Epson introduced the world to the first mirrorless digital camera, the R-D1, in 2004, and photographers weren’t sure what to make of it. But in the decade-plus since, every major camera company has thrown its proverbial hat into the mirrorless ring. Though there was a time in the not-too-distant past when shooting with a digital SLR was the only surefire way of achieving the absolute best image quality, the mirrorless camera has since proven itself as an incredibly potent alternative.
In fact, with digital sensors equal to those found in DSLRs, interchangeable pro-quality lenses (in most), and magnesium-alloy construction, mirrorless cameras are quickly becoming the choice of many professionals looking to downsize their gear. This brings us to perhaps the most valuable facet of the mirrorless camera: size. Mirrorless cameras and lenses not only deliver top-notch image quality, they do it at half the weight of most DSLR systems. It’s safe to say 2017 will be the year of the mirrorless camera, and we’ve rounded up our favorites to help you prepare.
Additional Contribution by Mike Henson
Best Luxury Compact: Sure it’s expensive, but the Q is probably the closest a compact camera is going to get to a pro-level DSLR like the Leica M series. It has a near-pro-level 24MP full-frame sensor, a huge 3.68MP electronic viewfinder and super-quick autofocus. With its ISO 50,000, it’s great at shooting in low-light. And aesthetically, the Q is as beautifully simple as you can hope for.
Read our review here.
Sensor: 24MP full-frame CMOS
Weight: 1 pound 6 ounces
Lens: Stabilized 28mm f/1.7 Summilux
Other Features: manual focus, 100–50,000 ISO, hi-res viewfinder
Sony A7R II
Most Feature-Packed: Announced in summer 2015, the A7R II has the most advanced full-frame sensor — a 42MP, back-illuminated array with 5-axis image stabilization and up to 102,400 ISO — of any of Sony’s compact and powerful Alpha-series cameras. Its images are beautiful, bright and sharp; plus you can choose which part of the photo you want to be in focus (or out of focus) during editing. Like most high-end cameras these days, it also shoots full 4K video.
Read our review here.
Sensor: 42MP, 35mm full-frame (35.9 x 24mm) Exmor R CMOS sensor
Weight: 1 pound 6 ounces (body only)
Lens Compatibility: E-mount
Other Features: manual focus confirmation; 399-point autofocus, up to 5 fps shooting; silent shooting mode
Best Workhorse with the Best Lenses: The X-T2, released in late 2016, takes the best of Fuji’s heralded X-T1 and X-Pro2 mirrorless cameras and makes it its own. It has the same 24.3MP CMOS sensor as the X-Pro2, along with the X-T1’s rugged body and weather protection. It also has a better autofocus system (325 total AF points) and a faster mechanical shutter speed (1/8000) than its X-T1 predecessor. 4K video capture is another neat addition.
Sensor: 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor
Weight: 1 pound 2 ounces (body only)
Lens Compatibility: Fujifilm X-mount
Other Features: 325 total AF points, 1/8000 sec max shutter speed, max ISO 51200, waterproof, freezeproof, dust-resistant
Ricoh GR II
Most Practical and Pocketable: Admittedly, the GR II is the outlier on the list — but its simplicity is its beauty. It’s the first of Ricoh’s GR cameras to come with built-in wi-fi and NFC for quick smartphone uploads. Its large 16MP APS-C sensor and 28mm equivalent F2.8 lens are far superior to what your smartphone has and it’s way better at shooting in low light.
Sensor: 16MP CMOS APS-C sensor
Weight: 0.55 pounds
Lens Compatibility: 28mm fixed lens
Other Features: 1/4000 sec max shutter speed, F2.8–16 aperture, wi-fi and NFC capability