Customers in this category will have a very broad range of choices and desires. But, remember they are interested in controlling most every part of photography. This includes Field Of View (FOV) and Depth of Field (DOF).
Cameras with 3 different sensor sizes fall into this discussion. 1″, 4/3″, and APS-C. There are interchangeable lens cameras and fixed lens cameras available in all three categories. I put the 1″ sensor in this category, because you can start to do a good job in controlling depth of field with this sensor and low light shooting starts to improve significantly. But you will also see that costs start to escalate significantly in this category.
Nikon was the first company to attack this segment with their One series. Just to put a line in the sand, the camera sell for about $900 today. Lots of good features, but my problem with this camera is the f4.0 lens. Since it is a smaller camera, I would have liked to see a f2.8 lens. For an ILC, switching lenses and other hassles of this type of camera, there needs to be more reward. Faster Prime lenses can be purchased. Lenses run about $150 to $900 for this camera.
Recently Nikon added fixed lens cameras to their 1″ or CX line. Actually these are called DL cameras for $650 to $900 depending on the lens attached. These cameras begin with a f-stop of 1.8 and the longest zoom has wide angle f-stop of 2.8. The Camera with the longest zoom 24-500mm has an f-stop range of 2.8 to 5.6. The least expensive camera has a 24-85mm zoom and an f-stop range of 1.8 to 2.8 for $650. The mid-range has a 18-50mm zoom and the same 1.8 to 2.8 f-stop range for $850 (wide angles are generally more expensive).
While Sony wasn’t the first to market with a 1″ sensor, they do make all the 1″ sensors for Nikon and of course for themselves. But, Sony, is about the only camera maker that is seeing profits go up, and I think to a large degree it is because of cameras in this category. Sony was the first to offer the 1″ sensor in a fixed lens camera. They offer 7 different cameras in this segment. Prices range from $500 to $1,500 for these cameras. The $500 model, RX-100, doesn’t have the BSI, but it has a good 28-100mm lens which is very functional and a maximum f-stop of 1.8. The most expensive (RX10-III) has the BSI sensor, 24-600mm lens, and a 2.4 to 4.0 f-stop range on the zoom. Not to mention 4k video with 960 fps video at 4k for slow motion effects. While these cameras are expensive, they are loaded with features that make them very capable.
These cameras will provide much better low light capability than cell phones and much better zoom performance than the 1/2.3″ sensors. Plus, what they can do with video makes them very attractive.
Then there are the micro 4/3rds format. This is a larger sensor, and I think all cameras made in this format are ILCs. Panasonic and Olympus sell this format. There is a large installed base and lots of lenses that can be purchased to custom fit your needs. If a person wants an ILC system, this sensor size is the smallest that I would recommend. Bodies without lenses start at about $400 and go up to about $1300. Lenses cost about $150 to $2500, although the vast majority are $200 to $600. But, it is a huge selection which is nice.
The next sensor size is the APS-C. About every major camera maker is in this category. Although there is a divide between Mirrorless and DSLR. I won’t touch that controversy today, but I do have my opinion. But, ultimately they are capable of producing the same quality pictures. Body only packages begin at around $300 and basic lens kit packages start at around $400. A high end body will be around $1600. Lenses start at around $150 and go up to a little over $2000. So due to the fact they are a little larger they are a bit more expensive than the 4/3rds lenses. These camera lens combinations can provide excellent results in a variety of situations. They will generally provide better low light capability than their 4/3rds brethren.
Remember I talked about some advantages to being small to level the playing field. One of them is that the 1″ cameras are capable to doing faster frame bursts than the APS-C cameras. They also might be able to provide better FPS in the video mode as well, which will result in better slow motion effects. Basically, since the sensors are smaller and usually a few less pixels, they can read the data off the sensor faster, and move on to the next frame or picture quicker.
As you can see there is a big range with what you can do here and spend. $500 can get you into a good system. If, being small and taking very good pictures in a variety of situations, the 1″ sensor with a fixed lens is the way to go. If you want more flexibility and don’t mind carrying around a little more weight, the MFT and APS-C are good choices.