The 11 best mirrorless cameras 2017

T3’s round-up of the best compact system cameras on the market right now

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The mirrorless camera market is in superbly robust shape right now - quite frankly there’s never been more or better choice.

This year, Sony came out with the blisteringly fast and quiet Sony A9, which is quite probably the best camera available to buy right now - of any genre. For that, you pay quite the pretty penny, but luckily if your budget doesn’t extend to the best part of five grand, alternatives such as the Fujifilm X-T2 and the Panasonic GH5 are also damn good too.

Cameras made it into this round-up by offering great image quality, while also being a delight to use. They were put through a range of different tests, from every day shooting in good light, to low-light challenges and tracking moving subjects.

With so much choice currently on the market, you may be wondering what to look out for in your new camera…

How to choose a mirrorless camera that's right for you

Mirrorless cameras, sometimes known as compact system cameras, were historically seen as an alternative to DSLRs. 

They’re generally smaller and lighter than their more traditional predecessors - and while it used to be that the trade off for that size reduction was a loss in image quality, that really isn’t the case any more. 

You can still generally split the market in two - those for beginners, and those for more advanced users (and, increasingly so, even professionals).

Most basic models don’t have a viewfinder, but they do allow you to change lenses, and give you full manual controls so you can develop your camera skills as you go along. 

More advanced models are sort of like slimmed down versions of DSLRs, with the key difference being an electronic viewfinder rather than an optical one. These days, mirrorless cameras take advantage of the fact that they don’t have a mirror getting in the way to do things like 20fps silent shooting (as seen in the Sony A9).

The market continues to expand, and mirrorless cameras have come on huge bounds in the past decade (well almost, the first mirrorless model was announced in 2008). Must have features of late include 4K video capture which give you the ability to extract stills - in fact, the Panasonic GH5 can record 6K video to extract even larger stills. Screens are almost always touch-sensitive these days, and usually tilt or articulate to help with awkward angles (including selfies), and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are pretty much givens - essential for sharing your shots as soon as you take them.

Sensor sizes are generally split between (in ascending size) Four Thirds, APS-C and Full-Frame. One-inch CSCs used to be reasonably popular, but these seem to have fallen by the wayside in the past year or so - with the sensor size more readily used in premium compact (fixed lens) cameras. It usually goes that the larger the sensor, the better the image quality - but that’s just a guide and you shouldn’t let that put you off smaller sensors - especially given that the smaller the sensor, the smaller the overall system.

The 11 best mirrorless cameras you can buy today

Here we've listed all of the best compact system cameras you can buy right now!

1. Sony A9

The best camera you can buy right now - but at a price

Specifications
Sensor size: 35mm Full Frame
Resolution: 24MP
Continuous shooting: 20FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+Super-fast shooting+Blackout-free viewfinder
Reasons to avoid
-High price-(Comparatively) Poor battery life

Managing to turn the heads of even die-hard Nikon and Canon professional DSLR users, the Sony A9 leads the way when it comes to impressive technology. 

If you’re into your sports, wildlife or action photography, being able to shoot at a full resolution 20fps all while tracking focus - and what’s more - completely silently - means you’ll be able to capture those moments that your DSLR-wielding buddies miss. 

Other specifications include a 24.2 megapixel full-frame sensor, a viewfinder that manages to stay blackout free even while shooting at super-fast speeds, and a tilting, touch-sensitive screen. 

The biggest drawback here is price, but you do get something seriously impressive for your cash.

2. Fuji X-T2

Super quick shooting in a charming retro body

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24MP
Continuous shooting: 14FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: OIS in-lens
Reasons to buy
+Robust classic design+Superb image quality
Reasons to avoid
-Screen not touch-sensitive-No in-body image stabilisation
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Fuji has two CSCs which act as flagships for its APS-C line. The X-T2 is more DSLR-like in shape, while the X-Pro2 is a flatter, more rangefinder style offering. Both offer superlative image quality, but the X-T2 is perhaps a little more suited to sports, action and wildlife photographer - while the X-Pro2 is ideal for street work.

There’s also a fantastic AF system, 4K video recording and a body which oozes class and an optional battery grip for if you need a performance boost (faster burst shooting, for example). 

Enthusiasts should love the huge array of dials and buttons on the camera, and while it can’t match the 20fps of the Sony A9, 14fps is still impressive. 

3. Panasonic GH5

A powerful all-rounder, particularly well-suited to videographers

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 21MP
Continuous shooting: 60FPS
Video: 4K/6K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+4K/6K video+Articulating touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller sensor-Low light performance not amazing

Panasonic has long been a firm favourite with videographers, and the GH5 is the ideal shooter for those with movie-making aspirations. Don’t let that put you off if you’re mainly into your stills though, as there’s plenty here too to draw you in.

The GH5 saw the debut of 6K Photo, an upgrade from Panasonic’s innovative 4K Photo technology - in short, you can shoot video bursts and extract high-resolution stills - with up to 30 frames per second to shoot from in 6K, or, 60 frames per second in 4K, you can hardly fail to miss the definitive moment. 

Handling is a dream, with a chunky and sturdy body which is weatherproof and adorned with plenty of buttons and dials. A fully articulating screen is touch-sensitive, and joined by a bright and clear viewfinder.

4. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

A fantastic set of specifications in a chunky and sturdy body

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20MP
Continuous shooting: 60FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+Fast shooting+Impressive image stabilisation
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Needlessly complicated menus

 

While Olympus may not have the hype of some of the other brands here, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II has some seriously impressive class-leading specs on board.

Action shooters will be pleased to note that it’s capable of shooting at 18fps at full resolution with tracking focus, while you can boost that up to an even more impressive 60fps if you fix the focus in the first frame. Image stabilisation baked into the camera allows you to shoot handheld for up to two seconds without introducing image blur, while autofocus is quick and sharp.

A chunky body with plenty of dials are available, while dual SD card slots, 4K video recording and an articulating touchscreen round out the specifications very nicely.

5. Sony A6500

An APS-C body with a range of specifications to keep most happy

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24MP
Continuous shooting: 11FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+Good value+Fast shooting
Reasons to avoid
-Awkward handling with large lenses-Poor battery life

One of the best value cameras here, not because it’s cheap as such, but because of the range of specifications you get for your cash.

If you yearn for a Sony A9 but don’t have the funds, then the A6500 is a close runner-up, at a fraction of the price. You’ve got fast 11fps shooting, and 5-axis image stabilisation to keep your shots nice and sharp. 

The A6500 is on the small side, which is great news for keeping things nice and compact, but can mean that larger lenses feel a little unbalanced. There’s still plenty of buttons to keep the enthusiasts happy, though. 

Filling out the specs sheet is 4K video recording, a tilting touchscreen and an extremely useable, bright viewfinder.

6. Panasonic GX80

A bargain buy which still packs a punch

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 16MP
Continuous shooting: 8FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+Small and compact+Tilting screen
Reasons to avoid
-Small viewfinder-Screen doesn't tilt forwards

This mid-range CSC is a great all-rounder for casual shooters who want something nice and neat that still boasts great image quality.

There aren’t scores of dials and buttons that enthusiasts crave, but manual control is still possible for those that want to learn and grow with the camera. And for those that just want to take high-quality pictures, you can leave the GX80 to it.

Just because it’s a bit more entry-level than the GH5, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on fun features like 4K Photo. Grab a still from a video of the kids or your dog messing about, and with Wi-Fi baked in, you can share straight to social media.

7. Fuji X-T20

A baby brother to the X-T2, with a lot of the same great specifications

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24MP
Continuous shooting: 5FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: OIS in-lens
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous body+More affordable than T2
Reasons to avoid
-No weather sealing-Single SD slot

 If you’re more of a hobbyist than a serious shooter, then the X-T20 offers an alternative to the X-T2 without scrimping on some of its key features.

 For example, you get the same 24.3 megapixel sensor as its bigger brother, along with 4K video recording and 14fps shooting. The body is well designed with a smattering of dials and buttons housed in a retro shell.

The viewfinder is a little smaller than the X-T2’s, but is still perfectly adequate, while the tilting screen is handy for awkward angles (it doesn’t face all the forwards though, unfortunately). If you prefer a rangefinder style, check out the X-E3, the cheaper alternative to the X-Pro2.

8. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

For retro style that doesn’t cost the earth, this well featured little CSC could be just the ticket

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 16MP
Continuous shooting: 8.6FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+Attractive design+Good value
Reasons to avoid
-A little fiddly-Focus tracking not hot

A good choice for those who want to take their first step into the more serious world of interchangeable lens cameras, the OM-D E-M10 Mark III is very awkwardly named, but a great little shooter. 

On the upside, you’ve got a very small, neat and compact CSC here - you could conceivably even fit this in a jacket pocket - but that does mean that space is limited so the layout can feel a little cramped.

Inexperienced photographers can take advantage of automatic modes, while older hands may like to use the E-M10 III as a second, or travel camera. There’s a great viewfinder and a tilting touchscreen - while the retro design is sure to appeal, too.

9. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF7

Excellent image quality from a tiny body

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 16MP
Continuous shooting: 40FPS
Video: 1080p
Stabilisation: OIS in-lens
Reasons to buy
+It's tiny+Fast
Reasons to avoid
-No ISO button-Short battery

This tiny beginner orientated system camera packs the large Four Thirds sensor and Venus engine as found in the numerically similar GX7 premium model. Panasonic has bowed to the 'selfie' craze here, by including a 180-degree tilting monitor, along with two new self-portrait enabling features in Face Shutter and Buddy Shutter. It also has a new Wi-Fi button, and lightning quick autofocus response, in conjunction with supplied 12-32mm lens. The GF7 feels like Panasonic is making even its entry level CSC's into serious contenders.

10. Fujifilm X-A2

Fujifilm's most affordable CSC

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 16MP
Viewfinder: N/A
Continuous shooting: 5.6FPS
Video: 1080p
Stabilisation: N/A
Reasons to buy
+Film simulation+Looks great
Reasons to avoid
-No Wi-Fi-Low MP count

Fujifilms's cheapest X-mount camera doesn't come with its top X-Trans sensor or a viewfinder, but the regular 16MP APS-C CMOS sensor is still a good performer, and the X-A2 delivers style and control that belie its budget price tag. It also comes in black and silver, but we love this tan version.

11. Canon EOS M3

A mirrorless camera from the biggest name in photography

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24MP
Viewfinder: N/A
Continuous shooting: 4.2FPS
Video: 1080p
Stabilisation: OIS in-lens
Reasons to buy
+Ergonomic+Good image quality
Reasons to avoid
-Limited lens selection-Slow
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Being the biggest camera manufacturer on the planet you'd expect Canon's CSC offering to be pretty competent. This miniature EOS has a large 24MP APS-C sensor, and excellent flexible touchscreen that tilts upwards by 180° and down by 45°. Keeping with the times there's Wi-Fi and NFC.

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