While the small size and high image quality of these cameras are attractive, some of the performance can be reminiscent of consumer point-and-shoot cameras. Some models still exhibit shutter lag, and AF performance can be slow, especially in low light. Also, most professionals will find an optical viewfinder to be comfortable to work with and easier to use in many situations. Some of these compacts have optical viewfinders built in, while for others it's an additional accessory. We highly recommend the accessory viewfinder.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 is loaded with a full-frame CMOS sensor (the same sensor as the pro DSLR Sony A99) and a 35mm ƒ/2 Carl Zeiss lens, giving you the ability to shoot in low-light conditions, as well as create a shallow depth of field. The ISO sensitivity ranges from 50-25,600. It can shoot RAW still files and 1080p HD video, and a dedicated aperture ring, focus ring and shutter speed dial make changing these settings fast in street-shooting situations. Estimated Street Price: $2,799.
Nikon recently announced the Coolpix A large-sensor compact camera. Its APS-C-sized CMOS sensor is similar to the sensor in the popular Nikon D7000 DSLR camera. The lens is a fixed 28mm ƒ/2.8, and the camera has an ISO range of 100-25,600. It captures RAW files, as well as full HD video. Manual focus is controlled through a focus ring, and other manual controls are adjusted through the menu system. Estimated Street Price: $1,099.
Additional options for large-sensor compact cameras include the Sigma DP3 Merrill ($999), Fujifilm FinePix X100S ($1,200) and Leica X2 ($1,995).
MIRRORLESS INTERCHANGEABLE-LENS CAMERAS
For more flexibility and control in lens choices, you may be willing to sacrifice some size and choose a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera (sometimes called MILC). The MILCs do away with the SLR's moving-mirror reflex system to make a smaller overall package. Many MILCs are available with large APS-C sensors, and we expect to see full-frame models in the near future.
By removing the mirror while maintaining the large sensor, the manual control and the interchangeable lenses that a consumer point-and-shoot camera doesn't have, professional street shooters get a lot of creative control with minimal size and weight. With external dials and focus rings, more of the manual options are located on the body of the camera instead of inside menus, making camera operation more intuitive for the professional photographer.
In terms of speed and spontaneity, most MILCs display little, if any, shutter lag, but they're often still slightly slower than pro DSLRs. Interchangeable lenses mean you have more options, and even with a few lenses and the camera body, you can build a small and highly capable street-shooting package. Most MILCs have contrast-detect AF systems and some manufacturers, Sony, for example, offer an adapter that allows you to attach DSLR lenses and get phase-detect AF performance. This adds some bulk, but makes the MILC system even more useful for a pro.
The Canon EOS M uses a new EF-M lens mount, which is optimized for its 18-megapixel APS-C sensor. The ISO range is 100-12,800, expanded to 25,600. Manual rings and dials are set up congruently to EOS DSLRs, giving a familiar feel for Canon users. The Canon EOS M has a touch screen with an intuitive design. It shoots both RAW and full HD video. It's currently selling as a kit with a 22mm f/