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Compact System Cameras (CSC) - Should You Buy One Or a DSLR Camera

Updated on March 1, 2013

What are Compact System Cameras (CSC)? They are a new class of digital cameras that fit between SLR cameras and compact cameras. So what sets them apart from the other types of cameras?

Comapact System Cameras vs Compact Cameras

The compact system camera has the advantage over compact cameras in two main areas, flexibility and image quality. The greater flexibility of CSCs comes from being able to change lenses, just like an SLR camera, instead of just having a fixed lens of a compact cameras. This means you can select from a range of lenses for different types of photography. These range from wide angle lenses to zoom or telephoto lenses, or even 3D lenses. 3D lenses will enable you to view your photographs in 3D on a suitable 3D television for even greater impact.

Generally the comapact system camera will also have many more control settings than a compact camera allowing you greater creative control of your photographs.

The other great advantage of the CSC is the size of the image sensor, it is in the region of 12x bigger than the image sensor of a compact camera. This is the size of an image sensor normally found in a SLR camera. The larger image sensor will produce superior quality images (low noise) particularly in low light situations, where the compact camera image deteriorates far more quickly. This also reduces the need to use flash, which can be a great adavantage in many situations.

Compact System Cameras vs Digital SLR Cameras

The CSC scores over the SLR camera in two areas, the first is in size and weight, where the camera body is much smaller than a SLR, This has been achieved by doing away with the reflex mirror mechanism which required considerable space to operate. These cameras might look out of proportion, with the lens being so relatively big to the body, as exampled in the Sony NEX5K opposite. But they feel balanced and comfortable in use, the Sony's all metal body feels solid and tactile.

A smaller or "compact" body means it is far easier to carry than the bulkier SLR camera. The best camera in the world can't take a photograph when it's been left at home or in your vehicle because it's too much of a hassle to take with you. A dedicated range of lenses are also generally less bulky than SLR lenses. Although adapters are avaialble if you want to use some SLR lenses, if you already have them, although with reduced functions in some cases.

The other "advantage" compact system cameras have for many people will be ease of use, when compared to an SLR camera. CSCs come with a range of intelligent auto features to help you take great photos with minimum effort. These features are selected either with simplified dials, buttons or touch screen menus, set up for ease of use.

Some die hard SLR enthusiasts will of course see these simpler automatic controls as a disadvantage by losing some creative control, but for many this greater simplicity will be a selling point.

However, there is still considerable scope for creative control as your need or desire to do so increases. This quality is being proved by the impressive results of both by amateur and professional photographers who have bought these CSCs as a back-up cameras to SLRs. It is also an ideal camera if you want more control over your photography yet are daunted by the thought of operating an SLR camera for the first time.

My personal choice in the CSC range is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2, for one reason alone, despite not being as compact as other cameras in this range, it has a very good electronic view finder (EVF). I have always struggled with LCD screens in bright light, although they have improved since first introduced. Many younger readers may never have had a camera viewfinder and know nothing other than framing photos on a LCD screen, but I still generally opt for the viewfinder where possible.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 is clever in that it has a sensor that switches from the normal 3" LCD screen to the EVF when you put it up to your eye. For other times however, the LCD screen can be pulled away from the body, then tilted and swivelled in amazing ways for easily framing shots in difficult positions, so this camera has the best of both worlds really!

Two of the latest Compact System Cameras worth considering and are reviewed together are the Samsung NX1000 and the Olympus Pen E-PL3


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