Mirrorless cameras have many of the benefits of larger DSLRs (such as great image quality) but are far more compact, making them easier for amateurs and professionals alike to carry. And, you'll find a wide selection in the models now in the market, with prices starting at less than $500. So, there's a mirrorless camera to suit almost every photographer.
The best mirrorless camera for beginners is the Sony a6000, which costs just under $500 with a lens, yet shoots at a fast 11 fps, and takes great pictures in all conditions. More advanced photographers might prefer its successor, the Sony a6300, which takes even better photos in low light, and can record video in 4K. If you want to splurge a bit more, Sony's a6500 also has 5-axis image stabilization.
Having trouble deciding which Sony mirrorless camera is right for you? Check out our handy guide that compares the Sony a6000 vs the a6100, a6200, a6300, a6400, a6500, and a6600.
If you prefer something not made by Sony—and something that can withstand the elements—check out Olympus' OM-D E-M5 Mark II, which has 5-axis image stabilization, a sturdy weather-resistant body, and a super high-resolution 40-MP mode. We also like that you can customize nearly all of the E-M5's buttons, making it a truly personal camera. Note that Olympus just announced its successor, the OM-D E-M5 Mark III, which has a high-resolution sensor and better image stabilization.
Make sure you see all of our top picks for DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and more on our best cameras page. And after you start shooting, be sure to check out our roundups of the best digital photo frames and best photo books to get the most out of your mirrorless camera.
1. Sony Alpha a6000
A great, inexpensive mirrorless camera for beginners
Megapixels: 24.3 | ISO: 100-25,600 | Built-in Flash: Yes | Shooting Speed: 11 fps | Body Size/Weight: 4.8 x 2.9 x 1.9 inches; 12 ounces | Viewfinder: OLED | Screen: 3 inch LCD | Battery Life (CIPA): 360 shots
The a6000 is an ideal compromise between power and portability. Its autofocus is as good as a DSLR's, and it shoots as fast as DSLRs that cost several times more: a blistering 11 frames per second with continuous autofocus and metering. Electronic viewfinders are a weak point on many mirrorless models, but the a6000's OLED eyepiece is bright and crystal-clear, and doesn't suffer from the stuttering you'll sometimes find on EVFs with lower refresh rates. A DSLR shooter would be comfortable moving over to this eyepiece.
The a6000 shines in low light, and features the ability to capture clean images up to ISO 1600 sensitivity and usable shots in very dim conditions way up to ISO 12,800. On top of that, the a6000 shoots gorgeous full-HD video at up to 60 fps, as well as 24 fps for a cinema look. Clips show fine detail, rich color and buttery-smooth motion rendering, even in low light.
2. Sony Alpha a6300
An excellent mirrorless camera for not-quite beginners
Megapixels: 24.3 | ISO: 100-51,200 | Built-in Flash: Yes | Shooting Speed: 11 fps | Body Size/Weight: 4.7 x 2.6 x 1.9 inches/14.25 ounces | Viewfinder: Yes | Screen: 3 inch LCD | Battery Life (CIPA): 400 shots
While it has the same resolution (24MP) as the a6000, the a6300 has a much improved sensor that improves image quality (especially in low light), but makes focusing much faster, too. It can also shoot video in 4K, and a mic jack lets budding videographers record better audio.
The a6300 also has a sturdier metal body and a sharper OLED electronic viewfinder that, in addition to the articulating LCD panel, will help you compose the best shot, whatever the angle.
3. Sony A6500
The best mirrorless camera for shooting video
Megapixels: 24.2 | ISO: 100- 25,600 | Shooting Speed: 11 fps | Body size/weight: 4.75 x 2.75 x 2.13 inches; 1 pound | Viewfinder: OLED | Screen: 2.95-inch LCD | Battery Life (CIPA): 310 shots
4K video, 5-axis image stabilization, and lightening-fast photo capture are the standout features for this high-end member of Sony's compact mirrorless line. The fist two go well together, with image stabilization allowing users to capture much steadier video, even handheld. Detail and color are excellent in video, but you may want to use the camera's Center Lock-on AF feature to make sure focus stays on a moving subject.
Still image quality is equally fine in detail and color, with excellent dynamic range (combined shadow and highlight detail). And images stay fairly clean of pixel noise up to ISO 6400. Autofocus is superb, with the camera able to shoot 11fps, adjusting focus as needed for each shot. Combined with a memory buffer holding over 300 images, you're nearly guaranteed to get a shot that captures the action perfectly.
4. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II (M5 MII)
Weatherproof seals make this a good mirrorless camera for the outdoors.
Megapixels: 16.1 | ISO: 100 - 25,600 | Built-in Flash: No | Shooting Speed: 10 fps | Body Size/Weight: 4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8 inches /16 ounces | Viewfinder: LCD | Screen: 3-inch LCD | Battery Life (CIPA): 310
With even cellphones shooting 1080p video up to 60 fps, Olympus had to up its game for video. It certainly did, with an amazing five-axis image-stabilization system in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 MII that allows you to capture steady video even while walking around — something unthinkable until now. That video also boasts fine detail and attractive color, with one of the best auto white balance capabilities we've seen for avoiding the typical orangey look during indoor shooting. All these virtues serve the M5 MII equally well for still-photo shooting, too. Its resistance to water means you can shoot under nearly any condition. In addition, the M5 MII's truly tiny dimensions and weight, coupled with a nice selection of compact lenses, make it the most portable high-performance mirrorless camera out there. It's a joy to carry anywhere, and for an entire day.
Note that Olympus has introduced the OM-D E-M5 Mark III ($1,200; $1,800 with lens) which has a 20.4MP sensor, and can capture video at 4K resolution and 120fps slow-mo HD.
5. Sony Alpha a7 II
Best Pro Mirrorless Camera
Megapixels: 24.7 | ISO: 100-25600 | Built-in Flash: No | Shooting Speed: 5 fps | Body Size/Weight: 5 x 3.87 x 2.37 inches, 1 pound 3.6 ounces | Viewfinder: Yes | Screen: 3-inch LCD | Battery Life (CIPA): 340 with LCD on
It's the world's first full-frame mirrorless camera to carry in-body 5-axis image stabilization, but there's more to the Sony A7 II than just steady shooting. This petite, sexy camera fits in most bags, and packs a bunch of customizable buttons and knobs for quick access to your favorite controls. We also loved the bright, clear pictures and relatively low amount of noise (graininess) even at high ISO light sensitivity levels. Thanks to effective wireless capability, you'll be able to beam your shots to your smartphone or computer within seconds.
6. Canon EOS RP
Full-frame mirrorless at an affordable price
Megapixels: 26 | ISO: 100-25600 | Built-in Flash: No | Shooting Speed: 5 fps | Body Size/Weight: 5.2 x 3.4 x 2.8 inches, 1.7 pounds | Viewfinder: Yes | Screen: 3-inch articulated touchscreen | Battery Life (CIPA): 250 shots
Until recently, most full-frame mirrorless cameras cost at least $2,000 just for the camera body. The Canon EOS RP is part of a trend of less-expensive models, bringing higher image quality at a lower price. The EOS RP has a 26 megapixel sensor, user-friendly controls, and a compact body, all for less than $1,000. However, there are some compromises: The EOS RP lacks in-body image stabilization, it has a comparatively short battery life, and a slower shooting speed than other mirrorless cameras. Still, these tradeoffs are worth it for the price.
Read our full Canon EOS RP review.
How to choose a lens for your mirrorless camera
One of the most important qualities that mirrorless and DSLRs share is that they accept interchangeable lenses, which can dramatically improve image quality and bring your photography to a new level. But there are scores of lenses to choose from, which can be confusing. To help you get better acquainted with this important camera accessory, here's a quick rundown of types of interchangeable lenses that are available for your mirrorless camera:
Standard zoom lenses: It's the lens that most people who buy an entry-level SLR or mirrorless model as a kit know first. Mirrorless kits generally come with a 14-42mm lens. They typically include a small amount of zoom (3x), and are often inexpensive, but not the highest quality. However, in the past several years, the quality of these kit lenses has improved.
Prime lenses: You can save money by choosing a prime or non-zoom lens. They offer excellent quality, and are often much more affordable. If you need to zoom, just use your feet and walk closer to your subject!
Telephoto zoom lenses: If you shoot a lot of sports or other types of events, consider these powerful zooms, which can bring you closer to the action and provide features to capture images with shallow depth-of-field. They can be a bit heavy and bulky, but most manufacturers have been inventing new lenses that are smaller and more compact, but are still high quality. The 70mm-200mm is a good example of this type of lens.
Wide-angle lenses: If you're traveling, this type of lens, such as a 16-35mm zoom, can be very valuable, since it allows you to capture different types of wide-angle shots. Want to shoot a group portrait? Set the zoom lens towards the 35mm end of the range, which will avoid distortion at the edges of the image. Or if you want to capture a broad, sweeping landscape, use the lower end of the zoom, nearer to the 16mm end. However, these lenses can be pricey.
Macro or Close-up lenses: If you're looking to capture close-up shots of small objects, you'll want a good quality macro lens, which come in a variety of focal lengths, such as 50mm and 100mm. Be sure to do your research to be sure the lens you want has macro capabilities.
Specialty lenses: One of the most notable specialty lenses in this category is the ultra-wide fisheye lens, which some photographers love for the exceptionally distorted point of view. Other types include tilt-shift and soft-focus lenses.