Photography / Buying Guide

Mirrorless Cameras: A Buying Guide

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Mirrorless cameras have been on the market for a decade, but they have really begun to make waves in the past few years. Most serious photographers would have certainly been shooting with a DSLR camera just a few years ago, but now many have traded in their DSLRs for the smaller and lighter form factors that mirrorless cameras provide. Not only are mirrorless cameras usually lighter and smaller than their DSLR counterparts, but they’re quieter, as well. With no mirror to slap up and down, street photographers, as well as wedding and theater photographers can now shoot virtually unnoticed.

Choosing a mirrorless camera can be a daunting task with lots of options, from sensor size, to video capabilities, to lens systems, and more. We will cover them all, and give you the information you need. Buying your new camera should be an exciting experience, so let this guide help you make an informed decision.

Lens Systems      

What differentiates mirrorless cameras from other compact cameras is the fact that they have interchangeable lenses. This makes a world of difference, and if you’ve never had an interchangeable-lens camera, you will be quite surprised by how it will change your photography.

Compact point-and-shoot cameras have a built-in lens that typically gives you an optical zoom with a variable aperture and small sensor. What this means is that while you might have the ability to shoot both wide and telephoto zoom lengths, you don’t have as much control over selective focus or shallow-depth-of-field techniques. Selective focus, often accentuated by pronounced bokeh, is one of the first things that people notice about photos taken with larger sensor, interchangeable-lens cameras, because now you have the option to shoot with a long zoom lens with an f/2.8 aperture, or a prime portrait lens with an f/1.4 aperture.

 

Sample shots were taken with a GH4 and SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 25mm T0.95 lens.

A good thing about mirrorless cameras is that because there is no mirror inside the camera in front of the sensor, their design allows for a very short focal flange distance, or the distance between the lens mount and the plane of the sensor. Because of this short distance, lenses that have a large focal flange length can be used on mirrorless cameras when you have a compatible adapter.  This means that, in addition to a wide selection of mirrorless-dedicated lenses, most SLR lenses can also fit onto your mirrorless camera as well.  This is important to know if you have a bunch of old lenses lying around or are making the switch from a DSLR to mirrorless; chances are there are adapters to fit your lenses to your new camera. Of course, you should always check compatibility before making any purchases.

While using older “legacy” lenses on a mirrorless camera is a great benefit, every pro has a con and, in most cases, the downside in this situation is that the adapters usually do not allow for autofocus capabilities, and sometimes do not transfer any electronic signals at all, so aperture must also be set manually. This can be a drawback for some photographers, but for videographers who normally change aperture and focus manually, this isn’t a drawback at all. 

Maybe you don’t have any lenses from other cameras, or you want to sell them all and forget about adapters. In that case, there is certainly no shortage of great lenses designed specifically for mirrorless cameras. Due to increasing attention to mirrorless systems, manufacturers have invested a great deal into providing a wide variety of lenses, from fast prime lenses to wide-to-tele zoom lenses. Whatever you are looking for in a lens, chances are you can find it in a mirrorless line.

Sensor Size

Different mirrorless cameras come with various-sized sensors, and this is where things can get a little confusing. To make things simple, think of a full-frame DSLR camera as having the largest sized sensor, and a point-and-shoot as the smallest sized sensor. Most mirrorless cameras fall somewhere in the middle, packing an APS-C sensor, which is common in consumer DSLR cameras, or a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which falls between an APS-C sensor and a point-and-shoot. While they are the minority, there are now a few cameras that do have a full-frame sensor, and there will probably be more to come in the future.

Micro Four Thirds cameras feature a 17.3 x 13mm sensor, and are most commonly made by Panasonic and Olympus. Both manufacturers use the same mount, as part of the Micro Four Thirds standard, so lenses are interchangeable between brands. Olympus usually utilizes in-camera stabilization, while Panasonic tends to have their stabilization in the lenses. However, Panasonic has recently begun to utilize in-body image stabilization in some models, as well.

A little bit smaller than the Micro Four Thirds sensors are the Nikon 1 (CX format) and Pentax Q series cameras, which use sensors closer to the size of point-and-shoot cameras—1" for the Nikon 1, 1/1.7" or 1/2.3" for Pentax Q—allowing these lines to be much more compact than other mirrorless cameras.  

A significant reason that some people like mirrorless cameras is that they are smaller and lighter than DSLRs, and a lot of that has to do with the smaller sensor size. While a smaller and lighter camera is great for some, it, too, has a drawback. Generally speaking, larger sensors perform better in lower light, and produce less image noise in photos taken with higher ISO sensitivities. If low-light photography is important to you, you might want to consider one of the full-frame mirrorless cameras, or at least one with an APS-C sized sensor. If you are more concerned with a smaller camera size, and don’t require the best in low-light performance, a Micro Four Thirds camera might be a good fit for you. This is not to say that cameras with smaller sensors are not suitable for low-light shooting, rather, it is one of the main benefits of a larger sensor size.

Sample shots were taken with a GH4 and SLR Magic HyperPrime CINE 25mm T0.95 lens.

Viewfinders

Viewfinders are another thing to take into consideration, particularly if you’re switching from a DSLR or other type of camera that has an optical TTL (through-the-lens) viewfinder. A TTL viewfinder means that what you are seeing is exactly (or very close to) what the lens is seeing. Since, by design, there is no mirror to direct the view of the lens to the viewfinder, many mirrorless cameras utilize an electronic viewfinder, or EVF.

There are, of course, benefits and disadvantages to the EVF, just as there are for an optical viewfinder. One thing that can be distracting is that touch of lag time between the moment that something is actually moving and the time that you see it in the EVF. As technology improves, this lag time is becoming shorter and shorter and, in some cameras, is already imperceptible.

Another disadvantage is that an EVF eats away at your battery power, just as using your LCD screen would. This is minimal, and usually not a huge concern, but just another thing to take into consideration.

As for advantages, there are quite a few, the first of which is focus peaking, which has become a desirable asset when comparing cameras for video or manual-focus uses. Focus peaking is a real-time focusing aid that highlights edges of contrast within the frame with a colored line, which helps to avail a more objective system of determining critical sharpness when focusing manually.

Focus Peaking

The other main advantage an EVF has is its ability to give an accurate depiction of any exposure, color balance, or other camera-setting adjustments prior to shooting. Whereas an OVF simply displays the subject as it is, an EVF gives you a closer representation of the final image.

Autofocus

DSLR cameras use what is called phase detection to focus on a subject, while mirrorless cameras use contrast detection. Phase detection takes advantage of the mirror in a DSLR camera to divide the incoming light into pairs of images, compares them, and then quickly focuses the lens on the subject.

Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, use contrast detection to measure the contrast between pixels on the sensor until it detects enough contrast to find that the image is in focus. The downside of this focusing method is that it is slower, and more difficult to use in low light. It is also less effective when trying to focus on moving objects.

The good news for mirrorless shooters is that many newer cameras are now using a hybrid focusing method that combines phase- and contrast-detection methods. This is another consideration to weigh before choosing your camera. If fast autofocus, especially in low light, is important to you, you should consider a camera with a hybrid autofocus system.

Video

Video recording is one area where mirrorless cameras and DSLR cameras are pretty much neck and neck, when it comes to quality. Of course, mirrorless cameras are going to offer video shooters more flexibility with lenses than DSLR cameras, but both systems offer cameras that can shoot full HD, and some cameras can also now shoot 4K.

Get the most out of 4K video recording by connecting your mirrorless camera to a 4K recorder/monitor.

"If you’re making the move up from point-and-shoot cameras to a mirrorless, then the video quality is going to be leaps and bounds better than what you’re used to."

What mirrorless cameras improve upon, compared to many DSLRs, is the way they shoot, not necessarily what they can shoot. Because mirrorless cameras focus with continuous contrast-detection, you can more easily focus, and maintain focus, on moving subjects in your frame. DSLRs also utilize contrast-detection focusing when recording movies, or when working in live view, but since it is the inherent technology within a mirrorless camera, it is often more refined and responsive.

If you’re making the move up from point-and-shoot cameras to a mirrorless, then the video quality is going to be leaps and bounds better than what you’re used to. For one thing, you will be able to control the depth of field via the aperture, and also manually focus your shot. This gives you greater creative control, not to mention much higher-quality files.

The smaller size of mirrorless cameras means that the camera’s light weight allows for longer shooting with less fatigue than shooting video handheld with a DSLR camera.

If you are a serious videographer and want professional video capabilities, you might consider a mirrorless camera that records video in a high-quality format, such as AVCHD or XAVC S, and one with which you can use external microphones, headphones, video monitors, and recorders.

Wireless Functionality

The wireless capabilities that have been included in many of the mirrorless cameras on the market are truly incredible. Most cameras with Wi-Fi also have a partner app for either iOS or Android that allow you to control the camera from a smartphone or tablet.

NFC allows cameras to “bump” each other, or another smart device, to share photos.

These apps range from basic live view and shutter control, to full control over shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and other settings that you would normally need to adjust on the camera.

Some cameras enable you to transfer images directly to a smart device from your camera, or even right to your favorite social media sites. Another great Wi-Fi function is Near Field Communication, or NFC, which allows cameras to tap-to-connect with one another or a smart device, to share photos. This is especially helpful when you’re with friends and you want to share photos without having to remember to email them later.

Choosing Your Mirrorless Camera

By now you should be able to make an informed decision about buying your next camera. Keep in mind the main points we discussed. If image size and quality, especially in low light, is important to you, choose a camera with either an APS-C or full-frame sensor. However, if you’re looking for a compact camera that offers more control and options than a point-and-shoot, choose one of the cameras with a smaller sensor.

Most mirrorless cameras will fall into one of three categories: consumer, prosumer, and professional. This doesn’t mean that a professional camera will guarantee professional-looking photos, rather, that it is built with the capabilities that professionals need and want.

Consumer

Entry-level consumer mirrorless cameras are a great starting point for someone looking to make a move from point-and-shoot cameras to something with a little more flexibility and control. Often, entry-level mirrorless cameras are a replacement for consumers who are using an entry-level DSLR and like the interchangeable-lens feature, but want something that is lighter and smaller. These cameras usually offer an LCD to compose your photos instead of an electronic viewfinder. Consumer-level mirrorless cameras typically have a smaller sensor, allowing for a smaller and lighter body size, while sacrificing a little bit of image quality.

Prosumer

In between consumer and pro cameras are “prosumer” cameras. In the world of mirrorless cameras, prosumer-level cameras will probably be most comfortable for photographers making the move from a DSLR to a mirrorless model. Prosumer cameras have a slightly smaller body size than professional-level cameras, while offering more control and better image quality than consumer cameras.

Another thing that makes prosumer mirrorless cameras appealing is that many of them have an electronic viewfinder, as well as the LCD screen on the back of the camera. This makes the transition to mirrorless much easier if you are accustomed to looking through an optical viewfinder. With both an EVF and an LCD screen, problems with viewing your composition in bright light are minimized.

Professional-Level Cameras

If the highest-quality video and imagery is what you seek from a mirrorless camera, a professional-level camera will deliver what you need. These cameras straddle all formats, including Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, and full-frame and also tend to feature larger, more durable bodies that are often weather sealed. Additionally, they are characterized by faster processors, which aid autofocus performance and buffering when shooting large files or burst sequences. These cameras are also ideal for shooting professional videos, thanks to their support for external monitors, headphones, and microphones, as well as external video recorders.

These are the cameras that you will want to consider if you are an advanced hobbyist or professional who is used to the feel and performance of a professional DSLR camera. They offer the most creative control through their inclusion of fully manual adjustment capabilities and support for interface customization. Additionally, professional-grade cameras are usually the preferred choice when working in adverse situations, such as extreme low lighting or fast-action situations, due to their expanded imaging capabilities, sensitivity, and refined focusing performance.

After you choose your preferred sensor size or system type, think about what kind of lenses you might already own, or what types of lenses exist for the various cameras you are considering. Some manufacturers have a wider line of lenses for their mirrorless cameras than others, and this might be important to you if you like options.

Key Features to Consider:

Sensor size
Form factor
Lens mount
Viewfinder
Video capabilities
Wi-Fi
Hot shoe
Battery grip

Once you have narrowed down the larger, important aspects of choosing your camera, take a look at what features are important to you. Do you need HD or 4K video? Maybe you are a social-media guru and really like the ability to share photos online directly from your camera.

Another consideration is the accessories that are available for the various cameras. If you use an external flash, you’re going to want to make sure compatible flashes are available, and that the camera has a hot shoe to which one can be attached. Other accessories that might be important are battery grips, cases, remote controls, and apps―just to name a few.

You should now be prepared to choose the mirrorless camera that best suits your needs. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online for a Live Chat.

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Are there any mirrorless camera that can couple with Nikon G lens via an adaptor and allow aoutofocus? Does Nikon have a full frame mirrorless camera? What I would like is a mirrorless camera that has there own lens but also allow me to use the Nikon G lens for my full frame and D crop lens. I hear that Nikon will be announcing a new mirrorless soon - True?

If you wanted to use your Nikon G lenses on a mirrorless camera and retain full functionality, your best option would be to go with one of the Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras and the Nikon FT1 Mount Adapter. Though, Nikon does not make a full frame mirrorless camera. Unfortunately, I don’t know if/when Nikon might be releasing a new camera until an announcement is made. As soon as an announcement was made, we would have the information up on our site.

I am a long-standing Canon user, now with a mirrorless eos m3, and looking to upgrade. My criteria are strange, and the MOST important is camera weight, as I am an ultralight backpacker. Other important items are battery life, image quality, camera speed, and ruggedness of the system. The Canon eos m10 appears appealing, but wish it would be upgraded while keeping the weight down. I'd consider other brands if they offered significant advantages. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations? Wait for an upgrade? I'm doing the PCT next year so can't wait too long!

The Canon EOS M10 appears to be one of the lightest weight mirrorless options currently on the market. It would be slightly lighter than your EOS M3, and does appear to have slightly better battery life. If your main concern is weight, the M10 might be the way to go. Unfortunately, I don’t know if/when Canon might release an update. Though, even if it was updated before your event, there is no guarantee that the upgrade would be this light.

HI,

After doing some research on mirrorless cameras, I've narrowed the possibilities to the Canon EOS M6 and the Olympus PEN-F.  My point of comparison is a Nikon D7000 with several lenses that I love, and will continue to use.  I am looking for something with fast shutter reponse, and excellent image quality while being more compact for travel.  Any thoughts on the two cameras?

Between the Canon EOS M6 and the Olympus PEN-F, they would both be very responsive in terms of shutter lag.  The upside of using the PEN-F would be the faster continuous shooting rate and the greater amount of autofocus points you can use over the EOS M6.  Additionally, the PEN-F would offer a vast array of lenses with a direction connection within the Micro 4/3 system while the Canon EF-M system only gives you a handful of its own lenses and adaptation with Canon EF and EF-S.   The downside with the PEN-F is the smaller sensor.  The EOS M6 would offer a larger APS-C sensor, thus a larger image area to work with.Between the Canon EOS M6 and the Olympus PEN-F, they would both be very responsive in terms of shutter lag.  The upside of using the PEN-F would be the faster continuous shooting rate and the greater amount of autofocus points you can use over the EOS M6.  Additionally, the PEN-F would offer a vast array of lenses with a direction connection within the Micro 4/3 system while the Canon EF-M system only gives you a handful of its own lenses and adaptation with Canon EF and EF-S.   The downside with the PEN-F is the smaller sensor.  The EOS M6 would offer a larger APS-C sensor, thus a larger image area to work with.  If you're doing an equal amount of stills and video, you might want to opt for the EOS M6 based on its larger sensor and features such as its built in microphone port.

Hi, great overview. Can mirrorless cameras shoo HDR?

Thanks,

Marc

Yes, most Sony cameras will have a DRO (Dynamic Range Optimizer)/HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode built in. 

Hi there, 

I loved the article it helped sort through some of the questions i had down to what really mattered. 

I have one more question that i was wondering if you could help with before i make a purchase to take on a month long vacation. i've noticed that lots of the mirrorless cameras are sold as kits, in one of several combinations such as standard zoom lens; standard zoom lens plus large range telephoto; standard zoom lens plus flash. I'm an amature photographer but would love to spend my money on a lens that works for all purpose shooting and delivers great results right away. I'm tempted to stear clear of the kits in favor of body only and sold seperate low (2.0 etc) apperature lens for selective focus and speed shooting. If i go this route there seem to be a ton of options from $200 all the way up to $800. What sort of things should i look for in the various available lenses is fixed focal length the best way to go, maybe an explicit wide angle, or at the end of hte day will the kit lenses really be the best bet.  

Thanks,

That’s a great question. To really stay within the larger aperture range, prime lenses are best way to go. For example, having a variety of wide, normal and telephoto prime lenses will help cover most situations such as when shooting landscapes or portraits.  Lenses from Zeiss, particularly for the Sony E mount, come in these focal lengths for both full frame and APS-C sensors. Here is a list of those lenses available from Zeiss for the Sony E mount cameras.  https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?atclk=Lens+Mount_Sony+E-mount+%28Full+Frame%29&ci=17912&N=4196380428+4291107378+4099560915+3999800997

I am having a hard time deciding between the Fuji X-T2 and Sony a6300. Do you have any recommendation? I know Fuji offers more lens options but the body is more expensive than Sony. The most important factor is image quality. Which one is better? and Can either one of these be used for kids sports?

Hi Luka - 

The a6300 is a very easy camera to use and offers speedy, accurate auto focusing making it ideal for sports shooting:

Fast-focusing and 4K-shooting, the Alpha a6300 from Sony is a versatile APS-C-format mirrorless digital camera designed for multimedia image-makers. Revolving around a redeveloped 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor, clean image quality is provided with a wide expandable sensitivity range to ISO 51200, along with accelerated readout speeds for internal 4K30 and Full HD 1080p120 video recording with full pixel readout. Stills shooters also benefit from the apt processing speed, which enables continuous shooting at 11 fps for up to 21 raw frames in a burst, as well as 14-bit raw file output. Complementing both stills and video, the sensor and processor combination also avails 4D FOCUS, which combines a wide-coverage 425-point phase-detection system with a 169-area contrast detection system for quick and precise focusing performance. This focusing system also enables High-density Tracking AF for more efficient and accurate tracking of moving subjects across the image frame. A well-rounded camera for both photographers and videographers, the a6300 is characterized by its speed and further qualified by its refined image and video quality.

The apt 4D FOCUS system also lends itself to a variety of focusing functions for refined accuracy, including Lock-on AF, which maintains focus on moving subjects throughout the use of a configurable frame that is set over the desired moving subject, and Expand Flexible Spot, which employs neighboring focus points to retain focus on moving subjects even if the originally selected point loses focus. Additionally, Eye AF can be used to base focus on recognized subjects' eyes for portraits and is available in both AF-S and AF-C modes. Autofocus can also be used in conjunction with the Focus Magnifier function for critical focus when homing in on minute subject details.

 A robust magnesium alloy body offers a durable profile, and also incorporates dust and moisture seals to protect against harsh environments

  • A rigid metal lens mount better supports working with larger, heavier lens designs.
  • An ergonomic grip structure is ideal for long shooting sessions and facilitates easy access to the main control buttons and dials.

hi B &H,

I am looking to buy a mirrorless camera for my husbands upcoming birthday.  He currently has a Nikon D7000 which with a few Tamron lenses.  I know some basics about cameras and appreciated your recent article but i am hard pressed to choose a camera that would be similar to what he has in function and has the lightness of a mirrorless camera.  Any suggestions would be helpful.

thanks!

hi B &H,

I am looking to buy a mirrorless camera for my husbands upcoming birthday.  He currently has a Nikon D7000 which with a few Tamron lenses.  I know some basics about cameras and appreciated your recent article but i am hard pressed to choose a camera that would be similar to what he has in function and has the lightness of a mirrorless camera.  Any suggestions would be helpful.

thanks!

You might look at the Sony a6500. It would be an excellent compact option for a mirrorless camera. It has amazing image quality and low light performance, while also being a fast camera with a great autofocus system.

Amazing article! Detailed yet quick and simple to understad. Much appreciated mate.

Great article but it does leave me with some questions. My wife and I are professional landscape and wildlife photographers. And we are Canon shooters for over 30 years. Our current gear includes Canon 6D, 5DMarkIII, and the 70D among others with a wide range of Canon lenses including 17-49mm, 24-105mm, 70-300, 100-400 among others plus flash equipment, tripods, etc. What would we be facing if we decided to switch to mirrorless bodies?

Hi Dan -

I would simply add a mirrorless body and retain your other superb Canon cameras:

A well-rounded mirrorless camera for both stills and video use, the black EOS M6 from Canon offers apt imaging qualities with a refined, functional physical design. Making use of a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, both high-resolution stills and Full HD 1080p/60 video can be recorded, while the DIGIC 7 image processor affords a wide expanded sensitivity range from ISO 100-25600, along with quick continuous shooting up to 9 fps. The sensor's design also facilitates Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which uses phase-detection autofocus for quick, accurate, and smooth performance to suit both stills and video use. Additionally, Combination IS 5-axis image stabilization also helps to realize steady, shake-free recording by minimizing the appearance of camera shake.

First of all, great piece! Concise and brief; it was a joy to read. I'm in need of advice: I've been saving up for a mirrorless camera for quite some time now and I'm torn between the Sony a6000 and the Fuji XT10. This will be my first step into photography; not aiming to become a professional but I just want to have an outlet for creativity outside of med school. I hear that both cameras are great although I have reservations for each after going through numerous review sites and forums. Sony appeals to me more based on the specs (11fps continuous shooting, fast AF, 24.3 MP, etc.) and I feel that in the long run, it would still remain as competitive as it was when it first came out. However, I often see negative reviews about Sony service centers almost everywhere (especially from where I live). Also, the lens options seem very limited to me. Fujifilm, on the other hand, has *better image quality (at least from what I often hear). I also like the colors Fujifilm produces; it looks more vivid even when in raw so little to no editing is required. But the specs just doesn't look too competitive and I feel that it would eventually lose its appeal when other brands start to release newer cameras. 

I'm aiming to do a lot portrait shots, street and everyday photograpy, maybe some landscapes too. I'm just in need of a camera that will help me grow into photography without having to drastically change my entire gear very often. Lenses, of course, are an exception. Thanks! Would love to hear your thoughts very soon.

Hi Anna - 

We have dozens of employee, professional shooters all, who own both of these cameras and love them enormously.  It seems that you have a personal and visual preference for the Fujifilm X-T10.  I recommend following your heart and your eyes, and go X-T10.

I am looking at moving from my Canon DSLR to a mirrorless setup -  either Sony A6300 or Fuji X-T20.  I mainly do  nature photography - flying birds, landscape and street scenes. Would you recommend one of these makes over the other?  Looking at lenses I want to have two better (not kit) zoom lens 18-50 range and 50 - 300(?) range.  Would I get  a better choice and value on the lens side with one make over the other?

I would appreciate your comments am open for learn if there is another brand of camera in the same price range that should be considered.  Thank you. 

That would be a difficult decision: both the a6300 and XT20. Between the two, I would likely lean towards the Sony a6300. I find it to have one of the better autofocus systems in that class of mirrorless camera, which would be great for taking photos of birds in flight. It also has excellent image quality and low light performance. As for lenses, you could look at the Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens for a standard zoom and the Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS Lens for a telephoto zoom.

Dear B&H,

I do engineering for forensic purposes and take a lot of photographs. My current and favorite camera so far has been a Canon G-12. I've taken over 30,000 photographs with it but the display is starting to flicker. I've been considering replacing it with a mirrorless but I'm not excited about carrying a bag of lenses. I like being able to stuff the G-12 into my pocket and have it available at the top of a ladder or under a wrecked truck. The G-12 lets me focus to objects as close as a couple of centimeters. I also like the fold out screen. I sometimes need to shoot around corners into compartments in which I can't see directly into. The G-12 rarely  takes a spoiled shot unless I inadvertently activate one of the button controls with gloved hands. Maybe I should just get a new Canon G series. Any advice is appreciated.

If you don’t want to switch out lenses, and were extremely happy with your G12, I would likely go with another G series point and shoots from Canon. If you’ve found that the G12 is a tool that works well for what you shoot, I feel that another G series camera would be the way to go. You might checkout the Canon PowerShot G5 X Digital Camera. It has a vari-angle LCD like the G12. It has a larger higher resolution sensor which should make it better in low light while also providing higher resolution files. While the minimum focus distance isn’t as close as with the G12, it is still better than you would get with a mirrorless camera (short of using a macro lens).

Thanks for a well-written, comprehensive overview of the mirrorless vs dslr camera options.  I have several great optical Nikon lenses (AI and non-AI) as well as several digital lenses and a Nikomat and D40 and D80 bodies. Are there any mirrorless cameras (current or on the horizon) which will be backwards compatible with the Nikon mounts (and have an APS or full-frame sensor)?  And if not, what's the difference between an E and EF mount lens in the Sony series? (I think I might be leaning toward the Sony for the frame size, but the Oly and Panasonic lense options sound very sexy).  

Depending on the body, there may be an manual F-Mount lens adapter that could work for your needs. I would recommend sending us an email to askbh@bhphoto.com and let us know the specific lens and body combo you were looking to use. 

In regards to Sony lenses, Sony E-Mount lenses are designed for APS-C sized sensors, however they can also be used on Full Frame bodies as well. If used on a Full Frame body, there would be a 1.5x crop factor of the focal length. Sony FE-Mount lenses are designed for Full Frames bodies, and will similarly have a 1.5x crop when used on APS-C sized bodies. 

Hi, I have always liked fotography and as I am heading to South East Asia soon I'd like to buy my first camera. It will be a backpacking trip and therefeore I am looking for a lightweight camera (mirrorless seems the best option as I'd like to be able to switch lenses). But the mirrorless offer is huge and I can't decide myself between a APS-C or m4/3 system. I would like my camera to respect some conditions: - Approx. 1000€ budget for the camera + the kit lense and maybe an extra fixed lense for low light pictures
- I will mainly take pictures but I am interested in video (So 4K is welcome)
- Weather sealed (resistant)
- In-body stabilization. Not sure how important it really is?

I've mostly been hesitating between the Panasonic Lumix G85 which matches all the conditions I want but  maybe is too bulky? and the Sony a6300 which is APSC but has no stabilization and has bulkier lenses.

Can someone help me to choose between APSC and m4/3 ? Is there really a gap between these 2 systems for someone like me? Knowing that I am a beginner (I won't print my pictures) and that I want to be able to evolve with my system without having to buy a new camera soon? Thank you in advance for your help.

I would lean towards the a6300.  While some E-mount lenses can be larger than M43 lenses, I don’t think there is that big of a difference between kit lenses.  The a6300 is also significantly thinner and smaller than the G85, which should make up any difference in the added size from the lens.  I find the AF system in the a6300 to be among the fastest and most accurate on the market for mirrorless cameras in its class.  It also has amazing image quality and low light performance.  It has some great auto features for starting out, while is something that you could also grow with in terms of manual control over exposure.  You could look at the Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Lens.  The 16-50mm would be a fairly compact kit lens and has OSS, which would provide approximately 4-stops of compensation.  If you are then looking for an additional prime lens, you might consider the Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS Lens.

Also this Discussion should have a way of editing one's typos after posting!

An excellent clear, no nonsense guide for those like myself, who was once an "enthusiast" level film camera photographer ( Pentax Z-1),  who got sidetracked into using (albeit good quality) compact cameras and then lost their way in (dare I say it) smart phone photograhy. Now wanting to get serious about photograp[hy again, I see mirrorless DSLR as the way ahead and now face a steep learning curve towards my npurchase decision.

I recently got into photography as a hobby and am looking to purchase a mirrorless camera.  Because I'm not a serious photographer, I was looking into more affordable cameras such as Sony a5100, a6000.  I really like the 180 flip of the a5100 but have read that the a6000 is better in functionality.  Is there a huge difference between the two?  The prices are similar and since I don't know too much about cameras, I'd love some feedback/opinion/recommendations. Thank you!

The a6000 will have the edge on the a5100 in terms or dynamic range and color depth.  The a6000 will also be faster and has a view finder.  While it would be hard to go wrong with either, I would lean towards the a6000.

I am a serious photographer using a full frame Canon 6D, but as I get older it is harder to carry around all day when I travel (which is when I do much of my photography).  I'm thinking of adding a mirrorless camera to take on trips, but I can't sort out all the information to select one.  I care about weight, including an all around high quality lens, and the ability to adjust as I do on my DSLR.  I don't care about video at all, and prince is not a very important concern since.  I will be in NYC in a few weeks and hope to pick up a camera after having the ability to hold several options, but I'm hoping you can narrow the field and direct me to a good choice. 

Hi - I didn't get any answer to my question.  Can you help please?

If you would like to use your current lenses, your best bet would be to go with one of the Canon mirrorless cameras and the Canon EF-M Lens Adapter Kit for Canon EF / EF-S Lenses.  You might look at the Canon EOS M5 Mirrorless Digital Camera.  It would weight significantly less than your current 6D, and allows for full manual exposure control with intuitive controls.  It would be a solid mirrorless option, and with the adapter you would still be able to use your great Canon lenses. 

Hi B&H,

Great Article! I am starting to look at a first real camera and am under the impression for what I am going to use it for, a mirorless is better than a DSLR. That being said, would you reccomend an a6000 or an M3 body over one another? Everyone that I have talked to would say to get a mid-range body and nicer lenses. Would you agree? Lastly, would you suggest a "Best value" setup for either one? I've been looking at nicer lense than the stock, unless you would reccomend.

Thanks!

Alex

Between the a6000 and the Canon M3, I would lean towards the a6000.  I find the a6000 to be a better camera all around.  It has the better overall image quality, low light performance, and autofocus.  As for lenses, if you are just starting out, going with one of the lens kits isn’t a bad idea.  You can then add lenses to your kit as you move forward in your photography and get a better feeling for what you need for want you want to shoot.  The Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm and 55-210mm Lenses would be a solid option for starting out.

Hi B&H!

I have been looking at the Canon EOS M5 which I love the build quality on, I love the new AF touchscreen and the more mechanical feel to it when taking photos than my previous Sony camera. The only thing I miss is 120 fps video in 1080p. I dont really care about 4K, but slow motion is a big weak spot for me and since this will be my only camera I would like to feature everything I want - which is: easy to use manual settings, easy to use focus, 1080p 120 fps and about the size of the M5 (can do with slightly bigger aswell, don't want it to be too small) and EVF.

Is there another camera that matches the M5 in most aspects but also has 120 fps?

Thank you!

 The Sony a6500 would have pretty much every feature that you are looking for, including the 120fps at 1080.  Though, if you have already had a Sony mirrorless camera and did not like the feel, I don’t know that you would like the feel of the a6500 any better.  Unfortunately, there aren’t any mirrorless options quite like the M5 that sill also have 1080 at 120fps. 

I own  a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon D610 with a variety of Nikon & Tamron lenses.

Looking to switch to mirrorless because I just can't deal with the weight.

However, I do not want to give up the quality I get from these camera/lens combinations.

Suggestions??

If you don’t mind waiting a bit for the camera, you might look at the Fujifilm X-T2.  Fujifilm makes some fantastic mirrorless cameras, and the X-T2 looks to be an amazing little camera.  It would be considerably smaller and lighter weight than your Nikon cameras, with fantastic image quality and lens options. 

Hi B&H,

I'm just starting photography as a hobby, and I would like to buy a mirrorless camera for starter. Do you have any recommendation for me?

Thank you!

Hi Icechoco - 

The black Sony Alpha a5000 Mirrorless Digital Camera is a versatile and compact mirrorless camera that features a 20.1 megapixel APS-C-sized Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor to produce high-resolution still images and Full HD movies with marked low-light quality and sensitivity to ISO 16000. The image processor contributes greatly to minimizing overall noise levels and also affords a wealth of speed throughout the camera for recording up to 3.5 fps

Hi, I'm confused of such choice. I photograph mainly portraits and fashion. I want to go to of the mirrorless, but not at all, I can't choose. Not even from a large selection of lenses. I watched already a Hasselblad, but this one has slow focus. Can you help me?

Hey B&H!

Thanks for the great article. It helped me understand sensor sizes and how that might impact shooting. I'm still debating between the Sony a6500 and the Panesonic LUMIX G85 as an upgrade from my Nikon D3300. Any advice you could give?

I'm a filmmaker who also takes a significant amount of still photos. I'm used to, and enjoy the more bulky DSLR feel and where the viewfinder is placed in the G85 (easier for photos). However, I can't help but think of what the ASPC senor might do for me since I rarely use a ton of professional lighting as I'm mostly in run and gun vlog/doc style shooting. 

This camera will eventually become a B-Cam for a 2 camera set up. Hoping to purchase a Sony a7sII or GH5 in the future based on what brand I buy now.

Many thanks,

Cecelia

Between the two, I would lean towards the a6500.  It would be the better option for video, as would the a7S II in the future.  The a6500 would be better in low light and has a flat picture profile option for video.   I find the Sony system in general to have the advantage for both photo and video.

Hi

I have a Nikon D80 with a kit lens and a fast Sigma prime. Recently the mechanics oh the D80 body locked up. While I do intend to replace the D80 body, I'm also considering something more portable. I like the LX100, but I'd be willing to carry a little more than what it weighs. Ideally, I'd like a large sensor and a fast lens in a very portable package. 

If you are looking for a point and shoot, and don’t mind a prime lens, you might look at the Fujifilm X70 Digital Camera.  It is slightly more compact than the LX100 while having an APS-C size sensor and a lovely wide 18.5mm f/2.8 Lens (28mm Equiv.).  Fujifilm has been making some fantastic high end point and shoot cameras, and this one would be no exception.

Hi,

My partner and I are looking for a mirrorless camera for our upcoming honeymoon to Japan, we have not owned a mirrorless camera before so unsure where to start.

We have looked at the Sony A6000, Olympus E-M10 Mark II and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX80. Can you advice which would be the best one?

Many thanks

While there are more lens options for the Olympus and Panasonic cameras, I would likely lean towards the a6000.  It’s a great little camera, extremely user friendly, while also have fantastic image quality/low light performance.  I also find that the autofocus system is fairly fast and accurate.  All-in-all, I think that the a6000 would be a fantastic option for a mirrorless camera for a holiday or honeymoon. 

Thank you very much, Christina!

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