Mirrorless cameras are becoming in increasingly high demand for both hobbyists and professional photographers because they offer most of the advantages that come from a traditional DSLR while also being significantly smaller and more lightweight on average. The strengths of a mirrorless camera for travel or work outside of the studio is obvious, but there’s another benefit to mirrorless cameras that make them so appealing, particularly for vloggers.
Mirrorless cameras are often cheaper to produce than their DSLR counterparts, and that means that you can easily get a high-quality model for well under a thousand dollars. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be diligent in your shopping hunt. We’ve put together mirrorless camera reviews for twelve of the best models and created a guide to help you through the process.
The Best Mirrorless Cameras Under $1000
- Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit
- Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera
- Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera
- Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Camera
- PANASONIC LUMIX GX9 4K
- Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera
- Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
- PANASONIC LUMIX GX85 4K Digital Camera
- Sony a5100 16-50mm Mirrorless
1. Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit
The EOS M50 finds a nice middle ground in the mid-range mirrorless camera market. The controls offer a decent range of options for more serious photographers, but it's not so overladen with buttons and features as to scare away novices. The electronic viewfinder is exceptionally well produced, and it's paired with a smart swivel screen that makes finding and shooting both video and stills a simple affair. The sensor itself is top notch, producing high-quality picture even in exceedingly low lighting conditions. This is one of the smallest mirrorless cameras you'll find too, so you can just pop it in your bag and go about your day. Combine all these factors together and you're left with an incredibly solid model with features that amateur photographers can comfortably grow into.
2. Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera
Sony's Alpha A6400 may press right against our designated price point, but for a mirrorless camera under 1000 dollars, it exceeds expectations. The real star of the show here is the autofocus system. Its enhanced subject capture capabilities allow it to offer 425 detection points that cover 84% of the sensor. Then there's the video shooting. 4k cameras under 1000 dollars aren't as rare as they used to be, but the A6400 pushes what can be expected by supporting 6K oversampling at 100 Mbps. It's a premium choice for vloggers and YouTube stars that doesn't carry with it a premium price tag. It uses the same electronic viewfinder as the lower tier Alpha models but incorporates convenient touchscreen capabilities that can't be found in cheaper alternatives.
3. Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera
For a price tag of well under $500, Canon's EOS M100 is a strong budget mirrorless camera that's great for inexperienced semi-professional photographers and hobbyists alike. Ease of use has taken a high priority in the design of this entry level mirrorless camera, but it's unlikely to meet the needs of full blown professionals. The touchscreen interface resembles a smartphone screen and can flip 180 degrees to facilitate selfie style photos and video. That social media friendly approach is reflected in its wireless options which allow you to automatically upload footage to your preferred network via WiFi, NFC, or always connected Bluetooth. The picture quality is stronger than you'd expect for a camera at this price, and the autofocus is superb.
4. Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Camera
The age of the A6000 has worked to its benefit. While it's a relatively cheap mirrorless camera with a price of about $500, its features and overall quality have aged handsomely. While it may not have some of the bells and whistles that have come from Sony cameras in its wake, it's a solid choice with some of the best value around. The image quality is definitively high quality and especially strong in low light settings. Then there's the autofocus which offers 179 focus points and shoots in a smooth 11 frames per second. The ability to customize the settings allows you to settle in on a configuration that works for your particular style.
5. PANASONIC LUMIX GX9 4K
The GX9 is the successor to both the GX8 and the GX80, and it takes everything users loved from those two esteemed models and adds on some admirable perks to boot. The presence of stabilization in both the frame and the lens facilitates much smoother shots even for those without the steadiest of hands, and there's a nice balance between the still photographs and the crisp 4K video. The design is equally worthy of praise. The positioning of the viewfinder on the top left of this 4K mirrorless camera is a much more smarter and ergonomic approach than mirrorless cameras that just seek to replicate the design of a DSLR. The presence of anti-aliasing in stills significantly reduces the risk of unnaturally jagged edges and sharp corners as well.
6. Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera
Slightly awkward handling and a lack of body stabilization are the only two flaws in the X-T30 from Fujifilm, a camera that's otherwise pristine. The sensor is exceptional, outperforming practically any other mirrorless cameras in this price range and producing truly stunning still photography, and you won't have trouble lining up that perfect shot either. The controls are neatly aligned and intuitive even to fresh faced novices. The autofocus is a distinct highlight here, performing exceptional tracking for both faces and eyes. Whether you're shooting portraitures in the studio or practicing guerilla-style urban photography, this is an exceptional choice when dealing with human subjects.
7. Panasonic Lumix LX100 II
The Lumix LX100 II may sport a smaller sensor than most of the models on our list, but it's absolutely packed with megapixels. This higher resolution sensor can provide you with crisp and beautiful photographs even in the most trying circumstances, and that's a feature only enhanced by the presence of Panasonic's exceptional color rendering. And while the LX100 II won't fit in your pocket, it's a lightweight choice you can comfortably toss in your mirrorless camera bag without concern. The range of supported shooting styles means that this is an ideal option if you're looking for a travel camera, and the strong autofocus functionality extends to both still and video photography.
8. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
The model name of Olympus' mid-range mirrorless camera may be a mouthful, but what you need to know is that it's a strong entry regardless of how hard it is to pronounce. The magnesium-alloy body is sturdy and solid despite the light weight and ease of use of this camera. Low light sensibility is incredibly strong, and art filters are built in so you can produce the results you want without having to mess around with photo editing software in post. Also worthy of note is the image stabilization system which works on five axes and creates a remarkably smooth shot in any circumstances. They boast that their camera can even achieve shutter speeds at rates as low as a quarter of a second.
9. PANASONIC LUMIX GX85 4K Digital Camera
The Lumix GX85 isn't as powerful a model as its bigger brother the GX9, but it's built off the same fundamental design, and it's a solid one. The fact that it clocks in at a few hundred dollars less makes it a tantalizing option for hobbyists and even professionals looking for a quality budget mirrorless camera. It's an incredibly well balanced camera as well - managing to juggle exceptional picture quality, great shooting speeds, and intuitive functionality into a single frame. The fact that it shoots smooth 4K video is a nice added bonus (or a critical factor if you're looking for a camera to use for vlogging). Because while it may not be quite on the level of the GX9, it gets all of the fundamentals right and offers an exceptional value for its price.
10. Sony a5100 16-50mm Mirrorless
The Sony a5100 produces phenomenal camera with vibrant color quality, great low results in low lighting, a compact and lightweight size, and a great price tag that comes in under $500. It's easily one of the best mirrorless cameras under 1000 in the travel category. Despite its tiny frame, the a5100 isn't loaded up with complicated buttons. The frame itself is almost entirely composed of the sensor and the touchscreen, and just a few, smartly placed buttons break up the otherwise smooth surface. All of these can be customized to your preferences using the intuitive digital menus. The autofocus isn't quite up to spec, but it's perfectly suitable for amateurs and semi-professionals, and it's easy to pick up as well.
Mirrorless Cameras Under $1000 Buyer’s Guide
Frequently Asked Questions
In most fundamental ways, mirrorless cameras offer an advantage over DSLR alternatives, but there are some things you should know before springing for a purchase. We’re here to explain the most important specs and answer some of the most commonly asked questions.
What Do Sensors Do?
The sensor is perhaps the most important single component of a camera. A sensor processes the light that passes through the lens and can have an effect on everything from how well it performs in low light to the depth of field to the size of your image. It also has an effect on what you can see through the viewfinder. Most sensors that come in a mid-range mirrorless camera are going to be classified as CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor). While they were once seen as inferior to the older CCD style, modern CMOS sensors are superior due to their higher efficiency, lower power usage, and great high-speed burst modes.
What’s more important is going to be the size of the sensor. In regards to size, there are two principle options available on our list. These determine the size of the photos you’ll be shooting. A sensor’s size is also something you’ll want to take into consideration when looking at available megapixels, but that’s something we’ll dig into more deeply later. The two primary sensor sizes are APS-C and Four Thirds.
Four Thirds is less popular than APS-C, but it’s present on some of the more impressive models available, particularly those from Panasonic and Olympus. With a standardized size of 17.3mm x 13.0mm, Four Thirds sensors are significantly smaller than many other options. While some argue that the image quality is worse on Four Thirds, the difference is largely negligible. But the smaller size does mean that Four Thirds cameras tend to perform less well in low light situations. On the plus side, it allows manufacturers to make smaller and more lightweight cameras ideal for outdoor use.
APS-C sensors are more prevalent, and while the standard size is 23.6mm by 15.8mm, they tend to vary some depending on the brand. But at about half the size of full frame sensors, they’re still significantly smaller than many cameras on the market. APS-C sensors tend to offer exceptional low light quality, and their high rate of adoption means they’re usually compatible with a ton of lenses.
Should a sensor’s size be a factor in your purchase? Absolutely, but you should keep in mind that it’s not the only important factor in the quality of your images.
How Important Are Megapixels?
Megapixels (each accounting for a million pixels) simply accounts for the number of pixels that are displayed on a sensor’s surface. Hypothetically, the more megapixels you have, the more detailed the results of your photos and video are going to be. But the size of your sensor is important here. A larger sensor will naturally demand more megapixels along its surface to produce the same crisp results as a smaller sensor would. Megapixels can affect the detail of both photos and video, so you should absolutely take them into consideration when shopping.
That said, camera manufacturers often overemphasize the importance of this spec when trying to position themselves against the competition. But there’s a threshold where the relationship between notable image quality and megapixel count becomes practically negligible, and most of these mid-range cameras are going to exceed that value. The ratio of sensor size to megapixels extends to the size of the sensor, but it extends to the final picture itself as well. Even when shooting 4K video, the number of megapixels available in modern cameras are often more than is technically needed. The 4K UHD resolution of 3840 x 2160 roughly translates to 8.3 megapixels, well below the standards of all of these cameras.
In fact, too many megapixels can sometimes be detrimental. There’s a direct correlation between megapixel count and visual noise, and if you’re looking at a camera with exceedingly high megapixels, you may want to see if they have any sort of technology built in to minimize this noise. Megapixels are important, but if you’re a novice or semi-professional photographer or you intend to be shooting for incredibly high definition video or poster-sized images, it’s not something you need to sweat too much.
What Are the Different Video Resolutions?
The ratio of megapixels to sensor may be the major determinant factor in terms of resolution for still photos, but things are a little more complicated where video is concerned. While all the cameras on this list support a megapixel size appropriate for shooting in 4K, they don’t all have the capability. Other factors, most importantly the processor included in the camera, have an effect on what quality video your camera can produce. There are two max resolution options for the cameras on our list: Full HD and 4K Ultra HD.
Full HD was once the standard for high definition. Also known as 1080p, it shoots video of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Today, they’re far from the top of the line as far as resolution goes. 4K, by contrast, is four times crisper and cleaner than FHD. It displays at a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. In terms of sheer practicality, 4K blows FHD out of the water.
The main question is whether your viewers will be able to enjoy the quality of 4K footage. As one might expect, monitors and TVs that support 4K resolution are significantly more expensive than their traditional HD counterparts, and even professional TV studios and streaming services like Netflix have been slow to adopt the technology across the board. Streaming is another issue, because even if a user has a screen capable of showing 4K resolution, they’ll need a pretty hefty internet speed to actually watch it without hiccups.
That said, a camera is an investment in the future, and while 4K resolution isn’t the accepted standard now, it likely will be moving forward. If you’re a vlogger who’s primarily looking for a camera that can shoot video above all else, investing in an option that offers 4K is a way of future proofing your investment. If you’re a still photographer who uses video on the side, you may be better off opting for a camera that offers better traditional camera options in exchange for a downgrade to FHD performance.
It’s said that the best camera is the one you have in your hand, but the best mirrorless camera under $1000 is the one that’s going to suit your needs. Take our suggestions under careful consideration, and weigh what features most matter to you and how much you’re willing to pay for them. But be cognizant of thinking towards the future. Any of these cameras could last you a good long time, and it’s important to search out one that will still meet your needs years down the line.