Several new compact system cameras have been released in the past month, with more hitting the shelves in the next month or two. Camera makers are appealing to the mass consumer market -- not just photo enthusiasts -- with new interchangeable-
lens models that are more novice-friendly. Among the new offerings:
Olympus is most clearly taking a more tiered approach with its latest PEN family cameras. The flagship E-P3, the priciest of the new group, was scheduled to hit stores last month. The retro-looking camera will offer a new sensor, along with a faster autofocus. Full HD video capabilities will be complemented by stereo audio recording. And the camera's 3-inch LCD display will be a high-resolution touchscreen, meaning some controls can be adjusted by touching the screen, smartphone-style. The E-P3, which includes a built-in flash, is available in two configurations for $899.99 -- with a zoom lens (14-42mm/equivalent to 28-84mm) or a fast 17mm (34mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens.
The E-PL3, meanwhile, is the "lite" version, due to hit shelves this month. The camera also offers the new sensor and autofocus system, as well as the full HD video with stereo audio. Instead of the touchscreen offered by its big brother, the E-PL3 has an LCD display that tilts and flips out. This camera has no built-in flash, but does ship with an external flash that clips on. The E-PL3 willl be sold with either the 14-42mm zoom lens or the 17mm lens, for $699.99.
The E-PM1 is designed to be the least intimidating of the group for people considering the step up from point-and-shoot cameras. It's the smallest and lightest of the PEN line and, ostensibly, the easiest to use. The camera sports a simplified user interface and a more whimsical color selection: purple, pink, brown, white, silver or black. The LCD display will be fixed (and not a touchscreen), but the camera will have the same new sensor, autofocus, image processing and HD video capabilities as the other models. As of press time availability and price hadn't been finalized.