Commenter on another post asked me about mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras and I did some research to help suggest what to buy. Here’s what I found taking the approach of having a reasonable budget (under $1000) and wanting the best bang for my buck in this market segment.
Mirrorless cameras borrow from DSLRs (bigger sensors, shooting speed, lens selection) and point and shoots (small form factor, simpler controls). For the most part you get the best of both worlds without giving up too much. Yeah they don’t fit in your pocket, but they’re easier to carry around all day then some of the heavier DSLRs.
The ~$1000 market is made up by Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Pentax, Nikon and Sony. I was expressly interested in the smaller models that bridge the DSLR and P&S gap. Some mirrorless cameras aren’t that much smaller than DSLRs so they were excluded from my search.
I went through a very unscientific and ad-hoc elimination process where I looked at the current offerings of each manufacturer. Olympus, Panasonic and Samsung didn’t really move me or stand out as good bang for your buck cameras. I eliminated Nikon based solely on high ISO performance with their smaller sensor. Canon is coming out with their first attempt at mirrorless, but it looks slow and unpromising. Pentax and Sony have very similar offerings with APS-C sensors.
So my gut and personal preference tells me the Sony NEX-5N is the best mirrorless interchangeable lens camera for the money right now. Sony recently discounted the camera with kit lens to $500. I’m assuming this is in preperation for the release of the NEX-5R and NEX-6.
Buying right now? Sony NEX-5N for $500: Amazon or B&H Photo
Buying for Christmas 2012?
Sony NEX-5R for $750: Amazon or B&H Photo
Sony NEX-6 for $999: Amazon or B&H Photo