, convenience and sensor of an interchangeable-lens DSLR, but in a much smaller size.

1. 3.0-Inch AMOLED Monitor: At 4.9×3.3×1.7 inches and 13.1 ounces, the G2 is much smaller than DSLRs, even Four Thirds System models.

2. EVF: The built-in, 921,000-dot electronic viewfinder features VGA (640×480-pixel) resolution and generous eyepiece correction (-4.0 to +2.0 diopters).

3. Built-In Flash: The NX10 has a handy built-in flash unit. Contact:Samsung, www.samsungimaging.com.

Sony Alpha NEX-3

ESTIMATED STREET PRICE: $599 (with 18-55mm zoom)

INTRODUCED 5/2010

A smidge larger than the NEX-5 (but still more compact than any other mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera), the NEX-3 shares most of that camera’s fine features, including a stylish design, the 14.2-megapixel APS-C-format Sony Exmor CMOS image sensor, 7 fps shooting (with focus and exposure locked), ISO settings to 12,800, a 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot tilting LCD monitor, Sweep Panorama mode, Auto HDR mode, Dynamic Range Optimizer, simple operation and more).

The main differences between the two models are that the NEX-3 doesn’t provide the NEX-5’s 1920×1080/60i AVCHD video format or the NEX-5’s magnesium-alloy front fascia (the NEX-3 does shoot 1280x720p video in MPEG4 format, with continuous AF and AE). Both models lack a built-in flash unit, but come with a detachable flash; neither has an eye-level EVF (nor is one available as an accessory). An optional optical viewfinder provides eye-level viewing when that’s desired (it’s designed for use with the 16mm “pancake” lens, but can serve as a framing guide with the 18-55mm zoom as well).

Both NEX cameras feature a new electronic Sony E lens mount and can take new Sony E-mount lenses, which currently number two: the 18-55mm kit zoom and 16mm ƒ/2.8 “pancake” lens. But more are on the way, as is an LA-EA1 adapter that lets you use Sony A-mount DSLR lenses (and legacy Minolta Maxxum lenses) on the NEX cameras (with manual focusing), and there are a lot of those. The E-series lenses provide continuous autofocusing, even for video.

Like the NEX-5, the NEX-3 offers Sony’s 3D Panorama mode: Sweep the camera across the scene, and the camera records separate right- and left-eye images that display in 3D on 3D HDTV sets. Face Detection technology can detect up to eight faces and adjust focus, exposure, white balance and flash for optimal results. Smile Shutter technology trips the shutter when the subject smiles.

STANDOUT FEATURE: Tiny and stylish, the NEX-3 combines a DSLR-sized APS-C sensor, HD video and interchangeable-lens capability in a body about half the size of Sony’s smallest DSLR.

1. The NEX-3 and NEX-5 accept both Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo/PRO-HG Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC media.

2. The red movie button provides quick access to video recording.

3. An optional optical viewfinder designed f
or the 16mm pancake lens provides eye-level viewing when that’s desired.

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