Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (ILCs) have really come of age over the past few years. They’re now a leading choice among photographers who earn their living taking pictures. However, while professional mirrorless ILCs haven’t eclipsed DSLRs in the marketplace, they’re certainly close to pulling even. They also now represent an attractive option for a broad spectrum of serious shooters.
Moreover, mirrorless cameras have a number of inherent advantages. Most notable is the ability to provide continuous autofocus (AF) before, during and after the exposure. This can be crucial in capturing pro-quality high-speed sequences and 4K video.
Also, eliminating the mirror box enables mirrorless cameras to be smaller and lighter. In addition, their shorter lens-to-sensor distances enhance optical flexibility, allowing optical designers to create smaller, lighter lenses that provide outstanding coverage and imaging performance.
Furthermore, the latest electronic viewfinders (EVFs) in mirrorless ILCs deliver viewing images that compare favorably to the best optical viewfinders. They show changes in camera settings, exposure and white balance in real time; provide continuous live view; and also allow layering of information, including histograms, camera settings, etc.
Freed of the mechanical limitations imposed by a moving mirror, mirrorless cameras also deliver faster shooting speeds; faster AF acquisition; superior focus tracking; silent (electronic) shutter firing; on-sensor phase-detection AF across the entire field; and real-time live view with hybrid AF for advanced AF tracking.
All of these enhancements make it easier to capture pro-caliber stills and video over a wider range of shooting conditions—a huge selling point for pros who have to deliver the goods and are always on the lookout for an edge over their competitors.
Top Professional Mirrorless Cameras
Sony Alpha a7R III
This is a leading choice among professionals requiring an advanced, high-resolution full-frame mirrorless ILC for both still and video applications. Sony’s upgraded a7R III scores with a high-performance 42.4 megapixel, full-frame Exmor R BSI (backside-illuminated) sensor mated to a cutting-edge Bionz X image processor and front-end LSI. The combination delivers an impressive 10-frames-per-sec full-res framing rate. And ISO settings of 100–32,000 can be expanded to cover an ISO 50–102,400 range. It also offers 4K video capture through 5K (15MP) oversampling at 30 fps in XAVC S format with the S-Log3 Gamma curve found in high-end Sony video cameras, plus HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) support.
Benefitting still and video capture is 5-axis SteadyShot Inside sensor-shift image stabilization (IS); it provides a 5.5-stop advantage in handheld shooting. The ILC also sports a sleeker body design that incorporates an impressively realistic 3.69M-dot Tru-Finder OLED EVF as well as a rear 3-inch, 1.44M-dot, tilting touch-screen LCD for convenient control when working at high and low angles.
Other features include: Pixel Shift Multi Shooting to create images up to 169.6MP; fast hybrid AF with 399 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection points; eye AF and animal eye AF; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; dual SD card slots; a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port; and a PC sync port. All of this is built into a robust body with a magnesium alloy chassis and comprehensive weather sealing. $3,199.99.*
Nikon Z 7
Nikon’s scintillating high-res, professional mirrorless full-framer looks rugged and purposeful, and it is! It’s based on a 45.7MP FX-format BSI CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Expeed 6 image-processing engine. This high-tech alliance delivers impressive performance parameters. For instance, 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps with N-Log for capturing an enhanced dynamic range; 8K time-lapse video; 10-bit HDMI output; and an extended sensitivity range of ISO 64–25,600. The Z 7 also boasts a full-res burst rate of 9 fps.
Of course, at its core is a new wide-diameter Z mount with a shorter 16mm flange distance, which enables the use of more compact wider-aperture Nikkor Z lenses. In addition, legacy Nikkor F-mount lenses can be used via the Mount Adapter FTZ, and they gain the advantages of the Z 7’s in-body vibration reduction, silent shooting and PDAF focusing system. The optional adapter also permits full functionality with E-, G- and D-type Nikkor lenses. Moreover, the ILC’s 493-point phase-detection AF system works with built-in 5-axis VR image stabilization to minimize the effects of handheld camera shake.
Also featured are a 0.8x, 3.6M-dot EVF; a 3.2-inch, 2.10M-dot, tilting, touch-sensitive LCD monitor; and a top panel dot-matrix OLED display that allows easy monitoring of settings when the camera isn’t at eye level. The stylish Z 7 also provides an XQD card slot, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a robust, weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. $3,399.95.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
This seriously upgraded model in the mirrorless Olympus Micro Four Thirds range has a timeless, downsized DSLR form factor and bristles with technical innovations. Photographers will appreciate its 20.4MP High-Speed Live MOS sensor coupled to TruPic VIII dual quad-core processors. Together they provide outstanding image quality, a 15-fps full-res burst rate and increased responsiveness. Moreover, they offer enhanced performance at high sensitivity settings up to ISO 25,600.
In addition, the professional mirrorless camera boasts a large, wide-view, high-magnification, 2.36M-dot eye-level EVF that provides a 100% view. It also features a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, tilting touch-screen OLED monitor. Plus, its advanced 5-axis sensor-shift IS system delivers shake-free images when shooting stills and 4K DCI 24p or 4K UHD 30p video handheld. Also, its dual FAST 121-point AF system provides pro-level tracking and autofocus performance. Other features include built-in wireless connectivity that links it to iOS/Android smart devices as well as a customizable multifunction control array similar to that in high-end pro DSLRs.
The OM-D E-M1 Mark II also boasts a rugged dustproof, weatherproof, magnesium alloy body. $1,699.99.
Canon EOS R
Canon’s landmark mirrorless marvel is aimed at serious shooters, including pros. Crisply styled, it features a full-frame 30.3MP CMOS sensor coupled to a high-tech Digic 8 processor. Consequently, the EOS R provides such advanced capabilities as 4K UHD video capture at 30 fps with Canon Log Gamma for enhanced dynamic range; 10-bit HDMI output; and movie servo AF. It also features expanded sensitivity settings of ISO 50–102,400 and full-res bursts up to 8 fps.
It’s built around the new 54mm-wide Canon RF mount that accepts an advanced new line of more compact, wider-aperture lenses. However, legacy Canon EF- and EF-S-mount lenses can be used with optional EF-EOS RF mount adapters. The mirrorless ILC also provides Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology with a remarkable 5,655 selectable AF points and sensitivity down to EV -6 for outstanding low-light performance. Moreover, Dual Pixel Raw capture permits slight focus point shifts and other adjustments after capture.
In addition, a 3.69M-dot OLED EVF complements a 3.15-inch, 2.10M-dot swivel touch screen. Also notable are: movie digital IS to minimize the effects of camera shake; a customizable multifunction bar for personalized control of settings; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; and an SD UHS-II card slot. The EOS R also has a durable dust- and weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. $2,299.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R
Panasonic’s first full-frame mirrorless ILC is a heavy-duty, high-spec L-mount model clearly aimed at an expanding pro market. It features a full-frame 47.3MP MOS sensor integrated with a high-performance Venus Engine image processor. The camera is capable of 4K UHD video recording at up to 60 fps as well as an impressive maximum full-res burst rate of 9 fps with AF-S or 6 fps with AF-C.
It also has sensitivity settings from ISO 100 to ISO 51,200. In addition, a 225-zone contrast-detection DFD (Depth from Defocus) AF system can adjust the focus position in as little as 0.08 sec with sensor-to-lens communication at rates up to 480 fps. Moreover, Dual IS 2 image stabilization technology combines 5.5-stop-rated, 5-axis sensor shift with in-lens 2-axis IS when using compatible Lumix lenses.
The S1R also boasts an ultrahigh-res 5.76M-dot, 0.78x-magnification OLED EVF with a selectable 60-fps or 120-fps refresh rate, a 0.005-sec lag time and a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. It’s complemented by a large 3.2-inch, 2.10M-dot, triaxial tilt, touch-screen LCD as well as a top status LCD. Other features include: 187MP high-res mode; built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; XQD and SD slots; USB Type-C port; HLG mode for enhanced dynamic range and shadow detail; and a dust-, splash-, freeze-resistant, magnesium alloy body. $3,699.99.
Olympus OM-D E-M1X
This ruggedly handsome, serious pro-aimed flagship of the mirrorless Olympus Micro Four Thirds lineup has an integrated vertical grip. The grip includes two sets of controls and shutter releases for vertical or horizontal shooting. It also allows the use of dual BLH-1 Li-ion batteries for 870 shots with normal settings or an incredible 2,580 shots with quick sleep mode activated! The ILC utilizes an upgraded 20.4MP Live MOS sensor coupled to dual TruPic VIII quad-core processors. They result in outstanding image quality, a full-res burst rate of 15 fps and increased responsiveness. They also provide enhanced performance at high sensitivity settings up to ISO 25,600.
The E-M1X has a large, wide-view, high-magnification (0.8x), 2.36M-dot eye-level EVF with a 100% view. It also provides a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, tilting, touch-screen OLED monitor. Noteworthy is its advanced 5-axis sensor-shift IS system that delivers shake-free images with 7 stops of correction when shooting stills or 4K DCI 24p or 4K UHD 30p video handheld. Also, its dual FAST 121-point AF system (phase and contrast detection) delivers pro-level tracking and AI-based intelligent subject-detection AF.
There’s also a 50MP handheld high-res shot mode. Built-in wireless connectivity links it to iOS/Android devices. Other features include: an enhanced customizable multifunction control array similar to that in high-end pro DSLRs; dual battery slots; a USB Type-C port; and two UHS-II SD slots. All of this is housed in a dustproof, weatherproof, magnesium alloy body. $2,999.99.
Sony Alpha a9
The flagship of Sony’s full-frame Alpha series, the a9 provides sizzling speed plus impressive multimedia capabilities for ultrafast continuous shooting and professional video capture. It employs a 24.2MP full-frame Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor and front-end LSI coupled to an advanced Bionz X processor. The ILC delivers a continuous full-res burst rate of an incredible 20 fps. It also offers internal 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps, using full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 6K data. Moreover, users can pull 8K stills from video, and sensitivity settings are extendable from ISO 50 to ISO 204,800.
The a9 also uses an advanced 693-point phase-detection AF system with 425 contrast-detection points that’s sensitive down to -3 EV. Moreover, it boasts a blackout free Quad-VGA 3.39M-dot OLED EVF with Zeiss T* coating and customizable frame rates from 60 to 120 fps. In addition, a 3-inch, 1.44M-dot, tilting touch-screen LCD facilitates flexible operation in the field.
Other features include: 5-axis SteadyShot Inside sensor-shift IS that provides a 5-stop advantage when shooting stills or video; a silent electronic shutter; real-time eye AF; a multi-selector joystick for shifting the focus point; dual SD slots; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; plus integrated LAN and PC terminals. Its fully weather-sealed body has a magnesium alloy chassis. $4,499.99.
Aimed at serious and professional still and video shooters, this well-built, weather-sealed, magnesium-clad beauty is based on Fujifilm’s signature APS-C-format, 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor. It couples to the latest X-Processor Pro image processor. The high-performance pairing enables the X-H1 to capture DCI 4K video at 24 fps and at a boosted 200Mbps bit rate for internal footage. Other video features include Full HD 1080p video recording at up to 120 fps for slow-motion effects and internal F-Log Gamma recording to an SD card. The camera is also capable of 14-fps continuous bursts.
In addition, sensitivity settings range from ISO 100 to ISO 51,200. The X-H1 also employs 5-axis in-body image stabilization with up to a 5.5-stop anti-shake advantage, as well as a 325-point intelligent hybrid AF system.
Other features include: a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, 3-way tilting, touch-screen LCD; a 0.75x, 3.69M-dot EVF; a 1.28-inch sub LCD top screen to easily monitor current settings between shots; flicker reduction mode; dual SD slots; and ergonomic locking dial and lever controls, including a dedicated focus lever. $1,299.99.
Sigma sd Quattro H
At the pinnacle of Sigma’s Quattro line, this unique mirrorless camera incorporates the latest APS-H-size sensor (1.3x crop factor). It produces images equivalent to a 51MP Bayer sensor. Moreover, Sigma’s three-layer Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS sensor delivers full color information at every pixel point without interpolation. The camera’s SA lens mount is the same one used on the flagship Sigma SD1 Merrill DSLR. And thanks to its impressive 1:1.4 RGB pixel ratio, the sd Quattro H can create 25.5MP lossless compressed RAW images with superior color output.
Other features include: an advanced Dual True III image processor that provides continuous, full-res shooting at 3.8 fps; ISO 6,400; super-fine detail mode that blends seven exposures into one RAW file with a wide dynamic range; a bright, 3-inch, 1.62M-dot LCD; and a 2.36M-dot EVF. Its hybrid AF system incorporates both phase-detection and contrast-detection points with up to nine selectable, and it has an operating range of -1 to 18 EV. The sd Quattro H has a distinctive ergonomic shape and an intuitive, customizable control layout. $1,099.
*All SRPs are body only.