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. The cameras are also sometimes called ILC cameras (short for interchangeable lens cameras) or mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.
Regardless of what you choose to call them, because of the mirrorless design for the camera's interior, ILC cameras are smaller than DSLRs and use a different set of lens mounts. Read on for my list of the best mirrorless interchangeable lens 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 mirrorless camera, the EOS M, now is available for sale. The Canon EOS M mirrorless 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. Mirrorless cameras continue to grow in popularity, and having Canon on board will only enhance this type of camera technology.
Fujifilm's latest X series mirrorless ILC camera is the Fujifilm X-A1, and this model is promoted as the entry-level X series model.
Carrying an entry-level designation doesn't leave the X-A1 short-changed on features, though. Fujifilm included a large 16.3 megapixel CMOS APS-C sized image sensor, which should create great image quality. This camera also includes an articulated high-resolution 3.0-inch LCD, minimal shutter lag and shot to shot delays, burst modes up to 5.6 frames per second, a built-in flash, and in-camera RAW processing.
Fujifilm's third interchangeable lens mirrorless camera -- the X-M1 -- is the most impressive model yet, offering an image sensor that's similar in size to what you'd find in a DSLR camera.
The X-M1, which measures only 1.5 inches in thickness without a lens attached. includes a 3.0-inch articulated LCD, a start-up time of 0.5 seconds, full 1080p video recording, built-in Wi-Fi, and in-camera RAW processing.
The X-M1 can make use of an Fujifilm XF or XC interchangeable lenses. You can find the X-M1 in three body colors, black, silver, or brown.
The world's first waterproof interchangeable lens camera is now available, and the Nikon 1 AW1 is one of the more impressive mirrorless cameras heading into this holiday season.
Nikon's AW1 can be used in up to 49 feet of water depth and it can survive a fall of up to 6.6 feet. To use this camera's waterproof capabilities, you will need to purchase a 1 Nikkor lens that's also rated as being waterproof.
The Nikon 1 AW1's photographic capabilities are pretty impressive, too, as it has a 14.2MP CX-sized CMOS image sensor, full 1080p HD video recording, a 73-point autofocus array, full manual control, a built-in GPS unit, and a 3.0-inch LCD. The AW1's popup flash unit is waterproof, too.
Look for the AW1 to be available in three colors, black, white, or silver, and Nikon is also offering some skins to provide additional body colors, including khaki or orange.
The Olympus PEN E-PL3 mirrorless 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.
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 mirrorless ILC 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 mirrorless ILC 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.
One quick glance at the specification list for the Panasonic Lumix GX7 mirrorless camera will quickly convince you that this is one of the more impressive mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras on the market.
The GX7 uses a MOS Micro Four Thirds image sensor with 16MP of resolution, a Micro Four Thirds lens mount, a 3.0-inch touch screen LCD, and full 1080p HD video capabilities.
The Lumix GX7 has some nice advanced features, too, including full manual control, ISO settings up to 25,600, 5 frames per second in burst mode, and shutter speeds up to 1/8000th of a second.
Look for the GX7 with a silver and black magnesium alloy on the exterior of the camera body along with rubber accents.
The Pentax Q10 mirrorless 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.
In my review of the Samsung Galaxy Camera, I appreciated the camera's LCD screen and menu structure. But I was disappointed in the Galaxy Camera's image quality.
Samsung appears to have fixed this problem with its Samsung Galaxy NX camera, which is a mirrorless DIL model that was recently announced and is already an EISA award-winning camera.
The Galaxy NX will have a 20.3MP APS-C sized image sensor, which is going to help you provide high-end photographs. You'll also find a 4.8-inch touch screen LCD running the Android OS 4.2, Wi-Fi connectivity, 4G connectivity, 8.6 frames per second recording, and 16MB of internal memory.
It's available now in the United Kingdom, and it should be available soon in the United States. The price is expected to be around $2,000.
Sony's latest mirrorless ILC is also its smallest, the NEX-3N.
The NEX-3N includes a 16.1MP CMOS image sensor, an E-lens mount system, a 3.0-inch articulated LCD, full HD video recording, and four frames per second shooting performance. These are some impressive specifications in such a small interchangeable lens camera.
The NEX-3N, which has great projected battery life of 480 shots, is now available with a kit lens that's motorized. Look for the NEX-3N in either black or white camera bodies.