The 12 best mirrorless cameras 2018

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 – so whether you're an amateur, enthusiast or professional, we've reviewed the best mirrorless cameras for you.

Last 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-H1 and the Panasonic G9 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…

What is a mirrorless camera?

Traditional DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras require a mirror to reflect the light (which comes through the lens) up to the optical viewfinder. As the name suggests, a mirrorless camera is one that doesn’t require a mirror. 

In a mirrorless camera you don't have an optical viewfinder. The lens projects the image directly onto the sensor, and you'll see the digital image on the display or on the electronic viewfinder.

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

The absence of a mirror means they're often 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. 

How to choose the best mirrorless camera for you

You can still generally split mirrorless camera 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 (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 12 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. Fujifilm X-H1

Fuji’s most advanced X series camera so far

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24MP
Continuous shooting: 14FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+Great viewfinder+DCI 4K video recording+In-body image stabilisation
Reasons to avoid
-Large design-Relatively limited battery life

Fujifilm has won over a lot of fans with its retro designs and high-performing cameras in the X series, with the latest X-H1 sitting right at the top of its current line-up. 

This model is aimed at more serious enthusiasts than any of its other previous cameras, including in-body image stabilisation for the first time in an X-series camera. It uses the same sensor which has already proved itself to be very capable in the XPro2, X-T2 and X-T20. 

It’s also got some fantastic video specifications, making it more of a hybrid camera than ever before - you’ve got both standard 4K and DCI 4K, as well as Full HD at up to 120p. Other better features include a larger electronic viewfinder, plus a touchscreen LCD. Impressive focusing and up to 14fps burst shooting round out the features to make it a very versatile option.

3. Panasonic Lumix GX9

A great compact system camera which would be ideal for travelling

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20MP
Continuous shooting: 9FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+Small & light+4K Photo and Video+Fast Focusing
Reasons to avoid
-No weather sealing-Screen only tilts 

This small and light compact system camera is a great option for those looking to travel light, while keeping all the benefits of a larger sensor (than your phone), and interchangeable lenses. 

You get a 20.3 megapixel Four Thirds sensor that performs well in a variety of situations, with an enhanced in-body image stabiliser to help keep your shots as sharp as possible. There’s also a tilting viewfinder, and a tilting screen - that’s not as flexible for selfies as an articulating screen, but is pretty helpful otherwise. 

As this is a Panasonic, you get 4K Photo and Video, allowing you to shoot at 30fps and extract stills, a nifty feature that stands it apart from other CSCs.

4. Sony Alpha A7 III

An affordable full-framer designed for the enthusiast

Specifications
Sensor size: Full frame
Resolution: 24MP
Continuous shooting: 10FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic AF system+10fps burst shooting+4K video+Compact body
Reasons to avoid
-Limited touchscreen functionality-Overall system still large

While Nikon and Canon are busy twiddling their thumbs (or at least giving that impression) when it comes to serious mirrorless cameras, Sony is taking the market by storm. 

The superb A9 is the camera to beat, but if you don’t have a spare 5k lying around, it’s not exactly accessible to most. Step in the A7 III, a fantastic all-rounder available at a much more affordable £2,000. For that cash you get an awful lot of features, including 10fps shooting, a 24.2 megapixel back-illuminated sensor, fantastic 4K video creation and a body which is small and compact. 

The overall system is still large - lenses still need to be pretty big to be matched with a full-frame sensor - but otherwise, this is almost the perfect camera for enthusiasts right now.

5. 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.

6. Panasonic G9

A recommended choice for wildlife photographers

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20MP
Continuous shooting: 120FPS
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: Dual image stabilisation
Reasons to buy
+20fps full-resolution shooting+Great build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller sensor (comparatively)

Panasonic now has a trio of flagship models at the top of its line up. There’s the entirely video focused GH5S, the Panasonic G9 for stills, and the GH5 which is designed to be a good hybrid for those looking for both. 

Stills photographers looking for a good all-rounder get a lot of high-end specs if they plump for the G9. Like the Sony A9, it has 20fps silent shooting at full-resolution, but it will set you back a fraction of the price. Of course there’s always a compromise, and here it’s that the Four Thirds sensor is much smaller than a full-frame equivalent, but it’s still an excellent performer. 

This camera is particularly recommended for wildlife photographers because the smaller sensor means that all lenses you attach it to have their focal length effectively doubled, getting you closer to the action (and the lions, tigers and bears) than the same focal length on a full-frame system.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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

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. 

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

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