Last Updated on May 7, 2023 by Photography PX
The mirrorless revolution is in full swing, these impressive digital cameras pack large image sensors into small bodies. Offering some of the best image and video quality on the market with less bulk than a DSLR.
Table of Contents
As the lens options expand, going mirrorless makes more sense than ever before. Today we’re going to discuss the top 10 best mirrorless cameras for beginners.
10 – Fujifilm X-T30
The X-T30 is a compact and lightweight retro camera offering similar performance to the Fujifilm X-T3 but in a smaller and lighter body. It’s a photographer’s camera. It comes with a 26.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, a tilting touchscreen LCD, face detection, eye detection 4K recording, built-in WiFi, and NFC. It uses a phase-detection AF system that covers the entire frame. This amount of coverage results in both fast and accurate AF performance, even at -3.0 EV.
For video, it shoots 4K at 30 fps and 1080p up to 120 fps. Battery life is sufficient, and it delivers approximately 380 stills and 45 minutes of 4K capture. It features a newly updated electronic viewfinder that is brighter and sharper than previous models.
It has 16 film simulation options, perfect for those wanting to replicate film in a digital era. These film simulations apply to both stills and videos, as well. The capacitive touchscreen supports both Touch AF as well as Touch Shot, both of which combine to make selecting AF points a breeze and more intuitive than ever before.
9 – Fujifilm X-H1
The X-H1 is a retro-designed high performing camera that makes the top of the line offering in Fuji’s lineup. This camera is aimed primarily at serious photographers who aspire to become professionals. It’s a hybrid camera that comes with a 24.3 X-Trans CMOS sensor, in-camera stabilization, 4K video, touchscreen, weather sealing, and feather touch shutter. It delivers a superior dynamic range. For video, it shoots 4K at 24 fps and 1080p up to 120 fps. The touchscreen LCD supports touch AF.
Users can also use the dedicated joystick to change AF as well. Subject tracking performance is excellent, especially in the single point mode. It has an industry-leading viewfinder, with performance comparable to the highest end digital SLRs.
Aesthetically, it is similar to Fuji’s higher-end FGX line. It has a large deep grip and a professional-looking body, perfect for existing SLR or Fuji users looking to upgrade. It delivers a continuous burst rate out to 45 fps with its electronic shutter. Battery life is sufficient at 320 shots per charge. However, thankfully, USB charging is supported and is available for use.
8 – Fujifilm X-T3
The Fujifilm X-T3 provides the highest image quality, color reproduction, and the fastest processor in the history of Fujifilm’s X series to date. It features a 26.1-megapixel CMOS 4 sensor, dual SD cards, dedicated AF joystick, weather sealing, 4K video, microphone jack, headphone jack, 10-bit color, 16 film simulation options, and a swivel touchscreen display. To say its feature-packed is quite an understatement. It has 425 AF points that cover the entirety of its sensor.
This amount of coverage, coupled with the inclusion of both Face and Eye detect AF, means that this camera can easily maintain accurate subject tracking around the frame. In all, AF performance significantly improves over the predecessor, especially n low light.
It’s AF system is also customizable and can be tailored to your specific style. The high-quality OLED electronic viewfinder delivers lifelike blackout-free continuous shooting at 11 fps with a 100 fps refresh rate. While the 3.2-inch touch LCD makes complex focusing and navigation a breeze with its responsiveness. Not only that, but it also has a 100% coverage of the sensor. On the video side, it delivers exceptionally sharp 4K videos at 60 fps. This camera is the ideal choice for the versatile outdoor shoot with its sturdy magnesium alloy build, deep comfortable grip, and 1,200 shot battery life.
7 – Panasonic LUMIX GH5
The Panasonic GH5 is a powerful hybrid camera aimed at serious multimedia shooters. This is a seriously competitive camera that’s competitive to the top pro cameras. It has a 20.3-megapixel MOS sensor without a low pass filter, 4K video, 10-bit recording, dual SD card, weather sealing, 5-axis stabilization, swivel touch display, Bluetooth and Wi-FI. It’s OLED live viewfinder features an insane resolution of 3.6 million dots. Difficulty viewing on a camera is undoubtedly a thing of the past with this camera.
The swiveling touchscreen LCD works excellent, and the ideal combination for versatility. It delivers a continuous burst rate of 30 fps, the sports photographer’s dream. Users can even cheat any use either 4K or 6K photo modes to shoot a short clip at either 30 fps or 60 fps to pull high-resolution images. Perfect when shooting challenging action or sports.
On the video front, the 4K video quality provided is industry-leading, bar none. It shoots 4K at 60 fps, a rarity amongst the competition. When this high-quality video pairs with its 5-axis stabilization, users can produce cinema-standard footage handheld all without the need for any additional gear. Not only that, but there’s also unlimited 4K recording time. Just brilliant. This camera is king at handheld productions.
6 – Sony Alpha a6500
The Sony a6500 is Sony’s latest APS-C flagship. It has a 24.2-megapixel sensor, 5-axis stabilization, touchscreen LCD, 4K capture, microphone port, built-in flash, USB charging, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC. Don’t be fooled by its compact size, both Image quality, and dynamic range are excellent. Sony is renown for its superior low light performance, and this camera follows suit. Neither quality nor focusing performance suffers in low light, making it the ideal choice for the run and gun shooter. It features a 425 phase-detection AF system, with continuous Eye AF.
Focusing is excellent in both photos and videos, with a level of customization that makes it industry-leading. It’s 3-inch LCD now sports touch gestures that simplify the complexity of focusing across a variety of situations. It supplies a redesigned body for more comfortable prolonged use and is best amongst the a6000 lineup.
The image stabilization, though not as good as Panasonic’s GH5, provides upwards of 5 stops of stabilization, allowing users to shoot handheld at shutter speeds of a 1/2 second. It delivers a continuous burst rate of 11 fps that provides over 100 RAW images in a row without a hitch, among the best in class performance. This is a palm-sized camera that delivers.
5 – Panasonic G9
The Panasonic G9 is their flagship stills camera, which inherits the sensor from the GH5 with teaks to deliver the photographer’s dream camera. It has a 20.3 megapixel Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor without an optical low pass filter. It has image stabilization, weather sealing, dual SD card slots, AF joystick, High Res Mode, 6K photo, 4K photo, 4K video, slow motion HD video, swivel LCD, microphone input, headphone input, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Say this is feature-packed is quite the understatement. The High Res mode allows this camera to deliver a whopping 80-megapixel image, which occurs by blending eight individual photographers into a single image.
This level of resolution rivals that of the top medium format cameras and makes the perfect match for large format printing. The 6K and 4K photo modes allow users to pull either 18 or 8 megapixels still from a recorded video at 30 or 60 fps, respectively. The image stabilization here is the best Panasonic has to offer, and among the best in class. It combines with lens stabilization as well to create Dual IS, which delivers an impressive 6.5 stops of shake reduction.
Image quality is superb, considering its small sensor size. On the video front, it shoots 4K and super slow motion 1080p. It’s 1080p hits an impressive maximum of 180 fps. Focusing performance is fast and supremely accurate. It has a 225 contrast-detect AF system, which delivers sharp images across an impressive 20 fps continuous burst with Face tracking. Not only that, but it even has a top secondary LCD, providing immediate access to critical shooting parameters at a glance, and a best in class OLED viewfinder. All of these features combine with professional ergonomics and controls to make a new bread of camera for Panasonic.
4 – Sony A7ii
The Sony A7II was a popular release in Sony’s full-frame lineup of cameras. It delivers with a 24.3-megapixel CMOS full-frame sensor with an optical low pass filter. It’s physically larger than the predecessor, now featuring a deeper grip, more custom buttons, and a full magnesium alloy build.
It has a customizable function menu, full HD recording, tilting LCD, image stabilization, headphone jack, microphone jack, weather-sealed, Wi-Fi, and NFC. The focusing performance here is fast, namely due to the hybrid AF system with 117 phase and 25 contrast-detection points, which improves focusing performance over the predecessor by 30%. AF performance is excellent across all lighting conditions with the addition of Face Detect AF.
It delivers a continuous burst rate of 5 fps with AF-C tracking. The addition of 5-axis stabilization makes it a breeze to take sharp handheld shots in tricky lighting and provides 4.5 stops of stabilization. This was Sony’s first full-frame camera to offer stabilization. The E mount lens adapter it uses has outstanding support from third-party manufacturers and delivers the largest flexibility in lens selection. This is Sony’s best all-around and most versatile full-frame performer.
3 – Sony a7R
The Sony A7R is a 36.4-megapixel full-frame beast without an optical low pass filter. It picks up with where the predecessor the Sony A7 left off. It delivers a full-frame sensor in a modern and lightweight mirrorless body.
It deliver a 1.2 million dot 3-inch tilting LCD, weather sealing, microphone jack, headphone jack, HD video, Wi-Fi and NFC. The resolution provide is hard pressed to find at this price point without looking at equivalent medium format cameras, which have only a fraction of its capabilities. This is the ideal choice for landscape and portrait photographers needing the utmost resolution and detail.
Its powerful resolving ability makes it the premium option for cropping images in post as well. It delivers images with outstanding shallow depth of field, edge to edge detail and colors one could only dream of.
This is the camera that will deliver the largest prints in the bunch. It has a 2.3 million OLED viewfinder that produced no lag whatsoever during viewing. Construction is rugged with full magnesium alloy all throughout. Full frame quality in a small package. This aimed at the high end users who shoot landscapes, commercial work and high end reproductions. However, focusing will be a minor drawback as this camera using a contrast-detection system only. This is the perfect choice for users who want to mount other lenses and further increase their versatility. A minimalist camera that is highly customizable.
2 – Panasonic Lumix GX9
The Panasonic GX9 is the latest release in the GX lineup of cameras. This is the utmost premium street and lifestyle photographers tool. It has a 20.3-megapixel sensor without an optical low pass filter. It delivers 4K video, slow motion HD video, 4K photo, tilting viewfinder, touch LCD, USB charging, built-in flash, Post Focus, image stabilization, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
All delivered in a small compact rangefinder styled body. Images are sharp with ample contrast and flattering colors, especially in skin tones. It has a built-in grain simulation, which couples with a new B & W filter to deliver image akin to film.
Nice. Video quality is also excellent — both 4K and 1080p look fantastic straight out of the camera. Users can take advantage of 4K photo mode by recording a 4K clip to then extract 8-megapixel images from after the fact.
Focusing performance is quick and accurate, even in incredibly low light at -4 EV due to an improved 49-point contrast-based AF system. The tilting viewfinder is the niche selling point for this camera, making it the ideal choice for convenient and discreet shooting. In all, it is a lightweight feature packed camera perfect for the traveling photographer.
1 – Olympus E-M1 Mark II
The Olympus E-M1 Mark II is a mid-range flagship in the Olympus lineup. It delivers excellent imaging quality with a 20.4-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor without a low pass filter. A smaller sensor, sure. However, the performance delivered here easily rivals its larger full-framed brothers.
Image quality is excellent, especially when captured in the High Res Mode. The results of which rival top full-frame 50-megapixel cameras. It hits a continuous burst rate via an electronic shutter of 60 fps without AF-C or 18 fps with AF-C. Impressive. It has a 3-inch swivel touchscreen LCD, dual SD cards, image stabilization, 4K video, slow-motion HD video, Pro Capture, High Res Capture, and an intuitively designed menu.
The touchscreen functions as an AF selector, even when composing with the viewfinder. That viewfinder delivers 2.36 million dots with a refresh rate of 120 fps and is a joy to use.
AF performance is excellent; the result of a hybrid 121 point hybrid AF system. The stabilization provide is among best in class, deliver excellent handheld footage with over five stops of stabilization. Say goodbye to gimbals with this camera.
Not to mention, the Pro Capture mode shoots a 60 fps burst of images, completely removing any challenge with capturing critical moments. In all, this is a superiorly customizable, fully-featured, compact camera that offers a comfortable well-versed button layout to match and is undoubtedly hard to beat.
Mirrorless Cameras For Beginners Buyers Guide
What should I look for when buying a camera?
Before we dive into the details, it’s important to know that buying a camera is more than satisfies the eye alone. When you purchase a device, you also enter its subsequent ecosystem of lenses and dedicated accessories. And for many photographers, this fate becomes permanent given the risks and expenses involved with changing systems.
Sadly, though, some ecosystems do deliver more versatility than others. And not all offer decent cross-compatibility via adapters or committed third-party support. So it pays long-term returns to examine each of your options before choosing a particular brand. Doing so will assure you find the right ecosystem that’s best fitted for your needs without tackling any long-term expenses.
Several elements unite to determine the quality of images a camera produces in the end. Thankfully, as your skills improve, you’ll progressively become less reliant on any device itself. Nevertheless, there are still several important takeaways to know beforehand.
Firstly, the main determiner of image quality is the sensor size. The larger the sensor, the more light it accumulates, and the better its resulting low light performance. Thankfully, most entry-level mirrorless cameras have 1.6x larger sensors than most flagship smartphones. And that change alone is one of the main reasons that new photographers ultimately upgrade.
Next is manual aperture control. Controlling the aperture by hand lets you alter the background blur to produce a soft out-of-focus area around your subject. And this option is a key advantage over most of today’s smartphones. But, many smartphones are recreating this effect using AI with great fidelity in some scenes. Even so, a dedicated camera still outperforms even the best smartphone in this regard.
Lastly, image stabilization. Image stabilization lessens the effects of handshake when you’re holding the device at arm’s length. Without stabilization, even a mild shake at the wrong moment destroys a perfect image or video.
This feature comes in two configurations, optical or electronic stabilization. But, normally, an optically stabilized lens will produce superior results compared to a digitally stabilized image. So look for an optically stabilized lens when possible.
Ease of Use
Mastering this craft takes time. So the last thing you want is an unnecessarily complicated camera, slowing down progress. And a complex device with a sophisticated menu and clunky user interface only makes the craft more challenging to learn.
Not to mention, they’ll make it more intimidating. And for these reasons, a beginner’s camera must have a straightforward and easy-to-understand layout. They should make the process as seamless as possible, so you can quickly learn the basics.
As such, it’s important to research each device to ensure their layout and control scheme makes sense to you. Also, consider looking for options with plenty of automatic shooting modes to help simplify the process of capturing great images.
With these automatic modes, you can start capturing excellent photos and jump-start your journey with confidence. It’s also worth researching whether the model provides on-screen tips or guides. Having this functionality will also help explain the various settings in real-time and make the process even easier.
Most beginners usually overlook the form factor of the device they choose. But, its general size, handling, and weight will impact how you’ll use it. Sure, while most mirrorless cameras are relatively compact and small, not all of them are.
And it’s fair to say you don’t want to end up lugging around an unwieldy bulky one. Nobody wants that. So it’s critical to research the weight, form factor, and ergonomics of the device you’re considering beforehand.
As you naturally master photography, you’ll progressively want more control over the process of capturing images. But, sadly, most automatic modes only offer limited flexibility in this regard.
So, it’s essential to also look for devices with full manual control, especially over the exposure and focus settings. Controlling those will give you complete freedom to shoot any image imaginable. And you can do so without any manufactured limitations.
However, it’s also important to highlight that you don’t want a device with unnecessarily complicated controls. As the more controls you have, the more factors you’ll inevitably have to juggle while shooting. And that generally slows down the workflow.
It’s also important to mention that while most devices do indeed offer full manual control, not all of them are easy to access. Every manufacturer presents these controls differently. Thankfully, the best models find a way to balance ease of use and proper manual control.
There’s only so much any photographer can do with one lens alone, regardless of how amazing it is. So with time, you’ll want to explore other angles and shooting perspectives.
And that is the moment when an interchangeable lens camera (ILC) system becomes essential. ILC’s let you freely adjust their abilities. So now you can shoot with telephoto lenses for sports or wildlife or even wide-angle lenses for landscapes.
The possibilities unlock and truly become endless, especially if you use adapters. As such, it’s important to find an ILC rather than a fixed lens camera if long-term versatility is a must.
Body Only or Kit
You’ll find two options when looking at beginner mirrorless cameras. And you can either opt for the camera itself, known as “body only,” or buy it as a part of a larger kit. With body-only listings, you purchase just the device alone. No extras or bonus accessories are present.
But, doing so generally saves money. So it’s an option that existing photographers capitalize on. But, since you’re a beginner, it’s unlikely that you’ll already own a lens that’s ready to use on the device. So purchasing a body-alone listing isn’t a wise move.
Instead, opt for a kit bundle. There, you’ll get the device itself, but also a kit lens. Some listings even include other bonuses like SD cards, card readers, and even a tripod.
And together, these bundles will help you save money. And they’ll also remove the hassle of finding these accessories separately. Plus, they remove some of the confusion involved with this process, like finding the right SD card format.
Features & Long-term Potential
Every device varies in its features, and most entry-level mirrorless cameras have fewer features than their higher-end counterparts. So depending on how fast your photographic skills improve, you may quickly desire an upgrade.
Even so, the best models have plenty of advanced functionality, giving you ample room for long-term growth. Below is a list of some of the most practical features you may also want to consider during your search. And use devices offering the vast majority of this list as your top priority if you want something capable long-term.
- 4K Video
- Slow-motion video
- Vertical Video
- High Dynamic Range (HDR)
- 4K Photo
- Focus Stacking
- Focus Bracketing
- Live Composite
- High Res Shot
- Multiple Exposures
- Image Stabilization
- Live Streaming
How Much Should I Spend on my First camera?
Everyone has a slightly different budget. Even so, it’s fair to say that most beginners are unlikely to feel comfortable spending thousands right upfront. After all, this is your first venture into photography, so you’ll probably want to double-check that it’s something you enjoy for the long run. It’s also possible that you may not initially like the first ecosystem you try. So maybe you’ll eventually want to try another brand. And these are the reasons we recommend beginners focus on a starting price between $500-1,000.
And $1,000 in a lot of cases is pushing it, especially as far as entry-level mirrorless cameras are concerned. You can get plenty of power and features around the $500 mark, so there’s no significant reason to go out of budget unless you want to.