5 best mirrorless cameras for beginners

The 5 best beginner mirrorless cameras are:

 

  1. Fujifilm X-T20
  2. Sony A6000
  3. Panasonic DMC-G7
  4. Canon M50
  5. Nikon Z50

Who is giving you this list?

jacques Gaines holding a camera

Before I begin to tell you which mirrorless cameras are the best for beginners, I think you best understand that these conclusions are based on my personal experience .

I am a visual artist that has been doing what I do for about 20 years. I think that it would be important that you look at what I have done and judge for yourself whether you should be even listening to me.

Also, to know what criteria I used for coming to the conclusions I came to, please scroll to the bottom of the page. All is there in detail. To see my portfolio and a direct link to my Instagram profile you might want to go to my portfolio page. To go to the portfolio, click here

Also if you want to know about my journey, click here

Know more about my choices

1) Fujifilm X-T20 (with kit lens)

Although the Fujifilm X-T20 is not the latest iteration of the Fujifilm camera line, It goes without saying that, to me, the Fujifilm X line of cameras are absolutely amazing for the price asked.

With its dial based interface reminiscent of older cameras, it allows one to really get a feel for the photographic experience. You learn about the basic photographic concepts of ISO (light sensitivity), Shutter speed, and aperture (lens opening) because each setting has its own specific dial. The Fujifilm X-T20 has a whole bunch of these fantastic features and, because it sits just under the latest model, the X-T30, it has a beautiful price to boot!

Fujifilm takes a novel approach to integrating the digital camera with the analog feel. You do not forsake the digital experience if you decide to go with this little model. All settings can still be adjusted manually. Via a whole bunch of customizable dials you can keep the old with the new.

Why the Fujifilm X-T20 and not the X-T30?

Why the Fujifilm X-T20 and not the X-T30? Well simply because prices are amazing on these cameras in 2020. The Fujifilm X-T20 is a nice little camera that does not have every single bell and whistle but a whole load is there nonetheless.

front view of the Fujfilm XT20

Some of the X-T20’s cool points

What puts the Fujifilm X-T20 at the top of the list is its great stills image quality via the sensor and processor technology. However, what stands out about the X-T20 is that the 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 kit lens with its optical IS (Image stabilization) and optics is absolutely spectacular. At under $1000 for the body and lens, you are getting a camera that takes perfect pictures right out of the box.

The Fujifilm X system has also been around long enough to start having many 3rd party manufacturer offerings as well. Some of the offerings by Meike, Rokinon and Viltrox are even excellent.

Within the Fujifilm ecosystem is probaly some of the best in-camera film simulations that exist. So if you are a beginner, and most likely to initially shoot jpeg, instant gratification comes quicker. One will be able to see the fruits of their labor right on the preview screen and later in post.

Beautiful Fujinon lens upgrades

Any system that offers great affordable glass is going to rub me the right way. Fuji ,along with Canon, is no exception. Although, across the board, Fuji lenses are steeply priced. Their lens quality, for what you finally decide to shell out, is nothing less than mind blowing.

Pros

  • Great sony sensor (even the older generation)
  • In-camera film simulations are great
  • Upgradability to future generations (in the Fuji X system)
  • Video is surprisingly good
  • Kit lens in the kit is the best in the business

Cons

  • Smaller feel in the hands
  • Not as many dials as its bigger brother the X-T2,X-T3 or X-T4

2) Sony A6000 (with kit lens)

Although the Sony A6000 is the oldest camera in the lot with a release date of February 12th, 2014, it still remains a great camera for its ability to deliver great still photos. It holds second place because its price (new or used). Being an old model can really be an advantage sometimes.

The A6000 really wins on price

Price to performance ratio, even in 2020, is unprecedented. Through the years the Sony ILCE A6000 has even gone down in price and still remains available new. I would even say that for those on an extremely limited budget, this is an amazing way to go. I have even seen some of these on Facebook marketplace and EBay for under $300 used.

Its mount system (Sony E mount) is very apatable to either great native Sony glass or vintage lenses via an adapter. To me, the only small problem with native Sony lens options is that to get lenses that are great means shelling out a lot of money. So it kind of loses out on the upgradability aspect.

It still remains a fact that if you are on a really really tight budget, this little beast will deliver for a rock bottom price. In fact, for way under $1000, you can even get 2 decent kit lenses and a body.

  • Sony E 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS Lens
  • Sony 16-50 f/3.5-5.6
front view of the Sony A6000

Pros

  • Still great image quality
  • Although expensive, lens options are great (especially via vintage)
  • Price is nearly a give away (especially when going used)
  • 1080p video is very useable

Cons

  • Menu system is not great
  • Forget this for long video. It has a long history of overheating
  • Ergonomics are useable but not great

3) Panasonic DMC-G7 (with kit lens or lenses)

I think that one of the best deals out there for those who not only want to shoot photos but also want to shoot excellent video is the Panasonic DMC-G7 camera. The G7 is an older generation camera that is part of a pretty amazing photographic ecosystem. Although the construction and feel of the camera is a tad plasticy, the innards of the camera deliver fantastic photographic and video quality.

The Panasonic G7 is nice to hold in the hand

Dial placement and general photo ergonomics of the Panasonic G7 are pretty good. If there were a way to have a list where video as the determining factors, I would, without a doubt, add this camera as number one.

So if video is a shared priority with stills performance, look no further. The G7 has you covered.

The Panasonic G7 is also extremely feature rich

Panasonic has always distinguished themselves from the rest of camera manufacturers by offering a great deal of features with their cameras. These features are not always orthodox either. Pansonic was one of the first manufacturers to offer an affordable camera with Focus stacking, Post focus, and 4K video burst shooting features.

OK here is the bad news

Panasonic gives you an affordable camera with a whole bunch of outsanding features for the price. There is only one weak point into buying into the G7. It is part of a system called the four thirds system. I truly think that in the next 5 to 10 years, we will see less and less of this system in general. Therefore, we might see less four thirds system lenses and accessory options.

front view of the Panasonic G7

Pros

  • Same processor and innards of their pricier models
  • Price is crazy good (New as well as used)
  • Standard lenses are great to start off with
  • 4K and 1080P video options are fantastic

Cons

  • Construction is a tad plasticky
  • 4/3 sensor is relatively small, therefore low light performance can suffer
  • Like Sony, lens upgrade options are costly (a bit pricey when you want to really excel)
  • 4/3 tech is slowly going to disappear in about 3 to 5 years IMHO

4) Canon M50 (with kit lens)

What is very nice about the Canon M50 is that it is lightweight, has a photography form factor and offers a great deal of “easy”. However, to be quite honest with you, this Canon mirrorless camera barely made it on the list because of it failing in the lens availability portion of my criteria.

Although I love Canon glass and I even think that the lenses available for this camera are excellent for the price. There is just not a ton of lens options for the M series of cameras in general. Where Canon wins out is on its fantastic usability and touch screen integration. For all those who are admittedly tech heads and do not really care to learn the old ways of photography (via dials), this camera is  a great model to hop into photography and feel at home.

Canon also includes a great flippy screen option so for those who might also want to blog or vlog about their photographic exploits.

side front view of the Canon M50

Pros

  • Great Canon image quality
  • By far THE best touch sreen integration
  • Pretty good hassle free 1080P  video
  • Creat Canon color science
  • Lightweight
  • Flip screen for those who want to vlog

Cons

  • Lens upgrades on the native optics is not great
  • Construction is a bit plasticy

5) Nikon Z50

The Nikon Z50 is a bit of an unfair camera to be putting in this list as it really competes with more intermediate level cameras like the Canon M6 mark2 and others. I had to put it on this list because I believe that it really kicks ass for those who need that excitement factor to get into a hobby.

This camera really checks every box in terms of image quality, feel in the hand, and just plain loveliness. With Nikon having so many years of knowing how photographers think when they shoot, they have not spared any of this knowledge in the Z50. It really puts photographic funness in your hand and makes every outing enjoyable.

Upgradability is a lot like the Canon M50 in the sense that there is not a whole lot of native lens options. The Z50 also like the Canon M50, offers a lot of legacy options if you get the actual Nikon adapter.

So a lot of goodness coming in the future from the Z line by Nikon, but for now that goodness is a bit sparse.

Pros

  • Unparalleled Nikon ergonomics
  • Loveliness
  • Upgradability. Might be cheaper in the sense that you might not need another camera
  • Instant gratification for an amateur is there

Cons

  • Price is higher than others
  • Native lense options are promised but for now few and far between

My camera list criteria

Excitment

To me, the most important criteria for anyone wanting to get into photography as either a hobby or a form of expression is the degree of excitement a camera can give you when you pick it up. Therefore, downloading your images into your computer and seeing breathtaking images right off the bat is something that I think is super important. Camera feel in the hands, jpeg (unedited) image quality, and user friendliness are factors that will come into play.

Cost

Also, there is the fact that a beginner is not quite sure whether photography is the art form for them. They might want to feel the need to make sure of this by shelling out a bit less money at the beginning and wanting to add on as they go. Hence, all criteria will be weighed against initial price, upgradability, and future proofness. You do not know how much I dislike the term futureproff as I believe that many people are poorly motivated by the foolish and confounded concept. All I want to do is assure that if you decide to accessorize, your investment is not too short lived.

Lens availability

Glass availability is so important. Anyone who checks out any of my blog posts will realize that I really believe that a camera is only as good as the lens that is on the front. You can have the best technology, sensor, processor but  If your glass sucks, you are just taking a great picture of crap.

Can it beat your phone?

Although we all are aware of the Instagram reality, I find it important to note that my criteria is based on the fact that you want something better that your iPhone or Hwawei camera phone. It is undeniable, phones are getting better plain and simple. I assume that you want to go to another level by getting yourself better equipment.

How cool is it?

Here is the most organic of criteria I have. Which camera will sell photography and get you wanting to do more. This criteria is basically where I look at the capacity of the camera, brand, look and feel will get you wanting more. It is the criteria where, if you want, can be completely ignore because it comes way within the heart of Jacques Gaines as a visual artist and really nothing else.

My 5 best beginner mirrorless cameras list

So there is my list for the 5 best beginner mirrorless camera list. Make sure you have read the criteria on why I picked what I picked. It is indeed a quirky list but nonetheless, I stick to it. For now.

*A small note about APS-C

A small bunch of you tech heads might have noticed that I did not put any full frame camera on my list. The only cameras that might have come into this list is the Canon EOS RP and the Sony A7ii. Both these cameras, to me just do not cut it for various reasons. Their prices are relatively competitive but that is it. It also has a lot to do with the fact that, although I do see the benfits of full frame vs APS-C, I believe that, on many levels, that advantage is disappearing.

*APS-C refers to digital camera sensor size. Full Frame sensor sizes are bigger. This increases pixel size and thus increases low light performance. It also shallow depth of field for those looking for a cinematic look or effect. Full Frame sensor size, for many years, has been seen as something advantageous.

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