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Best mirrorless camera

 

If you're shopping for a mirrorless camera, you've come to the right place! At Camera Labs I write in-depth reviews of cameras but understand you're busy people who sometimes just want recommendations of the most outstanding products. So here I'll cut to the chase and list the best mirrorless cameras around right now.

On this page you'll find the best mirrorless cameras on the market today from entry-level options to models aimed at tempting pros away from their traditional DSLRs. Technically speaking all point-and-shoot cameras are mirrorless, but on this page I'm talking about models with bigger sensors which can rival DSLRs for quality, control and handling. I'll be including system cameras with interchangeable lenses along with models with fixed lenses. But again what they all have in common are big sensors, great optics, lots of control and decent handling - and of course the absence of a mirror! I strongly believe these cameras represent the future of photography for all but the most specialist owners, so if you're thinking mirrorless is the way to go, you're in the right place! Note by definition this category excludes Sony's SLT range, which you'll instead find in my other buyer's guides.

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Gordon's favourite mirrorless camera right now: Olympus OMD EM1

Olympus OMD EM1 review / (Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds)

 

I've been exclusively shooting with mirrorless cameras for my personal photography for several years and adopted the Micro Four Thirds format both for the unparalleled range of high quality native lenses and the innovative bodies from Olympus and Panasonic. I was particularly fond of the Olympus OMD EM5 and still highly recommend it over a year after it launched especially at discounted prices, but it's the newer EM1 which has captured my heart right now. It's arguably the most mature, sophisticated and usable system camera in its bracket, whether you're shopping for mirrorless or DSLR.

Some may prefer the Sony A7r or the Fujifilm XT1, but as an all-rounder, the EM1 is hard to beat.

The OMD EM1 is the flagship mirrorless camera from Olympus, taking the concept of the original OMD EM5 and upgrading it in several important aspects. Like the EM5 it offers a fully weather-sealed body with a built in viewfinder, tilting touch-screen and highly effective built-in image stabilisation that works with any lens you attach. The body's been beefed up a little with a more comfortable grip and extra controls, but remains more portable than a DSLR of this class. Olympus has greatly upgraded the viewfinder size and resolution, added Wifi, doubled the maximum shutter to 1/8000 and offered interval timer facilities and focus peaking, albeit only for stills not movies. The sensor quality in RAW may be no different to the EM5 or indeed the Lumix GX7, but it's as good as any APS-C model and the addition of embedded phase detect AF points allow the EM1 to better focus continuously and support faster AF with older Four Thirds lenses, further expanding the 'native' selection. The video capabilities remain basic compared to Panasonic or Canon, but in every other respect the EM1 is a triumph.

Pros: Built-in IS, weather-sealed, superb EVF, Wifi, 1/8000, tilting screen, great lenses.
Cons: No built-in flash, no peaking or PDAF for movies, no panorama mode.
Overall: One of the most capable and enjoyable system cameras around right now.





Highly recommended alternatives


Fujifilm XT1 review / (Lens mount: X-mount)

 

The X-T1 is Fujifilm's sixth X-mount camera, but the arguably the first where all the company's goals and technologies come together in a truly coherent and desirable product. The XT1 takes everything good about the series so far, including a great quality sensor and retro controls, adds a huge viewfinder with clever display modes, a tilting screen, continuous autofocus that actually works and repackages the lot into the increasingly popular mini-DSLR form factor; the body also features built-in Wifi and as the icing on the cake is sealed against dust and inclement weather. The result is a very impressive camera that's a joy to use and delivers superb results. There are some downsides including basic AE bracketing, no 1/8000 shutter, no RAW at 100 ISO, the viewfinder becomes noisy in low light, and the face detection / single AF speed isn't as slick as some rivals. But it's testament to the things that work, that coupled with the small but excellent range of lenses makes the XT1 one of the most satisfying cameras at its price point, whether mirrorless or DSLR.

Pros: Superb quality, huge EVF, weather-sealed, good CAF, tilting screen, Wifi.
Cons: Basic AEB, no touch controls, no 1/8000, screen not fully-articulated.
Overall: One of the best cameras at its price. Compare with EM1.




Sony Alpha A7r review / (Lens mount: FE-mount / E-mount)

 

Sony's Alpha A7r is the smallest and lightest mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, AF and a full-frame sensor. Sony's gone all-out to impress with this camera which essentially delivers the same 36 Megapixel resolution as the Nikon D800e but from a body that's roughly similar in size to an Olympus OMD EM1. It's weather-sealed, features a large high quality viewfinder, tilting screen, 1080p movies, built-in Wifi and NFC, focus peaking, a 1/8000 shutter, microphone and headphone jacks and no fewer than four control dials. Sony's launched the A7r (and its lower resolution brother the A7) with five native lenses, but it can also use existing E-mount NEX lenses in a crop (or uncropped with vignetting) mode, and can exploit a vast array of third party lenses from the likes of Canon, Nikon and Leica via various adapters - and unlike other mirrorless cameras, it does so without a crop. There's no built-in IS, the AF is fairly leisurely, there's no touch controls and you have to shoot carefully to maximize the quality, but caveats aside it remains an amazing piece of kit at a very fair price.

Pros: Full-frame sensor; weather-sealed; great EVF; tilting screen; Wifi; peaking.
Cons: Leisurely AF and poor CAF. No touch controls. Screen not fully-articulated.
Overall: The World's smallest and lightest full-frame mirrorless is very impressive.





Olympus OMD EM5 review / (Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds)

 

The OMD EM5 was the first mirrorless system camera from Olympus with a built-in EVF and weatherproof construction. It's styled like the hugely popular OM series of 35mm SLRs in the Seventies, but inside is a thoroughly modern camera based on the Micro Four Thirds standard. It features 16 Mpixels, 9fps shooting, 1080p video, a vertically-tilting 3in OLED touch-screen, built-in 5-axis stabilisation which works with any lens and very fast AF. Some may find the clip-on flash inconvenient and wish Olympus had also equipped the E-M5 with a mic input and interval shooting, but over a year after launch is remains one of the most satisfying compact system cameras around and remains a personal favourite of mine, especially with prices falling now the more sophisticated EM1 is available. Compare closely with the Sony NEX-7, Panasonic GX7, Olympus EP5 and of course the newer EM1.

Pros: Weatherproof, great EVF and screen, built-in IS, broad lens catalogue.
Cons: Flash not built-in, no mic input, screen tilts not flips. No Wifi, GPS or focus peaking.
Overall: A truly satisfying system camera for demanding owners.




Panasonic Lumix GF6 review / (Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds)

 

The Lumix GF6 is Panasonic's latest upper entry-level mirrorless camera, which like all Lumix G models is based on the Micro Four Thirds standard. After several generations where the GF series became increasingly basic, Panasonic has decided to aim the GF6 at a higher-end photographer looking to step up from the simplest models or wanting a more significant upgrade over a point-and-shoot. It features 16 Megapixels (I believe using the GX1's sensor), a touchscreen which can tilt vertically and flip round to face the subject, and built-in Wifi with NFC allowing you to wirelessly browse, transfer, share or backup photos along with offering remote control via a free app for iOS and Android devices. NFC can take care of the initial Wifi network and password details on compatible devices. As you'd expect for an entry-level model there's very capable auto, but equally full manual control for when you want to expand your creativity; it also feature's an auto panorama mode which stitches the images for you. There's no hotshoe so no chance of mounting an external flashgun or viewfinder accessory, but it still delivers a compelling package for consumers, especially at the current price.

Pros: Quick focusing in low light; Wifi / NFC; tilting touch-screen; timelapse mode.
Cons: No hotshoe or viewfinder accessory; GPS data fiddly to add via phone.
Overall: A great choice for anyone upgrading from a point-and-shoot.



Panasonic Lumix GM1 review / (Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds)

 

Panasonic's Lumix GM1 is a small but powerful camera that cunningly succeeds in two different markets: first it's one of the smallest mirrorless system cameras, packing the quality and many of the features of the high-end Lumix GX7 into a much more portable body, and secondly it's a compact for enthusiasts which confidently takes on the best of the fixed lens models including the Canon S120 and Sony RX100 II. As such it appeals to a broad range of photographers, both those looking at smaller interchangeable lens cameras and those weighing-up high-end compacts which are a step-up in quality over point-and-shoot models. The GM1's secret is as much about inheriting most of the GX7's internals as it is about squeezing them into the smallest possible body. It means the GM1 enjoys features normally lacking on a camera of this size, such as very quick AF that works in very low light, built-in Wifi with smartphone remote control, deep seven-frame bracketing, powerful timelapse facilities, manual control over movie exposures and focus peaking that works for video. A fantastic specification for the size and recommended whether you're intending to build a lens collection or never remove the kit zoom.

Pros: Tiny body, quick focusing in low light, Wifi; 3in touch-screen, focus peaking.
Cons: No panorama mode, no hotshoe, modest battery life, most lenses block tripod.
Overall: Great whether you're looking for a tiny system camera or a decent compact.





Panasonic Lumix G6 review / (Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds)

 

Panasonic's Lumix G6 is a 16 Megapixel mirrorless system camera that's styled like a mini-DSLR and based on the Micro Four Thirds standard, giving it access to the broadest range of native lenses of any mirrorless system. The 16 Megapixel sensor and overall image quality remains much the same as the Lumix G5 before it, but there's a number of key improvements. Like its predecessor you can compose with an EVF or fully-articulated touch-screen, but the former has been greatly improved with an OLED panel, delivering a crisper and steadier image. The movie mode still offers 1080/50/60p, but now adds 24p along with a mic input, manual exposures, adjustable audio levels and focus peaking, the latter not even available on the GH3. The G6 also features Wifi and NFC, allowing you to wirelessly browse, transfer, share or backup photos along with offering remote control via a free app for iOS and Android devices. NFC can take care of the initial Wifi network and password details on compatible devices. The autofocusing also works in much lower light than before. It all adds up to one of the best cameras in this price point, whether you're looking at mirror-less or DSLR; indeed it's my personal pick in my entry-level system camera buyer's guide.

Pros: Quick focusing in low light; great EVF; Wifi / NFC; 3in articulated touch-screen.
Cons: Image quality similar to previous models; GPS data fiddly to add via phone.
Overall: A great all-rounder that's one of the best at this price point, DSLR or CSC.



Olympus EPM1 review / (Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds)

 

The Olympus E-PM1 is one of the most affordable mirrorless system cameras to date - the latest model is the E-PM2, but I'm focusing on the original E-PM1 here for discounted deals. Nick-named the 'PEN Mini', the E-PM1 is designed to appeal to those who want to step up from a point-and-shoot or a more portable alternative to a budget DSLR. As such it's smaller, lighter, more accessible and crucially cheaper than its more sophisticated siblings. But don't let the price and position in the range fool you: the E-PM1 features a full-sized hotshoe for accessories and like all Olympus models, boasts built-in stabilisation which works with any lens you attach. Couple all that with great manual control or simple auto if you prefer and you've got a compelling mirrorless camera at a fabulous price - even more so now the E-PM2 has been released. It's also one of the cheapest ways to enjoy the extensive Micro Four Thirds lens catalogue.

Pros: Built-in stabilisation; 1080i video; hotshoe; low price; broad lens catalogue.
Cons: Flash supplied, but not built-in. No touch-screen.
Overall: An affordable mirrorless camera which doesn't compromise.



Nikon J1 / (Lens mount: Nikon 1)

 

Nikon's mirrorless format is the 1 system, and while it's now gone through several generations, for me one of the most compelling in terms of bang for the buck is the original J1. The J1 boasts quicker autofocus, tracking and continuous shooting than any camera in its price bracket. It'll also continuously autofocus while filming HD video and even let you grab a bunch of high resolution stills at the same time. As such it'll be adored by action and portrait photographers alike, especially when shooting or filming kids or pets. Nikon's also had fun repackaging these core capabilities into a number of fun modes which take a different approach to photography. Nikon offers models aimed more at enthusiasts, but again for me the J1 is the more compelling option with a smaller and lighter body (in five colours!), built-in flash and much cheaper price point. It's a great camera for parents of sporty kids, pet-owners or action fanatics on a budget. It's also more affordable than ever now that Nikon's later-generation models are out.

Pros: Fast AF, fast burst modes, HD video with high-res stills.
Cons: No special effects; no accessory port;
Overall: Perfect for parents, pet owners and action fanatics.



Sony RX100 II review / (Lens mount: fixed lens)

 

The Sony RX100 II is the successor to the enormously popular RX100, and like that model squeezes a larger than average 20.2 Megapixel sensor, 3.6x Carl Zeiss zoom, and a detailed 3in screen into a pocketable body. The core specifications may sound similar, but Sony's packed a wealth of worthy upgrades into the new model. The screen now tilts vertically, there's built-in Wifi with NFC and a hotshoe which not only supports external flashes, but also an external microphone accessory and a fantastic optional electronic viewfinder; you can even connect a new cabled remote control to the USB port. The icing on the cake though is an upgraded sensor which may be the same size and resolution as before, but employs back-illuminated technology to genuinely delivery clearer results at higher ISOs. This all adds up to one of the best compacts for enthusiasts to date, but there are also some great alternatives to consider including Fujifilm's X100S below, Panasonic's tiny Lumix LF1 and of course Sony's original - and now discounted - RX100 if you don't need the upgrades.

Pros: Big 1in sensor in a pocketable camera. Hotshoe, tilting screen, Wifi.
Cons: No built-in GPS. Fixed lens. Screen still isn't touch-sensitive. EVF not built-in.
Overall: One of the most compelling compacts for enthusiasts.




Canon EOS M review / (Lens mount: EF-M)

 

Canon's EOS M is the company's first mirrorless system camera. It employs the same 18 Megapixel APS-C sensor as the EOS T4i / 650D DSLR, but matches it with a new EF-M lens mount designed to exploit the shorter flange to sensor distance. Of all the mirrorless system cameras, the EOS M launched with the fewest number of native lenses with just the choice of a 22mm f2.0 unstabilised pancake prime and a stabilized 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 zoom, but the unique selling point of the EOS M is its ability to accommodate the extensive catalogue of existing EF lenses with an optional adapter, and retain autofocus, auto exposure and IS where present. That's the good news. The bad news is autofocusing on the EOS M whether using native EF-M lenses or EF models via the adapter is leisurely to put it kindly. Think of Live View AF on a Canon DSLR and you'll have an idea, except that there's no alternative to fall back on. This rules it out for a lot of spontaneous or action shooting, and those with kids or pets may find it frustrating to say the least. But the simple fact it offers any kind of AF with EF lenses will be enough to sell it to many existing Canon DSLR owners, and the image and movie quality is certainly very good. There's also some great discounted deals around, but if you don't have existing Canon EF lenses, there are better mirrorless system cameras to invest in here. Also look out for a second generation model rumoured for 2014.

Pros: Great image and movie quality. Works with EF lenses via an adapter.
Cons: Autofocusing with native or EF lenses is very slow. Few native lenses.
Overall: A sensible choice for anyone wanting to use EF lenses use on a small body.



Sony NEX 6 review / (Lens mount: E-mount)

 

Sony's NEX 6 slots between the NEX 5R and the top-end NEX 7, and in many respects is a cross between them. Like all NEX models, it packs an APS-C sensor, but to avoid treading on the flagship's toes, Sony's fitted the NEX 6 with the same 16 Megapixel sensor as the 5R, leaving the NEX 7 to rule the roost with 24 Megapixels. But this does mean the NEX 6 enjoys the same on-chip phase-detect AF assistance as the 5R, compared to the 100% contrast-based NEX 7. Externally the NEX 6 greatly resembles the NEX 7, sharing its tilting screen, high resolution OLED viewfinder and popup flash, albeit not the magnesium alloy construction or mic input. And while it 'only' has two soft control dials, it does feature a first for the NEX system: a proper exposure mode dial, allowing you to switch between PASM and the auto modes with a simple twist. Like the NEX 7 there's a flash hotshoe, but joy-of-joys, it's a standard one making it easy to mount third-party accessories. And in one more trump over the NEX 7, it also boasts built-in Wifi which can push images to smartphones or direct to Facebook. Annoyingly the screen lacks the touch controls of the 5R, but for many the NEX 6 will be more tempting than the 7, especially bundled with the new 16-50mm Power Zoom lens. Look out for deals now the Alpha A6000 has been announced.

Pros: OLED viewfinder, tilting screen, standard hotshoe, Wifi, phase-detect AF.
Cons: Lacks the 24 Mpixels, mic input & tough build of the 7 and the touchscreen of the 5R.
Overall: If you're happy with 16 Mpixels and a plastic shell, it's arguably better than the NEX 7.



Sony NEX 7 review / (Lens mount: E-mount)

 

The NEX-7 is a high-end mirrorless camera which, prior to the launch of the full-frame A7 and A7r, was Sony's flagship model. Like all NEX cameras it employs an APS-C sized sensor, this time with 24 Megapixels. It was also the first NEX to sport a built-in electronic viewfinder (one of the best around) along with a popup flash, hotshoe and microphone input. Sony's also addressed previous concerns over control with three customizable dials. In addition you get 10fps shooting, 1080p video at 50/60p and a tilting screen, all packed into a body that's smaller than a traditional DSLR. It all adds up to one of the best overall CSCs to date, although compare closely with the Olympus E-M5 and Panasonic GH3 which currently enjoy a much broader native lens selection and weatherproofing, to which the E-M5 also adds built-in IS. If you can live without 24 Megapixels and a microphone input, also consider the newer NEX-6 which adds Wifi, a mode dial, and a standard hotshoe. If you're after something higher-end, also consider the Alpha A7 and A7r above.

Pros: Superb EVF. Great movie options. Custom dials.
Cons: No weather-proofing. Basic bracketing. No Wifi or GPS.
Overall: One of the best higher-end mirrorless, but getting on now so look for deals.



Fujifilm XE2 / (Lens mount: X-mount)

 

Fujifilm's X-E series is pitched as a smaller, more affordable version of the original X-Pro1, but in my view ends up being a more desirable camera for all but the most specialist photographers. The current model is the XE2, successor to the XE1. It sports Fujifilm's latest X-Trans sensor, also seen in the XT1, boasting 16 Megapixels and embedded phase-detect AF points; the image quality, like the XT1, is superb. For composition there's a large and detailed 2.36k dot OLED electronic viewfinder or 3in / 1040k dot LCD monitor, there's Full HD video recording at up to 60p, built-in Wifi and focus peaking to help with manual focusing. The newer XT1 repositions the viewfinder, adds a tilting screen and refines some of the features, but the XE2 gives you most of the core quality and capabilities in a slightly smaller and cheaper body; if you want even more affordable access to the X-Trans sensor and X-mount lenses, check out the cheaper Fujifilm XM1.

Pros: Superb image quality, high resolution viewfinder, Wifi.
Cons: Basic movie modes and video quality is unremarkable. Screen doesn't tilt.
Overall: Excellent choice if movie quality isn't critical.



Fujifilm X100S review / (Lens mount: Fixed lens)

 


Fujifilm's X100S is a compact, retro-styled camera with a large APS-C sized sensor, fixed 35mm f2 equivalent lens and the choice of screen or viewfinder for composition. It's the successor to the X100, a model that revitalized the market for fixed-lens cameras aimed at enthusiasts. The X100 proved there was demand for such a camera but suffered from a number of issues. The X100S attempts to resolve those issues and deliver excellent performance without losing the retro charm of its predecessor. The result is a camera that looks great, handles beautifully and delivers images of a much higher quality than its 16 Megapixels imply due to a cunning sensor design. It's an unashamedly high-end camera with a price tag to match, but for demanding enthusiasts it could be their ideal 'compact' camera. If you want something smaller with similar quality and don't mind losing the viewfinder, consider the Nikon COOLPIX A.

Pros: APS-C sensor and fixed lens deliver superb quality;
Cons: No zoom - lens is fixed; basic movie mode; no Wifi or GPS.
Overall: A highly desirable retro-styled compact for enthusiasts with great quality.



     
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