Interchangeable lens cameras are the middle road between an advanced compact digital camera and a full-blown digital SLR. However, because they give you the ability to change lenses, they are much more like a digital SLR than an advanced compact; the major benefit is that they are not as big and bulky as a digital SLR.
The reason they aren't bulky is because they do away with the pentaprism and mirror that's found in traditional digital SLRs. Instead, interchangeable lens cameras save space by removing the need for a mirror and allowing light to hit the sensor through the lens directly.
Not all of the major camera manufacturers have interchangeable lens cameras — Canon and Nikon are yet to test the waters in this market. The main brands to choose from are Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Ricoh. Olympus and Panasonic make use of a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which is smaller than the APS-C-sized sensor that can be found in a traditional digital SLR; but Samsung, Sony and Ricoh all have models that feature the bigger sensor size. A larger sensor helps capture more light and offers better performance in dim conditions, but the reality is that all of the cameras we've rounded up can produce excellent image quality and they all perform quite well in dark environments.
The Ricoh camera is the most interesting of all the cameras we've looked at, in that not only can you remove the lens, each time you remove the lens you also change the sensor. One of the advantages of this design is that there is no chance of getting dirt on the sensor when you change lenses, unlike with the other cameras.
So why would you want an interchangeable lens camera? Well, they offer SLR-like features — that means you get full manual control and better image quality than a compact digital camera — and they are easier to carry than a digital SLR. They are useful for photographers who want to get creative and make the step up from a compact, and also for travellers who want the flexibility of a digital SLR but baulk at the bulk the extra lenses will create — the lenses for interchangeable lens cameras are generally physically smaller than their digital SLR counterparts.
4 / 5
The Sony NEX-3 and Sony NEX-5 may appeal more to point-and-shoot graduates than to seasoned photographers, but the cameras' ultracompact size and fun features give them serious potential for crossover appeal.
- Review Date:
- 12th May, 2010
- Tim Moynihan