Before you read this article with any doubt, let’s be clear: Despite the advancements in mobile phone technology, you still need to consider getting a camera if you want optimum pictures.
Whether it’s for work or play, a camera can do what your Smartphone can’t. Utilizing lenses is just one example. And if you’re concerned about the discomfort of an additional device, that’s when you turn to mirrorless cameras. These light units have everything you want in a camera without weighing you down as other designs tend to do.
Now, for all your other questions you can simple work through our buyers guide and reviews below. We summarized all important information to help you understand this camera niche and reviewed the 8 best units on the market today. Best feature: All these exceptional products will cost you less than $1000, making it practical gift options for yourself or others this festive season.
These cameras work for hobbyists as well as in professional applications, so read on to find your new favorite toy or tool.
Mirrorless Camera Buyers Guide
Of course, this is quite advanced technology which makes it daunting to pick one. The market provides you with many options priced below $1000, but you need to get the best mix of features for your unique application. Below we’ll help you determine exactly what you need.
But first, is this the type of camera you need?
Why go mirrorless camera?
From the start you need to know that mirrorless cameras can work in almost any application. Therefore, everyone should add this type to their probability list.
Mirrorless vs DSLR
Mirrorless cameras have been in the market for only about a decade. Another popular type is DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) which you may be familiar with. While a DSLR camera has the benefit of an optical viewfinder and controls are often more user friendly, the mirrorless cameras are becoming more and more popular because:
- The absence of a mirror system means the cameras are lighter than their counterparts
- Their mechanics are simpler, affecting weight and size
- They can be smaller, making it easier to travel with
In the past there was a limited range of lenses that work on mirrorless cameras, but the market changes. Thanks to ever evolving technology and more compatible lenses, images from this type of camera can already compete well with DSLR quality—and it’s only getting better.
At the moment it’s more than a good choice to consider a mirrorless model. It’s a functional, practical option that delivers exquisite quality images. Simply invest in one of the ones below that are guaranteed to give you what you’re after.
Is it Worth it to Go Cheaper?
You may be cautious about what to spend. Do you want to spend more (such as buying a DSLR or an expensive high end model) so you’re guaranteed the right outcome? That’s probably not necessary.
Top quality brands cater for all price ranges, which is why you’ll find high end units for under $1000. It’s also because of the simpler mechanics that you can get an excellent camera at an affordable price.
Features you may have to compromise on include image stabilization, better video quality and more intuitive designs. Unless these are all at the top of your priority list, a camera for $1000 or less is still a wise investment.
Now all you have to do is find the camera that matches your preferences, related to the following features.
The Features All Photographers Need
Where will you use your mirrorless camera? Some features may be more valuable to professionals, while hobbyists have other preferences. Simply make sure you consider all these features to ensure you pick the best long term photography solution.
Read up on the camera’s Auto Focus features and find one with many focus points—that’s a true bargain.
Do you want to take pictures or video? Today’s technology can help you take high quality video footage with this type of camera, but make sure of the specs. Look for mentions of 4K and 1080p quality so you know you’ll get an excellent final product. And don’t forget the mic input, otherwise you’ll be left without no audio.
The size is a practical feature, which isn’t the most important if you plan on carrying a large camera bag with you. If you want something you can keep in your jacket pocket so you don’t feel burdened by it—you’ll find very compact mirrorless camera designs, so keep on shopping until you find one.
If you’re going to spend hours with this unit in your hands, make sure you won’t experience hand or arm fatigue. The unit is bound to be lighter than other types already, but its ergonomics will determine comfort. Read up about the grip, shape, how reachable the buttons are and the general user comfort which you’ll find mentioned in online reviews.
Lenses: This is an exciting area of development at the moment. Mirrorless cameras can deliver even better images if you can add a quality lens. Purchase a unit that will be compatible with the lenses you love using, as all brands and cameras differ in this department.
You don’t only take photos—you use them as well. How easy is it to get the information off the device? Ideally you want it to connect via Wi-Fi or near field communication options.
Operating Your Mirrorless Camera
The one area this niche still needs a lot of improvement in is how easy the cameras operate. They tend to be less user friendly than some DSLR cameras, so make sure you pick one that won’t confuse you. A touch screen is an awesome extra, but only if the menus are intuitive. Once again, reading reviews is an excellent way to get feedback on this.
Simply make sure the battery life aligns with how you’ll use your camera. If you only use it to capture a few images at a time, this isn’t a high priority. Professionals however need long battery life and quick recharging so your downtime is kept to a minimum. Just remember that stronger batteries make for more weight.
Best Mirrorless Cameras
Sony A6300 Mirrorless Camera
We had to add this model to our list because it’s an impressive combination of many different, impressive features. That makes it an all round winner: Beneficial for the pros, but also for those new to the game.
The A6300 excels in one of the most important aspects—it gives you a fast auto focus feature (one of the best in the world) of 11fps and a staggering number of focus points (more than 400). The brand also introduced and advanced sensor (24.2MP Exmore CMS) to improve sensitivity and keep noise to a minimum.
The body is practical for regular use as the magnesium alloy body is quite sturdy. Sony even added seals to keep dust and moisture out, making it practical to use outdoors. You can simply keep it in your pocket while you’re out and about (for work or play) since it’s so compact.
Sony worked hard on improving your shooting experience as there are ergonomic features in the body’s design. This also makes it easy to manage if you attach a heavy lens.
We were quite impressed with how this brand allows for customization. There are 10 different buttons you can assign to any function (pick from 65 options) so your camera is easy to align with your habits.
Dimensions: 6.2”x 5.7”x 5.2”
Video: 4K, HD
Connectivity: Wi-Fi/NFC/QR code
Image stabilization: No
- Durable design
- Ergonomic design
- Quality video and images
- Great autofocus
- Purchase only includes body
- No image stabilization
Sony A7 Mirrorless Camera
Here’s another model from Sony that impresses. Its speed is lower at only 4fps but it still incorporates other high quality tech associated with this brand.
A handy feature on this unit is the tiltable LCD screen. It makes for much easier shooting in unique scenarios and at 921 600 dots you have a very exact representation of your subject—you’ll get the quality shots you need.
The set includes a battery pack, so you’re good to go the moment you receive this. Just remember that this is a body only purchase. You still need to shop around for lenses as well as an external AC adaptor.
One thing it excels at, even in comparison to other models of this brand, is the compact nature. Carrying one pound around won’t be a hindrance and it’s small enough to put in your bag or even jacket pocket if needed.
The camera’s output is in 14 bit RAW format. This enables great tonal gradation. Of course you want this since you get such a rich image from the image sensor. Don’t lose any of the details.
This is a practical option for many scenarios as you can even operate it via your PC. Just use a USB cable so you can stay at your desk while the subject is photographed elsewhere. View the images on your larger screen so you can determine what changes to make. That’s excellent for product photography.
On this one you can use Sony’s older lenses, as well as the FE 28-70mm/f 3.5-5.6 OSS.
Dimensions: 5”x 1.9”x 3.7”
Video: 1080p, Full HD
Viewfinder: ½” XGA OLED color electronic
Image stabilization: No (Only in lens)
- Impressive viewfinder
- Great zooming capabilities
- Tiltable screen
- Operate via PC
- Only body included in purchase
Fujifilm XT20 Mirrorless Camera
You don’t have to get a camera only, as the brand also sells a kit. You can have all you need to upgrade your photography, just by investing in this. And yes, it’s still yours at less than $1000.
The kit includes:
- Flash (Vivitar SF-3000)
- 32GB SD Card
- Cleaning gear
- Lens (15-45mm XC OIS PZ)
- UV glass filter
- HDMI cable
It’s an ideal option for beginners who want to enter the market but have limited budgets.
The camera itself is still impressive, giving you HD video options and a range of image settings including Panorama and Interval shooting. For video you can try out Film Simulation modes and along with a microphone your simple mirrorless camera turns into all you need for a full scale video recording.
The brand also has a range of lenses you can use with your camera, enhancing what you can accomplish with this camera. Different filters are also compatible such as Pop Color of Dynamic Tone.
It’s bigger and heavier than some models, but the video features may be worth it for some.
Dimensions: 8”x 9.5”x 5.6”
Video: 4K, HD
Image stabilization: No
- Whole kit available
- Various image options
- 4K enabled
- Film Simulation effects
- Larger and heavier
- No image stabilizing
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mirrorless Camera
Here’s one of the models with the lowest price tags, and don’t assume the brand compromised on quality.
With this unit the brand focused on giving you a user friendly experience. The layout should be easy to understand for all level users. It’s still advanced and impressive as there are shortcut buttons & the LCD monitor tilts so you can customize your setup. The screen has touch screen capabilities too. Users often comment how fun it is to work this camera.
At a low price you don’t settle for low quality—Olympus gives you a durable body. Your purchase even has a lens included, which you won’t find with all sub $1000 purchases. This is real value for money. You can also switch to other lenses to optimize your capabilities. Of course you have image stabilization with this purchase; once again a nifty extra!
It’s super portable as it’s light and small, so you’ll probably be taking this wherever you go from now on. With the built in flash you’re set for any scenario.
This is not ideal for video work though, as there’s no mic input.
Dimensions:4.8”x 2.9”x 3.3”
Video: 4K, HD
Image stabilization: Yes
- Super light and compact
- Lens included
- Simple layout
- Durable product
- ISO performance quickly deteriorates
- No mic input
Panasonic G7 Camera
This isn’t a brand you always associate with this niche, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore this model. The G7 is quickly becoming a fan favorite—for price and functionality reasons.
Panasonic understands where consumers (and pros) use these cameras and that’s why they don’t give you a camera only, but also a camera microphone. With one purchase you’re set for video work. And thanks to the 4K capabilities, your videos will impress.
Part of why Panasonic performs well in this market is their intelligent processors. These can give you high quality images (video or photos) that are free of artefacts which often affect quality.
You won’t get as high a resolution as on our higher priced items here, but with the exceptional viewfinder you’ll enjoy working even in direct sunlight. The provided lens (14-42mmf/3.5-5.6) is quite impressive too.
One improvement we would advise the brand: Make the Panasonic units lighter and even smaller. This isn’t the most portable unit here.
Dimensions: 12.1”x 10.3”x 8.7”
Screen: Folds out
Video: 4K, HD
- User friendly navigation
- Quality video
- Lens attached
- Intelligent processing
- Not very portable (heavy and larger than most)
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Camera
Here you have quite a versatile unit as it has a splash proof body; ready for nature shoots. Good news: You can purchase this Olympus model with or without a lens for under $1000. Cater to your budget and the gear you already own. Image stabilization is built into the camera, so you’re never without it, no matter your lens.
Enjoy the benefits of a sturdy body that won’t let in dust or water. You can get high resolution images outside and use real time previews so you know when you’ve found the perfect moment to capture.
The splash proof feature as well as image stabilization will offer you a camera that’s practical in any weather, as the low light of rainy weather won’t affect quality: You’ll still get sharp images.
We also appreciate the exterior design as it’s reminiscent of the classic camera designs, adding the aesthetic touch many photographers will be drawn to.
Dimensions: 4.9” x 7.1”x 3.4”
Image stabilization: Voice coil motor image stabilization
- Classic exterior design
- Excellent stabilization features
- Compact and portable
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- Extensive learning curve—less user friendly than some
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 Camera
Here is another model by Panasonic and a lens is included in your purchase. You’re ready to go from the start. The sturdy casing weighs very little, so you can take this anywhere there’s a photo opportunity.
We also appreciate the kits this brand offers. They’re still priced below $1000 and will give you all you need to get your hobby (or business) off the ground.
It’s one of the pricier units in this price category, understandable for the features such as 4K video, body stabilization and the fact that it’s splash proof. It’s a photography solution for various scenarios. The weather seals can even keep dust out, so yes: Use this outside for nature photography.
One of the most impressive features from Panasonic is that it has an electromagnetic shutter drive. This minimizes shock, keeps the unit more stable and even limits shutter sound.
Dimensions: 2.9”x 5.1”x 3.5”
Video: 4K, HD
Connectivity: Wireless connections
Image stabilization: Optic
Zoom: Optic 5x
- Built in flash
- External mic port
- Dust and splash proof
- Power grip also available with battery
- Small and light
- Limited pixels
- Requires intensive study to optimize all features
Olympus Pen-F Camera
This is a winner especially in the portability category. It’s easy to carry this compact design. The light weight feature means you can have a quality camera on hand in any environment: It won’t be cumbersome to carry this during hikes, use it during long events to capture memories or be ready for a long day of professional shooting—No fatigue!
The small camera surprises with up to 10fps, not common in all the cameras here. With AF tracking you can still enjoy 5fps which is acceptable if not optimal.
It’s easy to operate by simply using the four dials situated on the body. These enable you to adjust characteristics while you shoot, so your modern photos have the effects you want, without even going to your computer.
It’s helpful to know this unit was designed for street shooting. It makes sense since it’s ideal to keep in your pocket and whip it out when you come across that epic moment you want to capture.
When you’re done for the day the Wi-Fi connectivity makes for easy download.
Dimensions:1.5”x 4.9”x 2.8”
Video: 4K, HD
Image stabilization: 5 Axix Image Stabilization (in body)
- Easy operation
- Super portable (compact design)
- Image stabilizing
- Great for street shooting
- Only the body—No lens
The experts al agree. The Sony Alpha A6300 impressed us more than we thought it would. The classically styled exterior hides some pretty advanced technology so you can get the high quality images you need without lugging around heavy equipment.
Sony added high tech features to give you amazing auto-focus and more. It’s great for beginners as well as the pros, so it’s an excellent option no matter who you’re buying Festive Season gifts for.
Do you have a specific question regarding mirrorless cameras? Ask away by adding your comments below. Let’s help each other make the most of our photographic equipment.