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.
For those new to the hobby, you’ll want to know what a mirrorless camera is? 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.
Our Pick for 2019 – Sony a7 III
While mirrorless cameras are announced at a brisk pace, the Sony a7 III still holds the throne as the best value for the features. And it’s not even close when compared to Canon and Nikon.
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 while we wait on the promised a7s III, Sony a7 III fulfills the role as 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.
It also enjoys regular firmware updates complete with new features. Timelapse made it back into the camera as did a brand new Animal-AF mode. Think Eye-AF for humans, and you get the idea.
And at less than $2K, you can immediately invest in solid glass for the body.
Our runner-up has the ‘cool factor.’ It also gives a nod to the APS-C crowd. While full-frame fans look down on the crop sensor, it offers portability and more accessibility thanks to the weight it sheds.
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 cameras 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. Still, we would have liked to see it, and it’s a missing feature you need to be aware of when making a purchase.
Better is subjective. Mirrorless cameras do have advantages over their DSLR counterparts. They are more likely to be lighter, more compact and generally better for hybrid shooters with interest in video. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) allows you to essentially preview and adjust aperture, ISO, shutter speed on the fly before taking the image.
What does it mean when a camera is mirrorless?
Unlike a traditional DSLR, mirrorless cameras do not need a mirror to reflect the image up into the optical viewfinder. Instead, the sensor is used to project the frame through an EVF.
Are Mirrorless Cameras the Future?
It’s still not clear, but with every major manufacturer jumping into the mirrorless market, it is beginning to feel that way. Sales of mirrorless cameras have started to outstrip traditional DSLRs as professionals and hobbyists alike make the switch.
Are Mirrorless Cameras Silent?
They are much quieter than a DSLR. There is no mirror, so each shutter push does not flip a mirror to expose the image. The only sound a mirrorless camera makes is the sound of its aperture closing, and some models have pushed the noise levels below that of the ambient audio of a room.
Sony Mirrorless Cameras
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 $2799 – 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 in 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 $2500. The build quality is there, but for whatever reason, Sony seems to always fall behind in this arena.
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 $4,499, 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.
24.MP Stacked CMOS Sensor
20 fps with silent shooting
693-point wide-area phase detection AF and 425-point contrast-detection AF
ISO 100-51200 (expands to a range of 50-204800)
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 a7 III which more than chops the price in half. Sure, it’s not shooting at a blistering 20fps, but it did borrow the AF system and the new Z battery.
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 $1200. That’s hard to pass up.
4K Oversampled to 6K
Eye, Animal autofocus
Autofocus: 425 phase-detection AF points
ISO 100-25600 (expandable to 51200)
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.
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 potential for overheating issues remains. It’s not as bad, but if you’re into vlogging, there are better answers.
Sony’s attempt to take control of the vlogging world. Instead of a flip out screen, it opted for a vertical flip screen. If you’re imagining this blocks the hot shoe mount for an external microphone, you’d be correct. However, SmallRig has come up with a rather ingenious adapter to relocate a cold shoe mount and still take full advantage of the vertical screen. It’s a problem we shouldn’t have to fix, but it works.
In a bit of weird naming schemes, the a6400 is actually the newer of the APS-C cameras for Sony. Yep, that means the Sony a6500 is older than the new a6400. What gives? One feature it loses is IBIS, which for vlogging is an odd choice. Thankfully the weight and compact form factor make up for the missing feature. And a starting price of $899 definitely helps users forget about IBIS.
4K Oversampled to 6K
Eye, Animal, and Real-Time Tracking autofocus
Autofocus: 425 phase-detection AF points
ISO 100-32000 (expandable to 102400)
Like all Sony mirrorless cameras, firmware updates have been adding features. Animal AF and timelapses are now integrated into the camera. Let those pet pictures shine.
What You’ll Love: The price to features makes it one to watch. The flip-up screen is solid though it requires an inexpensive hack to extend its usefulness. Lightweight and better specs compared to the a6500.
What You Might Not: The lack of IBIS on a camera marketed as a vlogging solution is a bit of an odd choice.
Sony hasn’t shown much love for its crop sensor lineup, but there are excellent third party lenses to snap up for vlogging or general shooting. The Sigma 16mm f/1.4 is excellent for video off something like the a6400 or a6500.
Nikon Mirrorless Cameras
After waiting for years, Nikon finally became serious about mirrorless camera bodies in 2018 releasing two camera bodies.
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 pluses mentioned above. Nikon has also taken a page from Sony by adding features via firmware updates. Eye AF is now available on the camera.
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 fantastic, 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.
For third party lenses, make sure the adapters are compatible with the camera. The Z-mount is still new, so don’t expect a lot of third-party glass just yet.
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.
Rumors have been percolating about possible new cameras out of Nikon. One is a sub-$1000 body to compete with the Canon EOS RP, a potential APS-C mirrorless, and pro-grade full-frame in time for the Olympics in Tokyo. Two of the three sounds exciting, but what features will have to be nerfed to get a full-frame under $1000?
Canon Mirrorless Cameras
Canon EOS R
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.
Canon’s answer to the a7 III? It’s hard to tell because the release felt random and almost as if Canon saw they had another camera lying about and released it. The price of $1299 makes it compelling as its the cheapest full-frame mirrorless on the market.
It does have a few exciting features like the ergonomics, AF performance, Eye AF, low-light performance. Where it falls off is the features it effectively killed. 4K video is unusable thanks to cropping and poor AF. Canon omitted IBIS, and the reduced dynamic range makes the camera a head-scratcher.
Like Nikon, Canon promises more professional bodies. It makes sense because their lens lineup for the RF mount is impressive. I’d expect big things before the Tokyo Olympics.
Panasonic Mirrorless Cameras
It’s a tale of two sensor sizes from Panasonic. The company is undoubtedly on top of the MFT world, but with Canon and Nikon diving into full-frame, Panasonic had more than a bit of FOMO.
Panasonic came out of nowhere in 2018 with its announcement it was entering the full-frame mirrorless field. Borrowing a bit from Nikon’s strategy, they introduced the Panasonic S1 as a competitor to the Sony a7 III and now the Nikon Z6. They may have been late to the party, but Panasonic came to play.
10 bit 4K with no crop but 60p is limited to 30 minutes
High-resolution mode for landscape and fine art.
Dual card slots
It all sounds great though it’s a bit more expensive than its rivals at $2500. Where it falls flat is the contrast-detect autofocus. It’s just not as good as a phase-detect AF system. And then there’s the whole charging for a firmware update.
The S1 feels like the camera that almost had it all but dropped the ball in one of the most important areas of a camera body. The autofocus. Also, if you’re looking for a lightweight camera, Panasonic didn’t get that memo.
What does hold promise for all the Panasonic mirrorless cameras is the L-mount alliance between it, Sigma and Leica. Yeah, you weren’t the only one who never imagined that trio teaming up.
The alliance allows Panasonic to immediately answer the critics who point out the lack of native lenses for Canon and Nikon mirrorless bodies. While the S1 launched with only three lenses, Sigma is launching 14 prime L-mount lenses in 2019 alone.
Think the Sony a7r III and the Nikon Z7, and you’re on the right track. It’s Panasonic’s megapixel monster at $3699. Unfortunately, the higher price doesn’t equal a better AF system.
10 bit 4K60p but knocked down to 15-minute record times
High-resolution mode (187MP) for landscape and fine art.
Dual card slots
Yep, the 4K60p takes another hit here. At least it does it whereas its rivals do not. Where the S1 could overcome the AF issue, it’s a harder sell at the price point of the S1R. The Sony a7r III and Nikon Z7 both boast high megapixel counts and the AF systems are solid. Sure, both lack 4K60p, but at 15-minute caps, it’s not really a feature of the S1R.
Set for an autumn release, Panasonic jumped ahead of Sony with the announcement of the S1H. Consider yourself on notice Sony. The a7s III has its work cut out for it. There’s a lot we don’t know, but the camera clearly caters to videographers:
6K/24p (3:2 aspect ratio)
5.9K/30p (16:9 aspect ratio) video recording
4K DCI & UHD 4:2:2 10-bit 60p
Claimed dynamic range of over 14 stops
4:3 Anamorphic mode
No recording time limits
Release time Autumn 2019
The 6K video is the headliner, and Panasonic had to install vents to prevent overheating. 4K60p with no limits comes standard which throws down the gauntlet at Sony. The L-mount primes emerging from Sigma will make this a compelling camera if Sony doesn’t answer with the a7s III.
Panasonic Lumix GH5
Need 4K60p without the wait? The Panasonic GH5 is the camera for you. One drawback is it’s not full-frame. It not much of a disadvantage, 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 one of Panasonic’s full-frames if it’s a must-have.
While the company didn’t have a ton of glass at launch, the L-Mount alliance with Leica and Sigma guarantees it a solid native lens portfolio.
Fuji Mirrorless Cameras
What I love about Fuji is it is unabashedly comfortable in its position as the APS-C mirrorless camera of choice. Sure, it may not have the market share or get the play on YouTube Sony manages, but it’s damn good at what it does and why it earns our runner up spot for the best mirrorless camera of 2019.
Love the X-T3, but not ready to shell out the cash? Fujifilm’s X-T30 is a solid answer. It packs a ton of features in a compact body. You lose some of the upper-end features of the flagship X-T3, but at $899, is that really a complaint? It still shoots 4K30p video, features the 26.1MP X-Trans BSI CMOS sensor, and an OLED EVF.
Other features of the X-T3 do make an appearance with the camera able to perform film simulation and grain effects in-body. Fuji takes its history seriously – not only in the retro design – but the rich analog film history.
It’s a generation older than the X-T3, but who says mirrorless cameras can’t maintain excellent features, an old-school feel, and a solid price? Fujifilm definitely agrees by keeping the X-T2 around.
If you don’t have the cash for a Sony a7 III or looking at an APS-C body for accessibility reasons, Fujifilm offers a solid alternative for $1099, which includes an excellent kit lens. 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 $1099 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, then Panasonic or Sony is your better option. Also, the battery grip increases functionality, which is a bit of a bummer considering grips should only extend battery life, not functionality. Still, at $1099, 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.
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 substantial 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. Fans of 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 retro and 21st century features.
Weight: 23.74 oz
What You’ll Like: Hybrid shooters will love the increased focus on video. Also, it’s a solid APS-C mirrorless system with the 24MP sensor. It has movie controls for days. The X-H1 also retains the retro look of the X-T2 and X-T3. 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.
Don’t want to drop the cash on the flagships Fujifilm cameras above? The X-T20 is still a great camera and great deal with the 18-55mm kit lens for $699. 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 when picking out your mirrorless camera.
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 quickly 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 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.
Wrapping the Best Mirrorless Cameras 2019
What was once a list dominated by Sony cameras has now grown to include Canon and Nikon. The Fuji X-T3 is an excellent camera and won’t break the bank. For full-frame, you can’t go wrong with the Sony a7 III. Vloggers get more options each day, but the GH5 is still a solid pick, along with Sony a7 III or a6400. You’ll have to add a few things, but it’s where the market is heading. New shooters should get comfortable with something like the Fuji X-T3 or Sony a6500. If you want to head into full-frame territory, the Sony a7 III is the best value. Period.
If you thought the mirrorless cameras onslaught was over, you would be mistaken. Panasonic’s video entry has been announced, but real-world testing isn’t here yet. Sony still has the a7sIII and the rumored successor to the a6500 to announce. Canon and Nikon are both promising professional bodies.
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.’