Smartphones have changed the way that people look at taking photographs. They have had a noticeable effect on the sale of point-and-shoot cameras. This is because with a smartphone, you can take stellar images, even though you have a small lens and small sensors.
Clearly, the stage was set for a another revolution in the world of point-and-shoot camera technology. It seems that mirrorless cameras are the next step. Major camera companies including Canon Nikon and Sony have released mirrorless cameras over the past few years.
By getting rid of the mirror that is usually inside high-end cameras, the lens is closer to the sensor, which in turn makes a number of innovations possible.
In this review, we are going to look at what we consider to be three of the best mirrorless cameras on the market. As with all of our reviews, we offer cameras in three categories. The first is the best overall camera. The second is a premium camera for those who are looking to spend a little bit more.
Finally, we will offer our budget camera. Our budget camera is not selected simply because of its price. We’re looking for a camera that offers good quality at a decent price. After reading our review, we ask that you leave any comments or questions you have in the comments section below. So let’s get started.
The Best: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7
The Panasonic G7 is in the direct line of descent of one of the first commercial mirrorless cameras. However, its strength comes not from the fact that it is a mirrorless camera but instead from the fact that it is a non-specific camera that has an interchangeable lens.
For this reason, when you look at the camera, you feel like you have a small DSLR in your hands. You have the control points that you would expect a camera of this caliber to have and then some. For example, you may be surprised to know that this camera has twin control dials as well as a multitude of buttons and switches, allowing you to refine each shot to get exactly what you want. One of the benefits that comes from this being a mirrorless camera is that you are able to take advantage of the completely articulated touch sensitive screen.
When you look at the camera’s specifications, you realize that we are not talking about something that’s going to be considered cutting-edge. However, it does offer 16 megapixels and 4K UHD video. Another feature you’ll find on the G7 is focus peaking as well as zebra headlight warnings. You don’t get this feature on other cameras in this price range. These last two features make it a lot easier to shoot a video that you can use, even in a commercial setting.
In fact, the video features of the G7 are something that attract a lot of people, even those who have no desire to shoot video. For example, it offers Panasonic’s 4K mode. This is an option that lets you record video in one second chunks.
The video is recorded to the memory card as soon as you hit the shutter button. So you get the best of both worlds. On the one hand, you get to shoot the moment that you want, but since you’re getting one second shots, you’re more likely to get what you are looking for.
You can see that with this camera, Panasonic is hoping that customers who would otherwise purchase DSLR cameras but want something that gives them a little bit more control opt for the G7. The price point means that first time mirrorless camera buyers get a quality product at a price they can afford.
The Panasonic isn’t necessarily the most attractive camera out there, but it does provide a lot of the features that diehard photographers are looking for. It’s a small camera that packs a punch, especially when you think about the features and the lenses that it offers.
Pros and Cons
What We Like:
- Superb handgrip
- Excellent EVF
- A touch screen that’s very responsive
- An electronic shutter that allows silent shooting and rapid shutter speeds
- 4K video and 4K photo
Areas to Improve:
- We felt that the previews and 4K mode had a low resolution
- When you look at the dials and buttons, everything has a plastic feel to it
- The processing speed on the 4K mode could be faster
Our Premium Pick: Nikon Z7
In August 2018, Nikon released two full frame cameras. The Nikon Z6 and its big brother the Z7. The major difference between the two cameras is that the Z7 has 46 megapixels whereas the Z6 only has 24. For its price, we feel that the Z7 is one of the most well-rounded mirrorless cameras on the market. It has the power and specifications to make it able to capture stills and videos. When you look at the quality of the video and the quality of the stills, you are going to be impressed.
What’s nice about the Z7 is that if you have used some of Nikon’s DSLR cameras, you’re going to be familiar with how it functions. However, since it is a mirrorless camera, it’s a little bit smaller and has a lighter body. Nikon introduced their new Z-mount as the basis for the Z7 and Z6 cameras.
Nikon pulled out all of the stops as this is the first time that they have brought a full frame mirrorless camera to market. It is 4K capable. Some of its features include:
- 45.7 megapixel full frame BSI – CMOS sensor
- On sensor phase detection
- Shoots up to nine FPS
- UHD 4K capture up to 30 P
- Snap bridge Wi-Fi system
- Allows to PC transfers
A major mistake would be thinking that the Z7 is just the D850 without a mirror. Sure, there are similarities between the two since both are built by the same manufacturer. But what makes the Z7 stand out is how it differs from its predecessors. Nikon focused its energy on making small refinements beneath the surface to make the Z7 stand out.
As an example, the Z7 has a larger mount. This allows for some flexibility in lens design. It has a more powerful processor than previous cameras. A neat feature designed to help you avoid shutter shock is the electronic first curtain shutter mode. It is off by default but easy to enable.
We think that the new Z-mount is worth some attention. It is a lot shallower than the previous F-mount. The design for the F-mount was something that was first introduced in the 1950’s with the idea of accommodating a mirror.
When you look at the Z7 body, you see that it only has a 16mm flange-back distance from the mount to the sensor. This means that just about any lens you need can be adapted to work on the camera. If you still have a lot of lenses from your F-mount cameras, don’t worry. With the release of the new body, Nikon also released F to Z mount adapters.
Behind the mount, you find the Nikon BSI CMOS sensor. There are some similarities between this new chip and the chip that was in the D850, which most believe was a mixture of Nikon and Sony technologies. What makes this chip stand out is that it offers IOS 64 mode while simultaneously offering on sensor phase detection pixels. What’s really neat about the Z7 is that it allows continuous shooting at a rate of 5.5 frames per second.
Pros and Cons
What We Liked:
- 45.7 megapixel full frame image sensor
- Tilting touch LCD
- 4K video
- 90 percent autofocus sensor coverage
- Resistant to dust and splash
Areas to Improve:
- We would like to see a larger selection of native lenses
- Only has one memory card slot
- A shallower buffer depth than what we would’ve liked
Our Budget Pick: Olympus PEN E-PL7
As a 16 megapixel camera, the Olympus PEN E-PL7 is equipped with a Micro Four Thirds sensor. This is a stylish camera that is a great alternative to the more expensive cameras that Olympus offers. When you look at this camera, you can tell that Olympus was focusing on creating a camera that the casual user would be able to enjoy while simultaneously taking pictures that they would be proud of. We can honestly say that this camera can take pictures that can stand toe to toe with some of the more expensive cameras from Olympus.
Since it is a less expensive camera, you’re going to notice that some of the physical controls are not as solid as you might like. However, the camera as a whole is solidly designed. It has what many would describe as a classic or a ritual feel to it. It’s part metal and part plastic.
The majority of the frame of the camera is made out of aluminum. So when you have it in your hands, it feels solid. The parts of the camera that are plastic have a leather effect on them. You really feel that this camera could take a beating and keep going forward.
The camera is a little bit on the smaller side. It is 114.9 x 67 x 38.4 mm in size. The camera weighs approximately 35.7 g. If you have larger hands or if you have a unique shooting style, the Olympus E – PL 7 might feel a little small for you. On the other hand, it might be exactly what you need.
The screen on this Olympus camera is pretty good. It’s three inches across and offers 1.04 million dots of resolution. It is a touchscreen, allowing for touch to focus.
Something you might find a little bit awkward is that this camera has a tilt mechanism that has the screen flip out underneath the body rather than above. The people at Olympus say that this design allows for better selfies.
However, when you actually have the camera in your hand and are dealing with the screen, it feels awkward. All in all, this is a camera that is designed to be a little less expensive for the casual photographer while allowing someone who is transitioning into a professional photographer to still take photographs that they are happy with.
Pros and Cons
What We Liked:
- A nice touchscreen
- Attractive retro design
- Surprisingly good sensor performance
Areas to Improve:
- We were very disappointed with the video capture
- This camera is not made for individuals with larger hands
- The tilt under feature of the screen was frustrating
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are mirrorless cameras better?
A: Mirrorless cameras are lighter, more compact, offer better video, and are usually faster. Of course, there are some drawbacks. This includes the fact that you have access to fewer lenses. Traditional DSLR cameras have a wider body and more lenses have been designed for that body type. They also have an optical viewer so that you can use them in lower light. But the trade-off is that DSLR cameras are bulky. Conversely, mirrorless cameras are thinner, less complex, and offer a stellar picture.
Q: Do mirrorless cameras take better pictures?
A: Mirrorless cameras, especially those that are more expensive, have on chip focus sensors. This means that they can shoot better video. A traditional DSLR camera cannot take advantage of phase detection while the mirror is up and they are recording. This means that in a traditional camera, the contrast detection focus method is going to be less accurate than what you would get with a mirrorless camera.
Q: Are mirrorless cameras silent?
A: A lot of the DSLR cameras you purchase will have a quiet mode. They do this by separating the sound of the shutter from the slapping sound made by the mirror. This makes things a lot quieter, but it’s nothing compared to the silent mode you will get on a mirrorless camera. Since there is no mirror, the mirror slap disappears entirely. You can even use the settings to completely eliminate the sound of the shutter. When you take a photograph, the only sound you’re going to hear is the shooting aperture closing.
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