Hello there! If you’re reading this, you might know that mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, (also known as compact system cameras or CSCs) are enjoying huge popularity in the market. This is a new class of cameras in itself, distinct from point-and-shoots and digital SLRs.
What are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras? Well, I like to think of them as cameras which can deliver “Near digital SLR quality photos without the bulk”. They are considered better cameras than point-and-shoots and can deliver close to digital SLR image quality.
What distinguishes these cameras are three things. First, they are mirrorless. Mirrorless camera manufacturers removed the mirror that’s found in digital SLRs to cut down the camera’s bulk. Second, they improved the image sensor on the mirrorless camera – and improved them a LOT. Third, mirrorless cameras can allow you to swap lenses to do more creative shooting – something unimaginable in point-and-shoot models.
What you have as a result is a camera that is not as bulky as a digital SLR, but yet can take superb photos and accommodate different lenses, which places them light years ahead of than your standard point-and-shoot.
Also, if you dig deeper, there’s not one, but THREE key mirrorless camera systems out there – the Micro Four Thirds standard (backed by Panasonic and Olympus), Sony’s NEX standard and also Samsung’s NX standard. Each of these standards allow you to plug in specific types of lenses into the camera.
In this article, I want to run through the top 10 best mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras out in the market. I’ll be focusing on “entry level” mirrorless cameras which are perfect for those looking to upgrade from a point-and-shoot camera.
Interestingly, as at the time of this writing, most of the mirrorless models come from Panasonic, Olympus, Fujifilm and Sony. I think Canon has been a bit slow to jump on the bandwagon of mirrorless and is still struggling to introduce a model that sells very well.
1. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2
The Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2 is a best-selling mirrorless camera out in the market. It has a 16 megapixel CMOS image sensor, 3-inch touch-sensitive LCD, takes HD video at 1080p and allows RAW image capture. offers you near digital SLR image quality at half the price.
The few things that I find great about this camera are its fast 8 fps burst shooting mode, along with one of the best auto focus systems out there in the market. It also has an interesting Olympus “Live Guide” mode to help you tweak exposure settings for those just learning how to use an advanced camera.
One complaint about the E-PM2 is the fact that the image on the LCD is hard to see in bright light – but then again, many camera’s LCDs are hard to view under those conditions.
2. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 is a close competitor to the Olympus PEN Mini E-PM2. Like the E-PM2, it features a 16 megapixel CMOS image sensor, 3-inch touch-sensitive LCD and also takes HD video at 1080p.
The Lumix DMC-GM1 is different, however, in that it offers built-in Wi-Fi – a trend that I’m seeing across all classes of cameras out there. The camera is also one of the smallest and lightest mirrorless cameras I’ve come across, plus it shoots great looking photos, and has a very quiet shutter mode. The only complaints I have – the lower battery capacity and slightly small controls which may be a problem if you have big fingers.
3. Sony Alpha NEX-3N
Sony has been making good headway into the mirrorless camera market, with its NEX mirrorless standard. The Alpha NEX-3N is a powerful 16 megapixel APS-C image sensor, a tilting LCD and 1080p HD video capability.
It doesn’t have Wi-Fi built in though, and has a lack of physical controls may put some off. What’s nice about the camera is that APS-C sensor – you’ll find that at high ISO, the images turn out with a bit less noise compared to mirrorless models with smaller sensors.
4. Nikon 1 S1
The Nikon 1 S1 is a true entry level mirrorless camera, clearly made for those looking to upgrade from a point-and-shoot. It’s very lightweight, has an excellent continuous focus and can shoot in a fast burst mode. The downside? It’s clearly the slightly noiser images at mid-to-high ISO levels, compared to its rivals.
I find the Nikon 1 S1 to be a great camera for those casual photographers who want to take lots of high quality shots of kids and sporting action. It may not appeal to more advanced camera users though – due to its simpler “menu-based” interface and lack of physical controls.
5. Fujifilm X-M1
The Fujifilm X-M1 is an attractive mirrorless camera which has had rave reviews in the market. It has a 16 megapixel X-Trans APS-C image sensor, a tilting 3-inch LCD and 1080p HD video capability.
What’s great about this model the excellent JPEG image quality, along with the ability do in-camera RAW conversion if you so decide. Its ISO performance is also top-of-the-line – you can crank it up all the way to ISO 3200 and still see relatively noise free images.
This camera is great for point-and-shooters looking to upgrade and “enthusiast” type buyers will like the superb image quality (although they may complain about the lack of a viewfinder as compared to the more professional Fujifilm X-Pro1).
6. Samsung NX2000
The Samsung NX2000 has done well for itself in a mirrorless market crowded with traditional camera manufacturer brand names like Olympus, Panasonic and Nikon. The NX200 has a 20 megapixel APS-C image sensor, a generous 3.7-inch LCD and 1080p HD video capability.
What stands out about the NX2000 is its user interface. Most users have fed back that the NX2000 has one of the most fluid and user-friendly touch interfaces on a mirrorless camera. There’s a good “iFunction” menu to allow you to access some exposure settings easily.
I didn’t like the mostly “plastic” exterior and the fact that it lacks physical buttons.
7. Fujifilm X-A1
Ok, the second Fujifilm mirrorless camera in my list here – the Fujifilm X-A1. The X-A1 well, pretty much similar to the Fujifilm X-M1 I described earlier – except that is uses a 16 megapixel APS-C sensor. The sensor has a traditional Bayer array (not an X-Trans).
JPEG image quality still shines, like the X-M1. It has that tilting LCD and Wi-Fi connectivity too. The only thing I found was that the X-A1 has a slightly plastic build, and has the occasional overexposure. But overall, a great camera for all levels of mirrorless users.
8. Pentax Q7
The Pentax Q7 has an extremely compact size and is clearly aimed at the point-and-shoot upgrader. It has a 12.4 megapixel sensor, a 3-inch LCD, and takes pretty good video.
The camera produces some good quality JPEG images, and has a nice “rear command dial” to add more responsiveness to the user experience. For me, the real downside of the Q7 is the lack of lenses and accessories. You see, the Q-system from Pentax is a mirrorless standard, but it has limited accessory options compared to the Micro Four Thirds systems supported by Panasonic and Olympus. That’s a shame really, given the Q7 is a pretty good camera. I think this kind of thing severely limits Pentax’s ability to jump into this market – they should do something about it.
9. Sony a3000
A beautiful entry-level mirrorless camera that looks like a digital SLR, the Sony a3000 has a 20 megapixel APS-C sensor, a 3-inch LCD and takes HD video at 1080p.
What’s amazing about the a3000 is, in a word – it’s price! You simply can’t find a camera with a 20 megapixel APS-C sensor inside a digital SLR body at this price ($400 at this time of writing).
The image quality of the a3000 is very good – although it tends to overexpose in some situations.
The model does have a plastic chassis – which may turn off some enthusiast level users. The LCD and EVF are also at quite low resolution. If you can overlook these shortcomings, this is a fabulous value-for-money camera.
10. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6
This is another Panasonic model in my list. It’s a great camera, sporting a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, a tilting 3-inch LCD and also 1080p HD video support.
The camera has built-in Wi-Fi, good ergonomics and is very beginner-friendly. I like its iAuto mode, which gives you one-touch access to full auto shooting.
There are some nice manual controls (i.e. an external model dial, a rear compass dial and also a customizable function button) for those who want a bit more creativity in handling.
The only downside is the slightly lower JPEGs it captures at high ISOs and a slight feeling of being a “cheap build”.
And that’s all folks! You’ve just seen 10 of the best mirrorless interchangable lens cameras out in the market. Inevitably, the question is – which one should I buy?
Well, in my opinion, to decide on the correct model for you, you simply need to answer questions:
· Do you need better quality images than what a point-and-shoot can give you?
· Are you tired of your digital SLR’s bulk and need something more lightweight that shoots great images?
· Are you feeling that your digital SLR complex systems and controls are a bit overwhelming and “too much” for you?
· Do you like to do more creative photography, perhaps exploring lenses and accessories more in the future?
If you answered yes to these questions, then it’s likely you’ll like a mirrorless camera.
As for which model to choose, it can be a tough decision. For me I’d select one that has a good combination of price, image quality, ease-of-use, and also suitable manual controls.
Out of my list, the ones I’d go for that fit a nice balance of these criteria would be the – Olympus PEN E-PM2, Fujifilm X-M1 and the Panasonic Lumx DMC-GM1. All of these would work great for a beginner or enthusiast level photographer looking for a mirrorless option.
If you answered no, you may not actually need a mirrorless. For example, you may decide to stick with your point-and-shoot if you don’t need SUPER high quality images. Or you still love your digital SLRs “bulk” and want to continue with it … that’s all fine too.
That’s all I have for now. Until next time, have fun hunting for that mirrorless camera!