Updated May 2022
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Buying guide for best mirrorless cameras

Over the past several years, mirrorless cameras have advanced significantly. These cameras are internally different from DSLRs, which are a far more established design. As technology improves, however, more photographers – both amateur and professional – are considering the benefits of owning a mirrorless camera.

The small size and great feature set of a mirrorless camera may appeal to you, too. Perhaps you’re curious about mirrorless cameras and want to learn more. Perhaps you know you want to buy a mirrorless camera but need a bit of guidance as to which product is the best. In either case, you’ve come to the right place.

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Although mirrorless cameras could not match DSLRs in image quality in the early days, today’s mirrorless cameras are very comparable to DSLRs. They also have a smaller body than DSLR cameras, making them easier to carry.

Mirrorless camera features

Here are some of the most important terms and features to understand with mirrorless cameras.

  • Interchangeable lenses: With a mirrorless camera, you can swap out the lens you’re using to take advantage of different features.

  • Image sensor: The image sensor is a silicon chip inside the camera body that measures light from the scene and records photos. Image sensors are described by manufacturers in terms of physical size and the number of megapixels they can record.

  • Electronic viewfinder (EVF): An EVF differs from the optical viewfinder found on a DSLR in that it is a tiny display screen. Mirrorless cameras use only EVFs; DSLRs can use either EVFs or optical viewfinders. Notably, some mirrorless cameras do not have built-in EVFs.

  • LCD screen: The display screen on the back of a mirrorless camera allows you to view the current scene. You can use this screen or an EVF to frame the scene. You can also control the camera’s settings and review photos you’ve shot using the screen.

  • Wireless connectivity: Most mirrorless cameras can connect to other devices and networks wirelessly. Using this connection, you can share photos as you shoot them and/or control the camera through a smartphone app. Mirrorless cameras may be able to use WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC connectivity, or all three.

Comparing DSLRs to mirrorless cameras

Both mirrorless cameras and DSLRs use a large image sensor to record digital photographs, and both offer high-end components for excellent image quality and performance. However, there are design differences between the two camera types.

A DSLR has a mirror inside that sits in front of the image sensor and reflects the light traveling through the lens upward to the optical viewfinder. This design dates back to the days of 35mm film cameras.

When you press the shutter button to record the image, the mirror lifts up so the light can reach the image sensor. In the days of film cameras, this mirror kept the film from being exposed until the shutter button was pressed.

With digital cameras, the mirror is not really needed because you can’t inadvertently expose an image sensor. That’s where mirrorless cameras enter the picture. As the name suggests, there is no mirror inside a mirrorless camera. For this reason, mirrorless cameras are smaller and thinner than DSLRs. But the differences don’t stop there.

Advantages of mirrorless cameras

Mirrorless cameras tend to outperform DSLRs in terms of movie recording. The autofocus system works faster than that of a DSLR, making video recording a smoother process. In many cases, a mirrorless camera is able to shoot at a higher burst rate than the average DSLR as well – though not as fast as a top-of-the-line DSLR.

What’s more, if you’re looking for a bit of style in the aesthetics of your camera, you’ll find more choices in the mirrorless arena. Mirrorless cameras tend to come in more designs and brighter colors than DSLRs.

Advantages of DSLR cameras

DSLRs offer more choice in terms of interchangeable lenses, and because DSLRs have been around a few decades more than mirrorless cameras, there are many compatible lenses available. In particular, DSLRs outdo mirrorless cameras in offering large telephoto lenses.

As a general rule, DSLR battery life is better than mirrorless camera battery life, too. You can frame photos with the DSLR using the optical viewfinder, which conserves battery life, whereas you must use an electronic viewfinder or the LCD screen to frame a scene on a mirrorless camera.

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Did you know?
Most DSLR lenses do not work with mirrorless cameras, although a few might work with a lens mount adapter. If you buy a mirrorless camera, expect your lenses to be an additional expense.

Mirrorless camera prices

Mirrorless cameras typically cost a little less than comparable DSLRs with similar features, but they cost quite a bit more than simple fixed-lens cameras.

Between $300 and $700, you’ll find lower-priced mirrorless cameras that are suitable for beginners. Image quality is good, though cameras in this price range will be limited to Micro Four Thirds or APS-C image sensors. In performance, they can’t quite compete with an entry-level DSLR, but for the money, you get a basic mirrorless camera of decent quality.

Most photographers with some experience will seek a mirrorless camera in the $700 to $1,500 price range. These cameras can record high-quality video and movies. In terms of performance, they come close to matching that of mid-level DSLR cameras.

The most expensive mirrorless cameras cost between $1,500 and $3,000. They often contain full-frame image sensors and extremely fast image processors. At the upper end of this range, you’ll find pro-level camera components and performance levels. There is little reason for an inexperienced photographer to spend this kind of money on a mirrorless camera, but an experienced photographer would likely push this type of camera to its limits.

Additional costs

You will incur a few additional costs when making use of a mirrorless camera.


Some mirrorless cameras ship with a basic lens included in the box (called a kit lens). If not, you’ll have to purchase another lens separately. You’ll probably buy additional lenses in the future as well. Lenses for mirrorless cameras cost anywhere from $100 to $500 apiece.

Memory card

You’ll need to purchase a memory card on which to store your digital photos. Memory cards cost between $10 and $30, depending on capacity.


You may want to purchase accessories such as a flash, an external electronic viewfinder, or a second battery for your mirrorless camera. Each of these accessories usually costs between $50 and $100, depending on your camera model.

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Mirrorless cameras are especially good for shooting video. You can focus faster and more accurately with a mirrorless camera than you can with most DSLRs.


Q. Why are mirrorless cameras so expensive?

A. Even though mirrorless cameras are small like simple point-and-shoot cameras, the interior components are of a higher quality and therefore cost more. And similar to DSLRs, mirrorless cameras have large image sensors, which also adds to the expense.

Q. How do I know what lenses will fit my mirrorless camera?

A. Each brand and model of mirrorless camera contains a lens mount; this is the area where you attach the interchangeable lens. Any lens you purchase for your mirrorless camera must fit the lens mount, and only certain lenses fit certain mounts.

Some mirrorless camera makers do offer adapters that allow other lenses to fit the lens mount, but this is uncommon.

Q. What do the different image sensor sizes mean for mirrorless cameras?

A. Most mirrorless cameras have an APS-C-size image sensor, which is a perfect for beginning and intermediate photographers, as these sensors offer a good value and excellent image quality. If you want the next step up in image sensors, look for a mirrorless camera with a full frame-size image sensor.

A slight step down from APS-C sensors are Micro Four Thirds sensors. These are a little smaller, but they still do a good job.

Q. What do the resolution numbers for mirrorless cameras mean?

A. A camera’s resolution reflects the number of megapixels it can record. A digital photograph is made up of millions of pixels, or dots. A pixel equals one dot, and a megapixel equals one million dots. Higher-resolution mirrorless cameras can record more scene data, which results in better image quality. Common resolution counts in mirrorless cameras range from 12 to 24 megapixels, or MPs.

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