Best budget compact system camera: 6 tested

Look out for these key features when buying your compact system camera (CSC):

Mode dial

This gives quick access to PASM shooting modes and a variety of scene modes, but is usually omitted on compact-style CSCs due to lack of space, so you'll have to use on-screen menus instead.

Hotshoe

Best budget compact system camera: 6 tested

A hotshoe enables an external flashgun to be fitted and in some cases it's combined with an 'accessory port'. The port enables connection of a miniature flash and other essential accessories.

Viewfinder

A built-in electronic viewfinder is usually a key difference between compact-style and mini-DSLR CSCs. In some cases, an optional electronic viewfinder can be attached via the accessory port.

Direct access

Best budget compact system camera: 6 tested

One drawback to downsizing is the loss of direct controls for important shooting parameters. Mini-DSLR styled cameras give a little more space for functions such as auto exposure lock. Samsung's innovative i-Function system also lets you change key settings via the focusing ring of suitable lenses.

Hand grip

Wrap your fingers around a dedicated hand grip and you'll find handholding a little more secure. It's featured on most CSCs and, in this group, is only lacking on the Nikon J1 and Olympus E-PM1.

Zoom lens

In physical size, they're typically much larger than the zoom lenses fitted to regular compact cameras. Pancake prime lenses are smaller, but the lack of zooming versatility can feel like a backwards step.

LCD

Best budget compact system camera: 6 tested

Most CSCs in this price bracket have a 3-inch LCD screen with a reasonable resolution of 460k pixels. The LCD is usually fixed, but some models have a useful tilt function or fully pivoting facility.

Four-way pad

A four-way control pad typically offers quick access to functions such as white balance, metering mode, ISO and drive mode, along with a menu or OK confirmation button at the centre.