A new type of digital camera has generated a lot of buzz in the camera world in the past couple of months, in part due to Sony's announcement of two new NEX series cameras. But nobody really knows what to call this new type, as many have noted in print and on the web. In fact, this category has had an identity crisis since its inception two years ago.
Back then, when Panasonic introduced the Lumix DMC-G1, many referred to these cameras as micro four thirds, sometimes abbreviated as mFT. It's a technical name that refers to the camera's type of sensor, which has been included in all such models put out by Panasonic and Olympus since 2008.
This name might have stuck for good, if Samsung hadn't introduced a competitor to it, the NX10, which includes a different-sized sensor (APS-C). But even if Samsung (and a few months later, Sony) hadn't introduced a different design, techie names like "micro four thirds" have always left the average consumer a bit baffled.
Of course, a number of names have been suggested, including "hybrids", "system cameras" and "mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras." To me, the most humorous one was "EVIL", for "electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens", which makes me think of Dr. Evil from the movies.
Here at Consumer Reports, we've decided to call this new type an "SLR-like," since it has many of the robust features found on a Single Lens Reflex camera—a large image sensor and the ability to set many manual settings and manual focus. But it's much smaller than an SLR and doesn't have a viewfinder due to body design, which lacks a mirrorbox. (Which is why it can't be classified as an SLR.)
We realize this is an imperfect solution, but we think it's adequate for the moment. What do you think? Do you have a better name for this exciting new camera category? Let us know.