History has shown the traditional DSLR reigns supreme, but the continuous release cycle of Sony, Fujifilm and other mirrorless cameras show the market is ripe for growth. Every manufacturer is now putting forward new or upgraded mirrorless cameras.
You can’t browse YouTube or any photography blog without a debate raging over mirrorless cameras. Which is the best? What lenses? Should you stick to DSLRs? Pros and cons of each. It’s endless, so we decided to collect the best models out on the market right now into a guide and explain the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Our breakdown includes the highest end models which have the latest in weather sealing, electronic viewfinders and excellent autofocusing. And we include the budget models that can get you kitted out for less than $1000 including a lens. Perfect for those not wanting to jump into the deep end of photography.
Best Mirrorless Cameras 2018
For those new to the hobby, you’ll want to know what is a mirrorless camera? Instead of tossing around DSLR, a mirrorless camera (for the purpose of this guide) is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. It’s in the name, but it lacks a mirror found in traditional DSLRs and uses an image sensor to send an image to the EVF or LCD screen. The lack of a mirror allows the camera bodies to be more compact.
Sony a7 III
Sony may call the a7 III its ‘basic model,’ but it’s anything but basic. The newly announced camera comes packed with all the latest tech from the a9 and a7r III and puts the vast majority of it into a camera body priced under $2000.
Sure, it doesn’t have the absurd megapixel count of the a7r III, relying on a brand new 24MP BSI sensor. The a7 III can’t match the 20 fps of the a9, instead easily hitting 10 fps using both mechanical and the silent electronic shutter.
What it does borrow is the autofocus system from the a9 – a 693-point AF system covering 92% of the sensor. The new Z battery makes an appearance, along with two SD cards. 4K video is finally introduced into the a7 line and outperforms the a7r III in that it gives a full pixel readout of the sensor. No more pixel binning. It oversamples to 6K and has the option to enter APS-C mode, effectively giving you two focal lengths with one lens.
It has 15 stops of dynamic range, and the battery life will get you in the area of 700+ shots. That’s damn good for a mirrorless system, and the Sony a7 III promises to be a low-light champion.
Sony may bill the camera as the basic model, but damn if it doesn’t impress on the price point. If you are looking to get into full-frame mirrorless, this is one hell of a camera. It has its drawbacks, but the features trimmed from the a7r III and the a9 are ones users work around. 10 fps is still lightning fast. 24 MP is a solid sensor. 4K video is there, and Sony’s IBIS is ever present.
And at less than $2K, you can immediately invest in solid glass for the body.
Sony a7R III
Think what’s great about the Sony a9, shove most of it into an a7r II body, and you get the a7rIII. And the pricing is absurdly aggressive. I know Sony has other divisions, but damn if they aren’t taking the DJI approach of muscling competitors out of the way.
Not saying they will ever knock off Canon or Nikon, but the old guard needs to act with a sense of urgency as mirrorless captures more of the market share. It’s a hell of a response against Nikon’s D850 and is priced to move at $3200 – same launch price as the a7r II. It is Sony’s megapixel monster, sporting a 42MP BSI CMOS sensor, 10fps, and a 399-point AF system.
Video lovers have plenty to like with the oversampling of 4K. This isn’t a knock against Sony, but with all camera companies. Where is 4K60p? The new iPhones shoot that. It’s time to push the limits as the hybrid shooters grow in numbers.
What you’ll love: It’s a better version of the a7r II is every way. Better battery life. Frames per second. Autofocus. You name it; it has it. And the price is something professionals and enthusiasts can handle.
What you might not: Weather resistance was mentioned in passing. At this point, we have to start asking what gives on equipment stretching past $3000. And we are still waiting for Sony to play catchup in the lens department. The company is working on it, but it can’t match the catalog of Canon or Nikon just yet.
Panasonic Lumix GH5
Need versatility? The Panasonic GH5 is the camera for you. One drawback is it’s not full-frame. It shouldn’t be a drawback, but newcomers to photography need to be aware when selecting lenses. For those wanting the ultimate vlogging camera, the GH5 is hands down one of the top mirrorless cameras.
You’ll recognize the name from its predecessor, the GH4. The upgrades on the GH5 are substantial, with the ability to shoot in 4K up to 60fps. Other features include in-body stabilization, 20.3 megapixels versus 16, a better viewfinder, 10-bit recording for those Premiere and After Effects gurus out there. Yeah, the feature set is impressive as hell and represents a hell of an upgrade over the GH4.
While not the insane amount of lenses to choose from on a full-frame, the micro four-thirds mount does offer plenty of primes and zooms. The thing about lenses is you can edge into Gear Acquisition Syndrome in a hurry. Grab a fast prime and a zoom and see where it takes you. Then add if you need to. Don’t buy just for the hell of it. Trust me; you find your favorite three lenses and the rest become paperweights.
Weight: 25.6 oz.
What You’ll Love: It’s simply one of the best for video in the price range.
What Might Hate: Nothing. If you’re getting a GH5, you already know why. Complaining it’s not full-frame is disingenuous. Buy a Sony a7s II if you need a full-frame.
Are you big on video? Then look to the GH5s. It’s not a MP winner, but that’s not the point. It’s all about video and low light performance. 4K video at 60p. Think of it as Panasonic’s answer to the a7s series.
It is undoubtedly a solid camera for the filmmaking crowd. While it doesn’t scream hybrid camera, it can handle stills thanks to the 10MP Digital Live MOS sensor and the Venus Engine. The tandem allows for solid pictures in terms of sharpness and color. If you want a hybrid system with more features, stick with the GH5. If you find yourself leaning towards more video projects, then the GH5s should top your list if you’re invested in the micro four-thirds ecosystem.
Who says mirrorless cameras have to give up the old school feel? Fujifilm definitely agrees with the recent release of its flagship X-T2. It’s a massive leap over the X-T1 with upgrades on all fronts. More megapixels, 4K video and one hell of an upgrade to the autofocus system.
If you don’t have the cash for a Sony a7rII, the Fujifilm offers a solid alternative for $1599. And it wins on aesthetics. You’ll immediately fall in love with the old school knobs on top to give it that retro feel of an analog camera. Add in Fujifilm’s insanely gorgeous image and color quality, and it’s a winner. Those needing lenses have their pick from a wide assortment of Fujinon lenses.
The $1599 price point definitely doesn’t hurt its cause. Fujifilm has shifted with its latest flagship away from being a direct competitor to Sony in the full-frame space. The company has instead moved towards medium format, leaving the flagships like the X-T2 in the APS-C category of sensors.
Weight: 17.9 oz
What You’ll Love: All the technology packed into a retro body. Hard not to love the fusion of the two.
What Holds it Back: It has 4K video, but if you lean more videographer over a photographer, the GH5 or a Sony is your better option. Still, at $1599, if you give a little on the quirks of the 4K, it’s a solid deal and will always start a conversation thanks to its style.
The company’s latest flagship to take on the likes of Nikon and Canon. Before the a9, fast shooting remained firmly in DSLR territory. That ended with the announcement of the Sony a9 and its 20fps capability. Compare that to 14fps on the Canon 1DX Mark II or the 12 on the Nikon D5. Then, of course, there’s the price difference.
At $4,498, the Sony a9 isn’t cheap unless you compare it to the other flagships. Other features include a 693-point phase-detection autofocus system, five-axis image stabilization, 4K video and everything else Sony keeps innovating and shoving into cameras at a blistering rate.
Weight: 23.7 oz.
What You’ll Love: If you’re an action or wildlife photographer looking for a mirrorless system, this is it.
Why You Don’t Need It: Same reason why some will love it. If you’re not hardcore into the above niches, there are better, cheaper options. Especially the a7rII which chops the price in half. Better to have a previous generation camera and amazing glass over the latest without the lenses to back it up.
Fuji’s latest release continues its willingness to capture as much of the mirrorless APS-C market as possible. The Fujifilm X-H1 does stray a bit from the X-T2 series with a greater emphasis placed on video. There’s also a solid upgrade in the megapixel count from 20MP to 24MP.
IBIS is there allowing you to forego a gimbal for most b-roll shots. It’s damn stable as long as you are willing to walk softly and not push it to the max. Dans on the recent Fujifilm cameras will be excited to see a couple of the manual dials remain, though the X-H1 does introduce an LCD screen for a quick check of camera information. It’s a nice balance between the retro and 21st century features.
What You’ll Like: Hybrid shooters will love the increased focus on video. Also, it’s a solid APS-C mirrorless system with the 24MO sensor. It has movie controls for says. The X-H1 also retains the retro look of the X-T2. It may have lost a dial, but the added features outweigh the aesthetic.
What You Might Hate: Lens selection. While Fujifilm produces some absolutely sublime choices in the lens department, it can’t be overlooked it’s an area where it is trailing other camera manufacturers. It will come down to needs. If you need a lens outside the scope of the X-H1, then you need to look elsewhere. If not, Fujifilm is one of the few camera companies that continually updates its camera lineup via firmware.
Sony shocked and angered more than a few fans of its a6000-series when it quickly updated the a6300 with the a6500. It’s not necessarily worth an upgrade, but if you’re in the market, the Sony a6500 does offer more than a few welcome additions to the APS-C format.
It sits firmly in the mid-range budget wise, offering 4K video, five-axis stabilization found in its full-frames, weather sealing and a superb autofocusing system for under $1400. That’s hard to pass up.
And if the tech doesn’t sell you, the form factor will. The a6500 is compact and punches well above its weight class. You’ll see plenty of shooters using it as a backup or even as their primary camera. Sure, we all want more E-mount lens options, but Sony is rapidly building up a stable of glass for any situation.
Weight: 16 oz.
What You’ll Love: It’s compact enough to make you think you bought a point-and-shoot that’s an interchangeable-lens camera.
What You Might Hate: Lens options and the same overheating issues with 4K video. It’s not as bad, but if you’re going vlogging, the GH5 is the better camera.
Don’t let the ‘Pro’ in the name confuse you. The X-T2 is the better camera head-to-head, but the X-Pro2 does offer a few unique features which may appeal to some. First is the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder. It’s great for still photography and those not wanting to completely give up the optical viewfinder.
It also has the benefit of being a hell of a lot cheaper than other brands – Leica and the sort – which offer the same. Fujifilm has been diligent with firmware upgrades that improved the AF system, but if you’re deciding between the X-Pro2 and the X-T2, the features on the X-T2 make it the better purchase.
Weight: 15.7 oz.
What You’ll Like: The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder is its selling point.
What You Won’t: The Fujifilm X-T2 is the better camera if you’re not set on the hybrid viewfinder.
Canon EOS M5
I may get flack for putting it near the bottom, but we all keep waiting for Canon or Nikon to blow us away with a mirrorless system. Instead, Canon has the EOS M5. It’s not a bad camera, but the landscape is competitive and to release a midrange without 4K is nearly malpractice in 2017.
If you’re a Canon user debating the switch, it does have the ability to use the EF-S lenses with an adapter – that includes the ability to use any image stabilization or AF in the lens. Granted, it’s an adapter, and we all know how well those can work.
Canon will be one to watch later this year and possibly next. Sony keeps innovating which has to force Canon to counter at some point with more than the EOS series.
Canon EOS M50
I’m tossing the new Canon M50 in here because it’s one of the first consumer Canon cameras with 4K. Sort of. It has an intense crop and is more suited towards the vlogging set. My take on its release is wait unless you need a camera right now and the M50 suits those needs.
Canon rumors are ratcheting up as the company gets closer to announcing multiple mirrorless cameras including a successor to the Canon EOS M5.
Don’t want to drop the cash on the two flagship Fujifilm cameras above? The X-T20 is still a great camera and nice deal with the 18-55mm kit lens. It may not have the incredible styling of the X-T2 or the wild viewfinder of the Pro2, but the image quality is nearly the same. In the end, that’s what matters.
Video performance takes a nosedive, but that’s expected in an older generation, and there’s no weather sealing. If you plan on getting dusty or wet, it’s something to be aware of. The sub-$1000 price tag is definitely a nice benefit. You are saving nearly $600 and have the same sensor as the latest Fujifilm flagship.
Announced Mirrorless Cameras
Late August and September 2018 saw a flurry of activity on the mirrorless camera front. Nikon and Canon both introduced mirrorless systems with mixed reviews (about as diplomatic as I can put it). With the cameras in pre-production, we are relying on spec sheets and first impressions. Some of the specs wow, while others are outright headscratchers. Dual card slots anyone?
Hey, if Sony took its lumps for it with the first couple generations of the a7 generation, then Nikon and Canon can expect the same.
Out of the three cameras announced so far – waiting on Panasonic, it’s Fujifilm X-T3 which wins on paper. The next-generation APS-C model has 4K60p, which none of its full-frame counterparts boast. Fuji has stuck with the retro design fans have come to love. Coupled with an excellent lens lineup, and a price that doesn’t break the bank, it’s one to watch.
We are holding off ranking the cameras until each releases into the wild, but we can give quick rundowns of what we know and expect.
A clear competitor to the Sony a7 III, the Nikon Z6 is squarely targeted at Nikon DSLR owners who own a lot of Nikkor glass. You’ll need the adapter for current F-mount lenses while the company rushes to fill out its Z-mount lens roadmap. It’s the new mount which has fans buzzing. Nikon promises faster lenses, but damn are they expensive. The 58mm f/0.95 comes in north of $5000 and is a behemoth.
What distances itself from Sony is it has solid ergonomics and excellent weather sealing. The 24.5MP sensor boasts a 275-point PDAF system and can shoot 12 FPS. Nikon was never known for video, but it looks like the Z series is learning to embrace it, offering 4K30p and hybrid AF.
What You’ll Like: If you’re a Nikon owner, your glass can be adapted, and it’s about as close to native as you will ever get with adapted lenses. Ergonomics and weather sealing are two aforementioned pluses.
What You Might Not: No dual card slots. Sony has it on the a7 III. The Fuji X-T3 has it and it’s a smaller body. While XQD is amazing, it’s a relatively new technology. Personally, I’ve never had an SD card fail. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen and it’s an odd oversight by Nikon. Another negative which will gradually disappear is the lack of lenses. The Nikon Z6 is a new system with a new mount. Patience will be needed for the company to build native glass.
With the Z6 competing against the a7 III, the Nikon Z7 is targeting the a7r III. The pitfalls found in the Z6 are present in the high-megapixel Z7. No dual card slots. Lack of lenses. Like the Z6, the lack of lenses will be addressed in time, and the adapter does work well for native glass.
The marquee feature is the 45.7MP BSI sensor with a 493-point PDAF system on the sensor. ISO ranges reach down to 64 and hit 25,600. At 9FPS, it’s a touch slower than the Z6, but in line with Sony’s a7r III.
What You’ll Like: The increased AF points over the Z6 and its competition, the a7r III. A massive library of F-mount and third-party lenses. It’s the gateway into what should be the future of Nikon’s mirrorless systems.
What You Might Not: It’s not what Nikon fans wanted. The Z7 feels like it’s competing against the a7r II versus the a7r III. Where it takes a step forward, the Nikon Z7 inexplicably takes a step back. Battery life is an issue, and instead of a grip, Nikon is rushing out a battery pack. It’s decisions like that which has some questioning Nikon’s judgment.
We have to reserve judgment until the final cameras get into the hands of customers, but it’s a solid first push for Nikon. A solid entry into mirrorless, but not the revolution the company promised.
Right on the heels of the Nikon announcement was Canon’s surprise announcement of the EOS R mirrorless system. Between Nikon and Canon, it feels Canon has the most head-scratching decisions. On the one hand, everyone is rightly impressed with the lenses slated for release. They are fantastic but expensive. Canon also pulled a Nikon with a single card slot. The AF system is impressive with over 5600 points. And it has a flip-out screen for vloggers
And now the head-scratching decisions. The 30MP sensor is borrowed from the Canon 5D IV. What the hell Canon? Why isn’t this a new sensor? Yes the 5D IV is a known quantity, but it’s an odd choice.
What You’ll Like: All the Canon glass you have in your bag? It will work on the EOS R system which comes with three separate adapters including a control ring, lens adapter and one to drop in filters (ND and polarizers). That’s a nice touch. Ergonomics and weather-sealing users have come to expect.
What You Might Not: Video. For reasons that escape us, 4K video has a 1.7x crop. The flip-out screen for vloggers is effectively rendered useless by the decision. And of course, no dual card slots. The rationale is lack of room, but Fujifilm’s X-T3 is smaller and found a way to put two slots into the body.
The successor to the X-T2, Fujifilm keeps everything we loved about the X-T2 and builds upon it. All while lowering the price. That’s different. Maybe you could toss Apple a hint about pricing in the future. A 26.1 MP sensor gives it the APS-C sensor crown, while improved AF and a new X-Trans processor open up a world of options.
Where the X-T2 was hampered without the battery grip, the X-T3 has no limitations. The battery grip does what a battery grip should do. Add battery life and vertical shutter release. That’s a hint, Nikon.
What You’ll Like: Everything is improved upon. Fujifilm rightly kept the retro styling with the dials on top. 4K60p makes a mockery of all the recent full-frame announcements. The X-T3 is one of the most well-rounded APS-C camera and has a company willing to support it with pro-level lenses.
What You Might Not: Those holding out for IBIS will be a bit disappointed. It’s reserved for the X-H1, and the company had indicated all the way to the launch that’s how it would stay. Still, we would have liked to see it, and it’s a missing feature you need to be aware of when making a purchase.
The biggest mistake is chasing numbers. The most expensive camera isn’t always the best. Take the Sony a9. That’s perfect for hardcore sports and wildlife photographers. But you can just as easily take an a6500 out on your porch and snap away at birds or to your kid’s game.
What matters in photography is education. Learn everything you can about your camera – the function buttons, menu systems, its pros and cons. Snap a ton of pictures. All the theory in the world means little if you aren’t outside filling up SD cards.
Lenses. Quality over quantity. Unless you absolutely need a ton of glass, you can get by with two or three lenses. In the end, you’ll find your favorites, and the rest will collect dust. Don’t buy a macro lens because you saw something amazing on Instagram. Ask yourself how often you’ll be out there snapping macro photos. I love it, but it’s a personal preference. I know I’ll use the lens.
It looks like a Sony list, but there are others. The Fujifilm X-T2 is an excellent camera and won’t break the bank. If you have the cash, the a7rIII is at the top of the pack. Vloggers should stick to the GH5, while new shooters should get comfortable with something like the Sony a6500.
And now we wait for the next crop of mirrorless cameras. The mirrorless wars are nearly upon us. Nikon is prepping the announcement of two full-frame systems. Canon rumors have it sooner rather than later. The consumer always wins.
If you thought the mirrorless cameras onslaught was over, you would be mistaken. Panasonic is up next with its full-frame entry. Sony still has the a7s III and the rumored successor to the a6500 to announce.
What does it mean for mirrorless fans? Options. Endless options. Some say it’s a race for a smaller piece of the market, but it’s mirrorless where growth will come from in the coming years. Once people tire of the limitations of a smartphone camera, the next step is a ‘real camera.’