It’s fair to say that the mirrorless camera market has never been more diverse. No matter what kind of photographer you are, there’s something for everybody. Although the DSLR market is pretty much completely dominated by Canon and Nikon, the mirrorless market has a few more big contenders vying for your attention. There’s Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Fujifilm - as well as Canon and Nikon - all trying to get you to part with your hard-earned cash.
Newer technologies tend to make their debut in mirrorless models these days, especially since new DSLRs are getting rarer and rarer. A good example is with fast frame rates - there are a number of mirrorless models which can shoot at 20fps or faster, which makes them ideal for action photography.
Although it took Canon and Nikon a little time to catch up with the newer players in this market, it’s now producing excellent mirrorless models that can easily compete with those that have been more dominant in this field up to now.
Nikon’s impressive Z system has four different models now (three full-frame, one APS-C), while Canon has a wide range of different options in both sizes of sensor. Its recent introduction of the full-frame EOS R5 and EOS R6 have wowed consumers and reviewers alike, and really show what the heritage company is capable of.
Canon’s APS-C models include the pocket rocket EOS M6 Mark II, while there are also affordable full-frame models too.
Turning our attention away from the “big two”, much of the innovation and new features tend to come from Sony, who was first to market with full-frame mirrorless all the way back in 2013. Meanwhile, Fujifilm will very much appeal to those who are looking for retro-charm and classically built cameras.
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Panasonic and Olympus were both very early adopters of mirrorless, and have continued to produce a number of very appealing models. Originally working with Four Thirds sensors, Panasonic has more recently also branched off into full-frame, too.
Picking just one mirrorless model from a wealth of different options is no easy task. If you’re somebody looking for a good all-rounder and have a healthy amount of budget to play with, then we like the Canon EOS R6, Nikon Z6 (although bear in mind the Z6 II is incoming shortly), Panasonic S5 and the Sony A7 III.
If you’re keen to go full-frame, but have a bit less cash to play with, some good options include the Canon EOS RP and the Nikon Z5. Perhaps you’re somebody that values portability above all else, then you’ll likely be thinking about APS-C and Four Thirds models. In which case, we like the Fujifilm X-T30 and the Nikon Z50.
For those that want something primed for action and wildlife, cameras like the Fujifilm X-T4 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II should suit you well.
As you can probably tell by now, there’s a huge amount of choice out there. Check out our list below to help you make sense of some of the options.
How to choose the best mirrorless camera for you
An obvious way to split the mirrorless market is into cheaper/more affordable models generally aimed at beginners, and more expensive options which are well-suited to enthusiasts and pros.
It used to be the case that cheaper models almost certainly didn’t come with an inbuilt viewfinder, but these days it’s less common to find cameras with only a rear screen to rely on for composition. Either way, all of the models in this list allow you to swap lenses, take manual control of your shots and learn more about photography.
When mirrorless first started to become a thing, it was the fact that the cameras were smaller that appealed over a DSLR. These days, the sizes of cameras are a little bit more blurred - some mirrorless models are just as big - if not bigger - than traditional DSLRs.
But there are a vast range of other benefits that a mirrorless system brings, not just size. They can generally provide faster frame rates, an electronic viewfinder and are usually better options for video.
When putting together your wish list of must-have specifications, other features to look out for include inbuilt Wi-Fi, inbuilt Bluetooth, 4K video recording, a tilting or articulating screen and a high-resolution viewfinder.
You will also want to think about sensor size. The smallest on the market right now is Four Thirds, found in Olympus and Panasonic cameras. Having a small sensor makes it less adept at low-light shooting, but it makes for a much smaller overall system.
Go to the other end of the scale and you’ve got full-frame, found in Canon, Nikon, Sony, and more recently Panasonic. These tend to be best suited to high-quality photography, but the drawback is bigger and bulkier overall systems.
If you’re looking for a compromise, that’s where APS-C comes in (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm). The sensor is larger than Four Thirds, but it still maintains a good overall system size, making it well-suited to travel.
Best mirrorless camera under £1500
Looking for something a little more affordable? These are the best mirrorless cameras under £1,500:
After the success of the Z6/Z7 full-frame mirrorless models, it makes sense that Nikon would start chasing the much larger enthusiast market. The Z50 does just that by shrinking down all the best bits from the Z range into a more affordable package.
It does that by including a smaller (APS-C) sensor, allowing Nikon to make a smaller overall body. To achieve that, some sacrifices have been made - including removing the joystick and the top-plate LCD, but the engineers have done a pretty smart job of ensuring that handling is still well-balanced. Another trade off is a lower resolution, smaller viewfinder, but if you’ve never used anything else you won’t be disappointed.
That’s not to say that the camera is perfect. Only having a single card slot is a shame, while the native lens range for now is a little bit limited. With more lens releases planned for the next year or two, you shouldn’t have to wait too long for the Z50 to catch up with its rivals on that front, though.
Overall, this is a fantastic APS-C model which is ideal for travel and everyday shots, giving you much of the benefits of the full-frame Z models, but at a much more affordable price.
In a sea of full-frame giddiness, Fujifilm also brought out its latest APS-C model this year, in the shape of the X-T3.
Fujifilm is very much committed to this format, arguing that it delivers the best compromise between size and image quality – and they’ve certainly got a fair point.
Having a sensor of this slightly smaller size means that you don’t have to lug around heavy lenses and accessories, while it being bigger than the even smaller Four Thirds still leaves you with cracking image quality.
Wonderful images aside, there’s plenty of other things to like about the X-T3, including great autofocusing, fast frame rates, an impressive array of 4K video features and of course, this being Fuji, beautiful looks.
On the downside, in-body image stabilisation is missing (pick up an X-H1 if you want that), battery life could be better and the screen tilts three ways, rather than fully articulating.
Still – in a world obsessed with full-frame, we’d be more than happy to pack this in our kit bag, and do our backs a favour in the process.
If you’re looking for your first full-frame camera, the Z5 makes a lot of sense. Nikon has taken the same form-factor as its popular Z6 camera and made a more affordable version by compromising on some key features.
So, while you get a 24 megapixel full-frame sensor, a nicely ergonomic body design and excellent electronic viewfinder, which couples with an inbuilt image stabilisation system and reliable AF, you do have to make sacrifices elsewhere.
There’s cropped 4K video and a fairly slow maximum frame rate for action and wildlife shooting - but if neither of those things are something you’re too bothered about, it’s a sensible choice.
For now, there’s not a huge price difference between the Z5 and the Z6, though, which makes the buying decision harder. Until the price gap widens, you might want to consider the Z6 instead.
Canon may not have set the world alight with its Canon EOS R range of full-frame mirrorless cameras, but the RP, with its (relatively) low asking price is still likely to sell by the bucket-load.
It’s a good compromise of sorts, offering excellent full-frame image quality, but with a few drawbacks, such as a low frame rate (5fps). There’s also the problem of there still being scant native RF lenses available - pick up an adapter if you have a set of Canon EF lenses in your cupboard.
Those interested in shooting movies might also lock onto the EOS RP as an affordable entry into full-frame video shooting, too.
Sony’s latest flagship APS-C model delivers a lot of great specifications on paper, such as 11fps shooting, 4K video recording and speedy focusing. That should make it one of the best cameras on the market, but it is let down by awkward and fiddly handling.
The sensor is also fairly old hat now, having been seen in older models, which rivals can do better things with 4K video. Still, the lens range for Sony’s cameras is huge, and in terms of actual performance, you’ll be hard pushed to match it for actually getting shots in focus more times than not for moving subjects.
Only toting a single UHS-I memory card slot is a strange decision for a flagship model in 2019, and again sees the camera come off worse against its rivals, such as the X-T3 and the Panasonic GH5, which both include double UHS-II (faster) card slots.
For composition, the electronic viewfinder is usable, but better can be found elsewhere (such as the Fujifilm X-T3 again)— but on the plus side, the tilting touchscreen, as well as video and microphone ports, making it a useful camera for vloggers.
Fujifilm promotes its APS-C sensors as being the perfect compromise between high portability and high image quality. The X series has won plenty of fans over the years for its capability to produce stunning results, and the X-T30 is no different.
Essentially a baby X-T3, it uses the same processor and sensor combination as its elder brother, along with the same autofocusing system and frame rate capability. There are some trade offs for going for this cheaper option - such as a more limited buffer, only one card slot, and slightly fewer body controls - but overall it’s the ideal option for travelling, or for those just looking to save some cash.
One slight complaint is the location of the “Q” button to access the camera’s quick menu - located on the camera’s grip, it’s all too easy to accidentally press it.
Packing the same sensor as the also newly announced 90D DSLR, which is very high in resolution at 32.5 megapixels. As well as that, there’s also a range of action-friendly specifications which make the M6 Mark II appealing to a wide range of different photographers.
You get 14fps with continuous autofocus, or 30fps if you’re happy to shoot 18 megapixels. You also get 4K video recording (which is uncropped) plus a host of nifty autofocusing features.
The biggest drawback of this camera is the lack of inbuilt viewfinder. If you’re from a phone photography type of background, you may not care, but you can always buy an optional detachable one if you do.
Overall, this is a dinky little CSC which is particularly well-suited to travel or those who just want to travel light and is worth investigating.
Sony’s a6000 camera is one of its biggest-ever selling models, thanks to a winning combination of ease of use and affordability. It’s taken Sony a long time to update the model, but in 2019 it brought out the a6100, giving new users a shiny new option to consider instead.
The new model inherits many of the features of more expensive models in Sony’s line-up, making it a good option for those who want some of the latest technology but are still new to the system.
Handling and battery life have also been enhanced, so while the a6100 is not as cheap as its predecessor, it’s likely to be something you’ll stick with for a bit longer as you grow in your skills.
This small and light compact system camera is a great option for those looking to travel light, while keeping all the benefits of a larger sensor (than your phone), and interchangeable lenses.
You get a 20.3 megapixel Four Thirds sensor that performs well in a variety of situations, with an enhanced in-body image stabiliser to help keep your shots as sharp as possible. There’s also a tilting viewfinder, and a tilting screen - that’s not as flexible for selfies as an articulating screen, but is pretty helpful otherwise.
As this is a Panasonic, you get 4K Photo and Video, allowing you to shoot at 30fps and extract stills, a nifty feature that stands it apart from other CSCs.
Fujifilm has won over a lot of fans with its retro designs and high-performing cameras in the X series, with the latest X-H1 sitting right at the top of its current line-up.
This model is aimed at more serious enthusiasts than any of its other previous cameras, including in-body image stabilisation for the first time in an X-series camera. It uses the same sensor which has already proved itself to be very capable in the XPro2, X-T2 and X-T20.
It’s also got some fantastic video specifications, making it more of a hybrid camera than ever before - you’ve got both standard 4K and DCI 4K, as well as Full HD at up to 120p. Other better features include a larger electronic viewfinder, plus a touchscreen LCD. Impressive focusing and up to 14fps burst shooting round out the features to make it a very versatile option.
Aimed squarely at the same customers tempted by a Nikon Z50, Fujifilm X-T30 and Sony A6400, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is the company’s mid-range offering. It’s been a long time coming, with the Mark II first appearing almost half a decade ago in February 2015.
We’ve now got a 20 megapixel sensor. Although Four Thirds is smaller than many of those featured on this list, don’t write it off - it means that the overall system is very small indeed. For that reason, if you’re looking for an excellent travel camera that you can tote along with several lenses in your hand luggage - this could be the one for you.
Along with that bonus, you’ve also got a range of other enticing features, such as 4K video recording, 10fps shooting with the mechanical shutter (up to 30fps available with ProCapture), and good spread of AF points. On top of all that, it’s weather-sealed too, so if your travels take you to less than inclement shores, it’s OK.
Panasonic has long been a firm favourite with videographers, and the GH5 is the ideal shooter for those with movie-making aspirations. Don’t let that put you off if you’re mainly into your stills though, as there’s plenty here too to draw you in.
The GH5 saw the debut of 6K Photo, an upgrade from Panasonic’s innovative 4K Photo technology - in short, you can shoot video bursts and extract high-resolution stills - with up to 30 frames per second to shoot from in 6K, or, 60 frames per second in 4K, you can hardly fail to miss the definitive moment.
Handling is a dream, with a chunky and sturdy body which is weatherproof and adorned with plenty of buttons and dials. A fully articulating screen is touch-sensitive, and joined by a bright and clear viewfinder.
A good choice for those who want to take their first step into the more serious world of interchangeable lens cameras, the OM-D E-M10 Mark III is very awkwardly named, but a great little shooter.
On the upside, you’ve got a very small, neat and compact CSC here - you could conceivably even fit this in a jacket pocket - but that does mean that space is limited so the layout can feel a little cramped.
Inexperienced photographers can take advantage of automatic modes, while older hands may like to use the E-M10 III as a second, or travel camera. There’s a great viewfinder and a tilting touchscreen - while the retro design is sure to appeal, too.
Best mirrorless camera over £1500
Is money no object in your pursuit for ultimate image quality? These are the best mirrorless cameras you can buy:
The response to Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras could fairly be described as “underwhelming”. All of that changes with the new R5 and R6 siblings. The R5 is best reserved for professionals and enthusiasts with deep-pockets, so we’ve included the R6 in our list for being such a fantastic all-rounder.
You get best in class autofocus that can easily pick out eyes and keep them in focus even while they’re moving through the scene. As it can also pick out animal eyes, it’s a great choice for pet and wildlife photography too. You also get other fantastic functions such as 20fps silent shooting, a fully articulating LCD screen and a well-performing sensor.
However, it’s not all great news - the R6 has been plagued by a problem with 4K video recording, namely that it will overheat if you try to record for longer than 30 minutes. If you’re somebody that just shoots short clips - or perhaps none at all - it probably won’t bother you too much though.
The Nikon Z7 may have a more impressive spec sheet, but for those looking for an all-round full-frame model that comes in at a lower price, the Z6 is the best mirrorless camera in the world right now. It features a lower-resolution sensor than its more expensive sibling, but that means it actually performs slightly better in low light, plus it facilitates faster frame rates of up to 12fps.
Otherwise, handling and build quality is exactly the same as the Z7, as both use identical bodies. A downside - for many - is the single XQD card slot, but when a camera is this good, we can forgive it.
- Read our full Nikon Z6 review
While Nikon and Canon are busy twiddling their thumbs (or at least giving that impression) when it comes to serious mirrorless cameras, Sony is taking the market by storm.
The superb A9 is the camera to beat, but if you don’t have a spare 5k lying around, it’s not exactly accessible to most. Step in the A7 III, a fantastic all-rounder available at a much more affordable £2,000. For that cash you get an awful lot of features, including 10fps shooting, a 24.2 megapixel back-illuminated sensor, fantastic 4K video creation and a body which is small and compact.
The overall system is still large - lenses still need to be pretty big to be matched with a full-frame sensor - but otherwise, this is almost the perfect camera for enthusiasts right now.
Straying firmly into medium-format territory, the 61MP A7R Iv is aimed squarely at professionals and high-end enthusiasts who want the best camera money can buy.
There’s a range of very advanced technologies crammed into this body, and Sony has spared no innovation in bringing this one to market, but of course it has a high price tag to match.
Although detail and dynamic range is phenomenal from this sensor, there are some downsides to such a high number of pixels - including massive file sizes and a relatively modest frame rate (10fps). It won’t be a camera for everybody, but for those that crave the ultimate resolution, it’s the perfect choice.
When Panasonic debuted its full-frame models a couple of years ago, some were disappointed to see such large cameras considering Panasonic has always been so keenly in favour of travel-friendly products.
Fast forward a couple of years and the company has been keen to address some of the key criticisms of its first full-frame models. The first is the size issue - the S5 is actually smaller than the GH5 Four Thirds model, which is a pretty impressive feat.
You also get an improved autofocus - though there are still others on the market doing a better job - and a good range of other specifications. It’s a little disappointing to only have 7fps shooting, but if you’re not somebody who shoots action all that often, you might not be too worried about that.
Being a company that has always favoured video tech, it’s no surprise to see a good range of video specs in the S5, and there’s no overheating issue to think about either.
Nobody was surprised when Canon launched its own take on full-frame mirrorless just weeks after Nikon – but it’s safe to say there have been a fair few disappointments with the EOS R.
There are several plus points to admire first though, so let’s not start on a downer. The look and feel of the EOS R is classic Canon, but adds a couple of new and useful twists, such as the customisable touch-sensitive multi function bar, just next to the viewfinder. The screen is not only touch-sensitive, but also articulates for handy shooting from all sorts of strange angles.
Image quality is also fantastic, thanks to the full-frame 30.3 megapixel sensor which produces the goods just like cameras such as the 5D Mark IV.
Now for the negatives – a single SD card slot is possibly even more frustrating than Nikon’s decision to go for a single XQD, while only offering cropped 4K in an age where video is so important is equally bizarre. The lack of in-body image stabilisation is something which also disappoints, too.
If you can live with those problems, the EOS R makes a lot of sense to existing DSLR owners keen to make the leap to mirrorless – but we can’t help but hold our breath to see what the company will bring out next.
Sitting right at the top of Fujifilm’s mirrorless offerings, the X-T4 represents an evolution from the X-T3, but with some appealing upgrades even to existing users.
Adding in image stabilisation to the body, along with a bigger battery and improved autofocus makes this one of the best all-rounders currently on the market.
If your budget is on the lower side though, consider the fact that the X-T4 includes the same sensor and processor combination as its predecessor, so if you could save some serious cash by sticking with the older model.
Managing to turn the heads of even die-hard Nikon and Canon professional DSLR users, the Sony A9 leads the way when it comes to impressive technology.
If you’re into your sports, wildlife or action photography, being able to shoot at a full resolution 20fps all while tracking focus - and what’s more - completely silently - means you’ll be able to capture those moments that your DSLR-wielding buddies miss.
Other specifications include a 24.2 megapixel full-frame sensor, a viewfinder that manages to stay blackout free even while shooting at super-fast speeds, and a tilting, touch-sensitive screen.
The biggest drawback here is price, but you do get something seriously impressive for your cash.
Recently, the Sony A9 has been replaced by the Sony A9 II. However, the differences are relatively minor, so unless you need some of the added tweaks (i.e. faster frame rate when using the mechanical shutter), you can save cash by going for the older model.
After years extolling the virtues of the much small Micro Four Thirds system, Panasonic has made the leap into full-frame, joining forces with Leica and Sigma to form the “L Mount alliance”.
There’s two models at launch from Panasonic - the S1 and the S1R, with the latter featuring a higher resolution sensor. For now, the system is fairly limited, with just three proprietary optics from Panasonic and a range of options from Leica and Sigma.
Handling is great, with a large chunky body replete with dials and buttons - this is much bigger than other full-frame mirrorless systems like Nikon’s Z series or Sony’s Alpha series - whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is likely dependent on your point of view.
It’s early days for this system yet, but it’s interesting to see how it will develop in the coming months or years. If you’re already the lucky owner of some Leica L mount glass, picking up a S1R makes a lot of sense - everyone else might feel the need to wait just a little while for it to bed in.
Nikon’s long-awaited Z 7 needed to deliver an awful lot after all this time in the full-frame wilderness.
Luckily for the company, it did that, and more. With a full-frame 45.7 megapixel sensor, a superb 493-point AF system, a 3.2-inch 2,100k-dot touch-sensitive screen and a stunning viewfinder, it’s one of the best cameras on the market right now – and certainly the best mirrorless model of the year. It looks and feels like a smaller DSLR, bringing with it some fantastic new benefits such as silent-shooting and in-body image stabilisation.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some negatives that also deserve mention. The fact that it only accepts a single XQD card hasn’t gone down well – especially with pros – while the average battery life will come as a shock to those who are used to shooting with DSLRs.
Put those niggles aside though and you’ve got a camera that every bit lives up to the hype and is very much like using a Nikon D850 – both in the way it handles and the results it delivers.
While everyone is banging on about full frame, it’s important not to forget about the format that kicked off the mirrorless revolution - Micro Four Thirds.
Step forward the E-M1X, which is Olympus’s latest technical marvel. Offering a huge amount of advantages for professional and advanced enthusiasts interested primarily in sports, wildlife and action photography, it offers great autofocus tracking and astonishing frame rates of up to 60fps (it’s limited to 18fps if you want full autofocus tracking in between shots, though).
Despite its now comparatively small sensor, it’s a large beast - an implemented battery grip has the benefit of facilitating fantastic battery life (especially for mirrorless), but you can’t help but think it misses one of the key advantages of mirrorless - small size.
Still - if wildlife is your thing, it’s certainly worth investigating.
While everyone was busy chattering about new full-frame models at Photokina 2018, Fujifilm went one step further and announced its latest “super full-frame” model, the GFX 50R.
Using a medium format sensor, the body has been designed to be smaller and lighter than the existing GFX 50S, opening it up to new kinds of shooters, such as documentary, reportage and street. It’s not exactly what we’d call a fast-worker, with frame rates stunted at 3fps and video restricted to Full HD - but that’s really not the point of the GFX 50R.
Instead, it’s for those that crave the super high resolution that that medium format facilitates, as well as stunning image quality. It’s not “cheap” by any stretch, but it brings the prospect of medium format into the realms of the enthusiast far more than other even more expensive models.
What is a mirrorless camera?
Traditional DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras require a mirror to reflect the light (which comes through the lens) up to the optical viewfinder. As the name suggests, a mirrorless camera is one that doesn’t require a mirror.
In a mirrorless camera you don't have an optical viewfinder. The lens projects the image directly onto the sensor, and you'll see the digital image on the display or on the electronic viewfinder.
Mirrorless cameras, sometimes known as compact system cameras, were historically seen as an alternative to DSLRs.
The absence of a mirror means they're often smaller and lighter than their more traditional predecessors – and while it used to be that the trade off for that size reduction was a loss in image quality, that really isn’t the case any more.