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Best mirrorless camera 2021: the 15 best choices for every budget

Fujifilm X-S10
(Image credit: Future)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

If you're looking for the best mirrorless camera you can buy, we're here to help. Every camera in this guide has been rigorously tested to make sure it deserves its spot in our pick of the top mirrorless cameras available today.

What's the best mirrorless camera in 2021? While it's difficult to pick out just one, as it depends on your shooting needs, we think the Fujifilm X-T4 is the best all-round choice for most people. It isn't a full-frame camera, but its slightly smaller APS-C sensor still produces excellent photos and video, and there are other benefits to that sensor size, including compact lenses and speedy burst shooting.

If you have your heart set on a full-frame camera, though, we think the slightly more expensive Canon EOS R6 (and its pricier Canon EOS R5 sibling) are fine choices. Both cameras have a growing range of excellent RF lenses and are bursting with useful features, including in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and class-leading autofocus. For everyday shooting, the EOS R6 edges it due to its lower price and 12fps burst shooting.

If it's a video camera you're after, or a hybrid that leans more towards shooting moving images, then options like the Sony A7S III and Panasonic Lumix S5 are our current top picks. Or if you're a complete beginner, older options like the Sony A6100 and Fujifilm X-T200 combine usability with great value.  

Whatever your budget or shooting style, our guide contains all of the top mirrorless cameras. From affordable options like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV to landscape-friendly full-framers like the Nikon Z7 II, you'll find all of the best mirrorless cameras around in our regularly updated list.

Not sure where to start? Check out our guide at the end of this page for helpful pointers on what to look for when buying a mirrorless camera.

The best mirrorless cameras in 2021:

The Fujifilm X-T4, the best mirrorless camera you can buy, on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

1. Fujifilm X-T4

A superb all-rounder that's as capable as it is desirable

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 26.1MP
Viewfinder: 3,690K dots
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,620K dots
Autofocus: 425-point AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 15fps (30fps electronic shutter)
Movies: 4K at 60p
User level: Intermediate/expert
Reasons to buy
+IBIS for stills and video+Superb build quality+Improved battery life
Reasons to avoid
-No built-in headphone jack

Looking for a mirrorless camera that's equally comfortable shooting both great stills and 4K video? Few cameras do this better than the Fujifilm X-T4. The best APS-C camera so far, it offers a great blend of great build quality, a fun shooting experience, and class-leading image quality. We were already fans of the Fujifilm X-T3, which remains on sale is still worth considering if you mainly shoot stills. 

But the X-T4 takes the series to new heights thanks to the inclusion of in-body image stabilization (IBIS), a new battery, and a new, quieter shutter. We'd have liked a slightly deeper grip and the IBIS system isn't quite up to Olympus standards, but it's a big bonus for both shooting both stills and video, and it tops off a brilliant all-rounder that now has an excellent range of lenses. 

The Canon EOS R6 with a 24-240mm lens resting on a rock

(Image credit: TechRadar)

2. Canon EOS R6

Pricey, but Canon's best mirrorless camera for most people

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 20.1MP
Viewfinder: 3,690K dots
Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,620K dots
Autofocus: 6,072-point AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 12fps (mechanical shutter), 20fps (electronic)
Movies: 4K at 60p
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+Superb autofocus+Impressive IBIS system+Dual card slots
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty expensive-Video recording limits

If you own a Canon DSLR and have been waiting to make the move to mirrorless, the EOS R6 is the camera for you. It's also a very worthy upgrade from Canon's early mirrorless launches like the EOS R, too. One of the main reasons is the EOS R6's class-leading autofocus – there's no other camera in this class that can match its Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system, which brings excellent subject detection (including animals) and tracking. 

But it's a big improvement on Canon's original mirrorless models across the board too, with impressive in-body image stabilization (IBIS), speedy 12fps burst shooting using the mechanical shutter and decent 4K/60p video skills too. The R6's recording limits and rolling shutter issues mean it's more of a stills camera than a video workhorse, but as long as that 20MP resolution is enough for you, it's definitely one of the best cameras ever made for photographers.

The Nikon Z6 II with a 50mm prime lens resting on a table

(Image credit: Future)

3. Nikon Z6 II

A modest update on the Z6, but still a great choice for photographers

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 24.5MP
Viewfinder: 3,690K dots
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,100K dots
Autofocus: 273-point hybrid AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 14fps
Movies: 4K at 30p
User level: Intermediate/expert
Reasons to buy
+Excellent image quality+Great handling
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most advanced AF-Screen isn't vari-angle

For a long time, the full-frame Nikon Z6 reigned as our number one camera. This successor remains an excellent performer, particularly those looking to move from Nikon DSLRs, but the Z6 II's modest updates mean it's fallen slightly behind the very best mirrorless cameras. It still comes highly recommended, though, largely thanks to its consistency in most areas, with the addition of a second EXPEED 6 processor bringing a range of performance improvements that include a new 14fps burst shooting speed. 

Autofocus also gets a boost over the Nikon Z6, particularly with animal eye/face detection, and the Z6 II adds a much-needed UHS-II SD card slot alongside the existing XQD/CFexpress slot. Video lags slightly behind its rivals, with a 4K/60p mode not coming until February 2021. But with a tried-and-tested 24MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor, which delivers very good high ISO performance, and the best handling you can find on a mirrorless camera, it fully deserves its place at the top table for photographers.   

The Fujifilm X-S10 with its 18-55mm kit lens resting on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future)

4. Fujifilm X-S10

The best mid-range mirrorless camera you can buy

Specifications
Sensor size: CMOS
Resolution: 26.1MP
Viewfinder: 2.36m dots
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04m dots
Autofocus: 425-point AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps (mechanical)
Movies: 4K/30p
User level: Beginner/Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+IBIS in a small shell+Strong video specs
Reasons to avoid
-No weather-proofing-A few control quirks

By shoehorning several highlights from the excellent X-T4 – including IBIS – into a cheaper, more compact body, Fujifilm has created arguably the best mid-range mirrorless cameras for beginners and hobbyists. The Fujifilm X-S10 packs stacks of shooting power into a small shell that handles well. Its chunky grip and simplified dials ape the accessibility of classic DSLRs, while the charm of its retro styling speaks for itself. 

The proven APS-C sensor and X-Processor 4 combo makes the X-S10 a true all-rounder, as comfortable shooting outstanding stills as it is capturing quality 4K footage. Its only real weakness is autofocus performance: AF is still impressive in most situations, but subject-tracking isn’t as advanced as the systems seen on cameras like the Sony A6600. While it might not be the first choice for action snappers, the X-S10’s IBIS system is a boon for handheld shooters. Provided you can do without weatherproofing, the X-S10 is superb mid-range mirrorless camera.

The Canon EOS R5, one of the best mirrorless cameras you can buy, resting on grey stone

(Image credit: Future)

5. Canon EOS R5

The best stills camera Canon has ever made

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 45MP
Viewfinder: 5,760K dots
Monitor: 3.15-inch articulating touchscreen, 2,100K dots
Autofocus: 5940-point Dual Pixel AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 20fps
Movies: 8K at 30p
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Very versatile for stills+Incredible autofocus
Reasons to avoid
-Not cheap-Limits on video recording

Canon really pulled out all the stops with the EOS R5. Lightweight yet substantial in the hand, it’s the company’s best mirrorless camera to date. High-resolution, full-frame and driven by the powerful Digic X processor, it’s an exceptional tool for stills photographers. Next-gen Dual Pixel autofocus is outstanding, offering impressively accurate tracking and mind-blowing animal detection. Image quality is similarly superlative, producing remarkable results even in low light, with minimal noise even as high as ISO 4000. Add 20fps continuous shooting with the electronic shutter and you’ve got a pro-level mirrorless camera that’s as comfortable in the studio as it is on the street. 

Its battery life can’t rival a DSLR, but a good four hours of intensive shooting is possible on a single charge. Its video specs are also staggering for a camera of this size, capturing 8K at up to 30fps or 4K at up to 120fps, and recent firmware upgrades have only boosted its appeal for videographers. However, it's worth bearing in mind that heat restrictions do limit recording times, while ‘cool down’ periods can be lengthy. Making the most of that performance will also require investment in costly CFexpress cards – though if you can afford the R5’s top-end price tag, perhaps that won’t be an issue.

The Nikon Z7 II with an 85mm prime lens sitting on some bricks

(Image credit: Future)

6. Nikon Z7 II

A modest upgrade, but an excellent choice for Nikon fans

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 45.7MP
Viewfinder: 3,690K dots
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1020K dots
Autofocus: 493-point AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps
Movies: 4K at 60p
User level: Intermediate/expert
Reasons to buy
+Great handling +High-resolution sensor+Excellent viewfinder 
Reasons to avoid
-Screen only tilts -Not the best for action

Although a fairly subtle evolution of the original Z7, it’s arguable that Nikon didn’t need to make too many changes to its impressive top-line mirrorless full-frame camera. A major criticism has been addressed by the adding of a secondary memory card slot for the Mark II version, while an additional processor helps to boost its all-round performance. 

You now get 4K/60p video recording, plus 10fps shooting and a buffer that clears more quickly. The Nikon Z system is also growing at rapid pace, with several lenses and accessories available, making it a much more attractive overall ecosystem than when the original Z7 launched. That’s not to say this camera is perfect – for those who shoot action, there are better options out there, but for Nikon fans in particularly, the Z7 II is a very strong choice. 

The Nikon Z fc camera on a park bench

(Image credit: Future)

7. Nikon Z fc

A modern classic that's ideal for travel snapping

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C CMOS
Resolution: 20.9MP
Viewfinder: 0.39-inch EVF, 2.36 million dots
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots
Autofocus: 209-point AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 11fps
Movies: 4K (UHD) at 30fps
User level: Intermediate/expert
Reasons to buy
+Stunning design+Handy vari-angle touchscreen+Good value
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of native lenses-No UHS-II card support

The Nikon Z fc is a gloriously retro take on the Nikon Z50, the camera giant's other crop-sensor mirrorless camera. It packs the same specs as the Z50 into a body that's inspired by the Nikon FM2 from the early 1980s – and the combination is a triumph for casual shooters who want a fun camera for travel and everyday shooting.

It might lack a weather-proof build and the large grip seen on the Nikon Z50, but the Z fc is a delight to shoot with and packs competitive specs, including a 20.9MP sensor, the ability to shoot 4K/30p video, continuous AF tracking for people and animals, plus a handy vari-angle touch screen. The only downside? A lack of native lenses. If a wide range of APS-C lenses is important to you, then Fujifilm's X-series is a good alternative – but otherwise, the Nikon Z fc is a glorious mix of old and new.

The Sony A1, one of the most powerful mirrorless cameras ever, sitting on a wooden surface without a lens

(Image credit: Future)

8. Sony A1

The best mirrorless camera that (lots of) money can buy

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS
Resolution: 50.1MP
Viewfinder: 9,437K dots
Monitor: 2.95-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440K dots
Autofocus: 759-point AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 30fps
Movies: 8K at 30p
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+Blisteringly quick AF and burst+8K raw video
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Complicated menus

Mirrorless cameras are renowned for their technological advancements – and the Sony A1 shows the format’s evolution isn’t slowing. In almost every way, it’s the best mirrorless camera you can buy: superlative burst speeds mean you can capture detailed, high-resolution images at 30fps, while the 759-point hybrid autofocus is equal parts rapid and reliable. The 50.1MP full-frame sensor is also handy for videography, with the A1 capable of shooting 8K footage at 30fps in 10-bit 4:2:0 – or 4K at 120/60fps in 10-bit 4:2:2. 

In the hand, the A1 hits a comfortable sweet spot between Sony’s A7 and A9 series cameras, while the incredible 9.44-million-dot OLED EVF renders the average LCD display somewhat superfluous. Its menu system is complicated, but that’s largely a reflection of the Sony A1’s astonishing skill set: this is a mirrorless camera that’s as useful for studio portraits as it is for fast-paced wildlife action. Yes, there are mirrorless cameras that offer better value – and the A1 will be overkill for the majority of photographers. But if you want the pinnacle in mirrorless performance in 2021, the Sony A1 should top your list.

The Sony A6100 with a 16-70mm zoom lens sitting on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

9. Sony A6100

A brilliant beginner pick that’s perfect for point-and-shooters

Specifications
Sensor size: APS-C CMOS
Resolution: 24.2MP
Viewfinder: 0.39-inch EVF, 1.44 million dots
Monitor: 2.95-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 921,600 dots
Autofocus: 425-point hybrid AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 11fps
Movies: 4K at 30fps
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Excellent tracking autofocus+Compact yet feature-packed
Reasons to avoid
-Takes time to understand capabilities-Relatively low-res LCD and EVF

The Sony A6000 remains a popular mirrorless camera for beginners, but five years after its launch the A6100 brings its skills up to date in a familiar but more capable package. Borrowing an APS-C sensor from Sony’s premium mirrorless cameras, the A6100 also deploys the flagship A6600’s autofocus system to deliver outstanding continuous tracking capability that’s rapid and reliable for both stills and video. 

Image quality is as expected, with good detail and decent colors (though a neutral profile would be welcome), while battery life is solid and the tilting screen is now touch-sensitive – albeit with limited functionality. Not everything has changed, mind: the LCD and EVF both remain relatively low-res and maximum burst is still 11fps, while buffering performance can sometimes stumble. So it’s not perfect and unlocking its full potential can take time, but the A6100 is certainly a top mirrorless all-rounder that should follow in the footsteps of its best-selling forebear.

The Fujifilm X-T200 sitting on a wooden table with its 18-55mm kit lens

(Image credit: TechRadar)

10. Fujifilm X-T200

One of the best mirrorless cameras for beginners

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
+Superb color and dynamic range+Sharp 3.5-inch touchscreen+Lightweight, retro design
Reasons to avoid
-Limited buffer depth-No subject-tracking in video

A fine choice for anyone moving up from smartphone shooting, the Fujifilm X-T200 combines a large, sharp 3.5in touchscreen with a lovely design that feels much nicer in the hands than its predecessor. It's a big step up from its X-T100 predecessor in most ways, including autofocus. And unlike the Fujifilm X-A7, the X-T200 also crucially has a built-in viewfinder for framing your shots.

The only real downside compared to pricier models in this list is that the X-T200's subject-tracking can be a little hit-and-miss during burst shooting and isn't available in video mode. But it otherwise offers excellent value and is a great alternative to rivals like the Sony A6100 (see above) and Canon EOS M50 Mark II.

The Sony A7S III with a 24-70mm lens sitting in a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

11. Sony A7S III

A videographer’s dream for low-light 4K footage

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 12.1MP
Viewfinder: 9,436K dots
Monitor: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,440K dots
Autofocus: 759-point hybrid AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps
Movies: Full-frame 4K at 120p
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Superlative low-light video+Impressive battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Low resolution for stills-Costs more than before

Significantly improved in almost every way, the third iteration of Sony’s A7S is the best of its kind. In fact, it’s the finest hybrid video camera you can buy. Rivals might pack superior specs, but the A7S III sticks with big pixels and a 4K cap for a simple reason: to be the top 4K video camera. The brand-new 12.1MP back-illuminated sensor can’t record 6K or 8K, but it can record for a very long time in very low light. With incredible noise management at high ISO levels, the A7S III is a liberating camera to shoot with; the only real limitations are card capacity and battery life, which averages 75 minutes when shooting in 4K. 

A new touch interface and fully articulating screen prove equally intuitive, while an arsenal of on-body controls make inputs a cinch. IBIS and Active stabilization won’t totally counterbalance hand-shake but nevertheless steady well, while the customizable 759-point phase-detection AF is fast and reliable, with excellent subject tracking. And despite its video focus, the A7S III can also produce stunning stills, framed through the 9.44m-dot viewfinder. So what’s the catch? Paired with decent glass and fast storage, the A7S III is a very hefty investment.

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV mounted in a tripod outside in a garden

(Image credit: Future)

12. 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: 2,360K dots
Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,037K dots
Autofocus: 121-point AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 15fps
Movies: 4K at 30p
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Capable stabilized sensor+Compact and accessible
Reasons to avoid
-No microphone input-Autofocus isn’t cutting edge

On paper, the E-M10 Mark IV is an easy camera to overlook. But in reality, it’s a top mirrorless camera for beginners and stills photography. It might lack advanced features such as phase-detection autofocus or a microphone input, but it ticks all of the key boxes for beginners. A compact body and approachable button layout make it an accessible upgrade for smartphone photographers, as do Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. 

The 20.3MP sensor is plenty capable enough to capture consistently attractive images, while in-body image stabilization works a treat for shooting snaps at slower shutter speeds. The 121-point contrast detection autofocus won’t make headlines, but it does a decent job of consistently tracking faces and eyes. Add classic styling to the mix, plus a handy flip-down touchscreen and an Advanced Photo mode that makes it easy to experiment with complex techniques and the Mark IV proves itself a well-rounded beginner mirrorless option.

The Sony A7R IV with a 24-70mm lens sitting on a tree trunk

(Image credit: Future)

13. Sony A7R IV

Sony's megapixel monster is a dream for landscape shooters

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 61MP
Viewfinder: 5,760K dots
Monitor: 3-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 21,400K dots
Autofocus: 567 PDAF + 425 CDAF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 1fps
Movies: 4K at 30p
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+Improved ergonomics+Fast, intelligent AF+Well-behaved metering system+Brilliant viewfinder
Reasons to avoid
-Rolling shutter noticeable in videos-No in-camera RAW processing-No motion correction in Pixel Shift mode

Sony's A7R line of cameras has been all about resolution, and the A7R IV delivers a lot more of it than ever before. Its class-leading 61MP delivers an excellent level of detail, augmented by the impressive Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode. An update to the autofocus system has made it faster and smarter, with face- and eye-detect AF working amazingly well – but with Sony at the helm, there was no doubt about that. 

The camera body is now even more sturdy and better equipped to handle the worst of the elements while out on field, while the deeper grip makes it comfortable to use over long periods of time. Although the addition of top plate command dial makes the mode dial a little harder to access. And while the A7R series wasn't designed with videographers in mind, video quality here is excellent, even though the rolling shutter effect is an issue.

The Nikon Z5 with its 24-50mm kit lens sitting outside on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

14. Nikon Z5

The best entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera you can buy

Specifications
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 24.3MP
Viewfinder: 3,690K dots
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040K dots
Autofocus: 273-point hybrid AF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 4.5fps
Movies: 4K at 30p
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable and solid build+Very capable AF system
Reasons to avoid
-Disappointing video specs-Underwhelming burst speed

The Nikon Z5 is the best entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera you can buy right now – although it depends a little on how you define ‘entry-level’. On the spec sheet, there’s plenty that appeals. A large 24MP full-frame sensor produces lovely images in well-lit situations, while the big, bright EVF and 3-inch tilt-angle touchscreen make composing shots a joy. The 273-point autofocus is also very effective, coping well with both static and moving subjects. And the camera itself is a lovely thing to shoot with, offering a large, comfy grip and a nice control layout. 

Less impressive is the 4.5fps burst shooting speed, while a tight 1.7x sensor crop on 4K footage limits its use as a videography tool. Still, it should tick pretty much all the boxes for those new to the genre or Nikon fans after a second body. The biggest issue? Cost: as prices for the older but more capable Nikon Z6 continue to fall, the Z5 looks like a less persuasive proposition.

The Panasonic Lumix S5 with a 20-60mm kit lens sitting on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

15. Panasonic Lumix S5

A small full-frame camera that's equally at home shooting video and stills

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Full-frame
Resolution: 24.2MP
Viewfinder: 2.36million dots
Screen type: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.84m dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps (mechanical shutter), 30fps (6K photo mode, 18MP)
Movies: 4K/60p 10-bit 4:2:0
User level: Intermediate/professional
Reasons to buy
+Very compact for a full-frame camera+Impressive video skills+Great range of controls
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best autofocus system-Not for sports snappers

Smaller than the Panasonic Lumix GH5, which has a comparatively tiny Four Thirds sensor, the Lumix S5 is a great full-frame option for those who need a strong video performer with solid stills performance. While it's truly a hybrid camera, the S5 is particularly strong when it comes to shooting video, thanks to its uncropped 4K/30p shooting and high-end features that include Dual Native ISO and V-Log recording. If you're looking to shoot vlogging segments, there's also a vari-angle screen and in-body image stabilization (IBIS) on hand to help, too. 

Okay, the mediocre 7fps burst shooting means it isn't the best option for action or wildlife snappers, but it does have a 6K photo mode to compensate, which lets you extract 18MP stills from a video sequence. And the autofocus, while not quite up to the level of Sony and Canon's latest full-framers, is certainly better than Panasonic's previous incarnation. In fact, for video shooters who need to also a large amount of stills, the Lumix S5's only real rival at this price point is the incoming Sony A7C.

Great value option:

The Panasonic Lumix G9 being held with two hands

(Image credit: Future)

Panasonic Lumix G9

A versatile all-rounder that now offers impressive value

Specifications
Sensor: Four Thirds Live MOS
Megapixels: 20.4MP
Autofocus: 225-area AF
Screen type: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040K dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 20fps
Movies: 4K at 60fps
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Excellent 4K and 6K photo modes+Ergonomic handling+6.5-stop image stabilization+Dual card slots
Reasons to avoid
-ISO range not broad enough-Smaller screen than GH5

It might not be as great for video as the Lumix GH5, but the G9 prioritizes stills. Like Olympus OM-D E-M1X, the smaller MFT sensor size is made up for by a camera that is packed full of features. Its high resolution combines eight images into a single 80MP photograph, while its amazing image stabilization allows you to shoot handheld for about a second with sharp results. Throw in 60fps shooting, polished handling and a wealth of advanced features and the Lumix G9 is a brilliant all-round mirrorless camera that's now also great value.

Mirrorless or DSLR: what's the difference?

Mirrorless cameras allow you to swap and change lenses like on a DSLR. But because the mirror that you normally find inside a DSLR has been removed, the camera can (theoretically) be made much more compact. 

No mirror means that instead of optical viewfinders to frame your subject, mirrorless cameras rely on electronic viewfinders. Be aware, though, that most cheaper mirrorless cameras don't come with viewfinders at all – instead, you compose the photo on the rear screen, just as you do with most compact cameras or smartphones.

This is a boon in terms of keeping size and cost down, but if you're looking to start taking your photography seriously then a viewfinder is nigh-on essential. This is because it lets you compose photos in all conditions, even sunny ones that can render a rear screen useless.

You'll find that mirrorless cameras are also known as compact system cameras (or CSCs for short), with models ranging from the simple to use beginner models to sophisticated full-frame monsters that rival the very best DSLRs out there.

Why are mirrorless cameras better?

Is a mirrorless camera better than a DSLR? There are still quite a few pros and cons to both designs, so if you want to find out more, read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences

Mirrorless cameras certainly offer more choice. If you're looking to buy a DSLR, there's only really two main players in the shape of Canon and Nikon. If you opt for a mirrorless camera, the choice is much broader, with the likes of Canon, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Sony, Olympus and Leica all offering a wide range of cameras to suit most budgets. 

Right now, every major camera manufacturer has something to shout about, and their latest models are different enough from their rivals to stand out in some way.

While it would be very easy to select 10 high-end models to make up our pick of the best mirrorless camera, we've tried to pick out some more affordable options as well. These models might not be dripping with features, but they represent great options for new users and those on a budget. That said, if you're looking specifically for a budget mirrorless camera, take a look at our best mirrorless camera for beginners buying guide

So whether you're after a better camera than the one featured on your smartphone or are looking for an advanced, high-end model to push your creativity even further, read on to find out what are the best mirrorless cameras you can buy right now. 

What should I look for when buying a mirrorless camera?

It's a great time to buy a mirrorless camera, but also a slightly overwhelming one. An explosion in the number of options available at all price points from the likes of Canon, Sony, Nikon, Fujifilm, Panasonic and a reborn Olympus means that photographers and videographers have never had more choice. 

So where to start? Sensor size is often a good barometer of a camera's character and shooting style. Models that are built for professionals and keen amateurs will have either a full-frame sensor or a slightly smaller APS-C chip. The latter tend to be smaller and more affordable than full-frame cameras, if not quite as portable as those with Four Thirds sensors (from Panasonic and Olympus).

Other important features to look out for are electronic viewfinders (EVFs), which bump up the price but are nigh-on essential for most photographers. It's also worth considering what kind of lenses you'll need. If you like to specialize in a particular area (for example, wide-angle architecture or macro), then check the system you're looking at to make sure it has the right options for you. In the full-frame mirrorless space, Sony offers the most choice right now, while on crop-sensor APS-C cameras Fujifilm has a wide range of options at most focal lengths.

How we test mirrorless cameras

Buying a mirrorless camera these days isn't cheap, so every camera in this guide has been tested extensively by us. These days, real-world tests are the most revealing way to understand a camera's performance and character, so we focus heavily on those, along with standardized tests for factors like ISO performance.

To begin with, we look at the camera's design, handling and controls to get a sense of what kind of photographer it's aimed at and who might most enjoy shooting with it. When we take it out on a shoot, we'll use it both handheld and on a tripod to get a sense of where its strengths lie, and test its startup speed.

To test performance, we use a formatted UHS-1 card (or UHS-II if supported) and shoot in both raw and JPEG (if available). For burst shooting tests, we dial in our regular test settings (1/250 sec, ISO 200, continuous AF) and shoot a series of frames in front of a stopwatch to see if it lives up to its claimed speeds. We'll also look at how quickly the buffers clears and repeat the test for both raw and JPEG files.

In various lighting conditions, we also test the camera's different autofocus modes (including Face and Eye AF) in single point, area and continuous modes. We also shoot a range of photos of different styles (portrait, landscape, low light, macro/close-up) in raw and JPEG to get a sense of metering and its sensor's ability to handle noise and resolve fine detail.

If the camera's raw files are supported by Adobe Camera Raw, we'll also process some test images to see how we can push areas like shadow recovery. And we'll also test its ISO performance across the whole range to get a sense of the levels we'd be happy to push the camera to.

Battery life is tested in a real-world fashion, as we use the camera over the course of the day with the screen set to the default settings. Once the battery has reached zero, we'll then count the number of shots to see how it compares to the camera's CIPA rating. Finally, we test the camera's video skills by shooting some test footage at different frame-rates and resolutions, along with its companion app.

We then take everything we've learned about the camera and factor in its price to get a sense of the value-for-money it offers, before reaching our final verdict.

Mark Wilson

Mark is the Cameras Editor at TechRadar. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won the Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.