The compact system camera, a relatively new thing in the digital camera world, has now reached a maturity all of its own. There is a wide variety of CSCs to choose from, some good, some bad. Pocket-lint is only interested in the good ones. So here they are.
We'll be updating this page each time we review another compact system camera that we think deserves a place on this coveted camera hot list. That way you can rest assured that whenever you're looking here, what you see before you are only the finest compact system cameras available to humanity.
Best rugged compact system camera
Olympus OM-D E-M5
You don’t really think of the CSC as a rugged camera, but it can be. Olympus’s retro styled OM-D E-M5 uses a dustproof and splashproof body to keep the camera safe while you are shooting out and about.
The camera's decent, rugged build, fast autofocus and great image quality more than make up for its few shortcomings, in the price and battery life department. A tough little CSC to beat and the hardest on the market right now.
READ: Olympus OM-D E-M5 review
Best compact system camera for lenses
Panasonic Lumix G5
The joy of having a compact system camera is the access it gives you to interchangeable lenses. Being a few years into the technology’s lifespan also means there are a decent number of lenses available.
Panasonic’s Lumix G5 is a good example. It gives you access to a vast range of lenses, from wide and compact pancake offerings to long telephoto snappers. There is also a nice price range between lenses, so you needn’t break the bank if you're after picking up an extra lens for your camera.
Best budget compact system camera
CSCs tend to add a hefty chunk of change on top of the usual compact price tag. For the most part, this is because they add a huge amount of photographic ability as well. But what if you don’t have the cash to spare for a flagship CSC?
Nikon’s J1 may very well have the answer. It might be on the way out, but you can grab it for a decent price. Autofocus speed and the screen both had us excited at Pocket-lint. That and the fact the J1 is truly compact.
READ: Nikon J1 review
Best luxury compact system cameras
What if money is no object? Well then the fun can truly begin with CSCs. Standing out as one of our favourite cameras this year is the Fujifilm X-E1.
Where the X-E1 triumphs is in its image quality and build. Both are stellar and for a CSC sit right at the top of the class. Throw in a great viewfinder and retro looks and you have one of our favourite CSCs.
READ: Fujifilm X-E1 review
Best compact system camera for image quality
Fujifilm gets another hit here with the X-Pro1, which sits right at the top of the CSC price range. But all that cost is more than matched by the camera’s image quality, which rivals that of a more expensive DSLR.
Take your time with this camera and you will be rewarded with some top-class stills. In fact, this is the closest thing yet to a Leica experience, but at a fraction of the price.
READ: Fujifilm X-Pro1 review
Best compact system camera for video
Panasonic Lumix GH3
Here is a CSC that can shoot beyond broadcast-quality video. Panasonic’s GH3 is able to capture video in 1080p25 MOV files using ALL-I compression at 72Mbps. Confusing? Basically it means it looks very good indeed.
Throw in some top-of-the-line stills, design and proper weather sealing and you have a quite formidable CSC. Easily the best for video right now.
Best compact system camera for enthusiasts
They might look a touch funny, but Sony’s NEX range of cameras really delivers on image quality and performance. The NEX-6 is no exception and crucially is more affordable than the NEX-7 yet, we think, performs almost the same.
This camera handles like the best NEX yet and therefore one of the best CSCs we have ever used. Worth a try for the enthusiast without a doubt.
Best compact system camera for ease of use
Panasonic Lumix GF5
Many may be considering a CSC as a more gentle step up from a compact than a DSLR. For those who are, the Panasonic GF5 is definitely the camera to go for right now.
The GF5 is also very small, so it won’t feel like it is taking any more space out of your pocket than a compact camera, yet you will be rewarded with better image quality. Simple and small, this is the easiest CSC to use right now.