Wondering what’s the best mirrorless camera you can buy right now? If you’re confused, know that you’re not alone.
Since Panasonic launched the first mirrorless camera in 2008, the genre has grown massively, with models to suit every budget and ability. Today, between cameras costing the same as tiny compact cameras and full-frame powerhouses, right through to resolution-hungry medium format monsters, the choice is huge.
So what is a mirrorless camera? Mirrorless cameras allow you to swap and change lenses like a DSLR, but because the mirror inside the camera has been removed (hence the name, with mirrors used to bounce light from the path of the lens up into the optical viewfinder of a DSLR), it has allowed designers to make mirrorless cameras much more compact than DSLRs.
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No mirror means that instead of optical viewfinders to frame your subject, mirrorless cameras rely on electronic viewfinders instead. Be aware, too, that most cheaper mirrorless cameras don’t come with viewfinders at all – instead, you compose the photo on the rear screen, just as you do with most compact cameras or smartphones.
You’ll find that mirrorless cameras are also known as compact system cameras (or CSCs for short), with models ranging from the simple to use beginner models to sophisticated full-frame monsters that rival the very best DSLRs out there.
Why are mirrorless cameras better?
Is a mirrorless camera better than a DSLR then? There are still quite a few pros and cons to both designs, so if you want to find out more, read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences
Mirrorless cameras certainly offer more choice. If you’re looking to buy a DSLR, there’s only really two main players in the shape of Canon and Nikon. If you opt for a mirrorless camera, the choice is much broader, with the likes of Canon, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Sony, Olympus and Leica all offering a wide range of cameras to suit most budgets.
Things got really interesting in the last half of 2018, with big announcements from Canon with the EOS R, and Nikon in the shape of the Z6 and Z7. Canon followed this up this year with the EOS RP, while Panasonic has also added two excellent full-frame models to its portfolio, the S1 and S1R. But there are still many excellent choices outside of the full-frame arena from the likes of Fujifilm and Olympus too.
While it would be very easy to select 10 high-end models to make up our pick of the best mirrorless camera, we’ve tried to pick out some more affordable options as well. These models might not be dripping in features, but they represent great options for new users and those on a budget. That said, if you’re looking specifically for a budget mirrorless camera, take a look at our best mirrorless camera for beginners buying guide.
So whether you’re after a better camera than the one featured on your smartphone or are looking for an advanced, high-end model to push your creativity even further, read on to find out what are the best mirrorless cameras you can buy right now.
Best mirrorless cameras in 2019
As we’ve touched on, 2018 saw the mirrorless camera market really take off, with a flurry of new launches, from entry-level to professional-focused cameras.
2019 has already seen Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Canon and Fujifilm announce new mirrorless cameras in the shape of the Alpha A6400, OM-D E-M1X, Lumix S1R, EOS RP and X-T30. We’ve also had medium format releases in the shape of the Hasselblad X1D II 50c and Fujifilm GFX 100, but these are more niche models.
We reckon the best mirrorless camera right now is the Nikon Z6, for its excellent image quality, great videos, polished handling and overall performance. It’s not without fault but for the money you get a whole lot of camera.
Sony may have got to the full-frame mirrorless market before the likes of Canon, Nikon and Panasonic, but now that all four are active in the sector, the playing field is starting to level a little. And our nod right now goes to Nikon’s Z6, which combines a sound 24.5MP sensor with a super-sharp 3.69 million dot EVF and lovely 4K video into a compact shell. The beefy grip makes for great handling while the FTZ adapter that’s either bundled with the camera or available separately means you can carry on using hundreds of F-mount lenses, with autofocus and auto-exposure maintained. It’s not perfect, but a recent firmware update gave it a nice boost – and now that its price has fallen some way it’s even more accessible than ever. We love it.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z6 review
The Alpha A7 III may sit on the bottom rung of Sony’s full-frame mirrorless camera range, its siblings being the pricier A7S II and A7R III, but it should no longer be seen as the poor relation to its pricier siblings. This is a brilliant choice for the enthusiast photographer or pro, and when you look at the specification, it’s easy to see why. Sony has taken some of the best bits from its flagship Alpha A9 and A7R III cameras, and distilled them into a single camera that offers a fantastic mix of performance and image quality. The full-frame 24.2MP sensor is excellent in a range of lighting conditions, while the advanced 693-point AF looks set to get even better with a firmware upgrade in April. This is one advanced camera that’s at a great price considering the features and performance on offer.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7 III review
Like the sound of the Z6, but want more megapixels? Then the 45.7MP Z7 should do the trick. Sharing an identical design to the Z6, Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera is a real triumph. It may be a first-generation camera, but we think Nikon’s knocked it out of the park with the Z7 right from the get-go. The densely populated 45.7MP sensor is brilliant, delivering some of the best results we’ve seen on a mirrorless camera, while the effective in-camera image stabilization also delivers. Factor in a beautiful EVF, excellent handling, very competent AF performance and great response throughout, and it’s easy to see why the Z7 is such a pleasure to use.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z7 review
Like the look of the A7 III but want even more pixels? Step forward the 42.2MP Alpha A7R III. It has to be one of the most complete and versatile cameras available today. With a brilliant full-frame 42.2MP sensor, the Alpha A7R III is supported by an advanced 399-point AF system and 10fps burst shooting, proving you no longer have to sacrifice performance for resolution or vice versa. Did we mention it shoots excellent 4K footage as well? This is a camera that would be equally at home perched on a mountain shooting brooding landscapes, in a studio capturing high-end portraits or shooting fast moving sport or wildlife.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7R III review
Fujifilm’s X-series of compact cameras has been a huge smash among enthusiasts, and the previous X-T20 was the company’s best-selling X-series model yet. So how do you follow on from that? By blending the best bits from the high-end X-T3 in a body that’s just as convenient to carry around as before. In fact, you get more than you might expect from the X-T3 here, from the 26.1MP sensor and processing engine through to the option to record 4K-quality footage and a phase-detect AF system that covers almost the entire array. It’s beautifully designed and built, and is just at home shooting sports and action as it is capturing landscapes or videos.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-T30 review
The OM-D E-M10 Mark III might not be a massive leap forward over the Mark II, with much of the camera’s specification remaining the same. However, Olympus has refined and tweaked one of our favorite mirrorless cameras to make it an even more tempting proposition for new users and enthusiasts alike. Some will criticise the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format (roughly half the area of APS-C) but the effect on image quality is minor and it means that the lenses are as compact and lightweight as the camera itself. Sporting a 5-axis image stabilization system, decent electronic viewfinder, an impressive 8.6fps burst shooting speed and 4K video, it’s no toy – the E-M10 Mark III is a properly powerful camera.
- Read our in-depth Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III review
You don’t have to go full-frame to get the benefit of Sony’s great camera technology and this APS-C format model makes a great choice for enthusiasts looking for an alternative to big, heavy DSLR. Sony’s equipped the A6400 with a brilliant AF system that not only offers fast focus tracking, but a clever EyeAF system the locks focus on the eye. There’s also an excellent electronic viewfinder that makes it easy to see when the subject is sharp and correctly exposed, while the touchscreen can be rotated round 180-degrees that makes it a good choice for vloggers. Image quality is very high and there’s built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity to allow to share images via a connected smartphone.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A6400 review
Fujifilm has long shown that you don’t need a full-frame sensor to make a cracking camera, and the X-T3 is very much testament to that. With a fresh 26.1MP APS-C sensor, a revamped processing engine and a 425-point AF system spreads across the frame, the camera is happy enough to be shooting sports and landscapes as it is when out on the street. But there’s plenty more, such as wonderful 4K video quality, a three-axis LCD, highly detailed EVF and twin card slots, all inside a weather-sealed body. The newer X-T30 (above) manages to deliver a lot of this for less, but if you fancy a better viewfinder, more flexible LCD, faster burst rate and superior video specs, this is the model to go for.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-T3 review
The S1R is the first of two camera’s in Panasonic’s S series, and it arrives with some mightily impressive technology. That 5.76million-dot viewfinder is also streets ahead of the 3.69million-dot alternatives in rival bodies, while the rugged build, effective sensor-based stabilization and cracking 4K video show it to be a camera that excels in a wealth of areas. The 47.3MP sensor also manages to perform brilliantly in good light and bad, and the further option to output images at 187MP may seem a little crazy, but it opens up new possibilities for cropping and for macro work. We’re very impressed.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic S1R review
Until recently this was the flagship option in Olympus’s mirrorless portfolio, and while the E-M1X model tat now sits above it does hold a few advantages, much of what we have there we have here – for about half the price. Built around a 20MP Four Thirds sensor and the Micro Four Thirds lens mount that will happy accept hundreds of different lenses, the weather-sealed E-M1 Mark II boasts a superb image stabilization system, 4K video in both DC1 4K and UHD 4K resolutions, 60fps – yes, 60fps – burst shooting at full resolution and the option to capture images at a 50MP resolution. Sure, the Micro Four Thirds format isn’t for everyone, but if you need extra reach with your lenses and speed is a priority, this affordable mirrorless model would serve you beautifully.
- Read our full in-depth Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review
Finally, let’s take a quick look at a camera that doesn’t quite make the cut in our top 10 mirrorless buying guide, but represents great value. As you can see further up the top you’ll see the Alpha A7 III from Sony is one of our favorite mirrorless cameras you can buy right now. If your budget can’t quite stretch that far, then why not take a look at the model it replaces? Still available (so is the even cheaper Alpha A7), you get an awful lot of camera for your money. This includes a great 24.2MP full-frame sensor, high-resolution electronic viewfinder and a very capable AF system. Handling isn’t quite as refined though as the newer camera, but for the incredibly tempting price, this can be overlooked. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better camera for your money.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7 II review
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