As a fledgling content creator or photographer, the amount of gear you’ll need to invest in can be a bit overwhelming. It goes without saying that for producing high quality visuals, no single piece of equipment is as important as your camera. Expensive DSLRs and high end mirrorless cameras can cost you several thousand dollars. Luckily, there are many options that can deliver some killer performance without breaking the bank. We’re here to help you pick out the best mirrorless camera for beginners.
In the last decade, there has been a massive surge in the advancement of Mirrorless Interchangable Lens Cameras, and they are rapidly growing in market share. There are many advantages to using a mirrorless system, which we will discuss shortly. In this article, we’re going to break down the following cameras to help you make a choice if you don’t know which one is right for you. We’ll also discuss what all the different spec jargon means, and how you can use it to choose the best camera that suits your needs and budget.
- 1 Why Should You Buy A Mirrorless Camera?
- 2 Top 5 Best Mirrorless Cameras For Beginners – Our Picks
- 2.1 1. Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digitial Camera (Our Pick For Best Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
- 2.2 2. Sony Alpha A6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Best 4k Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
- 2.3 3. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Mirrorless Digital Camera (Best Olympus Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
- 2.4 4. Panasonic Lumix G85 4K Mirrorless Camera (Best Panasonic Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
- 2.5 5. Canon EOS M6 Mirrorless Camera (Best Canon Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
- 3 Factors To Consider When Choosing The Best Mirrorless Camera For Beginners
Why Should You Buy A Mirrorless Camera?
Purchasing a mirrorless camera has several advantages of traditional DSLRs and camcorders. Here’s a rundown of just a few of the reasons why you should consider getting one!
- Size and weight – Without the need for prisms and mirrors, camera bodies have much smaller form factors, averaging less than half the thickness. The weight is relatively close, only typically shaving off a few ounces, but that’s not the point. You’ll be able to take it everywhere without the need for a massive camera bag. That makes it perfect for vloggers and beginner photographers!
- Shooting speed – Due to the lack of a mirror, these cameras have an easier time shooting rapid-fire images. This means it will be much easier to get those clutch shots you’re looking for.
- Improved Autofocus – Although DSLRs used to reign supreme in terms of autofocus, capabilities are actually stronger on mirrorless devices today. By combining phase and contrast detection on the sensor, autofocus is both faster and more accurate on modern mirrorless cameras.
- Better video capabilities – Mirrorless cameras are more geared towards a balance between photo and video. DSLRs have a harder time autofocusing while recording due to the mirror. In addition to this, 4k video recording capabilities are available on many mirrorless cameras – a feature typically reserved for high-end DSLR’s.
Top 5 Best Mirrorless Cameras For Beginners – Our Picks
Let’s get right into the picks. We’ve assembled a few options depending on what your budget is and how many channels and features you need!
1. Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digitial Camera (Our Pick For Best Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
As of 2018, Sony is absolutely dominating the camera market. With top tier choices at every price point, the a6000 was an easy choice for the best mirrorless camera for beginners. This is by far the most popular choice on Amazon with 4 1/2 stars at around 1200 reviews, so let’s talk about why you need to pick this camera up.
This was our number one pick for one reason alone: value. No other camera comes close to providing this quality and functionality at this price as the a6000. For an astoundingly low price you’ll have the ability to shoot incredible photos as well as some very strong video footage.
You’re getting a 24.3 MP Cmos sensor with 179 auto focus points, giving this camera one of the fastest auto focuses on the market – even on moving targets during video. At this price point, 24 megapixels is unheard of, and while it’s not always the best measure of quality, it certainly boosts the performance of the a6000. The camera is also capable of burst shooting at 11 fps, by far the highest burst available at the price point.
Video footage capabilities cap out at 1080p 60fps, meaning you’ll even be able to record some decent slow motion footage to add some flair to your content. One of the key features that has been setting Sony apart in the mirrorless game is their excellent low light capabilities. The a6000 is no different, with an ISO range of 100-25600. A newly developed sensor and processor means you can retain clarity even once the sun starts to go down.
Check out this incredible dusk photograph showcasing the quality attainable even with this cheap device.
Wi-Fi connectivity means your camera can easily upload photos directly to your phone or even Facebook, as well as be controlled remotely with a smartphone. Both the 3″ tiltable LCD and OLED viewfinder are gorgeous and very surprising for a camera at this price. This all comes together in a remarkably small form factor that only weighs 12 ounces with the included lens. The only small drawback we could find was the lack of a stabilization feature, but if you’re getting into photography or vlogging, you’re probably looking into some hardware options for that already.
To sum it all up, the Sony Alpha a6000 blows all of the competition away. It is the best selling mirrorless camera on amazon not just among beginners, but among all cameras, and for good reason. The quality is unmatched at the price, and because it has been available online for less than $600 in recent times, you’re probably not going to find anything cheaper anyways.
Finally, If all that still didn’t sell you, here’s a shockingly good example of how good the video footage is.
2. Sony Alpha A6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Best 4k Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
This camera is actually leagues ahead of the A6000, but may not be in your budget, depending on what your definition of a “beginner camera” is. It’s double the price of the A6000 (and that’s without a lens), but it is still far off from behemoths like the A7s2, so we still think it can be classified as a beginner recommendation. We think this is the definite choice when looking for a 4k mirrorless camera for beginners.
Like the A6000, it features a 24 Megapixel CMOS sensor. Sure, it, might be the same, but like we mentioned before, MP is not always the best indicator of performance. Plus, the A6000’s already stellar low light performance has been boosted from a 25600 ISO maximum to 51200. Go ahead and leave your lighting kit at home.
Remember how we said that the A6000 has one of the fastest auto focuses with 179 AF points? Well the A6500 has 425. It can adjust the autofocus in .05 seconds. That’s absurdly fast, and is quite amazing to watch, especially because the focus and exposure can be tracked on every single shot of the 11-shot burst mode, making every single shot in the burst come out perfectly.
As we’ve said before, theA6500 brings 4k footage to the table in a very big way – this ain’t your mother’s 4k. The 4k footage is captured as 20 MP of information (6k), and oversampled down to 4k, giving the footage an incredible amount of clarity and depth not reached with most other 4k cameras. If the 1080p 60fps wasn’t enough to meet your slo-mo needs, you’ll be happy to hear that the A6500 is capable of 1080p 120fps, allowing you to slow down your footage up to 4x.
This awesome short film test does a great job at demonstrating the A6500’s Low Light, High FPS, and 4k capabilities.
The next major leap forward in quality is from Sony’s 5-axis in-body image stabilization. While many modern cameras rely on stabilization within the lens, having it in-body allows your camera to remain stabilized regardless of what lens you’re using. This feature goes a really long way of improving the quality of your shots, especially if you struggle with shaky hands.
The screen is every bit as beautiful and clear. It is still fully tiltable, and is now outfitted with full touch capabilities, allowing you to adjust the navigate the menus and adjust the autofocus on the fly – even when the EVF is in use. We’ve found it to be very responsive, and makes the entire experience much more enjoyable and beginner-friendly. All of the Wi-Fi and NFC features have remained as well.
Finally, the body of the camera is more rugged, and the entire camera has been reinforced with moisture resistant technology. Alright, don’t go swimming with your camera just yet, it’s still very sensitive to water and you should always be very careful in the rain, but it will be much less likely to die if a few droplets get on it than other models.
If you’re a beginner with a lot of money to drop on a brand new camera, our suggestion is to go with the Sony A6500. It’s a direct upgrade from the already excellent A6000, and well worth it in our opinion.
3. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Mirrorless Digital Camera (Best Olympus Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
Alright, admittedly the naming scheme could use some work, but the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is still one of the best cameras on the market in this price range, and there’s plenty of reasons to buy it – some of you may even prefer it to our previous choices! Despite being the cheapest camera on the list, this camera was still able to impress us, and had to earn a spot in this article.
From the last two recommendations, you might be thinking that you need to spend over $1000 to get a camera with 5 axis image stabilization – not the case. The OM-D is by far the cheapest camera on our list to manage to implement it! If stabilization is very important for you but you don’t want to splurge on the A6500, this is a great option.
Sporting a 16 megapixel sensor, the image quality is still quite impressive, and you’ll still be able to shoot 1080p in up to 60fps. While the cheaper Sony option lacks a touchscreen, the OM-D has one that will allow you to adjust exposure, aperture and shutter speed at the tap of a finger. The screen is also able to tilt up 85 degrees, and down up to 45 degrees so that you can always see your shot.
One very interesting feature is the inclusion of a silent shutter, allowing you document anything without the camera making a sound. This is perfect if you photograph nature, are a private investigator, or are just a straight up creep!
The burst shooting mode hits 8.5 fps– not as high as the Sony options, but still a respectable number. Once again, Wi-fi capabilities are present, giving you remote control access and photograph sharing directly to the internet.
As you can see, the stats are pretty comparable to the other cameras. What sold us on recommending this camera was the gorgeous body design and aesthetic. The design is very classy-retro, and makes it a very strong choice if you’re the type to care about how you look while you’re shooting.
Olympus has placed a lot of attention towards marketing this towards beginners. There are several functions that adjust the settings for you, and tools to teach you how different settings will effect the shot before you take it. We think it’s a great option for you if you want to spend as little money as possible, or if you are a fan of the Olympus brand.
4. Panasonic Lumix G85 4K Mirrorless Camera (Best Panasonic Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
If the Olympus E-M10 II is the low end in terms of price and quality, and the Sony A6500 is the high-end, the Panasonic Lumix G85 is the perfect middle ground between the two.
While the 16MP sensor may initially sound weaker than the Sony ones, Panasonic’s advanced technology with no low pass filter gives the camera the ability to capture images that are still ultra sharp and detailed. The ISO goes up to 25,600, giving you low light performance only beaten by the A6500.
Better yet, the G85 is capable of shooting full 4k at 24 or 30fps If you are looking for a 4k mirrorless camera, but don’t want to break the bank on the A6500, this is your best choice. In terms of burst shots, you’ll be able to shoot up to 9 consecutive shots, which, once again, is the best option a non-Sony competitor has presented.
Like the last two options, Panasonic has included a similar 5-axis image stabilization in-body. What’s even better with this choice however, is that many Lumix lenses also include 2-axis optical stabilization, meaning that your images are basically getting stabilized twice. A setup like this will give you the most stable shots out of any camera we’ve recommended.
One of our favorite features is the post focus mode. This allows you to retroactively change what was focused on after the shot was taken, giving you a ton of versatility in a lot of your shots.
Another feature unique to the G85 is the excellent power saving mode. Battery life is one of the largest drawbacks when dealing with mirrorless cameras, but the power saving mode nearly doubles the amount of shots you’ll be able to get on a charge from 400 to 800. Sweet.
Like the A6500, the body features a splash and dustproof design, to an even further degree. You should be able to shoot in the rain and as long as you are careful and don’t completely soak the thing, you won’t damage your gear. The shutter implements a similar technology to the Olympus camera, meaning all of your shots will be relatively quiet compared to other cameras.
All in all, this is an excellent camera that can definitely compete with the Sony A6000 and A6500. This is a must buy if you are a fan of Panasonic, are looking for a compromise between the two Sony options, or if any of the extra features we discussed here are of interest to you.
5. Canon EOS M6 Mirrorless Camera (Best Canon Mirrorless Camera For Beginners)
Canon may be a little bit late to the mirrorless camera market, but that hasn’t stopped them from producing a high quality option that lives up to the Canon standard of quality.
The 24.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor is incredible, making this camera the only one on this list able to match the quality provided by Sony. Even the auto focus capabilities are top-tier with the Dual-pixel Phase detection technology which is able to quickly track faces in real time. The ISO range is even among the best at 100-25600, meaning the low light performance will be great!
Video is great and on par with all the other cameras – 1080p 60fps. Similar to the Lumix G85, The M6 has great 5-axis image stabilization that is able to work in conjunction with stabilizing lenses to produce ultra stable imagery. Burst shots are also about what we’ve come to expect in this price range – around 7-9 shots, depending on whether or not the AF lock is on.
Syncing photos with your phone is a breeze with Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth capabilities. You can control the camera remotely with a smartphone, transfer photos to another camera, or even send them directly to a printer.
This cute short film from Canon showcases what is possible with the EOS M6.
This camera actually is our favorite in one big category – the touch screen LCD. It’s great and intuitive for accessing the menu as well as adjusting the auto focus points. Even better, it tilts up 180 degrees all the way to the front for when you’re vlogging or taking selfies! We think that this totally makes up for the lack of an EVF.
Factors To Consider When Choosing The Best Mirrorless Camera For Beginners
All of the above cameras are excellent choices for your first mirrorless camera, but how do you know which one is right for you? Here are several different criteria you should take into consideration when choosing the best mirrorless camera for you.
ISO Range / Low Light Performance
If you’re planning on shooting at night, without lighting, or in other low light environments, the ISO range is a very important factor. The higher the number, the better the camera will be able to perform in dark environments, with some of our options even going up to ISO 51,200! Sony’s recent line of alpha mirrorless cameras is known for their best-in-class low light performance.
This is of course the first specification most people look towards when choosing their camera. Yes, it is as important as you think it is. Of course there are many other important factors contributing to image quality – A higher megapixel smartphone will be beaten by a DSLR any day due to sensor size. However, when comparing cameras on an equal playing field like the ones we’ve reviewed, it is safe to assume that higher megapixels will definitely improve image quality.
Video Resolution & Framerate
Obviously, you’ll only need to take this factor into consideration if you are a filmmaker or YouTuber, as opposed to a photographer. All of the suggested cameras support at least 1080p 30fps video recording, with some going as high as 120 frames per second.
High framerates are important if you plan on doing any sort of fluid slow motion shots. The higher the framerate, the slower you’ll be able to make your footage. Some vloggers also prefer to produce their content at 60fps.
Shooting in 4k has many benefits, including the ability to reframe your shots in post production without quality degradation. Most cameras in the beginners price range don’t support full 30fps 4k video, but we made sure to give you a higher budget option in case 4k is still important to you as a novice.
Cameras actually inspire more brand loyalty than almost anyone else. The camera industry is actually dominated by six or seven titans who all have a very large market share. The thing is, if you already own Canon lenses, it could actually be a bad idea to buy a Sony camera.
Lenses can require additional adapters to work with cameras of a different brand. Because of this, we made sure to give great recommendations for several different brands, so that you’ll have a great option regardless of what brand you choose to represent.
- Tilt/Flippable/Touch Screens – Tiltable and flippable viewfinders are very important for when you’re getting creative with your shots. Without one, you won’t be able to monitor your shots without keeping the camera at eye level.
- Image Stabilization – If you don’t own a gimbal, glidecam, shoulder rig, or pair of steady hands, this is a very important one for you. Most modern cameras have awesome image stabilization features that counteract the shakiness in your footage. Some companies and cameras have better implementations of this than others, so if you’ll be shooting handheld a lot, pick a device that has a strong stabilization, like 5-axis.
- Burst Shooting Modes – One of the biggest advantages of mirrorless cameras is the ability to shoot quickly. With burst modes and quick shutter speeds, you won’t ever miss the shot you want. The different cameras we recommended vary in terms of how many photos they are able to shoot in a second.
- Time Lapse – Most mirrorless cameras on the market today have time lapse features that enable the camera to shoot one photo at regular intervals to create time lapses.
- Wifi And NFC Capabilities – Most modern cameras have super cool Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities to increase the speed and ease of transferring data. These features will allow you to sync your phone with your camera to have every photo you take sent directly to your mobile device! Some will even allow you to control your camera with your smartphone.