Welcome to the world of mirrorless cameras.
If you're not familiar with this type of camera, I'm not surprised — mirrorless cameras are a relatively new development, the result of years worth of digital camera technology innovation.
The main innovation that led to the mirrorless camera is the constant reduction in size of digital and mechanical parts.
Regular digital SLRs take fantastic pictures but they're quite large and heavy. You have to really need the superior image quality of a DSLR to lug one around all day long.
Pros don't mind - they've been doing it for years. But the common consumer would probably like to take high-quality images without suffering from neck and hand cramps.
And that's just where the mirrorless camera comes in.
Great Photos in Small Packages
Mirrorless cameras are virtually the same size and shape as a typical compact camera. However, on the inside they hide sensors that are more comparable to those in digital SLR cameras.
These DSLR sensors mean that your images will begin to have that "professional look": smooth blurred backgrounds, razor-sharp details and colors that leap off the printed page are just some of qualities that you'll get.
You'll also have the ability to change lenses at any time: from wide angle to super close-up, you can pick a lens that matches your photographic vision.
Whether you're a point-and-shoot beginning photographer or a more advanced photo enthusiast, mirrorless cameras provide the same flexibility as regular DSLRs. Fully automatic modes let you fire away, and custom controls let you adjust your images to look exactly the way you like.
Still Camera? Video Camera? Who Knows?
In addition to taking great stills, mirrorless cameras are also semi-professional video cameras.
The video that they capture is High Definition (HD) - suitable for playback on High Definition Television (HDTV) sets. Really want to wow your relatives with video clips from your recent vacation? Show it to them on your 52" widescreen TV!
While the sheer size of the playback should impress everyone, your ability to change lenses should impress even more.
The reason that movies look the way they do is because the director can selectively control focus to draw your attention to certain elements in the scene — and with a mirrorless camera, you can too.
Since you are able to change the lenses on the camera, you can pick a telephoto lens for some extreme close ups, and then switch to a wide angle lens for sweeping panoramic shots.
Your home movies of your children's piano recitals will never be the same.
Now that you know a bit more about mirrorless cameras, let's talk about the companies that make them.
Panasonic was the first company to release a mirrorless camera: the DMC-G1, which became available to the public in late 2008. Olympus was quick to follow with a camera of their own that has a lot of retro appeal in the camera body design: the E-P1 (in mid 2009).
In October 2011, Nikon released their first mirrorless cameras, part of the Nikon 1 line. The two first models in this new line of Nikon cameras are the J1 (geared toward consumers) and the V1 (geared toward professionals).
Surprisingly, Canon was the very last manufacturer to create a mirrorless camera - I say surprising because Canon has been the dominant company for years in the compact and SLR camera markets.
In the case of mirrorless camera, Canon clearly didn't feel any need to jump in immediately and instead waited a long time to introduce the first Canon mirrorless camera.