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Top 5 Mirrorless Cameras Currently On The Market | Early 2015

By Anthony Thurston on February 9th 2015

Interest in mirrorless cameras is at an all time high; photographers from all walks of life are becoming enlightened to the benefits of mirrorless systems. Maybe you are one of those individuals who are now looking more closely at mirrorless. Which cameras should you focus your research on?

top-5-mirrorless

Top 5 Mirrorless Cameras On The Market In Early 2015

Today, we are going to go through the top 5 mirrorless cameras on the market. The list is in no specific order, because let’s face it, when you cut an entire market segment down to 5, it’s hard to split hairs. Also worth noting, in this list, we are keeping the options to Interchangeable Lens Cameras and cameras currently available & shipping.

Fuji X-T1

fujifilm-x-t1

I am going to start off the list with the mirrorless camera that I am most accustomed to (due to owning one), the Fujifilm X-T1. Styled like an SLR, the X-T1 is currently the best option in the Fujifilm lineup for someone looking to ditch their DSLR in favor of a mirrorless camera.

The Fuji X-T1 has access to Fuji’s stunning range of lenses, is completely weather sealed, and utilizes Fuji’s unique X-Trans sensor technology which really sets it apart from any other option on this list. It is also pretty affordable, coming in at just under $1200 currently.

[REWIND: FUJI X-T1 GRAPHITE SILVER EDITION REVIEW |WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS…]

As with many mirrorless cameras, the X-T1 does struggle with battery life (this will be a theme you see throughout this list), but I have found that with the addition of the battery grip, the camera not only does fine with power, but is also much nicer to hold.

If you don’t mind the APS-C sensor, or the (by today’s standards) relatively low resolution, the Fuji X-T1 is definitely my personal pick as a mirrorless option for anyone looking into mirrorless to start with.

Sony A7 MKII

sony-a7-mark-ii

It’s hard to believe that there is already a Mk II of anything in Sony’s A7 line, but as you no doubt know, Sony’s second generation of the A7 full frame mirrorless cameras is the A7 Mark II.

There are two things that really set this camera apart from the other mirrorless options on this list; the most obvious being its full frame sensor. The A7 series is still the only full frame mirrorless offering on the market, so if you are set on ‘needing’ a full frame sensor, the A7 Mark II (or one of its fellow A7 brethren) is your only option.

The second item that sets it apart is its stabilization technology. The A7 Mark II utilizes an impressive new IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) system that moves the sensor to adjust for your movements. This means that ANY lens you put on this camera can be stabilized, a feature that I am incredibly jealous of, being someone who loves to use vintage lenses on my X-T1. The ability to get image stabilization on my Canon FD 50mm F/1.4 from the 80’s would be amazing.

[RELATED: SONY A7II MIRRORLESS CAMERA: UNBOXING & A QUICK LOOK AT THE STEADYSHOT]

The downside to the stabilization and the larger sensor is that the battery life on these A7 cameras is even more of an issue than many of these other mirrorless cameras. It is not bad by any means, but it is something to be aware of. If you are buying mirrorless, then you really need to stock up and carry 2-3 extra batteries at all times.

Coming in at around $1700 currently, the A7 Mark II is still one of the most affordable full frame cameras on the market.

Panasonic GH4

panasonic-gh4

If you are into shooting video, there is no doubt that the only camera that should be on your list today is the Panasonic GH4. This camera boasts some of the best video functions of any mirrorless ILC on the market, boasting 4K shooting and an accurate auto focus.

[RELATED: THE PANASONIC GH4 IMPRESSES IN BOTH STILLS AND VIDEO MODE]

The downside to the GH4, when compared to the two options that I have already mentioned, is the sensor size. The GH4, and the other GH cameras for that matter, all feature a mirco 4/3rds sensor, which has a x2 crop factor when compared to a full frame sensor. This means if you want to adapt your 50mm F/1.4 canon lens to your GH4, you are actually shooting with a field of view closer to 100mm. Getting wide shots is difficult and expensive on M 4/3 system cameras, so that is something to think about.

If you are a obsessed with out of focus areas, or shallow depth of field, then this may not be a great option for you either. Some people complain about the difference in depth of field from APS-C to Full Frame, and it is even worse when you are talking M 4/3 to full frame.

That said, the GH4 is still one of the best options of this list for both stills and video. It is just worth noting that if you are coming from a full frame, or even APS-C, mindset, you may be in for a wake up call. Currently available for just under $1500, it’s bordering on expensive, but is still a great option for those interested.

Samsung NX1

samsung-nx1

This is the new kid on the mirrorless block. Boasting a unique backside illuminated APS-C sensor, the NX1 has some of the most impressive features on the mirrorless market. It is also, in my opinion, probably one of the best options for someone looking to ditch their DSLR.

The size, shape, and weight of this camera make it a great “in-between” camera. It’s not as big and heavy as a full frame DSLR, but it is also bigger than most mirrorless cameras. So it is a great blend; you get the benefits of mirrorless, in a size that most DSLR users can easily adjust to.

[REWIND: SAMSUNG NX1 VS. FULL FRAME CMOS: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED]

Its image quality is stunning, and its high ISO performance is great for an APS-C sensor. It even shoots 4K video, like the GH4. The downside to the NX1 is its limited selection of lenses and adaptable lenses. Being so new, the Samsung lens lineup is rather small, and adapter manufacturers have not started many producing good vintage lenses to NX mount adapters yet. So, if you do look into this system, make sure to check on the lens selection and make sure that it is something you can live with for your current needs.

Olympus OMD E-M1

olympus-omd-em1

The last, but certainly not least, option in our top  5 listing: the Olympus OMD E-M1. This is the top of the line option currently available from Olympus right now. It features a Mirco 4/3rds sensor, similar to that of the Panasonic GH4. It also features IBIS similar to the A7 Mark II.

Olympus has a long history going back to the film days as some of the best cameras around, and the same can be said today. The OMD E-M1 is probably my top pick for the mirrorless camera with a Micro Four Thirds sensor with a focus on still images (if you are into video, the GH4 is a way better option).

[REWIND: OLYMPUS OMD E-M1 REVIEW]

The image quality is great, the stabilization is wonderful, and the Olympus lens lineup is superb. If a Micro Four Thirds sized sensor does not scare you away, this is an option that you should seriously look into. Coming in at $1,399, it’s not going to break the bank either.

Conclusion

There you have it, the top 5 mirrorless options as we currently see it in early 2015. There is already one option that may make its way onto this list later in the year and that’s the new Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II.

Mirrorless is growing in popularity for many reasons, and if you are looking at what these mirrorless cameras are doing sitting on your high DSLR perch, I highly recommend that you at least research these options when you next look to upgrade your system. Many of these cameras would make a great backup to your big DSLR, offering nearly identical image quality (in many respects) at a fraction of the size and weight.

Mirrorless is the future, why not jump of the bandwagon before it gets crowded?

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Phil Bautista

    I’m currently in the process of shifting thanks to Sony’s a6000. Very nice, compact size yet loaded with functions to satisfy most photographers, this beast is a marvel of engineering. In daylight, it has the focusing speed to keep up with Nikon’s D4s and shoot at a faster burst rate while at it. You could buy about a dozen of these for the price of 1 D4s and it weighs about a fourth of the D4s. Even less when you factor in lens weights. Is it better than a D4s? No, but as far as I’m concerned, it wins in the areas that matter to me.

    Do I think it’s perfect? No. I would love to have IBIS, better low light capability, and better audio recording options (headphone jack and mic jack for starters) while not adding too much to the size. Weather-sealing would be nice but isn’t a deal breaker for me cos I give more consideration to size and weight. Sony should also add more lenses, particularly in the telephoto range. And making them more compact would be nice too.

    While I did consider the X-T1, A7 and E-M1, the size of the a6000 and the price to performance ratio was eventually what won me over.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yep…..that sensor!!! It’s quite an amazing imager, in fact at ISO 100-800 I really don’t miss much between it and the full-frame 24 MP sensors out there, as a landscape photographer…

      I do wish they had put stabilization in it, or weather sealing, but I suppose either of those would only add to the price and weight / size…

      =Matt=

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  2. Basit Zargar

    great

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  3. Joram J

    Nice list. Good camera’s nice to see also the Samsung passing by.
    Only these are all camera’s of $1000+.
    Perhaps another article for ILC $500-1000. :) Or is that just a short list with the A6000? ;)
    But still interesting since i’m looking for a new one.

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  4. J. Wolf

    From my point of view, this article has totally the wrong focus. The “mirrorless” camera market is obvisously heterogenous as the market of all ILC cameras at all.
    Yes, they have a great image quality – the same as their “cousins” with mirrors.
    Yes, some of them are lighter – but not if you compare apples with apples which means you should not compare an OM-D with a D4s/1Dx.
    Yes, some are cheaper – partially because they are less complex due to the lack of the mirror flapping mechanics, but also because these companies (especially Sony and Samsung) press them into the market to gain a big share. But as soon as they have a significant market share even Sony and Samsung have to put on price tags that covers the associated costs.
    And yes – I still believe that “the good old DSLR” have a future: Me personally, I find it annoying to have a lag between that what happened in the viewfinder and the reality. And I find it also annoying on their power consumption.
    From my point of view, all these “mirrorless” testimonies are just a hype of people who see an opportunity to get exposure to a community.
    In the end, the result that counts is the picture – and no one can tell me that he can cheat physics by making pictures with a four-thirds camera that has the look and feel and the depth of field of a full frame DSLR with a high speed lens (i.e. 300mm/f2.8) or even a medium format system!

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    • Anthony Thurston

      How does it have the wrong focus? The point was to talk about 5 of the best mirrorless options out there right now to help those interested in going mirrorless focus their research.

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  5. William Marshall

    I held my first mirrorless camera on Saturday, an OMD-EM1 with a 17mm lens. Holy crap that thing was so light!

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    • Dave Haynie

      That’s the big OM-D… you should try the OM-D EM-5 (original or mk ii). Or the Pens… I have both the aforementioned EM-5 and the Pen PM-1. That Pen with a pancake lens is basically the size of a moderate P&S. Neither is any substitute for a FF DSLR when you need an FF DSLR. But at other times, they are functionally as good… particularly since, to keep things small, I’m usually using the OM-D with a fast prime lens, while on the Canon, it’s mostly zooms or the whole kit. I’m sure the new Olympus PRO lenses will eventually cure me of this “way too small for the quality” issue I have now….

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    • Dave Haynie

      There’s kind of an aire of inevitability looking at mirrorless, depending on where you read it — in the blogs, the press, etc. But I’m betting that we’ll have to see actual numbers suggest it’s really taking over before Canon and Nikon stop treating it as a slightly embarrassing hobby and not a mainstream market. That’s not going to happen as long as Canon and Nikon together hold roughly 75% of the ILC market.

      It seems like everyone else has decided on ILC, but also, consider the combined might of the Nikon + Canon market. Fujifilm tried Nikon-mount DSLRs and failed. Olympus and Panasonic tried “full” four-thirds DSLRs, slightly smaller but only so much — and failed. Sony did a nice update with their acquired Minolta DSLR line, and failed. They switched over to re-invent the pellicle mirror in a digital age, and that didn’t really go anywhere. So they’re on mirrorless now, and at least with the only FF mirrorless, seem to be a on roll. Panasonic and Sony challenge Canon’s DSLR-for-video supremacy. Olympus and Fujifilm make great cameras for still shooters… nice to see that again. But without a huge impact, Nikon and Canon don’t have to be in hurry.

      And then there’s the “what do we do” factor. Their lens lines are their strength… changing lens mounts is the camera equivalent of Microsoft’s Windows RT — everything you liked about them except for that one big thing that kept you away from the other guys in the first place. Even the CEO of Fujifilm expressed in interviews that he’s LOVE to see Canon and Nikon get serious about mirrorless, since that would make it legit in the eyes of many fence-sitters. And he’s one of the guys with the homefield advantage right now.

      So what if they don’t change lens mounts. It might be possible to build a smaller sensor pro-class DSLR with a shorter mount to sensor distance by essentially incorporating a “speed booster”. That would have the advantage of keeping your existing lenses with the same angle of view and boosting the effective aperture, but it might degrade image quality, it’s another thing that can get dirty or scratched, it might not be compatible with every lens (any optics wizards in the crowd?), and it would preclude FF mirrorless.

      Another possible move would be to develop a hybrid. You could have a transparent OLED overlay in the viewfinder. In optical video mode, the mirror’s down, the OLED can give you mirrorless-style information over the optical image, so it’s already something of an improvement — more room for info than a typical DSLR. But flip up the mirror, and now that OLED becomes the viewfinder, and you’re running in mirrorless mode, with all of the advantages of a mirrorless, other than size/weight. But size/weight isn’t that significant, anyway, once you’re talking full-frame. My typical 25lbs Canon rig is mostly lens weight… I do usually have a 60D tucked in under the 6D just as a spare — though that may be going to eBay soon, it really doesn’t get much use. A slightly smaller FF body isn’t that significant, IMHO.

      Another option is the full time EVF in a standard DSLR body, but that may be a hard sell. No advantage over the hybrid, for sure, if they can get such a thing working.

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    • robert garfinkle

      I am not in a rush to get a mirrorless…

      Would I like a silent camera (or nearly silent)? Absolutely.

      Would I like more FPS (possibly)? Absolutely.

      Can someone clear up something for me? I look at some of the Sony mirrorless and see low FPS. Is faster FPS inherent to mirrorless by virtue of no moving parts? Or is processing, getting the information from the sensor to the card, the issue?

      It seems to me that if full frames are not really seeing a higher FPS why move to a mirrored solution…

      just asking

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    • Dave Haynie

      ROBERT GARFINKLE You can get both speed and silence from a mirrorless, but not every mirrorless.

      Pretty much any serious mirrorless camera still has an electronically controlled mechanical shutter. This allows the sensor to be exposed just like film, which with today’s popular CMOS sensors, prevents any “jello effect” due to the sequential read-out of the sensor. While there’s no mirror-flip, there’s certainly still the shutter as a limiting factor, to both shutter speed and burst shooting speed. That said, my OM-D is about twice as fast as my EOS 6D when it comes to shooting.

      Some models allow for an optional use of the electronic shutter only. An electronic shutter is really just a way of operating the sensor — a section is cleared, the turned on, it accumulates light for a precise time, it’s read out, the process continues line by line down the sensor. Because it’s all under electronic control, there’s no sound at all, and the speed is only limited by the read-out speed of the sensor chip. The new OM-D E-M5 mk II has an electronic mode that delivers speeds up to 1/10,000th, with bursts to 11fps.

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  6. Jean-Francois Perreault

    I’d add an honorable mention to Sony’s A6000. At around 700$ with kit lens it’s a pretty sweet deal.
    Fuji’s X-E2 could also have made the list.

    With so many choices now I’m really excited to see how MILCs sales will be in 2015. Camera store clerks can confidently recommend mirrorless cameras now that there are mostly on par with DLSRs.
    In my opinion, for most people, today’s mirrorless cameras have more advantages to offer than DSLRs.
    But again that’s just my personal opinion.

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    • robert garfinkle

      Hey, if they had a mirrorless product which was called a Kamera (with a “K”) could they call it MILK?

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    • robert garfinkle

      Then t-shirts can be re-used, like “GOT M.I.L.K.” – ok, bad powdered, just add water, humor…

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    • Jean-Francois Perreault

      hey if my aunt has balls she’d be my uncle so you can call it MILK all you want ;) haha

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yep, if Sony had put any ~2 of the following into the A6000, it would have been a smash-hit home-run…

      1.) In-body stabilization
      2.) Weather sealing
      3.) Better lens support

      Maybe they’ll start getting their act together in time for the A6000 mk2 / A7000!

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    • Jean-Francois Perreault

      Lens selection is by far the number one complaint I read.
      And having the 5N, I can related.
      Lens quality is also a little problematic based on the reviews I read. Except for those >1000$ Zeiss.
      I have Sony’s 500$ 35mm 1.8 and it is blown away by my cheap Canon’s 150$ 24mm 2.8 STM.

      If Sony had really good sub 1000$ lenses I would have gotten the a6000. Instead, I’m preparing to sell all my stuff for the X-T1 :)

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  7. David Tressler

    If Nikon made a 1 series style DX format or FX ILC they would have a winner.
    The 1 V3 has 20fps and 60p at 1080
    Just up spec the processor to match a bigger sensor and BOOM.

    But to be fair I would still go for a Fuji option.

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    • robert garfinkle

      From what I understand that the N1 v3 is a scaled back Expeed 3 or 4, right? I think I catch your drift here, it’d be an easy in to the bigger package…

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    • Michael Old

      1080p is only about 2Mpix resolution, which is why they can do the high frame rates. Once you get up to 16Mpix and higher, the processing power required to get the high frame rates or burst speed increases substantially. Having to transfer all that data to a card is the bottle neck, so to compensate you need large buffers and fast transfer buses, which require fast write speed data cards as well.
      My guess is that Canon and Nikon are working really hard to design a large sensor mirrorless camera system that uses their existing lens mount and all their existing lenses. All the other mirrorless camera companies have created new lens mounts specifically for mirrorless. Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic all have mirrorless specific lens mounts. If Canon and Nikon have to go to a new mirrorless lens mount, they will loose all the competitive advantages that they have built up over the last 20 or so years and the camera landscape will be totally changed.

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    • Jean-Francois Perreault

      If they could make that happen (natively use EF/EF-S), that would be extraordinary.
      I wonder if it would be possible to use so sort of glass or whatever technique to “dynamically add” flange distance without having to physically move the lens further away from the sensor

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    • robert garfinkle

      Completely agree – 1000%

      It makes sense that they have to work really hard to keep their current framework. But, I think it can be done, should not be that hard to achieve though. Speaking for Nikon “Exspeak” that is, They’d probably have to re-invent / re-design their Expeed intelligence, adopt newer technologies, yes? As to what those are, not sure, but sounds like throughput is the key, yes?

      Let me ask, t’would it make sense to use AC wireless technology, is that “possibly” faster than card technology, maybe? dunno? I would think with today’s wireless capabilities it may be ample enough to pull off. I mean, what is the throughput required for data. I know that we may be able to pull of 160 meg / sec for AC under best circumstances, and at least 80 meg / sec for sure, which is pretty close to and better than some cards, yet I could only imagine a huge huge battery drain on the camera right?

      anyway, some thoughts

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  8. James Rogen

    i’m absolutely appalled the iphone didn’t make this list. it’s been a leader in mirrorless cameras since it’s inception. com’on slrlounge, you’re supposed to be reputable!

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  9. robert garfinkle

    So it’s not a question of “if,” but “when” Nikon will hop on the mirrorless bandwagon – and I don’t officially consider the N1 v3 as it is not ( no pun intended here ) mirroring DSLRs per se, right? Yes, there is an adapter, but it lacks in quality compared to Nikon’s semi-pro and above tethered with a Cx sensor…

    But it’d be my hope that Nikon start out with at least one Dx and / or Fx mirrorless choice for pro-thusiasts, right? It’ll come, yet suppose it will be difficult for them as they have sooo many choices now – it may be a function of who they want to piss off the least, right?

    I say that as mirrorless suggests / promotes high frame rate, yes? So if the land a 2000.00 12fps DSLR-like fx 24mp ( for example ) you can just see the D750 customers frown, yes?

    Personally, I often thought they should start out with an Fx flagship M1, targeting the Dn sports / journal community with an 18fps 24mp with all the trimmings and work their way down from there towards the ranks of the semi-pro. The M1 would sell for 7k bucks and it’d avoid pissing off most of their existing community. then it’d be an easy in for D750, D800 ( and family… ) upgrade, and then drop in on the Dx line… if I were Nikon’s CEO I’d do that for sure… and they could even re-use numbers like M750, M800, M7100 etc. or do something like Mf, Md, or Mc designations…

    but what do I know…

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