What Are the Best Small Cameras?

I'm looking to upgrade my camera, but I don't want to lug around a heavy—and pricey—DSLR. What are my options?

cameras portable small cameras nature photography

    Photo: George Muresan

A:Take a look at a compact system camera. These shooters weigh less than a third of what a typical DSLR does. Yet, miraculously, they take pictures as good as most mid-level DSLR cameras. That’s because of the huge electronic image sensors and the ability to use professional-grade interchangeable lenses.

Unlike a single-lens-reflex camera, compact system cameras don't have a little mirror that flips up inside when you take a photo. However, they do have mounts that let you attach telephoto or wide-angle lenses, though these typically cost extra. Because of their simpler construction, they tend to be more durable than DSLRs, and some can be paired with third-party waterproof housings.

If you're looking for a compact system camera to use for outdoor photography, you'll want to pay extra attention to the speed of the autofocus and the performance of the camera in low light (we list the top ISO settings here). We've left the number of megapixels out because, with the newer technology, the pixel count doesn’t say much about image quality.

Sony NEX-3N
Olympus OM-D E-M5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF5

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