Product Guide

HWM+HardwareZone.com Tech Awards 2012: Editor's Choice - Part 1

HWM+HardwareZone.com Tech Awards 2012: Editor's Choice - Part 1



Best Mirrorless System Camera

Best Mirrorless System Camera

Mirrorless system cameras have evolved since their launch in 2008, by today's count there are seven separate mirrorless systems on the market. This has resulted in a rich, if difficult, abundance of choice for users. The Micro Four Thirds standard currently has the largest selection of lenses, while those who aren't concerned about lenses will find cameras like the Sony NEX rivaling the image quality of entry-level DSLRs, due to their equally big sensors. While Nikon hasn't entered the mirrorless game with large sensors, the Nikon 1 series introduces another variable to choose from, with their cameras' exceptionally quick auto-focus and frames per second shooting speeds.

In that light, we've focused this year on mid-range mirrorless system camera models, which are under the S$1500 price range. These would be suitable for those looking for an easy to use, compact camera to carry around, but have enough controls to appeal to enthusiasts. We recognize that because of the differing sensor sizes, technologies and emphasis, the comparisons aren't always exact, but we based our results on the end-user in mind.

Nominees:

  • Nikon V1
  • Olympus E-P3
  • Panasonic GX1
  • Samsung NX200
  • Sony NEX-5N

And the Winner Is...

The Sony NEX-5N has, hands down, the best image quality among our list, thanks to its large APS-C sensor. It's also quick and responsive. Both the Panasonic GX1 and the Nikon V1 also turned in great looking images, surprisingly so for the Nikon V1 which has the smallest image sensor among the nominees. The Panasonic GX1's image quality edges out over the Olympus E-P3 thanks to lower image noise at higher ISOs, but it has a newer generation sensor than the E-P3.

The only downside about the NEX-5N is that it's really tuned towards the automatic shooter in mind. As such, the controls are limited and aren't easily accessible for the hardocore manual user. An enthusiast looking for more accessible manual controls would be better served by the Panasonic GX1, or the Sony NEX-7 which is far pricier than our nominees at S$1799 for the body alone.

The large lenses, in comparison to the other systems, might put some off, but when mounted on the camera, the entire package is still smaller than a DSLR camera would be. If you're really concerned about lens selection though, you should look at the Micro Four Thirds standard which has the largest selection of native lenses. If you think you'll just stick with the camera's kit lens (the lenses it came with), then don't worry. With its small size, great image quality and competitive price, the Sony NEX-5N is a worthy winner of our mirrorless system camera award.

Scoring Breakdown

 Criteria/Model Nikon V1 Olympus E-P3 Panasonic GX1 Samsung NX200 Sony NEX-5N
Physique 7.0 9.0 8.5 7.0 8.5
Features 9.0 9.0 9.5 8.5 9.0
User-Friendliness 9.0 9.0 9.5 7.0 9.0
Performance 8.0 8.5 9.0 8.0 9.5
Value 8.0 9.0 9.5 7.0 9.5
Overall 8.0 9.0 9.0 7.5 9.0
Price $1299 (with 10-30mm lens kit), $1369 (with 10mm lens kit), $1499 (with 10-30mm & 10mm lens kit), $1549 (with 10-30mm & 30-110mm lens kit) $1298 (with 14-42mm kit lens), $1548 (with 14-42mm & 40-150mm kit lenses) $1299 (with X 14-42mm lens), $1299 (with 14mm & 14-42mm lens), $899 (body only) $1099 (with 18-55mm kit lens) $1199 (with 18-55mm lens kit), $1299 (with 18-55mm & 16mm lens kit)

For more details on how we selected our winners, check out the full reviews and articles listed at the References section at the end.