Best Mirrorless Cameras for 2016
Article Contents Preview
- Best Mirrorless Cameras for 2016
- Recommended Mirrorless Cameras
- Best Affordable Mirrorless Camera for Beginners Under $300: Sony a3000
- Best Entry Level Mirrorless Camera with Wi-Fi: Sony a5100
- Best Step Up Mirrorless Camera: Sony Alpha a6000
- Why Buy a Mirrorless Camera?
- What to look and features you should have when buying an entry-level Mirrorless Camera:
- DSLR vs. Mirrorless
- The Verdict
When I first got into digital photography (2007-2008), I bought a Fuji Finepix for under $200. It was the perfect entry-level point and shoot camera for me to take on work trips to China, to learn from, to creative with, and to start using Flickr (see my photos here) and other photo sharing websites long before Instagram was even a thought in any photographer’s head. This was back in 2008 – something like a century ago in digital technology years. I wasn’t really aware of Mirrorless cameras until 2011/2012 (*scratching my head trying to remember*) when I was upgrading from my Fuji.
It didn’t cross my mind then to buy a mirrorless camera because DSLR’s where the next logical upgrade for me 7 years ago. So what’s the next right step in my camera evolution and yours? Is it worth it to buy a mirrorless camera to add to my arsenal? After reviewing the options… I have to say, Yes.
Recommended Mirrorless Cameras
After reviewing most of the options in mirrorless cameras today, I recommend purchasing a Sony Mirrorless Camera. They are leaders in the mirrorless camera market (in my opinion) and come with an array of affordable options. If you are interested in other options besides Sony, Fuji (Fujifilm X-T10 – recommended) and Olympus (Olympus OM-D E-M10 16 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera is an excellent affordable option) make superb cameras.
The reason I like Sony? They offer superb quality and affordable options for most price points. They don’t sacrifice too much quality as you go down in price. Of course, as you move up the price ladder you get a richer feature set.
For most people who want to expand beyond their smart phone or point and shoot Sony provides a solid assortment of mirrorless cameras for most price points.
The Sony a3000 is an excellent affordable entry level mirrorless camera under $300 for beginners who want a feature rich camera but don’t want to spend a lot of money. It has a 20.1 MP APS-C size HD sensor – which is surprising for an affordable mirrorless camera. Its lens is interchangeable – not fixed. You can get creative with your image making by purchasing different E-mount lenses.
You can shoot beautiful videos of your family, pets, sports or make Youtube videos with HD video that shoots up to 3.5fps HD 1080/60i/24p. The Sony a3000 has a viewfinder and a back panel 3″ LCD screen so you can either use the viewfinder or the LCD. Plus, for an affordable mirrorless camera, it’s a bonus that it has image stabilization to help keep your photos in focus.
The downside at this price point under $300 is that it’s not Wi-Fi enabled. You’ll have to hook it up to your laptop to share photos.
While it’s not essential as a beginner photographer to understand all the technical aspects of a camera, the most important thing to know as a beginner photographer using a mirrorless camera, is that the Sony a3000 is an affordable entry level mirrorless option that will let you unbox it and start making amazing memories on day 1.
1) The a3000 has six creative style settings – Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset and B&W – fine-tune contrast, saturation, and sharpness to your personal taste. You can also use the built in filters to make very cool photo effects. There are 11 types of in-camera picture effects that let you can create unique and exciting photos – effects include Soft Focus, Partial Color, Retro Photo, Miniature and a few more. And, it has an auto HDR mode for still shots.
2) The hot shoe mount on top so you can attach a flash for photography or microphone for more professional videos.
3) How to charge: the Sony a3000 can take up to 470 shots on a single charge, and you can easily recharge the Sony a3000 camera by plugging it into a USB charger either via your computer or with a typical cell phone charger that accepts USB cords. That’s awesome when you are out shooting and need to charge up. Just head into Starbucks and plug in for a little bit… imagine you are in NYC and need to charge your camera. It’s so easy to plug your camera into the wall without having to take the batteries out.
4) It uses Sony E-mount lenses, and it can accept A-mount lenses via an optional adapter – LA-EA1/LA-EA2 adapter sold separately.
The Sony a3000 is 5 x 3.4 x 3.6 inches and weighs less than a pound at 14.6 ounces. If you are newbie to mirrorless cameras and don’t want to spend a lot of money, but want all the features that mirrorless lets you have… get this camera! In my opinion, it’s the best affordable mirrorless camera for a newbie photographer. To see photos using the Sony a3000 go to Flickr.com for images tagged Sony a3000.
The Sony a5100 is easy to use right out of the box and offers superior photo quality. It comes with simple menus and intuitive controls. It’s easy to learn and will offer you a lot of cool options for you to grow as a photographer and expand photography skills.
The a5100 also has a large set of available e-mount lenses to choose from. This is important when making your purchasing decision. As you grow you’ll probably want to invest in a new lens or two so you can capture the images your creativity desires.
The Sony a5100 features an ultra-fast auto focus with 179 AF points and 6Fps (frames per second), a 24MP APS-C sensor, and it can record full HD 1080/24/60P video3 up to 50MB/s. The only downside, it doesn’t have image stabilization like the Sony a6000 reviewed below.
You’ll love that you can instantly share photos with the Wi-Fi enabled feature and NFC1. This is an excellent option if you are traveling and want to upload your photos to share with family and friends. Like the Sony a3000 this is an excellent mirrorless camera for beginners, and it has the wi-fi feature built in.
What you get: With the Sony a5100 you can take up to 400 photos on one battery charge. There are 25 autofocus points to help you take sharper photos, Hybrid autofocus (phase detection/contrast-detect AF), video capability at 16:9 for really sweet HD videos for Youtube, and an ISO range including Auto, 100-25600. You can take some nice low light photos, no problem. The package you’ll get comes with a rechargeable battery, an AC Charger, a lens cap, a shoulder strap and a Micro USB cable. Everything you need to start shooting as soon as your package arrives. To see photos using the Sony a5100 go to Flickr.com for images tagged Sony a5100.
Here’s a Complete Guide to Sony Mirrorless Camera Lenses with Recommendations Depending upon what Your Needs Are as a Photographer – Learn more on our sister site Camera Review Guide
Best Step Up Mirrorless Camera: Sony Alpha a6000
I love the Sony a6000 because its sensor is a 24 mega pixel APS-C CMOS sensor that makes some really amazing photos. Its ISO capabilites are 100-25600 that is expandable up to 51200. And, even as you need to use a higher ISO you won’t get as much noise as you would using an entry-level DSLR. It records Full HD video at 24 and 60p. Perfect for low light recording, action videos, movies and stills.
The auto-focus gives you super fast continuous shooting when you need to take photos of movement – get 11 frames per second continuous shooting with the auto-focus tracking with the 179-point phase-detection AF sensor. When dealing with a moving subject the a6000’s excellent moving-subject tracking performance ensures that you capture the shot during still or video photography.
The Sony a6000 is perfect for anyone who needs superb performance but doesn’t want to break the bank. Are you an amateur photographer wanting something small but highly capable of taking great shots? Or an amateur sports photographer wanting to take pics of your kid’s team at sporting events? If so, this is the perfect camera for you.
What you get: Image stabilization to keep your shots clear. 3-inch tilting LCD with 921,000 dots and OLED electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage and 1.4 million dots. The Sony a6000 comes with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC. It’s compatible with an array of Sony E Mount Lenses, and a hot-shoe mount on top makes recording sound easier. Reasons to buy this mirrorless option? You’ll get great photos on a feature rich camera that’s just a little bit more expensive than the a5100. The a6000 has comprehensive video controls with exceptional continuous autofocus performance. At this price point, you can’t go wrong with the Sony a6000. To see photos using the Sony a6000 go to Flickr.com for images tagged Sony a6000.
Looking for something more robust? Check out the
Sony A7 II Full Frame Mirrorless Camera on Camera Review Guide
Why Buy a Mirrorless Camera?
You may have experienced something similar to my story. Maybe you are asking yourself why buy a mirrorless camera? Are you ready to pull the trigger on either a great entry-level DSLR (such as the Nikon D3300) or a Mirrorless Camera (like the Sony A6000) but aren’t sure which way to go?
The advantages and reasons to buy a mirrorless camera over a DSLR are pretty clear if you look at the cameras side by side. DSLRs tend to be a lot larger because they have to compensate for the internal componentry including the mirror.
Larger equals heavier. And, if you are traveling, in order to pack your DSLR you need a pretty bulky padded bag or camera bag insert to store your photogear. Mirrorless cameras can fit into a smaller padded pouch or padded wrap. Less bulk = less weight and less space being used in your bags.
The image quality from a mirrorless camera now rivals that of a DSLR. You used to have to buy a DSLR to get professional quality images, but the sensors found in mirrorless cameras are equally as good as the sensors in DSLRs. And, because image quality is a function of the sensor size and not the mirror, mirrorless cameras can be found with APS-C sensors just like DSLRs.
Other sensors that make for amazing quality photos include a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which is smaller than the APS-C. The Micro Four Thirds sensor lets you use smaller lenses which makes for an incredibly compact photography kit. This is perfect if you want to carry your camera around all day on vacation. What you lose in slightly less performance, you make up for in convenience and compact design. If you are a casual photographer and not a professional, a Micro Four Thirds sensor is going to let you take stunning photos at a negligible degradation of quality.
The ability of mirrorless cameras to shoot in low-light situations is astounding. The clarity of low light photos coming from mirrorless camera, like the Sony a6000, makes it a no-brainer for video and stills. Imagine you are at a school play where it’s dark and the lighting of your kiddo is not spot on.
You need to get a shot to upload to Facebook, but little Anika is a little bit left of the light… with a mirrorless camera you can easily adjust the ISO settings to allow for the low-light situation, take a completely quiet photo (no mirror clacking sound in the auditorium) and immediately upload it to social media via the wifi capabilities. Try taking a quiet photo in low light situations with an entry-level DSLR… it’s likely never going to happen!
DSLR’s have a pretty significant learning curve. If you are upgrading from a basic point and shoot camera then getting a Mirrorless camera is the better choice for you.
You’ll find that they mostly have easy to use interfaces similar to the point and shoot. The more affordable models also have the LCD screen you are used to. This is a big advantage of the Mirrorless sect.
What to look and features you should have when buying an entry-level Mirrorless Camera:
- Lenses. Make sure the brand you buy has a lot of lens options. Your camera will likely come with a nice kit lens, but as you improve your skills and want to expand your options, be sure you purchase a brand that has a lot of lens support. There should be a wide array of lenses at a variety of price points so that you can upgrade your lens choices as needed. Read more about the Sony 16-50mm kit lens or learn more about which lens is right for you – Sony E-mount lenses reviewed.
- Size. The main reason people buy mirrorless is the size and weight. If your goal is to be active and inconspicuous, be sure to get a smaller sized option. But, if you have larger fingers you might want to check the size of the Menu and LCD screen on the back of the camera. Make sure to buy something that works with your hands.
- Out of the box shooting. A good entry-level mirrorless camera should be good to go right out of the box just like a point and shoot.
- Better than your smart phone. Why buy a mirrorless camera if the quality you want is already on your phone? If you are happy with crappy low light shots that your smart phone takes, don’t buy a mirrorless camera. If you can live with a lot of blur in actions shots… your cell phone is what you want. Mirrorless cameras will give you superior quality but a similar convenience as the smart phone. If you want better photos then pick up a camera.
- Easy to navigate menu. Make sure that the menu is easy to use and navigate – just like your smart phone.
- Connectivity. Most mirrorless cameras are wifi, GPS and selfie enabled 😉 It needs to keep you as connected as your cell phone – and with the flip up LCD screen on the Sony A5100 you can easily see yourself for your selfies.
- Batteries. Make sure the mirrorless camera you purchase meets your battery life needs. It can really suck when you want to get the last shot but your battery is kaput.
- Extra shooting modes. Check to make sure the mirrorless camera you purchase has all the extra shooting modes you require – like panoramas and creative modes.
DSLR vs. Mirrorless
An advantage of a DSLR is the battery life – there’s more room in a DSLR for larger batteries so you can shoot more pics. I’ve been able to take thousands of photos when my Canon 7D is fully charged. A mirrorless camera may only have enough charge for 300-400 photos, and some mirrorless cameras don’t have removable batteries. You’ll need to charge some by plugging them in instead of changing out the batteries. This can be frustrating if you are traveling and don’t have access to a power source.
Another (former) DSLR advantage is the selection of lenses – simply because DSLRs have been around longer than mirrorless cameras. However, manufacturer’s are catching up to consumer expectations as the mirrorless market grows. When you are purchasing a mirrorless camera, be sure to buy a brand that has the widest range of lenses to meet your specific needs. I generally like to have a prime lens and a wide-angle lens available on vacation. Additionally, a zoom lens is good for taking photos when you can’t get close to the subject.
A DSLR advantage is the auto-focus system – although mirrorless cameras are catching up quickly. DSLRs also have advanced autofocus systems that are perfect for sports and action photography. BUT… and a big but… Mirrorless cameras have more focus points in all. Most mirrorless cameras have hundreds of focal point options which will give you tack sharp photos all the time – especially when shooting in Auto.
And if you prefer a viewfinder you might want a DSLR instead of a mirrorless option. mirrorless cameras use the LCD screen on the back of the camera. And, some more expensive options generally above $600 have an electronic viewfinder (EVF) that shows you the image electronically. It sometimes doesn’t keep up in real-time with what the lens is seeing… so if you are married to the analog viewfinder you won’t enjoy the mirrorless way of looking at the world.
So, the verdict is…if you want to upgrade from a basic point and shoot, a mirrorless camera will provide exactly what you need right out of the box. If you are a beginner photographer, choosing new camera from this list of Sony Mirrorless Cameras is a great choice. Sony’s are some of the most user friendly mirrorless cameras offering an array of options at affordable price points.
Most mirrorless cameras provide today’s core photography customer with a wi-fi enabled, GPS tracking, point and shoot option with superior quality and adaptability. If you want to up your photography game and aren’t sure which way to go – go Mirrorless.
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