If you’re taking pictures, chances are you’re using a smartphone. Smartphones are great portable cameras because they generally take decent photos and are always in our pockets. But they aren’t particularly capable photographic tools and can really struggle in difficult lighting situations or when capturing fast-moving subjects. When your smartphone just can’t seem to do the job, you’re going to want something more. That something more is a mirrorless camera.
There are a lot of mirrorless cameras available to buy at all kinds of prices. A mirrorless camera is one that has interchangeable lenses, but doesn’t have the mirror system of a traditional single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. That makes them smaller and often less expensive than SLR cameras, while still providing excellent image quality and performance. Mirrorless cameras come in a variety of shapes and designs, ranging from those that mimic SLRs to sleeker, more modern-looking options.
Based on our research, we found that best options for most people can be found for under $1,000. That price includes a standard zoom lens that can work for a large variety of photos. Spend more than that and you’ll get features that advanced or professional photographers might appreciate, but are likely lost on the average snapshooter.
A good mirrorless camera is not only capable of taking amazing photos, it’s easy to carry around, has lots of easy-to-use controls, and is fast and reliable. It also has a great selection of lenses to choose from when you want to move beyond the basic kit lens.
Any mirrorless camera will take better photos than your phone in almost every instance, but when you’re spending nearly a thousand dollars on a camera, you’ll want one that hits all of the right marks.
If you’re looking for the best mirrorless camera for under $1,000, Fujifilm’s X-T10 is it. It takes great photos in all kinds of light, has a fast and reliable autofocus system, and is a ton of fun to shoot pictures with. The X-T10 has something that a lot of modern cameras lack: a direct connection between the camera and the photographer, thanks to its copious controls and straightforward shooting experience. (For more on this, check out our in-depth review from earlier this year.)
The X-T10 isn’t the smallest camera on the market, but it should fit in most any shoulder bag with ease. There are mirrorless cameras that are much smaller, but none of them are small enough to fit in your pocket, making their smaller size advantage less than useful. What the X-T10 does have over a lot of those smaller cameras is a great viewfinder, which makes it easy to shoot pictures outdoors on a sunny day. It also has a tilting LCD screen for getting shots from all kinds of angles.
The 16-50mm lens that comes with the entry level X-T10 kit is a basic zoom that covers wide angles to slight telephoto. It has optical stabilization, which helps getting sharp pictures in low light. Fujifilm also has a wide range of really great lenses that can expand your capabilities. The X-T10’s 16-megapixel sensor might not have more pixels than your phone, but it has great color reproduction and works great in low light.
The X-T10 also has built-in Wi-Fi, so you can quickly transfer images from the camera to your phone for editing and sharing on the go. You can also use your phone as a remote for the camera, making it a pretty powerful selfie tool.
We really like the X-T10 for its combination of features, performance, and design. But if you want something a little less expensive and a little more compact, you should check out our runner-up.
The Runner Up
If you want something smaller and a little less expensive, but still great, we recommend Olympus new OMD EM-10 Mark II. It has many of the same features as the Fujifilm, including a great viewfinder, tilting LCD, fast performance and autofocus, built-in Wi-Fi, and lots of buttons and dials.
Olympus also has a very wide assortment of lenses to choose from, and the one included with the EM-10 Mark II is ultra compact. We prefer the Fujifilm’s control setup, which is easier to grasp for a beginner, but the Olympus is a strong challenger and another excellent choice.