The first interchangeable lens digital cameras, called DSLR cameras, were based closely on the film version of such cameras, SLR (single lens reflex) models. One of the advantages of a digital camera, though, is its small size, something that DSLR cameras cannot duplicate because of the way they must be built.
As a smaller alternative to DSLRs, some manufacturers have turned to DIL cameras, short for digital interchangeable lens cameras.
Because of the mirror-less design for the camera's interior, DIL cameras are smaller than DSLRs and use a different set of lens mounts. Read on for my list of the best DIL cameras.
It's been four years since the first mirrorless camera appeared in the market, and Canon was the final holdout among the major DSLR manufacturers to not add a DIL camera to its lineup.
That's no longer the case.
Canon's first DIL camera, the EOS M, now is available for sale. The Canon EOS M DIL is available primarily in black or white camera bodies, although two other models (silver or red) are available in some locations in the world. This camera includes a EF-M lens mount.
The M offers an 18MP image sensor, 1080p video recording, and a high-resolution touch screen LCD. Nikon introduced its first DIL camera last year with the J1, and now Canon has joined the mix. DIL cameras continue to grow in popularity, and having Canon on board will only enhance this type of camera technology.
2. Nikon J2 DIL
The Nikon 1 system of DIL cameras was introduced with quite a bit of fanfare and a strong advertising campaign last year. This year, the latest model in this DIL system, the Nikon J2, might not have the same amount of fanfare, but it's going to be another popular option for those looking for a lot of photography power, coupled with stylish cameras.
The J2 has 10.1 megapixels of resolution, but don't let that number confuse you. This camera uses a CMOS image sensor that's larger than the sensors found in point and shoot cameras, allowing it to create better image quality with fewer megapixels.
The J2 can shoot videos at full 1080p HD, and it offers a high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD for framing photos. It's available in six body colors: white, black, silver, dark red, pink, and orange.
If you liked the look of the J1, the J2 has a similar look with a few extra features, making it well worth considering.
The Olympus PEN E-PL3 digital interchangeable lens camera attempts to bring advanced photography options into a camera body more similar to a point and shoot model.
The E-PL3, which sometimes is called the PEN Lite, includes a tiltable 3-inch LCD, which is handy for shooting odd-angle photos. It offers 12.3 megapixels of resolution with a CMOS image sensor, and it can shoot at up to five frames per second. The PEN Lite is available in a variety of body colors, depending on where it's sold in the world.
In my review of the Pen Lite camera, I found a camera that performs well and creates great images.
The PEN family of DIL cameras has always had great looks and fun-to-use options. One of the latest models, the Olympus PEN E-PL5, includes an improved feature set over its predecessors too.
The PEN PL5 has an articulated touchscreen LCD, 16MP of resolution, interchangeable lenses, and burst mode shooting up to 8 frames per second.
The Olympus PL3, listed above, is a great camera that I've had a chance to review, and I'm sure the PL5 will follow in its footsteps.
Olympus has created what it calls the world's smallest and lightest PEN camera, which, considering the history of the PEN family of cameras, makes it one of the smallest and lightest interchangeable lens cameras from any manufacturer. The PEN E-PM1 is a fun camera, and it may be the most colorful DIL camera, too, as Olympus is offering it in brown, black, pink, purple, white, or silver camera bodies.
The PEN E-PM1 offers some really nice features, too, including 12.3 megapixels of resolution with a CMOS image sensor, full 1080p HD video, and a 3.0-inch LCD. It measures only 1.33 inches in thickness (before you attach the lens) and it weighs only 7.65 ounces for the camera body.
The latest "mini" camera from Olympus, the PEN E-PM2, should be another very nice DIL model to build upon the recent success of the Olympus Mini PEN E-PM1, which made my list of the best 5-star cameras.
The E-PM2, which is now available in silver, black, white, or red camera bodies, features 16.1MP of resolution, interchangeable Micro Four Thirds lenses, a 3.0-inch touch screen LCD, and full HD video.
The Panasonic Lumix GF2 makes use of the Micro Four Thirds standard and a 12.1 megapixel Live MOS sensor, which combines the low power usage of a CMOS sensor with the image quality of a CCD sensor. You'll also find a 3.0-inch touch-screen LCD with the GF2.
For advanced photographers, the GF2 probably won't provide enough features or power. However, for those looking to move from a beginner camera, the GF2 almost certainly should make your short list of contenders. It offers a decent value, it has a nice feature set, and it's available in four different body colors, which is interesting for an advanced model.
You'll find a 16 megapixel live MOS sensor that excels in low light with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1. The autofocus with this advanced camera is extremely fast, averaging 0.09 seconds, according to Panasonic.
Fourteen different Micro Four Thirds lenses are available for use with the GX1, and it's available in black or silver camera bodies.
I've had a chance to review several other DIL Lumix cameras that preceded the GX1, including the Lumix GH2 and Lumix GF2, which are listed above, and the Lumix G2 and and Lumix GF1 during the past few years. All of them are really nice models, and the GX1 follows that formula.
The K-01 isn't quite as small as the Q, which I reviewed recently, but it still looks like a very interesting camera, especially because it can accept any Pentax K lens. As far as I can decipher, this is the first DIL camera that can accept lenses originally made for DSLR cameras.
Obviously, carrying a DSLR-type lens mount makes the K-01 a bit bigger than other DIL cameras, but it's smaller than many DSLR cameras.
The K-01 has 16.2 MP of resolution, can shoot HD video at 1080p, and showcases a high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD. You'll find the K-01 in a yellow camera body with silver and black trim, a black body with silver trim, and a white body with black trim.
10. Pentax Q DIL
Pentax's first DIL camera is the Pentax Q, which is currently available for sale in white or black. Japanese photographers had access to the Q for a few months before photographers in the United States. The Q offers a 12.4MP CMOS image sensor, 1080p HD video, a 3.0-inch high-resolution LCD, a built-in popup flash, and five frames per second capabilities.
11. Pentax Q10 DIL
The Pentax Q10 DIL camera is a great-looking camera that remains small while being able to make use of interchangeable lenses. In fact, you can use either Pentax Q-mount lenses or K-mount lenses (with an adapter).
The Q10 can shoot at 12.4 megapixels of resolution and at five frames per second in burst mode. With a CMOS image sensor, the Q10 performs well in low light, shooting at an ISO up to 6400. You can shoot full 1080p HD video with this model, and it's available in red or silver camera bodies, both with black trim.
Sony's alpha NEX-7 DIL camera offers 24.3MP of resolution. In addition, the NEX-7 features 1080p HD video, an electronic viewfinder, 25-point autofocus, and a high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD.
All of these features are in a camera body that measures only about 1.7 inches in thickness, before you attach the interchangeable lens. The thin camera body is a key design feature of DIL cameras. The NEX-7 is available in black only.