A Review of the Best Mirrorless Cameras under $1,000
Earlier we had worked on a list of the Top 5 best mirrorless cameras under $500. Many of our readers have pointed out that the list is biased because it does not include cameras that have better features. Well, at 500 dollars you can only get as much.
This time around we decided to expand our horizon and our budget and look at cameras that are higher up on the budget scale. Of course, with a higher price we get better specifications.
These are currently the best mirrorless camera under $1,000. Please note, all of these cameras have been listed sans their kit lenses. We have made a conscious choice not to include a kit lens or for that matter any lens, because it depends on the style of shooting one does and skews the pricing table.
Overview: Best Mirrorless Cameras under $1,000
# 1 – Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless
In many ways, the Sony Alpha a6300 is everything that you would ever need in a mirrorless camera. It weighs just about right – 404 grams with its battery and memory card, feels good when held in hands and has a pretty decent list of features.
It is built around a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor capable of producing 6,000 x 4,000 pixels frames. Image processing is powered by Canon’s BIONZ X image processor. ISO range of the camera is 100-25,600 which can be further extended to 51,200.
The back of the camera is dominated by a 3” 921.6k-dor tilting LCD screen; the first composing window. The display offers 100% frame coverage. Along with it, a XGA Tru-finder 2.36m-dot OLED EVF is also provided. The viewfinder also fits 100% frame coverage.
The a6300 is a fantastic camera for street photography, because of its unassuming size, fantastic continuous shooting speed, and excellent 4D FOCUS system. The Sony Alpha a6300 is a formidable video shooter as well with ultra HD (3840 x 2160p resolution) at 30 fps. In full HD 1920 x 1080p resolution the camera can shoot at up to 120 fps. The camera comes equipped with S-log3 Gamma and a display assist option.
There’s a built-in mic in the camera. It records stereo sound along with your clips. You can optionally mount an external stereo mic to facilitate better sound quality. Up to a total of 29 mins and 59 secs can be recorded in a single file.
Continuous still shooting is possible at a speed of 11 fps in full resolution to capture up to 21 RAW frames. Alternatively, you can shoot at 44 JPEG frames in full resolution. For sports and action photography that is exactly what you want along with the ability to lock focus quickly. The Sony Alpha a6300 has both. One of the more sought after features of the camera is the 4D FOCUS with 425 phase detection points.
The other features of this fully loaded mirrorless camera include a weather sealed magnesium alloy construction, built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, pop-up flash along with the option to mount an external flash.
# 2 – Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless Digital Camera
The 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor powered Fujifilm X-T1 Mirrorless is a formidable camera. Though not in the same league as the Sony Alpha a6300 we just read about, the specs are good enough for a large number of photography requirements. In some way, it is a budget conscious compromise for photographers who are looking to buy the Alpha a6300.
The 16.3-megapixel sensor is capable of producing RAW and JPEG frames of the size 4896 x 3264. Image processing is handled by Fuji’s EXR Processor II. Sensor sensitivity of the camera is 100 – 6,400 which can be further extended to 51200.
A note on how the pixels on the sensor are arranged. The proprietary X-Trans sensor uses a randomized pixel array. This does not warrant the use of an optical low pass filter. That, in essence, increases the overall sharpness of the images produced.
Auto-focusing prowess is a major factor in determining the usability of a mirrorless camera. In recent years auto-focusing performance of mirrorless cameras has improved dramatically.
A reason why more and more DSLR users are having second thoughts. The X-T1 has a hybrid auto-focusing mechanism. It uses both contrast detection and phase detection auto-focusing technologies. Other than that the X-T1 incorporates both digital split image and focus highlight peaking mechanisms for better manual focusing.
One of the key features of the Fujifilm X-T1 is its eight fps continuous shooting speed ably assisted by its Hybrid AF and Focus Peaking features. The camera is a capable video shooter as well. However, unlike some of the other mirrorless cameras which can shoot UHD, the X-T1 shoots only full HD (1920 x 1080) at up to 60 fps. You can record a maximum of 27 mins in a single file. There is a built-in microphone which records stereo sound. You can, however, choose to mount an external mic to record better quality sound.
Built-in Wi-Fi allows the camera to be connected to any available network and transfer images and videos seamlessly. The rear of the camera features the 3” tilting LCD screen. It has a resolution of 1040,000 pixels. Screen coverage is 100%. The 0.5” EVF has a pixel count of 2360,000. It also gives 100% frame coverage.
The overall construction of the camera is good. It is rated as a weather resistant construction. That invariably suggests that it will survive a little bit of rain and dust but is unsuitable for sustained use in bad weather.
# 3 – Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera
Olympus and Panasonic are the two companies that have continued to keep the micro four thirds system alive. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 is a nice compact design that is built around a 20.3 megapixel Digital Live MOS sensor and the acclaimed Venus Engine image processor. The sensor is capable of producing frames of the size 5184 x 3888. The native ISO range of the sensor is 200 – 25600.
Panasonic’s sensor-shift type image stabilization system makes by default all lenses, which are compatible with the M4/3 mount, optically stabilized. These lenses don’t need the image stabilization gyros and motors like lenses designed for the Canon EF, EF-S, and the Nikon F mounts. The lack of images stabilization elements on the lens means they are lighter than traditional DSLR lenses.
Video shooting, these days is a must have. There was once such a time, not too long ago when just the ability to shoot videos was a great thing to have on your interchangeable lens cameras. Not anymore. These days even full HD video capabilities aren't enough anymore. The Lumix DMC-GX8 is capable of capturing UHD videos 3840 x 2160p at maximum 30 fps.
At full HD 1920 x 1080p the camera is capable of recording at up to 60 fps. You can easily shoot fast action footages, your pet at the beach or your kids playing in the yard and then play them back at normal 24 fps to create a nice slow motion effect. There is a built-in stereo mic for recording crisp sound with the option to mount an external mic as well. You can record a maximum of 29 mins and 59 secs in a single file.
Continuous shooting speed of the Lumix DMC-GX8 is a respectable eight fps. Continuous shooting speed is an important consideration for the purpose of making fast action images. Continuous shooting speed does not work without a big buffer. The buffer on the DMC-GX8 can allow up to 100 frames to be shot without any lag.
A 3” rear touchscreen that swivels is a fantastic option for shooting from difficult positions such as around a corner and over the head of a crowd. The resolution of the screen is 1040,000 pixels and gives 100% coverage. The primary shooting option is the electronic viewfinder. The viewfinder has a resolution of 2360,000 pixels.
Built-in Wi-Fi on the camera allows for easy transfer of images and videos over a wireless network.
# 4 – Canon EOS M5
The newly announced Canon EOS M5 is the latest in a long line of EOS M cameras. The M here stands for mirrorless. The EOS M5 is powered by a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 image processing engine. The 24.2-megapixel sensor is capable of producing large fine JPEGs and RAW images. Canon’s DIGIC 7 image processor allows images to be shot in up to ISO 25600.
Nine fps continuous shooting speed of the EOS M5 is more than respectable. We have certainly seen better, but for daily photography requirements, 9 fps is more than good. You can also shoot a bit of sport and action photos as well. Another thing that makes the EOS M5 a force to reckon with is its dual-pixel CMOS technology. Dual pixel CMOS technology ensures that the camera locks focus faster than traditional auto-focusing systems as well as other hybrid AF systems.
Another feature that you would enjoy using is the digital 5-axis image stabilization. This feature is excellent for handheld shooting. Another interesting feature you would enjoy using is the 3.2” 1.62 million dot touchscreen LCD. Though there is a 2360k-dot electronic viewfinder as well, the touchscreen is what you would be using when shooting videos and action shots.
The EOS M5 has built-in Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi capabilities ensure that the camera can latch onto any network and depending on the available wireless speed you can transfer videos and images in a jiffy.
# 5 – Fujifilm X-T10
The 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor powered Fujifilm X-T10 is a good camera to work with. Image processing on the camera is powered by EXR processor II. The sensor is capable of producing RAW and JPEG frames of the resolution 4896 x 3264 pixels. The ISO range of the camera is a decent 200 – 6400 and can be further extended from 100 – 51200.
A feature that we already learned when reading about the X-T1 above, Fujifilm uses proprietary randomized pixel array in their sensor design. This design makes it redundant to use an optical low pass filter. The immediate effect of which is that image sharpness increases exponentially.
The hybrid auto-focusing mechanism of the Fujifilm X-T10 is made up of 77 contrast detection AF points and 15 phase-detection AF points.
Continuous shooting speed of the camera is a decent eight fps in full resolution. However, the problem is it can shoot only about eight frames before the buffer overruns.
The Fujifilm X-T10 can also shoot full HD videos at the frame rate 60 fps. There is a built-in stereo mic that records decent quality sound. But there is also an option to plug in an external sound recorder for better quality sound.
The camera has one tiny 0.39” 2360-k dot OLED viewfinder. This electronic viewfinder gives 100% frame coverage with a magnification of 0.62x. The main composing window, however, is the 3” tilting LCD screen at the back. The LCD screen has a decent resolution of 920,000 pixels and gives 100% frame coverage.
The built-in flash has a guide number of 16.4’ at ISO 100. The pop-up flash is good enough for underlit situations where you need some light to make a proper exposure of a face etc. Optionally, you can mount a more powerful external flash. There is a hotshoe for that purpose.
Finally, built-in Wi-Fi ensures an easy transfer of images and videos without the need for cables, etc.
# 6 – Fujifilm X-E2S
A 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans II CMOS sensor and EXR Processor II is what makes up the heart and brains of the Fujifilm X-E2S. Native ISO range of the X-E2S is 200 – 6400. In extended mode you can shoot at ISO 100 – 51200.
Just like the X-T10 and the X-T1 we discussed before, the X-E2S also uses the same Fujifilm proprietary randomized pixel array. Ordinarily, high-resolution cameras often use a resolution diminishing Optical Low Pass filter. This filter ensures that the camera does not suffer from moiré and false colors because of the higher resolution.
In Fuji cameras, the proprietary randomized pixel array makes the OLPF redundant. The OLPF is also responsible for reducing the overall resolution making images softer. Not with the X-E2S.
The X-E2S uses a hybrid auto-focusing mechanism. It combines 77 contrast detection AF points with 15 phase-detection AF points to create a reliable hybrid AF system.
The back of the camera is dominated by a 3” LCD monitor. The resolution on the LCD screen is 1040k-dots with a frame coverage of 100%. For those who love composing through a viewfinder, there is a 0.5” 2360k-dot OLED viewfinder as well. The viewfinder also gives 100% frame coverage.
Continuous shooting speed of the camera is seven fps. You can shoot about 18 frames at full resolution before the buffer overruns. There are a large number of cameras with similar frame rate. Seven fps is good enough for a moving subject like a model who can’t keep herself fixed to a position or a child sitting and continuously looking at different directions. But that is not suitable for action or sports photography.
Full HD video recording can be done at a frame rate of up to 60 fps. There’s a built-in stereo mic to record good quality sound when shooting videos. You could optionally attach an external mic for recording better quality sound. A maximum of 27 mins can be shot in a single clip if you are shooting in the scaled down 720p resolution, 14 mins when you are shooting in full HD.
A built-in pop-up flash ensures that the camera can be used even in less than desirable lighting conditions. The built-in flash has a guide number of 22.97’ at ISO 200. The X-E2S has a hotshoe allowing you to connect an external flash unit for a larger quantity of light.
Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity means you can transfer all your images and videos shot with the X-E2S seamlessly to a network drive or a laptop via any available wireless connection.
# 7 – Sigma SD Quattro
The Sigma SD Quattro is a unique design in many ways. Designed around a 29 megapixel APS-C CMOS Fovenon X3 Quattro sensor that utilizes a revolutionary stacked design. This design ensures every individual pixel delivering full-color information without the need of implementation of the standard interpolation mechanism. This is done by stacking the red green and blue pixels vertically in a ratio of 1:1:4.
There is no need for an optical low-pass filter either. Resultantly, the lossless RAW images have a spatial resolution that is the equivalent of a standard 39 pixels sensor utilizing the Bayer interpolation algorithm. Image sensor sensitivity range is ISO 100 – 6400.
The Sigma SD Quattro employ a hybrid auto-focusing mechanism involving both phase detection and contrast detection AF points. An important feature of the Sigma SD Quattro is focus peaking that will assist users who prefer manual focusing to auto.
The Sigma SD Quattro has been designed keeping in mind the Sigma SA mount lenses. Continuous shooting speed of the Sigma SD Quattro is only 3.6 fps and for a maximum of 14 frames only. This is not a camera which is ideal for shooting sports or action photography.
There is an electronic viewfinder and a rear LCD screen catering to users with different shooting styles. The electronic viewfinder has a resolution of 2360,000 dots and the rear LCD screen has a resolution of 1620,000 dots. Both have 100% frame coverage.
The most striking feature of the camera, something you ought to notice even before you turn it on is the design. To say the least, the Sigma SD Quattro is different to anything that we have seen so far. The design of the Sigma SD Quattro is ideally suitable for all-weather uses. The tough magnesium alloy construction comes with dust and waterproof sealing.
There’s a built-in flash with the option to mount an external flash using the hot-shoe. The Sigma SD Quattro does not shoot videos.
# 8 – Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
We round up this listing of the best mirrorless camera under $1000 with the Olympus OM-D E-M10. Ergonomically, the OM-D E-M10 is a retro design. The black art-leather styling and the metal parts are reminiscent of an era gone by.
Built around a 16.1 megapixel Live MOS Micro four thirds sensor, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a powered by a TruePic VII Image Processor.
The inherent design of mirrorless systems means that they don’t have an optical viewfinder. The viewfinder is electronic, and you see exactly what the sensor sees. There are inherent advantages as well as disadvantages of that. The OLED EVF of the OM-D E-M10 Mark II has a resolution of 2.36m-dots. Plus, you also get a 3” 1.04 million dot tilting LCD touchscreen. The tilting LCD screen is very handy when you are shooting in tight places and don’t have the option to raise your camera to your eye level. Both the EVF and the rear view LCD screen give 100% frame coverage.
The 5-axis sensor-shift type image stabilization makes every lens mounted on the OM-D E-M10 Mark II stabilized by default. Up to four stops image shake can be countered using it. ISO sensitivity of the OM-D E-M10 is 200 – 25600. In the extended mode, it can shoot from ISO 100 till 25600.
Auto-focusing is powered by an 81 point contrast detection system. While most of the other systems that we have discussed here are hybrid employing both contrast and phase detection auto-focusing, the OM-D E-M10’s contrast detection appears slightly dated.
The fast shutter and lighting quick image processing ensure a decent burst speed of 8.5 fps. The OM-D E-M10 Mark II can shoot a maximum of 22 RAW frames or up to 36 JPEGs in one go. The OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a great camera for street photography. You need the ability to shoot silently while focusing quickly as well as have the ability to stabilize the frame. With its fast electronic shutter, quick auto-focusing, and built-in image stabilization, the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a fantastic camera to make street photos with.
The OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a decent camera for shooting videos as well. It shoots full HD videos (1920 x 1080p) at 30 fps. A maximum of 29 mins can be recorded in a single file. There is a built-in microphone for recording stereo quality sound. There is no option to mount an external stereo mic.
Built-in Wi-Fi ensures a seamless connection between the camera and an external network drive or even smartphone. You can transfer images and videos without having to run cables etc.
For our money, the best mirrorless camera under $1000 is a toss-up between the Sony Alpha a6300.
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Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly.
He has been writing for over 6 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits.
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