Mirrorless cameras have been getting better and better with every generation, after the first, uncertain steps and struggle with autofocus and battery life, and have now formed a complete system of their own, which stands separate from the traditional DSLR kingdom. Nowadays, the best mirrorless cameras have all the features that have made traditional models great and even a couple of extra ones too. Couple this with a light body and stylish looks, and you have a product admired by amateurs and professionals alike.
The quality of still images and video that mirrorless cameras can produce is now second to none and their unique ability to seamlessly shift from one to the other makes them the most versatile tools you can find, whether you’re into landscape photography, fashion, or still life. Able to perform in any condition, mirrorless digital cameras are part of our future and we’ll be seeing them around more and more. Down below we have prepared a list of the best mirrorless cameras of 2021 to give you an idea of what the market can offer and help you choose between the multitude of options available.
How To Choose A Mirrorless Camera – Buying Guide
Types Of Lens
Because of their design, mirrorless cameras need smaller lenses than regular DSLRs. This makes them an extremely convenient fit for the smaller cameras and a near-perfect tool for travel photography. When mirrorless cameras first started appearing on the market, the lenses available that were specifically designed for the system were scarce. Over time though the number has grown dramatically, especially thanks to brands like Sony, and now you can find any focal length you need.
Types Of Sensors
Camera sensors all use the same kind of technology but can come in different sizes. A full-frame sensor measures 24x36mm, and is called like this because it is the same size as a negative you would get using 35mm film. Over the years manufacturers have tried to experiment with making smaller sensors, which allowed for cheaper cameras, and nowadays there are mainly two other sizes that you can find. One is APS-C, based on an old film format that never took off and measuring 25.1 x 16.7mm, preserving the same 3:2 aspect ratio of full-frame sensors, while the other one is Micro Four Thirds, measuring 18 x 13.5mm, whose aspect ratio is 3:4, delivers a slightly more square image. Larger sensors usually perform better in low light situations because they can gather more light, but noise reduction technology has come a long way into making APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensors equally competitive in that regard.
Megapixels tell you the exact number of photosites that are on your sensor. Those are the physical objects which gather light and transform it into digital signals. The higher the number of megapixels, therefore, the more details you will be able to capture in your images. This will, however, lead to bigger files that will take up more space on your memory card and computer. While buying the camera with the highest megapixel count might seem like a good idea, keep in mind that even just 12 megapixels are good enough to print an 8×10 inches poster without problems. Cameras with 16 to 24 megapixels will have you covered for basically any situation you might find. Higher amounts are reserved for people who have very specific needs and are not the majority of shooters.
Image stabilization has only recently found its way into cameras but has proven so successful that every manufacturer is now trying to include it in his products. While sometimes the 4 or even 5 stops which are advertised are a bit of an exaggeration, it is undeniable that image stabilization is an extremely useful feature and you should check if the camera you want to buy has it. From low light situations to fast-moving subjects or hand-held video, image stabilization can make the world of difference, and even if it may come at a slightly higher cost, it’s worth every penny.
Unless you’re buying a full-frame mirrorless, whose lenses will be only slightly smaller than those designed for DSLRs, you will surely feel the difference in size if you switch to mirrorless. A consequence of the smaller size that might prove annoying is that the buttons are also smaller and on some cameras, models prove to be hard to press. This issue, however, is easily fixable with a little practice, and especially users who have never held a DSLR before may not even notice the difference, so after a while, you’re bound to forget about it and simply enjoy having a pocketable camera system with you.
Reduced weight is one of the main selling points of mirrorless cameras and if you’re used to DSLRs you’re bound to feel a difference. No more hand, shoulder, or neck pains, mirrorless cameras will let you shoot and shoot without hurting. Most of the ones we have reviewed weigh well under a pound so you won’t have to worry about ending up with a heavier model, but if you decide to step into the mirrorless world your joints and muscles will be grateful. The reduced weight also makes for a great little camera for traveling or backpacking, since they won’t slow you doing while you move about.
Lens Compatibility & Availability
The amount of available lenses for mirrorless cameras has been steadily growing alongside the success of the models, and today, especially for Sony cameras, there are a wide number of excellent models to choose from. Other manufacturers, like Canon, for example, have stayed behind and are only now slowly beginning to catch up. Third-party manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma have also started making lenses designed for mirrorless cameras and there is a wide range of adaptors available so you can use some of the glass you might already own as well.
While some mirrorless cameras are aimed at the lower end of the market and will feature a limited amount of manual controls, the models that sit on top of the range have all the knobs and dials you might think of. These provide excellent manual control over every function of the camera and many of them can be customized so you can use them for quick access to the functions you need the most.
Video is another area where mirrorless cameras have surpassed DSLRs, mostly because they can provide better continuous autofocus. Furthermore, numerous features dear to the more experienced videographers such as peaking, zebra stripes or waveforms are only slowly making their way into DSLRs while already being available in many mirrorless models. Switching between videos and still, images are also a much smoother experience if you don’t have a mirror flapping about. The best mirrorless cameras can shoot video up to 4K resolution and some of them can even be used for high-end movie productions.
Battery life has long been one of the weaknesses of mirrorless since the reduced body size meant that also batteries have to be smaller and thus last less. This still holds today in some parts, with DSLRs still having the upper hand, but some manufacturers, especially Sony, have upped their game in recent years and delivered batteries that can last much much longer than previous generations. Batteries for mirrorless cameras are also usually cheaper than the ones for DSLRs so it’s easier to stock up on them if you want to stay safe.
Previously a novelty feature, wifi connectivity has now become a must, given the social age era we live in. Most manufacturers provide an app with which you can send pictures from your mirrorless camera directly to your phone. This feature is not, however, present in a lot of DSLRs, for which you have to purchase an extra, expensive, item to obtain it. With mirrorless, everything goes much more smoothly and after a few clumsy first steps, we’ve now reached a point where the transfer of pictures is almost as easy as sending a text message.
Image Burst Speed
Surprisingly enough, even mirrorless cameras aimed at the lower end of the market are sometimes able to shoot at speeds that are higher than those of DSLRs that cost three times as much. This thanks to the lack of a mirror, which has to physically get out of the way every time an image is taken. Depending on your needs you have to decide if this feature is something you want to have because it can fill up your memory cards or computer hard drives very quickly indeed.
Weather / Dust Sealing
While not as rugged as some of the professional DSLRs you can buy, mirrorless cameras can still be tough little tools. The best mirrorless camera for travel has to be well protected from the environment and most cameras above a certain price point do so. If you are concerned about the budget, however, be aware that dust and weather sealing is one of the first features to be left out due to cost, so cheaper mirrorless cameras might not be as protected as you would like.
Q: What Is A Mirrorless Digital Camera?
A traditional DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera uses a mirror placed behind the lens to reflect the image up to a prism and through the viewfinder, allowing you to look directly through the lens. The mirror covers the sensor and needs to flip up and out of the way every time a picture is taken and there is also a separate sensor exclusively reserved for autofocus. Mirrorless cameras do away with all this by removing the mirror and using and electronic viewfinder, which shows you in a small screen exactly what your sensor is seeing, exposure included. Autofocus is also taken care of directly on the main sensor. This makes for a smaller and lighter camera than a DSLR since there is no mirror, no prism and no extra sensor.
Q: Are Mirrorless Cameras Good For Beginners?
If you want to learn photography, just about any working camera you can lay your hands on will do. The important thing is that it has manual controls so you can understand the basics of the art, and a good viewfinder to not tire your eyes when you look through it. There are many good mirrorless camera under 1000 dollars than can get you started if you don’t have any gear available. The quality nowadays is pretty high all across the board so you should find a good product to start with without too much effort.
Q: Do Professionals Use Mirrorless Cameras?
In recent years mirrorless cameras have reached a level of performance that puts them on par with the best professional DLSRs, and some full-time photographers have indeed begun to make the switch. However, the transition is not as fast as one would expect, since a lot of professionals also have a wide variety of lenses for their DSLRs that would need to be replaced if they decide to change systems. There is also a certain amount of muscle memory that is involved with cameras, since after a while you instinctively know where all the buttons are and in which order they need to be pressed and you have to learn this all over again if you switch cameras. Many professionals, therefore, while not unaware of the lengths that mirrorless has come, are still sticking with their older gear simply because they know how it works and can trust it to get the job done, but we will likely see more and more mirrorless camera for professionals coming out in the next few years that will eventually make their way into the pro’s hands.
Q: Will Mirrorless Cameras Replace DSLR?
It’s hard to predict the future but it’s undeniable that mirrorless cameras are carving up more and more place for themselves in the market and becoming a real alternative for DSLRs. They seem to be a tool which is better adapted to the fluid, multimedia and connected world we now live in so they may become the most widely used type of camera in the years to come. However, just like film cameras are still around today, DSLRs have played such an important part in the history of the medium at the turn of the century and are still so predominant in the professional world that it is very unlikely they will completely disappear.
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Mirrorless cameras are here to stay and will be part of our lives for years to come until something else as revolutionary comes along. We hope that our mirrorless camera reviews have helped you see through the mist of the vast amounts of models available and focus on the essentials, so you can make a quick and informed decision and head out for the fun part, to shoot!
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