back to article 2011's Best... compact cameras

2011 was the year when compact system cameras (CSC) really began to hit their stride. Late to this year’s party were the Nikon 1 J1 and V1 models, but we’re still waiting to on Canon to show its hand in this arena. More to the point, Canon has yet to deliver a successor to its revered PowerShot G12 which is showing its age now. …


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  1. EddieD


    I posted about how great I think modern dSLRs are recently, and technically, that goes for all these cameras. My wee Nikon S502 iirc (which I got for a cycling holiday and then gave to my mum) gave cracking results.

    Thing is though, I cannot get used to using the back screen as a viewfinder, I find it evil...(sorry).

    I think - probably wrongly - that I get more stability when I hold the camera up as I can use my elbows as support, and it just feels more "right" to look though an eye-level viewfinder, so I'd plump for the Fujifilm...till I looked at the price.

    I think the idea of the EVIL cameras is wonderful, but I'll stick to my dSLR, and my tired (but still working very well) Minolta Z3

    1. Jerome 0


      You're not wrong, it's generally accepted that holding the camera to your face provides a much more stable posture for shooting. That's probably the main reason professional photographers cite for preferring a DSLR to these types of camera.

      Sony's new NEX-7 features a rather nifty integrated electronic viewfinder, but unfortunately this camera isn't cheap. Some of the other cameras feature optional EVFs that you can attach, but the quality of these is variable, and obviously it cuts down the portability factor to attach an accessory like this to the body.

      I hope that more mirrorless cameras with an integrated EVF appear in the future, but I worry this may not be the case. It all depends which market product the manufacturers are aiming for. Users upgrading from a compact camera are unlikely to care about having a viewfinder, whereas for people looking for a more compact alternative to their DSLR, the EVF is a killer feature.

    2. jef_

      Screen vs. viewfinder

      For what it's worth, I can't bear framing using the screen on the back. Much easier to hold steady when pressed to your face. The other difference is that there is less to distract you from framing because all you can see is what the camera sees as opposed to all the distracting stuff outsideof the frame. In that sense I think it is easier to concentrate. If you are trying to get a moving subject then I suppose that context can be useful, but it is possible to open your other eye and use that....

      Only trouble with my SLR (Canon 5d - £650 off eBay) is that it's big and obtrusive. It takes the knocks well though., as well as it's awesome full frame loveliness :)

  2. jason 7


    ...I think we could have gone more 'compact' then these to be honest.

    Just want to find a cheap pocketable 8MP+ compact that doesnt compress the crap out of every shot to make the more expensive version with the same hardware look better.

    1. Jerome 0

      Compact system cameras

      This article isn't about compact cameras at all, despite what the title would have you believe. Rather it's a round-up of "compact system cameras", or mirrorless cameras.

      1. N13L5

        odd model selection, making the comparison skewed

        yes, for one thing, the title is misleading.

        For another, the weird selection makes for a completely skewed comparison. To compare Sony's cheapo camera with Nikon's and Leica's much more expensive cameras is just wrong. For about 100 quid more, the Sony Nex 5N blows them all out of the water. The same goes for taking the cheapest M4/3 model on the market to compare with the Nikon, and then saying "the Nikon's small sensor isn't really an issue, unless you wanna shoot in low light..."

        Cause good low light quality beats every crappy little flash you can stick on any of these cameras.

        Sure, a truck full of lighting equipment you set up at your dinner or party will almost eliminate the Nikon's issue. Even then a larger sensor is preferrable. If at least, they managed to make the Nikon smaller, but they didn't; even the lenses are clunky.

        The bottom line is, the Nikon would be a good deal at 300, but its like twice that. Thats like trying to charge a thousand for a Nikon 5100.

        Lastly, I think the whole CSC idea is more of a boon to vendors than to customers. They like it, cause it gives them many more chances to sell extra glass to people who would not normally carry any and don't really need to. There was some Olympus model with an absolutely great, bright lens built in, that beat every single CSC kit lens I've seen. Most people would never need to swap that, and it folded down pretty well too. Forgot the model number though, but its on DPreview.

  3. Jerome 0

    How about Samsung NX?

    I can forgive you for missing out one of the best options from this round-up. Samsung's NX series of cameras are great, but the marketing for them has been rather woeful, to the point where many people aren't even aware of their existence.

    They're well worth considering though. The image quality is on a par with the Sony NEX cameras, the user interface is much more friendly, and the Samsung range of lenses is far more suited to the idea of a compact camera system than Sony's range of big NEX lenses.

    The NX200 is the new flagship model, which is a beautiful camera, if a touch expensive for many pockets. No doubt prices will drop soon. The older model, the NX100 can currently be had ridiculously cheaply (under £200 on Ebay). You miss out on full HD video (it has 720p) and don't get quite the high-ISO performance of the newer model, but for the price it's hard to beat.

    1. Steve Crook

      Close but no cigar

      The sammie looks pretty good, even when compared to the Sony Nex7 *except* that there's no EVF which would be a deal breaker for me.

      Still, the whole CSC development is something I'm looking at with real interest. I would be happy to sacrifice my Canon 7d for something capable of images of a similar quality from a package so much lighter and smaller.

      1. Jerome 0


        Yeah, I agree that the lack of an EVF is a real shame. If I could have an NX200 with an EVF, or a NEX-7 with the Samsung lenses, I'd be pretty happy either way. Since that wasn't an option, I chose the lenses over the EVF.

        Samsung's new model with EVF is rumoured to be around the corner. It remains to be seen whether they stick with the SLR-like shape they've used for their EVF models so far, or if they manage to cram one into a compact body like Sony did.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next Review

    You've done DSLR's and Compacts..

    Can we have the Bridge and Evil's next?


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about the Panasonic DMC-FX150

    What about the Panasonic DMC-FX150, you missed that one!

    Although I'm sure the cameras you selected are okay, the Panasonic is outstanding. Although I have a Nikon DSLR, I usually choose the Panasonic for its flexibility, excellent zoom and quality of results. All the reviews I have read also class the Panasonic DMC-FX150 as outstanding.

  6. Jon Massey

    Panaleicas are a waste of time

    Just get the Panasonic original and save a shedload of cash

    1. That Awful Puppy

      Alas ...

      The X1 is a true Leica, not a Panaleica.

      Also, even though Panaleicas are just Panasonics with Leica branding, they're infused with the special Leica magic. Apparently, the so called magic bit is set in their firmware, making any pictures they take utterly glorious.

  7. FutureShock999
    Stop Oly XZ-1?

    Really? A real pro-quality Zuiko lens with a 1.8 aperature, with a reasonable 4x zoom, great build quality, external flash support, add-on electronic finder, AND a PASM dial? And nary a mention?

    Uh, OK.

  8. Joefish

    Over a grand for a compact?

    Seriously, get a grip.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If the market will stand it ( a polite way of saying, "One born every minute."! ) then good luck to these companies!

      Vintage Leica's are nice cameras but like Ferrari branded gadgets, they're nothing special they just trade on the brand and if you find someone daft enough to fall for the name alone, well that's their own look out!

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      I got a grip

      It's attached to my SLR. Obviously, I'm reading the wrong article.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compact for under £100, anyone?

    10x optical zoom, 14MP, good battery life and a screen that can be seen reasonably well in sunlight: Samsung PL211.

  10. stu 4

    Sony HX9v

    Surely still the one to beat especially if you are into video - Had mine 6 months+ now and it's absolutely class. Most of the DSLR crowd rave about em (me included)

    1. Full Mental Jacket

      Smudgy pics

      I've got one and I'm love it - mostly. It's the smeary pics from the JPEG compression/noise reduction that let it down. It'd be an amazing bit of kit otherwise.

  11. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    I got a new full-frame Canon this year and my Missus fancied something new over her old Canon pocket jobbie, so she got the Sony that's on review here. Absolutely stunning little camera with image quality that blows your socks off given the size of the unit. Lots of little effects and while the selection of lenses is not amazing at the moment the stock lens that comes with it is pretty damn good indeed.

  12. Michael Wright


    The Nex doesn't have an eye-level v/f, but the hinged screen is very convenient for holding at chest or waist level, like a proper camera (ah, Rolleiflex 3.5F, I still miss you). You only get horizontal mode, but it is more convenient than a fully articulated screen, IME.

    BTW, the Leica X1 isn't really a Panaleica, because there isn't an equivalent in the Japanese brand (unfortunately). Speaking as someone who used to buy anything with the magic inscription Ernst Leitz, Wetzlar, and who had a world class collection of adapter-rings, I still find the price ludicrous. The red dot has, alas, become a mark of conspicuous consumption, like the Mont Blanc snowflake.

  13. papercut

    compact, really?

    Have to agree with the previous poster about the xz-1, extremely good camera for those who want a `better than point & shoot` camera with semi-pro level features. - really though, this is a very odd bunch of cameras, putting an overpriced leica in there especially when the x100 which you also review is actually functionally better in every way.

    The reviewer, if really a camera enthusiast should have been thinking about cameras such as the Canon S100, Oly XZ-1 along with the best of the `travel zoom` and bridge cameras of 2011, such as the Samsung HZ35W & Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150.

    Anyone else get the feeling that some reghardware reviews are actually just going through the motions rather than giving advice from real experts in the field?

    1. Joefish

      If by 'motions' you mean 'most expensive free stuff'

      then yes.

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