Best mirrorless camera 2018: 10 top models to suit every budget

 techradar.com  11/1/2018 3:43:11 PM  7  Phil Hall

If you want to find out what's the best mirrorless camera, you've come to the right place. Since Panasonic launched the first mirrorless camera in 2008, the genre has grown massively, with models to suit every budget and ability. 

Mirrorless cameras allow you to swap and change lenses like a DSLR, but because the mirror inside the camera has been removed (hence the name, with mirrors used to bounce light from the path of the lens up into the optical viewfinder of a DSLR), it has allowed designers to make mirrorless cameras much more compact than DSLRs. 

No mirror means that instead of optical viewfinders to frame your subject, mirrorless cameras rely on electronic viewfinders instead. Be aware, too, that most cheaper mirrorless cameras don't come with viewfinders at all – instead, you compose the photo on the rear screen, just as you do with most compact cameras or smartphones.

Mirrorless cameras are also known as compact system cameras (or CSCs for short), with mirrorless cameras ranging from the simple to use entry-level models to sophisticated full-frame monsters that rival the very best DSLRs out there. Is a mirrorless camera better than a DSLR then? There are still quite a few pros and cons to both designs, so if you want to find out more, read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences 

What is the best mirrorless camera? 

No two photographers are exactly the same – we're all looking for slightly different things from our photography. Some us might want a better camera than the one built into our smartphone, while others will want a high-end camera that has a range of creative controls and advanced features, so we've ranked the 10 best mirrorless cameras you can buy right now based not just on specs, handling and performance, but size, simplicity and value for money too.

Enter Canon and Nikon

Before you take a look at our top 10 list of the best mirrorless cameras, the big news in the last few months is that Canon, Nikon and now Panasonic have launched full-frame mirrorless cameras. 

Nikon got there first with the announcement of the Z7 and Z6 models, with Canon following shortly after with the EOS R. And now Panasonic's announced the development of the Lumix S1R and S1 at Photokina 2018

Best mirrorless cameras 2018

1. Sony Alpha A7 III

Sensor size: Full-frame | Resolution: 24.2MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 921,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert

693-point AF system

10fps burst shooting

Limited touchscreen control

Slight 'tearing' in EVF

The Alpha A7 III may sit on the bottom rung of Sony's full-frame mirrorless camera range, but it should no longer be seen as the poor relation to its pricier siblings. This is a brilliant choice for the enthusiast photographer or pro, and when you look at the specification, it's easy to see why. Sony has taken some of the best bits from its flagship Alpha A9 and A7R III cameras, and distilled them into a single camera that offers a fantastic mix of performance and image quality. The full-frame 24.2MP sensor is excellent in a range of lighting conditions, while the advanced 693-point AF and 10fps burst shooting should mean you'll never miss another shot. For the price, there's nothing that can touch it. The best mirrorless camera you can buy right now.

2. Nikon Z7

Sensor size: Full-frame | Resolution: 45.7MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,100,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 9fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert

Great handling and images

Superb electronic viewfinder

Shallow buffer

Single XQD card slot

The 45.7MP Z7 is Nikon's first full-frame mirrorless camera (along with the 24MP Z6) and we have to say that it's a real triumph. It may be a first-generation camera, but we think Nikon's knocked it out of the park with the Z7 right from the get-go. The densely populated 45.7MP sensor is brilliant, delivering some of the best results we've seen on a mirrorless camera, while the effective in-camera image stabilization also delivers. Factor in a beautiful EVF, excellent handling, very competent AF performance and great response throughout, and it's easy to see why the Z7 is such a pleasure to use. 

3. Sony Alpha A7R III

Sensor size: Full-frame | Resolution: 42.2MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert

10fps at 42.2MP

Fast AF performance

Limited touchscreen control

Battery life could still be better

Like the look of the A7 III but want even more pixels? Step forward the 42.2MP Alpha A7R III. It has to be one of the most complete and versatile cameras available today. With a brilliant full-frame 42.2MP sensor, the Alpha A7R III is supported by an advanced 399-point AF system and 10fps burst shooting, proving you no longer have to sacrifice performance for resolution or vice versa. Did we mention it shoots excellent 4K footage as well? This is a camera that would be equally at home perched on a mountain shooting brooding landscapes, in a studio capturing high-end portraits or shooting fast moving sport or wildlife. 

4. Fujifilm X-T3

Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 26.1MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 11fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert

Great new X-Trans sensor

Excellent build quality

Noticeable viewfinder fringing

EV dial easy to knock

The X-T2 was one of our favorite cameras for a long time, but the X-T3 improves on it in pretty much every single way. The new 26.1MP X-Trans sensor might not be a massive leap in resolution over the 24.3MP sensor in the X-T2, but noise control is even better. Focusing also takes a leap forward, with a staggering 2.16-million phase detect AF pixels to help the X-T3 track focus smoothly. There's also now touchscreen control, 11fps burst shooting and a number of other improvements, particularly when it comes to shooting 4K video. That's not forgetting the array of body-mounted controls that's all wrapped-up in a tactile body, that all goes to make the X-T3 a brilliant camera. 

Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 20.3MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle display, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 60fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/advanced

6.5-stop image stabilization

Up to 60fps burst shooting

ISO range could be broader

Battery level not as a percentage

Aimed at enthusiast and semi-professional photographers, the Lumix G9 is certainly very competitively priced; you get a lot of camera for your money. Some might view the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor as a bit of a compromise, but the pay-off is a compact and well-balanced system, and we were thoroughly impressed when we paired the G9 with the 200mm f/2.8 telephoto prime. Throw in 60fps shooting, polished handling and a wealth of advanced features and the Lumix G9 is a brilliant all-round mirrorless camera. Not to mention Panasonic's best mirrorless camera to date.

6. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16.1MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle display, 1,037,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8.6fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Compact size, lenses too

Excellent viewfinder

Smaller sensor than some

Focus tracking could be better

The OM-D E-M10 Mark III might not be a massive leap forward over the Mark II, with much of the camera's specification remaining the same. However, Olympus has refined and tweaked one of our favorite mirrorless cameras to make it an even more tempting proposition for new users and enthusiasts alike. Some will criticise the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format (roughly half the area of APS-C) but the effect on image quality is minor and it means that the lenses are as compact and lightweight as the camera itself. Sporting a 5-axis image stabilization system, decent electronic viewfinder, an impressive 8.6fps burst shooting speed and 4K video, it's no toy – the E-M10 Mark III is a properly powerful camera.

7. Fujifilm X-T20

Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.3MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen display, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Excellent build and design

Rich and detailed images

Limited touchscreen control

EVF magnification

Like the look of the X-T3 further up, but don't quite want to shell out that much for it? Fujifilm has the answer in the shape of the X-T20, which stills many of the key features of the X-T2 (the camera the X-T3's since replaced) including the excellent 24.3MP sensor and advanced AF system, but into a slightly more compact and affordable camera. The X-T20 feels very similar to its bigger brother in terms of build quality, while the tactile controls and polished handling make it a very satisfying camera to shoot with. The X-T20 will certainly hit the sweet spot for many photographers. If you like the look of the X-T20, but want something a little more compact and easier to use, take a look at the X-T100

8. Sony Alpha A9

Sensor size: Full-frame | Resolution: 24.2MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 20fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert

Blistering performance 

Highly effective AF system

Limited touchscreen control

No XQD card slots

The Alpha A9 doesn't fail to impress. The AF system Sony has blessed its flagship camera with is not only incredibly quick, the tracking performance needs to be seen to be believed. Partner that with incredibly fast 20fps burst shooting, and a large and bright EVF that doesn't blackout when you're shooting, and you've got a camera that can mix it with the best that Canon and Nikon have to offer when it comes to shooting action.

9. Panasonic Lumix GH5S

Sensor size: Micro Four Third | Resolution: 10.2MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.2-inch display, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 12fps | Maximum video resolution: 4K | User level: Expert

Multi-aspect sensor design

Brilliant pro-spec video features

Absence of IS not for everyone

Battery life could be better

The Lumix GH5S is the latest in the line of Panasonic's top-of-the-range GH series of mirrorless cameras, which over the years have carved out a niche for themselves among videographers thanks to their breadth of movie-making features. While it can shoot stills quite happily (although at a pretty limited 10.2MP resolution), this should be seen first and foremost as a video camera – if you want to do both you've got the Lumix GH5 to fill that brief. While the absence of built-in image stabilization might be a disappointment for some, that issue aside the breadth of video features is incredibly impressive. It's certainly the best 4K camera out there before you start considering dedicated professional video cameras.

10. Sony Alpha A6500

Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.2MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 921,600 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 11fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert

Very capable autofocusing system

Excellent electronic viewfinder

No headphone port

Tilting rather than vari-angle screen

You don't have to go full-frame to get the benefit of Sony's great camera technology and this APS-C format model makes a great choice for enthusiasts looking for an alternative to big, heavy DSLR. One of the challenges for CSC manufacturers has been to make their autofocus systems as good as the ones in DSLRs. The A6500's comes very close, especially in bright light; it's able to track moving subjects around the frame and as they move towards or away from the camera. There's also an excellent electronic viewfinder that makes it easy to see when the subject is sharp and correctly exposed. Image quality is very high and there's built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity to allow to share images via a connected smartphone.

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