Small Interchangeable Lens Cameras

If you're looking for small and compact in an interchangeable lens camera (ILC) to add to your collection, you actually have quite a few choices these days. 

I'm assuming you probably already have a main camera or are completely new to ILC and just looking for something that's better than your phone but not too big or expensive. My selections here all center around what I'd call a compact travel kit: a body and lenses that don't take up a lot of space and carry lightly, but have broader use capabilities than the All-in-One Cameras

As far as I'm concerned, these are the best small interchangeable lens cameras:

bythom canon m50
  • Canon EOS M50 — Yep, an oldie, but still tough to beat if you want some sophistication and performance. It's like a mini-DSLR. I actually like the M5 a bit more, but the price differential is enough to push the recommendation to the M50. You're not really giving up anything in image quality, and you get 4K video, which the M5 didn't have. The real issue I have with this camera is whether or not the lenses you want actually exist. The 11-22mm f/4.5-5.6, 22mm f/2, 28mm f/3.5, and 32mm f/1.4 are the only M mount lenses I'd use on my M50 (yes, my money is where my pen is). Canon's mid-range and telephoto zooms just aren't particularly good, especially compared to what the others offer. If you need mid-range, superzoom, or telephoto zoom capability, I'd look somewhere other than Canon. I haven't looked at the EOS M6 m2 yet. With the optional EVF it becomes pretty much an updated M5 with a better, 32mp sensor.
bythom fujifilm xt30
  • Fujifilm X-T30 — Get it with the smaller 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (not the 18-55mm shown above) and you have a very small, highly competent, and enthusiast-oriented 24-70mm equivalent combo. That kit lens is great optically, by the way, though some might not like the fact it's a power zoom, which makes it a bit slow to get the focal length you really desire. Still, I regard it as the better choice than the 18-55mm, partly because it gets you down just below 24mm equivalent at the wide end, but also because I've found it to be such a strong optical performer. As long as primes are your choice, Fujifilm has a wide range of smaller, compact lenses that are extremely appropriate for this camera. It's when you get to zooms that you start to have a hard time keeping things light and truly compact. 
bythom nikon z50
  • Nikon Z50 — Yep, Nikon squeaks into consideration with the first in its Z DX line. While I still await my production version, I've played with the pre-release model enough to know it's a winner. What I like about this new camera is that it is a very nice down-scaling of the already smallish Z6/Z7 models, and it uses the proven D500/D7500 DX sensor. It slots into the Nikon DX DSLR lineup mid-point, much like the Z6 and Z7 do in the full frame lineup, and just below the D7500 DSLR. Of the options on this page, it's one of the best built and most approachable in handling and menus. The drawback? Lack of initial lens choice. Still, that 16-50mm pancake zoom is a real nice start, and coupled with the 50-250mm gives you a 24-375mm equivalent range in two smallish lenses (at least while in contracted form while traveling). That said, if you're looking for wide angle zooms, the Z50 will force you to buy a 10-20mm AF-P F-mount zoom and the FTZ Adapter.
bythom olympus em10


  • Olympus E-M10 m3 — Yeah, it's still using the older 16mp m4/3 sensor and it doesn't have phase detect autofocus, but this little body is frankly, the kind of small, competent camera I appreciated from Olympus during its film SLR heyday. Moreover, this camera with kit lens is at the low end of the price in this category. Keeping it small, look at the very good 9-18mm f/4-5.6 for a good wide angle zoom. But personally, my favorite use of this camera is with the also-small 12mm f/2, 45mm f/1.8, and 75mm f/1.8 primes. Why not the E-M5 m3? Well, it's not out yet and I haven't had a real chance to use it yet. It's also higher priced that most of the other cameras on this list. Still, it's worth a look, as it's a high-specification camera compared to most of the rest of this group, while still staying light and small. 
bythom sony a6600
  • Sony A-what? — Yeah, that's the question: which A6xxx model? Sony is still selling six such models that all feature virtually the same body design—notice how it's the only design that doesn't look like a mini-DSLR on this page?—but with differing goodies under the hood. I'm going to be a little on the controversial side here: if the smaller camera options I list above aren't "enough" for you, then opt for the A6400 or A6600, and get the 10-18mm f/4 and new 16-55mm f/2.8G lens. Yep, that's going to be a somewhat bigger package than I've suggested with any of the above choices. But the Sony choices I suggest fit nicely between those other just-listed cameras and buying a full frame mirrorless camera. If you're in that middle ground, it's probably either something from Fujifilm (e.g. X-T3, which is bigger), or one of the A6xxx's. The reason why you go for the latest Sony here is that, yes, the focus and other tech has advanced over the earlier models, and if you're really looking for "more," you're going to want that state-of-the-art autofocus. That said, the other option is go completely low-ball. The Sony A6000 with kit zoom can be grabbed at a very low price. That camera is competent overall, and has an excellent 24mp APS-C sensor. The kit lens is passable and collapses for compactness. 

As I've written many times, it probably pays to "stay in your lane." If you're a Nikon DSLR user, the Z50 is the choice you should look at carefully. We have consistency within brands at this point, but not across brands. Thus, adding a small travel kit from a different brand to your existing full, bigger DSLR/mirrorless kit, is just asking for a new pain point in your photography. You'll have to learn new terms, new controls, new menus, and much more.

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