Which is the best mirrorless camera?
The trailblazers of the camera world, mirrorless cameras are pioneering a completely electronic, quickly evolving form of composition. From EVFs (electronic viewfinders) to autofocus systems that cover the entire frame rather than just a diamond in the centre, these cameras are packed with features and offer an exciting alternative to DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex cameras), which have optical viewfinders and internal mirrors.
There is an enormous wealth of options on offer, so it can be hard to know which mirrorless camera is right for you. Our round-up of the very best ensures every type of photographer will find what they need.
The Panasonic GX800, which can now be found for under £300, and Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, featuring a built-in viewfinder, are both excellent examples of small, competitively priced starter models that work with a huge range of Micro Four Thirds lenses.
The Fujifilm X-T3 represents the next level in terms of capabilities, hitting a brilliant sweet spot that combines size, performance and lens choices. If you’re seeking the same kind of power in a smaller body, then the Fujifilm X-T30 is also a fine choice.
Right now, the models vying for the title of best full-frame mirrorless camera are the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z6. Sony’s lens system and overall feature set is more mature than Nikon’s new mirrorless all-rounder, but the Nikon Z6 shows great promise and in many ways has the edge on the A7 III in areas such as handling. If you already have a collection of Canon EF lenses, then the pricier Canon EOS R is also well worth investigating.
How we test mirrorless cameras
Every mirrorless camera we review is put through a series of rigorous tests, using the very best industry software to analyse its performance. This means our reviews are the most authoritative you’ll find.
We test for colour – different sensor and camera image processors can interpret colour differently, while this can also shift at different ISO sensitivities. We then get down to the nitty-gritty of resolution; our lab tests show us exactly how much detail each camera’s sensor can resolve. Even though cameras can share identical pixel counts, some perform better than others. Then we look at image noise, since different cameras can produce cleaner images at higher ISOs than others.
Finally, we get out and shoot with each camera in real-world conditions to find out how they perform.
1. Nikon Z6
Nikon’s best full-frame camera ever – and our favourite mirrorless model so far
- Great touchscreen interface
- Performs well in low light
- Superb DSLR-like handling
- One of the best electronic viewfinders around
- Limited battery life compared to DSLRs
- Only three native lenses right now
- Just one XQD slot
Nikon has really nailed it with this full-frame mirrorless all-rounder, and the Z6 is up there with the best, alongside Sony’s A7 III.
As you’d expect, image quality is fantastic, with great detail and dynamic range. The in-built image stabilisation helps you achieve sharp handheld shots.
There are currently only three native lenses for the Z Series, but there are several more on the way in 2019 and Nikon’s FTZ adaptor is on hand to help you bolt on all of your existing Nikon glass.
The pricier Nikon Z7 is naturally superior in some areas, including resolution and autofocus points, but the Nikon Z6 offers faster burst shooting (12fps) and better low-light performance. It also has exactly the same body design, which means superb handling, an excellent 3.6-million dot viewfinder, and a handy tilting touchscreen.
The Nikon Z6 or the Sony A7 III? It’s a tough decision, depending very much on which lenses you currently own and whether you prefer the Z6’s slightly larger, DSLR-like body and controls. We think the Z6 edges it, but either way it’s a great time to be buying a full-frame mirrorless camera.
2. Fujifilm X-T3
A brilliant sweet spot between size and performance
- Speedy autofocus
- Fun to use
- Good range of video options
- Screen tilts, rather than articulating
- Average battery life
- Lack of in-body image stabilisation
If you’re looking for an mirrorless camera that’s a great all-rounder and won’t break the bank, the Fujifilm X-T3 is one of the best options available.
A replacement for the X-T2, the X-T3 emulates its predecessor’s classic style and will probably be adored by lovers of vintage cameras. All those tactile buttons and dials, many of which are customisable, make for a fantastic shooting experience.
Outwardly, the old and new models don’t differ too much, but the sensor and processor have received very welcome upgrades, and a raft of intriguing new video capabilities will certainly capture the attention of any budding movie maker.
Fujifilm’s X series uses an APS-C-sized sensor, which means these mirrorless cameras fall somewhere in the middle in terms of size. Fujifilm uses this to its advantage, pointing out that this gives you the best balance between image quality and portability. After all, it also has a ‘super full-frame’ range, in the shape of its medium-format GFX models, if you want the ultimate in picture quality.
With its superb autofocusing, fantastic image quality and great handling, you might consider the X-T3 somewhat of a mini X-H1, but without the in-body image stabilisation. You may want to shell out for an extra battery if you’re intending to use the X-T3 on your travels, as battery life is a little disappointing.
3. Sony A7 III
A brilliant full-frame all-rounder with incredible autofocus
- Fast and responsive autofocus system
- Improved battery stamina
- Excellent value for money
- Revised button layout for intuitive control
- AF point illumination could be improved
- Convoluted menu system
- Thin plastic port covers aren’t weather-sealed
- Handles poorly with large gloves in cold climates
The sensational Sony A7 III mirrorless camera improves on the Sony A7 II and incorporates many of the finer points of the A7R III and A9, at a price that falls below £2000 from launch. Sony calls the A7 III its most basic full-frame camera in the Alpha 7 series, but the features on offer at this price make this camera well worth looking into.
The headline feature of the A7 II was its five-axis in-body stabilisation. This advanced IS system carries over to the A7 III, but now offers up to five stops of stabilisation compared to 4.5 stops on its predecessor. Another improvement sees the A7 III use the same uprated NP-FZ100 battery as the A7R III and A9, offering over twice the capacity of the old NP-FW50. It also gains twin SD card slots, though only one supports the UHS-II type.
The A7 III is equipped with a 24.2-megapixel full-frame sensor that benefits from backside-illuminated architecture. You get a wide ISO range that can be expanded to ISO 50-204,800, fast continuous burst shooting up to 10fps with autofocus and exposure adjustment, and a fully electronic shutter, so you can shoot silently to avoid disturbing your subject.
In terms of autofocus, the A7 II’s AF system has been replaced by a complex arrangement of 693 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points. These cover 93% of the frame. Autofocus is further improved by employing the same AF advancements as the Sony A9. The difference in the speed and accuracy of the A7 III’s focusing is noticeable for users of the older A7 II.
A good level of customisation and a revised button layout that makes operation more intuitive combine to make the A7 III extremely enjoyable to use. It inherits the AF joystick from the A7R III and presents a new exposure lock (AEL) button below the exposure-compensation dial, a new AF-ON button, and an improved rear scroll dial that’s far less fiddly.
There are other improvements at its rear, where a 2.3m-dot EVF with 0.78x magnification and 3in 922k-dot LCD touchscreen take pride of place. The EVF has a lower resolution than the A7R III, but features with Zeiss T* coatings to reduce obtrusive reflections.
The A7 III has come on a long way from the original A7 and A7 II. It does exactly what serious photographers want, in a body that’s smaller and lighter than rival DSLRs, if not quite as well-built as the Nikon Z6. It’s quick, highly versatile and delivers excellent image quality when more is asked from the sensor in low light.
Sony has made a superb all-rounder with the A7 III. Setting a price under £2000 (for the body only) will appeal to the huge number of photographers who are looking to advance to full frame, as well as those considering the switch from DSLR to mirrorless.
4. Fujifilm X-T30
The best small mirrorless all-rounder you can buy
- Superb photo and video quality
- Great range of lenses
- Excellent autofocus
- Charming retro design
- No weather sealing
- No in-built image stabilisation
Seeking a camera that has most of the power of the Fujifilm X-T3, housed in a compact, travel-friendly body? The X-T30 could well be the model for you. It’s a close battle between Fujifilm’s little powerhouse and rivals like the Sony A6400 and Panasonic G90. But for this size and price, the X-T30 is the best option around – as long as you don’t need a front-facing screen, weatherproofing or image stabilisation.
Specs and raw performance certainly make this a great camera for travel and street shooting – and the X-T30 also nails intangibles such as usability. From its retro dials to Fujifilm’s charming film simulations, it’s simply one of the most enjoyable cameras around to shoot with, whether you prefer stills, video or a mixture of both.
No one could accuse the X-T30 of prioritising style over substance. Under the bonnet you’ll find the same sensor and processor combination as the excellent X-T3, which helps it shoot 8fps (with the mechanical shutter) or an impressive 30fps with the electronic shutter. Image quality straight out of the camera is superb – a boon if you don’t like to do much post-processing – while its 4K video quality is also among the best at this price.
Throw in the X Series’ fantastic range of lenses, which includes 16 primes and 11 zooms, and you have a pro-level system that’ll serve you well for years to come.
5. Panasonic Lumix G9
A fantastic, speedy camera for shooting action and sports
- Excellent 4K and 6K photo modes
- Superb design and handling
- Well supported by Micro Four Thirds lenses
- Offers high-resolution 40MP & 80MP modes
- Burst shot mode descriptions aren’t clear
- No in-camera panoramic mode
- Positioning of AF toggle could be better
- Lacks battery level indication as percentage
The Panasonic G9 is on a par with Panasonic’s premium GH5 and GH5S models in the Lumix G line-up, and ranks above the new Panasonic G90. While the GH series has always appealed to videographers, the G9 sets out to fulfil the demands of passionate stills-focused photographers. It certainly does this with an impressive specification, but it’s the blistering speeds it’s capable of that really set it apart from many other cameras.
Shooting continuously in its AF-S mode, the G9 can rattle out a burst at 12fps for as many as 60 frames in RAW, or at 60fps for 50 frames in RAW by activating the camera’s electronic shutter. Switching the camera over to its continuous AF mode (AF-C) does mean the burst speed drops – but to a highly respectable 9fps using the mechanical shutter or 20fps using the electronic shutter.
The G9’s new 5-axis Dual I.S II image stabiliser, which offers 6.5 stops of compensation to counteract camera shake when shooting stills or movies, is dual purpose. It also allows the camera to offer a new 80-megapixel high-resolution mode in which the sensor is shifted precisely between eight shots, to create a single image with much finer detail. It’s wonderfully executed and so simple to use.
There’s even more to like about the camera. Like most DSLRs, it has a top-plate LCD, and also features a superb 3680k-dot resolution electronic viewfinder with 0.83x magnification, and a sensitive three-inch, 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen. All of the above are combined with a spritely autofocus system, relying once again on a formula of contrast detection and Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology.
While the G9 doesn’t deliver a really high-end feel or an in-camera panoramic mode, it’s an incredibly versatile mirrorless camera that’s very capable of producing satisfying results in the hands of those who love photography. There’s great value to be had from the Panasonic Lumix G9, which currently offers better value than the newer Panasonic G90, if you don’t mind its extra size.
6. Nikon Z7
If you need resolution, this is the best mirrorless camera around
- Superb electronic viewfinder
- Compact, lightweight design with well-placed controls
- In-body image stabilisation gives sharper images with any lens
- Rear screen only tilts up or down
- Handgrip too close to the lens for shooting with gloves
- AF area is invisible when moved using the joystick
Despite the odds against Nikon coming right out of the gate with a first-generation, full-frame mirrorless classic, that’s exactly what the veteran brand has done with the Nikon Z7.
A 45.7-megapixel with a 493-point AF system, the Z7, it’s fair to say, isn’t for beginners – this is a high-resolution camera for professionals who demand maximum detail and like to print large. It’s also the first serious mirrorless rival to Sony’s A7R III.
Its superb sensor produces extremely detailed photos with great colours, even at high ISOs. The Z7’s only slight weakness is that the autofocus struggles ever so slightly with erratic, fast-moving subjects compared to rivals like the Sony A9. But its AF is otherwise fast and accurate, and images are virtually noise-free, even at ISO 1600.
Choosing between the Z7 and the Sony A7R III will very much depend on which lenses you already own, but we think the Z7 has the edge, thanks to its superior handling and touchscreen controls. Its deep grip and chunky build mean that it feels like a slimmed-down Nikon D850 – and it also benefits from a fantastic 3.6-million dot electronic viewfinder and in-body image stabilisation.
Sony’s subject tracking and AF speeds may be superior, but the Nikon Z7 is more enjoyable to use. And unless the single card slot is a deal-breaker, it’s the best high-res mirrorless camera you can buy today.
7. Panasonic GH5S
Looking to shoot stunning video? Nothing beats this compact system cam
- Excellent in low light
- Compact, tough and lightweight design
- Superb video quality and flexibility
- Average stills performance
If you rate video quality over stills, then this is the best compact system camera you can buy. Impressively for such a small camera, the Panasonic Lumix GH5S can capture 4K footage at 60fps, with Hybrid Gamma Log HDR and no limits on recording time.
Its comparatively average still photos lack detail due to its 10.28-megapixel sensor, so the GH5S isn’t really a mirrorless all-rounder – but it’s a pro-quality video camera in an incredibly small, weatherproof package and, in this field, none of its rivals come close.
The GH5S produces astonishingly sharp and natural-looking 10-bit footage, even straight out of the camera without any colour grading. Thanks to the ultra-sensitive sensor’s large pixels, low-light performance is impressive too, with an ISO range that stretches to 51,200 in normal mode and 204,800 in extended mode.
Video options are superb for a camera of this size and price, with some handy slow-motion options in 4K and 1080p (the latter available at 240fps) and the ability to record HDR footage.
If you also like to shoot still photos, there are undoubtedly more well-rounded options at this level, such as Olympus’s OM-D E-M1 II and Sony’s A7 III. But if you’re after pro-quality video from a DSLR-style body, the Panasonic GH5S is the best mirrorless camera for videographers that we’ve seen so far.
8. Sony A6400
An excellent mid-range mirrorless camera with great autofocus skills
- Impressive range of lenses and accessories
- Very compact design
- Superb autofocus tracking
- Very good image quality
- Screen and viewfinder use old tech
- No in-built image stabilisation
- Operation and handling not the best
- Battery life a bit limited
Sony’s A6000 series cameras have long been excellent mirrorless all-rounders, and the A6400 is no different – it’s one of the best sub-£1000 cameras around.
The only real downside is its slightly fiddly handling and controls, which make using it a little more awkward than we’d like. Still, you can customise the controls to suit your style and its other considerable talents more than compensate for these niggles.
The A6400 really stands out for its incredible autofocus performance, which copes extremely well with fast-moving subjects in sports or action shooting. The new real-time AF functionality keeps targets in sharp focus throughout an 11fps burst.
This AF performance also comes in handy for shooting portraits, with Eye AF very helpful for nailing the focus on faces – and this also works for pets and other animals, with a firmware update soon.
What about image quality? Overall, it’s very good, with decent dynamic range, accurate colours and high levels of detail in good lighting conditions, although you do get some smoothing at high ISOs.
Sadly, there’s no in-built image stabilisation, so unless you use image-stabilised lenses, you’ll need to use fast shutter speeds and high ISOs to prevent blur. This means fans of low-light shooting should still consider the older Sony A6500 (despite rumours that this could be replaced by a Sony A7000 later in 2019).
If you don’t mind the A6400’s slightly awkward handling and lack of IBIS, it’s a great alternative to the Canon EOS M50 and the imminent Fujifilm X-T30, which also have APS-C sensors. The A6400’s autofocus trumps both, however, and these two rivals only surpass the A6400 for superior vlogging and burst shooting powers respectively.
9. Panasonic G90
A very fine mid-range all-rounder that excels at video
- Image stabilisation works well
- Unlimited 4K recording
- Good photo and video quality
- Fully weatherproof
- Useful vari-angle screen
- Bulkier than rivals
- Smaller sensor than X-T30 and A6400
- Autofocus not quite up with the best
Normally, the Panasonic G90 would easily be the best mid-range mirrorless camera around. It’s still right up there, but strong competition from the Fujifilm X-T30 and Sony A6400 means you are facing a difficult decision.
The Panasonic G90 is bigger and heavier than the other two cameras, but this means it can accommodate in-built image stabilisation, weatherproofing, and a fully articulated touchscreen that handily flips round to the front. These features help to compensate for the fact that its Four Thirds sensor is smaller than its APS-C rivals, and ensure that it’s a fantastic all-rounder with very few weaknesses.
While the autofocus isn’t quite as super-reliable as that of its Fujifilm and Sony rivals, the G90’s face and eye autofocus work well and long handheld shots are possible thanks to that efficient stabilisation. It’s also great for shooting action thanks to its 4K Photo mode, which shoots eight-megapixel stills at 30fps.
If you don’t mind the extra bulk of the Panasonic G90 compared to the slightly more travel-friendly X-T30 and A6400, and like to shoot as much video as you do stills, it makes an excellent choice.
10. Canon EOS M50
A charming little CSC that doubles as a fine vlogging cam
- Quick and accurate autofocus, even with adapted EF-mount DSLR lenses
- Easy-to-use interface that still gives extensive control over settings
- Compact and lightweight
- Excellent image quality, with reliable metering and auto white balance
- Poorly implemented manual focus magnification
- Very small range of native EF-M lenses
- Single-dial control slower to use than twin-dial competitors
- Overly contrasting viewfinder blocks up shadow details
The Canon EOS M50 slots in between the EOS M100 and EOS M6 in the company’s line-up of mirrorless cameras. It offers a similar degree of external control to the beginner-friendly EOS 200D DSLR, but with a built-in electronic viewfinder, alongside a fully articulated touchscreen.
The EOS M50 is built around a new generation of Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor, which is now capable of phase-detection autofocus across a wider area of the frame. With 24.1MP resolution, it offers a sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 that’s expandable to ISO 51,200. One of this camera’s significant strengths is its continuous shooting: 10fps with focus fixed, or 7.4fps with focus adjusted between shots.
For the first time on an EOS model, the EOS M50 provides a silent shooting mode that uses a fully electronic shutter. Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimiser balances shadows and highlights in high-contrast scenes and there’s a good selection of basic modes and subject-based scene modes for beginners to start with.
Most notably, the EOS M50 marks the debut of the firm’s latest DIGIC 8 processor, making it the first Canon consumer camera capable of recording 4K video.
As you’d expect, connectivity options for Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth are all available, with the latter capable of forming an always-on connection to your smartphone using the free Camera Connect app for Android or iOS. To share photos, you can either push your favourite shots from the camera to your phone while browsing in playback mode, or view your images on your phone and pull them across.
The EOS M50 is equipped with a 2.36-million dot, 0.39-type EVF with a magnification of around 0.62x. Beneath the EVF is a 3-inch 1.04m-dot LCD with a fully articulated design. It can tilt upwards or downwards for waist-level or overhead shooting in either portrait or landscape format, face fully forwards for vlogging, and even fold away with the screen facing inwards to protect it from scratches.
The silent and accurate performance of the autofocus is as good as you could hope and the EOS M50 also works remarkably well with Canon EF-mount DSLR lenses using the Canon EF EOS M-mount adapter, which can be picked up for around £109.
The EOS M50 manages to be simple and approachable for beginners or vloggers, while also offering enthusiasts a full degree of manual control – Canon has come up with a very likeable camera. In the face of stiff competition, the only major factor against it is the limited number of lenses currently available in the Canon EF-M lens range.
11. Panasonic S1R
A mirrorless powerhouse for pros with deep pockets
- Tri-axial tilting touchscreen
- Useful shooting modes like 6K Photo
- Superb high-res photos
- Best-in-class electronic viewfinder
- Bigger and heavier than mirrorless rivals
- Average battery life
- Not many native lenses (yet)
The Panasonic S1R makes no attempt to hide its pro-friendly leanings – it’s about the same size as a DSLR, quite weighty and pretty expensive. But, unless you’re a sports photographer, it’s also one of the best full-frame cameras you can buy, thanks to its combination of professional power and mirrorless magic.
Like the Nikon Z7, it has a high resolution full-frame sensor (in this case, a 47.3-megapixel affair), a weather-sealed body and excellent handling, particularly if you’re coming from a DSLR. Which camera you go for will depend quite a bit on your lens preferences – the S1R is part of the L Mount Alliance, which gives you the choice of some existing Leica lenses, native Panasonic-branded lenses and, eventually, a range of Sigma lenses too, including the revered Art line.
If this sounds up your street, and you’re prepared to wait for that native lens line-up to expand, then the S1R is an excellent camera for most types of photography. Its fastest frame rate is 9fps, so it’s not best suited to action, sports or wildlife shooting, but the High Resolution Mode is fantastic for landscapes and still-life shots, and overall image quality is excellent, whether you’re shooting JPEG or converting RAWs.
The S1R’s viewfinder is the best we’ve ever used and, like the Nikon Z7, the S1R also offers in-built image stabilisation, which is useful for preserving image quality during handheld shooting. While videographers will be better off with the Panasonic S1, the S1R is no slouch when it comes to shooting video – it can capture 4K at 60fps and you have the option of a headphone socket, microphone socket and HDMI output.
If you feel at home with a large, chunky camera body, and don’t have an existing collection of Canon or Nikon lenses, then the Panasonic S1R is a fine new choice for those coveting a full-frame camera that’s packed with latest mirrorless tech.
12. Sony A9
An astonishing, high-speed mirrorless camera that’s still improving
- High-speed shooting with minimal distortion
- Excellent electronic viewfinder with zero blackout
- Impressive battery life
- Excellent handling and controls
- Superb autofocus tracking
- Touchscreen woefully under-used
- AF area not highlighted in viewfinder when moved via the joystick
Released in the spring of 2017, the Sony A9 is a full-frame, high-speed mirrorless camera that’s designed to compete directly with Nikon and Canon’s professional-grade DSLRs. More specifically, its high-burst speed and remarkable autofocus tracking abilities mark it out as an ideal camera for high-speed sports and action photography, while its extended sensitivity settings and silent shooting abilities increase its appeal to professionals who cover weddings and events.
A new 24MP full-frame Exmor RS sensor makes all this possible, employing Sony’s stacked design to position the sensor circuitry directly below the photodiodes, along with an integral DRAM chip that feeds the data to the A9’s powerful BIONZ X image processor up to 20 times faster than a conventional chip. In real-world use this enables the A9 to shoot continuously at up to 20fps via its electronic shutter with AF-C enabled, with no rolling shutter distortion effects and a top shutter speed of 1/32,000sec. Switching to the mechanical shutter, maximum burst speed drops to 5fps with a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec.
The other big highlight of the A9 is its AF system, which employs 693 phase-detection points that cover approximately 93% of the frame. The A9’s ability to track moving subjects is also exceptional, as it can refocus up to 60 times a second. Five-axis image stabilisation in the guise of Sony SteadyShot is also present, helping to keep images sharp even at slower shutter speeds.
As you’d expect of a £4.5k flagship camera, build quality is very good indeed. The A9 is wrapped in durable magnesium alloy and fully sealed against dust and moisture. Physical controls are plentiful and, in addition to twin-control dials, there’s also a dedicated joystick for speedy AF point placement. The 3.68m-dot EVF is one of the sharpest on the market, while the three-inch rear LCD doubles up as a touchscreen. 4K video capture at 25fps is supported. However, the A9 does not offer any ‘flat’ profiles for grading purposes.
13. Fujifilm GFX 50R
The world’s most affordable medium format camera is a real beauty
- Impressive JPEGs straight out of the camera
- Incredibly detailed images
- Sturdy but light body
- Comparatively affordable for a medium format camera
- Can’t shoot 4K video
- No in-built image stabilisation
- Handling can be a bit awkward
Medium format cameras used to be prohibitively expensive behemoths that were rarely seen outside the studio, but Fujifilm is determined to change that with its GFX family. The GFX 50R is the most affordable model yet and, while it’s not exactly small, it is light enough to be taken outside for street or documentary photography.
It also takes extremely impressive 51.4-megapixel photos with incredible detail, lovely natural colours and great noise control. While the autofocus isn’t the fastest, it’s fast enough for most subjects – and with the continuous shooting topping out at 3fps, it’s fair to say you won’t be buying the GFX 50R for shooting sports.
The GFX 50R’s superb 3.69-million dot electronic viewfinder performs well in all lighting conditions – bright enough for sunny days while still retaining detail when the sun goes down. Its 3.2-in touchscreen lets you tap to choose focus points and pulls out if you want to frame a shot from low down or above a sea of heads.
Naturally, its video quality isn’t quite as impressive, with no option to record in 4K, but stick it on a tripod and its Full HD video is fine for casual use.
There’s no doubt that the GFX 50R is a niche camera. Not many photographers outside of the professional game can stretch to its £4000 price tag. If you’re after uncompromising image quality at high resolutions, however, the GFX 50R is one of the best options around – with a growing lens selection too.
14. Canon EOS R
If you already have a stack of Canon lenses, this is still a solid full-frame mirrorless option
- Customisable handling
- Great image quality
- Superb EVF
- Quite bulky
- No in-body stabilisation
It felt as though it took a lifetime for Canon to finally bring us a full-frame mirrorless camera. Perhaps the Canon EOS R is a bit of an anticlimax after that long wait, but it’s still an excellent first entry for an entirely new range of cameras.
The EOS R looks and feels a lot like a traditional Canon DSLR, but, of course, being mirrorless means it’s just that little bit smaller and lighter, making it a more comfortable overall shooting experience. If you’re already a Canon aficionado and don’t want to ditch all your lenses to go elsewhere, it’s the obvious choice for making the leap into the mirrorless world (though you will need an adapter to use your lenses).
There’s a lot to like about the Canon EOS R, and above all else, the images that it is capable of producing are superb. There’s also pretty good handling, with nifty features like the customisable touch-sensitive slider just next to the viewfinder.
Sadly, there’s also plenty to dislike – in particular, the lack of in-body image stabilisation. Although the EOS R is smaller than a DSLR, it’s still bulkier than other mirrorless full-frame models on the market, so you may also not consider the size and weight saving enough to merit forking out for.
Cropped 4K video shooting is another downside. For the average photographer, that’s less of an issue – but for videographers used to shooting with Canon’s superb 5D series, it’s a bit of a let-down.
Still, if you’re a keen Canon user and want to open yourself up to the benefits that mirrorless brings, this is the one to go for now – and we’ll see what the future brings.
15. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
Still one of the best viewfinder-equipped cameras for beginners
- Superb in-body image stabilisation works with every lens
- Fast, accurate autofocus with static subjects
- Compact, retro body
- Excellent JPEG image quality
- Less reliable autofocus with moving subjects
- Over-simplified in-camera raw conversion
If you’re looking to upgrade from a smartphone to your first ‘proper’ camera, there are now a huge range of mirrorless options with built-in viewfinders. While the most desirable is arguably Fujifilm’s X-T100, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III remains our pick due to its all-round talents and huge choice of lenses.
The OM-D E-M10 Mark III has a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, which is smaller than the APS-C sensors found in the likes of Fujifilm’s X-T100. Built-in image stabilisation helps to compensate for this, however, and the smaller sensor size means you also get much faster burst shooting at 8.6fps.
The sensor is paired with Olympus’s latest TruePic VIII image processor – the same one used in the flagship OM-D E-M1 Mark II – which helps to boosts its performance in low light. An even bigger benefit is the ability to record 4K video at up to 30fps, along with 120fps slow-motion video at 720p HD. Sadly, your vlogging options are a little limited as there’s no way to attach an external microphone, nor does the OM-D E-M10 Mark III have a headphone output.
Still, autofocus is very impressive, thanks to its 121-point contrast detect system. The AF points cover practically the entire frame and, while focus acquisition isn’t quite as fast as some of the hybrid AF systems employed by other mirrorless manufacturers, it’s still impressively quick. Olympus’s in-camera five-axis image stabilisation technology is also on hand to provide up to four stops of shutter speed compensation – even when non-stabilised lenses are attached.
The OM-D E-M10 Mark III feels solid and sits in the hand nicely thanks to its redesigned handgrip and sculpted thumb rest, though it lacks the weather sealing of models higher up the Olympus range.
This all adds up to a fantastic little camera for anyone who’s upgrading from a smartphone or looking for a take-anywhere second camera. The OM-D E-M10 Mark III combines a strong feature set, classic design and a huge choice of lenses, making it our pick at this price point.
16. Panasonic Lumix GX800
Looking for your first mirrorless camera? This is still a real bargain
- Cheapest Panasonic CSC around
- Small and easy to use
- Capable of 4K Video and 4K Photo
- No eye viewfinder
Panasonic offers a generous range of mirrorless models to suit all price points and ability levels. The Lumix GX800, released at the start of 2017, is Panasonic’s current entry-level mirrorless model and is primarily aimed at casual users seeking an easy-to-use interchangeable-lens camera that’s capable of discernibly better image quality than a smartphone or a budget compact.
The GX800 is built around the same 16MP Live MOS sensor as the more advanced GX80, which results in a similarly high standard of image quality overall. The GX800’s optical low-pass filter has also been removed for enhanced fine detail. Image processing is taken care of via Panasonic’s proprietary Venus Engine, which facilitates a native sensitivity range of ISO 200-25,600 (plus an extended lower setting of ISO 100) and a top continuous shooting speed of 5fps.
In addition, the GX800 is also capable of recording 4K video at up to 30fps, and comes with Panasonic’s innovative 4K Photo mode, which enables 8MP still images to be extracted from 4K video footage in a variety of ways to ensure that you never miss a moment.
In terms of size and weight the GX800 is the smallest and lightest mirrorless camera in the current Lumix range. On top of this, it also benefits from some retro rangefinder styling, giving it an undoubtedly stylish appearance. While buttons are a little scarce and the camera lacks an electronic viewfinder – or any means to attach one – the rear display flips up by 180 degrees so it can face the same direction as the lens for easy selfies. Better still, the rear display doubles up as a touchscreen, providing intuitive control over the camera.
These are our top mirrorless camera picks. If you want to know more about what to look out for when buying a mirrorless camera then read on.
Mirrorless camera buying guide
The primary difference between a mirrorless camera and a traditional DSLR is that the latter is fitted with an internal mirror that bounces the image acquired through the lens up towards a phase-detection autofocus (AF) module in the ceiling of the camera before exiting through the optical viewfinder. Once focus is acquired and the shutter button is pressed, this mirror rises up, exposing the sensor and capturing the image. In a mirrorless camera there is no internal mirror, so light passes straight through the camera and directly onto the sensor.
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When mirrorless models first came out, this lack of phase detection meant they had to use contrast-detect technology to acquire focus, which is slower than phase-detect AF. However, these days many mirrorless cameras use on-sensor phase-detection AF, often in combination with contrast-detect AF, and can produce AF speeds that rival those of DSLRs. In addition, the fact that there’s no mechanical mirror means mirrorless cameras are generally capable of much higher continuous shooting speeds. Some of the fastest mirrorless cameras can now rattle out a burst of up to 60fps after the electronic shutter is activated.
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Best mirrorless camera buying guide – EVF and sensor
One further issue with early mirrorless cameras was that the lack of an optical viewfinder meant an electronic one was required. Early EVFs were clunky at best, offering a small and pixelated view. But these days, that’s simply not the case and the difference in quality between the high-resolution EVFs that many mirrorless cameras are now equipped with and their optical counterparts on a DSLR is far less pronounced.
If you’re shooting high-speed sport and action, the other thing you’ll look out for is an EVF that features no viewfinder blackout. Viewfinder blackout refers to the period of blackout between each frame captured – something that can make it harder to keep up with and track a subject successfully through the frame. The Sony Alpha 9 is currently one of the best mirrorless examples on the market with no EVF blackout.
Related: Best DSLR cameras
While the very first mirrorless cameras were fitted with smaller Micro Four Thirds sensors jointly developed by Panasonic and Olympus, these days they’re equipped with a wide range of sensor sizes including APS-C and full-frame. Choosing which of these is right for you will, of course, depend on your individual requirements and budget.
Below you’ll find a jargon buster that explains some of the complex terminology associated with mirrorless cameras, alongside our compilation of the finest examples to give you a better idea of which are best to buy.
Design: Broadly speaking, mirrorless cameras tend to fall into one of two camps in terms of their general styling: some are inspired by classic rangefinder cameras, while others are designed to mimic the appearance and handling of a DSLR. Which is best for you is down to personal preference. Just be sure to take build quality into account, as cheaper examples are unlikely to benefit from a tough magnesium alloy chassis or weather-sealed construction.
Media slot: All mirrorless cameras come with at least one SD memory card slot, although an increasing number of high-end models have two. These can usually be configured to record data in a number of ways, including using the second slot as an overflow or for raw images, or using one card for stills and the other for video. Support for the even faster UHS-II cards is currently limited to more advanced models.
Hybrid AF Systems: An increasing number of mirrorless cameras use innovative hybrid AF systems that combine on-sensor phase-detection with traditional contrast-detect AF. And with the new breed of ultra-fast processors dedicated to autofocus duties, some mirrorless cameras can now outperform DSLRs in terms of AF speed.
Rear display: An increasing number of mirrorless cameras are adding touchscreen functionality to the rear display, which makes operating the camera much speedier and more intuitive. How the screen is attached to the camera body is another important consideration – some are fixed, some can be tilted, while others use the infinitely more flexible vari-angle design.
Video: More and more new mirrorless cameras are adding 4K video capture. For users who are serious about video, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is currently the only mirrorless model to offer broadcast quality 10-bit 10:2:2 4K capture. Be sure to check whether your desired model sports a dedicated microphone and/or headphone input, as this does vary between models.