DSLR used to be the de facto and obvious standard for any photographer worth their salt, but something changed in 2008. The introduction of the mirrorless camera by Panasonic finally created a rival to DSLR that professionals could count on. Now a decade later, these more technically simplistic cameras are coming into their own, and the market has exploded with options from some of the biggest manufacturers in the business.
It’s taken some time for professional photographers to put aside their skepticism regarding mirrorless, but many are starting to come around as the quality and range of options starts to improve. If you’re looking for a high-quality mirrorless camera, you now have a decent range of options to choose from, but here are the ten best.
The Best Mirrorless Cameras
- Sony a7 III Mirrorless Camera
- Nikon Z7 Mirrorless Digital Camera
- Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera
- Fujifilm X-T3
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
- Sony Alpha a6000
- Nikon Z6 FX-Format
- Sony Alpha a7IIK
- PANASONIC LUMIX GX9 4K
- Fujifilm X-T20
- PANASONIC LUMIX GH5S
- Fujifilm X-H1
1. Sony a7 III Mirrorless Camera
Sony's A7 might not offer the top specs in any given category, but it's potentially the best mirrorless camera on the market in sheer terms of utility and balance. This full frame camera doesn't take the absolutely crispest images around, but it finds an exceptional balance between resolution and speed, and it comes packed with a plethora of great features. The autofocus in this Sony mirrorless camera is the same one used in their high-end A9 model, and it works as well as you'd expect from an AF built for sports coverage. But unlike the A9, the A7 comes with a silent mode for capturing footage around skittish subjects. The still performance is generally top notch across the board, but this camera also offers a broad range of features for those looking to shoot film. It's capable of shooting in 6K and then downscaling it to 4K results.
2. Nikon Z7 Mirrorless Digital Camera
The Z7 isn't a cheap piece of equipment, but it earns its price tag with its top of the line performance all across the board and its notable range of features. This Nikon mirrorless camera is the flagship of the company's mirrorless line, and that means that it packs in all the advances made by earlier additions and all the best features from lower price models. That's obvious from the fact that it delivers 45.7 megapixels of clarity and packs in a truly top shelf on-sensor phase-detection system. With 493 different phase detection points in autofocus, it can cover 90% of the image area, and it can also work in conjunction with more traditional contrast AF systems. And while this 4k mirrorless camera works with the full range of existing Nikon VR lenses, it has a VR body built in to minimize vibrations even when mounted with non-VR lenses.
3. Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera
If the price points of the aforementioned cameras are making you blanche, this Canon mirrorless camera may be more your speed. Coming in at roughly half a grand, the Canon EOS is still a respectable mirrorless camera - and it's one that makes the most of modern wireless protocol. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC are all built in, allowing you to easily share and edit your photos without having to juggle a memory card. It also comes packed with a quality 24MP APS-C sensor and Dual Pixel autofocus. This isn't a heavy duty professional choice like the Z7 or a7, but its modest price tag, ease of use, and respectably lightweight design making it one of the best mirrorless camera for beginners. The physical controls are limited and intuitive, meaning that owners won't have to wrestle with a variety of complex components just to get the shot they're aiming for.
4. Fujifilm X-T3
Available in the same general price range as Sony's a7, the X-T3 is arguably the best mirrorless camera if you're seeking out a APS-C rather than full frame option. Fujifilm is one of the leaders regarding still photos, and their video capabilities have improved pretty fundamentally in the past few years. It offers an improved and faster autofocus than earlier models, and the buttons and dials are really smartly designed to let photographers make changes on the fly without having to disturb their eye from the shot. The still photography here is of the quality photographers should expect from Fujifilm, but the video capabilities are sure to raise some eyebrows. The X-T3 allows you to shoot 4K footage at up to 60 fps, and bitrates of up to 400Mbps are available at frame rates of 30 fps. Combined with Fujifilm's enormous range of lenses and you have a real winner.
5. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
If you're looking for the best budget mirrorless camera around today, this package is well worth a look. For well under a thousand dollars you get a good entry-level camera from Olympus along with a lens, camera bag, and memory card. The interface has been built from the ground up to accommodate users who may be completely new to the more complex functions of digital cameras, but it can also serve reliably well for mid-level photographers who are working with a tighter budget. A large selection of filters allows you to produce more interesting results without having to make use of a photo editing app, and the Wi-Fi connectivity makes it easy to share photos with friends or store them remotely. Both Raw and JPEG capture is supported with the OM-D E-M10. It doesn't come with much in the way of cutting edge features, but it's a reliable, inexpensive choice.
6. Sony Alpha a6000
The lightweight and portable Alpha a6000 takes much of what's great about the a7, but it strips down some of the more high-end features to accommodate the necessities of a much more cost-effective camera. The AF can be difficult to setup, and Sony sacrificed a touchscreen for the sake of affordability, but the built-in Wi-Fi and NFC adds a lot of convenience, and Sony has managed to significantly trim down size as a result of their cost cutting measures. The 179 points for autofocus are impressive for a camera in this price range, and it makes use of a really cool hybrid AF system. That allows it to offer some of the fastest AF around, even in comparison to DLSR cameras. AF area, Lock on AF, and Eye AF all carry over from the a7. And the inclusion of the latest Bionz X processor allows for exceptionally fast performance.
7. Nikon Z6 FX-Format
The Z6 is a case of a near-universally regarded manufacturer (in this case Nikon) taking everything they've learned from more traditional DSLRs and simply applying them to mirrorless frames. That's certainly not a bad thing. You can count on it to deliver the same level of picture quality and handling as a Nikon, and it certainly clings to that elusive feel that veteran Nikon owners come to expect. A whole new set of lenses have rolled off the shelf in preparation for the Z6, but an FTZ lens mount adapter will allow you to convert all of your existing F-mount lenses so you don't have to restart your collection from scratch. Five-axis image stabilization brings five stop VR to both new and legacy lenses, while the full frame autofocus allows for more precise shots. The electronic shutter offers practically silent operation when you use the Z6.
8. Sony Alpha a7IIK
As an earlier model of Sony's Alpha a7iii, you can expect the a7iik to be a bit less modern and fully featured, but it's still an impressive (particularly considering it's nearly half the price at retail). The a7iik actually offers a slightly higher resolution, but it sacrifices that for the sake of a lack of rear illumination, but the sensor in this mirrorless camera is still of very high quality. Long story short, this is a great camera backed by the 5-axis image stabilization system and with fundamentally strong design and handling. While there's some drop in performance compared to the latest model and a slightly less intuitive button and interface design, the a7iik is still a choice strong enough to meet the needs of novices and pros, and it potentially offers more value for price than the newer model.
9. PANASONIC LUMIX GX9 4K
There's a lot that Panasonic's mirrorless Lumix does well, and that's especially true given that it comes in at a price well underneath a grand. Shot quality is of course going to be the number one priority for any photographer, and the GX9 recuses itself well. It offers still shots that can compete with micro 3/4 cameras and also offers quality 4K footage that's assisted by a selection of cool shooting modes. The fast autofocus may not be neck and neck with the Alpha a6000, but it can still hang, and its 9fps burst mode runs lightning quick as well. The size of the Lumix is another big advantage, but it manages to pack all of the necessary controls comfortably despite its petite figure. It also utilizes a five axis stabilization system for better vibration reduction.
10. Fujifilm X-T20
Photographers who like the quality of Fujifilm's products but find that the X-T3 is just a little too much might want to step down to the X-T20. It's still a great camera, and it comes with most of the features that semi-professionals might need. The control mode and auto mode are positioned side by side, and they allow photographers of any experience level to easily automate the shooting process or achieve shots that precisely match their perspectives. The tilting LCD and touch screen is small, but it's also responsive, and it offers the same dot count that you'll find on Fujifilm's more expensive flagship models.
11. PANASONIC LUMIX GH5S
This newer and higher-end variant of the Panasonic Lumix is naturally beefier than the GX9, but its real strength (and its primary focus) is video. Its high bitrates and frame rates are particularly worthy of your attention if you're looking for smooth and seamless 4K performance that doesn't sacrifice clarity in the process. Plenty of the cameras on our list split the difference between still and video shooting, but the GH5S easily takes the cake for a camera that focuses on the latter. It's able to shoot continuously at 12 fps in AF-S mode or at 8 fps while using continuous autofocus. Of special note is the dual native ISO - a smart choice that allows for remarkably low noise even at the highest sensitivities.
12. Fujifilm X-H1
The X-H1 is imposing, and that's not just the price tag. This is a big camera with serious heft, at least in comparison to Fujifilm's earlier X-series designs. But there's a good reason for that extra size. Fujifilm's proprietary IBIS tech offers five axis stability, a major advantage for both still and video photography. Remote shooting is available by linking it up to your tablet or phone, and the H1 supports high-speed video at 120p/100p. The electronic viewfinder offers a 3.69 million dot high resolution, while sixteen different film simulation modes make it easier to create results that match your imagination.
Best Mirrorless Cameras Buyer’s Guide
What is a Mirrorless Camera?
DSLR cameras have long been the standard for professional photographers, and the reflex mirror is one of their trademark components. Mirrorless cameras, by contrast, have only been around for about a decade. They replace the mirror that reflects the light from the lens into the optical viewfinder and instead leave the imaging sensor exposed to light persistently. Instead, they make use of digital screens.
Mirrorless Cameras vs. DSLR
So is a mirrorless camera inherently better than a DSLR camera? The reality is complicated, and a lot of it will come down to your personal preferences and demands. There are a few things to consider when deciding whether to invest in mirrorless or DSLR.
Factors to Consider:
- Size is the most obvious advantage of a mirrorless camera. Taking out the necessary mirror allows them to maintain a larger profile and a smaller weight. Portability is a major advantage for professionals and amateurs, and it can’t be understated. Just keep in mind that lenses and extra features can quickly bulk up a mirrorless model.
- Autofocus used to be far better on DSLR cameras, but that gap is rapidly diminishing. The big strength of mirrorless models is that they can run AF at any time (while DSLR cameras require the mirror to be down). All in all, AF on modern mirrorless cameras tend to run significantly faster than DSLR alternatives.
- Continuous shooting capabilities are a huge boon for mirrorless as well. The reduced number of moving parts accommodate lightning fast burst speeds, but the actual speed can vary significantly between models.
- DSLR has been around for a long time, and that means that users have a lot of lenses to choose from. But that may not be as big of a disadvantage to mirrorless as it seems. Many mirrorless choices come with specialized adapters that let them mount traditional DSLR lenses.
Full Frame vs. APS-C
One of the biggest distinguishing factors between the models on our list are whether they make use of full-frame or APS-C sensors. This may seem like technical jargon to amateurs, but the difference is pretty basic. Full frame sensors offer a wider field of view, while APS-C sensors crop the results even when shot from the same distance using the same lens. As a result, full frame cameras have a shallower depth of field and a better dynamic range with generally better image quality. Unfortunately, these advantages tend to come with a higher price tag.
Mirrorless cameras have come a long way in the past decade. While they were once largely seen as a poor man’s alternative to DSLR, outpaced in practically everything but size, they’re rapidly gaining traction in terms of a wide variety of features. If you’re a pro photographer, it may be time to consider making the move to a mirrorless camera. If you’re a fresh-faced amateur, you should definitely weigh it as an option. Either way, this style of camera doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon, and the rapid growth of innovations in the past few years make this a great time to invest.