Photography / Buying Guide

Best of 2015: Mirrorless Cameras

It seems mirrorless camera technology has finally come of age, with new cameras in this segment dominating headlines over their heftier older sibling, the DSLR. Many of these cameras feature some incredible or even revolutionary features that potentially put them at the top of the pack once dominated by larger cameras. So, let’s just jump right in and take a look at fifteen of the latest and most impressive releases from the past year.


Making a huge splash in the mirrorless pool was Leica, who recently released an incredibly well-designed, full-frame mirrorless camera: the SL (Typ 601). This model raises the bar on numerous fronts with a best-in-class 4.4MP EyeRes electronic viewfinder with 0.8x magnification, internal DCI 4K video recording with the V-Log L gamma, and phenomenal 24MP images at up to ISO 50000, with a burst rate of 11 fps. Also, Leica is claiming to have the fastest AF system available in a full-frame camera.

Along with the excellent feature set, the SL (Typ 601) benefits from Leica’s made-in-Germany aesthetic and build quality, with a large grip, a top LCD, and rear LED touchscreen. The body is also weather resistant and made from two blocks of solid aluminum alloy. Connectivity is taken seriously, as well, with two SD card slots (one featuring the super fast UHS-II standard), USB 3.0, a full-sized HDMI port for 4:2:2 10-bit video output, and built-in Wi-Fi and GPS modules.


After successive years of spectacular and surprising releases, Sony has yet again brought to the table a revolutionary new model that took the market by storm: the a7R II. This, of course, is going to sit at the top of many mirrorless lists with its world’s-first back side illuminated full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor that can create impressive 42-megapixel images at sensitivities up to an incredible ISO 102400. On top of this, the a7R II takes things a step further with internal 4K UHD recording, a 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE stabilization system, and a revamped 399-point phase-detect AF system.

Following up on the a7R II and a7 II, Sony completed its update cycle by releasing the a7S II, which takes the 12-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and adds  internal 4K UHD recording, S-Log3 with Gamma Display Assist, and a Fast Intelligent AF system with 169 points. It also gains the 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE stabilization system and the spacious EVF found in the a7R II. Users looking for even more video-centric benefits will be pleased to hear that Full HD 1080p recording is now possible up to 120 fps for capturing slow motion.


Continuing their drive for high-quality APS-C format mirrorless bodies, Fujifilm took its flagship X-T1 and shrunk it down into the much more affordable and slightly slimmer X-T10. This model shares the 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II sensor of its bigger brother, along with Full HD 1080p video at up to 60 fps, a Hybrid AF system, and 8 fps burst shooting with sensitivities up to ISO 51200, granting users the ability to create images of similar quality. Also, it takes advantage of Fujifilm’s Film Simulation modes, which mimic the look and feel of many classic film stocks.

Another surprising release this year was the X-T1 IR, an infrared-sensitive model that is optimized for specialized photographic applications. This modified design is sensitive to light in the 3800-1000nm range, compared to the usual 400-700nm range in most cameras, which is ideal for fine art photography, as well as crime scene investigation and healthcare applications.


Jumping in early this year was Samsung, with its super-compact NX500, which many dubbed a mini NX1. Sharing the same image sensor and processing power as its older sibling, this camera offered a lot of great features in a very small body, including 4K video using HEVC (H.265) compression. At its core is a 28.2MP back side illuminated APS-C CMOS sensor for high-resolution imaging with improved low-light performance up to ISO 51200. Being paired with the DRIMe V processor imbues this camera with incredible speed in the form of 9 fps burst shooting and a 205-point Phase-Detection AF system. Also, the small body manages to fit dual command dials and a 3.0" 180° tilting touchscreen for hybrid controls.


It has been a year of upgrades for Olympus’s Micro Four Thirds line with the release of both the 16MP OM-D E-M5 Mark II and OM-D E-M10 Mark II cameras. The E-M5 Mark II improves upon its predecessor with better weather sealing, time-lapse shooting, a 40MP High Res Shot mode, and faster overall performance. This is thanks to the TruePic VII processor, which also improves the shooting rate to 10 fps and ups Full HD 1080p video to 60 fps. The body has been refined, while both the rear Vari-Angle touchscreen and electronic viewfinder got nice bumps in resolution. The E-M10 Mark II has many similar upgrades, though it only hits 8.5 fps in burst shooting and omits the new 40MP High Res Shot, weather sealing, and time-lapse mode.

Alongside these more traditional cameras, Olympus also developed the Air A01 Micro Four Thirds camera. This mirrorless camera has a lens-style body and is designed to be paired with a smartphone for a truly connected and powerful imaging system. It uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for almost seamless connectivity with your phone or tablet, ensuring use is not interrupted during shooting.

Not many of these types of cameras are out right now and Olympus is making a very nice model with a 16MP MFT sensor and TruePic VII processor, which enable an electronic shutter up to 1/16000 second, Full HD 1080p video, and a FAST AF system with 10 fps shooting.


After a few years of silence following its first mirrorless, Canon is getting back into the game in a big way with the release of the EOS M3 and EOS M10 this year. The M3 is a direct successor to the earlier models and sees a much-improved 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, a redesigned body, and the DIGIC 6 image processor. This model offers full HD video, a Hybrid CMOS AF System with 49 points and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC, as well. The EOS M10 gives some depth to the line by being an entry-level option. It is equipped with many similar features, though it uses an 18MP ASP-C CMOS sensor and a much smaller body that forgoes a large grip. Also, the touchscreen on the M10 can tilt up 180° for selfies.


Long-awaited and desired, Panasonic released the Lumix DMC-GX8 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera this year with an impressive list of upgrades. The rangefinder-styled camera sees a brand-new 20.3MP Digital Live MOS sensor for higher resolution imaging along with UHD 4K video at up to 30 fps. It has a tilting screen and rear touchscreen for composition, along with a DFD AF system and multiple 4K Photo Modes. This model also benefits from the incorporation of an in-camera stabilization system and Dual I.S. with compatible lenses.

Another UHD 4K camera released this year was the Lumix DMC-G7, which leverages the combined power of the 16MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor and Venus Engine 9 processor to speed up operation and quality. This results in burst shooting up to 8 fps, sensitivities up to ISO 25600, and an SH mode that uses an electronic shutter to hit 40 fps. Also, its 4K UHD video is available at 30 or 24 fps at 100 Mbps in the MP4 format, as well as providing access to multiple 4K Photo Modes.


Relatively quiet in the mirrorless arena this year, Nikon did keep its presence known with the release of the 1 J5, a super compact mirrorless with a 20.8-megapixel CX-format BSI CMOS sensor that will deliver images with fine detail up to ISO 12800. Satisfying video shooters, this model offers internal 4K UHD recording up to 15 fps, as well as Full HD 1080p at up to 60 fps. Along with excellent video specs, photographers can take advantage of the EXPEED 5A processor’s speed with continuous shooting up to 60 fps, or 20 fps with continuous focus using the Hybrid AF system with 105 phase-detect areas. And, it features a tilting 3.0" 1,037k-dot touchscreen for control and has Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC.

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The Panasonic Liumix GX8 image that corresponds to the parragraph describing it, is missing. 

TYPO: Panasonic LUMIX GX8

Hey Cesar

Thank you for your comment. We've fixed the problem.

I tested several of the mentioned camera, and I own(ed) some of them. To be honest, I think that nowadays one of the best is the Leica SL - although I have some concerns on the usability in some situations, as well as on the available lenses.

Another great pair of cameras is the two Sony a7r&s II: I tried them, and I was seriously tempted to switch from my current Nikon set (which I love) to Sony.

But - for me - the mirrorless camera of the year is the Leica Q: I could stay hours talking about it, but I think it truly created something of new in the photography world.

One final comment is for the big-two: Canon and Nikon. I can't understand their strategy: they have the skills, the competences and the expertise to develop top level mirrorless camera, but none of them is seriously moving into this market niche. What are they waiting for? What are they scared from? To me it remains a mystery...

Hello Bernardo,

Thanks for your comments. Your thoughts are shared with many a photographer looking and waiting for the perfect mirrorless camera that fits in their budget. Also, I agree that the Leica Q is one of the most interesting cameras from this year, but unfortunately as "mirrorless" refers specifically to interchangeable lens cameras, it did not make this list. Though you should expect the Leica Q to have a place in at least one future article.

Thanks Shawn, I look forward to reading the next article then! I will add my specific comments (including some weaknesses) about the Q there. 

The Canon G5X is missing. The camera is superb.

Hello Harry,

Please understand that the common definition for a "mirrorless" camera includes an interchangeable lens system. The Canon G5 X, while a very capable camera, is classified as a point-and-shoot and therefore did not make the mirrorless list.

Thanks for reading!

What? No Leica Q? 

Olympus is the only Mirrorless camera with Time-lapse option? or maybe a camera where I can connect a Intervalometer?

Hello Carlos,

Olympus is not the only mirrorless camera with time lapse, the reason for the mention here is that it was one of the notable additions in the E-M5 Mark II compared to its predecessor. From personal experience I can say that the Sony cameras offer a Playmemories app for purchase to add this functionality, the Leica SL has a built-in interval function, and that many manufacturers will accept a third-party intervalometer for precise interval capture functionality.

If you need information for a specific model please get in touch with some of our knowledgeable experts and professionals via the chat function, phone, or by coming in to the B&H SuperStore. Thanks for reading!

Ok, thank you. :)

Hi Shawn,

Please tell me does the Sony a7 rate in comparison to theirmore expensive a7II, the a7s and a7R?   Is the quality up to par? I want a full frame but can't aford the more expensive cousins- thanks Tina

Hello Augustina,

If all you are concerned about is pure photographic image quality, the a7 is very comparable to the a7 II, which only offers slight improvements when it comes to the actual imagery, though the a7 II does offer a new body with in-body stabilization and improved processing.It sits right in the middle of the a7S and a7R resolution wise, so it is a great all-around option, especially for starting out. If you need advanced video capabilities or low-light performance, the a7S may be the best option, and if you need more resolution (unlikely) the a7R will fill that gap. 

If you are just looking to get started with full-frame imaging, the a7 is the most affordable option and you should be very happy with it. When you learn over time and advance your skills, you may find another camera will better suit your needs. But for now, with today's technology, the camera is much less of a concern than it used to be and anyone should be able to create spectacular images with whatever device they have.