Compact system camera buying guide

Offering a compact form with a large image sensor and the ability to swap lenses, these cameras are an ideal choice for those who want quality and creativity, without the bulk. These compact bodies even manage to pack in HD video, high speed focus systems, intuitive controls and more.

These high performance cameras offer the best of both worlds - with exceptional image quality and full creative control you are sure to take your photography further.

With a multitude of lenses available and a host of enticing extras you are able to shoot subjects with a creative eye, so the perfect photo is never out of reach!
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Image quality


The sensor quality and size determines the quality of a photo and not the megapixel count.

Compact system cameras and Digital SLRs use larger CMOS sensors. These sensors are of a higher quality than CCD sensors, producing higher quality photos regardless of the megapixels count.

Additionally, CMOS sensors are more sensitive, achieving improved photo quality, especially in low light conditions.

This CMOS technology can also be called, Live MOS, Exmoor R, APSC or MOS.



Megapixels are the number of pixels that make up a photograph. However, the number of megapixels only matters when you are enlarging a photo. A photo taken with a 12 megapixel camera can be enlarged to a 70cm x 45cm poster without sacrificing quality.

As you can see from the table below, even a basic 4 megapixel compact camera has the resolution for producing an 8x10” print. The type and size of the sensor determines the quality of the photo.


Low light performance:

One of the main attributes that determines camera quality is its performance in low light.

As highlighted in the sensor section, CMOS sensors are inherently more sensitive and will produce superior results in low light than a CCD sensor.

Additionally, each camera is given an ISO rating and the higher the ISO number the better the quality the camera will produce in low light. Often without the need for a flash which causes unnecessary whiteness.

Low light performance

Professional quality in a compact size

A Digital SLR is larger than a compact system camera due to the Digital SLRs mirror system that displays the image through the viewfinder.

In a compact system camera the mirror system is removed and the viewfinder does not come as standard so the screen is used to frame the shot.

Essentially you get comparable quality to a Digital SLR but in a compact and stylish body.

Professional quality

Lenses & accessories


Macro – allows you to get up close to the subject and capture the fine detail, which a standard lens can’t.

Wide-angle – allows you to capture more of the view, the smaller the number (mm) the wider the angle of the lens. This is ideal for landscape photography.

Zoom – allows you to get closer to the action and capture photos from a distance. This is ideal for wildlife and sports photography.

Converter – fits onto the end of a standard lens to produce a wide-angle, macro or fish eye effect, they are typically a lot less expensive than a lens.

Types of lens

Memory cards:

These come in different memory capacities from 2GB up to 64GB, the higher the image quality the larger capacity needed.

The performance of a card relates to the speed in which it transfers the data from the camera onto the card. Compact system cameras and Digital SLRs can take photos at very fast speeds, in order to make sure the memory card can keep up a higher performance card is imperative..

Memory cards

Other accessories:

Tripods come in many sizes and styles. With a tripod the camera is static and you can achieve a photo in great detail and vivid colour with absolutely no blur.

As a compact system camera or Digital SLR lens is a precision pieced of milled glass that cannot be cleaned in the typical way, special cleaners and cloths are available to keep your equipment in the best condition possible.

Other accessories

Image stabilization

Image stabilisation reduces blurring on pictures by keeping the sensor still even if your body is moving.

This is especially important to look for if you take photos at night or use a long zoom as these types of photo are more susceptible to blurring.

Image stabilization and non stabilization

Frames per second

The amount of frames- per- second (fps) on a camera means how many photos the camera can take in one second. This is important when photographing fast moving subjects and will ensure you never miss that photo opportunity.

In addition, the larger the fps, the smoother the video recording is. Frames per second
Frames per second

HD Movie recording

Most cameras now have the added benefit of HD video capture. This is ideal for action memories, whether it be your children’s sports day, a music concert or family holiday moments.

Look out for Full HD (1080p) recording which is superior in quality than HD (720p) recording.

HD Movie quality

Other considerations


Larger screen sizes make it easier to view and frame a photo.

Most cameras use standard LCD screens, whilst higher performance cameras use premium OLED screens with clearer displays.

Additionally, some cameras have touch screen which enables you to tap the screen to select options, take a photo and zoom. Some cameras are even available with a versatile screen which allows easy capture at any angle.



In addition to the easy–to-use auto settings, compact system cameras and Digital SLRs have full manual modes for maximum creativity control.

Increasing the shutter speed is great for capturing fast moving subjects, whilst decreasing the shutter speed creates beautiful moving photos such as the one below.

Decreasing the aperture reduces the focal area of a photo, causing the surrounding areas to be defocused, as the photo below.

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