Once upon a time, if you wanted a ‘serious’ camera, you straightaway turned to the DSLR. Big, bulky boxes, they delivered good results but had some limitations when it came to portability, their ability to shoot at fast frame rates, video and more.
Having now been around for over a decade, mirrorless cameras are starting to dominate the market, offering the best tech in camera bodies which are generally smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts. Most manufacturers are putting all of their best innovations into these kinds of cameras, so if you want something which sits at the cutting edge of camera technology, this is where you should head.
The cameras in this list have been chosen because they represent good options for a variety of different photographers. So, you’ve got some with super fast frame rates and whip-smart focusing for capturing moving subjects, while others are particularly small and lightweight, making them ideal as travel or everyday snappers.
What’s the best mirrorless camera in 2020?
The mirrorless camera market is huge right now, with lots of different models to choose between. While it’s tricky to pick just one as the best overall – as it will largely depend on the type of photographer you are – the Canon EOS R6 (£2,849) is a fantastic all-rounder which delivers fantastic results across a wide variety of genres and subjects, making it our best mirrorless camera in 2020.
Being one of the newest and most-advanced models on this list, the Canon is quite expensive though. So, if you’re looking for something that’s produces good images in a range of situations, but doesn’t bust the budget quite so much then consider the Sony A7 III (£1,899), which is arguably the best all-round mirrorless camera under £2,000 in 2020.
The best budget mirrorless camera, meanwhile, is the Olympus OM-D EM5 Mark III (£1,440), which gives you a lot for your money in a small and lightweight body.
Canon EOS R6
WIRED Recommends: Canon’s finally brought its A-game to mirrorless, and it is quite the marvel
Sensor: 20.1 MP full-frame CMOS | Focusing: Dual Pixel CMOS AF II | ISO: 100-102400 (expandable to 50-204800) | Continuous Burst: 20fps | Display: 3.0-inch, 1.62-million dot Clear View LCD II, fully-articulating touchscreen | Viewfinder: 0.5-inch, 3.69-million dot 100% EVF | Video: 4K up to 60p | IS: Inbuilt, 5-axis | Size: 138.4 x 97.5 x 88.4mm | Weight: 680g (body only, with card and battery) | Memory: 2x UHS-II SD slots
It’s safe to say that Canon wasn’t super quick off the mark when it came to embracing technology. All that changes however with its latest duo mirrorless bodies – the EOS R6 (£2,849) and the EOS R5. The former is the more consumer-friendly model, with the R5 being more strongly tipped towards pro-usage for both videographers and photographers.
With the R6, you still get an extremely strong set of specifications that meet the needs of lots of different type of subjects. There’s a 20.1 megapixel full-frame sensor, incredibly quick Dual Pixel CMOS autofocusing with excellent tracking capabilities, in-body image stabilisation that lets you shoot handheld in dim conditions and 20fps shooting.
That’s a blistering amount of power in what is a relatively small body. Because of that, the EOS R6 isn’t cheap – it’s a fair way above other models in this list, such as the Sony A7 III and the Nikon Z6, but if you must have the best of the best, it can be worth spending out a bit more.
Using the R6 is unsurprisingly a very pleasant experience. If you’re somebody who has ever used a Canon DSLR, then you’ll feel at home. But even if you aren’t, then you’ll still find it’s sensibly laid out for the most part, being intuitive in most scenarios with a joystick and quick menu to enable quick switches of settings.
There’s a fully-articulating 1.62-million-dot screen which you can use for composing from a massive variety of angles, including framing yourself when presenting videos and the like. Speaking of video, a lot has been made about the R6’s 4K overheating issues. The EOS R6 is prone to giving up the ghost if you attempt to record 4K video for longer than 30 minutes. While we don’t want to gloss over that as such, if you’re somebody who is shooting short videos (or none at all) it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker.
Pros: Superb autofocusing; great tracking capabilities; dual memory card slots; articulating screen; easy-to-use body
Cons: 4K overheating issues; high price; sensor is relatively low resolution
Sony A7 III
The best all-round mirrorless camera under £2,000
Sensor: 24.2MP full-frame back-illuminated CMOS | Focusing: Fast Hybrid AF, 693-points | ISO: 100-51200 (expandable to ISO50-204800) | Continuous Burst: 10fps | Display: 3-inch, 921k-dot, tilting touchscreen | Viewfinder: 0.5-inch, 2.3-million dot 100% EVF | Video: 4K up to 30fps | IS: In-body, 5-axis | Size: 126.9 x 95.6 x 73.7mm | Weight: 650g (body only, with battery and card) | Memory: 2x UHS-II SD card slots
Sony has long been dominant in the full-frame mirrorless arena, and it’s cameras like the Sony A7 III (£1,899) which perfectly explain why. Stacking a lot of useful tech into an affordable body, this is a camera which has seriously shifted some units since its launch. With a 24.2 megapixel sensor, 10fps shooting and decent autofocusing, it’s a solid performer across multiple genres and can cope pretty well with anything you care to throw at it.
In terms of design, the A7 III is fairly pedestrian with a somewhat boxy design, but you get a good selection of dials and buttons to make changes quickly and easily. There’s also a good degree of customisation available to make the camera work exactly as you want it to.
The electronic viewfinder isn’t the highest resolution on the market, but it’s still perfectly usable – and by keeping this fairly staid, you also keep the price down. There’s also a tilting touch-sensitive screen which is useful for composing images from a low or high perspective – less helpful for selfies though.
Image quality is very good, with the mid-range resolution of its sensor being adequate for almost every situation. There’s plenty of detail, but if you’re somebody that craves super high-resolution imagery, then Sony also has the superb A7R IV available too.
4K video recording is available here, but those with a dedicated penchant for videography would likely do better to consider the Sony A7S III, which by our reckoning is the best mirrorless camera for video right now.
There’s not a whole lot to dislike about the A7 III, as it copes well with such a variety of different scenarios. If you’re an enthusiast photographer who flips from genre to genre, wanting to photograph landscapes, portraits, and even perhaps sport and and action, it’s an excellent choice – and great value for money.
Pros: Great value for money; 10fps shooting; dual memory card slots; good all-rounder
Cons: Screen tilts (rather than articulates); somewhat low resolution; better video options available
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The best budget mirrorless camera which still packs a punch
Sensor: 20.4MP Four Thirds Live MOS | Focusing: Dual Fast AF, 121 point | ISO: 200 -6400 (expandable to 64 – 25600) | Continuous Burst: 30fps | Display: 3-inch, 1.04m-dot vary-angle touchscreen | Viewfinder: 2.36m-dot OLED 100% viewfinder | Video: 4K up to 30p | IS: Inbuilt 5-axis | Size: 125.3 x 85.2 x 49.7mm | Weight: 414g (body only, with battery and card) | Memory: 1x UHS-II SD card slot
One of the earliest adopters of mirrorless technology, Olympus has been a solid – if fairly predictable – performer throughout the last decade or so. Resolutely sticking to the smaller Four Thirds sensor when most of the market has tipped towards full-frame may seem a little stubborn, it helps to keep the size and price of Olympus models down – great news for both your wallet and for travel.
Although the E-M5 III’s (£1,440) body is small and light, it still fits in a good amount of controls and dials across it. The Olympus is also one of the most attractive cameras on the market, with a retro design that is sure to appeal to those with a fondness for tradition. You also get a fully-articulating touch-sensitive screen, a bonus for a camera of this size, while the 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder is also a very usable device if you prefer to compost that way.
To go back to that sensor, the 20.4 megapixel Four Thirds sensor may be on the small side, but it produces good quality images in most conditions. If you’re somebody that is consistently taking pictures in very low light, you may feel differently – but for most it should be absolutely fine.
You also get some added benefits that come with a small sensor, such as the ability to shoot at up to 30fps completely silently, making it a good choice for those who like to capture fast-moving action. The 121-point AF system is also a reliable performer too, while 5-axis image stabilisation comes in very useful.
Essentially, what we have here is a compromise. While the smaller sensor means you’re compromising on some aspects of image quality, the overall system size means you’ve got a much better package for travel and every day shooting.
Pros: Small and compact; overall system also small; 30fps shooting; fully articulating screen; attractive retro design
Cons: Small sensor; single card slot
A great all-rounder in a nicely developing system
Sensor: 24.5MP full-frame CMOS | Focusing: 273-point phase detection AF | ISO: 100-51200 | Continuous Burst: 12fps | Display: 3.2-inch, 2.1m-dot tilting touchscreen | Viewfinder: 0.5-inch, 3.6m-dot OLED 100% viewfinder | Video: 4K at 30p | IS: In-built, 5-axis (with compatible lenses) | Size: 134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm | Weight: 675g (body only, with card and battery) | Memory: 1x XQD
Now a couple of years old, the Nikon Z6 (£2,099) – and the Z7, released at the same time – marked a significant shift for the heritage camera brand. Until that point, it had been far more dedicated to DSLRs, while its rivals marched ahead with mirrorless.
At this point, the Z system is very established and has been winning plaudits since its launch. The Z6 is the better all-rounder of the two, with a lower resolution sensor and faster shooting which makes it our pick here. Coming to this camera now also means the system has had enough time to develop a decent set of lenses and accessories.
You get a 24.5 megapixel sensor, which although a little middle-of-the-road, reproduces plenty of detail and should be more than adequate for the average user. You also get 12fps shooting, and a 273-point autofocus system that copes well most of the time – it can’t quite match the likes of the EOS R6 when shooting fast-moving subjects, but it’s also available at a much cheaper price.
The viewfinder is a tilting touch-sensitive design, which although no use for selfies and front-facing recording, is very helpful for other kinds of awkward angles. There’s also a lovely high-resolution viewfinder which is very usable, especially at this price point. Elsewhere, the Z6’s body is sensibly laid out, with good spacing between the buttons, a very handy joystick and a satisfyingly chunky grip.
4K video recording is included here, at up to 30p. This is a camera which is good for video if you’re somebody who doesn’t shoot an awful lot of it, but dedicated videographers will probably be keen to look elsewhere.
A single XQD memory card slot is the biggest bugbear to contend with for the Z6. Not only is the format expensive and less common than SD, it means that you don’t have any back up in case of errors (though in fairness, XQDs are less prone to problems in the first place).
Pros: Nicely designed body; 12fps shooting; touch-sensitive screen; great viewfinder; good price
Cons: Single XQD card slot; tracking focus not fantastic; screen only tilts
Panasonic Lumix S5
The best hybrid (photo/video) mirrorless camera right now
Sensor: 24MP full-frame CMOS | Focusing: 225-point Contrast Detect AF | ISO: 100-51200 (expandable to 50-204800) | Continuous Burst: 7fps | Display: 3-inch, 1.8m dot, fully-articulating touchscreen | Viewfinder: 0.5-inch, 2.35m dot, TFT LCD 100% viewfinder | Video: 4K up to 60p | IS: 5-axis Dual IS 2 | Size: 133 x 97 x 82mm | Weight: 714g (body only, including battery) | Memory: 1x UHS-II SD card slot, 1x UHS-I SD card slot
Panasonic was a pioneer in mirrorless, with its Micro Four Thirds models being the first to market all the way back in 2008. Although it still manufactures those models, it’s recently been making headlines by concentrating on its full-frame models instead. The most recent of those is the Panasonic S5 (£1,952), which manages to cram in a full-frame sensor into a body which is smaller than one of its most popular Micro Four Thirds cameras, the GH5. Impressive.
Again there’s a mid-range resolution available here, with 24.2 megapixels providing a sweet spot between detail and keeping price down. Indeed, it’s the same sensor as has already proven its mettle in the Panasonic S1.
By putting this sensor in a more sensibly sized body, Panasonic immediately appeals to a greater variety of users. Especially when you use it with the well-performing 20-60mm lens, it’s a great travel-friendly option.
Bringing down the price and size doesn’t come without sacrifices. The 2.36-million dot viewfinder being one such example – although perfectly usable, it’s a marked difference from that which is found in the more expensive S1. Fast shooting is also restricted to 7fps, while focusing on moving subjects isn’t on par with some others on the market. It’s probably therefore not going to be top of the list if you’re into action shooting.
That said, there’s another audience that should seriously consider the S5 – and that’s vloggers/video creators. With uncropped 4K (30p) video, V-Log, compatibility with anamorphic 4K lenses, dual memory card slots, a fully-articulating screen and time-lapse capability, it’s got a lot more video-friendly tech than the average user will need, but that the vlogger will crave.
The price of the S5 is another appealing factor. Keen to compete with the likes of the Nikon Z6 and the Sony A7 III, Panasonic has managed to keep the S5 on the right side of affordable. Overall, it’s a decent all-rounder for both stills and videos, so for maximum flexibility it’s an excellent choice.
Pros: Great video specs; small body size; dual memory card slots; good price; good body design; fully-articulating screen
Cons: Slow focusing for action; 7fps shooting only; overall system size quite large thanks to large lenses
The best mirrorless camera for all-round compromise
Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS | Focusing: Intelligent Hybrid AF, 91 point | ISO: 160 – 12800 (expandable to ISO 80 – 51200) | Continuous Burst: 30fps | Display: 3.0-inch, 1.62m-dot, fully articulating touchscreen | Viewfinder: 0.5-inch, 3.69m-dot OLED 100% viewfinder | Video: 4K up to 60p | IS: Inbuilt, 5-axis | Size: 134.6 x 92.8 x 63.8mm | Weight: 607g (body only, including battery and card) | Memory: 2x UHS-II SD card slots
Sitting at the top of Fujifilm’s impressive line-up of mirrorless models, this is another brand which has put in a decent showing over the years when it comes to mirrorless. Having had a good amount of time to build up its X series, it’s got a diverse set of lenses, accessories and a variety of camera bodies to meet the needs of different users.
The Fujifilm X-T4 (£1,949) is a bit of a powerhouse, following on from the extremely well-performing X-T3. If you like to shoot sports, action or moving subjects, it makes a lot of sense.
Fujifilm uses APS-C sized sensors for its X range. Being smaller than full-frame, but larger than Four Thirds, what you get is a good middle-ground that balances image quality with high portability and ergonomics.
The X-T4 is fairly chunky, which means that it is replete with buttons and dials to give you direct and quick access to settings. The centrally mounted viewfinder, along with the vary-angle screen makes for a good combination for composing your images, giving you the flexibility to shoot from a variety of angles.
You also get a very-well-performing autofocus system which pretty much nails it every time, with sharp eye-focusing being particularly impressive. You can shoot at 15fps via the mechanical shutter, or at up to 30fps using the electronic one, making it ideal for capturing split-second moments. In-built image stabilisation has also been included in the X-T range for the first time, giving you greater scope for sharper handheld shots in more conditions.
Overall, this is an extremely versatile camera which produces fantastic imagery, and is particularly impressive when it comes to tracking moving subjects. It’s important not to consider the smaller sensor a drawback, but rather an advantage that facilitates some of its other appealing features, such as portability and fast frame rates.
Pros: Good screen and viewfinder combination; good battery life; 15/30fps shooting; great tracking focus
Cons: Smaller than full-frame sensor; same sensor as its predecessor; mid-range resolution
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