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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.




Panasonic Lumix GH4 review / (Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds)

 

The GH4 is Panasonic's flagship camera, and like earlier GH models places equal importance to high-end video and stills photography. The headline feature is being record 4k video (either in the UHD or slightly wider Cinema 4K formats) internally to a sufficiently fast SD memory card; many rivals require exotic storage or external recorders. 1080p Full HD video is also well-catered for with bit rates up to 200Mbit/s and 96fps options for slow motion. Focus peaking, zebra patterns, timcode and adjustable luminance and master pedestal levels round-off the professional video features. The GH4 is also great for stills with a weatherproof body, wealth of customizable controls, fully-articulated touch-screen, high res EVF, fast 12fps continuous shooting and quick AF even in very low light. As you'd expect for the sensor size, the GH4 inevitably suffers from noise at high sensitivities, and while Panasonic has improved continuous AF, it's still not as confident as a hybrid system with PDAF assistance. But you if you can shoot at lower ISOs, you can't argue with a camera that can shoot ultra crisp 4k video for the money. For movie makers on a budget it's a game-changer.

Pros: 4k and great 1080p movie quality; pro video features; good handling for stills.
Cons: Noise at high sensitivities, especially for 4k video. CAF improved but not best.
Overall: A great all-rounder, but a game-changer for budget movie makers.



Sony A5000 review / (Lens mount: Sony E mount)

 

Sony'a Alpha A5000 is an entry-level mirrorless camera with a 20 Megapixel APS-C sensor, tilting screen and built-in Wifi. It goes head-to-head against entry-level DSLRs, sporting a similarly-sized sensor and the chance to swap lenses, but unlike most DSLRs at this price point, adds an articulated screen for easy self-portraits and built-in Wifi that supports wireless image transfer, smartphone remote control and downloadable apps. As a mirrorless camera, the A5000 is also a lot smaller and lighter than even a budget DSLR, and its full-time electronic composition means it supports technologies like face and scene detection to help you nail the shot quickly and easily. Downsides? There's no viewfinder, nor any means to connect one as an optional accessory, but for the money I still reckon Sony's made the right choices and delivered a camera that's highly compelling for the target market. If you're looking for an upgrade in quality, flexibility and control over a point-and-shoot camera or smartphone, I'd strongly recommend it.

Pros: Large APS-C sensor; tilting screen; Wifi; clever shooting modes.
Cons: No viewfinder or hotshoe to mount accessories.
Overall: Great value mirrorless camera that makes more sense than a budget DSLR.



Sony Alpha A6000 review / (Lens mount: Sony E mount)

 

The Sony Alpha A6000 is a mid-range mirrorless camera that punches well above its weight. It packs a 24 Megapixel APS-C sensor, electronic viewfinder, tilting screen, Wifi with NFC, 1080p movies up to 60fps and a hotshoe / accessory mount into a tiny body. Arguably most exciting of all though is the hybrid AF system which embeds phase-detect AF points across almost the entire sensor area, allowing it to confidently track moving subjects wherever they may be. It really works too, both when shooting stills at up to 11fps, and when pulling focus during movies; impressively you can even choose the speed and response of the movie AF. Annoyingly the viewfinder size and resolution is technically a step-down from the earlier NEX-6 and NEX-7, and like the 7 you'll need a decent lens to exploit the 24 Megapixels, but the overall handling and feature-set arguably make it an upgrade to these models, not to mention one of the most compelling cameras at the price. It's especially recommended if you shoot or film subjects in motion: sports and action shooters, not to mention parents of active kids, should have it in their shortlist.

Pros: 24MP, 11fps shooting, fast and continuous AF for stills and video.
Cons: Really need to upgrade the kit zoom for exploit full 24MP resolution.
Overall: One of the best mid-range cameras for the money, DSLR or mirrorless.




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 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 EM10.

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.





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.





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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