Our recently updated digital camera report uncovered a camera that has no name. Well, no official name anyway. It's been called EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens), mirrorless interchangeable lens, interchangeable lens compact, micro four thirds (mFT) and SLR-like, among other things. (That last one is the name that Consumer Reports settled on, as editor Terry Sullivan explains on their blog. We like interchangeable lens compact best.) So what is it? A hybrid of sorts, this new type of camera is cheaper and smaller than a digital SLR (it can fit into a jacket pocket), yet, since you can swap out lenses, it offers much more flexibility than a point and shoot.
Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony currently make interchangeable lens compacts. What sets this type of camera apart from DSLRs, besides size, is that they use mirrorless lenses. At the same time, their image sensors are much bigger than what you'll find in a point-and-shoot camera, which makes for better photos, especially in low light.
The Olympus PEN E-PL1 (*Est. $550) is the cheapest of the bunch, and it's also the most popular with critics, who like its simplified settings and controls. Its sibling, the Olympus PEN E-P2 (*Est. $905), offers more features and even better image quality, but at almost twice the price. Mirrorless cameras from Panasonic and Sony also get good reviews. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 (*Est. $665) sets itself apart with a touchscreen LCD, while Sony's models are the smallest of the bunch. For instance, the Sony Alpha NEX-5 (*Est. $700) shaves nearly half an inch off the height of the Olympus PEN E-PL1, and it shoots 1080i HD video to boot.
If you're interested in stepping up to an interchangeable lens compact or looking for a D-SLR companion that you can carry around every day, check out our newly updated digital camera report, particularly the advanced digital camera section.
Here's a list of all our current reviews of interchangeable lens compact cameras.