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Best mirrorless cameras

Best mirrorless cameras
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A mirrorless camera can be crucial for getting great shots of the night sky and anything else you might want to snap. Despite being around for a while, mirrorless cameras are proving ever-popular with new and veteran photographers alike. Unlike SLR and DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras lack a mirror and a viewfinder prism. Instead, they rely upon a small screen in the viewfinder. The reduction in hardware means mirrorless cameras are lighter and more compact, making them easier to carry around.

A mirrorless camera offers sharper images with higher resolution, a wider dynamic range, as well as other features that surpass the abilities of DSLR cameras. However, not all mirrorless cameras are the same and as such, you'll see a wide range in price too - from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand. Furthermore, you will have to choose between Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, and full-frame sensors. A different amount of compatible lenses are available for each camera, so picking out the best mirrorless camera for you may be more challenging than you expect. That's why we've put together this handy guide.

For astrophotography, the best mirrorless cameras aren't your only option. You'll want to check out the best cameras for astrophotography for other great camera options and you'll also want to check out the best lenses for astrophotography guide to complete your setup. While these cameras won't provide the type of view of the night sky you'd get from a telescope, they're worth checking out and may be more suitable depending on your needs. Without further ado, read below for our round-up of the best mirrorless cameras on the market.  

Best for professional level hybrid-shooters

EOS R5 body

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon EOS R5

A mirrorless powerhouse with huge stills specs and uncropped 8K RAW video capture

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 45MP
Lens mount: RF (EF/EF-s with adapter)
ISO range: 100-51,200 (50-102,400 expanded)
Video: DCI 8K RAW 30p
Weight without lens: 650g
Memory card slots: CFexpress x 1 and SD UHS-II x 1

Reasons to buy

+
 Excellent low-light autofocusing 
+
 Eight stops of image stabilization 

Reasons to avoid

-
 Quite expensive 
-
 Reported overheating problems shooting 8K 

Advanced and professional users who require excellent image quality for both stills and video will find the Canon EOS R5 well suited. The R5 captures 45MP stills that can easily be cropped and video footage that shoots uncropped 8K RAW at 30fps. Its performance in low light is solid thanks to the -6EV autofocusing detection range. This camera can practically see in the dark. There's low image noise across the ISO sensitivity range thanks to the custom-designed DIGIC X image processor.

The R5 also comes with better dynamic range thanks to the improved Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) and Highlight Tone Priority + technology. This makes it easier for those newer to image processing to get clearer contrasted images of dark subjects. Also, due to the wider diameter and closer flange range of the RF mount in the EOS R5, it can take advantage of improved optical designs with sharper results and smaller form factor lenses which make it more portable.

The R5 can use its 5-axis stabilization up to a whopping eight stops, even on lenses without image stabilization because of the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) technology. This IBIS technology works well when shooting video although it doesn't quite perform as well as expected when capturing 8k RAW footage.

Best for astrophotographers

Canon EOS R6 with vari-angle touchscreen deployed

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
Great low-light autofocus and an impressive ISO range make this ideal for astro

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 20MP
Lens mount: RF (EF/EF-s with adapter)
ISO range: 100-51,200 (50- 204,800 expanded)
Video: 4K UHD 60p
Weight without lens: 598g
Memory card slots: SD UHS-II x 2

Reasons to buy

+
 Better low light AF than R5 
+
 Generous ISO range 

Reasons to avoid

-
 Only 4K cropped video 
-
 Limited to 20MP stills  

The Canon EOS R6 is essentially the R5's little brother so there is naturally a drop in both image quality and price. However, despite a lower image resolution (20.1MP compared to the R5's 45MP) and less detailed electronic viewfinder, it performs better when being used for astrophotography. 

It can autofocus down to -6.5EV which is 0.5EV lower than the R5. Having a maximum ISO sensitivity twice as high as the R5, it is more suited to shooting videos of the aurora and other night sky subjects. It's also smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the R5 and the lower photosite count (pixels) means it should be less prone to image noise.

Best for general shooting

Sony A7 III review: image shows Sony A7 III camera outside

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)
An all-round performer good at both stills and video capture, though now superseded by the A7 IV

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 24.2MP
Lens mount: E-mount
ISO range: 100-51200 (expanded to ISO 50-204800)
Video: 4K UHD 30p
Weight without lens: 650g
Memory card slots: SD UHS-II x 2

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent performance for the price
+
Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Unfriendly menu interface
-
Tilting rather than vari-angle screen

The key to the A7III's uniqueness lies in its Exmor R image processor which is back-illuminated for improved light collecting ability. This, plus Detail Reproduction and Area-specific Noise Reduction technologies help to maintain clear, noise-free shots even at high ISO values — ideal for astro where ISOs are inherently cranked up high.

It has a 15-stop dynamic range so bright highlights and deep shadows can be rendered equally capably across the frame. A maximum ISO of 51200 (or 204800 for stills) and the integrated Hybrid-Log Gamma picture profile make the camera ideal for night sky shooting for HDR video processing.

Best for intermediate shooters

Fujifilm X-T4 camera review: image of Fuji X-T4

(Image credit: Diana Jarvis)
One of the best mirrorless cameras for low light autofocusing in a compact size

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C, 26.1MP
Lens mount: X-mount
ISO range: 160-12800 (extended 80-51200)
Video: DCI 4K 30p
Weight without lens: 526g
Memory card slots: SD UHS-II x 2

Reasons to buy

+
 Huge 6.5 stops of in-body image stabilization 
+
 Vari-angle touchscreen 

Reasons to avoid

-
 APS-C crop sensor 
-
 Lack of headphone jack 

Though an APS-C camera, the X-T4 hits hard with its specs such as uncropped 4K video at 30fps, 26.1MP stills capture, and a nicely detailed electronic viewfinder for easier composition. It's also lightweight and extremely affordable, considering the specs which makes this the ideal camera for those that want lots of features in a small form factor but without the hefty price tag.

The impressive -7EV autofocus range means this camera is top quality when autofocusing in the dark, although as with all camera AF range specs, the performance does depend on the lens attached (in this case the XF50mm f/1.0).

Best small-sized camera

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

(Image credit: Olympus Camera)

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Unbelievable performance for a Micro Four Thirds camera

Specifications

Sensor: Micro Four Thirds, 20.4MP
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
ISO range: 200-6400 (extended 64-25600)
Video: 4K UHD 30p
Weight without lens: 366g
Memory card slots: SD UHS-II x 1

Reasons to buy

+
 Inexpensive option 
+
 All-important weatherproofing 

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited dynamic range compared to full-frame 
-
ISO range not great 

A Micro Four Thirds image sensor means there's less surface area to capture light. Despite this, Olympus has managed to pack a lot in to this little camera that fits in your pocket. 

20.4MP stills compete with full-frame mirrorless cameras in terms of image resolution and it can even shoot 4K UHD 30p video. Though the ISO range (200-6400) is more limited than other cameras in this roundup although usually, most astro shooters will want to keep ISO as low as possible to avoid image noise which makes 6400 (or 25600 expanded) is more than ample. The vari-angle touch screen makes it easy to compose shots aimed straight up at the sky, and weatherproofing means it'll keep shooting rain or shine.

Best for a detailed EVF view

The Sony Alpha 1 camera body

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony A1

A world-leading mirrorless camera full of insane specs but with a world-leading price to match

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 50MP
Lens mount: Sony E-mount
ISO range: 100-32000 (expanded 50-102400)
Video: 8K 30p
Weight without lens: 737g
Memory card slots: SD UHS-II and CFexpress x 2

Reasons to buy

+
 Incredibly detailed EVF 
+
 Jaw-droppingly detailed stills and video 

Reasons to avoid

-
 Astronomical price 
-
 One for advanced/professional users 

If you were looking to buy the camera to rule them all (and have plenty of spare cash), this might be for you. A massive 50.1MP stills resolution matched by 8K 30p video, a class-leading electronic viewfinder and in-body image stabilization of 5.5 stops means you'll effortlessly capture every star in the sky.

15 stops of dynamic range mean those pinpoints of bright, starry light are captured just as easily as the darkest patches of clear skies. The expandable ISO range up to 102400 allows for some stunning astrophotographs. It has incredible specs and is ideal for astro work, but the cost will price most people out.

Best for high resolution imaging

The Sony A7R IV camera body

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony A7R IV

The world’s highest resolution full frame mirrorless

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 60MP
Lens mount: E-mount
ISO range: 100-32000 (expanded 50-102400)
Video: 4K UHD 30p
Weight without lens: 665g
Memory card slots: SD UHS-II x 2

Reasons to buy

+
 Incredible stills resolution 
+
 Brilliant autofocusing system 

Reasons to avoid

-
 Limited ISO range considering price 
-
 Only 4K crop video 

If it's unparalleled detail you want to capture, then pay attention to this record-breaking Sony mirrorless camera. The image sensor in the A7R IV is capable of capturing huge 61MP stills images which at the time of writing is the highest resolution stills in a full-frame camera. Strangely, this doesn't transfer to video with it limited to 4K UHD 30p maximum footage capture, but that's still good enough for most shooters.

Sadly the ISO range tops out at 32000, or 102400 expanded, which makes other options from this list more appealing, especially when considering image noise and dynamic range. That said, if you have the funds, you won't get a bigger or more detailed image of the galaxies than with the A7R IV.

Best mid-price all-rounder

Nikon Z7ii camera body

(Image credit: Nikon)
A brilliant all rounder, the Z7 II competes with the most expensive models on this list and does it at a reasonable price

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 45.7MP
Lens mount: Z-mount (F-mount with adapter)
ISO range: 64-25600 (expanded <64-102400)
Video: 4K UHD 60p
Weight without lens: 615g
Memory card slots: Multi slot SD UHS-II, CFexpress, XQD x 2

Reasons to buy

+
 Great all-round performance 
+
 Sturdy construction and weather sealed 
+
 Multi slot memory card port 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the best at anything 
-
LCD screen is tilt-only

The Nikon Z7 II turned things up a notch from the Z7 with better image processing and more advanced compatibility. Released in 2020, it provides fantastically sharp 45MP stills and high-quality, smooth 4K UHD 60p video.

Shooting for longer periods is possible thanks to the more efficient energy consumption. Its sturdy magnesium alloy body and full weather sealing mean it can be exposed to all kinds of weather without worry. Paired with the razor-sharp Z series lenses it's priced mainly at serious and professional shooters.

Best entry-level full frame option

Nikon Z5 camera on tripod

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
A compact entry-level full frame mirrorless camera with a good set of features

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 24.3MP
Lens mount: Z-mount (F-mount with adapter)
ISO range: 100-51200 (expanded 50-102400)
Video: 4K UHD 30p
Weight without lens: 590g
Memory card slots: SD UHS-II x 2

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable full-frame mirrorless 
+
Excellent ISO range 

Reasons to avoid

-
Too middle-ground for some 
-
Cropped 4K feels dated 

Full-frame cameras are notoriously expensive and often perceived as the reserve of advanced and professional photographers. This is why beginners and those still learning the ropes of photography tend to opt for APS-C crop sensors. However, the Nikon Z5 is probably the world's most accessible full-frame mirrorless camera due to its affordability.

This does come with the caveat that the Z5's features aren't class-leading. Cropped 4K video is a little dated now for full-frame cameras. The viewfinder matches the resolution of the Z7 II but is out-performed by many competitors. Although the stills top out at 24.3MP this isn't a show stopper as for low light shooting and astrophotography, lower resolution full-frame sensors tend to produce less unwanted image noise.

Best budget option for stills and video

Panasonic Lumix S5 body

(Image credit: Panasonic)

Panasonic Lumix S5

Favors vloggers and those with a stricter budget

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 24.2MP
Lens mount: L-mount
ISO range: 100-51200 (expanded 50-204800)
Video: 4K DCI 60p
Weight without lens: 714g
Memory card slots: SD UHS-II x 1 and SD UHS-I x 1

Reasons to buy

+
 Compact full frame design 
+
 Uncropped 4K video 

Reasons to avoid

-
 Only 1 UHS-II SD card slot 
-
 EVF not the most detailed 

While other cameras with similar specs only have tilting rear screens, the Lumix S5 has a vari-angle touch screen which favors newcomers to photography and vloggers equally as this helps with composition at awkward angles. It has a huge expandable ISO sensitivity range up to 204800 and due to the full-frame 35mm image sensor, image noise is kept extremely low. 

Because it is so little, some lenses can feel a little too large and unbalanced in the hand, but this isn't a problem when using a tripod. It has one SD UHS-II card slot and one SD UHS-I slot, which can be frustrating for professional users.

Best budget astro camera

How to do seascape photography: Nikon Z6 review

(Image credit: Andy Hartup)
One of Nikon’s earliest mirrorless cameras actually outperforms many other mirrorless for astro

Specifications

Sensor: Full frame, 24.5MP
Lens mount: Z-mount (F-mount with FTZ adapter)
ISO range: 100-51200 (expanded 50-204800)
Video: 4K UHD 30p
Weight without lens: 585g
Memory card slots: SD UHS-II x 1 and CFexpress/XQD x 1

Reasons to buy

+
 Massive ISO range for age 
+
 Low image noise 

Reasons to avoid

-
 Photo resolution isn’t huge 
-
 Cropped 4K video 

The Z6 is one of two of Nikon's earliest attempts at mirrorless cameras and boy did they get it right. It's the lower resolution version of its bigger-bodied sibling (the Nikon Z7 (opens in new tab)) but reaps the rewards in terms of image noise, especially when shooting at its high ISO sensitivities during astrophotography.

Though cropped, the 4K UHD 30p video was impressive at its release date and is still not to be sniffed at today. It gives fine detail, has a fast refresh rate and the autofocus is sharp and fast. 

If you're serious about astrophotography, landscapes, or even portraits, then the Z6 is the ideal mirrorless. What it lacks in sensor size and burst shooting, it certainly makes up for in image stabilization, ISO capabilities, and pure handling feel.  

Conclusion

Despite this top 11 list of mirrorless cameras highlighting a choice of options to suit different needs, there are still a few additional aspects to consider before making your final decision on which camera to go for. Decide whether stills photography will be the primary use or if movie-making is more important as some models favor one discipline over the other. If the answer is that both will be used equally, look to get a model that produces high-resolution stills and movie footage, preferably uncropped video too for maximum flexibility.

A hugely important consideration when buying a mirrorless system is how many compatible lenses are available so you're not restricted when you further your photography and want versatility in your kit bag. A good range of wide-angles, zooms, primes, telephotos, macros, and other specialist lenses provide maximize the potential and keep the interest of those who like to experiment in lots of disciplines. For example, users that like to shoot wildlife, but also landscapes, astrophotography, sports, portraits, and macro subjects might want to consider a mirrorless camera with a wider selection of lenses available to complement it.

The most decisive factor in buying the best mirrorless cameras for most people is undoubtedly price. If you look at an older model, you will typically get a lower price but you will miss out on newer technology, like improved image stabilization and more detailed viewfinders. Newer models aimed at professionals will have features that outshine ones for beginner and intermediate photographers - but will also cost much more. It is important to weigh up your budget and what features you will need for your style of photography and the subjects you will be shooting in the long run.

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Jason Parnell-Brookes is an award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in Frome, UK. He won a Gold Prize award in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19, and was named Digital Photographer of the Year by the Mammal Society Photographer of the Year Awards in 2014. Jason is a Masters graduate and has a wealth of academic and real-world experience in a variety of photographic disciplines from astrophotography and wildlife to fashion and portraiture. 

With contributions from