The best mirrorless camera
When you're ready to improve your photography skills, you'll want to start using a dedicated digital camera. Smartphone cameras do a nice job, but a more sophisticated camera provides extra control over the final image and delivers better quality.
Some people who don't want the bulk of a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera may turn to a mirrorless camera. Smaller than a DSLR, mirrorless cameras are far more convenient to use for certain photographers. The following guide will help you determine the best mirrorless camera for you and includes our favorite, the Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Camera, which works nicely for all levels of photographers.
Considerations when choosing mirrorless cameras
When a photographer makes a decision to purchase a digital camera, he or she often will be deciding between a DSLR or mirrorless model. There are advantages and disadvantages of each kind of camera.
Beyond the smaller size, a mirrorless camera tends to give you more body color choices and style compared to a DSLR. Mirrorless cameras will deliver excellent performance speeds in burst mode, outdoing entry-level DSLRs. Additionally, a mirrorless camera's autofocus (AF) system will work faster than an entry-level DSLR's AF system.
With a DSLR, you're going to receive additional choices in the types of lenses you can use versus a mirrorless camera. DSLRs always ship with a viewfinder, while mirrorless cameras may not. DSLRs tend to deliver better battery life than mirrorless cameras, too.
Once you've chosen to go with a mirrorless camera, here are some terms you need to understand in order to properly compare models.
Image sensor: The primary silicon chip inside the camera body is the image sensor. This chip takes measurements of the light that enters the lens. It then turns these measurements into digital representations that allow a computer to recreate the image on a screen. The physical size of an image sensor plays a key role in the image quality you'll receive.
Megapixels: Each image sensor can record a certain number of pixels in the photo. Each pixel is a dot in the scene, and 1 megapixel is equal to 1 million pixels. An image sensor that can record at least 20 megapixels (MP) is desirable. But the physical size of the image sensor is more important for image quality versus the number of megapixels it can record.
Interchangeable lens: A mirrorless camera consists of a camera body only. You then can connect different lenses to the mount on the camera body. This gives you the ability to create different styles of photos based on the lens you choose. You often must purchase compatible lenses separately from the mirrorless camera body.
LCD screen: The LCD screen on the back of the camera allows you to frame the scene before you record the photo. It also allows you to review photos you've already shot and access the camera's control menus.
Viewfinder: A viewfinder is a small window that the photographer holds up to his or her eye and uses to frame the scene instead of using the LCD screen. If the mirrorless camera has a viewfinder, it will always be an electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF essentially is a tiny display screen.
Mirrorless camera prices
Mirrorless cameras vary widely in price. For the camera body only, you could pay anywhere from $300 to $3,000. You'll also need to buy extra lenses and a memory card.
Q. Do I have to buy separate lenses for my mirrorless camera?
A. A mirrorless camera uses interchangeable lenses (just like a DSLR camera). You'll need to either buy a camera that ships with an included lens or purchase a lens separately.
Q. Can I use DSLR lenses with my mirrorless camera?
A. Rarely. A mirrorless camera lens requires a certain type of mount, so it will fit the camera body properly. DSLR lenses use different types of mounts than mirrorless lenses, unless you add an adapter to your mirrorless camera lens mount.
Mirrorless cameras we recommend
Best of the best: Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Camera
Our take: Delivers excellent image and video quality for the price in all kinds of lighting conditions.
What we like: Has a fast performance level at 11 frames per second in burst mode. This camera's design is easy to use.
What we dislike: The camera's firmware may not always recognize the attached lens.
Best bang for your buck: Panasonic LUMIX G7 4K Mirrorless Camera
Our take: Great price point for a camera that also ships with a kit lens, so you can start using it immediately.
What we like: Delivers better low-light photo quality than you'd expect in this price range. Offers 4K video recording resolution.
What we dislike: Plastic construction of camera body has a flimsy feel.
Our take: Delivers features that will appeal to both beginning and intermediate photographers.
What we like: Offers a reasonable price, especially considering it includes a kit lens. Ships with an electronic viewfinder.
What we dislike: Low-light focusing performance is below average.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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