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Best beginner mirrorless camera 2021: 10 budget options for new photographers

Panasonic GX9
(Image credit: Future)

Looking for the best mirrorless camera for beginners? We’ve tested the very best entry-level cameras on the market and have picked out our top choices in the list below. So whether you’re totally new to photography, upgrading from a compact or switching from a smartphone, this buying guide will help you find the perfect mirrorless camera to get started.

It's hard to ignore the camera technology on smartphones these days, but no matter how far they've come since camera phones first arrived on the market, using an interchangeable lens camera (ILC) allows you to take your creativity to the next level.

The best entry-level mirrorless options offer skills superior to any mobile or point-and-shoot, while still being accessible enough for beginners – and pretty portable, too. They also feature large sensors, manual controls and the option of switching lenses to suit different styles of photography.

Importantly, the latest entry-level mirrorless cameras actually come with some advanced features as well, so they're great learning tools to help you grow and learn the art of photography.

Most beginner mirrorless cameras come bundled with a ‘kit’ lens, designed to cover the most common shooting scenarios. That means you’ll normally get a zoom range of approximately 3x and enough flexibility to experiment with depth of field. And because entry-level models are usually compatible with a manufacturer’s complete catalogue of lenses, you’ll be able to expand your shooting setup once you’re more familiar with the format.

Speaking of which, mirrorless cameras usually ship with either an APS-C or a slightly smaller Micro Four Thirds Sensor. Both represent a significant step up in resolution and image quality when compared to the small sensors found in a smartphone or compact camera, and the larger size means they also serve up superior low-light performance.

The importance of other features will depend on your shooting style. Those looking to try out vlogging will welcome the excellent video specs of several cameras recommended below, while in-body image stabilization will be a useful addition for those looking to shoot hand-held. 

Not sure where to start? Consider an excellent all-rounder, like the Panasonic GX9. Our outright favorite mirrorless camera for beginners is the Fujifilm X-T200. Styled like a retro DSLR, it actually ships with a host of modern features, including a large articulating touchscreen, a powerful processor and a fantastic autofocus system. That said, there might be an entry-level mirrorless camera that’s better suited to your specific needs, skills and budget. Read through the list below and you’re sure to find an option that’s perfect for you.

Best beginner mirrorless cameras 2021 at a glance:

  1. Fujifilm X-T200
  2. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
  3. Panasonic Lumix GX9
  4. Sony Alpha A6100
  5. Panasonic Lumix G100
  6. Nikon Z5
  7. Fujifilm X-A7
  8. Canon EOS M6 Mark II
  9. Sony Alpha A6000
  10. Olympus PEN E-PL10

Best mirrorless cameras for beginners in 2021:

(Image credit: TechRadar)

1. Fujifilm X-T200

A beginner winner that’s better than the X-T100 in every way

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C CMOS
Resolution: 24.2MP
Viewfinder: EVF OLED, 2,360,000 dots
Monitor: 3.5-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 2,780,000 dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Excellent color and dynamic range+Sharp 3.5-inch rear touchscreen+Sleek and lightweight retro design
Reasons to avoid
-No subject tracking in video-Low buffer depth

A pared-back version of the Fujifilm X-T30, the X-T200 makes for a much better entry-level camera than its predecessor. In fact, it’s better than the X-T100 in almost every way: it has more processing power, a substantially improved autofocus system and a larger, sharper 3.5-inch rear touchscreen. It’s also much nicer to hold while retaining that attractive and distinctive retro DSLR styling.

Essentially a Fujifilm X-A7 (see below) with a viewfinder, it's actually easier to use the X-T200's screen for framing and focusing thanks to an awkwardly placed joystick. The only other downsides are that subject tracking is a bit hit and miss during continuous shooting and isn’t available for video.

The considerable plus sides, though, include outstanding image quality and an easy-to-use setup that is ideal for new photographers. As it’s been out for a while, the X-T30 is now more affordable and offers specs that novices can grow into – but if you want Fujifilm’s best dedicated beginner camera, look no further.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

(Image credit: Future)

2. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

A compact and powerful stills camera for beginners

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.3MP
Viewfinder: EVF OLED, 2,360k dots
Monitor: 3.5-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 1,037k dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps
Movies: 4K **User level:** Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Impressive IBIS+Very compact body
Reasons to avoid
-No microphone input-Specs a step behind

Despite its compact size, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV packs in a huge amount of features for stills photographers. With an approachable button layout, a flip-down touchscreen plus Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, its a camera designed first and foremost to tempt smartphone users – but that doesn’t mean it under-delivers on image quality. 

A 20.3MP sensor serves up beautiful stills, with significantly better dynamic range than a compact or smartphone can offer. That’s supported by an outstanding five-axis in-body image stabilization system borrowed from the flagship E-M1 series, which keeps things sharp even when shooting hand-held or in low-light. 

The Mark IV can also capture impressive 4K video at 30fps, though the absence of a microphone input will limit its appeal to vloggers. All the same, the Mark IV represents a fantastic gateway for upgraders and enthusiasts, especially as it’s compatible with the vast catalogue of Micro Four Thirds lenses available.

Panasonic Lumix GX9

(Image credit: Future)

3. Panasonic Lumix GX9

An ideal beginner camera that’s also travel-friendly

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.3MP
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,764,800 dots
Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,240,000 dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 9fps/30fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Built-in viewfinder+5-axis dual IS
Reasons to avoid
-Functional not stylish-Still only 16 megapixels

The Lumix GX9 from Panasonic represents excellent value for money. Its small size and weight not only make it ideal for those new to an interchangeable lens camera, but it's also well-suited for travel photography, too. The great feature set includes a built-in viewfinder, plus 5-axis dual image stabilization. One of our favorite features of all Panasonic cameras is the 4K Video and 4K Photo Modes. You can use the latter to extract stills from a movie to in order to freeze the perfect moment. As standard, the GX9 comes with a 12-32mm lens, which is a good optic to get you started with. Further good news is that there are dozens of different lenses available in the Micro Four Thirds mount, so this is a camera you can truly grow with.

Sony A6100

(Image credit: Future)

4. Sony Alpha A6100

Sony's popular beginner-friendly model is a great first camera

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24.2MP
Viewfinder: EVF, 1,440,000 dots
Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 921,600 dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 11fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Great range of specs+Value for money
Reasons to avoid
-Fiddly buttons -Small viewfinder -Fairly pricey 

Sony's A6000 was one of the most popular mirrorless models of the past few years, and while you can still buy it, the brand has refreshed it in the shape of the A6100. That brings a whole set of new features to Sony's entry-level offering, including improved video features which now include 4K. You also now get a touch-sensitive screen and advanced autofocus options which include the very well-performing Eye AF (for both humans and animals). An extensive range of different lenses are available for Sony's mount, so it's also a system you can be confident when investing in. As it stands, the A6100 is one of the most expensive models on this list – but the good news is that if you're happy with older tech, the A6000 is still very much available, and right now is a veritable bargain.

Panasonic G100

(Image credit: Future)

5. Panasonic Lumix G100

An excellent entry-level choice for vloggers

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.3MP
Viewfinder: EVF, 3,680K dots
Monitor: 3-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 1,840K dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps
Movies: 4K/30p
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Compact design+Relatively affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller sensor than some rivals-Cropped 4K video

If you want an entry-level mirrorless camera to kick-start your content creation, the Panasonic G100 is an excellent choice. The lightweight G100 is the smallest mirrorless camera with a fully articulating screen, making it both versatile and portable for budding videographers. Yet even with the compact shell, it still offers good grip and a decent number of direct access controls. At its heart is a 20.3MP sensor which delivers great color and detail across both stills and video, while the hybrid image stabilization system is designed to counter walking motion, ensuring that self-shot footage is smooth and steady – even if a crop on 4K video means you’ll need long arms to film yourself. One of the headline features is the three-mic Ozo Audio setup, which detects the source direction of vocals and prioritizes them over background sounds. It’s very effective, especially when you’re narrating from behind the camera. Less impressive is a real-world battery life of 45 minutes, but it’s enough for capturing a series of short clips. It might not quite be the perfect package, but the G100 is ideal if you’re looking for something small, light and powerful to start your vlogging journey.

Nikon Z5

(Image credit: Future)

6. Nikon Z5

Nikon's entry-level full-frame marvel

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS
Resolution: 24.5MP
Viewfinder: EVF, 3,600,000 dots
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 4.5fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Great viewfinder+Very capable AF system
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy crop on 4K video-Expensive for this class

This compact full-framer is arguably the best entry-level camera Nikon has yet produced. Its a full-featured snapper for the beginner or hobbyist, with excellent image quality, a great design for ease of use and one that's capable of handling several different subjects without any hiccups. Sure, its burst rate of 4.5fps doesn't stack up against some of the competition and its 4K video suffers from a significant crop, but despite that we can't recommend the Z5 highly enough for anyone looking to start their photography journey or just looking for a really capable camera that's an excellent all-rounder. It's very capable autofocus system comes with Eye AF on for those beautiful portraits you'd like to shoot, plus you get some high-end features like it's super high-res viewfinder and touch, weather-sealed body. And, while it looks similar to the Z6 and Z7 bodies, it comes with a 24-50mm kit lens that's designed to retract when not in use, making it a great walkaround or travel camera. The only reason we've got this Nikon lower down our list is the price tag – it's expensive when compared to some of the other entry-level cameras out there, full frame or otherwise.

7. Fujifilm X-A7

Fujifilm’s beginner-friendly CSC brings great looks and great photos

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24.5MP
Viewfinder: No
Monitor: 3.5-inch tilting touchscreen, 2,760,000 dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 6fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Excellent autofocus+Big, hi-res screen
Reasons to avoid
-No viewfinder-No built-in stabilization

We've long been big fans of Fujifilm's beginner-friendly X-A cameras, which are the cheaper, simpler alternatives to its X-mount mirrorless cameras. And the X-A7 is its best one yet, with a revamped rear screen and improved autofocus performance. That large touchscreen LCD in particular makes it a great choice for those upgrading from their smartphones, while the new 24.5MP sensor produces crisp, sharp photos and now supports 4K / 30p video capture. Its autofocus is a big selling point too, with strong face- and eye-tracking that makes it particularly suitable for shooting people, if not action and sports. If you can get past the slightly awkward ergonomics, which are still a step up from a smartphone, then it'll make a great choice as your first camera.  

Canon EOS M6 Mark II

(Image credit: Future)

8. Canon EOS M6 Mark II

A portable powerhouse with impressive specs

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C CMOS
Resolution: 32.5MP
Viewfinder: N/A
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040K dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 14fps / 30fps RAW Burst mode
Movies: 4K/30p
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Great size for travel+High-resolution sensor
Reasons to avoid
-No built-in viewfinder-No in-body image stabilization

In many ways, the Canon EOS M6 Mark II redefines the term ‘entry-level’. With a 32.5MP APS-C sensor, 14fps burst shooting and uncropped 4K video skills, it’s a pretty tasty package. It’s also an ideal size for travel, with a compact form and low weight that make it a truly portable powerhouse. At the core of the M6 Mark II is Canon’s Digic 8 processor, which supports the impressively speedy and accurate 5481-point autofocus. There’s no in-body image stabilization, but shots nevertheless have bags of detail and excellent colors, especially with the Fine Detail setting enabled. Videos are nicely saturated, too. The absence of a viewfinder will be a dealbreaker for some, but the tilting touchscreen offers a familiar experience for smartphone users – and there is an optional EVF available. A trio of dials atop the M6 Mark II make in-depth adjustments accessible, and it’s generally a lovely camera to grip and shoot with. The 305-shot battery life might be unremarkable, but the M6 Mark II is still a fantastic camera overall, with lots to offer for first-time mirrorless buyers.

Sony A6000

(Image credit: Future)

9. Sony Alpha A6000

A feature-packed mirrorless camera at a great price

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24.3MP
Viewfinder: No
Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 921,600 dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 6fps
Movies: Full HD
User level: Beginner
Sensor size: APS-C CMOS
Resolution: 24.3MP
Viewfinder: EVF OLED, 1,440,000 dots
Monitor: 3-inch tilting LCD screen, 921,600 dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 11fps
Movies: 1080p **User level:** Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Compact build+Customizable buttons
Reasons to avoid
-No touchscreen-No 4K video

Back in 2017, we described the Sony Alpha A6000 as “very close to being the perfect compact system camera”. Its performance next to the very latest mirrorless cameras now might look less impressive, but after several price cuts, it represents a very versatile option at a very appealing price. 

Yes, there are still some niggles, namely that the screen isn’t touch-enabled and there isn’t a quick way to set the AF point. But the Sony A6000 is also an attractive and accessible mirrorless camera, with a compact build that makes it properly portable. 

More importantly, image quality still holds up well today: the A6000 produces detailed, vibrant pictures in the majority of situations, with solid low-light performance at all but the highest sensitivities. Focusing speeds across the 179 autofocus points are similarly impressive and burst shooting is strong at 11fps. If you can do without a touchscreen, 4K video or in-body image stabilization, the A6000 offers brilliant bang for your buck.

10. Olympus PEN E-PL10

A stylish entry-level camera with effortless creative modes

Specifications
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 16.1MP
Viewfinder: N/A
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8.6fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Beginner-friendly creative modes+In-body image stabilization+Lovely JPEG colour rendition
Reasons to avoid
-No viewfinder-Dated sensor-Limited dynamic range

An attractive option for beginners, the PEN E-PL10 combines a range of novice-friendly modes with a stylish shell to create a competent camera that’s perfect for smartphone upgraders. The polycarbonate shell is a treat to hold, while the tilting touchscreen makes selfies a cinch.

While the 16.1MP sensor isn’t game-changing, the PEN E-PL10 still produces JPEGs with lovely colour rendition. Add 4K to the mix, as well as in-body image stabilisation and the option to edit RAW images in-camera, and you’ve got a strong package for mirrorless first-timers – provided they don’t need a viewfinder.

It’s worth mentioning that you can get many of the same features on the older, more affordable but equally as chic E-PL9. The main difference with the E-PL10 are the fine-tuned art filters and Advanced Photo modes, which make it easy to experiment with more advanced creative techniques. If you don’t need those, the former is still well worth a look.

How much should I spend?

Just because something is 'cheap', that doesn't necessarily mean it represents value for money. If you find you quickly outgrow it and need to upgrade very soon, then you'll end up spending even more money. Some of the cameras here might seem expensive to somebody buying their first camera, but we will have recommended them as something that should last you for many years to come.

If you view your photography hobby as an investment, it will pay huge dividends if you can invest as much as you possibly can when you first get started. Inexpensive cameras can still do a good job, but when cutting back on price inevitably means that features and controls are missing – so ask yourself if the saving is worth missing out on something you think you'll need.

For example, the cheapest mirrorless cameras don’t usually have viewfinders, but these can be invaluable for shooting in bright light, when the screen on the back can easily suffer from glare and reflections, so we’d always recommend stretching to a camera with a viewfinder if you can.

Check out the specs of the rear screens, too. The size and resolution are not so important since they’re all quite similar these days, but a touchscreen display will make the camera feel more like a phone, making the transition to using a "proper" camera a little easier since you'll already be used to tapping, swiping and so on.

Finally, if you like to shoot video, you might want a camera that can shoot 4K, and not all of them can. Although it's becoming more common, it's still a somewhat new area for entry-level mirrorless cameras, and they don’t all do it (though they do all offer regular 1920 x 1080 Full HD).

All the mirrorless cameras we’ve chosen for this list are well suited to beginners because of their price, size, ease of use, features or all of those things. You can also take a look at our other buying guides below if you're still undecided. Otherwise, read on to see the 10 best entry-level mirrorless cameras you can buy right now.