Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras are the most vibrant, innovative sector of the camera market. They offer everyone from serious enthusiasts to pros a DSLR-like shooting experience along with significant operational advantages. They also have the greatest upside potential for future development, which is evident in the stunning specs in the models detailed here.
The top models deliver pro-caliber imaging performance in smaller, lighter form factors. And they’re offered at a range of price points commensurate with their feature sets. While traditional DSLRs—which are inherently larger, heavier and more complex—dominate the market in terms of installed user base and unit sales, many experts predict that mirrorless cameras will eventually supplant DSLRs for all but high-end professional users.
This emerging trend is largely based on significant technological advances that are being made in two key mirrorless camera components: the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and the autofocus (AF) system. While current EVFs may still not quite equal the “real feel” view provided by the best optical DSLR viewfinders, the differences won’t be significant to most users. These high-resolution EVFs or OLED EVFs boast incredibly rapid refresh rates and provide a brilliant, high-magnification viewing image. They also have the advantage of allowing users to preview the image captured by the sensor in real time, complete with any exposure corrections and custom settings. This translates to a great advantage when shooting in low light.
Mirrorless cameras also use hybrid AF systems that combine the advantages of fast, decisive on-sensor phase-detection AF and the precision of contrast-detection AF. This has taken the autofocus performance of mirrorless cameras to a level surpassing that of all but pro DSLRs. These AF systems not only provide faster, more accurate AF but also continuous AF and focus tracking before and during the exposure—which is not possible with conventional DSLRs. This is a crucial factor when shooting images at high burst rates or capturing clean 4K and HD video without visible or audible “hunting.”
Top-end mirrorless system cameras also combine the advantages of DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras by offering an enticing combination of lens interchangeability, high-res viewing, ultrahigh image quality and the entire high-end feature array of DSLRs in more portable, handier bodies.
They also have fewer moving parts and less shutter-release noise and vibration thanks to the elimination of the moving mirror. And they provide a shorter flange back distance that makes it easier to design high-performance wide-angle lenses. The shorter lens-to-sensor distance allows users to mount their existing DSLR lenses and a variety of third-party optics, including legacy rangefinder lenses. As the popularity of mirrorless cameras has steadily increased over the past few years, camera makers and independent lens manufacturers have taken notice and expanded their lens offerings, increasing the creative options available to consumers while providing additional marketing opportunities for dealers.
The upside potential of mirrorless cameras is being exploited with amazing technological advances. Many of the high-end models offer high-res sensors; state-of-the-art image processors for greater responsiveness, enhanced AF speed, accuracy and tracking; higher ISO settings; faster burst rates; 4K video capture; Wi-Fi connectivity; GPS; and multiaxial in-body image stabilization. To see where things are going on the technology front, check out the landmark Sony a6300 specs below.
To keep you up to speed on this important category, here’s a rundown on the latest mirrorless compact cameras.
10 Top Mirrorless System Cameras
Sony Alpha a6300. It’s a mirror image of its successful predecessor, the 6000, which continues in the line. But this APS-C-format camera with a 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor and Bionz X image processor offers a lot more for video shooters. It records UHD 4K (3,840×2,160p) video at 30, 25 and cinematic 24 frames per sec as well as Full HD 1080p video at up to 120 fps for slow motion—all in the XAVC S format. Equally important, recordings using the Super35mm 16:9 aspect ratio recording area are captured at an effective resolution of 20MP (6,000×3,376) and output at 8MP in 4K, with a 2.4x oversampling for greater detail and maximum pixel readout.
Its 4D focus system combines 425 wide-area, phase-detection points with 169 contrast-detection points. This wider, higher density array of on-sensor AF points is 7.5x denser than the 6000’s. It also offers pro video functions like an enhanced Zebra function, S-Log gamma for wide dynamic range and S-Gamut for a wider color space. Other features include: full-res RAW bursts of 11 fps; ISO settings up to 51,200; a 2.36M-dot OLED EVF; a 3-inch, 922K-dot, tilting LCD monitor; and Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity. $999.99.* sony.com
Leica SL. For pros, this Type 601 L-mount model delivers cutting-edge specs in Leica’s classic rounded-edge ergonomic form factor. Its 24MP, full-frame CMOS sensor is coupled to Leica’s Maestro II processor to deliver outstanding image quality with a sensitivity range of ISO 50–50,000. To maximize resolution and detail, the sensor foregoes a low-pass filter. And to meet the video needs of pros, it provides DCI 4K (4,096×2160) recording at 24 fps in Super35 mode along with L-Log gamma to maximize dynamic range. It also captures UHD 4K (3,840×2,160) video at 30/25 fps and Full HD video at up to 120 fps. It has a full-res, 11-fps burst rate and a 2GB internal buffer that allows bursts of up to 33 DNG (RAW) files or unlimited JPEGs. Other features include: A 4.4MP, 0.66-inch, 0.8x-magnification EVF; a 2.95-inch, 1.04M-dot touch screen with a 170º field of view; a fast, precise contrast AF system with touch AF; dual SD slots; built-in Wi-Fi; and GPS. Made in Germany, the weather-resistant SL is crafted from two blocks of solid aluminum. $7,499.99. us.leica-camera.com
Canon EOS M10. Canon’s classically styled, broad-spectrum mirrorless entry features an 18MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Digic 6 image processor. They provide ISO settings of 100–12,800, expandable to ISO 25,600. The M10 offers a continuous, full-res burst rate of 4.6 fps, Full HD 1,920×1,080 video capture at 30/24 fps and a hybrid CMOS AF II system that’s impressively fast and precise. Other features include: A 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, 180º tilting touch-screen LCD to facilitate selfies; built in Wi-Fi with NFC; creative assist mode; and a self-portrait mode for selfies that adjusts effects to enhance skin tones and brightness. The bundled STM lens includes a nearly silent stepping motor optimized for video, a built-in optical stabilizer that minimizes the effects of camera shake and three aspheric elements for enhanced imaging performance over its entire range. With Canon EF-M 15–45mm f/3.5–5.6 IS STM lens, $499.99. usa.canon.com
Pentax Q-S1. The elegantly contoured and leather textured covering of this aluminum-bodied, ultracompact mirrorless model pays homage to the classic rangefinder cameras of the past. But inside it’s thoroughly modern with a 12.4MP, 1/1.7-inch backlit CMOS sensor in the Pentax Q format (with a 4.6x crop factor) coupled to a Q engine processor. The combination delivers 5-fps, full-res bursts, continuous RAW shooting, Full HD 1080p video recording at 30/24 fps, and a 12,800 maximum ISO setting. A rear 3-inch, 460K-dot LCD monitor has a 170º viewing angle and antireflection coating. It also 1 provides built-in shake reduction plus a host of in-camera effects, such as bokeh control, which can be previewed in real time. Other features include: a quick dial for selecting shooting modes; smart effects; AF/MF switching; ND filter on/off; interval mode selection; scene modes; built-in HDR; and multi-exposure mode. The Q-S1 is compatible with optional Eyefi Wi-Fi SD cards for remote transfer. $249.95. ricohimaging.com
Nikon 1 J5. This fourth generation Nikon 1 camera is based on the 13.2×8.8mm CX format. Aimed at serious shooters, it’s a compact 3.9×2.4×1.3 inches and is solid and elegant with contemporary styling. Its 20.8MP BSI CMOS sensor and upgraded Expeed 5A processor deliver improved overall speed and responsiveness—with full-res, 20-fps bursts for 40 frames with full-time AF, plus better high ISO performance with settings topping off at 12,800. Video features include movie e-VR stabilization for recording smooth Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps, 720p at 120 fps for slow motion movies, and UHD 4K video clip recording at 15 fps. It also sports a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, tilting touch screen and has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. Its enhanced hybrid AF system employs 105 phase-detection and 171 contrast-detection AF points to increase AF speed and accuracy. Also featured are high ISO noise reduction that combines four separate images and a full selection of creative modes for picture effects, including glamour retouch mode. With 1 Nikkor 10–30mm f/3.5–5.6 PD Zoom lens, $499.95. nikonusa.com
Olympus PEN-F. Combining the retro styling of the classic 1960s analog Pen F, this elegant Micro Four Thirds camera has a 20.3MP Live MOS sensor that omits the low-pass filter. The sensor is coupled with an advanced TruePic VII image processor that captures low-noise images and delivers Full HD 1080p video at 30 and 60 fps. It also produces 10-fps, full-res bursts using a mechanical shutter and a sensitivity range that extends to ISO 25,600. Its high-res shot mode combines eight frames into a single 50MP-equivalent image, and its intervalometer function can be used to record time-lapse movies that can be exported in 4K UHD. Other features include: 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization; 81-zone contrast-detection AF; a creative control dial on the front for adjusting the look of images with a host of creative effects and filters; a 2.36M-dot OLED EVF; an articulated 3-inch, 1.04M-dot touch-screen LCD; and built-in Wi-Fi. With FL-LM3 flash, $1,199.99. olympusamerica.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8. This brilliantly upgraded Micro Four Thirds camera ups the ante with a higher res sensor and enhanced 4K video options. Delivering a DSLR shooting experience in a slim, elegant body, it incorporates a 20.3MP Live MOS sensor paired with a Venus engine processor. It records 4K UHD video at 30/24 fps, and it captures full-res stills at 10 fps with autofocus. Its unique dual image stabilization system combines in-lens and in-body IS to minimize the effects of shake. For accelerated AF performance, Depth from Defocus technology is used to calculate the distance to subjects in 0.07 sec. Other features include: a 2.36M-dot OLED live viewfinder; a swiveling 3-inch, 1.04M-dot OLED touch-screen monitor; a high-speed, 49-point AF system; sensitivity settings to ISO 25,600; 4K Photo technology that extracts an 8MP photo from 4K video; and built-in Wi-Fi. The GX8’s weatherproof body is constructed from magnesium alloy with die-cast front and rear frames. $999.99. panasonic.com
Fujifilm X-A2. This sleek, sophisticated Fujifilm X-mount mirrorless model delivers a full complement of advanced features and capabilities at an attractive price point. These include a 16.3MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced EXR II processor. They work together to provide a full-res burst rate of 5.6 fps, sensitivity settings of ISO 100–25,600 and Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 fps. The X-A2 boasts impressive responsiveness, with a 0.5-sec start-up time, a 0.05-sec shutter lag time and a 0.4-sec shooting interval time. Other features include: a 175º tilting, 3-inch, 920K-dot LCD; a Q-menu shortcut button for quick access to camera and exposure settings; built-in Wi-Fi; film simulation modes; eye, auto macro and multi-target AF modes; in-lens optical IS for sharp handheld shots in low light; and a wide range of advanced special effects filters and scene position settings. With Fujinon XC 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OIS II lens, $549. fujifilmusa.com
Sony Alpha a7 II. This is the first in Sony’s Alpha 7 line of high-performance, full-frame mirrorless cameras to feature sensor-shifting 5-axis SteadyShot Inside image stabilization. It provides a claimed 4.5 stops of anti-shake compensation for pitch, yaw, horizontal and vertical shift, and roll. This is a big plus when shooting Full HD 1080p video at 60p/30p/24p using the high-bit-rate XAVC S format, or handheld stills in low light. The camera employs a 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor paired with a Bionz X processor. An enhanced “Fast Hybrid” AF system with 117 phase-detection and 25 contrast-detection points provides superior focus tracking. Other key features include: a 3-inch, 1.23M-dot, tilting LCD; a 0.5-inch, 2.36M-dot OLED EVF; 5-fps, full-res bursts; customizable color and gamma controls, including the same S-Log2 Gamma curve found on Sony cinema cameras; built-in Wi-Fi/NFC; an ergonomic grip, shutter release and controls; and a magnesium alloy body. $1,699.99. sony.com
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II. This recently upgraded entry-priced OM-D model provides many key features of the top-tier Micro Four Thirds format OM-D cameras in an elegantly compact, high-value package. It employs a 16.1 megapixel Live MOS sensor married to a state-of-the-art Olympus TruePic VII processor. They produce a full-res burst capability of up to 8.5 fps, Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps, a top sensitivity of ISO 25,600 and a responsive 81-point “FAST” AF system. Other key features include: a 2.36M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder with an impressive 120-fps refresh rate; a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot tilting, touch-screen LCD; in-body 5-axis image stabilization; 14 art filters; built-in Wi-Fi connectivity; and a top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec. $599.99. olympusamerica.com
* All prices are body only unless specified.