In another exciting year for mirrorless cameras, we have seen the arrival of several models that continue to raise the bar for photo and video performance. With options ranging from compact retro designs to rugged SLR-style powerhouses, there has never been a better time to take the leap to a mirrorless system.
Panasonic Releases High-End Options for Photo and Video
We will start with Panasonic—the manufacturer has had a very prolific year, with three new mirrorless releases in the Micro Four Thirds format. Officially revealed in January, the 20.3MP Lumix DC-GH5 was cause to rejoice among video fans who coveted a portable system because it is capable of 4K video at up to 60 fps and features internal 10-bit 4:2:2 recording at resolutions up to DCI 4K at 24 fps. On top of these already impressive specs, it records at up to 180 fps in Full HD 1080p and even offers a 6K anamorphic mode for using those specialized lenses. A full-size HDMI port is available, as well, for getting 10-bit video at up to 4K 60p, and 5-axis image stabilization can help smooth out handheld shots. The GH5 doesn’t forget about photographers either, with 12 fps shooting in full resolution or even a 6K PHOTO mode that can capture 18MP images at 30 fps.
Not content with simply focusing on video, Panasonic has also released the photo-centric Lumix DC-G9. It incorporates the 20.3MP sensor with 5-axis stabilization from the GH5, but directs its processing power to achieve 60 fps with the electronic shutter function. The G9 also brings an 80MP high-resolution mode for use with still subjects, which takes advantage of its sensor-shift IS to capture and compile eight sequential images into a single, massive raw file. Its large 0.83x EVF achieves a 120-fps refresh rate for lag-free viewing, while a 225-area depth-from-defocus AF system can produce stills at 20 fps with continuous autofocus. This versatile package is made complete with extensive weather sealing, dual SD card slots, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to make for a powerhouse of a camera. Not to mention that the G9 also does UHD 4K at 60 fps and Full HD 1080p at 180 fps, remaining competitive in the video department, as well.
As for the more affordable release of the year, the Lumix DC-GX850 packs quite a punch for a package that weighs less than 9.5 oz without a lens. It sports a 16MP sensor capable of UHD 4K video at 30 fps, and a 3" 1.04m-dot touchscreen monitor that flips up 180° so you can take selfies easily. The GX850 deviates from the current standard by using microSD cards for storage, as part of an effort to make the camera as compact as possible. It also forgoes an EVF in favor of a more clean and polished look, but does incorporate a well-hidden built-in flash in its design.
Sony Shows Power and Speed with New Flagship
One of the pioneers in the mirrorless segment, Sony has delivered two professional full-frame models this year. The company made a big splash with the Alpha a9, its new sports-oriented flagship full-frame camera that leaves little to be desired. A back-illuminated stacked CMOS sensor is capable of 24.2MP raw stills and UHD 4K 30p video, and offers 5-axis image stabilization to compensate for camera shake. This is paired with an updated BIONZ X processor to achieve 20 fps continuous shooting with continuous AF via the 693-point hybrid system. Mind you, this is with an electronic shutter, which causes no blackout on the electronic viewfinder and allows you to set the shutter speed to values up to 1/32000. Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are available on the a9, as well as an Ethernet port that allows for wired FTP and FTPS file transfers at fast speeds.
Released later in the year, the Alpha a7R III incorporates several of the features of the a9 for improved performance. Keeping the full-frame, stabilized 42MP sensor with UHD 4K video capability from its predecessor, it offers faster 10 fps shooting with either a mechanical or electronic shutter, along with a refined autofocus system for better tracking performance. The a7R III also comes with a 3.68m-dot EVF, a 3" LCD with touchscreen capabilities, and dual SD card slots, all of which are borrowed from the a9’s design. Both cameras give Sony’s high-end lineup a breath of fresh air and make its mirrorless system even more attractive to professional photographers.
Fujifilm Updates Mid-Range Lineup with Retro and Pro Designs
Offering two different design options to suit your preference, Fujifilm introduced the SLR-styled X-T20 and the smaller X-E3 with the look of a rangefinder camera. Though they have their differences, both models share several core features: a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, UHD 4K video at 30 fps, a 325-point AF system, and a maximum 14 fps continuous shooting with the electronic shutter. They also have a 2.3m-dot EVF and a 3" touchscreen LCD, though the X-T20 also allows for tilting the screen.
In tune with its more compact design, the X-E3 does away with the D-Pad on the right side in favor of customizable touch controls for the LCD screen, as well as a small joystick for adjusting the AF area. It also adds Bluetooth connection for copying files to a smart device, while the X-T20 is limited to Wi-Fi for wireless media transfers. Regardless of these small variations, the main difference between these models is their exterior design, and Fujifilm’s double-sided approach allows you to choose the version that best suits your personal taste.
Leica Pairs Old School Look with Modern Functionality
Sporting the slimmest body of any digital M camera to date, Leica’s M10 is focused purely on photography and produces 24MP stills while claiming improved dynamic range and high ISO performance. Paired with the sensor is the new Maestro II processor, which comes along with 2GB of buffer that can handle 30 raw images at 5 fps. Most notably, the M10 incorporates a larger 0.73x optical rangefinder for precise focusing, with automatic parallax compensation and a viewfinder frame selector to visualize the scene with different focal lengths. Its size and operation suggest a return to its roots for Leica, while still taking advantage of modern digital technologies.
Borrowing the new Maestro II processor from the M10, the TL2 is equipped with a 24.2MP APS-C sensor for capable still shooting and a large 3.7" touchscreen LCD that takes up most of the back. Unlike the M10, this camera offers UHD 4K 30 fps video and is also considerably faster with continuous shooting up to 20 fps and a 1/40000-second shutter speed when using the electronic shutter function. An interesting feature is its 32GB of internal memory, which couples with Wi-Fi connectivity and a USB 3.0 Type-C port for easy file storage and transfer. Don’t worry, an SD card slot is still available for those who prefer traditional storage methods.
Leica’s most recent mirrorless offering this year is the CL, which takes the sensor and processor of the TL2 and adds a 2.36m-dot EVF for eye-level framing. The button layout is also significantly different in this model to enable faster use: the LCD has shrunk to 3" to make space for a D-pad and three buttons in the back, while two rotating dials with customizable buttons are available at the top. Most attributes remain on par with the TL2, including 24.2MP stills and UHD 4K video, except for three noticeable drawbacks: continuous shooting is reduced to 10 fps, the fastest possible shutter speed is only 1/25000, and there is no internal memory available for file storage.
Canon Offers Affordable Cropped-Sensor Cameras
Canon has released two mirrorless models which take cues from the M5 to produce compact, affordable packages for both entry-level and advanced photographers. The M6 uses a 24.2MP APS-C sensor and the DIGIC 7 processor to create images, shooting as fast as 9 fps and using Dual Pixel AF for quick and accurate autofocus. With a 3" tilting touchscreen, built-in flash, Full HD video at 60 fps, and 5-axis image stabilization for video, this camera is able to pack a little bit of everything under its hood for a versatile offer. The M100 is a very similar camera to the M6, with an even lower price tag that is achieved by removing image stabilization, stripping the hot shoe and microphone jack, and reducing the continuous shooting speed to 6.1 fps. Of note, both cameras offer great wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth options.
Olympus Updates Compact SLR-Styled Model
In a quieter year for Olympus, the company has one new SLR-styled mirrorless camera called the OM-D E-M10 Mark III. A significant update to the previous model, it keeps the 16.1MP Micro Four Thirds sensor with 5-axis stabilization but incorporates the TruePic VIII processor to achieve UHD 4K video at 30 fps. The camera also ups its contrast-detect autofocus system to 121 points, and can shoot stills as fast as 8.6 fps. A 2.36m-dot built-in EVF with an improved 1.23x magnification is used for viewing, with the 3" touchscreen LCD also available for use.
Do you own any of these cameras, or are planning on getting one? How do you think your current model stacks up against this year’s competition? Let us know what you think in the Comments section, below.
I have the OMD EM10 Mark III by Olympus. And for an entry level mirrorless camera, and my first, It's not bad at all! I am enjoying it!
A grid with features and prices would be very helpful. There are so many parameters it is hard to keep track of. Whether they record >30 min, sensor size, dynamic range, stabilization, mic and headphone jacks, what size stills can be captured while recording video, etc. I have GH2 and GH4, looking at GH5 to use my several lenses, but $2K is stretching my limited budget. Want a 4K video camera with macro and 10X zoom to use in a underwater housing. Looking at Olympus TG5 which checks everything except 4X instead of 10X zoom. Very economical camera and similar priced UW housing, but want to compare in a grid.
Hello James. Thank you for the feedback, and thank you for reading as well. If you are interested in doing some comparisons yourself, we do have a tool that lets you do that on our website. Here is a handy guide on that function: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/find/jsp/comparisonexplained.jsp
I agree. I think the TG-5 is the best 2nd or 3rd camera to buy. I would prefere a 3x or 4x zoom over a 10x zoom. The less a lens has to do the better. I am willing to bet that the 3x-4x zooms are much sharper, and cost less.
On the Leica CL, where are the ports for wired connectivity? The specs say HDMI and USB3, but I don't see them, and the early reviews online have been sort of skating over this issue. My experience with wireless downloading (Fuji, Canon) is that it is too slow for more than just a few images. Sneakernet-with-SD-card is a fallback option but a step backwards. As I recall, Apple removed card readers from current Mac Pros and included only USB3.
Hello Bruce. I have not had the chance to personally handle the Leica CL yet, so I am not completely sure about the ports. Leica does emphasize their integrated Wi-Fi module for fast transfer, though personally I still rely on my card reader as well. I even prefer it, as I can just leave my computer transfering my files and pop a new card for the next time I need to go out shooting. Thanks for reading the article!
I wonder: do these newest Sony cameras still exhibit that pesky Sony harsh highlight rolloff and excessive noise reduction in video that smudges away detail? Every Sony camera I've seen so far from the cheapest action cam to the expensive full-frame mirrorless stuff has these problems. I am amazed at how Panasonic seems to blow away all of its competitors in video quality.
Hello Jody, thanks for your comment. I do not have any personal experience with the new Sony mirrorless cameras, so I can't speak for their effectiveness in the video department. Panasonic still attracts a large video crowd for sure, and the GH5 packs lots of interesting features that are rarely found in other mirrorless models (the 6K Anamorphic mode comes to mind).
Having used Sony cameras for the last 20 years, including the mirrorless cameras, I'm not sure what your are referring to. That simply isn't a factor that we deal with, and we shoot in all sorts of lighting situations both indoors and out.
I have to agree with Garry, Have not been saddled with that problem on my A7II or even A900 back when. Perhaps it is the glass people use that makes a difference, as I have seen the comments about smearing often enough.
Does nikon cares about mirrorles at all?
Hello Salvador. Nikon did not release anything this year, but they do have some mirrorless models. Their mirrorless interchangeable lens lineup is called the Series 1, and has cameras such as the 1 V3 and 1 J5 which are worth looking up. Thanks for reading!
Clearly the Nikon 1 series is not something to look out for since Nikon announced it is discontinuing their mirrorless program, at least for the 1 series that is. Now if Nikon would come up with a new mirrorless system it would probably be worth checking out as Nikon has earned its merits as a manufacturer of quality cameras. But I guess they'll face some serious competition as Sony and Fuji are well astablished in the mirrorless market for larger sensor system cameras ( I think Olympus and Panasonic will have to face the limitations of m43 sensor sooner or later)
Hello Jeoffrey, thanks for your comment. It does seem that Nikon is disregarding the 1 series at the moment, but they are definitely still planning to make moves in the mirrorless market. They confirmed this year that they are developing a new mirrorless camera, and their most recent statements point towards a high-end model to compete with the likes of Sony and Fuji. Only time will tell what they end up doing, but I believe many are excited for Nikon to ramp up their efforts in this segment.