Best Mirrorless Cameras for Beginners in 2018

There’s a bewildering array of choices for mirrorless cameras out there. You could spend an absolute fortune to get the best and latest model, but you really don’t need to. The less expensive models produce excellent results and won’t leave you wrestling with extra bells and whistles you really don’t need.

Things are changing quickly in the mirrorless world, with recent announcements of new full-frame models from Canon, Nikon and Panasonic, all aimed at professional shooters. However, in this review, I’m going to focus on crop sensor cameras, which offer everything a new photographer could need.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at six mirrorless cameras I think are great for anyone starting out in photography. 

1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85

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  • Released:  2016
  • Sensor: a 16-megapixel sensor, within body 5 axis dual image stabilization
  • Kit lens: 12-32mm f3.5-5.6 Mega OIS G Vario
  • Weight:  426g, with battery and memory card
  • Battery life: up to 290 shots
  • Notes: This camera is called GX80 in UK and GX7 II in Japan
  • Price: $498

Why choose Lumix DMC-GX85?

  • Dual IS – Image stabilization in both camera body and lens work together for added stability.
  • No antialiasing filter (helps you take sharper shots)
  • 8 frame per second continuous shooting and better continuous autofocus than its competitors for action shooting
  • The position of EVF, on the top left corner of the camera body, a great advantage for those who enjoy street photography
  • Access to a superb choice of micro four-thirds lenses from Panasonic, Olympus and many other manufacturers.
  • Tiny kit lens – just 73g! Overall, a great balance of usability and compactness.

See the Lumix DMC-GX85

2. Panasonic GX850

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  • Released: 2017
  • Sensor: a 16-megapixel sensor, with in-body 5 axis image stabilization
  • Kit lens: 12-32mm f3.5-5.6 Mega OIS G Vario which weighs only 73g!
  • Weight: 269g with battery and memory card
  • Battery life: Up to 210 shots
  • LCD: Flip-up LCD screen – great for vlogging and selfies
  • Notes: This camera is called GX800 in some territories
  • Price: $449 (even cheaper for UK purchasers from Amazon UK)

Why choose Panasonic GX850?

  • Super-compact form factor. This is the camera for those who like to travel really light.
  • Maybe small, but still packs all of the features (4K photo, post focus etc) of larger Lumix cameras
  • A budget option, but without sacrificing image quality
  • The only genuinely pocketable camera in this selection, helped by its amazingly compact kit lens.
  • Can be charged on the go using a USB power bank
  • Access to a superb choice of micro four-thirds lenses from Panasonic, Olympus and many other manufacturers.

See the Panasonic GX850

3. Panasonic G7

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  • Released: 2015
  • Sensor: 16-megapixel sensor. No in body image stabilization, but the kit lens does have IS
  • Kit lens: 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 3.5-5.6 LUMIX G VARIO II OIS ASPH
  • Weight: 365g with battery and memory card
  • Battery life: Up to 360 shots
  • LCD: Fully articulated LCD screen
  • Price: $447

Why choose Panasonic G7?

  • Has a bigger form factor for those who have larger hands or who prefer a chunkier camera
  • Incredibly light for its size
  • Not the most recent release, but still excellent quality and likely to be available with bigger discounts than newer models
  • Has all the specifications of the GX85 but in a different style body
  • Access to a superb choice of micro four-thirds lenses from Panasonic, Olympus and many other manufacturers.

See the Panasonic G7

4. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

A photo of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III mirrorless camera
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III mirrorless camera is one of the best all-rounders
  • Released: 2017
  • Sensor: A 16-megapixel sensor, with in-body 5 axis image stabilization
  • Kit lens: 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 EZ M.ZUIKO
  • Weight: 410g with battery and memory card
  • Battery life: Up to 330 shots
  • Price: $599

Why choose this Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III?

  • 121 AF points – great for creative composition
  • Live bulb mode – allows you to create long exposures and see the picture develop on the LCD in real time.
  • Very fast single autofocus, although the Lumix is better for action photography
  • Access to a superb choice of micro four-thirds lenses from Panasonic, Olympus and many other manufacturers.

See the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

5. Fujifilm X-T100

A photo of the Fujifilm X-T100 mirrorless camera
Fujifilm X-T100 is great for low light or retro enthusiasts
  • Released: 2018
  • Sensor: 24-megapixel sensor. No in-body image stabilization, but the kit lens is stabilized
  • Kit lens: 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 XC OIS PZ
  • Weight: 448g with battery and memory card
  • Battery life: Up to 430 shots
  • Price: $599

Why choose Fujifilm X-T100?

  • Larger format sensor (1.5x crop factor rather than 2x for M43) so less noise in low light because the pixel sites are larger
  • Higher resolution sensor – great if you like to print big!
  • Film simulation modes (Provia, Velvia, Classic Chrome etc.) offer access to a variety of retro film styles at the touch of a button
  • Analog-style controls, with buttons and dials instead of accessing settings through menus.
  • Retro styling looks fantastic!

See the Fujifilm X-T100

6. Canon EOS M50

A photo of the Canon EOS M50 mirrorless camera
Canon EOS M50 is great for connectivity.
  • Released: 2018
  • Sensor: 24-megapixel sensor. In-body image stabilization which pairs with IS in compatible lenses for an additional half stop of stabilization
  • Kit lens: 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 XC OIS PZ
  • Weight: 351g with battery and memory card
  • Battery life: Up to 235 shots
  • Price: $599

Why choose this camera?

  • Easy to understand menus. Includes guidance on what the various settings mean.
  • Great wifi connectivity – one of the best on the market
  • Fully articulated screen – great for vlogging and selfies.
  • Comfortable hand grip with nice tactile covering
  • Only seven native lenses available, but the camera is compatible with Canon’s huge range of EF lenses via an adapter.

See the Canon EOS M50

Best Mirrorless Cameras for Beginners Comparison Table

Camera
Best Stabilization
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85
Panasonic GX850
Panasonic G7
Best All-rounder
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
Fujifilm X-T100
Canon EOS M50
Preview
PANASONIC LUMIX GX85 Camera with 12-32mm and 45-150mm Lens Bundle, 4K, 5 Axis Body Stabilization, 3 Inch Tilt and Touch Display, DMC-GX85WK (Black USA)
PANASONIC LUMIX GX850 4K Mirrorless Camera with 12-32mm MEGA O.I.S. Lens, 16 Megapixels, 3 Inch Touch LCD, DC-GX850KK (USA BLACK)
PANASONIC LUMIX G7 4K Mirrorless Camera, with 14-42mm MEGA O.I.S. Lens, 16 Megapixels, 3 Inch Touch LCD, DMC-G7KK (USA BLACK)
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III camera kit with 14-42mm EZ lens (silver), Camera Bag & Memory Card , Wi-Fi enabled, 4K video
Fujifilm X-T100 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 OIS PZ Lens - Champagne Gold
Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit w/EF-M15-45mm and 4K Video - Black
Weight
426g
269g
365g
410g
448g
351g
Mega Pixels
16
16
16
16
24
24
Battery life
290 shots
210 shots
360 shots
330 shots
430 shots
235 shots
Price
$597.99
$547.99
$497.99
$699.00
$599.00
$649.00
Best Stabilization
Camera
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85
Preview
PANASONIC LUMIX GX85 Camera with 12-32mm and 45-150mm Lens Bundle, 4K, 5 Axis Body Stabilization, 3 Inch Tilt and Touch Display, DMC-GX85WK (Black USA)
Weight
426g
Mega Pixels
16
Battery life
290 shots
Price
$597.99
Camera
Panasonic GX850
Preview
PANASONIC LUMIX GX850 4K Mirrorless Camera with 12-32mm MEGA O.I.S. Lens, 16 Megapixels, 3 Inch Touch LCD, DC-GX850KK (USA BLACK)
Weight
269g
Mega Pixels
16
Battery life
210 shots
Price
$547.99
Camera
Panasonic G7
Preview
PANASONIC LUMIX G7 4K Mirrorless Camera, with 14-42mm MEGA O.I.S. Lens, 16 Megapixels, 3 Inch Touch LCD, DMC-G7KK (USA BLACK)
Weight
365g
Mega Pixels
16
Battery life
360 shots
Price
$497.99
Best All-rounder
Camera
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
Preview
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III camera kit with 14-42mm EZ lens (silver), Camera Bag & Memory Card , Wi-Fi enabled, 4K video
Weight
410g
Mega Pixels
16
Battery life
330 shots
Price
$699.00
Camera
Fujifilm X-T100
Preview
Fujifilm X-T100 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 OIS PZ Lens - Champagne Gold
Weight
448g
Mega Pixels
24
Battery life
430 shots
Price
$599.00
Camera
Canon EOS M50
Preview
Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit w/EF-M15-45mm and 4K Video - Black
Weight
351g
Mega Pixels
24
Battery life
235 shots
Price
$649.00

How to Pick the Right Mirrorless Camera for You?

Even with the list of specs for each camera, there is still a bewildering range of options to choose from. To help you choose, here are a few key specifications you might wish to consider…

LCD Screen vs. Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

If you’re upgrading from a smartphone or compact camera, you’ll be used to composing photos on an LCD screen. No doubt you’ll also be familiar with the challenges of seeing that screen clearly in strong sunshine. Many mirrorless cameras have an electronic viewfinder (EVF) too, a tool I think is invaluable. Not only can you compose your pictures using the EVF, but you can see any exposure changes you make in real time. And don’t forget you can also play back your pictures through the EVF after you’ve taken them. I personally wouldn’t buy a camera without a viewfinder, but it may be a consideration if you’re on a really tight budget.

Another consideration is whether you go for a fixed LCD screen, one that tilts, or one that is fully articulated. If you like shooting pictures from unusual angles (very high up or low down for instance) an LCD screen that can vary its angle can be immensely helpful.

Form Factor

Unlike DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras come in several different shapes and sizes. You may like the chunky form of a DSLR. Or perhaps you would prefer something more compact and retro-looking? The choice is yours!

Image Stabilization (IS)

IS is rapidly becoming the norm in mirrorless cameras, but not all manufacturers tackle it in the same way. Some include stabilization in the body, while others offer it in the lenses. My favorite is the Panasonic dual image stabilization which coordinates IS in the lens and body so you get a double benefit. Definitely, something to consider if you often shoot in dark conditions.

Battery Life

The EVF and LCD screen on mirrorless cameras make them more power-hungry than DSLRs. Battery life varies from model to model so this might be a consideration if you spend long periods away from power sources. Some mirrorless cameras now offer USB charging from power banks or car chargers which can be invaluable.

Connectivity

If you like to share pictures to social media on the go, WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity can be a real boon. Some models do this better than others – I found the Canon to be particularly user-friendly here.

What Do You Want to Shoot?

If you shoot mostly stills, any of the cameras above will be great. But, if you like to shoot video too, perhaps consider the larger Panasonic models (G7 and GX85). Both offer full HD and 4K video and Panasonic are renowned for their video capabilities. All the models discussed here offer a 4K photo mode, where you can extract JPG photos from short video clips.

What Do Your Friends Shoot With?

If you have friends who already own interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras, ask them what they shoot with. They’ll be able to give you first-hand feedback on what they do and don’t like, which may help your choice. Don’t forget too, that if you shoot with the same camera system (although not necessarily the same camera model) you may be able to borrow each other’s lenses!

Do You like the Film Look?

If the answer’s yes, then take a close look at the Fuji, with its retro film simulations modes. All the recommended models offer a variety of picture styles, but Fuji cameras are renowned for their film modes.

Do You Plan to Expand Your Choice of Lenses?

If you think you’ll add to the kit lens at a later date, it’s worth taking a look at the wider ecosystem of lenses for the camera you’re leaning towards. The micro four-thirds system has an enormous selection of lenses to choose from. As well as optics made by Olympus and Panasonic, there are third-party lenses from companies like Sigma and Samyang, often at very reasonable prices. By contrast, there are far fewer third-party options for Fuji cameras, which may influence your choice.

Should I Buy a Camera with or Without the Kit Lens?

If you’re just starting out in photography it’s always a good idea to buy your chosen camera with a kit lens. There’s no such thing as a bad kit lens these days, and the one supplied with your camera will be perfect as a starting point for newbies.

Are there any downsides to kit lenses? Only small ones!

Kit lenses are built to a budget, so you’re not going to get the most sophisticated optics in the world. Generally, the maximum aperture isn’t especially large, so you’ll find it difficult to create a blurred background with a kit lens. For that, I would suggest making your next lens purchase an inexpensive prime lens with an aperture of around f1.8.

And the benefits of buying a kit lens? To be honest, you’d be daft not to! Buying the kit lens generally adds very little to the overall purchase price, and you won’t be able to buy a similar lens separately any cheaper. Kit zooms are good walkabout lenses and you can always upgrade later, as you become more experienced. A couple of the cameras I’ve mentioned here even come bundled with two lenses, allowing you greater zooming power.

Try Before You Buy

My final recommendation is to try before you buy.

You can read online reviews until you’re blue in the face, but there’s nothing like handling a camera to find out if it’s comfortable in your hand. I visited a camera shop to do just this before writing this article. I discovered I prefer Canon menus to the Olympus ones. Equally, the Panasonic kit lenses felt more intuitive than the electronic Fuji one.

If you don’t have a local brick and mortar shop you can visit, why not hire a camera for a few days before you buy? For models like these, the cost is minimal and it could keep you from making a purchase that’s wrong for you.

Once you’ve chosen your camera and shot with it for a little while, do pop back and tell us all about it in the comments. We’d love to see some of your pictures as you continue your photographic journey!

Acknowledgments:

A huge thank you to the staff at Cameraworld UK for allowing me to spend time trying out the various cameras in their Stevenage store. It was so helpful to have some hands-on experience so I could write knowledgeably.

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About the author

Helen Hooker

Helen Hooker is a musician and photographer based in the UK. Helen has been photoblogging every single day since November 2008 and has a particular passion for architectural and wildlife photography.

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