In fashion-talk you might say that CSC (compact system camera) is the new DSLR (digital single lens reflex). You get the advantage of interchangeable lenses and more sophisticated controls, comparable with a DSLR, while losing size and weight.
The petite (except for the lens) Sony NEX-C3 reviewed today moves right into the territory of the bulky black cameras with its 16.2 megapixel APS-C sensor – as also used in Sony, Nikon and Pentax DSLRs. It has all the image quality advantages in a body about the same volume and weight as a compact.
Samsung also offer CSCs with APS-C sized sensors and the NX100 is matched with a good range of compatible lenses.
The Olympus camera company presented three new micro four thirds compact system cameras to reviewers recently and one model, the E-P3, is now in the shops. Olympus has a range of excellent lenses and the optics are interchangeable between these cameras and those from Panasonic.
Panasonic is also constantly revising and adding to its range of micro four thirds cameras, with the Lumix GF-3 reduced in size compared with its predecessors and configured to make it easy for a compact camera user to move up to the better picture quality without losing the benefits of simplicity and portability.
And with Olympus springing massive price reductions across its new range it would seem that now is the time to get into the smaller camera. The Pen Mini E-PM1 is not only as small as a compact it is as easy to use and takes better pictures and comes in six colours!
Olympus has faced two challenges in the camera market. One has been the pricing – the Pen E-P2 had a RRP of $1800 when it was introduced at the end of 2009 – and the other has been either resistance to, or ignorance of, the compact system camera form. The prices have been slashed, now to sell the CSC concept.
In Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong CSCs take 40 per cent of the market for interchangeable lens cameras. Here it is about ten per cent and in the US it is less. So much for the furphy that Australians are early adopters of new technology. Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony CSCs have a small market share compared with the entry level DSLRs from Canon and Nikon. Why should this be so?
There are a couple of possible explanations. CSCs are selling well in the UK where advertising has been effective. Media, particularly newspapers, are national in Britain, whereas they are regional here. An advertising blitz in the UK reaches more people for less.
The other factor in CSC resistance may be that sales people are either ignorant or unenthusiastic in promoting the cameras to customers. They are more comfortable offering conservative compacts or tried-and-true DSLRs.
With the Olympus Mini E-PM1 coming with a street price under $600 it is hard to see why anyone would prefer a compact.