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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Best Mirrorless Cameras for Beginners
Sony Alpha A6500
- 24.2MP APS-C Exmor sensor w/ advanced processing up to ISO 51.200
- Wide 425 phase detection AF points, Fast 0.05 sec. AF acquisition
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!
- Image quality rivals similar DSLRs
- Excellent autofocusing and electronic viewfinder
- 4k video recording
- Built in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity
- No vari-angle screen, tilting only
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk II
- Built-in 5 axis image stabilization for sharper images
- 2.3 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.62X magnification
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.
- Incredibly compact with small lenses as well
- Very good electronic viewfinder
- 5-axis image stabilisation
- 4k video capabilities
- Smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor
- 16.1 megapixel resolution lower than some
- Continuous focusing less than impressive
- Optical Zoom: 3.0
- Video Capture Resolution: 4K Uhd 2160P
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.
- Fantastic image quality
- Camera itself looks beautiful
- Quick start-up time
- Smallest and lightest Fuji in the X-Series range
- Autofocus not up to the standard of some
- 4k video recording maxes out at 15fps
- Not a vast improvement on predecessor
Panasonic Lumix GX85
- New 5-axis in-body sensor stabilizer works with LUMIX 2-axis optically stabilized lenses in video and still capture modes using class-leading Dual Image Stabilization
- Eliminates the need for low-pass sensor filters while boosting fine detail resolving power by nearly 10% over existing 16-Megapixel MFT sensors
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.
- Very small and light
- 4k photo mode effectively increases continuous shooting to 30fps
- Excellent video making features
- Post-Focus mode
- Micro Four-Thirds Sensor
- Design and build lagging behind competitors
- Controls and settings aren’t the best
Canon EOS M6
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase detection
- 24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS C) Sensor
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!
- Top notch image quality
- Low price point
- Great build quality and menu layout
- No in built electronic viewfinder
- Lack of 4k video recording
- Small lens selection
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!
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.