a Hybrid camera may be all you need

Shopping for a camera used to be a fairly simple proposition, even just a couple of years ago. You were either buying a cheap and compact point-and-shoot digital camera or an expensive and big digital camera with interchangeable lenses, known as a digital single-lens reflex.

Now smartphone cameras are so good that point-and-shoot cameras seem almost redundant. A DSLR can make you look like a tourist, and its array of controls can be overwhelming.

Cameramakers are more than aware of these changes to their industry. So they have created a new category of camera with a mix of attributes — a device that produces higher-quality pictures than a point-and-shoot while being less bulky and less expensive than most DSLR options.

These so-called mirrorless ­cameras are usually about the same size as a point-and-shoot digital camera, but they're actually closer in spirit and technology to a DSLR. They have interchangeable lenses, as well as image sensors that are nearly the same size as those found in DSLRs. Image sensors, much more than megapixels, are the true path to image quality.

A higher-end mirrorless option is the Fujifilm X-T1, a 16-megapixel camera that is meant to be as good as a DSLR. It retails for $1,300 without a lens and $1,800 bundled with a Fujifilm 18-55mm lens. It takes amazing photos, as it should at this price.

For a more affordable comparison, there's the Sony Alpha NEX 5T, which was released in September 2013 and can be found online for about $550. It lacks the panache of the Fujifilm X-T1, but the $1,100 price difference makes it worth a look.

The 5T's body is almost hilariously small: At about 4.5 inches wide and under 3 inches tall, this thing is all lens. That makes it more pocketable, but also not as rugged, so you will want to be a bit more delicate. The focus is fast, the image quality good and the video quality excellent. The ­camera has built-in Wi-Fi and near-field communication for wireless transfer to Android phones that support that tech­nology.

You'll find just about every variation of mirrorless camera in between the price points of these two. Most major cameramakers now produce them, including Canon, Samsung, Nikon and Pentax. A Sony spokesman said many people consider mirrorless cameras the future of photography.