The mirrorless revolution is in full swing. These impressive digital cameras pack large image sensors into compact bodies, offering some of the best image and video quality on the market with less bulk than a DSLR. As the lens options continue to expand, going mirrorless makes more sense now than ever before. Below we break down the best mirrorless-interchangeable lens systems of 2018, from full-frame models for professionals to leading budget options. Nearly all of the big brands are represented, including Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, and Fujifilm (Nikon's much-anticipated Z series is coming soon). For more background information, see our mirrorless camera comparison table and buying advice below the picks.

 
Best Overall Mirrorless Camera

1. Sony Alpha a7R III ($2,998)

Sony a7R III mirrorless cameraSensor: Full frame (864 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 42.4
Weight: 23.2 oz.  
What we like: The whole package in a mirrorless camera for both stills and videos.
What we don't: One of the most expensive cameras on this list, and lenses aren't cheap either.
Lenses: 10 Great Sony FE (Full Frame) Lenses

Sony has owned the full-frame mirrorless market for years, and the Alpha a7R III is at the top of the heap for 2018. This sleek little camera pretty much does it all: you get 42.4 megapixels of resolution, superb autofocus and tracking, in-body image stabilization, 4K video, and weather sealing (we could go on and on). Compared to the older a7R II, Sony doubled the burst rate up to 10 fps, added touch functionality on the rear LCD, and changed the battery type, which made a world of difference. For everything from still photography to videos, we think it's the best all-around mirrorless camera on the market. 

What are the shortcomings of the Sony a7R III? At around $3,000 for the body, it's an expensive set-up reserved for professionals and enthusiasts with big budgets (and Sony GM lenses aren't exactly cheap either). For those who want to spend less, Sony released the a7 III (no "R") below, which offers 24.2 megapixels of resolution but many of the same features as the a7R III for about $1,000 less. And it's worth noting that Sony isn't alone anymore: Nikon just released its much-anticipated Z7 and Z6 full-frame mirrorless cameras. All new systems have challenges with technology and limited lens selection, but Nikon surely will be a force to be reckoned with. 
See the Sony Alpha a7R III 

 

A Close Second (At a Significant Discount)

2. Fujifilm X-T2 ($1,099)

Fujifilm X-T2 mirrorless cameraSensor: APS-C (368 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.3
Weight: 17.9 oz.
What we like: Premium image and build quality at a great price point. 
What we don't: The addition of 4K is nice, but Panasonic and Sony still are way ahead in video.
Lenses: 10 Great Fujifilm X-Mount Lenses

We'll start by saying that we really like Fujifilm's mirrorless cameras. They are extremely well built, have the truest color rendition of any brand, and offer superb image quality for uses like travel and portraits in a compact package. It's true that Sony wins out in sensor size and Panasonic is superior in video, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a better mirrorless camera for stills than the Fujifilm X-T2. And the cherry on top: Fujinon lenses may not be as numerous as Micro Four Thirds or Sony E-mount, but the optical quality can't be beat. 

It's worth noting that Fujifilm has come a long way in categories like autofocus and video. We remember back when the original X-T1 was released: the camera had challenges locking in on subjects (even non-moving ones), and video was downright poor. The X-T2 still isn't a standout in these areas, but it's at least capable and competitive. In comparing the X-T2 to the rest of Fujifilm's current lineup, it's less rangefinder-like than the X-Pro2 but beats it out in most other features. And we prefer the X-T2 over the newer X-H1 below: it's cheaper yet boasts the same sensor, autofocus, and weather sealing. It's true that the X-H1 has a larger grip and in-camera image stabilization, but we like the value of the X-T2. Keep an eye out for the X-T3, which is rumored to be in the works for fall of 2018. 
See the Fujifilm X-T2 

 

Best Budget Mirrorless Camera

3. Sony Alpha a6000 ($548 with 16-50mm lens)

Sony a6000 mirrorless cameraSensor: APS-C (366 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.3
Weight: 12.2 oz.
What we like: A tremendous value. 
What we don't: Lacks 4K video and other modern features. 
Lenses: 11 Great Sony E-Mount Lenses

The Sony a6000 is getting a little long in the tooth-it has been replaced by the newer a6300 and a6500 below-but the camera currently is a great value at around $550 with a kit lens. Most importantly, you get a 24.3-megapixel APS-C image sensor, fast shooting at up to 11 frames per second, 1080p video, and built-in Wi-Fi and NFC. With a weight of just over 12 ounces and a very approachable price tag, there is a lot to like about the Sony a6000. 

What do you sacrifice by going with a past-generation model like the a6000? The camera lacks modern features like 4K video, in-body image stabilization, and weather resistance. It's also true that the 16-50mm kit lens is decent but won't make your photos really pop, so you may want to add a specialty zoom or prime for better results. But we can't overlook the value: the a6000 is roughly one-third the cost of the flashy Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II below, but still does a pretty darn good job in terms of performance. For those really looking to save, the Sony a5100 is slightly less capable than the a6000 (it has no electronic viewfinder, for example) but is only $450 with a kit lens. 
See the Sony Alpha a6000 

 

Best Micro Four Thirds Camera

4. Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 ($1,498)

Panasonic Lumic DC-G9 mirrorless cameraSensor: Micro Four Thirds (225 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 20.3
Weight: 20.3 oz.
What we like: A highly versatile camera with a wide selection of quality lenses to choose from.
What we don't: Not quite as video capable as the Lumix GH5 below.
Lenses: 10 Great Micro Four Thirds Lenses

Until the release of the Panasonic G9, the GH5 below was our top-rated Micro Four Thirds camera. But then came the G9 and the script was flipped. While the GH5 prioritizes video and addresses stills later, the G9 does just the opposite, making it a more versatile and practical camera for most people. The G9 still records 4K video at 60p, but it also shoots stills at 20 fps while the GH5 only does 12 fps. Another benefit of the G9 is the new USB port that allows you to charge the camera on the go or while in use, helping to ensure that you won't run out of battery during those longer sessions. And given the $200 difference in price and lower weight, the G9 is our top Micro Four Thirds camera for 2018.

For those hesitant to buy a Micro Four Thirds camera based on the smaller sensor (more on that in our buying advice below), Panasonic did include a high resolution mode on the G9. The feature is intended mostly for landscape and architecture photographers, and it combines 8 photographs into a single, 80-megapixel file. While this can be highly beneficial for static subjects, those interested in shooting movement may find this feature obsolete. Either way, it's a nice touch to a very well-rounded mirrorless camera. 
See the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 

 

Best Compact Mirrorless Camera for Travel

5. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III ($699 with 14-42mm lens)

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III cameraSensor: Micro Four Thirds (228 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 16.1
Weight: 14.5 oz.   
What we like: A feature-packed mirrorless camera. 
What we don't: Low on megapixels. 
Lenses: 10 Great Micro Four Thirds Lenses

Olympus has been very competitive in the mirrorless market for years, but consumers have felt the squeeze when considering high-end models like the E-M1 Mark II and E-M5 Mark II. Enter the E-M10 Mark III, a more affordable option that offers Olympus's signature image and video quality for around $700 with a kit lens. New to the Mark III is 4K video, superior image stabilization, more autofocus points, and a more approachable menu system and user experience overall. Factor in the vast collection of Micro Four Thirds lenses, and you have a highly versatile travel camera with a small form factor. 

We hemmed and hawed about whether to include the Mark III or Mark II here (newer isn't always better when you take price into consideration). The older model is about $200 cheaper with the same kit lens, and unless you frequently shoot video, none of the upgrades are particularly groundbreaking. But we do like the sum of the changes, which give the new E-M10 Mark III the edge in the end. 
See the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III 

 

Best Mirrorless Camera for Video

6. Panasonic Lumix GH5 ($1,698)

Panasonic Lumix GH5 cameraSensor: Micro Four Thirds (225 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 20.3
Weight: 25.6 oz.
What we like: Premium video quality and feature set.  
What we don't: Not full frame and less of an all-rounder than the Panasonic G9 above.
Lenses: 10 Great Micro Four Thirds Lenses

Serious videographers heaped praise on the Panasonic GH4 for years, and the GH5 upped the ante even more. Released last year, it currently is the top mirrorless camera in terms of video capabilities. Among its features are 4K functionality with speeds to rival any DSLR, a highly advanced autofocus system, and a weather-sealed body that can handle long shoots in a variety of conditions. In addition, you get nice touches like 10-Bit recording and a full HDMI socket, among other things. This impressive feature set makes the GH5 a leading choice among serious video shooters who want a compact set-up.  

How does the Panasonic Lumix GH5 differ from its popular predecessor? The camera now shoots 4K up to an impressive 60p, has in-body image stabilization, and higher resolution at 20.3 megapixels vs. 16 megapixels on the older model. Despite all of the upsides, the GH5 is ranked here because of Panasonic's release of the newer G9 above, which is cheaper, better suited for stills, and still very capable for video. Those who want a mirrorless camera strictly for video will appreciate the features and functionality of the GH5, but in our opinion, the G9 is the more well-rounded option. 
See the Panasonic Lumix GH5 

 

Best of the Rest

7. Sony Alpha a6500 ($1,098)

Sony a6500 mirrorless cameraSensor: APS-C (366 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.2
Weight: 16 oz.
What we like: Compact yet packs a serious punch.
What we don't: Pricey and short battery life. 
Lenses: 11 Great Sony E-Mount Lenses

Just when you thought Sony couldn't keep innovating at the same blistering pace, at the end of last year they released the a6500 (only months after its predecessor, the a6300). Why the quick upgrade? Both are solid mid-range mirrorless cameras that offer 4K video, advanced autofocus, and weather resistant bodies that are well suited for the outdoors. But the a6500 adds in-body image stabilization and touchscreen functionality to the rear LCD, both of which are useful changes. With a $300 increase in price over the a6300, the choice mostly comes down to budget.

It's worth noting that the a6500 didn't receive the same battery update as Sony's latest Alpha a7 cameras, so you'll still be battling a notoriously short battery life. And as is the case with full-frame cameras like the older Sony a7R II, some users have reported overheating when shooting 4K video on the a6500 for extended periods of time. This means that the Panasonic GH5 and G9 above still trump Sony for dedicated videographers, but the a6500 is a terrific all-around option nevertheless.
See the Sony Alpha a6500 

 

8. Canon EOS M50 ($699 with 15-45mm lens)

Canon EOS M50 mirrorless cameraSensor: APS-C (332 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.1
Weight: 13.6 oz. 
What we like: Added a much-needed electronic viewfinder. 
What we don't: Massive crop in 4K mode.

Canon mirrorless cameras still aren't on par with the likes of Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, or Olympus, but they are gaining ground with the mid-range M50. This mirrorless camera improves upon the older Canon M5 by adding 4K video capabilities, better autofocus, and a faster image processor. You also get a touchscreen LCD, which has a "Touch and Drag AF" feature that is great for making quick adjustments on the fly. Importantly, the M50 also adds an electronic viewfinder, which the M100 lacks, and comes in a few hundred dollars cheaper than the M5. All things considered, the M50 is far from perfect but our favorite Canon mirrorless camera to date.

Canon's release of a 4K-capable mirrorless camera is a bit deceiving, however, as the 4K mode comes with a 2.56x crop. That is pretty substantial and means that if you're shooting 4K video with the 15-45mm lens, you're looking at an equivalent of 28.4-115.2mm (this makes shooting wide-angle video on the M50 nearly impossible). Another notable downside is the M50 has the shortest battery life of any model on this list, coming in at a mere 235 shots per charge. Unless you're only interested in brief sessions, you'll likely need to carry a pocket full of batteries. 
See the Canon EOS M50 

 

9. Sony Alpha a7 III ($1,998)

Sony Alpha a7 III mirrorless cameraSensor: Full frame (864 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.2
Weight: 22.9 oz.
What we like: A more affordable alternative to the Sony a7R III.
What we don't: Fewer megapixels. 
Lenses: 10 Great Sony FE (Full Frame) Lenses

Released early in 2018, there is a lot to like about the Sony Alpha a7 III. Most importantly, the camera incorporates many of the same features as the more expensive a7R III above (our top mirrorless pick), including an advanced autofocus system, fast burst rate of 10 fps, 4K video functionality, and more than double the battery life of the older Alpha a7 II. But with a price tag of less than $2,000, the a7 III is an approachable way to access to Sony's full-frame mirrorless lineup without compromising a ton in the way of performance.

What are the shortcomings of the Sony a7 III? Most notably, the camera has a 24.2-megapixel sensor, which is a considerable drop from the 42.4 megapixels of the a7R III. However, for many people and uses, this is ample resolution, can create outstanding images and videos, and won't take up as much space on your hard drives. It's worth noting that we prefer the Sony a7 III over the new Fujifilm X-H1 below, another big spring 2018 release. The latter has some nice features including faster continuous shooting and a better viewfinder, but with a similar price point and feature set overall, we'll take a full-frame image sensor over APS-C any day. 
See the Sony Alpha a7 III

 

10. Fujifilm X-T20 ($1,199 with 18-55mm lens)

Fujifilm X-T20 mirrorless cameraSensor: APS-C (368 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.3
Weight: 13.5 oz.  
What we like: The same sensor and processor as the X-T2 above. 
What we don't: No weather sealing.
Lenses: 10 Great Fujifilm X-Mount Lenses

Fujifilm's two flagship mirrorless cameras are the X-T2 and X-H1, but don't sleep on the cheaper X-T20. Essentially, it's the little brother of the X-T2, forgoing features like weather sealing, an autofocus joystick, and an advanced LCD screen. The X-T2 also has a higher maximum shutter speed and has a few minor features that move it ahead of the X-T20 in terms of video capabilities. But image quality is basically the same-both cameras have 24.3-megapixel sensors and processors-not to mention the X-T20 is lighter and cheaper. We love the X-T2 and most people probably will go that route, but for those looking to save, the X-T20 is a great choice.  

Keep in mind that the X-T20 is behind the field in some ways. As mentioned above, it's not weather sealed (comparable mirrorless cameras like the Sony a6300 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II are weather sealed). And Fujifilm video quality is inferior to brands like Sony and Panasonic, although it has improved significantly over the last couple of years. But for those who shoot mostly still photography and want premium image quality in a compact package, the X-T20 is a quality mirrorless camera at a good price.
See the Fujifilm X-T20

 

11. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II ($1,699)

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II mirrorless cameraSensor: Micro Four Thirds (226 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 20.3
Weight: 20.3 oz.
What we like: Loaded with features and functionality. 
What we don't: Too expensive for our tastes, and particularly if you don't shoot action.
Lenses: 10 Great Micro Four Thirds Lenses

For those who love the Micro Four Thirds system and have money to spend, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a very impressive mirrorless camera that shows just how far this technology has come. This camera has pretty much all the bells and whistles that enthusiasts want: in-body image stabilization, fast burst rates for action photography, 4K video, and a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body that is great for shooting outdoors in tough conditions. For everything from street and travel photos to landscapes, this E-M1 Mark II does it all.

Our biggest issue with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the cost. At $1,700 for the camera body alone, it's more expensive than most other mirrorless cameras on the list as well as popular full-frame DSLRs like the Nikon D750 or Canon 6D. It's even roughly the same price as the Nikon D500, another action specialist. And although the Olympus boasts impressive features and some of the best in-camera stabilization of any mirrorless camera, the Panasonic G9 above is our preferred Micro Four Thirds option. 
See the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II 

 

12. Panasonic Lumix G85 ($798 with a 16-50mm kit lens)

Panasonic Lumix G85 mirrorless cameraSensor: Micro Four Thirds (224 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 16
Weight: 14.6 oz.
What we like: 4K video and high fun factor.  
What we don't: Lower resolution than most cameras on this list.
Lenses: 10 Great Micro Four Thirds Lenses

The Panasonic G85 is a tweener: it's not a true enthusiast mirrorless camera, but definitely shouldn't be categorized as entry level either. And if you compare it to a premium point-and-shoot like the Sony RX100 V that is similar in cost, we would take the G85 in a heartbeat. Simply put, if you're looking for quality photos and videos but don't need the features or resolution of the G9 above, give the G85 a serious look.

Panasonic is known for video, so it's no surprise that the G85 shoots 4K and is darn good at it. You also get fast continuous shooting, good autofocus for the price, and new to this model are weather sealing and built-in image stabilization. Compared to cameras like the Canon M50 or Sony a6000, you don't get quite the resolution with a smaller image sensor and fewer megapixels, but the 4K video, sleek design, and access to good lenses all are big selling points. For video shooters shopping in the $1,000 price range, the G85 may be the ticket. 
See the Panasonic Lumix G85

 

13. Fujifilm X-H1 ($1,649)

Fujfilm X-H1 mirrorless cameraSensor: APS-C (368 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.3
Weight: 23.7 oz.
What we like: In-body image stabilization and touchscreen functionality on the rear LCD.
What we don't: Only a few hundred dollars cheaper than the full-frame Sony a7 III.
Lenses: 10 Great Fujifilm X-Mount Lenses

Fujifilm has taken an interesting road with their mirrorless lineup, continuing to master APS-C while giving medium format a try, but largely ignoring full frame (at least for now). Released in 2018, the new X-H1 is Fujifilm's premier APS-C camera-it did not replace the X-T2 but instead is being offered as an alternative. Compared to the X-T2, you get a number of upgrades including in-body image stabilization, improved autofocus, and touchscreen functionality on the rear LCD (including touch focus, which we love). Despite the jump in price over the X-T2, that's a whole lot of features.

If you're buying Fujifilm and starting from scratch, there's a strong argument in going right for the X-H1. It's a better camera and more technologically advanced than the X-T2. Here's our issue: the new Sony Alpha a7 III costs only a few hundred dollars more than X-H1 and has a very similar feature set, yet boasts a full-frame sensor. Fujifilm cameras get high marks and rightfully so, not to mention lenses for the X-H1 generally are cheaper and smaller than those for Sony. But if we're spending this much, we're buying the Sony a7 III. If our budget is less, it would be the X-T2. Having said all that, the X-H1 certainly will strike a chord with Fujifilm loyalists and is an intriguing upgrade for those already committed to the system.
See the Fujifilm X-H1

 

14. Sony Alpha a9 ($4,098)

Sony Alpha a9 mirrorless cameraSensor: Full frame (864 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.2
Weight: 23.7 oz.
What we like: The fastest burst rate on this list at 20 fps.
What we don't: Only makes sense for serious action photographers.
Lenses: 10 Great Sony FE (Full Frame) Lenses

Until last year, mirrorless cameras competed with DSLRs in resolution and video quality, but speed was the exclusive realm of digital SLRs. Professional sports and action photographers carried blazing fast DSLRs like the Canon 1DX Mark II and Nikon D5, and there wasn't a close competitor in the mirrorless world. But nobody has been innovating at the pace of Sony, so it should come as no surprise that the a9 is the fastest full-frame camera on the market in 2018, mirrorless or otherwise. Just how fast is the Sony a9? It shoots a whopping 20 fps, which dwarfs the Canon 1DX Mark II (14 fps) and Nikon D5 (12 fps). Further, you get an ultra-advanced, 693-point phase-detection autofocus system, built-in image stabilization, 4K video, and almost all of the other features that have made Sony's full-frame mirrorless cameras so popular.

The biggest hurdles in moving the Sony a9 higher up the list are practicality and cost. Few people outside of professional action photographers need anything close to 20 fps of shooting speed. In addition, the a9 has 24.2 megapixels of resolution, which is perfectly respectable for an action camera but markedly less than the a7R III at 42.4. We really like this camera and it's a big hit among enthusiasts (kudos to Sony for making a big jump in technology, again), but it remains a niche model that only appeals to a small percentage of photographers and uses. And for those wanting an action camera and willing to steer away from a full-frame sensor, check out the Panasonic G9 above.  
See the Sony Alpha a9

 

15. Panasonic Lumix G7 ($498 with 14-42mm lens)

Panasonic Lumix G7 mirrorless cameraSensor: Micro Four Thirds (224 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 16
Weight: 14.6 oz.
What we like: 4K video and an EVF at a good price point.  
What we don't: Fewer megapixels than newer entry-level models.
Lenses: 10 Great Micro Four Thirds Lenses

Good news for aspiring videographers and fans of Panasonic: you don't have to spend $1,000 for your mirrorless camera (or anything close to it). The G7 was released a few years ago and therefore isn't new, but currently is a solid value at less than $600 with a kit lens. In fact, it's one of the cheapest ways to access 4K in 2018, plus you get an electronic viewfinder. Despite the drop in resolution from Sony's and Canon's latest entry-level models, Panasonic does a lot of things right including excellent video quality and features. 

What do you sacrifice with the Panasonic G7 compared to the pricier G85 above? The G7 does not have built-in image stabilization, which admittedly is very helpful. In addition, the camera is not weather sealed and shoots slower at 7 fps vs. 9 fps on the G85. All of these are notable improvements that make the G85 attractive despite the $300 jump in price. And for those shopping for a Micro Four Thirds camera on a budget, we suggest looking at the Olympus E-M10 Mark III above, which is $100 more but a better camera overall. 
See the Panasonic Lumix G7

 

16. Fujifilm X-A5 ($599 with 14-45mm lens) 

Fujifilm X-A5 mirrorless cameraSensor: APS-C (369 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.2
Weight: 12.7 oz.
What we like: Fujifilm image quality at an entry-level price point. 
What we don't: No viewfinder. 
Lenses: 10 Great Fujifilm X-Mount Lenses

Despite the lack of a viewfinder, we like Fujifilm's newest release in the entry-level mirrorless market: the X-A5. We'll start by saying that this camera isn't targeted toward serious photographers, but up-and-comers and those looking for a quality everyday set-up on a budget should be more than happy. It's packed full of easy-to-use presets and auto modes that help you capture quality images without having to put much thought into it. We also like the 14-45mm kit lens-it provides a solid focal length range, is well built, and reasonably compact

In this price range, a close competitor to the Fujifilm X-A5 is the Sony a6000 above (our top budget pick). Both cameras have 24-megapixel APS-C sensors, are similar in weight, and have built-in wireless. The X-A5 does shoot 4K video, but the a6000 has a much faster burst rate and superior autofocus. If you're shooting primarily still photography, the Fujifilm is a nice choice. But for those looking for the more versatile performer for both stills and videos, we give the nod to the Sony. 
See the Fujifilm X-A5

 

17. Canon EOS M100 ($449 with 15-45mm lens)

Canon EOS M100 mirrorless cameraSensor: APS-C (332 sq. mm)
Megapixels: 24.2
Weight: 10.7 oz.   
What we like: Bargain basement price and low weight. 
What we don't: No 4K video and limited lens options. 

At just $450 with a 15-45mm kit lens-many advanced point-and-shoots cost more-the M100 is a nice mirrorless value option from Canon. In terms of specs, you get 24.2 megapixels of resolution, decent autofocus, a burst rate of 6.1 fps (faster than Canon's entry-level DSLRs), and Bluetooth connectivity. At just 10.7 ounces for the camera body, the M100 delivers a lot of functionality in a small package.

Keep in mind that the M100 does not have a viewfinder, meaning that you'll have to line up your photos and videos via the rear LCD, nor does it shoot 4K video like the M50 above. And although Canon's collection of EF-M lenses is growing and some third-party manufacturers have jumped into the mix, you won't find pro-grade options like you do with Fujifilm or Micro Four Thirds. But for those new to mirrorless or familiar with Canon systems, the M100 is a good price-point camera that should get the job done.  
See the Canon EOS M100


Mirrorless Camera Comparison Table

Camera Price MP Sensor Size Weight EVF 4K Burst Weather
Sony Alpha a7R III $2,998 42.4 864 sq. mm 23.2 oz. Yes Yes 10 fps Yes
Fujifilm X-T2 $1,099 24.3 368 sq. mm 17.9 oz. Yes Yes 8 fps Yes
Sony Alpha a6000 $548 24.3 366 sq. mm 12.2 oz. Yes No 11 fps Yes
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 $1,498 20.3 225 sq. mm 20.3 oz. Yes Yes 20 fps Yes
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III $699 16.1 228 sq. mm 14.5 oz. Yes Yes 8.6 oz. No
Panasonic Lumix GH5 $1,698 20.3 225 sq. mm 25.6 oz. Yes Yes 12 fps Yes
Sony Alpha a6500 $1,098 24.2 336 sq. mm 16 oz. Yes Yes 11 fps Yes
Canon EOS M50 $699 24.1 332 sq. mm 13.6 oz. Yes Yes 10 fps No
Sony Alpha a7 III $1,998 24.3 864 sq. mm 22.9 oz. Yes Yes 10 fps Yes
Fujifilm X-T20 $1,199 24.3 368 sq. mm 13.5 oz. Yes Yes 14 fps No
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II $1,699 20.4 225 sq. mm 20.3 oz. Yes Yes 15 fps Yes
Panasonic Lumix G85 $798 16 224 sq. mm 14.6 oz. Yes Yes 9 fps Yes
Fujifilm X-H1 $1,649 24.3 368 sq. mm 23.7 oz. Yes No 14 fps Yes
Sony Alpha a9 $4,098 24.2 864 sq. mm 23.7 oz. Yes Yes 20 fps Yes
Panasonic Lumix G7 $498 16 224 sq. mm 10.7 oz. No No 4 fps No
Fujifilm X-A5 $599 24.2 369 sq. mm 12.7 oz. No Yes 6 fps No
Canon EOS M100 $449 24.2 332 sq. mm 10.7 oz. No No 4 fps No

 

Mirrorless Camera Buying Advice

Choosing a System

We've provided you with a ton of information on specific camera models, but the decision still can feel intimidating. Keep in mind that buying a camera body is an investment into a system and a company. Granted, you're never totally locked into a system, but once you buy a body and start building up your lens collection, you're financially invested and changing can be burdensome. The good news is that all of these brands we've listed are safe bets. All continue to demonstrate a desire to innovate in their own ways. If any of these companies were stagnant it would be easy to rule them out, but with Nikon and Canon emerging (something we discuss below), as well as Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, and Fujifilm not showing any signs of slowing down, you should be safe going with any of them. 

Mirrorless camera group photo
The full gamut of mirrorless camera systems

For those of you who hate vague answers and want something a bit more cut and dry, here you go. Keep in mind that these are generalizations and the majority of these systems are well-rounded and should work great for most people's needs. But if we had to break it down based off of trends, here is how we would do it:

  • Most versatile system for stills and videos: Sony
  • Bets system for videographers: Panasonic
  • Best system for street, travel, and portrait photography: Fujifilm
  • Best compact system for wildlife: Olympus 
Sensor size comparison (crop sensor vs. full frame)
The crop-sensor Panasonic DC-G9 next to the full-frame Sony a7R III

 Image Sensor Size

Here at Switchback Travel, we praise image sensor size over megapixels, which has a more significant impact on image quality. The good news is that virtually all mirrorless cameras have large sensors that are similar to most entry-level and mid-range digital SLRs. The two most common sensor types are APS-C (Sony and Fujifilm) and Micro Four Thirds (Olympus and Panasonic). Sony's a7 series of full-frame mirrorless cameras boast full-frame sensors, which is second largest to the medium format sensors found in the Fujifilm GFX 50S and the Hasselblad X1D. Keep in mind that there is some variation between manufacturers and camera models (Canon's APS-C sensor is smaller than Sony's, for example).

  • Micro Four Thirds (Panasonic and Olympus): 17 x 13mm = 224 - 225 sq. mm 
  • APS-C (Canon): 22.3 x 14.9mm = 332 sq. mm
  • APS-C (Sony and Fujifilm): 23.5 x 15.6mm = 366 - 369 sq. mm 
  • Full Frame (Sony and Nikon): 36 x 24mm = 864 sq. mm
  • Medium Format (Fujifilm and Hasselblad): 43.8 x 32.9mm = 1,441 sq. mm


Medium Format

Medium-format cameras long have been a staple for high-end portrait, fashion, and commercial photographers. With incredibly high resolutions due to the extra-large sensors, the images have detail that is impossible to replicate even with a full-frame camera. Unfortunately, these ultra-premium cameras have price tags to match. It's not uncommon to see bodies from Hasselblad and Phase One in the realm of $40,000, so it was pretty exciting when Hasselblad decided to release the X1D, the first mirrorless medium-format camera. At around $6,500, it offers a much more affordable path to medium format for those interested in achieving higher resolutions and better dynamic range. Then came the Fujifilm GFX 50S, another medium-format option at the same price point as the X1D.

At upwards of $10,000 when you factor in lenses, we don't see these cameras as being worth the money for most people. For the majority of folks looking for premium image quality, the 42.4-megapixel Sony a7R III should be more than satisfactory, and Nikon's new Z7 is a whopping 45.7 megapixels. For around half the price, it's hard to argue against going that route. And although the Fujifilm GFX 50S and Hasselblad X1D offer a gateway into a world once reserved for wealthy and elite photographers, we don't see true medium format enthusiasts making the switch. 


Megapixels 

Megapixels matter, but not nearly as much as camera manufacturers and retailers would lead you to believe. For reference, the crop-sensor cameras on this list have megapixel counts somewhere between 16 and 24.3. Given that the majority of image sensors are either Micro Four Thirds or APS-C, you get fairly comparable image quality across the board. A mirrorless camera like the Sony Alpha a6500 with 24.2 megapixels and an APS-C sensor will produce slightly superior images than a camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III with 16.1 megapixels and a Micro Four Thirds sensor, but they are in the same ballpark. At the professional end of the spectrum, the Sony Alpha a7R III boasts a whopping 42.4 megapixels (plus a full-frame sensor) and the new Nikon Z7 offers even more at 45.7. Remember: it's the combination of sensor size and megapixels that matters. 

Sony a7r III camera and lenses
The 42.4-megapixel Sony a7R III with the GM lens trinity

Key Features on Mirrorless Cameras

Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

One of the biggest differences between entry-level mirrorless cameras and mid-range and high-end models is the inclusion of an electronic viewfinder, or EVF for short. An electronic viewfinder is a super helpful tool that allows for much greater accuracy in terms of composition and focus. On cameras without a viewfinder, you must align images via the LCD screen on the back much like you would with a point-and-shoot camera or smartphone. Many casual photographers may not mind, but an electronic viewfinder is a highly desirable feature for serious photographers. What is the cutoff for an electronic viewfinder? None of the mirrorless cameras on our list that are less than $600 have an electronic viewfinder, and all above $600 do. To check whether your desired model has an electronic viewfinder, see our comparison table above.  

Electronic viewfinder (EVF) on mirrorless camera
The prominent EVF on a Panasonic mirrorless camera

Autofocus Speed and Accuracy

With specs like megapixels and sensor size getting the lion's share of the attention, don't overlook the importance of autofocus in your buying decision. Many cheaper mirrorless cameras cut costs with inferior autofocus, including the number of focus points and types of autofocus (phase detection and contrast detection). There aren't hard-and-fast rules as to what constitutes great autofocus, but good places to start are the number and type of focus points. Multiple focus points help improve accuracy, so the more the better. In addition, contrast detection is slower than phase detection, and cross-type sensors are more accurate than simpler vertical line sensors. Understanding the full complexities of autofocus is worthy of a full article in itself, but in general, you can expect autofocus to be less accurate on cheaper cameras and more accurate on pricier cameras (there is a strong correlation between price and autofocus quality). If a camera is an outlier to this rule, we will let you know in the write-ups above.  

Fujifilm X-T2 mirrorless camera
Fujifilm's autofocus on the X-T2 is much improved over past generations

In-Body Image Stabilization

An increasingly common feature on new mirrorless cameras in 2018 is in-body image stabilization, which helps offset the effects of camera shake. The names vary by manufacturer, but the technologies are similar: the sensor is able to adjust for small movements, thereby creating photos and videos with less blur. Sony claims that in-body stabilization is worth up to 5.5 stops, and Olympus up to 6.5 stops with image stabilized lenses, which would be impressive if accurate. All in all, we've found this technology to be difficult to quantify but very helpful in doing what it advertises-we have far fewer blurry images from our cameras with image stabilization. 

In-camera image stabilization
Many modern mirrorless cameras feature in-body image stabilization

In terms of specific brands and models, Sony's latest Alpha a7R III and a7 III feature in-body image stabilization, as does the crop-sensor Sony Alpha a6500. Most new Olympus cameras do as well, including the E-M10 Mark II, E-M5 Mark II, and E-M10 Mark III. And even Panasonic and Fujifilm are jumping onboard, including the Lumix G9 and X-H1. It's worth noting that the market is right at the tipping point: currently it's mostly high-end and some mid-range cameras that feature in-body image stabilization, but it's starting to trickle down to most new mirrorless cameras regardless of price point.


4K Video

Similar to in-body image stabilization, 4K video once was a rare feature saved for select premium cameras, but it's now common all the way down to entry level. There are a plethora of factors that dictate how good a mirrorless camera is at shooting video, including resolution, autofocus and tracking, available video speeds (these can vary greatly by model), the LCD screen, and video-centric features like 10-Bit recording and HDMI sockets. The good news is that video is getting better and better across the board, and today's mirrorless cameras are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were even a few years ago. 

Panasonic Lumix G9 and Fujifilm X-T2
Panasonic excels at video while Fujifilm still is catching up

In general, Panasonic is the video hegemon in the mirrorless camera world. Many professionals use the Panasonic Lumix GH5, which is hands down the best mirrorless camera for video. Sony's mirrorless are a close second, including the videographer-focused a7S line, and even the a6500 and previous generations are pretty darn impressive in this regard. Olympus is next in line, and Fujifilm mirrorless cameras are now serviceable in the video department but really excel at still photography. 

LCD screen (Panasonic G9)
The rear LCD on the Panasonic G9

Built-In Wi-Fi 

Plugging your camera into a USB port on a desktop or laptop and uploading photos manually is becoming increasingly unnecessary. Built-in Wi-Fi is a nice perk available on virtually all new mirrorless cameras, allowing you to transfer and upload photos and videos to your device or social media platform directly from the camera (some even offer light editing in-camera). The software and Wi-Fi platforms vary by manufacturer, and some are easier to use and less buggy than others, but we like the option of using Wi-Fi. 

One consideration to keep in mind: using Wi-Fi to transfer photos all of the time can eventually take a toll on your camera's processor. Accordingly, we recommend only using the Wi-Fi to transfer images when time is of the essence and you need to make quick selections or edits to your images. Don't be afraid to use Wi-Fi, but if you have a cord handy or can insert the memory card into your computer, doing so will help prolong the life of your camera.  
 

Weight and Size: Mirrorless vs. DSLRs

Mirrorless cameras get a lot of praise for their compact size and low weight, which makes them attractive for outdoor and travel photographers on the go. It's true that mirrorless cameras weigh less than digital SLRs by forgoing the bulky internal mirror systems (hence the name "mirrorless"), but the difference is not quite as much as you might think. For example, and these aren't exact apples to apples comparisons, the new Sony Alpha a7R III weighs 23.2 ounces for the camera body, while leading full-frame DSLRs like the Nikon D850 (32.3 ounces) and Canon 5D Mark IV (28.2 ounces) both weigh quite a bit more. For a mid-range camera comparison, the Sony Alpha a6500 weighs 16 ounces, while the Canon Rebel T7i is 18.8 ounces and the Nikon D5600 comes in at 16.4 ounces. Clearly, the differences there are less pronounced than the full-frame comparison. 

Mirrorless vs. DSLR size comparison
A size comparison between the mirrorless Sony a7R III and Nikon D850 DSLR

Of course, lenses also need to be taken into consideration. Again, this all depends on the systems you're comparing, but we've found that our Sony full-frame FE lenses sometimes outweigh their Canon or Nikon DSLR counterparts. A number of mid-range mirrorless camera systems in the Sony, Fujifilm, and Micro Four Thirds families do have some very cool pancake lenses that weigh next to nothing, but at the full-frame end of the spectrum, the weight savings often is incremental and not monumental. The larger point here is that mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than DSLRs, and form factor probably is the biggest difference, but the weight difference is not as much as many people think. Having said that, given that mirrorless image quality and lens availability have essentially caught up to DSLRs, we'll take every ounce we can get. 

Mirrorless camera size comparison
The Sony a7R III, Panasonic G9, Fujifilm X-T2, Olympus E-M1 Mark II, and Sony a6500

Weather Sealing 

Some mid-range and most high-end mirrorless cameras are weather sealed for added protection from the elements. Weather sealing varies by manufacturer and model and there aren't universal standards, but the process involves adding rubber sealing and housing on the body and around buttons to make the camera more resistant to moisture and dust (both can be an absolute killer to your electronics). Calling these cameras weatherproof or waterproof would be an exaggeration, but they certainly can handle tough conditions and are popular among professionals who frequently are out in the field in inclement weather. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with pancake lens
The weather-sealed Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

For a deeper dive into this topic, we have published a complete list of weather-sealed mirrorless cameras, which includes popular models like the Sony a7 series, Panasonic G9 and GH5, Fujifilm X-T2, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, and Sony a6500. Olympus and Panasonic cameras in particular are known for excellent weather sealing, but so long as you're careful and don't go into super harsh or wet conditions for extended periods, all of the cameras on our weather-sealed list should be adequate in keeping the elements out. 


The Challenge With Dust

If you've owned a mirrorless camera, then you know how difficult it can be to keep the sensor clean. While removing the mirror from a typical DSLR has many benefits, one big downside is that your sensor is highly vulnerable to dust, dirt, moisture, and any other element waiting to make its way inside your camera. If you spend time shooting outdoors, it's inevitable that you will eventually get dust spots on your sensor, but it happens noticeably quicker with mirrorless cameras. And although it's totally normal to take your camera to a repair shop or send it back to the manufacturer to have the sensor cleaned, we have a few tricks to help you do that less frequently.

First, take some electrical tape, fold it over, and stick it to the inside of your camera body cap so that it's sticky on both sides. This will help by having floating dirt and dust stick to the tape rather than your sensor while you're storing your camera. Next, buy a Giottos Rocket Blaster and be sure to use it frequently. It's a super effective tool for quick cleanings of dust that isn't already fully stuck to your sensor. One last tip: make sure your camera always is turned off when switching lenses. When turned on, camera sensors hold a small static charge, making them magnets for dust. By turning your camera off before switching lenses, you'll ensure that your camera isn't unintentionally attracting dirt and debris. With these tips and regular use of the automatic sensor cleaning feature that most cameras offer, hopefully you won't be clone stamping and spot healing for hours in post. 
 

Mirrorless and the Battery Life Battle

When people talk about mirrorless cameras, one of the biggest complaints you'll hear about is the shorter battery life compared to DSLRs. While this is a valid argument, don't let it scare you away from mirrorless and know that the future is bright. Cameras like the Sony Alpha a6500, Fujifilm X-T2, and Olympus OM-D E-M10 III do tend to have relatively short battery lives and we would recommend buying a few extra batteries for these systems if you plan on being out all day. But newer systems like the Sony a7R III and Panasonic Lumix G9 boast bigger and newer batteries that are much more effective than their predecessors. While they may not carry quite the same capacity as what one might be used to with a digital SLR, these larger batteries can last through a full day of shooting and will pack more than enough power for most photographers. While we still recommend carrying an extra battery or two as a backup (it never hurts aside from the extra weight), you shouldn't have the same battery anxiety as in the early days of mirrorless. 

Compact mirrorless camera in-hand
The Sony a6500 is compact but struggles with battery life

Regardless of what body you're shooting with, there are a few things you can do to help your batteries last a bit longer. First-and it may seem obvious-be sure to turn your camera off when you're not shooting. It's pretty normal to snap a few photos and walk around with the camera still on, and you'll save valuable battery life by remembering to flip the camera off between scenes and shots. Next, put your camera in "airplane mode" unless you are using the Wi-Fi. Most new cameras have Wi-Fi capabilities, which is a great feature, but can be draining on your batteries over the course of a day. Unless you're actively using it, flip it off and save some juice. Last, in cold environments, make sure to keep your batteries warm. This can seem like a bit of an inconvenience, but taking a battery out of your camera and putting it in a warm pocket when not shooting can mean the difference between a battery that lasts all day and one that dies way too quickly. 


Lens Types

Mirrorless cameras are still relatively new, with most having been released in the last five years. Accordingly, the lens selection is less varied than for Nikon and Canon DSLRs, which have been on the market for decades. Olympus and Panasonic mirrorless cameras have Micro Four Thirds mounts and you can use these cameras and lenses interchangeably. The selection of Micro Four Thirds lenses is massive and ranges from budget to professional. Sony's E-mount lens offerings have grown significantly, and there are plenty of good options for their Alpha series cameras (albeit less than Micro Four Thirds). Fujifilm has fewer XF-mount lenses but there are plenty of quality models, particularly at the high end. Nikon and Canon have much more limited lens collections, but as they continue to grow into mirrorless, we expect to see a large increase in the available options relatively quickly. 

Micro Four Thirds lenses
A collection of Micro Four Thirds lenses from pancake to telephoto

The Emergence of Nikon and Canon 

A big question mark in the mirrorless boom is: where do Nikon and Canon fit into all of this? As two of the biggest players in the photography world and with so many loyalists who have shot with either brand for decades, it has been a bit baffling to see the slow progression and hesitation to hop on the mirrorless train (surely competing with their own DSLRs has something to do with it, although clearly it's time). To date, Canon has had a few lackluster releases that has led to some head scratching. Don't get us wrong, their "M" series are solid little cameras, but seem to be targeted more toward beginner photographers than enthusiasts and professionals. While we were all anticipating the release of something that would directly compete with Sony's a7 line or even Fujifilm's X-T2 and X-H1, Canon was more focused on starting small and building up. 

Nikon, on the other hand, has taken the route of going silent and then going big. With the August 2018 release of the new Nikon Z7 and Z6, they have entered the market with a splash and shown that they are serious when it comes to competing with Sony. And while we are very excited to get our hands on the new Z cameras and seeing how the photography community receives them, we'll also be anxiously awaiting Canon's response. It is inevitable that Canon will need to match, if not beat, Nikon's latest release if they want to stay relevant, and Canon knows this. The internet already is buzzing with rumors of Canon's full-frame mirrorless plans, and the hope is that we'll see something in 2019. Regardless of how this all pans out, it's a welcomed change to see the giants of the industry going toe-to-toe to push the envelope in terms of mirrorless technology and innovation. Ultimately, this leads to better cameras and more selection for all of us. 
Back to Our Mirrorless Camera Picks  Back to Our Mirrorless Camera Comparison Table

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