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Well, I've finally joined the world of mirror-less camera owners. These are a new development in digital photography. They began with the launch of the Panasonic G1, which was then followed by the Olympus PEN and the Sony Nex systems.

So, what makes them different? Well, unlike digital compact cameras, these mirror-less designs have inter-changeable lenses- and more importantly, a much bigger sensor. This means that each individual pixel on the sensor is much, much larger. This in turn, means the camera gets more information when light hits the sensor. It will have better detail, better colour fidelity and better dynamic range (ability to record bright and dark regions of the scene).

Unlike a digital SLR camera though, it has no mirror. This means that the mirror-less design is better suited for things like video applications. It also means the camera can be made much, much smaller. Without the need for a mirror inside the camera to flip up and down, the mirror-less design can be made much smaller. It doesn't need such physical volume.

So the mirror-less design is a camera that uses a sensor usually found in larger SLR cameras, with the added bonus of being ability to change lenses. The compact design makes it much easier for travel or casual use.

Nonetheless, the mirror-less design has a couple of weaknesses. The first is that it lacks an optical viewfinder. This isn't critical for many general uses. The second is that is uses a different focusing system (contrast detection) to lock on to subjects. This is a slower system than the phase-detection used in SLR photography. So for action photography it has less value.

The selling point for the serious photographer remains the compact size and large sensor. My motivation here was going to the Armageddon Comic/Gaming convention in Auckland this week. The press of the crowds meant I kept my SLR with 28-70/2.8 lens in its bag. There was simply no way to take discrete photos with this gear, and people were quite happy to bump into the camera gear as they wandered around. There are times when less-is-more, and this was one of them.