Not so long ago, serious photographers bought a DSLR if they wanted a top quality camera that allowed the user to switch lenses to suit the subject they were shooting. The downside of the DSLR system is that they can be quite bulky and heavy, due to the mirror mechanism which sits at the heart of the camera. However in recent years manufacturers have offered a smaller, lighter, quieter and often faster alternative – the mirrorless camera, also known as the CSC (Compact System Camera). While there’s a range of mirrorless cameras available for every budget, the more basic options don’t offer a viewfinder and instead the user composes using the rear LCD, just like using a smartphone. Many advanced enthusiast and pro shooters prefer a viewfinder option, and so here we take a look at 5 of the best advanced mirrorless cameras currently available.
Sony A9 – RRP £4,499
If you want the best of the best, the Sony A9 is the camera that requires some serious consideration. It has a spec list that blows every rival out of the water, and is arguably more advanced than any current DSLR flagship offering too – with a pricetag to match.
At first glance you might think a 24.2MP full frame sensor isn’t anything to get excited about these days – that’s the standard megapixel offering for full frame DSLR cameras. However while this resolution is more than ample for the vast majority of situations, the camera is primarily built for speed, and that’s where it truly impresses. The Sony A9 can shoot at a blistering 20fps with continuous AF/AE tracking, for 241 RAW files or 362 JPEGs – without any viewfinder blackout. For comparison, both the flagship Canon and Nikon DSLRs have a top shooting speed of 12fps, so if speed is key, the A9 will outperform camera’s considered kings. The camera acquires its speed in part from the BIONZ X processor, and this gives the A9 a native ISO range of 100-51,200, which can be expanded to 50-204,800.
The A9 also leaves its competition for dust when you look at the focusing. It boasts a whopping 693 phase-detection AF points, offering 93% frame coverage for near edge-to-edge tracking. The impressive specs don’t end there though; the A9 also has a built-in 5-axis image stabilisation system to limit camera shake, shoots 4K video, has dual card slots, a 3,686k-dot TruFinder EVF and a 3.0in 1440k-dot tilt and touch LCD screen on the rear. It also offers connectivity via Bluetooth, is fully weather sealed and the battery now lasts over twice as long as previous Sony CSCs. With an RRP of £4,499 the Sony A9 will be beyond most people’s budgets, but if you can afford it you’ll be mightily impressed by this zinger of a camera.
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Fujifilm X-Pro 2 – RRP £1,699
Fujifilm’s X-series of mirrorless cameras have been impressing photographers since their launch in 2011, and the latest offering – the X-Pro 2 – boasts an admirable list of features. It’s an upgrade to the popular X-Pro 1 and features a new X-Trans III sensor, X Processor Pro engine, and Fuji’s revolutionary hybrid (optical/electronic) viewfinder.
The 24.3MP APS-C sensor has no Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) and a unique colour filter array to combat moiré and improve the accuracy of colours. The X-Pro 2 has a native ISO range of 200-12,800, but this can be boosted to 100-25,600 for extreme light conditions. The processor also provides a pretty quick shooting speed of 8fps, and for focusing there’s 77 phase-detection AF-points, which covers roughly 40% of the frame.
One of the more impressive features of the X-Pro 2 is the Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder which allows the user to instantly switch between the optical viewfinder – for a direct view of the subject – and the electronic viewfinder (EVF) to preview the shooting settings. Alternatively you can also frame up using the 3.0in 1620k-dot LCD on the back of the camera. The X-Pro2 also offers Full HD video recording, built-in WiFi, dual card slots and has a weather resistant robust build. Lots of photographers find the vintage aesthetic of the X-series cameras rather appealing, and despite being ultra modern borrow lots of the design from rangefinder cameras of the pre-digital age, such as the rotating shutter speed dial. Weighing just 445g, it’s also the lightest CSC in this advanced category. Priced at £1,699, you get a very capable and stylish camera for your money.
Read more articles about Fujifilm X-Pro 2 here.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5 – RRP £1,699
If you’re as serious about stills as you are about video, then the Panasonic GH5 could be the mirrorless camera for you. It’s an upgrade to the popular GH4 with a range of impressive features. At the heart of the camera you’ll find a 20.3MP Micro FourThirds sensor, which offers a 25% increase on the resolution of its predecessor, and the low-pass filter has also been removed to improve sharpness. The imaging chip is partnered by a new Venus Engine processor, which provides a respectable sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600. The GH5 has a top shooting speed of 12fps with the focus locked, but this drops to 9fps if you want to use continuous focusing to track subjects. There’s an impressive 225 AF points, and a rapid 0.05sec AF speed. This camera also offers welcome modern features such as Post Focus and Stacking Focus, allowing you more flexibility with getting the sharpness just right.
The GH5 also allows users to shoot up to 5-stops slower than would usually be possible without incurring camera shake, thanks to the 5-axis image stabilisation system. This is comprised of 2-axis of Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) in the lens and 3-axis of correction on the camera body. For video the GH5 offers 4K shooting with 10-bit video recording, which is commonly used for film production. This camera also features a 3,680k-dot OLED EVF and a 3.2in 1620k-dot free angle LCD, dual SD card slots, both Bluetooth and WiFi and the body is fully weather sealed. With an RRP of £1,699, the GH5 is a great option for those photographers who want a capable CSC that also offers great movie functionality.
Read more articles about Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5 here.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II – RRP £1,849
Also belonging to the Micro FourThirds is the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, and this advanced mirrorless camera is a replacement to the popular E-M1. It features a 20MP Micro FourThirds sensor with a built-in 5-axis image stabilisation system to keep camera shake to a minimum, allowing you to shoot up to 5.5stops slower than would ordinarily be possible. Although this is the lowest resolution of these advanced CSCs, the E-M1 Mark II has a trick up its sleeve, and can produce 50MP images in High Res shot mode by combining 8 frames together. This camera is powered by the TruePic VIII Image Processor to provide some lightning quick specs. It’ll shoot at 15fps in AF-S mode with the mechanical shutter, but the speed ramps up if you opt for the electronic shutter and lets you shoot 20MP RAW files at 18fps with continuous focus or a remarkable 60fps with single focus. For focusing there’s the 121-point dual Fast Autofocus system that utilises both phase and contrast-detect.
The E-M1 Mark II also offers users 4K video shooting, comes with WiFi to connect to smart devices and has a fully articulating 3.0in touch screen with a 1037k-dot resolution. Like most of the other mirrorless cameras in this advanced category, it offers dual card slots for backing up your images and the body is fully weather sealed to keep out the elements.
Read more articles about Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II here.
Sony Alpha A7 Mark II – RRP £1,350
If you’re looking for a full frame compact system camera for a more competitive price then the Sony A7 Mark II ticks lots of boxes. It features a 24.3MP full frame sensor with a built-in 5-axis image stabilisation system for up to 5-stops of shake correction. It’s powered by a BIONZ X image processor providing a respectable sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600. The shooting speed is limited to a comparably slow 5fps, but the A7 Mark II will continue to track the focus and adjust the exposure during shooting bursts, and the frame rate is comparable to full frame DSLRs at this price point.
For focusing the A7 Mark II uses an Advanced Hybrid AF system, which employs 117 phase-detect AF points and 25 contrast-detect AF points for a wide frame coverage and intelligently switches between phase and contrast depending on the scene. The camera features an XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF with 100% frame coverage and a 3.0in tiltable 1230k-dot LCD on the rear. The A7 Mark II also shoots Full HD video (not the 4K offering of most advanced CSCs), has both NFC and WiFi for pairing with smart devices and the body is fully weather sealed. With an RRP of just £1,350, it’s the most affordable advanced CSC in our lineup, and while it might not be as quick on some of the specs, offers a great entry point to full frame photography.
Read more articles about Sony Alpha A7 Mark II here.