The first mirrorless cameras arrived on the market around 10 years ago, providing smaller alternatives to DSLRs. But while they once lagged behind DSLRs on performance, the gap has now largely closed, and we’ve already seen some exciting new mirrorless launches this year.
So what is a mirrorless camera? It has a similar look and feel to a DSLR but, as it doesn’t have an optical viewfinder like a DSLR, it doesn’t need to have a reflex mirror inside to bounce light up into it. The image sensor in a mirrorless (also known as compact system) camera is permanently lit, with a digital preview of the image appearing in an electronic viewfinder or LCD display.
They’re usually smaller, lighter and faster than DSLRs and better for video, but without the extensive library of lenses and accessories that DSLRs offer.
Best Buy compact system and DSLR cameras – the best interchangeable-lens cameras available today.
While mirrorless cameras previously often suffered from disadvantages such as a slower autofocus, as the market has matured some have even surpassed their interchangeable-lens counterparts.
So what does this mean for you? There are more options to choose from, depending on your skill level, and models available at a wider range of prices. Whether you’re looking for a camera to capture fast action or one that is compact enough for travel, you’ll find a mirrorless camera to suit.
Below, we’ve highlighted our picks of the recent mirrorless camera releases with details of features, availability dates and pricing so you can decide whether a mirrorless model could be for you in 2018.
Canon EOS M50, £539
The mirrorless Canon EOS M50 is the first camera from the M series to be able to record 4K video. It’s not just a one-trick pony either; it can also produce 4K timelapse and 4K still-image frame grabs.
Based on a 24Mp APS-C CMOS sensor, the M50 also includes an updated DIGIC 8 processor, an electronic viewfinder, wireless connectivity for image transfers and a 3-inch rotating touchscreen. By combining an updated sensor and processor, these improvements provide a faster and more accurate autofocus and continuous shot speed.
Available now, the EOS M50 is priced at £539 body-only or £649 with the EF-M 15-45mm lens.
Fujifilm X-A5, £549
Fujifilm has unveiled its smallest and lightest mirrorless camera yet, the Fujifilm X-A5. Bundled with a 15-45mm XC lens kit, it’s available in three colours (brown, pink and black) of synthetic leather.
In terms of specifications, the X-A5 includes a 24Mp APS-C sensor, 4K video recording, a speedier autofocus than its predecessor and a 180-degree adjustable touchscreen display for framing or reviewing your shots.
Available now, the Fujifilm X-A5 has an asking price of £549 with the 15-45mm XC lens kit. The lens is also available on its own at £259.
Fujifilm X-H1, £1,699
Sitting atop Fujifilm’s APS-C range, the Fujifilm X-H1 is the latest release in the X-series. It’s Fujifilm’s first mirrorless with built-in image stabilisation, plus the first to include a touchscreen display.
The XH1 is built around the same 24Mp APS-C-sized sensor and image processor seen in its previous X-T2 model, plus it now includes in-body stabilisation for video and stills. If you’re concerned about camera durability, Fujifilm has that covered, too. Thanks to the 25% thicker magnesium alloy in the camera body, it’s twice as robust as the X-T2.
Available in March, the Fujifilm X-H1 will cost £1,699 body-only, or £1,949 with an optional VPB-X-H1 battery grip kit.
Olympus Pen E-PL9, £579
If you’re looking for a stylish upgrade from your smartphone camera to take your photography to the next level, the Olympus Pen E-PL9 may fit the bill.
Following on from the previous release in the PEN series the E-PL8, the E-PL9 (available in white or brown) features a 16Mp Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensor, an improved image processor for better overall image quality, 4K video recording and video and image stabilisation.
Available from mid-March, the E-PL9 comes in at £579 for the body only and £649.99 with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ lens.
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9, £699
With a small and compact design similar to the DMC-GX8, the Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 is the latest mirrorless camera from Panasonic targeted at enthusiast photographers.
Panasonic has kept all the good bits from the GX8, but added a more modern image sensor and a tilting electronic viewfinder. Just some of the new specifications include a 20.3Mp MFT sensor, a 3-inch tilting touchscreen display, 4K video recording and built-in image and video stabilisation.
Currently available in black or silver, the DC-GX9 can be purchased for £699 body-only or partnered up with a 12-32mm lens for £799.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5S, £2,199
An update to the GH5, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5S includes a 10.2Mp Micro Four Thirds-sized sensor. When compared with the GH5, Panasonic has significantly increased the low-light sensitivity of the GH5S by dropping to a lower resolution. This means each pixel on the chip is larger, which in turn increases the amount of light it can capture.
What’s more, the GH5S can shoot high-quality 4K video at 30 and 60 frames per second (fps) and 1080p (Full HD) up to 240fps (slow-motion video).
The GH5 is still available to buy body-only (£1,599) or as part of a bundle deal with a lens. The GH5S is now available just body-only (£2,199).
Sony Alpha a7R III, £3,199
The Sony Alpha a7R III is Sony’s latest high-resolution, full-frame mirrorless camera and an update to the a7R II.
It offers impressive all-around specifications, such as a 42Mp sensor, 4K video recording, plus a large electronic viewfinder to compose your shots. In addition to 4K video, you can also shoot Full-HD footage up to 120fps for slow-motion videos.The a7R III is ideal for capturing fast-action shots, such as sports photography, thanks to an excellent 10 frames per second continuous shooting speed – almost doubling the speed of the a7R II.
It’s available now with a body-only price of £3,199. Sony hasn’t paired this camera up with any lens bundles, so you’ll need to buy a lens that’s suitable for you and your needs. Visit our Sony Alpha a7R III review to find out how it performed in our tests.
Sony Alpha a7 III, £2,000
The Alpha a7 III is another full-frame mirrorless camera from Sony and is a successor to the three-year-old a7 II.
It keeps the same 24Mp resolution as the previous model but includes an updated sensor and image processor to improve low-light sensitivity. Autofocus tracking and precision, in-body camera stabilisation, plus continuous shot speed has also been greatly improved. It too supports 4K video and a range of wireless connectivity options (Bluetooth, NFC, and wi-fi).
With a wealth of advanced features and improved handling, this camera is certain to appeal to photographers looking for a well-rounded mirrorless camera but without the expensive price tag.
It’s available in shops now at a body-only price of £2,000, or in a 28-70mm (SEL2870) lens bundle for £2,199.
We’ll be testing the other models above soon and will bring you the results as soon as we have them.
Mirrorless cameras in 2018
It’s fair to say that manufacturers have noticed the sharp growth in demand for mirrorless cameras, with a noticeable change in strategy for some.
For example, when we recently spoke to Panasonic about its GX9 and GH5S releases, it mentioned that mirrorless cameras are one of the few core areas it is paying close attention to going forward.
Previously, it was safe to assume that manufacturers were reluctant to invest in them for fear of cannibalising their DSLR sales. But with a slew of releases this early in the year, it looks to be the year of the mirrorless.