Looking into what this coming year may bring , it 's possible that 2011 may be known as the year of the Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera. 2010 brought the debut of cameras such as the Olympus PEN, the Sony NEX, Samsung's NX cameras and the Panasonic G series cameras. While American consumers looked curiously at these new models last year, these cameras accounted for nearly 25% of interchangeable lens camera sales in Japan, with European sales not far behind. And the above mentioned companies are counting on this year to begin a true upsurge in U.S. sales of these cameras. It's easy to see the appeal of these cameras. Imagine a camera with many of the features of an entry-level DSLR with a third less weight & bulk. Add to that a DSLR sized sensor for quality images, easy HD video and a starting price with zoom lens at par (or less) than a Canon G12 or Nikon P7000 &  you begin to get the picture (forgive the pun). Other cool features such as the sweep panoramic and HDR modes that the Sony NEX 5 offers, and the art filter modes on the Olympus PEN allow for added creativity (and fun!) These cameras are not for everyone, and have several possible shortcomings that you'll have to consider before purchasing. Most of these cameras come without an electronic viewfinder (which can be obtained separately), the lens choices currently are not as abundant as DSLR's, and the AF focusing systems may not be quite as fast. And while these cameras are much smaller than DSLR's, they cannot be considered pocket cameras by any means. However, the pluses can easily outweigh the negatives, especially if you're looking for a compact camera that will give you better quality images and quicker performance than any point and shoot. As for cameras that are coming out soon,we're really looking forward to the Olympus PEN E-PL2, an updated PEN camera with a new 3-inch, 460,000 dot LCD screen, faster flash sync and maximum shutter speeds (1/180th and 1/4000th, respectively), and compatibility with new Bluetooth image transfer and macro lighting accessories. The E-PL2 will become available later this month in a kit that includes the M. Zuiko MSC Digital ED m14-42mm f3.5/5.6 lens. This new kit lens bears the Movie and Still Compatible (MSC) designation, meaning its focus mechanism is designed for faster, quieter operation. Estimated street price for the kit will be $599.99. Later this week. join us as we discuss the new breed of point & shoots that are a cut above their predecessors. (Photo of Panasonic GF1, Sony NEX 5 and Olympus E-PL1 by Fred Bonilla)

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