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Sometimes, smartphones, tablets, and basic cameras just won’t cut it. If you’re looking to up your photography game with better equipment, look no further than mirrorless cameras. These cameras are perfect for photographers at all levels looking to upgrade to better quality photos.
In this article, we’ll look at the best mirrorless cameras 2021 has to offer. These cameras run the gamut from budget-friendly to professional-grade machines. We’ll walk you through each of our best mirrorless camera picks to help you find the best camera for you.
Best Mirrorless Cameras to Buy in 2021
1. Panasonic Lumix GX85
This mid-range camera from Panasonic is a beloved tool of both photographers and filmmakers. With powerful features and a streamlined design, Panasonic’s Lumix GX85 is perfect for enthusiast photographers who want a camera that can get the job done.
The GX85 doesn’t have as many features as Panasonic’s GX8, but what it lacks in extras it makes up for in size. This compact camera body, especially when paired with Panasonic’s “pancake lens”, is barely larger than a standard point-and-shoot camera.
Plus, the GX85 (known as the GX80 outside North America), retains many of the most sought-after specs. The Lumix GX85 comes with a 16MP image sensor capable of shooting 4K video and photos. It also features a new shutter mechanism which reduces shutter shock, or blur introduced by the shutter.
Finally, you won’t have to worry about creating elaborate lighting setups with the GX85, because this camera includes a built-in flash as well as in-camera image stabilization.
|16MP Four Thirds sensor||Relatively reduced battery life (290 shots)|
|4K photo and video||Not weather sealed|
|Depth from Defocus autofocus||No microphone / headphone sockets|
|Built-in electronic viewfinder and tilting screen|
2. Canon EOS RP
One of the lightest full frame cameras on the market, the Canon EOS RP brings a pared-down shooting experience alongside a full frame sensor for a reasonable price.
This camera is a great choice for enthusiast photographers who are ready to take their first foray into full frame image capture. In fact, you can think of the EOS RP as an entry-level full frame camera for photographers looking to upgrade from their crop-sensor.
While it’s not the smallest or lightest mirrorless camera around, it makes up for any shortcomings in its image size and quality. The Canon EOS RP can capture images up to 6,240px by 4,160px and offers an IOS range of 100 to 40,000. It also boasts “the world’s fastest AF speed” at 0.05 seconds and partially automated focus stacking.
With excelled image quality and dynamic range, Canon’s EOS RP is the perfect introductory full frame camera for still photographers.
|Full frame Dual Pixel sensor||Poor video shooting experience|
|Pupil detection autofocus||Fewer native lens options|
|Budget friendly full frame option||No in-camera image stabilization|
|Articulated rear touchscreen|
3. Panasonic Lumix GH5
While not technically a 2020 release, the Lumix GH5 from Panasonic was designed to capture only the highest quality photos and video. With a 20MP Four Thirds sensor, this camera can produce both 4K video footage and 6K still photos!
This camera improves on Panasonic’s popular GH4 model with upgraded 10-bit color, in-camera image stabilization, new custom shooting modes, and updated autofocus software. Plus, dual card slots make this camera perfect to use on long shoots.
We recommend this camera for videographers, filmmakers and intermediate photographers comfortable with managing their own lighting. The GH5’s video and photo features are certainly impressive, but know that this camera does not have a built-in flash!
|20MP Four Thirds sensor||Long menu with layered options|
|In-camera image stabilization||No built-in flash|
|6K photo modes|
|Improved sharpening & noise reduction|
|Comfortable hand grips|
4. Sony a7R Mark IV
With a world-class resolution of 61MP, the Sony a7R Mark IV seems an unbeatable choice in the full frame mirrorless camera market. This powerhouse camera assures the highest still photo quality and also offers a continuous shooting speed of 10fps. And, advancements in in-camera buffering make it possible to sustain that break-neck continuous shooting speed for up to 7 seconds!
While the a7R Mark IV displays strides in still photography capture, its video capture capabilities stay capped at 4K video at 30fps. Although, this new model does offer Real-Time Autofocus tracking in video mode, as well as for photos.
|61MP full frame sensor||4K video caps at 30fps|
|10fps continuous shooting speed||Small body, large lenses|
|Eye tracking autofocus technology|
|Advanced continuous shooting buffer|
5. Sony Alpha a6100 4K Mirrorless Camera
One of the best mirrorless cameras for beginners, Sony’s Alpha a6100 4K camera improves on its a6000 model with streamlined features and a more compact body. A strong contender on this list of best mirrorless cameras, this small camera features a powerful sensor with top-of-the-line autofocus capabilities and impeccable image quality.
The a6100 from Sony includes both a tilting touchscreen LCD monitor and a built-in EVF in its small frame. It also boasts some of the best automatic focus, which includes continuous tracking that’s reliable and fast enough to use in both photo and video.
What’s more, this Sony camera is compatible with many lenses on the market! With the a6100, you won’t have to worry about being limited to Sony lenses — although, Sony offers a variety for this model.
While the internal camera settings can be difficult to navigate, Sony chose to keep the camera body simple with minimal and intuitive buttons.
|APS-C sensor with 24.2MP resolution||Complicated interface|
|Tilt-angle touchscreen monitor||Low resolution LCD screen|
6. Fujifilm X-T4
Professional photographers with larger budgets will love Fujifilm’s X-T4, a camera that’s ready for any and every adventure. This weather-sealed machine comes packed with a 26.1MP APS-C sensor and in-body image stabilization.
Of course, Fujifilm retained what users loved about its previous X-T3 model, including 4K video and advanced autofocus and continuous shooting, but it also made some key improvements. The new X-T4 model also features a revamped touchscreen monitor and battery, as well as a new shutter that offers faster continuous shooting and quieter operation.
We recommend this camera for professional photographers, or for beginner and enthusiast photographers who want a machine with room to grow. This higher-end mirrorless camera was designed to be the last word in Fujifilm’s APS-C camera range — and it holds up!
|26.1MP APS-C sensor||Same sensor as previous model|
|In-camera image stabilization||Higher price tag|
|Higher continuous shootings speeds||No headphone socket|
|Improved battery life|
7. Nikon Z50
For a camera that combines value and function, try Nikon’s Z50. This camera features an APS-C sensor with 20.9MP resolution and a continuous shooting speed of 11fps.
Of all of Nikon’s Z-model mirrorless cameras, the Z50 is perhaps the most affordable, given its impressive sensor, resolution and design.
While the Z50 camera body has its impressive features, so does its “pancake lens”. The 16-50mm kit lens is one of the slimmest zoom lenses on the market, and it fits this low-profile camera perfectly.
We recommend this camera for both beginner and enthusiast photographers and videographers who want a powerful camera that’s comfortable and easy to use.
|APS-C sensor with 20.9MP resolution||Unimpressive battery life|
|11fps continuous shooting speed||Single card slot|
|Substantial hand grip for comfort|
8. Sony a7C
The a7C is Sony’s newest camera, and it’s even smaller than the rest of their mirrorless full-frame machines. This powerhouse device is one of the most compact full frame cameras on the market, so it’s perfect for enthusiast travel, wildlife, landscape and street photographers. It’s also a great go-to camera for family trips and special occasions.
Inside Sony’s a7C, you’ll find nearly all of the best features in their a7 III, but in a smaller package. With a 24MP full frame sensor and Raw and JPEG shooting capabilities, the a7C is a fearsome competitor for other cameras on this list.
|24MP full frame sensor||Small viewfinder|
|Large battery capacity (740 shots)||Tricky video operation|
|Articulating touchscreen monitor||Pricey|
9. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
With excellent image quality and color saturation, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III produces great JPEG and Raw photos in-camera, even before the files reach your photo editor. That, plus its comfortable grip, compact body and satisfying control dials, makes it a great choice for enthusiast photographers with little photo editing time.
While the E-M5 III shares many of the same capabilities as Olympus’ E-M1 II model, it does have a redesigned body that makes for more intuitive controls management. It also features an improved EVF with an OLED screen and a battery that’s 28% lighter than the E-M1 II’s, without sacrificing on battery life.
|20MP Four Thirds image sensor||Continuous and tracking AF lacking|
|Cinema and UHD 4K video||Confusing interface|
|50MP high-resolution still shot mode for boosted detail|
This camera also includes 4K video, a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000, and protective weather sealant.
10. Canon EOS R5
The EOS R5 by Canon is a jack-of-all-trades camera. Regardless of your preferred subject, this camera can capture it all — from sports and action to landscapes and portraiture. What makes this such a reliable machine?
The 45MP full-frame sensor delivers on quality photos, while the AI human and animal detection embedded in the Dual Pixel AF system ensures crisp focus for all subjects. Plus, videographers will love its 8K and Raw video capture.
The EOS R5 is also careful not to overcrowd internal systems and settings menus, or to hand over too much control. While you can customize this camera to a healthy degree, you won’t be overwhelmed by its interface or controls.
|45MP full-frame sensor||Forced noise reduction on Raw files|
|8K video capabilities||Comparatively limited customization|
|Dual Pixel AF system with AI human and animal detection|
|10-bit HDR photos|
11. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
A sports action camera by Olympus, the OM-D E-M1 Mark III is a Micro Four Thirds camera with a 20MP sensor and agile shooting capabilities. This machine brings a 121-point autofocus system with an advanced subject recognition component that makes for beautifully crisp sports and other high-action photos.
With a fairly impressive battery life of 420 shots, this Olympus camera promises you’ll never miss another of life’s important moments, no matter how small. Plus, the camera’s Pro Capture mode starts recording frames before you even press the shutter.
The OM-D E-M1 Mark III is weather sealed in an IPX1-rated sealant, so it’s ready for whatever adventure you have in mind.
|20MP Four Thirds sensor||Tracking AF lags|
|80MP Handheld High Res mode||Low-res EVF|
|“Live ND” simulated ND filters||One card slot|
|Dual card slots|
12. Canon EOS R6
A camera for both photographers and videographers, the Canon EOS R6 uses a high-performance CMOS sensor alongside an impressive DIGIC X image processor to handle fast-action photography and cinematic video.
This camera’s dual card slots ensure plenty of space for your images, while built-in Wi-fi and Bluetooth makes for easy file transfer.
Canon’s EOS R6 is also popular with nature and wildlife photographers because of a few key features. This camera offers Silent Shutter capabilities, which applies to shutter speeds up to 20fps. And, it also features Animal Detection in autofocusing to allow photographers to track the faces, whole bodies or eyes of animals including dogs, cats, and birds.
The camera also features impressive in-camera stabilization so you can capture high resolution photos and videos, even in low-light conditions.
|20MP full frame CMOS sensor||No 8K video recording|
|12fps high-speed continuous shooting||Lower resolution electronic viewfinder display|
|Up to 8 stops of in-body image stabilization||Automatic noise reduction applied to raw files|
|Optional battery grip to extend battery life|
13. Sony a7SIII
Professional photographers, look no further than Sony’s a7SIII — the newest in their line of S series cameras — for your next powerhouse machine.
This top-of-the-line Sony camera features a slew of sought-after features that make it competitive in both a still photography and moving image environment. The camera’s full frame 12-megapixel CMOS image sensor plus its expanded ISO range (now with an upper limit of 409600) guarantee the best image quality, even in the lowest lighting.
Plus, this machine delivers on 4K video up to 120fps, dynamic and reliable autofocusing, and improved image stabilization.
With a comfortable grip, light weight, and almost ergonomic design, carrying the a7SIII on your long photography or vlog shoots is never a problem.
|Low-light capability||Relatively low resolution image sensor|
|Improved image stabilization||Pricey|
|4K video up to 120fps|
14. Sony a6000
Among Sony’s top players in the mirrorless camera game is the a6000, a machine with a 24.2MP sensor optimized to shoot with a high sensitivity range with low noise.
The built-in flash and wide ISO range offer the option to shoot in virtually any environment, regardless of lighting conditions. Plus, the camera’s dual AF system works to keep all of your photos in crisp focus.
The camera also features S-log shooting support to help correct whiteout and blackout in your images. That way, you have a wider window to color grade in post-production. Plus, videographers will love that you can produce slow motion and quick motion video clips in camera, which saves time in post.
|24.2MP sensor||No in-camera Raw conversion|
|ISO range from 100-32000||No touchscreen on display|
|Real-time Tracking and Real-time AF|
|4K HDR video|
What Is a Mirrorless Camera?
What makes mirrorless cameras unique in the world of digital camera technology? Well, as the name suggests, it’s their lack of an internal mirror! Unlike traditional digital cameras, or DSLRs, mirrorless cameras work without an internal mirror mechanism. So, how does a mirrorless camera work?
In DSLR cameras, the internal mirror works as a part of the camera’s optical viewfinder. The mirror reflects the image your lens sees into the optical viewfinder so that you can see the framed image.
Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, use an imaging sensor and constant light to show you the framed image you’re about to capture. The sensor gathers digital information as it is exposed to light. The camera then displays the digital information on either a rear LCD screen embedded in your camera, or on an electronic viewfinder.
Really, the mechanical difference between DSLR and mirrorless cameras lies in how the camera reflects the framed image to the photographer. And, at first consideration, that doesn’t seem to mean much in practical terms. How does a mirrorless camera’s lack of mirror affect the experience of photographing with it?
Why Buy a Mirrorless Camera?
Here’s where the difference between mirrored and mirrorless cameras really matters. How does photographing differ when using a DSLR versus a mirrorless camera?
Well, there are a couple of reasons you might prefer using a mirrorless camera over a DSLR:
Smaller, Lighter Machines
The imaging sensor in a mirrorless camera is much lighter than the mirror in a DSLR device, which makes mirrorless cameras significantly lighter to operate than mirrored cameras. The lack of an internal mirror also makes mirrorless camera bodies smaller and more compact.
The light, compact nature of mirrorless cameras make them a favorite of travel, landscape and wildlife photographers. These machines were designed with portability in mind. If you’re a photographer who loves traveling with their primary camera, a mirrorless camera is a great choice.
Live Image Feed
As we discussed earlier, mirrorless cameras depict a live feed of your framed images before you shoot them. Because you’ll likely be editing your photos on a computer screen after you’ve taken them, the image view on the mirrorless screen can actually be more accurate than the mirrored view.
Seeing your photos on a screen during photographing may help you in your photo edits down the road.
A lighter and more compact camera body sounds like a great idea. But doesn’t a smaller body mean a smaller sensor and poorer image quality? Thankfully, no! Not with mirrorless cameras.
Of course, the size of your camera’s sensor is important. It’s one of the only things you won’t be able to change in post production. There’s no doubt about it, you’ll need as large an image sensor as possible to take quality photos.
Although smaller and lighter, mirrorless cameras don’t always have smaller sensors than their mirrored counterparts. In fact, as you’ve seen reflected in this list, you can purchase mirrorless cameras with ASP-C sensors that rival those in DSLR cameras. On the highest end, you can even find mirrorless cameras with full-frame sensors!
Of course, most photographers — even at the professional level — won’t need a device with a full-frame sensor. But, it’s nice to know that they exist in mirrorless cameras, just as they do in DSLRs.
Shortened Battery Life
While the mirrorless camera’s compact body doesn’t necessarily affect its sensor size, it can mean a shorter battery life. Because mirrorless cameras are smaller than DSLRs, and because they have the same size image sensors, space runs pretty tight inside a mirrorless device. That’s why the batteries of many mirrorless cameras are smaller than those in DSLRs.
While modern advances in technology have resulted in smaller, higher-powered batteries, we do still find that mirrorless cameras have a shorter all-around battery life than mirrored cameras.
Many avid travel photographers circumvent this battery issue by bringing along multiple pre-charged batteries on their photoshoots, or investing in solar powered portable battery banks.
Are Mirrorless Cameras Better Than DSLR Cameras?
Whether mirrorless cameras are better than DSLR cameras is a matter of personal opinion. Depending on what’s most important to you in a camera body, you might have a different answer.
Do you intend to travel extensively with your camera? Do you prefer seeing your framed images on an electronic viewfinder? Are you willing to sacrifice some battery longevity for a smaller camera frame?
If you answered in the affirmative to any of those questions, a mirrorless camera sounds like a great pick for your lifestyle and photography needs.
Many photographers use mirrorless cameras without even knowing it! Again, the key difference between DSLR and mirrorless cameras is battery life. Other than that, mirrorless cameras are just as good, if not better, than DSLRs.
Are Mirrorless Cameras Good for Video?
Mirrorless cameras may be even more popular with videographers than with photographers. Videographers love mirrorless cameras for all the same reasons photographers do — a smaller and lighter frame, an electronic display, and a portable design. They also appreciate the lens adaptability of mirrorless cameras.
Most lenses are made with specific camera bodies in mind. That means that not all camera lenses fit all cameras. While lens adapters can help mediate the problem, they aren’t a complete solution.
DLSR cameras have a longer flange-focal distance than mirrorless cameras, which limits their lens adaptability. Because this distance is shorter in mirrorless cameras, these mirrorless devices can pair with lenses for all kinds of cameras — even SLR film camera lenses!
The result is a wider pool of lens options, as well as a wider range of visual effects you can achieve with a mirrorless camera.
Additionally, because mirrorless cameras don’t compromise on image sensor size or image quality, they are capable of capturing beautifully detailed and crisp video.
When to Use a Mirrorless Camera
You can use a mirrorless camera in any and every photography setting. These cameras are great multi-use cameras, which make them the perfect go-to for beginner and professional photographers alike.
We recommend reaching for a mirrorless camera while traveling or while shooting outdoors for long periods of time. While camera weight may not seem like the most important spec to consider, having a smaller, lighter mirrorless camera really does make a difference in particular environments.
If you’re a videographer, you’ll be glad to know that many YouTubers prefer mirrorless cameras for both their main channel videos and their vlogging videos. You really can’t beat the compact frame!
#1 Pick for Beginners
Which mirrorless camera is best for beginners? We recommend Sony’s Alpha a6100 4K camera.
The a6100 camera from Sony is a great starting camera for beginner photographers because it combines beginner-friendly features with powerful image processing. The camera’s continuous tracking autofocus all but ensures that your photos are always in crisp focus.
The camera body’s minimal buttons make navigating the machine easy, even for photography novices. And, the camera’s extensive lens compatibility means you can easily expand your photography options with different lenses without having to purchase another body.
#1 Pick for Experts
Which mirrorless camera is best for expert photographers? We recommend the Sony a7R Mark IV.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more powerful camera than Sony’s a7R Mark IV. This camera boasts a massive 61MP resolution and a full frame sensor, which means super high quality images!
This camera also makes continuous shooting easy at 10fps with buffering up to 7 seconds. Plus, its powerful tracking autofocus system and 5-axis image stabilization guarantee perfectly focused photos and videos.
These features and more, combined in a sleek black body camera, make this the perfect machine for photo professionals looking for a camera with more bells, whistles and power.
#1 Budget Pick
Which mirrorless camera is the best bang for your buck? We recommend the Nikon Z50. Nearly the cheapest option on this list, the Nikon Z50 offers substantial image processing and power for just a fraction of the price.
If you’re on a tight budget, an investment in the Nikon Z50 is well worth the money. This is a camera body that is great for both beginners and enthusiasts, so it offers room to grow. It also boasts 11fps continuous shooting, a sizable APS-C sensor, and a low-profile kit lens.
While the battery life of the Nikon Z50 isn’t the best on the market, it’s a small price to pay to get these other important features for a discounted price. We recommend purchasing an additional battery to carry with you on long shoots in general, so you’re never out of juice.
#1 Pick for video
Which mirrorless camera is best for video? We recommend the Panasonic Lumix GH5.
This camera from Panasonic expands on its previous GH4 model, which was another favorite of filmmakers and videographers. The new GH5 includes even more film and video features that make this camera a contender amongst independent filmmakers.
The GH5 offers in-camera image stabilization and 4K video without cropping — both features near and dear to the hearts of video creators.
Lumix GH5 also makes use of Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus autofocus system to produce sharper focus in less time. This system works by sampling the scene in pairs of photos, then using the sampling to create a map of the view.
Plus, this camera’s 20MP Four Thirds sensor guarantees crisp images with vibrant colors.
If the price tag on Panasonic’s latest Lumix model is too steep, try the GH4. This earlier model retains many of the great video capturing qualities for a cheaper price.
Whether you’re a beginner or enthusiast photographer looking to purchase more serious gear, or you’re a professional with a large budget, there’s a mirrorless camera out there for you!
We hope this article has helped you compare the best mirrorless cameras on the market in 2020. If you have other mirrorless camera recommendations, let us know in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this article, check out these other helpful articles:
- 17 Best Photo Editing Software for Photographers (2020 Ultimate Guide)
- 121 Best Free Lightroom Presets
- What Kind of Lens for Landscape Photography
- What Lenses Do Professional Wildlife Photographers Use
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