If you want to know which is the best mirrorless camera to buy this year, you've come to the right place!
In the old days, if you were serious about photography you bought a digital SLR. But now CSC's (compact system cameras) offer the advantages of a DSLR, including big sensors, interchangeable lenses, and advanced controls, but in a smaller, lighter body without the mirror mechanism – hency why they're also called mirrorless cameras.
We've ranked the 15 best CSC cameras, based not just on specs, handling and performance, but value for money too.
1. Fuji X-T1
Classic handling, beautiful images – the X-T1 doesn't put a foot wrong
Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 16.3MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch tilting display, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
It's not the cheapest CSC on the market, it doesn't have the biggest sensor and neither does it have the highest resolution – it's the sum of the parts that makes this camera so great. Fuji's innovative X-Trans sensor delivers super-sharp detail with beautiful, rich colours thank to Fuji's long experience in analog film. The X-T1 feels like a classic 35mm film SLR, with external dials for shutter speed, ISO and, on some lenses, aperture values – and it's backed up by Fuji's steadily expanding range of top-quality lenses.
Read: Fuji X-T1 review
2. Olympus OM-D E-M10
Pint-sized DSLR-lookalike that's brilliant to use and combines value with power
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16.1MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch tilting screen, 1,037,600 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
The E-M10 continues this classic design theme, with echoes of the company's OM-1 film SLR, but in a super-compact body. Olympus uses a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor compared than the APS-C format sensors in other CSCs, but continued development has meant that the E-M10 can deliver image quality truly on a par with APS-C cameras. And don't be fooled by the size, or the price – the E-M10 is a properly powerful little camera. Get the more expensive retractable EZ kit lens because it makes the E-M10 it more compact still.
3. Panasonic GM5
How can a CSC be this small? And it's even got a built-in viewfinder
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16.0MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch, 921,600 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 5.8fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
But small as it is, the E-M10 meets its match in the Panasonic GM5 – for miniaturisation, at least. Most keen photographers prefer the DSLR-style design of the Fuji X-T1 and Olympus E-M10, but the viewfinder doesn't have to be on the top of the camera, and here Panasonic has placed it in the top left corner on the back. The image quality from the Micro Four Thirds sensor is excellent, you can use any other MFT lenses too – and all in a camera hardly bigger than a high-end compact model.
Read: Panasonic GM5 review
4. Panasonic G6
Easily overlooked, the Panasonic G6 offers SLR handling, power and now value
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16MP | Viewfinder: Electronic | Monitor: 3-inch articulating screen, 1,036,600 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 7fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
Our next choice is another DSLR-style design. The G6 first came out in 2013 and wasn't a massive upgrade over its predecessor, the G5. A lot more cameras have come out since then and the G6 has faded into the background somewhat, not least because it doesn't have any obvious stand-out features. But steady price drops over time mean it's now one of the cheapest DSLR-style compact system camera on the market, and Panasonic is still using 16MP sensors in its latest cameras, so the specs look good even today.
Read: Panasonic G6 review
5. Samsung NX1
The NX1 has the speed to match even the best pro DSLRs for action photography
Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 28.2MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch tilting display, 1,036,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 15fps | Maximum video resolution: 4K
By contrast, the Samsung NX1 is right at the cutting edge of CSC technology, though it is reflected in the price. It has the power to beat even pro DSLRs for sports and action, with its extraordinary 15fps continuous shooting speed. It also delivers some of the sharpest shots you'll see from an APS-C camera, thanks to its 28MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor – and it has a fast and super-sophisticated autofocus system and shoots 4K video too. The NX1 is a real powerhouse that could put Samsung on the map in the serious/pro market.
Read: Samsung NX1 review
6. Olympus OM-D E-M1
Micro Four Thirds gets serious, with professional features in a tough body
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16.3MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch tilting display, 1,037,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
The E-M1 is Olympus's 'pro' Micro Four Thirds compact system camera. It's expensive, like the Samsung NX1, but its fast hybrid AF, tough construction, advanced photographic features and superb handling make it a great camera to use. The 10fps continuous shooting speed – easily overlooked – is excellent and the Micro Four Thirds sensor technology has advanced to the point where the image quality can be a match, overall, for the APS-C sensors used in other mirrorless cameras. Get it with the 12-40mm 'pro' lens if you can afford it.
Read: Olympus OM-D E-M1 review
7. Sony A7 II
Full-frame stunner with 5-axis stabilization built in – though with a price to match
Sensor size: Full frame | Resolution: 24.3MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch, 1,228,800 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 5fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
The A7 II doesn't have the highest-resolution sensor in the A7 range – that's the 36MP A7R – but its full-frame sensor still has 24 million pixels and, now, built-in stabilization. It's more expensive than the A7 it replaces, and our lab tests show it has no clear performance advantage over its best APS-C rivals, the Fuji X-T1 and Samsung NX1, but the A7 II is an important step in the evolution of full-frame compact system cameras and is supported by a growing collection of pro-quality lenses.
Read: Sony A7 II review
8. Panasonic GH4
Is it a stills camera or a 4K video camera? The GH4 is brilliant but conflicted
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16.1MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch tilting screen, 1,036,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 12fps | Maximum video resolution: 4K
The GH4 is a terrific, ground-breaking camera and its 4K video capabilities are becoming legendary amongst professional film-makers. It's also a very good stills camera capable of shooting top-quality 16MP stills at up to 12 frames per second. You can even extract really good 8MP stills from 4K video shot at 30fps. But all this processing power makes the GH4 expensive, so unless shooting high-speed action stills and video is your speciality, you could be paying for power you won't use.
Read: Panasonic GH4 review
9. Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
Amazing features, impressive results, inspired thinking… but not cheap
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16.1MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch articulating display, 1,037,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
The E-M5 II is another technological tour-de-force – but where do you start? The 40MP High Res mode produces detail far beyond the sensor's native resolution, though only with static subjects, the 5-axis image stabilization works with both stills and movies, so it's great for 'run-and-gun' style videography, it has a fully-articulating touch-screen display and some clever and exciting low-light exposure modes. However, for an enthusiasts camera it's not cheap, and the controls can be baffling.
10. Sony A6000
Sony's top box-shape CSC has an electronic viewfinder and super-fast AF
Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.3MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch tilting screen, 921,600 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 11fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
The A6000 is Sony's top APC-S compact system camera and has a 'box' design rather than the D-SLR style of the E-M10 and other enthusiast-orientated compact system cameras. It has an electronic viewfinder, though, mounted in the top corner and some very impressive specs, including a hybrid AF system claimed by Sony to be the fastest in the world when it was launched (February 2014), a 24-megapixel sensor and 11fps continuous shooting. But although the body is compact, the Sony E-mount lenses can be bulky, which affects the overall balance.
Read: Sony A6000 review
11. Panasonic GX7
Ticks all the boxes and produces great results, though no headline grabber
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16MP | Viewfinder: Tilting EVF | Monitor: 3-inch tilting screen, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 5fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
Panasonic's compact system camera range is pretty confusing. There are lots of good cameras in there, but it's not so easy to work which is best for what. The GX7 is actually its top-end box-shape CSC, which means it gets the newest iteration of Panasonic's 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, and the image quality is to all intents and purposes up there with DSLRs. The rear screen is tilting and so, unusually, is the electronic viewfinder eyepiece. It's a good camera, but the Sony A6000 (above) gives you more for your money.
Read: Panasonic GX7 review
12. Fuji X-M1
Decent entry-level CSC made more attractive by falling prices – but no viewfinder
Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 16.3MP | Viewfinder: No | Monitor: 3-inch tilting display, 921,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 5.6fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
CSCs are much better with viewfinders, but the XM-1's current price is a big draw – it's around two-thirds the price of the Sony A6000 and Panasonic GX7 (above). It's quite possible that a Fuji X-M1 replacement is on the way, which could explain the falling prices, and Fuji has replaced the even cheaper X-A1 with a slightly evolved X-A2 model, so the X-M1 could be next. But for now the X-M1 is as cheap as any Fuji CSC with the desirable X-Trans sensor has ever been.
Read: Fuji X-M1 review
13. Fuji X-E2
Fuji's box-shaped CSC has classy looks, an EVF and that terrific X-Trans sensor
Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 16.3MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: Three-inch fixed screen, 1,040,600 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 7fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
The next step up from the Fuji X-M1 is the much more expensive X-E2. It has a heavier, classier feel and a built-in electronic viewfinder. The image quality from Fuji's 16-megapixel APS-C X-Trans sensor is excellent, as ever, and both the build and lens quality are first rate. But the X-E2 is holding its price well and it looks expensive up against the Sony A6000 and Panasonic GX7. It would be tempting to pay more for the even classier X-T1 or pay less for the X-M1, even though it doesn't have a viewfinder.
Read: Fuji X-E2 review
14. Sony A7R
It's the King Kong of compact system cameras, but the A7R is not perfect
Sensor size: Full frame | Resolution: 36.4MP | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3-inch tilting display, 921,000 dots| Maximum continuous shooting rate: 4fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
If you've ever used a full-frame DSLR, you can't help but be amazed when you first pick up the the A7 II (above) or the A7R. It has a sensor to match the best full-frame DSLR (until the Canon 5DS arrives), but in the smallest, neatest body imaginable. But it's not without faults. The contrast AF is slower than the latest hybrid AF systems and the 340-shot battery life is just too short for a camera competing in this class – and if you need to shoot action, the A7R's pedestrian 4fps burst mode is just too slow.
Read: Sony A7R review
15. Sony A5100
There's no viewfinder, but the A5100 has other things to tempt you
Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.3MP | Viewfinder: No | Monitor: 3-inch tilting screen, 921,600 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 6fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p
It's the baby of the Sony CSC range, but it's not cheap and it's left the gates open for other makers to undercut the A5100 by some margin (the Fuji X-M1, for example). But it does have Sony's good 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, a 180-degree flip-up screen for selfies (if that's your thing), a fancy 179-point hybrid AF system for speed and both Wi-Fi and NFC built in. It's a decent camera that's worth buying, but not until you've looked at the competition first. There other CSCs that are almost as good but cheaper, or better ones that don't cost a lot more.
Read: Sony A5100 review