Compact System Cameras - or CSCs - offer a welcome combination of compact size and removable lenses. Here are some tips on choosing a compact system camera

Compact System Cameras – also known as micro system cameras or any other number of acronyms and monikers – are the newest addition to the serious imaging market.

They boast a range of advanced shooting features as well as the capability to change lenses on the go, albeit in a much smaller body than their DSLR peers.

If that’s got you interested, then here’s a bit of a closer guide to these cameras and what you might need to look out for.

Choosing a Compact System Camera

Sony produce some of the best CSCs on the market

Choosing a Compact System Camera

What are CSCs?

Compact system cameras (CSCs) are developed to appeal to an audience wanting to upgrade from a compact camera but don’t want the bulk of a full DSLR.

They share much of the creative potential as their full-size cousins but with smaller bodies and smaller lenses. The compact system camera’s design makes it impossible to include a pentaprism mirror which also defines a camera as an SLR.

Movie function on a compact system camera

The lack of mirror system in compact system cameras mean they are much more suited to shooting video – as your view is coming straight from the sensor anyway. For this reason they are able to give DSLRs a run for their money in the HD video stakes.

Choosing a Compact System Camera

The Panasonic Lumix GF6 is capable of some blistering focus speeds

Compact system camera’s autofocus limitations

Without a mirror, autofocus is achieved using a contrast-detect system from the sensor which, while vastly improved from early live view offerings, has still not matched some of the more advanced dedicated AF systems featured on DSLRs.

That being said, there are now a range of CSCs which boast a hybrid AF set-up that can deliver focusing speeds right up there with high-end DSLRs. However, such cameras do carry a price premium so be prepared to spend more if that’s what you’re after.

The compact system camera viewfinder

Another symptom of lacking a mirror is that compact system cameras have either a separate optical viewfinder which sits on top of the camera, or an Electronic View Finder.

Although the quality from an EVF won’t be as good as the through-the-lens option on a DSLR, it does offer a worthy alternative to the LCD.

A host of the very newest CSCs have turned this negative in to a positive, developing hybrid viewfinders which combine an EVF with LCD technology and as a result can give the photographer much more information than a sole optical viewfinder.