by Alex W.
So you've decided that photography is a hobby you want to pursue, and after delving into the DSLR vs Mirrorless debate you have your heart set on a lightweight mirrorless system. But which one? Well, there is no easy answer to the question "What is the best mirrorless camera for beginners?"
There might not be an easy answer, but there's certainly a lot of very viable choices. Here we look at our choice of the five best entry level mirrorless cameras to take you one step further on your (hopefully) lifelong journey of photography!
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Sony have proven to be one of the leaders in mirrorless cameras since they released the highly acclaimed and still popular Alpha A6000 back in 2014. The Sony Alpha A6500 is their most recent model in this particular range, and it's certainly still holding it's own in the mirrorless camera market
The Alpha A6500 offers a huge amount of features to both beginner and intermediate photographers. Boasting a 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor it's image quality rivals that of any entry-level DSLR, and the autofocus system that Sony have developed is one of the best on the market. The electronic viewfinder is crisp, clear, and fast and it offers 4k video recording to boot. If you're not a total beginner in photography, or you're willing to jump in at the deeper end of the pool, then the Sony Alpha A6500 is the perfect mirrorless option for you, and you're unlikely to outgrow it's capabilities for a good few years!
The OM-D E-M10 Mark II was a fantastic little camera for beginner photographers, and while the Mark III doesn't offer huge improvements the little tweaks that have been made are significant. Newcomers to photographers will absolutely love this camera.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III works off a 16.1 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, and while it has been criticised due to most of the market moving towards the larger APS-C format it still boasts very good image quality. The smaller sensor also means a smaller and lighter camera body, and more compact lenses to mount on the camera. All this results in a tiny camera boasting huge potential. People won't look twice at you while you're carrying this, but it boasts 5-axis image stabilisation for those low light shots as well as recording in full 4k video. It's a great choice for beginners who want something small and discrete enough to carry all day.
The Fujifilm X-A5 is Fuji's newest iteration of their range of entry-level cameras, replacing the X-A3 that was launched 18 months ago. This is one of the newer cameras on this list, and with it comes even more advanced technology.
It uses a similar 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor to the X-A3, but with a few tweaks and a faster image processor in addition. The updates give it an enhanced ISO range and quicker image processing, and it's in image quality where the X-A5 shines. The Fujifilm sensors are always top drawer, and this is no different, with the images produced rivalling those of any Nikon or Canon APS-C sensors.
The aesthetics are also a standout factor here, and we'd go as far to say as Fuji's retro-inspired styling makes this the best looking camera on this list. The autofocus system isn't up to the standards of the Sony A6500 though, nor is the 4k video recording which maxes out at 15 frames per second.
Not only that, but the range of top quality Fujifilm X-Series lenses is renowned among the photography world.
I'm not even going to try explaining the Panasonic method of naming their camera ranges - All you need to know is that this is seemingly the spiritual successor to the very impressive Panasonic Lumix G7 and it builds on the successes there very nicely.
We're back to the Micro Four-Thirds sensor with the GX80, with it being a 16 megapixel sensor similar to the one found in the Olympus mentioned above. That doesn't stop it producing excellent images though, something that is helped by their removal of the optical low-pass filter. It also boasts a new image processing chip and continuous shooting of up to 8fps.
Panasonic have long been considerate of video makers too, so as you would expect they offer full 4k video recording, as well as a 4k photo mode which effectively ups your continuous shooting rate to 30fps at 8 megapixels. Just to add another new feature to the mix, the GX80 also offers a post-focusing feature, which allows you to take a series of frames at different focus points and then decide where you want focused afterwards. Whether it's useful in real life situations is dubious, but it's certainly a novelty.
Canon have jumped on board the mirrorless camera train and brought us a few offerings of their own, and while they're not quite the class leaders in this market they offer a great alternative to some of the pricier models out there.
The EOS M6 is squarely aimed at the beginner photographer, but despite that it utilises the same 24 megapixel APS-C sensor that the more advanced M5 uses. This means there is no compromise on image quality between the two models. The result? Absolutely fantastic image quality at a relatively cheap price. Of course there is a tradeoff though, and that is the absence of an eletronic viewfinder, meaning you'll have to rely solely on the LCD screen on the back. It also misses out on 4k video recording capabilities and has a fairly small lens selection due to Canon's late entry into the mirrorless market. Still, if you're after great image quality at a low price point this could well be the camera for you!
Mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller than your average DSLR. The image sensor is approximately half the size of a standard 35mm frame which allows for more compact body construction and lenses without sacrificing image quality. This factor alone makes them very desirable for travel and street photography. They are also lighter, which is ideal for smaller framed people, or those who carry their camera around all day.
One of the main advantages to mirrorless cameras over DSLRs is that they are much more quiet, especially when it comes to shooting video. The electronic shutter on many of the newer models are nearly completely silent. They also offer more creative freedom in the sense that many of them have silent shooting modes, art filters, and full HD video recording at 60fps (frames per second).
When it comes to most mirrorless cameras being smaller there are a few disadvantages. First is that they usually have fewer megapixels than comparable DSLRs. This will only matter if you plan on printing your photos bigger than 16 x 20 inches though, so if you're not planning on doing that then don't worry about it.
Second disadvantage is weight distribution while carrying your camera for long periods of time or while walking around all day. To counter this some manufacturers have added a neck strap while others have devised their own ways to distribute the weight by using the shoulder strap and accessory flash.
There are a few other advantages to mirrorless cameras such as in camera image stabilization, built in Wifi and GPS, and improved battery life over most DSLRs.
If you need more information on these or any other advanced features I recommend that you visit DPReview's website which has many detailed reviews for all of the major manufacturers such as FujiFilm (the company I use), Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, and Canon. They also make great point and shoot digital cameras if this is what you're looking for instead of a DSLR.
First, mirrorless cameras are becoming more and more popular. When I was shopping for my own first camera back in 2005/2006, there weren't many options and most of the choices were DSLRs. There was a huge gap between "point and shoot" cameras and DSLRs, and the only option if you wanted to stay compact but improve your photography was to get good at using manual settings.
Today, the gap between point and shoot cameras and DSLRs is closing. Mirrorless cameras are taking over more of the market while DSLRs are becoming more compact (and even mirrorless) themselves. The gap between beginner level cameras and high end cameras has shrunk; these days it's not unusual for a beginner DSLR to have more features than the top of the line mirrorless cameras just a few years ago.
The debate about whether one type of camera is better than another has largely faded away, since each comes with its own set of tradeoffs that are unique to each person's needs and wants in what they want out of their camera.
But whatever type of camera you are looking for, if you are just starting out with photography, one of the most important factors is the price. Many people simply cannot afford to spend $1,000+ on a new camera before they know whether or not they even like taking pictures with it.
Mirrorless cameras provide an excellent camera for beginners on a budget because you can purchase one for $300 to $500 and get the features of top-tier DSLRs.
They're smaller and lighter. This makes them easier to carry around on trips or hikes. They don't have an optical viewfinder. Some think this is a disadvantage, but others actually prefer this feature. It allows you to see the final shot as it will appear in photos and videos. Image sensors are getting larger. This is another advantage many mirrorless cameras have over dSLRs.
There's a wide variety of mirrorless cameras available from several different manufacturers for beginners to choose from, so if you're looking to purchase your first camera, take a look at some mirrorless options before deciding on which you'll buy.
There are several different types of mirrorless cameras available on the market today. One of the most popular is the rangefinder style camera, which takes its name from an older type of film camera that used two separate optical systems to form the image. These cameras feature a small rangefinder window in addition to their electronic viewfinder, and they mount lenses on a relatively large sensor. The rangefinder window shows you what the lens is seeing, while the electronic viewfinder allows you to preview your shot and offers more detail and information about the scene in front of the camera.
Another popular mirrorless type has a single electronic viewfinder and mounts its lenses directly onto the body itself with no mechanical connections between them. These cameras usually use a smaller sensor than rangefinder models, and they may be more compact as well. However, these two types of mirrorless cameras do have certain advantages over one another.
Rangefinder camera offer several important advantages. They are generally lighter and more compact than single electronic viewfinder models, which is an important consideration for those who plan on carrying their camera all day long. They can also use lenses from film cameras that mount directly onto the mirrorless model without requiring any adapters, allowing you to work with a variety of older optics as well as new ones.
Another benefit of rangefinder cameras is that their viewfinders are not affected by bright sunlight. If you've ever used a point-and-shoot camera or other type of digital single lens reflex model in bright light, you know how difficult it can be to see the display screen. However, rangefinder camera finders remain visible and may even gain a slight advantage over single electronic models in bright light conditions because they don't have their own electronic displays to wash out.
Finally, the close-up performance of rangefinder cameras tends to be superior to that of single electronic viewfinder models. The reason for this has to do with the way that rangefinders work. When you focus a lens on a single electronic camera, the image in the viewfinder automatically adjusts as well. This makes it easy to judge your subject distance, but it also adds a level of inaccuracy to your shots. Rangefinders show you exactly what the lens sees, which is helpful when you are working in close, where depth of field can make it difficult to judge parallax error.
If you are considering buying a mirrorless camera for the first time or replacing an older model that has lost its appeal, you'll also find that rangefinder cameras tend to be less expensive than single electronic viewfinder models. This is especially true for older models and those from lesser-known manufacturers.
The chief disadvantage of using a mirrorless camera with a rangefinder is that it can be tough to find one with the features you want. Rangefinders are smaller and lighter, which means they have fewer buttons and dials than single electronic viewfinder models do. In addition, rangefinder cameras tend to lack certain features such as in-camera menu systems that make it easier to change your settings on the fly. For the most part, rangefinder cameras are simpler affairs, which can be a positive point when you're shooting but isn't always convenient.
Another disadvantage is that rangefinder models typically aren't very good for video recording. While some offer the ability to capture clips in high definition, they generally lack the ability to capture smooth footage in low light. If you're attracted to the idea of using your mirrorless camera for video, then a single electronic viewfinder model with an articulating display that allows you to see what you are recording is probably the better choice.
Rangefinder cameras can be tough to find on store shelves, particularly if you are looking for one with modern features. For the most part, they are sold online or at local camera stores that cater to enthusiasts who are willing to do their research before making a purchase.
The most important thing you can do to take care of your camera is to keep it clean and free of dust and debris. Your lens and sensor will thank you for it, so be sure to give them a quick wipe with a microfiber cloth every now and again - especially if you're out in the elements or in dusty environs.
One of the most common problems I've seen with older mirrorless cameras is inconsistent battery life, so be sure to carry a few extra charged batteries in your camera bag at all times. Don't wait until the low-battery warning light comes on to swap out for a fresh one.
Mirrorless cameras have a significantly larger sensor surface area than DSLRs, which means an increased risk of dust contamination. Some cameras come with systems for vibration-cleaning the sensor, while others require that you send your camera in to have it professionally serviced. Either way, this is not something you want to ignore or forget about. For example, I've had three different Sony sensors go bad over the past four years due to neglecting my "dust check" reminder on my A7R menus!
I can't tell you how many times I've heard stories from clients who lost the contents of their memory cards because they filled up and didn't buy or bring along an extra one. Don't let this be you! I'd recommend having at least three memory cards, so you can hot swap if needed, or better yet, invest in some type of automated backup system like the Data Robotics Drobo.
If you're serious about your landscape photography, then investing in a sturdy tripod is non-negotiable. While I was fortunate enough to receive a Manfrotto as a gift many years ago for my college graduation (which I still use today), there are countless less expensive options out there that will suit your needs just fine. Just remember that tripods aren't meant to support all of your camera weight on their own; they rely on the center column for support. The more you spend, the lighter and more compact your tripod will be. Just don't get suckered into spending a ton of money on a carbon fiber tripod unless weight is extremely important to you - because I can guarentee that it won't be after lugging it around for a few hours!
Don't roll your eyes. I know it's not for everyone, but if you forget to bracket or don't have time before sunset, sometimes this option can help salvage a decent shot in a pinch. You can even use your camera's self timer to take three separate shots with different shutter speeds and have your camera combine them into a single image with better dynamic range.
While most photographers are adamant about sticking to their manual exposure settings at all times, sometimes it's just too dark outside to use an aperture of f/2.8 and still have quick enough shutter speeds for sharp images. If this is the case, try using your camera's Auto ISO mode to control the settings for you. Since newer Sony cameras have the ability to change sensor gain levels in Auto ISO mode, it can be especially helpful in low-light situations that call for high ISOs.
This one should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway! It's always a good idea to shoot in RAW unless you know exactly what your post-processing workflow is going to involve, and that it won't require the flexibility RAW files provide. Otherwise you're wasting precious storage space by shooting compressed JPEG images (which also results in limited dynamic range).
I think everyone gets this one, but it can't be emphasized enough; there are certain scenarios when using manual exposure settings will yield better results than relying on your camera's choice of shutter speed or aperture for you. If there's even the slightest chance that you'll need to manually override some aspect of your exposure (e.g., when photographing moving subjects), I'd recommend sticking with all manual settings. If you're shooting landscapes or still life, by all means use aperture priority mode to control depth of field and shutter priority mode to freeze motion with a fast enough shutter speed. Just know when not to use them!
This tip is similar - but opposite - of the previous one: Sometimes "perfect" exposure is too much for a particular scene, and turning on HDR will actually give you a more realistic image. I'm not talking about those tacky images that look like someone turned up the contrast in Photoshop; those are easy to spot from a mile away! If you've been shooting for any amount of time, then your eye probably has a good understanding of what looks natural and what doesn't. Sneak peeks at your LCD screen don't always cut it! Trust what your eyes tell you + what your camera tells you, and if they're both telling you to turn on the HDR mode in certain situations, then do it!
Spot metering should not be overlooked when photographing landscapes. In fact, I'd recommend setting your exposure compensation to "-1", taking a meter reading from a middle tone in the sky (clouds are great for this), and exposing for that area while shooting in manual mode. If done correctly, this can ensure that nothing else in the scene is over-exposed while still capturing the right amount of dynamic range from a backlit scene.
If you've been waiting months/years to photograph a particular scene, don't let it go by if there's even a slight chance that the light will be decent! You might not have another chance to shoot that view again until next year, and that would be a shame. Keep in mind that great light can happen at any time of day - just because sunset is known as "magic hour" doesn't mean it has exclusive rights on those beautiful warm tones! Use those early morning or late afternoon hours to your advantage when photographing landscapes, architecture, or anything else with amazing natural lighting scenarios. In other words...
...Traditionally, "magic hour" refers to the hour before sunset. But it doesn't stop there! If you keep an eye out for great lighting throughout the day (not just at "the golden hour"), you might find yourself with some really special shots of cityscapes or landscapes lit up by warm morning/evening light. It's also a nice way to break up your shooting time if you're not particularly interested in photographing the same scene during sunset and magic hour - which can be difficult for those who live farther north (i.e., me).
This is sort of a catch-all tip that doesn't quite fit anywhere else, but I think it's important enough to mention: Even if you're photographing a particular scene that you've seen countless times, think of it as the first time every time. Try to shoot each composition with an open mind and forget about your preconceived notions for how you've framed up that view in the past. I'm not saying this is easy - especially when shooting something like a landscape or cityscape with so many possibilities - but trying to have fun with your camera can help break through creative blocks!
The more images you take, the better/more prepared you will be when "magic hour" comes around. This is true no matter what genre of photography interests you, but during golden hour it becomes even more apparent. there's one thing I wish I'd done differently when I first started photography: shoot in manual mode more! My old self would have been too intimidated to go out on a limb and give manual mode a shot. But now, I feel like I'm missing out by not using it all the time.
It may seem like all I've talked about in this article is photographing landscapes and cityscapes (and the occasional wildcard), but don't forget that your camera is still a fantastic tool for everyday photography. In my mind, they go hand-in-hand! Also, if you're interested in getting better at shooting action or portraits, give it a shot when you have the time! Having a tough day at work? Take some headshots with your camera to cheer yourself up. Visiting family/friends? Take pictures of them while they're not looking. Whatever you want to shoot, just get out there and do it more often!
Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera: Compact APS-C Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Canon EOS M200 Compact Mirrorless Digital Vlogging Camera with EF-M 15-45mm lens, - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/ 2.95' LCD - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Mirrorless Camera with 14-42mm II - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Fujifilm X-A5 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
PANASONIC LUMIX GX85 Camera with 12-32mm Lens, 4K, 5 Axis - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera w/ 15-45mm Lens - Wi-Fi, - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
As you can see, many of the mirrorless cameras competing in the market today have similar sort of specifications, with just a few tweaks to make them stand out to people with different interests.
Panasonic, for instance, have the excellent video potential. Meanwhile Fujifilm focus more on still image quality and design, with the likes of Olympus going heavy on features.
If you still didn't find the right camera body for you, read more about the best camera for amateur photographers here and find the model that suits you best.
It's really down to what you want from your entry level mirrorless camera, but rest assured that whatever it is you do want will be covered by one of the manufacturers. If not, there are still DSLR cameras to consider as well!
About Alex W.
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.