Fujifilm X-E2

Key specs: 16.3mp X-Trans CMOS II sensor, EXR Processor II, Fast AF, Full HD movies, EVF, Wi-Fi

Price: US$999 /£769 /AU$ (body only)

Best compact camera system 2013
Fujifilm X-E2

Updated camera group testNot just an update to the X-E1, this new camera also boasts some desirable enhancements compared with the older and more expensive X-Pro1. A newer generation X-Trans image sensor includes phase-detection autofocus as a supplement to regular contrast-detection AF, it has a faster burst rate of 7fps compared with the X-Pro1's 6fps, and a higher-resolution 2,360k pixel electronic viewfinder. It also has Wi-Fi connectivity which, again, is lacking in the X-Pro1. There's a pop-up flash as well as a hot shoe, and the whole package is physically a little smaller and noticeably lighter in weight. A further refinement is the new Lens Modulation Optimizer, which can be switched on in the shooting menus to flatter the performance of Fujinon X mount lenses.

Similarities between the two cameras include 16.3Mp image resolution and a very like-minded control layout. Again, the shutter speed dial and lens-based aperture ring are well implemented and, this time around, the neatly positioned exposure compensation dial offers up to +/-3EV of bias, instead of the X-Pro1's +/-2EV. We found the X-E2's lack of an optical option for the viewfinder display no drawback whatsoever. The same variety of film emulation modes is nice to have, again with bracketing availability for hedging your bets. Given the comparative newness of the X-E2, the lack of a touchscreen LCD is a little frustrating but the Quick menu system makes for easy adjustments to most shooting settings.

Performance

Autofocus isn't blindingly fast but it's a step up in speed from the X-Pro1, as well as adding the bonus of off-centre AF in continuous autofocus mode. There's practically nothing to choose between the two cameras in terms of image quality, making the X-E2 look rather better value. It's not only cheaper to buy but the various enhancements and improvements are well worth having.

Pros:

  • 2,360k EVF
  • 920,000-dot LCD
  • Improved AF

Cons:

  • No touchscreen
  • Fixed screen
  • Advanced Filters JPEG only

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7

Key specs: 16mp Live MOS sensor, flip-up EVF, 3-inch tilting LCD, built-in flash, Full HD movies, Wi-Fi, NFC

Price: US$899 / £700 /AU$ (body only)

Best compact system camera

Whereas Panasonic's own GH3 is the biggest CSC in the group, the GX7 is one of the smallest and lightest. Coupled with similarly diminutive Micro Four Thirds lenses, it really is a very compact package. An improvement over the GH3 is that the GX7 features a newer generation of image sensor. It's not a backlit sensor, but the amount of micro-circuitry has been significantly reduced. This enables greater light-gathering potential for each and every photosite.

Another new advance in the GX7 is Panasonic's 'Light Speed AF'. This aims to give faster performance for tracking moving objects. There's also a Low Light AF function, which is intended to improve autofocus in dark shooting environments. The only real downside for shooting in near darkness is that the Bulb exposure mode has a maximum limit of two minutes.

Despite its small size, handling feels natural and the sculpting on the finger grip is rather more generous than on the two Fujifilm cameras. That said, control buttons around the back of the camera are rather cramped, but at least there's quick access to pretty much any shooting parameters you need to get your hands on in a hurry. A further boost comes from the touchscreen for quick and easy navigation of menus. Yet more design flourishes include the fact that both the viewfinder and LCD screen have tilt facilities, making it easy to shoot from high or low angles, or around corners in portrait orientation. Resolution of the EVF and LCD are both impressive, at 2,765k and 1,040k respectively, again significantly beating the older GH3.

Performance

True to its claims, the GX7 has faster autofocus and better high-ISO image quality than the GH3. However, AF can still struggle to keep up with moving objects in action photography. With its impressive enhancements and considering that the GX7 is so much smaller than the GH3, it's a clear case of 'less is more'.

Pros:

  • Fast contrast detection AF system
  • Responsive touchscreen
  • Pop-up EVF
  • Wi-Fi with NFC

Cons:

  • Screen not fully articulated
  • Tracking AF is sluggish
  • Viewfinder refresh rate needs improvement

Sony NEX-5T

Key specs: 16.1mp APS-C sensor, Hybrid AF, tiltable touchscreen, Wi-Fi, NFC

Price: US$965 / £599 /AU$1,027 (with standard zoom lens)

Best compact camera system 2013
Sony NEX-5T

If connectivity's your thing then the Sony NEX-5T should be on your shortlist.

Following in the footsteps of last year's NEX-5R − the first Sony CSC to feature Wi-Fi − the NEX-5T boasts well-implemented wireless and NFC connectivity options.

This not only means that you can instantly upload and share your Full HD movies and 16.1mp stills shot using the camera's excellent DSLR-sized sensor and control the camera remotely, but there's a growing range of downloadable apps available from the Sony PlayMemories store, too.

The 921k-dot touchscreen is responsive and tiltable through 180-degrees − a useful feature for self-portraits - plus the Bionz processor that drove the 5R is also inherited by the newer 5T, assuring decent low-light performance throughout its ISO 100-25,600 sensitivity range.

Pros:

  • High-resolution touchscreen
  • Wi-Fi and NFC
  • DSLR-sized sensor
  • Compact dimensions

Cons:

  • Currently limited options on PlayMemories Store
  • No built-in flash
  • Non-standard hotshoe attachment

Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5

Key specs: 16.1mp 4/3" (MFT) Live MOS sensor, TruePic VI processor, Full HD Movies, Art Filters, tiltable touchscreen

Price: US$886 / £549.99 /AU$945 (14-42mm FlashAir Kit)

Best compact camera system 2013
Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5

Headlining this pint-sized powerhouse's feature-set has to be its 16.1mp sensor, which it inherits from the acclaimed Olympus OM-D.

Coupling powerful image capture technologies with the user-friendliness and compact design that's synonymous with the PEN series cameras proves to be a winning combination, with the small, lightweight E-PL5 managing to pack in all of the essential 'must-haves' like a tilting touchscreen, rubberised grip, Full HD movies and an intuitive user interface.

Like the rest of the Micro Four Thirds range, the E-PL5 boasts an updated selection of Olympus's coveted Digital Art Filters: a plus for creative snappers and HD videographers alike, plus you get Wi-Fi connectivity using Wireless LAN FlashAir memory cards.

Pros:

  • Same sensor as the OM-D
  • Extensive range of lenses available
  • Responsive touchscreen

Cons:

  • Currently no remote camera control with FlashAir
  • Screen isn't fully articulated
  • No EVF

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6

Key specs: 16.05mp Live MOS sensor, Venus Engine processor, Light Speed AF, 1440k-dot OLED LVF, Wi-Fi, NFC

Price: US$1,014 /£629 / AU$1,080 (with 14-42mm lens)

Best compact camera system 2013
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6

Panasonic's MFT standard format means it's compatible with a wide array of lenses − not just from the company's own range − but Olympus MFT and a selection of Sigma optics, too.

This means there's plenty of scope for creativity when opting for the 16.05mp G6, enhanced further by some of its other specifications, such as its fully articulated touchscreen that can be manipulated into all manner of awkward angles for total freedom of expression.

Its up-to-date Venus processor delivers continuous shooting speeds of up to 7fps as well as a faster AF system than that of its predecessor's (the G5).

It also boasts an updated 1440k-dot OLED EVF that's clear and bright, along with advanced controls, RAW support and on-board connectivity features including Wi-Fi and NFC.

Pros:

  • Fully articulated screen
  • Superb touchscreen
  • Filters can be used with RAW
  • Viewfinder

Cons:

  • Outdated 16mp sensor
  • Creative Control options not available in advanced modes