The rise of mirrorless camera technology has been the big story in digital photography over the last decade and it is not hard to see why.
As well as enabling smaller, neater and more trendy camera designs, mirrorless technology replaces the old-school, flapping mirrors found in SLRs with clever modern electronics. Most enable you to change lenses, too, greatly adding to their versatility. Electronic viewfinders (EVFs), while still not to everyone’s taste, are getting better and better, as is AF and ISO performance. The video capabilities of mirrorless cameras, along with useful extras like focus peaking when focusing manually, also help to make this technology attractive, as does the widespread inclusion of full-frame sensors at a keen price. There’s never been a bigger choice of mirrorless cameras for a range of budgets, so we’ve put together this handy guide to help you find the right model for you.
If you’re looking to get into mirrorless cameras but don’t want to spend the earth on a very advanced model, with pricey lenses to match, this is a great choice. The sensor is a 20.9 megapixel APS-C chip rather than full frame, but it still offers more than enough resolution for enthusiast photographers. It is a relatively fast camera, able to shoot at 11 frames per second, and can also record pin-sharp 4k video. Many newer mirrorless cameras are ending up as bulky and heavy as some SLRs, but he Z50 is refreshingly light and compact, with a chunky handgrip. The 16-50mm lens you can get as part of the camera kit is also a class act, delivering consistently sharp images. Expect to pay about £850.
Another great budget choice, the X-T30 manages to squeeze one of the highest resolution APS-C sensors on the market (26.1 megapixels) into a pleasingly compact body. You’ll certainly never have to worry about your shots being too low resolution, unless you intend to print billboard-size. The X-T30 is a great choice for anyone still getting to grips with the technicalities of everyday photography, as it offers a wide range of manual controls, while still including the reassurance of auto settings. You also get 4K video and a reasonably fast burst rate of 8 frames per second, along with a fantastic choice of X-series lenses. It’s a shame there isn’t in-body stabilisation, but you can’t expect everything for around £700.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
Along with Panasonic, Olympus was a pioneer in mirrorless cameras. It developed the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensor which it’s still using today, housed in some wonderfully well-made and compact bodies. While the 20.4 megapixel sensor is not as high resolution as many competitors, including those offering APS-C, it still delivers rich, detailed images – and the payback compared to full frame is smaller camera bodies. The ace up the E-M5’s sleeve, however, is the superb in-body image stabilisation, which basically removes the need for a tripod when you are using slower shutter speeds in a range of situations. I’ve gone as slow as one second handheld and still got sharp shots, and that’s actually quite conservative. Meanwhile, the Pro Capture burst mode is invaluable for capturing wildlife and action shots, and there are many other goodies, such as 4k video recording and Live Composite mode for merging pictures. If you are happy to pay around £1000, this is a fantastic all-rounder.
Moving up the price and performance scale, the Nikon Z 6 is based around a high-resolution, 24 megapixel full-frame sensor that definitely won’t disappoint anyone who wants very detailed images, or to print big. Other plus points include a wide ISO range for shooting in low light, or when you need faster shutter speeds, a bulletproof magnesium-alloy build, and effective image stabilisation, which means you don’t need to reach for a tripod so often. You can also record 4k video without cropping, but best of all, Nikon has managed to pack in all these features without making the camera ugly or heavy. It is weather-sealed too, making it a great travel companion. While Nikon Z series lenses are still relatively expensive, if you get the Z6 with the FTZ lens adaptor you can use Nikon DSLR lenses, many of which are much more affordable, while delivering sharp shots. Expect to pay around £1,500 body only.
Sony Alpha 7R IV
If you’re more concerned about mirrorless performance than keeping costs down, this camera is a beast – but a very attractive one. The 'R' stands for resolution, so your money buys you a cutting-edge 61 megapixel full-frame sensor, plus a lot more besides. The images a large and exquisitely detailed, so you can get fantastic prints, or crop in without losing too much resolution. Other highlights include Eye AF to ensure you get great portraits of people or animals, a very impressive 10fps continuous shooting and 4K video. All this class-leading technology doesn’t come cheap, however, so you’ll need to find around £3500. And yes, that’s just for the camera...
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