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Best mirrorless camera 2019: 20 of the best compact system cameras for every skill level | T3

Best mirrorless camera 2019: 20 of the best compact system cameras for every skill level

T3’s round-up of the best mirrorless cameras on the market right now, from budget-friendly models to top-spec CSCs

The 15 best mirrorless camera

When it comes to buying a mirrorless camera, there has never been so much superb choice, with brands like Sony, Fujifilm and Panasonic all vying to create the best yet. So whether you’re an amateur photographer, an enthusiast or a professional, we have found and reviewed the best mirrorless cameras for you.

In 2017, Sony’s blisteringly fast and quiet A9 was a bit of a game-changer. It remains as one of the best cameras you can buy right now, of any type, but it still comes at a high price.

Recently there has been a host of big launches, with full-frame mirrorless options now finally available from the big-hitters, Nikon and Canon.

Nikon was first with its Z 7 and Z 6 double header, the former of which is in many ways a miniaturised D850 and is an incredible first attempt. 

This has replaced the Sony A9 as the best mirrorless camera at the top of this guide, as it's just as capable as the Sony, but a little bit more affordable.

Canon followed a little bit later with the EOS R, which is a decent effort but a little underwhelming by comparison.

You’ll pay a pretty penny for such an incredible performance and spec, but if your budget doesn’t extend that far, alternatives such as the Fujifilm X-H1 and the Panasonic G9 are damn good too.

When choosing models for our best mirrorless cameras buyer’s guide, we considered those that provide great image quality, whilst also being a joy to use. We put them through a range of tests, from every day shooting in good light, to seeing how well they performed in low-light challenges, and when tracking moving subjects.

With so much choice currently on the market, you may be wondering what to look out for in your new camera. So, let's dig a little deeper…

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.

Best mirrorless camera over £1500

Is money no object in your pursuit for ultimate image quality? These are the best mirrorless cameras you can buy:

1. Nikon Z 6

A stunning all-round performer for full-frame mirrorless fans

Specifications
Sensor size: Full frame
Resolution: 24.5MP
Continuous shooting: 12fps
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in body
Reasons to buy
+Good value +Great handling+Good all-rounder
Reasons to avoid
-Single XQD card slot-Limited native lens range

The Nikon Z7 may have a more impressive spec sheet, but for those looking for an all-round full-frame model that comes in at a lower price, the Z6 is the best mirrorless camera in the world right now. It features a lower-resolution sensor than its more expensive sibling, but that means it actually performs slightly better in low light, plus it facilitates faster frame rates of up to 12fps. 

Otherwise, handling and build quality is exactly the same as the Z7, as both use identical bodies. A downside - for many - is the single XQD card slot, but when a camera is this good, we can forgive it.

Best mirrorless camera: Sony A9

2. Sony A9

This pro-level mirrorless camera is the real deal

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.

3. Canon EOS R

Cannon's first full-frame mirrorless camera impresses

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 30.3 MP
Continuous shooting: 8fps
Video: 4K (cropped)
Stabilisation: None
Reasons to buy
+Great image quality+Customisable controls+Fully-articulating screen
Reasons to avoid
-Single SD card slot-Cropped 4K video-No IBIS

Nobody was surprised when Canon launched its own take on full-frame mirrorless just weeks after Nikon – but it’s safe to say there have been a fair few disappointments with the EOS R. 

There are several plus points to admire first though, so let’s not start on a downer. The look and feel of the EOS R is classic Canon, but adds a couple of new and useful twists, such as the customisable touch-sensitive multi function bar, just next to the viewfinder.  The screen is not only touch-sensitive, but also articulates for handy shooting from all sorts of strange angles.

Image quality is also fantastic, thanks to the full-frame 30.3 megapixel sensor which produces the goods just like cameras such as the 5D Mark IV.

Now for the negatives – a single SD card slot is possibly even more frustrating than Nikon’s decision to go for a single XQD, while only offering cropped 4K in an age where video is so important is equally bizarre. The lack of in-body image stabilisation is something which also disappoints, too.

If you can live with those problems, the EOS R makes a lot of sense to existing DSLR owners keen to make the leap to mirrorless – but we can’t help but hold our breath to see what the company will bring out next.

4. Panasonic S1R

Panasonic’s foray into full-frame mirrorless is an interesting first attempt

Specifications
Sensor size: Full frame
Resolution: 47.3 MP
Continuous shooting: 9fps
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis
Reasons to buy
+Full-frame sensor+Excellent handling +Two card slots
Reasons to avoid
-High price-Limited system -Poor battery life

After years extolling the virtues of the much small Micro Four Thirds system, Panasonic has made the leap into full-frame, joining forces with Leica and Sigma to form the “L Mount alliance”. 

There’s two models at launch from Panasonic - the S1 and the S1R, with the latter featuring a higher resolution sensor. For now, the system is fairly limited, with just three proprietary optics from Panasonic and a range of options from Leica and Sigma. 

Handling is great, with a large chunky body replete with dials and buttons - this is much bigger than other full-frame mirrorless systems like Nikon’s Z series or Sony’s Alpha series - whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is likely dependent on your point of view. 

It’s early days for this system yet, but it’s interesting to see how it will develop in the coming months or years. If you’re already the lucky owner of some Leica L mount glass, picking up a S1R makes a lot of sense - everyone else might feel the need to wait just a little while for it to bed in.

Best mirrorless camera: Nikon Z 7

5. Nikon Z 7

Aside from a few niggles, Nikon's first full-frame mirrorless camera is perfect

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 45.7 MP
Continuous shooting: 9fps
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body
Reasons to buy
+Great handling+Superb viewfinder+Fantastic images
Reasons to avoid
-Single XQD card only-Limited battery life

Nikon’s long-awaited Z 7 needed to deliver an awful lot after all this time in the full-frame wilderness. 

Luckily for the company, it did that, and more. With a full-frame 45.7 megapixel sensor, a superb 493-point AF system, a 3.2-inch 2,100k-dot touch-sensitive screen and a stunning viewfinder, it’s one of the best cameras on the market right now – and certainly the best mirrorless model of the year. It looks and feels like a smaller DSLR, bringing with it some fantastic new benefits such as silent-shooting and in-body image stabilisation. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t some negatives that also deserve mention. The fact that it only accepts a single XQD card hasn’t gone down well – especially with pros – while the average battery life will come as a shock to those who are used to shooting with DSLRs.

Put those niggles aside though and you’ve got a camera that every bit lives up to the hype and is very much like using a Nikon D850 – both in the way it handles and the results it delivers.

7. Olympus OM-D E-M1X

A great choice for wildlife, sports and action enthusiasts

Specifications
Sensor size: Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.4 MP
Continuous shooting: Up to 60fps
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: 5-axis image stabilisation
Reasons to buy
+Impressive autofocus+Super fast frame rates+Great handling
Reasons to avoid
-Small sensor-Limited ‘pro’ lenses available-Expensive

While everyone is banging on about full frame, it’s important not to forget about the format that kicked off the mirrorless revolution - Micro Four Thirds. 

Step forward the E-M1X, which is Olympus’s latest technical marvel. Offering a huge amount of advantages for professional and advanced enthusiasts interested primarily in sports, wildlife and action photography, it offers great autofocus tracking and astonishing frame rates of up to 60fps (it’s limited to 18fps if you want full autofocus tracking in between shots, though). 

Despite its now comparatively small sensor, it’s a large beast - an implemented battery grip has the benefit of facilitating fantastic battery life (especially for mirrorless), but you can’t help but think it misses one of the key advantages of mirrorless - small size. 

Still - if wildlife is your thing, it’s certainly worth investigating.

8. Fujifilm GFX 50R

If full-frame still isn’t big enough for you - why not go medium format

Specifications
Sensor size: Medium format
Resolution: 51.4MP
Continuous shooting: 3fps
Video: Full HD
Stabilisation: None in-body
Reasons to buy
+Amazing detail +Good price for medium format +Great handling
Reasons to avoid
-Video specs limited-Fairly slow

While everyone was busy chattering about new full-frame models at Photokina 2018, Fujifilm went one step further and announced its latest “super full-frame” model, the GFX 50R. 

Using a medium format sensor, the body has been designed to be smaller and lighter than the existing GFX 50S, opening it up to new kinds of shooters, such as documentary, reportage and street. It’s not exactly what we’d call a fast-worker, with frame rates stunted at 3fps and video restricted to Full HD - but that’s really not the point of the GFX 50R. 

Instead, it’s for those that crave the super high resolution that that medium format facilitates, as well as stunning image quality. It’s not “cheap” by any stretch, but it brings the prospect of medium format into the realms of the enthusiast far more than other even more expensive models.

Best mirrorless camera under £1500

Looking for something a little more affordable? These are the best mirrorless cameras under £1,500:

1. Fujifilm X-T3

An outstanding mirrorless camera in a gloriously retro body

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 26 MP
Continuous shooting: 30fps
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: None
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful looks+Great image quality+Fast shooting+Great focusing 
Reasons to avoid
-No IBIS-Limited battery life-Screen only tilts

In a sea of full-frame giddiness, Fujifilm also brought out its latest APS-C model this year, in the shape of the X-T3.

Fujifilm is very much committed to this format, arguing that it delivers the best compromise between size and image quality – and they’ve certainly got a fair point. 

Having a sensor of this slightly smaller size means that you don’t have to lug around heavy lenses and accessories, while it being bigger than the even smaller Four Thirds still leaves you with cracking image quality. 

Wonderful images aside, there’s plenty of other things to like about the X-T3, including great autofocusing, fast frame rates, an impressive array of 4K video features and of course, this being Fuji, beautiful looks. 

On the downside, in-body image stabilisation is missing (pick up an X-H1 if you want that), battery life could be better and the screen tilts three ways, rather than fully articulating. 

Still – in a world obsessed with full-frame, we’d be more than happy to pack this in our kit bag, and do our backs a favour in the process.

2. Canon EOS RP

A beginner-friendly full-frame mirrorless that could be a big seller

Reasons to buy
+Good value +4K video+Great image quality
Reasons to avoid
-Poor battery life-Limited native RF lens range

Canon may not have set the world alight with its Canon EOS R range of full-frame mirrorless cameras, but the RP, with its (relatively) low asking price is still likely to sell by the bucket-load.

It’s a good compromise of sorts, offering excellent full-frame image quality, but with a few drawbacks, such as a low frame rate (5fps). There’s also the problem of there still being scant native RF lenses available - pick up an adapter if you have a set of Canon EF lenses in your cupboard. 

Those interested in shooting movies might also lock onto the EOS RP as an affordable entry into full-frame video shooting, too.

Best mirrorless camera: Sony A6500

3. 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.

4. Fujifilm X-T30

In many respects, an X-T3 Lite - perfect for travelling

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 26.1MP
Continuous shooting: 20fps
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: None
Reasons to buy
+Attractive, retro body +Mostly controls +Good value
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body image stabilisation -Slightly awkwardly placed “Q” button

Fujifilm promotes its APS-C sensors as being the perfect compromise between high portability and high image quality. The X series has won plenty of fans over the years for its capability to produce stunning results, and the X-T30 is no different. 

Essentially a baby X-T3, it uses the same processor and sensor combination as its elder brother, along with the same autofocusing system and frame rate capability. There are some trade offs for going for this cheaper option - such as a more limited buffer, only one card slot, and slightly fewer body controls - but overall it’s the ideal option for travelling, or for those just looking to save some cash. 

One slight complaint is the location of the “Q” button to access the camera’s quick menu - located on the camera’s grip, it’s all too easy to accidentally press it.

Best mirrorless camera: Panasonic Lumix GX9

5. 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.

6. Sony a6400

A mid-range camera with an autofocusing system that is anything but

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24.2
Continuous shooting: 11fps
Video: 4K
Stabilisation: None
Reasons to buy
+Superb AF performance +Small and compact size+Good price point
Reasons to avoid
-Awkwardly designed body -Viewfinder and screen could be better

Sometimes it feels like there will come and point when cameras really can do everything for us, and all we’ll have to worry about is composition and framing. Such is the case with the a6400, which deploys a stunning tracking autofocus system which uses AI to detect and track the subject across the frame with minimal effort from the user. 

This model sits plumply in the middle of Sony’s APS-C range - with the a6500 sitting above it, and the older a6000 now available at a bargain price. While Sony has invested heavily in some of the technologies inside the a6400, the same can’t be said for the outward body which remains the same shape and layout as a number of models already past. The flat style, with small and fiddly buttons is starting to feel a little dated now and can be frustrating to use at times. 

That said, if you’re after something small and light for travelling, it could be a good option. The screen and viewfinder are usable enough, but again are reliant on slightly outdated technology. 

Best mirrorless camera: Sony Alpha A7 III

7. 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.

Best mirrorless camera: Fujifilm X-H1

8. 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.

Best mirrorless camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

9. 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.

Best mirrorless camera: Panasonic GH5

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.

Best mirrorless camera: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

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.

Best mirrorless camera: Fuji X-T20

12. 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.

Best mirrorless camera: Fujifilm X-A2

13. 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.

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. 

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