The mirrorless camera revolution is in full swing. These impressive digital cameras pack large sensors into compact bodies, offering image quality that is far superior to point-and-shoots without the bulk of a digital SLR. And unlike other compacts, you can buy interchangeable lenses at the focal length or zoom range of your choice. As the lens choices continue to expand, buying a mirrorless camera makes more sense now than ever before. Below we break down the best mirrorless camera models of 2017, the cheapest of which are under $500 with a kit lens included. Our mid-range picks add advanced features like electronic viewfinders and weather sealing, and the high-end cameras move well into professional territory. For more information, see our mirrorless camera comparison table and buying advice below the picks. 
 

1. Sony Alpha a7R III ($3,198)

Sony Alpha a7R III mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 42.4
Sensor size: 864 sq. mm 
Weight: 23.2 oz.  
What we like: Tons of improvements over the already impressive a7R II.
What we don’t: Limited availability.
Lenses: 10 Great Sony FE (Full Frame) Lenses

Sony’s a7R II was at the top of this list for much of 2017, and we don’t insert new models just because they’re new. But the a7R III, which was released in November, has earned its way to the top with a host of relevant improvements over an already impressive camera system. The image sensor is the same, but the a7R III boasts superior autofocus and image stabilization, a higher resolution rear LCD with touchscreen functionality, better low light performance, and faster shooting at 10 fps. Perhaps most importantly, Sony uses a newer battery type (NP-FZ100), which more than doubles the a7R III’s battery life (this was the Achilles Heel of the a7R II). Taken together, that’s an incredible list of changes that makes the a7R III one of the top cameras on the market of any type.

If you’re shopping for the holidays, availability is going to be your biggest issue. The Sony a7R III currently is backordered at just about every major retailer, so it’ll be a stretch to get it in time for gifting. In addition, the new model is just a hair under $3,200, while the a7r II received a very nice $500 price cut and is selling for just under $2,400. We think the changes are worth it, which is why we have the a7R III ranked here, but the a7R II is a terrific camera in its own right and a great value.  
See the Sony Alpha a7R III

 

2. Panasonic Lumix GH5 ($1,998)

Megapixels: 20.3
Sensor size: 225 sq. mm
Weight: 25.6 oz.
What we like:
Hands down, the top mirrorless camera for video.
What we don’t: Not full frame.
Lenses: 14 Great Micro Four Thirds Lenses

Panasonic Lumix GH5 mirrorless cameraSerious video shooters have been heaping praise on the Panasonic GH4 for years, and the GH5 ups the ante even more. Released in 2017, this is the top Micro Four Thirds camera on the market and an absolute beast on the video front. Among its most notable features are 4K functionality that rivals any DSLR, a highly advanced autofocus system, and a weather-sealed body that can handle long shoots in a variety of conditions. This impressive combination makes the GH5 a leading choice among serious videographers who want a compact and lightweight set-up.  

How does the Panasonic Lumix GH5 differ from its 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 on the older model. We could go on and on, but videographers will be very pleased with the plethora of advanced features like 10-bit recording, an improved viewfinder, and a full HDMI socket, among others. And the cherry on top: we love the wide variety of lenses available in the Micro Four Thirds mount, the most extensive of any mirrorless camera type. If you don’t want or need a full-frame camera, the GH5 is an excellent choice. 
See the Panasonic Lumix GH5

 

3. Sony Alpha a6500 ($1,198)

Sony a6500 mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 24.2
Sensor size: 366 sq. mm
Weight: 16 oz.
What we like: Compact yet packs a serious punch.
What we don’t: We still aren’t crazy about the E-mount lens options.
Lenses: 11 Great Sony E-Mount (APS-C) Lenses

Just when you thought Sony couldn’t keep innovating at the same blistering pace, at the end of last year the company released the a6500 (only months after its predecessor, the a6300). Why the quick upgrade? Both are leading 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 that improve image quality and user experience. With a $400 increase in price over the a6300, both models are excellent and the choice comes down to budget.

As is the case with the full-frame Sony cameras like the Alpha a7R III, some users have reported overheating when shooting 4K video for extended periods of time. This means that the Panasonic GH5 above likely will retain the top spot among serious videographers, but the a6500 is a terrific all-around option nevertheless. It’s one of the go-to cameras for outdoor photographers wanting a compact setup. 
See the Sony Alpha a6500

 

4. Fujifilm X-T2 ($1,499)

Fujifilm X-T2 mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 24.3
Sensor size: 368 sq. mm
Weight: 17.9 oz.
What we like: A major improvement from the X-T1, which already was a stellar mirrorless camera. 
What we don’t: The addition of 4K is nice, but for serious videographers Sony and Panasonic cameras still reign supreme. ​
Lenses: Best Lenses for Fujifilm X-T2

First, we unabashedly love Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. They have the truest color rendition on the market and offer superb image quality for uses like travel and people photos. Released last year, the second generation X-T2 is a major step up from the X-T1, offering more megapixels, 4K video, and the best autofocus of any Fujifilm mirrorless model to date (autofocus was an issue with our X-T1, but the X-T2 is much more advanced in that regard). Along with the array of quality Fujinon lenses, the X-T2 is a serious camera that should make discerning photographers happy, and particularly those that like the classic look and feel.

It’s interesting to note that Fujifilm has skipped competing with Sony’s full-frame mirrorless lineup and has gone straight to medium format with the GFX 50S below. This camera has a massive sensor and 50.4 megapixels of resolution, but in our opinion is too much camera for most people (you're looking at $10,000 or more with lenses). Instead we give the nod to the more practical X-T2, which still offers great image quality and a sturdy build. Another Fuijfilm camera to consider in this price range is the X-Pro2, which is more rangefinder-like in design but behind the X-T2 in most other features. 
See the Fujifilm X-T2

 

5. Sony Alpha a6000 ($498 with 16-50mm lens)

Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 24.3
Sensor size: 366 sq. mm
Weight: 12.2 oz.
What we like: A tremendous value. 
What we don’t: Lacks 4K video and isn’t weather resistant.  
Lenses: Best Lenses for Sony a6000

The Sony a6000 was the original successor to the NEX series and now is a few years old and counting, but is a great value at around $600 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 very approachable price tag, there is a lot to like about the Sony a6000. 

What do you sacrifice by going with the older model? The a6000 lacks 4K video, in-body image stabilization, and weather resistance. It’s also true that the 16-50mm kit lens is merely decent but won’t make your photos really pop, so you may want to add a superior zoom or prime in the focal length range you shoot most. But we can’t overlook the value—the a6000 literally is just over one-quarter the cost of the flashy Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II below but still does a darn good job in terms of performance. If you want a quality mirrorless camera on a budget, the Sony a6000 is our top choice. 
See the Sony Alpha a6000

 

6. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II ($1,799)

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 20.3
Sensor size: 226 sq. mm  
Weight: 20.3 oz.
What we like: Absolutely packed with features and functionality. 
What we don’t: Too expensive for our tastes, and particularly if you don’t shoot action.
Lenses: 14 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 need and 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 camera does it all.

Our biggest issue with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the cost. At $2,000 for the camera body alone, this Mark II is more expensive than popular full-frame DSLRs like the Nikon D750 or Canon 6D, and roughly the same as the impressive Nikon D500, another action specialist. But if you’re willing to pay for Olympus’s Pro lenses that can match the quality and performance of the camera, the E-M1 Mark II is a viable lightweight alternative to just about anything on the market. 
See the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

 

7. Fujifilm X-Pro2 ($1,499)

Fujifilm X-Pro2 mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 24.3
Sensor size: 368 sq. mm
Weight: 15.7 oz.
What we like: Hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder is a rarity.  
What we don’t: Can’t compete with the X-T2 in terms of features.
Lenses: Best Lenses for Fujfilm X-Pro2

First, the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is an excellent mirrorless camera, and particularly for those who specialize in still photography. However, the release of the X-T2 above made it much less relevant and bumped it down this list. Both cameras produce similar image quality overall with 24.3-megapixel image sensors, but the X-T2 wins out in features with 4K video, superior autofocus, an articulating rear LCD, and faster burst rates. The X-Pro2 does have a hybrid viewfinder that offers both optical and electronic functionality, which is a notable upside for those who frequently use manual focus and prime lenses. But in a head-to-head matchup, we still favor the X-T2.

Who should choose the X-Pro2 over the X-T2? If you don’t care about video and want a mirrorless camera with an optical viewfinder, the X-Pro2 is the ticket. Other rangefinder-esque cameras from brands like Leica will cost you considerably more.  And it’s worth noting that the latest firmware update did improve the autofocus on the X-Pro2 to make it more competitive. 
See the Fujifilm X-Pro2

 

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

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 16.1
Sensor size: 228 sq. mm  
Weight: 14.5 oz.   
What we like: 4K video and better user experience than the older E-M10 Mark II.
What we don’t: A bit pricey for a 16-megapixel camera.
Lenses: 14 Great Micro Four Thirds Lenses

Olympus has made some of the top mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras for years, but consumers have felt the squeeze when considering high-end models like the E-M1 Mark II and E-M5 Mark II above. Enter the new OM-D E-M10 Mark III, a more affordable option that offers Olympus’ signature image and video quality for around $800 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.

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 currently is $150 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 and Olympus continues to move it the right direction with the EM-10 Mark III. Having said that, the older Mark II remains an excellent entry-level plus mirrorless camera and is a nice way to save. 
See the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

 

9. Fujifilm X-T20 ($1,299 with 18-55mm lens)

Fujifilm X-T20 mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 24.3
Sensor size: 368 sq. mm 
Weight: 13.5 oz.  
What we like: The same sensor and processor as the X-T2 for about $600 less.
What we don’t:
 No weather sealing.
Lenses: 10 Great Fujifilm X-Mount Lenses

Fujifilm’s two flagship mirrorless cameras are represented above in the X-T2 and X-Pro-2, but we still really like the cheaper X-T20. Essentially, the X-T20 is a simpler version of the X-T2, forgoing features like weather sealing, an autofocus joystick, and an advanced LCD screen. But image quality is basically the same—both cameras have the same 24.3-megapixel sensors and processors—not to mention the X-T20 is lighter and considerably less expensive. We love the X-T2, but if you want access to Fujifilm’s legendary image quality and color rendition at a sub-$1,000 price point, the X-T20 is the way to go.

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 still 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 terrific mirrorless camera at a good price.
See the Fujifilm X-T20

 

10. Sony Alpha a9 ($4,498)

Sony Alpha a9 mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 24.2
Sensor size: 864 sq. mm
Weight: 23.7 oz.
What we like: Incredibly fast shooting at 20 fps.
What we don’t: Only makes sense for serious action photographers.
Lenses: 10 Great Sony FE (Full Frame) Lenses

Until the spring of 2017, mirrorless cameras provided stiff competition in terms of resolution and video quality, but speed was the exclusive realm of digital SLRs. Professional sports and action photographers carried blazing fast full-frame DSLRs like the Canon 1DX Mark II and Nikon D5, and there wasn’t even a close competitor in the mirrorless world. But nobody has been innovating at the pace of Sony, and it should come as no surprise that the new Alpha a9 is the fastest interchangeable-lens camera on the market, mirrorless or otherwise. Just how fast is the Sony Alpha a9? It shoots a whopping 20 fps, which dwarfs the Canon 1DX Mark II (14 fps) and Nikon D5 (12 fps). More, 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.

Like the Fujifilm GFX 50S below, practicality and cost are what keep the Sony Alpha a9 from ranking higher on this list. Few people outside of professional action photographers need anything close to 20 fps of shooting speed, and many of them aren’t paying for their camera in the first place. In addition, the a9 has 24.2 megapixels of resolution, which is perfectly respectable for an action camera but markedly less than the a7R II at 42.4. We really like this camera and expect it to be 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 certain people and uses. For non-action and taking price into account, we prefer the a7R II above. 
See the Sony Alpha a9

 

11. Panasonic Lumix G85 ($898 with a 16-50mm kit lens)

Panasonic Lumix G85 mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 16
Sensor size: 224 sq. mm  
Weight: 14.6 oz.
What we like: 4K video and high fun factor.  
What we don’t: Lower resolution than most other cameras on this list.
Lenses: 14 Great Micro Four Thirds Lenses

The Panasonic G85 is a bit of a tweener: it’s not a true enthusiast mirrorless camera, but definitely is not entry level either. And if you compare it to premium point-and-shoots 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 quite as many features as the mirrorless cameras above, give the Panasonic 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 a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, fast continuous shooting, and good autofocus for the price. New to this model is weather sealing and built-in image stabilization. Compared to a camera like the Canon M5, 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 looking in the $1,000 price range, the G85 may be the ticket. 
See the Panasonic Lumix G85

 

12. Fujifilm GFX 50S ($6,499)

Fujifilm GFX 50S mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 51.4
Sensor size: 1,441 sq. mm
Weight: 29.1 oz.
What we like: The highest resolution on this list by far.
What we don’t: Too much camera for most people.

Recently we asked a Fujifilm rep whether they were making a full-frame mirrorless camera to compete with the likes of Sony’s venerable Alpha series. They were stoically silent and now we know why: Fujifilm skipped full frame altogether and jumped right into medium format. Instead of an already large 36 x 24 mm (864 sq. mm) full-frame sensor, Fujifilm’s medium format is a massive 43.8 x 32.9 mm (1,441 sq. mm). If you thought full-frame sensors captured a lot of light and information, try medium format.

We love the concept of the Fujifilm GFX 50S, but have a few reasons why we wouldn’t buy it right now. The first is practicality—there’s a legitimate argument about how much resolution one actually needs. We’ve compared photos shot on the Fujifilm GFX 50S with those from the Sony a7R II with fast Zeiss lenses, and to us the Fujifilm isn’t discernibly better (at least on a computer, albeit a rather large one). More, the GFX system is new and the lens options are very sparse—Fujifilm currently offers five G-mount lenses and the roadmap is limited. Finally, the camera is extremely pricey at $6,500 for the body alone, so you can expect to spend $10,000 and up with lenses. The GFX 50S is an outrageous camera and we very much appreciate the quality of Fujifilm images, but realistically it’s out of most people’s league. 
See the Fujifilm GFX 50S

 

13. Canon EOS M5 ($1,049 with 15-45mm lens)

Canon M5 mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 24.2
Sensor size: 332 sq. mm  
Weight: 15.1 oz.
What we like: You can use your Canon DSLR lenses with an adapter.
What we don’t: The camera doesn’t stand out in any way.

Everyone is waiting for Canon or Nikon to make a big splash in the mirrorless camera market, but unfortunately the M5 was merely a ripple. Nothing is inherently wrong the M5: it comes with a 24.2-megapixel APS-C image sensor, a tilting touchscreen around back, a crisp electronic viewfinder, and reasonably fast continuous shooting at up to 9 fps. But the mid-range mirrorless field is just too competitive in 2017, and the M5 lacks features like 4K video and weather sealing that have become almost standard. Compared to the options from Sony and the Micro Four Thirds family, the M5 just does not stand out in any way.

One notable upside of buying the M5 is that Canon EF-S (DSLR) lenses are compatible with an adapter (this includes both autofocus and image stabilization, which aren’t guarantees in the world of lens adapters). Going mirrorless can be intimidating, so if you own Canon lenses and want to make the jump without starting over entirely, the M5 is a decent option. For an even cheaper mirrorless option from Canon, see the new M100 below. 
See the Canon EOS M5

 

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

Panasonic Lumix G7 cameraMegapixels: 16
Sensor size: 224 sq. mm
Weight: 14.6 oz.
What we like: 4K video and an EVF at a reasonable price point.  
What we don’t: Fewer megapixels than newer entry-level models.
Lenses: 14 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 set-up. The G7 was released a couple of years ago and currently is a great value at less than $600 with a kit lens. You get the same 16 megapixels as the G85 above along with 4K video and 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.

What do you sacrifice with the Panasonic G7 compared to the pricier G85? The G7 does not have built-in image stabilization, which admittedly is a very helpful feature. 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 jump in price, but the G7 still lines up well against the entry-level competition. For those looking for a Micro Four Thirds camera on a budget, this is a nice choice. 
See the Panasonic Lumix G7

 

15. Canon EOS M100 ($499 with 15-45mm lens)

Canon M100 mirrorless cameraMegapixels: 24.2
Sensor size: 332 sq. mm  
Weight: 10.7 oz.   
What we like: Great image quality and feature set at a reasonable price.
What we don’t: Canon’s EF-M collection is young and still limited.

Canon is relatively new to the mirrorless market, but we really like their M line of interchangeable-lens cameras. At around $600 with an 15-45mm lens, the brand new M100 is really nice upgrade over the older M10. You get 24.2 megapixels of resolution (up from 18), superior autofocus, faster shooting at 6.1 fps (up from 4.6), and Bluetooth connectivity. At just 10.7 ounces for the camera body, the M100 packs a whole lot of image quality and functionality into a small and light package.  

Keep in mind that the M10 does not have a viewfinder, meaning that you’ll have to line up your photos and videos via the rear LCD. And although Canon’s collection of EF-M lenses is growing and some third-party manufacturers have jumped into the mix of late, you won’t find a lot of pro-grade options like for Fujifilm or Micro Four Thirds. But for those new to mirrorless or have used Canon in the past, the M100 is winner. 
See the Canon EOS M100

 

16. Sony Alpha a51000 ($448 with 16-50mm lens)

Sony Alpha a5100 cameraMegapixels: 24.3
Sensor size: 357 sq. mm
Weight: 10 oz.
What we like: Compact and inexpensive.
What we don’t: Fewer features than other Sony Alpha models above.
Lenses: 11 Great Sony E-Mount (APS-C) Lenses

This is the fourth Sony camera to make this list and the company dominates the market from top to bottom. The a5100 is just about the cheapest Sony mirrorless camera you’ll find, hitting the entry-level part of the lineup. Despite not coming equipped with features like an electronic viewfinder, weather sealing, or a fast burst rate, we like the image quality and size for the price. For about $450 with a kit lens, you get 24.3 megapixels of resolution in a compact camera body that weighs only 10 ounces.

For fall of 2017, an interesting competitor to the Sony a5100 is the Sony a6000. The latter is a few generation old now (the a6500 is the most current mid-range model), and currently costs $50 more with the same 16-50mm kit lens. The a5100 does come with touchscreen functionality, but the a6000 shoots faster at 11 fps, is slightly better in low light, and perhaps most importantly, has an electronic viewfinder. Both are fine choices and the supply of the a6000 will continue to dwindle, making it harder and harder to get. 
See the Sony Alpha a5100

 

17. Nikon 1 J5 ($497 with 10-30mm lens)

Nikon 1 J5 cameraMegapixels: 20.8
Sensor size: 116 sq. mm
Weight: 9.4 oz.
What we like: Fast shooting and good styling (finally).  
What we don’t: Small image sensor.

Nikon has had a mixed foray into mirrorless cameras: their models to date have smaller sensors than the competition but are packed with functionality. The Nikon 1 J5 is the best one yet, featuring more megapixels than its predecessors at 20.8, better ergonomics with an improved grip, and Nikon’s fast EXPEED 5A processor. In addition, the 1 J5 does not have an optical low pass filter like many of Nikon’s latest DSLRs, which results in better sharpness, and has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC.

All things considered, we really like the improvements on the 1 J5. The classic styling looks better and should be easier to carry and work with. Our biggest gripe still is the relatively small CX sensor—all of the other mirrorless cameras in this list are in the Micro Four Thirds or APS-C size range (or larger in the case of Sony’s A series). But if you’re willing to sacrifice sensor size for features and speed, the Nikon 1 J5 is an intriguing option.
See the Nikon 1 J5


Mirrorless Camera Comparison Table

Camera Price MP Sensor Size Weight EVF 4K Burst Weather
Sony Alpha a7R III $3,198 42.4 864 sq. mm 23.2 oz. Yes Yes 10 fps Yes
Panasonic Lumix GH5 $1,998 20.3 225 sq. mm 25.6 oz. Yes Yes 12 fps Yes
Sony Alpha a6500 $1,198 24.2 336 sq. mm 16 oz. Yes Yes 11 fps Yes
Fujifilm X-T2 $1,499 24.3 368 sq. mm 17.9 oz. Yes Yes 8 fps Yes
Sony Alpha a6000 $498 24.3 366 sq. mm 12.2 oz. Yes No 11 fps No
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II $1,799 20.4 225 sq. mm 20.3 oz. Yes Yes 15 fps Yes
Fujfilm X-Pro2 $1,499 24.3 368 sq. mm 15.7 oz. Yes No 8 fps Yes
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III $699 16.1 228 sq. mm 14.5 oz. Yes Yes 8.6 fps No
Fujifilm X-T20 $1,299 24.3 368 sq. mm 13.5 oz. Yes Yes 14 fps No
Sony Alpha a9 $4,498 24.2 864 sq. mm 23.7 oz. Yes Yes 20 fps Yes
Panasonic Lumix G85 $898 16 224 sq. mm 14.6 oz. Yes Yes 9 fps Yes
Fujifilm GFX 50S $6,499 51.4 1,441 sq. mm 29.1 oz. Yes No 3 fps Yes
Canon EOS M5 $1,049 24.2 332 sq. mm 15.1 oz. Yes No 9 fps No
Panasonic Lumix G7 $498 16 224 sq. mm 14.6 oz. Yes Yes 7 fps No
Canon EOS M100 $499 24.2 332 sq. mm 10.7 oz. No No 4 fps No
Sony Alpha a5100 $548 24.1 357 sq. mm 10 oz. No No 6 fps No
Nikon 1 J5 $497 20.8 116 sq. mm 9.4 oz. No No 20 fps No




 

Mirrorless Camera Buying Advice

Image Sensor 

Here at Switchback Travel we praise image sensor size over megapixels, which has a larger impact on image quality. The good news for consumers is that virtually all mirrorless cameras have large sensors that are similar to most entry-level and mid-range SLRs (Nikon is the exception with its small CX sensors). The two most common sensor types on mirrorless cameras 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, the second largest in this category to Fujifilm's new medium format GFX 50S. 

1” (Nikon CX): 13.2 x 8.8mm = 116 sq. mm 
Micro Four Thirds: 17 x 13mm = 224 sq. mm 
APS-C: 23.5 x 15.6mm = 368 sq. mm 
Full Frame: 36 x 24mm = 864 sq. mm
Medium Format: 43.8 x 32.9mm = 1,441 sq. mm

It’s true that Micro Four Thirds is smaller than APS-C, but 224 sq. mm is ample sensor real estate for professional quality images that can be enlarged and hung on your wall with pride. Sony and Fujfilm utilize larger APS-C sensors that are nearly identical to the majority of Canon’s and Nikon’s digital SLR lineups, but the differences won’t be discernable in many situations and print sizes. Professionals are increasingly flocking to the full-frame A7 series, and particularly the latest generations like the Sony Alpha a7R III that improved upon of the weaknesses of the first.  
 

Megapixels 

Megapixels matter, but not nearly as much as marketers would lead you to believe. All of the non-professional mirrorless 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 from the image sensors across the board (factors like autofocus and ISO sensitivity also play a role). 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 megapixels and a Micro Four Thirds sensor, but they are in the same ballpark. If you buy quality lenses, any megapixel count on this list will perform very well.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 in hand

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. No true entry-level model above has an electronic viewfinder—you align images and shoot via the LCD screen on the back much like you would with a point-and-shoot camera or smartphone. This is one of the ways that the camera manufacturers are able to offer such large image sensors in inexpensive cameras, but it is something to consider when making a purchase. Many casual shooters may not mind, but an electronic viewfinder is a desired trait for serious photographers.

What is the cutoff for an electronic viewfinder? None of the mirrorless cameras on our list that are less than $500 have an electronic viewfinder, and all above $500 do. To check whether your desired model has an electronic viewfinder, see our mirrorless camera comparison table above.  
 

Autofocus 

With specs like megapixels and image sensor getting the lion’s share of attention, try not to 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).

To illustrate the importance of autofocus, a couple years ago I purchased a Fujifilm X-T1 for outdoor photography and hiking (the camera and kit lens are weather sealed). The X-T1 can produce outstanding images with color and detail that rivals much more expensive and heavier full-frame cameras that I have used in the past. However, the autofocus on the X-T1 proved to be very unsatisfactory for this type of work. When returning from a shoot—usually a challenging hike to a distant location—I would discover that as many as half of the photos were out of focus and essentially unusable. Apparently the contrast was too low in many situations and this negatively affected the ability of the camera to find the proper focus points. 

What was the root of the problem? The Fujifilm X-T1 had a rather elementary 49-point contrast detection autofocus system. For comparison, the Sony a6300, which is less expensive, has a superior hybrid autofocus that is a whopping 425-point phase detection and 169-point contrast detection. Despite the fact that the X-T1 created fantastic images when in focus, the autofocus was a major handicap to my photography with just 49-point contrast detection and I was ready to sell the camera and move on. Fortunately, Fujifilm recognized the issue and released a firmware update that overhauled the entire autofocus system. The Fujifilm X-Pro2 has improved its autofocus up to 196-point contrast detection and 77-point phase detection.
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with lens

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 generally you can expect autofocus to be less accurate on cheaper cameras and more accurate on pricier cameras. If a camera is an outlier to this rule, we will let you know in the write-ups above.  
 

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 most new mirrorless cameras, allowing you to transfer and upload photos and video 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. Don’t be afraid to use Wi-Fi, but if you have a cord handy and it’s convenient to transfer photos in that manner, doing so will help prolong the life of your camera.  
 

Weight: 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 DSLRs by forgoing the bulky internal mirror systems (hence the name “mirrorless”), but it’s 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 oz.) and Canon 5D Mark IV (28.2 oz.) 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. That difference is much less pronounced than the full-frame comparison.

Of course, there’s also the issue of lenses. Again, this all depends on the systems you’re comparing, but we’ve found that our Sony full-frame FE lenses sometimes weigh more than 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 overall 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 it’s not as much as many people think. Having said that, given that mirrorless image quality and lens availability has essentially caught up to DSLRs, we’ll take every ounce we can get. 
 

Weather Sealing 

Some mid-range and 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 the 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 well and are popular among professionals who are frequently out in the field in inclement weather. We have published a list of weather-sealed mirrorless cameras, and popular models include the Sony a7 series, Fujifilm X-T2 and XPro2, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, and Panasonic GH5.
Sony a7 series mirrorless camera

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 it is 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 for 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. Samsung and Nikon have much more limited lens collections and many people stick with the kit lenses. 

We recommend giving serious thought to the camera system you are buying into when making a purchase. For example, if you buy a Micro Four Thirds camera and start compiling a small collection of lenses, it’s very likely that you will want to stay in the Micro Four Thirds family when upgrading your camera down the road. This is parallel to the old Nikon vs. Canon decision for digital SLRs: once people choose a side, they often stick with it for the duration. Realistically, all of the major mirrorless camera manufacturers are demonstrating a commitment to the technology and the lens options continue to grow. You can feel confident buying a Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, or Fujifilm camera body. Samsung and Nikon still are more towards the fringe but that likely will change as their lineups continue to evolve. And for those who want more flexibility, you can always buy a lens adapter. 
 

The Unfortunate Fall of Samsung Cameras

A couple of years ago we had the Samsung NX-1 near the top of our mirrorless rankings, but the tech giant has phased out camera sales and shuttered its camera division altogether (Nikon is rumored to be interested in all or part of Samsung’s camera division, but nothing has been substantiated to date). The old NX-1 was a terrific high-end mirrorless camera that rivaled the Panasonic GH5, but the dissolution of Samsung’s camera division makes purchasing an older model a risk. Accordingly, we recommend avoiding Samsung cameras, and we have removed cameras like the entry-level Samsung NX3000 from this list. 
Back to Our Top Mirrorless Camera Picks   Back to Our Mirrorless Camera Comparison Table

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