Mirrorless cameras are no longer the compromise they once were and are now viable options for both enthusiast and professional photographers as well as beginners. They can turn out great quality photos and video, and have the added benefit or being more portable than your typical high-end DSLR. Here we look at some of the best mirrorless cameras available in 2016.
In the past couple of years mirrorless cameras have really come of age, and are now being considered by more users. They frequently feature the sort of build quality and reliability that was once the preserve of DSLRs. They are also considerably faster than previous generations of mirrorless cameras, both in terms of focus and shooting speed, and electronic viewfinders (which all of this bunch feature) are not the drawback they once were in comparison to optical viewfinders. If you think a DSLR is still the way to go for you, you might also want to check out our guides to the best APS-C and full frame DSLRs.
When Sony announced the A6500, it came as a bit of a shock given the firm had already outed a high-end APS-C mirrorless camera (the A6300) earlier in the year. But the new 24-megapixel camera is undoubtedly Sony's E-mount APS-C champion. It features a super speedy autofocus system with 425 points, and can rattle off up to 11 frames per second, or 8 fps with live-view continuous shooting, which feels more like using an optical viewfinder.
Built-in 5-axis image stabilization also means the A6500 is equally good when shooting at slower shutter speeds or long telephoto focal lengths, and offers up to 5-stops of stabilization. Video can be recorded in 4K resolutions, at up to 30 fps, and there's a touchscreen on the back of the camera. The A6500 also boasts built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. The Sony A6500 currently costs US$1,400 body only.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
The original Olympus OM-D E-M1 was a camera which convinced a lot of photographers they didn't need a full frame DSLR, and it looks like the Mark II will follow suit. While the camera features a smaller Micro Four Third size sensor, it has plenty of specifications which don't compromise. It offers super-speedy shooting at 15 fps with its mechanical shutter (or 60 fps with the electronic shutter), boasts a 121 point autofocus system, and 4K video recording.
5-axis image stabilization is again on hand, but the sensor shift mechanism can also be used to shoot 50-megapixel images. Solid build quality using magnesium alloy gives the camera a sturdy feel, and it's weatherproof, too. Around back there's an articulated touchscreen, and built-in Wi-Fi allows easy sharing and remote shooting. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II costs $2,000 body only.
Canon EOS M5
Canon was late to the mirrorless party, and when it did arrive it didn't exactly impress with its first couple of offerings including the EOS M and EOS M2. However, with the EOS M5 it looks like Canon might finally be doing mirrorless right, leaving us suitably impressed when we went hands-on. The camera is essentially an EOS 80D squeezed into a smaller body and stripped of its mirror. As such it packs a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, an ISO range of 100 to 25,600, and continuous shooting of 7 fps with autofocus.
There are 49 AF points and Dual Pixel CMOS AF gives smoother-than-usual focus transitions when shooting videos, which the EOS M5 can do at resolutions up to Full HD 1080p at 60 fps. The rear touchscreen, which can be angled, also helps make the M5 appeal to the video-shooting crowd. The camera boasts Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth, and currently costs $980 body only.
We should probably include the Panasonic GH4 here rather than the G85. However, with a flagship successor already announced in the GH5, which is due to land next year, it's hard to recommend the aging camera. As such we think its little brother, the G85 (or G80 depending on where you live in the world) is a good option for now. It might only use a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, but it also features 5-axis sensor shift image stabilization which can be used in conjunction with some optically stabilized lenses, and is reasonably rugged.
Being a latest generation Panasonic camera, it also records 4K video at up to 30 fps, and features 4K photo capabilities. These include the ability to shoot 30 frames per second at 4K resolution (compared to the 9 fps full res using the mechanical shutter) and make use of the Post Focus mode to select focus points after shooting, using the rear touchscreen. The Panasonic G85 currently costs $900 body only.
The retro-looks of Fujifilm X-Series cameras have made them some of the most popular mirrorless offerings on the market, but these cameras are more than mere fashion accessories. The X-T2, one of Fujifilm's flagship cameras along with the X-Pro2, is more than capable of holding its own against the competition. It uses a 24-megapixel X-Trans CMOS III sensor to produce very high quality images, and has an ISO range of 100 to 51,200, and can shoot at up to 8 fps, or 11 fps with an optional Vertical Power Booster Grip. It can also shoot at 14 fps when using the electronic shutter.
4K video recording is possible at up to 30 fps, and in addition to the rear monitor it has an electronic viewfinder which is one of the best we've used and suffers virtually no lag. The X-T2 maintains the physical and dial-based controls which appeal to many Fujifilm fans, and the magnesium alloy camera is weather resistant, which means you can keep shooting in the rain. The Fujifilm X-T2 costs $1,600.
Sony A7R II
For many users, the Sony A7 cameras are the pinnacle of what mirrorless cameras have to offer. With full frame sensors and a growing range of compatible lenses, there's a lot to like. Indeed, with the A7 II, A7S II and A7R II, there's probably something in the A7 range for everyone. However, for us it's the A7R II which stands out with its 42-megapixel back-illuminated full-frame sensor, 5-axis image stabilization and the Fast Hybrid AF system which offers good frame coverage.
Despite the large resolution, the A7R II manages an ISO range of 50 to 1,024,004, and can shoot at a rate of 5 fps. While the A7S II is arguably the better bet for videographers, the A7R II can still shoot 4K footage at 30 fps. The magnesium alloy body gives a solid feel, and the camera features built-in Wi-Fi and NFC. The Sony A7R II currently costs $3,200.
As we've seen here, mirrorless cameras are not just for beginners. Any of these shooters could be used by photo enthusiasts or professionals and are perfectly capable of turning out high quality stills or video. However, the camera which really stood out to us this year was the Olympus OMD EM-1 Mark II, which builds upon the already impressive original with a healthy speed increase that brings it in line with (if not faster) than rival DSLRs.
The Canon EOS M5 was also something of a nice surprise. Not only does it show that Canon is finally taking mirrorless seriously and giving us another option, but it's also a rather good camera in its own right. Meanwhile, Sony continues to impress and while it only gave us APS-C mirrorless cameras this year, its A7 series is still as good as anything else, and we can't wait to see what the firm has up its sleeves for 2017.
If you are not sure what sort of interchangeable lens camera you need, you might want to check out our guide to different camera types. We've also put together roundups of the best DSLRs and mirrrorless cameras for beginners, as well as the best APS-C and full frame DSLRs.