Despite having only been “a thing” for a little over ten years, mirrorless cameras have swiftly ousted DSLRs as the enthusiast’s picture-taker and video-capturer of choice.
Key to their appeal is that they offer the flexibility and performance of a DSLR in a (generally speaking) more compact package. That’s because, while mirrorless cameras have large sensors and interchangeable lenses just like a DSLR, they don’t need to accommodate the bulky mirror and pentaprism you’d find in a DSLR’s optical viewfinder setup. It’s for this reason that mirrorless cameras are also known as compact system cameras or CSCs.
While they all have that one thing in common, there are big differences in price, specification, features and performance. This guide features our favourite models across the entire category: entry-level, premium, video-centric, stills-centric and all-rounder. If you’re shopping for a mirrorless camera and feeling a little overwhelmed by the breadth of choice, start here.
Video, photos – or both?
Some cameras here excel at video, others are masterful with still photos, and one or two are flexible all-rounders. Consider your requirements carefully before buying.
Select your sensor
From Medium Format to Micro Four Thirds, mirrorless camera sensors vary wildly in size. A bigger sensor usually means a larger, heavier camera (and often a higher asking price) but can also give you more detail, improved low light performance and the ability to shoot with a shallower depth of field.
Lens is more
Mirrorless cameras support interchangeable lenses, but manufacturers tend to use their own systems. Before you pick a camera, consider the range of lenses on offer and how they might suit (or not suit) your needs.
Mirrorless cameras start out quite affordable but prices rocket up exponentially for premium and even mid-range models. So do consider if a slight bump in shooting speed or the ability to record 8K rather than 4K video is truly vital before shelling out big bucks.
Our pick of the best mirrorless cameras to buy today
The flagship of Fujifilm’s retro-inspired X Series range, the X-T4 is a true all-rounder in the mould of Ian Botham (and thankfully lacking in Beefy’s iffy politics and dress sense). Capable of rattling off richly coloured and pin-sharp stills at a brisk 15fps (30fps with a crop), it’ll also capture beautiful 4K video at up to 60fps. It’s built like a tank too, which makes it a touch on the heavy side for vlogging and such – but with its stonking battery life and a reasonable price tag, we’re happy to endure a bit of arm-ache.
Canon EOS R6
Arguably the number one DSLR maker in the world, Canon has been slow to get its mirrorless act together, but now the company has caught up with upstart rivals like Sony, Panasonic and Fujifilm thanks to stellar models like the EOS R6. Toting a 20.1MP full-frame sensor and a quasi-DSLR design (albeit smaller and lighter), it’s a fast and well-equipped all-rounder that’s as comfy snaffling up 4K footage as it is snapping crisp low-light stills. It’s a little pricier than its closest rivals, and long video shooting sessions can cause overheating, but we love its nimble autofocus and in-body stabilisation.
Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mark II
The first GH5 was a landmark mirrorless camera, being the first 4K all-rounder that didn’t feel like it compromised significantly on either video or stills. This 2021 update isn’t a massive leap forward from the original model, but for its price it’s still a brilliantly versatile camera. Vloggers will love its wide range of video options (including wireless live streaming – a first on a mirrorless camera), in-body stabilisation and lightweight, weather-proof build. The slightly slow AF performance and smallish sensor makes still performance solid rather than heavenly, but this is still a fantastically flexible camera.
Sony A7S III
Don’t let its “low” 12.1MP resolution fool you: the Sony A7S III is arguably the best mirrorless choice for filmmakers on the market. Able to capture 4K footage at up to 120fps, output pristine 16-bit RAW footage to an external recorder via HDMI and record in a dizzying variety of profiles, speeds and resolutions, it delivers video with glorious dynamic range and detail. Class-leading real-time AF and in-body stabilisation add yet more weight to its video credentials, and the full-frame sensor’s excellent sensitivity makes it a dazzling low-light performer for both stills and video.
Fujifilm has achieved something special by fitting a huge 102MP medium-format sensor in such a compact camera. With brisk AF and in-body stabilisation, the GFX100S is as close to a point-and-shoot medium-format camera as the world has ever seen, although it’s still chunky by mirrorless standards – not to mention frighteningly expensive. And yet, when you see the beautiful bokeh, wide dynamic range and razor-sharp detail its huge images deliver, you might be straight on the phone on the bank manager. A stunning pro-quality camera that’s surprisingly easy to live with.
The first model in Nikon’s Z-mount range to come with an APS-C sensor, the Z50 is pitched primarily at newcomers to the world of interchangeable lens photography. With its affordable price tag, lightweight plastic build and comfortable handling, it’s an ideal first “proper” camera for those looking to hone their skills. The 20.9MP sensor isn’t stabilised or particularly hi-res, but can capture engaging stills and 4K videos, while pairing the Z50 body with Nikon’s 16-50mm pancake zoom lens makes for a compact and capable travel-friendly setup.
Another killer entry-level APS-C model, the a6100 is dinky even by mirrorless standards, and both its video (4K at 30fps or 1080p at 120fps is available) and photo performance are pretty ace. They’re underpinned by a superb hybrid AF setup that impresses with its speed, tracking and recognition skills, even if the lack of in-body image stabilisation for the 24.2MP sensor is disappointing (if not unexpected on a cheaper model). Be warned, vloggers and selfie fans: the tilting screen isn’t able to face forwards, so self-shooting can be tricky.
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro
Let’s get this out of the way quickly: when it comes to shooting stills, the PCC6K Pro is only marginally better than a turnip. But who cares? Blackmagic has delivered a budding cinematographer’s dream, built for filmmaking. Lightweight and blessed with a huge 5in screen, it can shoot 12-bit RAW or lossless ProRes footage at 6K resolution and 13 stops of dynamic range and works with Canon’s hugely popular EF mount – meaning there are hundreds of lenses out there you can try. It’s not for newbies, mind you: with no IBIS or AF tracking, only seasoned video warriors need apply.