As a professional photographer based in Hong Kong who started in the era of film cameras, the recent developments of mirrorless cameras are very impressive. With a much smaller body than DSLRs and yet large sensors, these cameras come with great functions, high-quality images and excellent video capabilities.
With an increasing amount of resources being allocated to the Research and Development of mirrorless cameras, there is a more decent lens collection available for the mirrorless cameras as well. This makes mirrorless cameras a great investment decision now more than ever!
In this article, we will talk about how to pick the best mirrorless camera, our recommendations, and some additional tips.
Best Mirrorless Cameras for Beginners – Quick Summary
- Best All-Round Mirrorless Camera for Beginners: Nikon Z6
- Best Travel-friendly Mirrorless Camera for Beginners: Panasonic GX9
- Best Budget-Friendly Mirrorless Camera for Beginners: Canon EOS M50
- Best Beginner Mirrorless Camera for Vlogging: Fujifilm X-T4
- Best User-Friendly Mirrorless Camera for Beginner: Sony Alpha A6100
What is a Mirrorless Camera?
A mirrorless camera is a bit like a hybrid of compact camera and DSLR; hence it is easier for us to explain "what is a mirrorless camera" by comparing it with a simple compact camera and a DSLR.
Mirrorless Camera vs Compact Camera
A Mirrorless camera is an upgraded version of a compact camera, generally, a mirrorless camera would come with:
- Either an APS-C sensor, which stands for Advanced Photo System – Classic image format.
- Or a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which is 30 – 40% smaller than APS-C sensors, but a micro four-thirds sensor, which makes the mirrorless camera compatible with many ultra-telephoto lenses
Pros of Mirrorless Cameras vs Compact Cameras
The ability to use ultra-telephoto lenses, which are very easy to carry around.
Both APS-C sensors and micro four-thirds sensors are much bigger than a general compact camera sensor and hence they can capture more light to produce a sharper image with more details than a compact camera.
Because of the bigger sensor size, a mirrorless camera is able to capture a high-quality image in low light conditions.
The autofocus function of a mirrorless camera is usually better than a compact camera.
Compared to a compact camera, you have the option to change lenses in the case of mirrorless cameras, which means you can cover a wider variety of photography styles.
Cons of Mirrorless Cameras Vs Compact Cameras
A mirrorless camera is usually larger and heavier than a compact camera.
Due to more functionality of mirrorless cameras, their menu systems are also more complicated, which makes sense!
Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR Camera
Pros of Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR Camera
Mirrorless cameras are the future of camera development without a doubt! The largest camera companies in the world such as Sony, Canon, and Nikon are allocating huge resources on mirrorless camera development.
Compared to DSLRs, mirrorless cameras are smaller, more compact, and capable to produce better quality videos.
In addition, most mirrorless cameras come with in-body stabilization. This is very important because when we are capturing a photo or video with our cameras, there is usually some slight camera shake caused by the shutter. However, with the in-body stabilization function, the sensor moves slightly to counter the camera shake and hence results in better image quality.
Most mirrorless cameras are using an electronic viewfinder, i.e. the image captured by the lens will be projected electronically onto a miniature display, and this makes high-quality mirrorless cameras great for video recording because the video quality won’t be compromised.
I also love that a mirrorless camera is quieter compared to a DSLR since there are fewer moving parts, i.e. there is no mirror to slap, even the shutter sound can be eliminated. The only sound left while taking a photo would be closing the aperture during shooting. This means a mirrorless camera is virtually silent.
Cons of Mirrorless Camera vs DSLR Camera
Mirrorless cameras are still facing some issues while comparing with DSLR cameras, such as:
- there are less lens selection and accessories available for mirrorless cameras
- the battery life of a mirrorless camera is usually shorter than a DSLR
- some mirrorless cameras may cost even more than a budget DSLR camera
- there may be an image preview lag in beginner level mirrorless cameras. Sometimes, the photographer may find there is a slight delay between the capturing phase and the displaying phase during shooting, which may cause the pictures to be a bit blurry or out of focus.
But then considering the speed of development of mirrorless technology, I do strongly believe that these problems will soon be eliminated.
Who Should Get a Beginner Mirrorless Camera?
Compared to a DSLR, a mirrorless camera is lighter and smaller, and yet the photo quality offered by a mirrorless camera is much better than a compact camera. Therefore, a mirrorless camera is very suitable for beginner photographers, travel bloggers, simple or destination weddings shootings or street photography.
If you are looking for an option with a simple menu, you would probably fall for the mirrorless camera too. In some cases, you can even control the camera via a touch screen, just like using your phone!
Best Mirrorless Camera for Beginners: What to Consider
I do believe that going mirrorless is the future of camera development, yes, fewer accessories, equipments and lenses are compatible with mirrorless than DSLRs at the moment. But then most camera brands are allocating hugh amount of resources on to mirrorless cameras now!
The more resources which are allocated to mirrorless development means there will be more great lenses and related products available for the camera you purchased. Hence we do suggest you get a camera from one of the biggest brands such as Sony, Nikon or Canon and begin to familiarize yourself with it. Many of my colleagues and I are doing the same thing.
The sensor of the Camera
The image sensor of a camera will capture and convert the light into an image. High-quality sensors will produce crisp pictures with greater dynamic range and less noise.
The larger the sensor, the more light can be captured. Most mirrorless cameras are using high-quality APS-C and Four Thirds sensors, which can produce sharper images and are widely used by the world’s biggest camera brands such as Canon, Nikon, and Olympus.
I always recommend our readers to buy a camera with a minimum 20 MP sensor.
Lenses and Accessories Collection
Do take into account what sort of lens and accessories you have on hand now. Because for some brands such as Nikon, you can use a large number of DSLR lenses on a mirrorless camera with an adapter.
If you are using a Sony DSLR now, it is a good idea to check if any of your current lenses could be used on the mirrorless camera as well. If so, you may be able to save a lot of money.
In the past, there weren't that many lenses and accessories available for mirrorless cameras, but since late 2019, a good number of new lenses and accessories have come to the market with an impressive quality.
It is always a good idea to check the review of the lenses compatible with the mirrorless camera you are planning to purchase, so you can make sure everything works together to get you the photos you like.
The electronic viewfinder used in mirrorless cameras allows the user to see the same view as the camera sensor without and cropping.
Because of the accurate preview produced by an electronic viewfinder, the photographer can easily determine the optimum focus, color balance, and exposure, as well as the depth of field.
I do suggest for you to check the quality of the electronic viewfinder and monitor resolution before you purchase the camera because it helps a lot in producing an accurate picture. I would buy a camera with at least 1080p display resolution.
It would be nice if the camera does come with these built-in functions such as image stabilization, a silent mechanism, a fast and accurate autofocus system, and high shooting speed (great for continuous shooting for long periods)
One of the main features I love about mirrorless cameras is the flip monitors that comes with some models. This is very helpful if you're in situations when you need to shoot from very low angles but you can't look into the viewfinder.
High-quality mirrorless cameras are catered for the middle to upper price range. Most photographers may find some lower range DSLR cameras are cheaper than several mirrorless cameras.
Although some mirrorless cameras come at a lower cost, most of them will also compromise on quality.
Therefore I suggest my readers to consider spending a bit more on a decent mirrorless camera and aim for the middle to a higher range or else, probably go for a cheaper DSLR first and wait for more mirrorless camera development.
Best Mirrorless Cameras for Beginners: Our Picks
Nikon Z6 is a great mirrorless camera that produces amazing pictures with rich details. This is an all-rounder camera that comes with the excellent dynamic range as well. This is a camera suitable for beginners to advanced photographers.
We've compared the Nikon Z6 with other great all-round mirrorless cameras such as:
And we've concluded Nikon Z6 is a great camera with excellent price and features. It is a camera which comes with a lot of horse-power in a compact size.
Containing a 24.5 MP BSI-CMOS sensor with 273 AF points, the Nikon Z6 performs well in low light conditions and can produce excellent quality video as well.
It really impressed me that Z6 comes with a 0.80x magnification viewfinder which gives the user a great overview of the whole picture. The resolution of the display is extremely high: 3.5 million dots, combined with stellar Nikkor optics, the user can enjoy one of the best viewfinders in the market.
What We Also Like:
- The Nikon Z6 can capture both JPEG or RAW still images along with Full HD 1080p at 24, 60, and 120 fps, i.e. excellent video quality
- There are lenses covering all aspects and their quality is just fabulous. You can also use Nikon’s latest DSLRs lenses on this camera with an adapter.
- The adapter works perfectly with Nikon’s newest lenses without losing any image quality (i.e. lenses with built-in AF motors)
- The Touch screen LCD display is simple and easy to control, the flipping monitor is just so convenient!!
- Smooth slow-motion image capture, which can save the videographer a lot of time in post-production
- Switch on the silent mode and you can capture photographs with no shutter sound
What is Not That Nice?
- Can't think of any
Budget: Mid-to-high range
The Panasonic GX9 is a super travel-friendly mirrorless camera, and it is great for street photography as well. One of the best parts is the size: you can fit the camera, the lens and some accessories into a small bag, therefore making it very suitable for street and travel photographers.
This is a well-built camera and comes with a robust and customizable array of controls.
The GX9 comes with a 20.3 MP Four Thirds sensor with no anti-aliasing filter, also called a low-pass filter. I do like this decision made by Panasonic because it leads to a marginally sharper image, and it covers a more dynamic range (i.e. the difference between the lightest and darkest tones in an image) which results in more vivid pictures.
To produce even sharper images, GX9 uses a depth from defocus (DFD) contrast-detect autofocus system. Similar to other Panasonic cameras, this means the camera will adjust the lens to get a sharper image by comparing the sharpness of 2 images at different distances.
Another great point about the sensor is it has a pixel density of 9.02 MP/cm2, which is more than enough to produce high-quality photos.
What We Also Like:
- Considering the compact size of GX9, the 3.0-inch monitor is large, clear, and high quality (1240k-dots)
- The tiltable viewfinder can easily swing up and down for 45-80 degrees, which makes it extremely easy to take high and low-angle shots.
- Touch screen function makes it very easy to use and it's responsive
- Panasonic GX9 has a Micro Four Thirds lens mount and there are 107 native lenses available for this mount, which means there are no shortage of lenses to choose from and this makes GX9 even more attractive
- Excellent Autofocus Function. In single AF mode, the focusing speed is fast and nice
- The 6fps burst shooting with continuous Autofocus is great for photographing moving subjects by allowing excellent blur to vivid transition from background to subject
- The video and photo specs go up to 4K
- Hybrid stabilization system
- Built-in flash
What is Not That Nice?
- The rear control dial and AF selection is a bit complicated and the user may need some time to get used to it
- Body isn’t weather-sealed
Budget: Low-to-mid range
The Canon EOS M50 is a great value of money "entry-level plus" mirrorless camera. As a beginner photographer wanting to swap from their smartphone or simple compact camera to their first decent camera, you will be more than happy with what this camera can offer.
One of the reasons I love this camera is the proof of Canon’s future development strategy: connectivity and video. The M50 is the first Canon camera that allows auto connection with your phone after each shot. Imagine checking out the photos on your phone and sharing them out right after the shoot!
Regarding the video quality, this is the first M series offering 4K/24p video, that’s a breakthrough but there would be a heavy 1.7x crop while recording video, and only contrast-detection AF but not duel pixel AF is available in recording 4K videos. But then at the end of the day, we are talking about a mirrorless camera suitable for beginners, and I do believe this is pretty good enough for an entry-level user.
This is also the first Canon camera using CR3 Raw format, which means it comes with a new C-Raw compression full resolution option, instead of the old small and medium raw formats.
What We Also Like:
- Fully articulating touchscreen, which is a great feature for people starting their vlogging career)
- Added eye-detection AF feature which might be helpful for vloggers who often appear in videos with other people
What is Not that nice?
- Battery life is relatively short, users may need to purchase more spare batteries
- You can’t charge the camera with a USB
- As a mirrorless camera, the M50 is a bit too heavy
Budget: Low-Mid range product
Launched in April 2020, the Fujifilm X-T4 comes with outstanding features and specs such as body stabilization, fast shooting speed, fabulous autofocusing system, and long battery life. This is a camera that can grow with you, and you will be happy with its performance, no matter if you are a beginner or a professional photographer.
The X-T4 uses a fine quality 26.1 MP BSI CMOS sensor with 425 AF points, and you can shoot 4K videos up to 60p (in both DCI and UHD!!), which means it can produce a high-quality video.
Fujifilm X-T4 fits well for almost all the needs of a vlogger as well. If you are looking for a great piece of equipment to start your career as a vlogger, the TX-4 is surely a trustworthy partner.
What is Also Nice?
- If you are shooting 1080 video, it could reach up to 240 fps, output as 4-10x slow-motion footage
- The flip out screen makes it an excellent camera for vlogging, you can easily point the lens to any direction and at all angles, switch on and off the face detection focus, and record walk-and-talk videos.
- The built-in mic is of fine quality but I do believe vloggers will purchase an external microphone for better audio recording.
- I am very happy with the menu design and the toggle switch, they make switching from stills to video recording very easy.
- The electronic viewfinder is excellent (3.68 million dot OLED), a real touch screen feature is included
- There are 12 film simulation modes, even Eterna Bleach Bypass is included
- Comes with Dual UHS-II cards slots and a USB-C type connection and you can charge your camera quickly with a USB
- Superfast continuous shooting rate 15fps (mechanical Shutter) 30fps (electronic)
- Extensive customization of buttons makes it very handy for vlogging
What is Not That Nice?
- The price of X-T4 is higher than other beginner-friendly mirrorless cameras suggested in this article
- The object tracking function is available in Photo mode, but not in video mode, which makes it not that great for shooting a subject that is moving fast.
- Sometimes the image stabilization function may fight back intentional moves, especially in slow movements
Budget: High Range
Sony Alpha A6100 is a small and user-friendly mirrorless camera that is suitable for beginner photographers. It can produce high-quality images, comes with a finely made APS-C sensor, great autofocus function, and is compatible with many lenses and accessories.
I highly recommend this camera because it can produce 4K video, and up to 11fps Raw capture. The menu is simple and easy to use, you can figure out how to control this camera in a couple of hours.
What I Also Like?
- Comes with a tilting touch LCD screen
- Easy sharing of your photos to your phone and tablet via Sony’s “Imaging Edge Mobile” app
- Improved battery life
- A very affordable Sony mirrorless camera option
- slow-motion and quick-motion video options are fun
What is Not That Nice?
- 4K video shooting is available but with limitations
- EVF(Electronic Viewfinder) resolution is low
- Cannot use USB-C to charge the camera, has to be Sony specific accessories
Best Mirrorless Camera for Beginners - FAQs
Are mirrorless cameras good for beginners?
If you are used to taking photos with your mobile phone, a mirrorless camera is quite a big jump from it.
But then the great news is: the user menus of many mirrorless cameras are pretty simple and easy to use. This makes the majority of mirrorless cameras user-friendly for beginners, especially beginner photographers who want a camera that can grow with their photography skills and knowledge.
Is Mirrorless or DSLR better for a beginner?
If you are after a camera that is smaller, lighter, comes with great video quality, and a menu that is easy to use, and don't mind the limited battery life, a mirrorless camera would be a great choice for you.
But then if you are on a tight budget and don't mind a heavier camera that is larger, a low price range DSLR camera would be suitable for you.
Best Mirrorless Camera for Beginners - Final Words
To choose the best mirrorless camera for beginners, you should understand what you are after, what your needs and budget are, and if you're ready to upgrade your photography.
We have listed out some great mirrorless cameras for beginner photographers and explained what to consider when you want to make the purchase decision. I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful!
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A big thanks to Phottix for the professional lighting equipment provided to Ali G Studios.
All photos are © Ali Ghorbani and Ali G Studios
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