The mirrorless revolution is in full swing. However, just because you’re a beginner that lacks the budget to fork over $1,000 to get your first camera.
That doesn’t mean you are forced to take the short stick and start your journey at a disadvantage. Thankfully, there are plenty of excellent offerings that deliver a punch, without an accompanying punch to your bank account.
Here’s the list of the top ten most affordable mirrorless cameras to get you started with confidence.
|Olympus E-M10 III|
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- 10 – Olympus Pen-F
- 9 – Fujifilm X-T20
- 8 – Fujifilm X-T100
- 7 – Panasonic G7
- 6 – Sony A7
- 5 – Olympus E-M10 Mark III
- 4 – Canon EOS M50
- 3 – Sony Alpha a6300
- 2 – Panasonic GH4
- 1 – Canon EOS M6 Mark II
- Buyers Guide
- Sensor Size
- Video Capabilities
- Size & Portability
- Wireless Connectivity
- Battery Life & USB Charging
- Ease of Use
10 – Olympus Pen-F
The Pen F is a rangefinder-style camera that takes much of the successful design elements from the original Pen F film camera. Featuring a retro design with firm neural dials, it’s undoubtedly visually appealing. It delivers a 20.3-megapixel MOS sensor, articulating touchscreen LCD, 5-axis stabilization, High Res Shot mode, full HD video, built-in flash, digital zoom, and Wi-Fi.
It uses a contrast-detect AF system, which delivers excellent single-point AF performance. The continuous burst rate is also superb, 10 fps, and surely capable when necessary. Battery life is good too, 330 stills, and 140 minutes of video recording. The High Res mode delivers 50-megapixel JPEG and 80-megapixel RAW images, making this camera superior in landscape or architecture photography and large prints. Outside of that, this also makes an excellent street and journalistic camera. It’s beauty, nostalgic appeal, and unique tactile feel will surely impress. It’s a simple yet effective camera that makes taking photos a fluid sensory-driven experience, rare in today’s age.
9 – Fujifilm X-T20
The Fujifilm X-T20 marks yet another stylish release from the manufacturer. It inherits many of the features from the higher end X-T2, but at a lower price point. It has a 24.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, tilting touchscreen LCD, 4K video, slow motion full HD recording, microphone input, 16 film simulation modes, USB charging, Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, and Bluetooth.
It delivers an intelligent hybrid AF system with a total of 325 selectable focusing points, covering nearly the entire screen. Not only that, but the 3-inch articulating touchscreen sports both touch focus and touch to shoot, delivering incredibly smooth transitions between focus points. Touch navigation is also supported, which works well. Battery life is good, 350 shots per single charge, even at continuous shooting speeds of up to 14 fps. Photo enthusiasts have long admired the Fujifilm lineup of cameras, with their classic designs and outstanding image quality.
The Fujifilm X-T20 doesn’t disappoint. The attention to detail on this camera is evident. It’s lightweight, compact, and intuitive design makes it the ideal choice for travel and street photography. Much of the complexities in the design are removed and more streamlined, creating a camera that, albeit minimal, is undoubtedly capable.
8 – Fujifilm X-T100
The Fujifilm X-T100 marks the entry-level mirrorless offering from the camera maker. It features much of the same core imaging features and performance of the higher-end X-T2 and X-Pro II, but a fraction of their price. It has a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, a touchscreen LCD, 4K video, full HD up to 60 fps, built-in flash, USB charging, microphone port, 4K timelapse, 4K Multi Focus, 4K burst mode, 11 film simulation modes, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. It uses a 91 point hybrid AF system that melds both contrast and phase-detection together to deliver better subject tracking performance.
Battery life is incredible, producing upwards of 430 shots on a single charge or 90 minutes of video, which far surpasses the industry-standard expected for a compact mirrorless camera. The fully articulating 3-inch touchscreen delivers an excellent range of motion and niche functionality. It has touch zoom, allowing users to zoom powered lenses with a single tap, and touch navigation that is as intuitive as navigating a smartphone. It delivers a continuous burst rate of up to 6 fps or 15 fps using the 4K burst mode, which provides 8-megapixel still images. Impressive. In all, this is a stylish retro entry-point into the Fuji ecosystem with a unique imaging flare that inherits much of Fujifilm’s stables into a compact and affordable platform.
7 – Panasonic G7
The Panasonic G7 marks the backbone of the manufactures heritage that remains mostly true to the original micro four third’s ideal, a feature-rich camera that’s conveniently sized. It’s a hybrid camera that inherits much of the features from the pricier GH4, but at a price point that doesn’t turn off the beginner. It has a 16-megapixel MOS sensor, articulating touchscreen, 4K video, 4K photo, slow-motion HD video, timelapse, built-in flash, 4K Pre-burst, Post Focus, microphone input, and Wi-Fi.
Focusing performance is excellent, even in low light, as this camera inherits Panasonic’s infamous Depth from Defocus technology and the best point to point focusing available. Battery life is good and rated at 360 stills on a single charge. The touchscreen supports touch focus and menu navigation. Excellent focusing, image quality, and handling are what we’ve come to expect from late micro four-thirds cameras, and this camera surely doesn’t disappoint. It’s an excellent hybrid tool geared at the multimedia shooter.
6 – Sony A7
The Sony A7, much like the a6000, marked a new lineage in Sony’s full-frame ecosystem. It’s a professional level compact and conveniently size camera at a bargain price. It has a 24.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, tilting LCD, advance 4D focus, digital zoom, full HD video, headphone input, microphone input, built-in flash, weather sealing, USB charging, Wi-Fi, and NFC.
It has a hybrid AF system that melds 25 contrast and 117 phase-detect AF points. As with the a6000, this camera also features the E mount adapter with superior lens adaptability and no degradation of imaging quality. The BIONZ X processor allows this camera to shoot at a continuous burst rate of 5 fps.
Battery life is good, up to 340 shots per charge or 100 minutes of video recording. Image quality and dynamic range are excellent, leaving users ample ability to crop in post-production without consequence. This camera has all of the features that we’ve come to know and expect from a fully-featured state of the art full-frame camera. The large sensor and minimal size make it the ideal choice for those looking to shoot discreetly in situations where a tradition digital SLR would be inconvenient. In all, it remains inconspicuous but capable of capture all the beauty of your moments in full-frame. It is an excellent choice for beginners and professional photographers alike, with a price point that’s hard fast to beat and a unique entry point into the full-frame realm.
5 – Olympus E-M10 Mark III
Olympus E-M10 Mark III makes a competent entry-level offering from the manufacturer, offering the newest technology in a classically designed camera body. It delivers a 16.1-megapixel MOS sensor, 5-axis stabilization, digital magnification, 4K video, 4K photo, tilting touchscreen LCD, built-in flash, Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth. Olympus installed TruePic VIII in this camera, which delivers a continuous burst rate of 8.6 fps. Impressive.
Not only that, but it also includes a 121-point contrast AF system, which supplies excellent focusing performance. The 3-inch touchscreen sport both touch focus and touch to shoot, making complex focusing more natural than ever. Battery life is good, supplying 330 stills and 140 minutes of video recording. It boasts comfortable ergonomics and excellent image quality for a price that doesn’t have beginners running for the hills. Olympus is renowned for producing timeless cameras with stellar image quality that are both light and compact; this camera continues the suit. In all, this makes an excellent photographer’s camera.
4 – Canon EOS M50
While Canon has produced mirrorless cameras for some time now, the M50 marks its first to compete with its high-end digital SLRs. It features a 24.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, articulating touchscreen LCD, 4K video, slow motion full HD video, Dual Pixel AF, GUIDE mode, microphone input, built-in flash, Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth. It uses a 143 AF point contrast-detect system with Canon’s renown Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. The result is superior continuous tracking and cinematic transitions between focus points. Not only that, but it also has a continuous burst rate of 10 fps. Impressive. Battery life is no joke, either. It’s rated at 370 shots and 85 minutes of video recording.
While compact, it features adequate manual controls to please the serious enthusiasts, without overwhelming the beginner. Sure it’s an entry-level camera. However, one that comes with a high-resolution CMOS sensor with Canon’s renown Dual Pixel AF technology. These features combine to deliver imaging performance akin to their highest-end camera, all in a compact and user-friendly form factor. It’s superior AF performance with incredibly facial tracking and articulating screen build this into a well rounded and intuitive platform that’s an excellent option, especially for vloggers.
3 – Sony Alpha a6300
The Sony a6300 is a highly popular hybrid mirrorless camera from the camera maker that competes directly with several higher-priced full-frame cameras. It comes with a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, 3-inch tilting LCD, USB charging, microphone input, 4K video, digital zoom, super slow-motion HD video, weather sealing, Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth. Focusing performance is industry-leading, both single point and subject tracking are best in class as a result of a 4D 425-point phase-detect AF system. It has a 2.36-million dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 100% sensor coverage and 11 fps continuous burst rate.
The combination of impressive focusing and burst performance makes it an ideal compact sport and action shooter. Battery life is respectable and rated at 350 shots on a single charge. In all, this is very much a minimalist design but one that provides excellent ergonomics and handling. It’s an entry-level camera with pro-level ambitions that builds on the success of the industry-setting a6000. It lacks some of the feature sets of other cameras mentioned in this list but makes up for those with robust imaging, video, and excellent focusing performance. The compromises made result in a performance that is second none.
2 – Panasonic GH4
The previously released Panasonic GH3 captivated many independent filmmakers and video journalists alike with its compact video prowess. The Panasonic GH4 continues this tradition. It houses much of the features from the late Panasonic GH5, but at a significantly lower price point best suited for beginners. It features a 16-megapixel MOS sensor, articulating touchscreen, 4K video, 4K burst, slow motion full HD video, weather sealing, microphone input, headphone input, built-in flash, digital zoom, Wi-Fi and NFC. On the photography side, it has a 49 point contrast-detect AF system that delivers excellent point to point autofocusing performance.
Battery life on this camera is industry-leading among mirrorless cameras, deliver upwards of 530 stills on a single charge. Incredibly impressive. It’s touchscreen functions to change critical settings, and the touch focus functionality works flawlessly, even considering its age. Overall, great handling and superb performance make this camera an excellent all-round hybrid tool perfectly tailored to the multimedia shooter. Bar none. This is the most capable 4K centric camera available at this price point with true professional-level features and the videographer’s dream.
1 – Canon EOS M6 Mark II
The Canon EOS M6 Mark II creates a new lineage in Canon’s compact mirrorless lineup and their new flagship EOS M camera. It is the hottest camera on the block right now, and deservingly so. It features a 32.5-megapixel CMOS sensor, touchscreen LCD, Dual Pixel AF, 4K recording, 4K Burst, super slow motion full HD recording, built-in flash, microphone input, USB charging, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC. Image quality is excellent, and images have significant amounts of detail and pleasing colors with no downsides in low light performance or dynamic range.
Canon opted to include the Digic 8 image processor in this camera, which results in a continuous burst rate of a whopping 14 fps and best in class subject tracking performance. With the touchscreen LCD, users can perform subject tracking with a single tap or use it as a touchpad when composing via the optional viewfinder.
Battery life is good, 360 shots on a single charge, and approximately 90 minutes of video recording. This camera surely delivers on the ergonomics. It’s just complicated and complex enough to please advance photographers while still being intuitive enough for the beginner to master. Autofocusing performance, however, is the resounding strength and selling point of this camera; it’s both accurate and responsive, even in low light. The addition of Dual Pixel AF, along with a tilting touch LCD, has resulted in the top vlogging camera and compact video-centric camera around.
Below you’ll find a comprehensive guide outlining all of the factors to consider. This particular list isn’t ordered in importance, as every photographer will have slightly different needs here. So use it as a general guideline to keep in mind.
You can find devices in this price range with a variety of different sensor sizes. But, generally, they’ll range from 1/2.3-inches to APS-C. And while many claim megapixels are the key determiner of image quality, the size of the camera’s sensor makes a far bigger difference. So if image quality is important to you, then an APS-C or 1-inch equipped camera is best.
The recording resolution largely determines the quality of a video. Thankfully, today’s market is filled with highly capable models with ever-increasing frame rates and resolutions. However, 4K is the golden standard. And if you opt for a device with 1080p alone, it’s already slightly behind the curve. Soon 4K uploading will become the norm. So it’s important that you select a device with 4K resolution if you plan on recording some video over its lifetime. Doing so will future-proof your setup and ensure your quality matches the uploading standards.
Another consideration here is the frame rate. The current standard is 24 frames per second (FPS), which replicates Hollywood films. 4K 30 FPS and higher frame rates let you capture fast-paced action and give you the flexibility of recording slow-motion effects. But for the most part, most users find 4K 24 FPS sufficient.
It’s also important to highlight that many devices have a set time limit on video recordings, usually 29 minutes and 59 seconds. This limit is here to prevent overheating. But some manufacturers even limit recordings in 4K to 5-15 minutes. So it’s worth researching this to double-check the recording time limit if you want to record long format content.
If you plan on recording video, a microphone input is essential, so you have the option of connecting an external microphone. And this functionality is a must long-term, as a dedicated microphone will substantially improve your audio quality. And it’ll take your videos to a professional level. So be on the lookout for devices with external microphone inputs or provide this functionality via an adapter.
The continuous autofocusing system is an area to consider if you plan on recording videos. And not every model provides a confident autofocusing system that rarely hunts or loses focus on the subject. Not to mention, not every device offers features like Face or Eye-Detection to improve their accuracy. So this is something to consider if you’re a beginner and recording videos is important to you. And it could be a potential deal-breaker between options, as inaccurate autofocusing will make videos distracting. So investigating the performance in this regard beforehand is wise.
The device’s display is another area of consideration and a potential deal-breaker, depending on the user. Not every model includes a vari-angle fully articulating screen that flips out on the side. But, if they do, that screen design will give you the most flexibility while shooting, especially at high or low angles. They’re also helpful when recording videos or taking selfies. You can also find models with 180º flip-up or down screens, which are useful for some situations. But, the display articulation will come down to personal preference and your intended use. Most photographers prefer a tilting screen, while videographers prefer fully articulating screens. But which specifically you enjoy most will depend on how you use the camera.
Stabilization is another area to consider, especially if you plan on filming videos or shooting in low light. You can find some options with in-body image stabilization (IBIS) or with a digital implementation. Either form will help smooth out bumps and shake when using the camera handheld. They’ll also let you shoot at slower shutter speeds, so you can reduce the ISO and get sharp noise-free images in low light. However, digital implementations do result in crops into the video. So beware.
Size & Portability
If you’re planning to travel with the device or record vlogs, you’ll want to factor in its weight. You’ll be holding the camera for quite some time, and a heavy device will only cause strain and pressure. So in these situations, you’ll want a device that is compact and lightweight. But, understand that compact cameras usually have trade-offers to deliver their ultra-portability. And that generally comes down to smaller sensors, which produce images with more noise and fewer details. So if image quality is a must, you may want to look for something slightly less portable but brings a larger sensor instead. Either way, though, the size and portability of the device could be deal-breakers for some users. So it’s important to research each model beforehand and look for ones weighing less than 500g body alone.
If you plan on sharing images or videos in real-time, then you’ll want a device with good connectivity options. In this case, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, so you can pair them with a phone or tablet and transfer files wirelessly. From there, you can share the files online or embed GPS information into the metadata for future recall.
Battery Life & USB Charging
Many cameras in the price range have poor battery life, and it’s a trade-off due to their compact size. So it’s wise to investigate how many photos you can expect on a single charge. Typically 350 shots per charge is the standard. So if you want dramatically more photos in an outing than that, it’s wise to invest in an extra battery. Thankfully, many also offer USB charging so you can charge them conveniently on the go. However, charging these devices this way is substantially slower than using a wall adapter, so bear that in mind.
Ease of Use
Most of the devices in this price range are fairly straightforward to use. But, some models do offer fairly advanced features, which can quickly overwhelm beginners. So depending on your skill set, it could be best to stick with the entry-level models around the $500 mark instead. There you can master the basics, then upgrade later to a more advanced model when you feel ready.
If some of the extra features covered in this post sound interesting, consider adding them to your list of deciding points. Some of these extra features include 4K Photo, time-lapse, HDR, zebras, focus bracketing, and panorama. Not every device offers all these features, so it can be a deciding point between two otherwise similar options.