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Ultimate Guide: 7 Best Mirrorless Cameras Under $1000

by Tom Shu
Published: Last Updated on
If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best mirrorless camera under $1000 is, then I’d recommend the following!

Buying a new mirrorless camera can be exciting and daunting at the same time. 

I understand.

There are so many different cameras on the market, it may be difficult to know where to start.

The good news is that because of innovations in the camera market, there is a huge variety of very high-quality cameras at affordable prices.

Most importantly what you have to remember when picking out a camera is that everyone’s needs are different. What might be a smart camera investment for one person might not make sense for you and vice versa.

I think what’s missing in other similar articles about cameras in this price range is that they don’t set strict requirements on must-have features that make sense for cameras in this budget. So, after taking some time to think through the must haves, here are the criteria each camera meets in this article.

Criteria for Cameras in this Article:

  • Under $1000 with kit lens
  • A wide selection of lenses
  • Good Autofocus
  • Easy Upgrade Path
  • Minimum 4k Video

Although there are many other features that I could have included, I think these criteria are the minimum you should expect from a camera under $1000.

This article is long, so if you want to jump straight to a specific topic, the Table of Contents will take you straight there.

Why Trust Me?

image of guy and dog in the snow

As with all of the Ultimate Guides I create, I have poured countless hours of research into this article to make sure I give you as much information as possible to help you make the best decision.

I have seen way too many camera articles that either don’t cover everything you need to know or they’re not updated frequently. Camera technology changes quickly, so to have the best information, you need the most updated information. Additionally, most of these websites are not about photography, so it’s hard to say if they have your best interest in mind.

In my opinion, to truly understand what makes a good mirrorless camera, you need to have used them day in and day out in a variety of different situations.

I’ve been a professional travel photographer since 2018 and have been lucky enough to work on projects all over the world with brands such as Alaska Airlines, Kayak.com, Prague Tourism, Visa, Airbnb, and many more. If you’re curious to see the full list of companies we’ve worked with, just head over to our Work With Us page

The first camera I ever bought was the Sony NEX 3 and also used the Sony a6500 professionally for a couple of years before upgrading to a full-frame mirrorless camera. So, I have a lot of experience with mirrorless cameras and still remember what it was like when I first started with one. 

From these past experiences, I think I’m in a good position to help you find the perfect mirrorless camera for this budget.

Most importantly, I’m just a message away. So, if you have any questions, just leave a comment below, email me at [email protected], or send me a DM on Instagram @tom.shu.

P.S. I answer every question that is sent 🙂

Reviews of the 7 Best Mirrorless Cameras

illustration of cameras on a shelf

After countless hours of research, here are my 7 favorite mirrorless cameras + kit lens combinations that are under $1000. Again, just as a reminder, all of the cameras in this article have met the following criteria:

Criteria for Cameras in this Article:

  • Under $1000 with kit lens
  • A wide selection of lenses
  • Good autofocus
  • Easy upgrade path
  • Minimum 1080p Video

Notes From The Field: I’m under the general assumption that you would like to stick to the lowest budget possible. Because of this, if there was a choice between two similar cameras from the same brand, I only decided to include one of the camera models. For example, I chose to include the cheaper Fujifilm X-T200 over the more expensive Fujfilm X-T30. The one exception I made was with the Sony a6400 vs Sony a6100. Since these two Sony cameras are almost identical with the exception of 3 minor differences, I included a comparison as I thought it would be helpful. The cameras are sorted by the brand and are not in any particular order.

1. Fujifilm X-T200

image of fujifilm x-t200 on desk

The Fujifilm X-T200 is one of the best value all around mirrorless cameras in this article and separates itself from the competition with no additional crop factor when you’re shooting in 4k, an APS-C size sensor, Fujifilm’s Film Simulation modes, and a bright responsive fully articulating touchscreen. 

It uses the Fujifilm X Mount so you have a wide selection of lenses in a variety of different focal lengths made specifically for Fujifilm X Series cameras. Add in its fast and accurate autofocus performance, above-average performance in low light conditions and you have a photography and videography powerhouse.

In terms of competition, the Fujifilm X-T200 holds its own against the other cameras in this article. When compared to the Panasonic and Olympus cameras the most obvious advantage is the sensor size difference as the Fujifilm X-T200 uses an APS-C size sensor vs the Micro Four Thirds Sensor in the Panasonic and Olympus cameras.

Because of the bigger sensor, you will get a better low light performance and more resolution to work with which will give you more detail and will be helpful if you ever decide to crop into your photos.

Other than its sensor size, one of the biggest advantages of the Fujifilm X-T200 is its large, bright fully articulating touchscreen. With the touch screen, you’re able to easily access different settings and modes whether that’s for photography or when recording video.

On the photography side, the Fujifilm X-T200 features a 24.2-megapixel sensor that can capture images at up to 8 frames per second (FPS). It uses a hybrid 425 point phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus system that is similar to what you find in the industry-leading Sony cameras (although it’s not as good). Through the touch screen, you’re also able to access features such as the Portrait Enhancer (for skin smoothening) or Depth Control (to change the depth of field in the image), which can be useful.

When it comes to video, the Fujifilm X-T200 isn’t bad either. Yes, it’s not as powerful as the Panasonic cameras or Sony a6400 in terms of its video features, but it still gives you a flexible set of video options to create a beautiful video. For video frame rates, it can record in UHD 4k at up to 30 FPS and the best part is that there’s no additional 4K crop in either 24 FPS or 30 FPS as you see with the Sony a6400 (1.2x 4k crop in 30 FPS).  

For slow-motion frame rates, the X-T200 can also record in 1080p at up to 120 FPS, which is better than the 96 FPS found in the Panasonic GH4 or the 60 FPS found in the Panasonic G85.

Additionally, as with all other Fujifilm cameras, you get access to its popular film simulation modes. This is a great cinematic feature to have as it will give you the ability to simulate 11 different classic film looks from Fujifilm film stock such as Provia, Velvia, and Classic Chrome without the need to apply presets or LUTs to your footage.  

As with all cameras, there are some downsides to the Fujifilm X-T200. The 2 biggest negatives with this camera are:

  • It only has electronic image stabilization versus the 5 axis image stabilization in the Panasonic and Olympus cameras
  • 15-minute recording limit when shooting in 4K

Notes From The Field: If you like what you see with the Fujifilm X-T200 and plan to focus on video, the Fujifilm X-T30 might be worth considering. It has a flat F-Log picture profile, an even higher DCI 4k resolution, and the ability to externally record 10-bit 4:2:2 video which is a definite plus in the video department. With that said, at its current price point, the Sony a6400 is slightly more attractive as it has a better screen design, no 4k recording limit, and slightly better autofocus performance.

PROS

  • Very good value for the price with a variety of different photography and videography modes and an APS-C size sensor.
  • There are a variety of different lenses made specifically for the Fujifilm X Mount. The upgrade path is also easy as you can use the same lenses on the more advanced Fujifilm X Series pro cameras.
  • 4K UHD Video and up to 120 FPS in 1080p.
  • Access to Fujifilm’s popular film simulation mode which gives you the ability to simulate 11 classic film looks based on Fujifilm film stock.
  • Autofocus performance is very good.
  • Good ISO performance. Only the Sony cameras in this article have better low light performance. 
  • No additional crop when shooting in 4k 24 FPS or 30 FPS versus the additional 1.2x crop on the Sony cameras when shooting in 4k 30 FPS.
  • A fully articulating flip screen with touch functionality makes it a lot easier to see what you’re shooting from all different angles.

CONS

  • A lack of built-in 5 axis image stabilization like the Panasonic and Olympus cameras, however, it does have 2 different types of electronic image stabilization.
  • There is a 15-minute recording limit when shooting in 4k.
  • Mic jack is via a USB-C adapter.
  • No option to shoot in a flat picture profile which will make coloring your video harder in post-production if you plan to create films.
  • The 120 FPS is shot and processed in-camera so you don’t have as much flexibility with the footage if you plan to edit videos.
  • When using digital image stabilization, there is an additional crop factor to consider depending on what stabilization mode you choose.
  • The battery life is only ok.

2. Fujifilm X-A7

The Fujifilm X-A7 is a simplified version of the Fujifilm X-T200 and is made for people who want an upgrade from a smartphone but are not yet 100% comfortable with a camera. It has all the features you would expect from a modern APS-C sensor camera, but with simplified touchscreen controls that make it operate more like a smartphone than a camera.

Even though this camera is more “simplified”, the X-A7 is no joke and can create beautiful images and videos as it uses the same sensor as the Fujifilm X-T200.

Like the Fujifilm X-T200, the Fujifilm X-A7 is also an X Series camera so it uses the same Fujifilm X Mount. This means you have the same wide selection of lenses in a variety of different focal lengths made specifically for Fujifilm X Series cameras. 

As the saying goes, “good glass is what makes the biggest difference”. So, if you’re intrigued by the simpler operations of the Fujifilm X-A7, you can still “upgrade” the camera, through better lenses.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the operations of the camera. 

One of the big downsides of the Fujifilm X-A7 is that it doesn’t have a built-in viewfinder. This means you’ll have to rely on the touchscreen for both composing your shots and controlling the settings. On bright sunny days this could be an issue as the screen could get washed out by the bright light..

With that said, you still do get 3 different command dials on the top plate of the camera and a joystick on the right side of the camera to help you with focus and for navigating the camera’s menus. 

Since you’ll be spending most of your time operating the camera through its touchscreen, here are just some of the settings you can adjust:

  • Portrait Enhancement: allows you to select the portrait enhancement level to smooth out your subject’s skin.
  • Depth Control: gives you the ability to quickly defocus the background instead of relying on your aperture setting.
  • Touch Photography: similar to using a smartphone, you can use touch controls to select the focus area and to take the photo.
  • Touch Zoom: If this setting is turned on, you can pinch to zoom to operate the digital zoom of the camera.
  • Film Simulation Preview: Gives you the ability to preview what the application of the film simulation will look like by swiping the preview left and right.

Other than the physical operational controls, the tech behind the camera is pretty impressive too. For photography, the camera uses a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor that can capture up to 6 frames per second. It uses the same accurate hybrid 425 phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus system found in the Fujifilm X-T200. This will be fast enough for most situations, but if you will be shooting wildlife or sports, the faster performance of the Sony cameras and the bigger buffer would be a better fit.

For video, it has nearly the same features as the more advanced Fujifilm X-T200. For video frame rates, it can also record in UHD 4k at up to 30 FPS, and just like the X-T200 there is no additional 4K crop in either 24 FPS or 30 FPS.  

With that said, for slow-motion frame rates, the X-A7 can only record in 1080p at up to 60 FPS versus the 120 FPS found in the X-T200. So, if having a 120 FPS slow motion frame rate is important to you, the Fujifilm X-T200 or one of the Sony cameras would be the better choice. 

As the Fujifilm X-A7 is so similar to the X-T200, it suffers from the same downsides of no . The 2 biggest negatives with this camera are:

  • It only has electronic image stabilization versus the 5 axis image stabilization in the Panasonic and Olympus cameras
  • 15-minute recording limit when shooting in 4K

PROS

  • Very good value for the price with a variety of different photography and videography modes and an APS-C size sensor.
  • There are a variety of different lenses made specifically for the Fujifilm X Mount. The upgrade path is also easy as you can use the same lenses on the more advanced Fujifilm X-T4.
  • 4K UHD Video at up to 30 FPS.
  • Access to Fujifilm’s popular film simulation mode which gives you the ability to simulate 11 classic film looks based on Fujifilm film stock.
  • Autofocus performance is very good.
  • No additional crop when shooting in 4k 24 FPS or 30 FPS versus the additional 1.2x crop on the Sony cameras when shooting in 4k 30 FPS.
  • A fully articulating flip screen with touch functionality makes it a lot easier to see what you’re shooting from all different angles.
  • A fun choice of 4 different colors to choose from.

CONS

  • No viewfinder which could make it difficult to compose your shot in certain environments.
  • A lack of built-in 5 axis image stabilization like the Panasonic or Olympus cameras, however, it does have electronic image stabilization.
  • There is a 15-minute recording limit when shooting in 4k.
  • No option to shoot in a flat picture profile which will make coloring your video harder in post-production if you plan to create films.
  • The 60 FPS is shot and processed in-camera so you don’t have as much flexibility with the footage if you plan to edit videos.
  • When using digital image stabilization, there is an additional crop factor to consider.
  • The battery life is only ok.

3. Sony a6400

black camera with black lens on white table

The Sony a6400 is an APS-C sized sensor camera like the Fujifilm X-T200 and Fujifilm X-A7 and is also a photography and videography powerhouse. 

One of the best parts about Sony a6400 and the Sony mirrorless camera lineup is that Sony has a huge ecosystem of E Mount cameras. This means that you’ll easily be able to use the same lenses if you ever plan to upgrade to a more advanced Sony full-frame camera like the Sony a7 III or Sony a9.

Notes From The Field: Just in case you plan to upgrade in the future. Although you will be able to use Sony APS-C lenses on the Sony full-frame cameras, there will be a vignette as the full-frame sensor is larger than the APS-C lens. With that said, there is a dedicated APS-C mode in all Sony full-frame cameras which will enable you to use APS-C lenses without the vignette. Another way to plan for an upgrade within the Sony ecosystem is to invest in a full-frame Sony lens. All full-frame Sony E Mount lenses will work on its APS-C sensor cameras like the Sony a6400.

Compared to the competition, the biggest advantage of the Sony cameras is their powerful, fast, and smart autofocus system which makes it extremely easy to nail focus on all your shots. As the a6400 is a newer model of Sony cameras, it comes with the latest autofocus technology that is the same as what you find in Sony’s premium full-frame cameras. The Sony a6400 uses the classic Sony hybrid system of 425 phase-detect and 425 contrast-detect autofocus points and includes its most advanced autofocus tracking technology for both photography and video. 

As part of the camera’s autofocus tracking, you will also find an industry leading real-time eye autofocus feature when taking photos. Unfortunately, video eye autofocus is only available in the Sony a6600 and above. However, the lack of video eye autofocus isn’t that big of a deal as the real-time tracking is already extremely good. Just to give you an idea of how powerful autofocus tracking is in Sony cameras, you’re able to change the face/eye autofocus priority setting to either human or animal which other cameras in this price point don’t have.

On the photography side, the Sony a6400 features a 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor that can shoot up to 11 FPS while using autofocus tracking. Add in it’s JPEG buffer of 116 frames and RAW buffer of 46 frames (source: theverge.com) and you have one of the best cameras for aspiring wildlife or sports photographers.

For video, the Sony a6400 is no joke either. It can shoot in 4K up to 30 FPS and in 1080p up to 120 FPS. It also offers a full selection of picture profiles such as HLG (HDR), S-Log2, and S-Log3 picture profiles which will give you more dynamic range and make it easier for you to color grade your footage in post-production if you plan to get into videography.

There are of course downsides to this camera too. It’s a bummer that this camera still uses the notoriously bad Sony NP-FW50 battery so the battery life isn’t the best. Its LCD screen is also hard to see in bright light, and it doesn’t have any type of built-in image stabilization like what you find with the other cameras in this article.

PROS

  • APS-C size sensor camera with a great ISO range. It’s easily one of the best low light performing cameras you can find in this price range.
  • Excellent autofocus with the hybrid 425 phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus system. Plus, it’s a newer Sony camera so you get the latest autofocus technology including real-time autofocus tracking for both photography and video.
  • The Sony E Mount ecosystem is one of the best and makes upgrading to a more advanced full-frame or APS-C sensor camera easy.
  • Up to 120 FPS shooting speed at 1080p, which is one of the best in this article.
  • Full selection of picture profiles including HLG (HDR), S-Log2, and S-Log3, which will give you a greater dynamic range when shooting video (if you need it).
  • No 4k recording limit.
  • Crispy UHD 4K at 24 and 30 FPS.

CONS

  • The most expensive camera in this article.
  • No built-in image stabilization versus the built-in 5 axis image stabilization in the Olympus and Panasonic cameras or the electronic image stabilization in the Fujifilm cameras.
  • There is an additional crop when shooting in 4K (~1.05x in 24 FPS and ~1.2x in 30 FPS)
  • Still uses the Sony NP-FW50 battery which isn’t the best.
  • It’s hard to use the LCD screen under a bright sun and it only flips up.

4. Sony a6100

The Sony a6100 is very similar to the Sony a6400 so I’m not going to go into too much detail about this camera. 

What’s important to understand is that if you like what you see with the Sony a6400 and want to save a little extra money, the Sony a6100 could be a good choice. 

It has a less durable build and no flat picture profile options in video mode. However, it uses the same sensor as the Sony a6400 and you get the same great autofocus system, which means the picture and video quality will be pretty much the same.

In case you’re debating between either the Sony a6100 or the Sony a6400, here are the main differences between the two cameras when it comes to features and specs.

Create a table for this:

FeatureSony a6100Sony a6400
Viewfinder Resolution1.4 Million Dots2.4 Million Dots
Body MaterialPlastic and not weather sealedMagnesium Alloy that is sealed against dust and moisture
Picture ProfilesNo picture profiles availableFull selection of picture profiles including S-Log

PROS

  • A cheaper version of the Sony a6400 which uses the same sensor and features the same great autofocus system.
  • APS-C size sensor camera with a great ISO range. It’s easily one of the best low light cameras you can find in this price range.
  • Excellent autofocus with the hybrid 425 phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus system. Plus, it’s a newer Sony camera so you get the latest autofocus technology including real-time autofocus tracking for both photography and video.
  • The Sony E Mount ecosystem is one of the best and makes upgrading to a more advanced full-frame or APS-C sensor camera easy.
  • Up to 120 FPS shooting speed at 1080p, which is one of the best in this article.
  • No 4k recording limit.
  • Crispy UHD 4K at 24 and 30 FPS.

CONS

  • No built-in image stabilization versus the built-in 5 axis image stabilization in the Olympus and Panasonic cameras or the electronic image stabilization in the Fujifilm cameras.
  • There is an additional crop when shooting in 4K (~1.05x in 24 FPS and ~1.2x in 30 FPS)
  • Still uses the Sony NP-FW50 battery which isn’t the best.
  • It’s hard to use the LCD screen under a bright sun and it only flips up.
  • No flat picture profiles which will give you less flexibility if you plan to get into filmmaking.
  • Plastic build and no weather sealing of any kind.

5. Panasonic G85

photo of black camera against white background

The Panasonic G85 is a Micro Four Thirds sensor camera that is known to be one of the best all-around value cameras for both photography and videography. As with any Micro Four-Thirds camera, one of its advantages is that it can work with any Micro Four Thirds lens from different camera manufacturers. 

This gives you a huge range of lens options at different price points from Micro Four Thirds lens manufacturers such as Olympus, Panasonic, Rokinon, Sigma, and much more. 

Notes From The Field: Even though the camera will work with all Micro Four Thirds lenses, certain features such as autofocus will only work with Panasonic lenses.

For photography, the Panasonic G85 features a 16 megapixel MOS sensor that can capture up to 10 frames per second when using single-shot autofocus or up to 6 frames per second in continuous autofocus mode. This will be fast enough for most situations, but if your focus is on wildlife or sports photography, the faster performance of the Sony cameras would be a better fit.

On the video side, the Panasonic G85 can shoot in UHD 4k at up to 30 frames per second (FPS) and similar to the Sony a6400 it doesn’t have a 4k recording limit. It also has a good selection of color profiles to choose from which will make it easier for you if you ever get into color grading and video editing. 

However, it’s slow-motion frame rate can only go up to 60 FPS in 1080p. So if capturing slow-motion footage is important to you, the Sony cameras (which can shoot in 1080p up to 120 FPS) or the Panasonic GH4 (which can shoot in 1080p up to 96 FPS in its variable frame rate mode) might be a better fit. 

To give you a clearer picture of how this camera compares to the competition, let’s compare the Panasonic G85 to the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV as it’s also a highly rated Micro Four Thirds camera from another manufacturer. 

When looking at the Olympus cameras vs the Panasonic G85, the biggest difference you’ll notice is in build quality and design. The Panasonic G85 has a larger DSLR style form factor. This larger size allows the Panasonic to have a fully articulating screen that will make it much easier to compose your shot from all angles when compared to the 180° tiltable screen from Olympus. Additionally, the Panasonic G85 is fully weather-sealed, so it’s much better suited for a variety of different weather conditions versus the plastic build of the Olympus. 

Both cameras have above average 5-axis in-body image stabilization and the ability to capture beautiful images and videos in up to 4k resolution. With that said, when it comes to video, the Panasonic G85 is the clear winner as it has a built-in microphone input in addition to its selection of different color profiles. Having both these features will allow you to more easily capture usable video footage in a variety of different situations. 

As with all Micro Four Thirds cameras, there are clear downsides when you compare them to their APS-C sensor counterparts. The APS-C sensor Sony and Fujifilm cameras will give you better low light performance, more dynamic range, and will give you the most detail. The Sony and Fujifilm cameras also feature newer and better autofocus technologies, but that’s unrelated to the sensor size.

Overall, the Panasonic G85 is a great all-around choice for those of you who will be focused on videography with its fully articulating screen, no 4k recording limit, high-quality 4k footage, and a nice selection of color profiles.

However, if you’re more of a hybrid shooter or will be focusing on photography, the Sony or Fujifilm cameras are probably the better bet as they have the larger APS-C size sensors.

PROS

  • Amazing in-body image stabilization. Image stabilization is up to 5-stops if you use a native lens with image stabilization.
  • Solid design with a camera body that’s fully weather-sealed and a fully articulating screen.
  • The memory card slot is on the side of the camera which makes it a lot easier to change if you have the camera on a gimbal or tripod.
  • 4k UHD video and up to 60 FPS at 1080p.
  • The 4k live crop feature allows you to pan, tilt, or zoom in to a video clip all without moving the camera. In most cameras, you would only be able to do this using video editing software.
  • Since it is a Micro Four Thirds, there is a wide variety of lenses available from Panasonic, Olympus, Sigma, Tamron, and many more.

CONS

  • Better autofocus than the Panasonic GH4, but still not as good as the hybrid phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus system found in the Sony and Fujifilm cameras.
  • No variable frame rate option like the GH4, so you don’t have as much flexibility with different slow motion frame rates to shoot in.
  • The sensor is Micro Four Thirds, so it doesn’t have as good low light performance or dynamic range when compared to the APS-C sensor cameras. Although, it’s slightly better than the GH4.
  • Better as a video camera so if you’re a hybrid shooter or photographer, the Sony or Fujifilm cameras offer a better value.

6. Panasonic GH4

photo of black camera in front of white background

I wanted to throw this camera in the mix in case you have aspirations of becoming a videographer and are looking for a camera with more professional video features. 

The Panasonic GH4 is one of the most popular Micro Four Thirds video specific cameras that has ever been released. Although it’s an older camera now, it’s still an awesome camera to start with if your main focus will be on filmmaking.

Before we get into its video capabilities, it’s first worth bringing up its two big negatives when compared to the Panasonic G85. Most importantly, If you think either of these downsides will impact how you make videos or photos, then the Panasonic G85 is the better option as it’s a newer camera, is in the same price range, and still has very good video features.

Negatives of the Panasonic GH4 Versus Panasonic G85

Lack of Image Stabilization: 
The Panasonic GH4 doesn’t have built-in image stabilization versus the industry-leading 5-axis image stabilization that you find in the Panasonic G85.

You can mitigate this issue by using a lens with optical image stabilization. However, if you’re more of a run and gun type of shooter and don’t use a tripod often, you will probably benefit from the image stabilization found in the G85.

Autofocus Performance:
The autofocus performance of Panasonic’s Depth From Defocus (DFD) in newer Panasonic cameras still cannot compare to Sony and Fujifilm hybrid contrast and phase-detect autofocus system.

Since the Panasonic GH4 is an older camera, the autofocus is even worse off than the Panasonic G85. You can get around this by using manual focus in combination with the Single Shot Focus mode, but if you tend to rely on autofocus and want to say with Panasonic, you would be better off with the Panasonic G85.

Notes From The Field: Again, if autofocus performance is the most important factor in your decision (for example if you plan to focus on sports or wildlife photography/videography), the Sony cameras are the best choice.

If you can get over these downsides, you will find some incredibly powerful video features that you would normally only find in much more expensive professional tier cameras. On the video frame rate side, you will find a wide selection of different frame rates and resolutions to choose from which include (source: bandh.com): 

  • Cinema quality DCI 4k at 24 FPS (100 Mbps)
  • UHD 4k at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97 FPS (100 Mbps). The Panasonic G85 only has 24 and 29.97 FPS options.
  • Full HD 1080p at 23.976p/24.00p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p (up to 200 Mpbs)
  • Variable frame rate mode that gives you the ability to shoot in slow motion frame rates up to 96 FPS in 1080p

Additionally, what’s nice about the GH4 is that you also have the flexibility to select different bit rates to shoot in when shooting in Full HD 1080p. Having this level of customization will give you more freedom in selecting the best video settings depending on your situation when compared to any other camera in this price range. 

Other than the flexible frame rate selection, the camera also has 8 different customizable picture profiles, a fully articulating screen, above-average battery life, and the ability to output 10-bit 4:2:2 video over HDMI to an external recorder.

A Note On Bit Depth and Bit Rate: I’m not going to get into all technicalities of bit depth, but on a basic level, bit depth is the possible number of variations in shades of colors that make up an image. With an 8-bit bit depth, you can have a possible 256 shades of red, 256 shades of blue, and 256 shades of green. This gives you a potential 16,777,216 total colors in an image.

On the other hand, with a 10-bit bit depth, you can have a possible 1,024 shades of red, 1,024 shades of blue, and 1,024 shades of green in an image. This gives you a potential of 1,073,741,824 total colors in an image, so the difference between 8-bit and 10-bit is very significant.

As for Bit Rate, on a basic level, a higher bit rate gives you better overall quality video as more data is being processed. The downside is that the file size is much larger, making it more difficult to store, upload, and send.

On the photography side, the Panasonic GH4 is also a capable camera. Although, if you’ll be focusing on photography or are a hybrid shooter and want to stay in the Panasonic ecosystem, the Panasonic G85 is a better choice because of its image stabilization and slightly improved autofocus.

PROS

  • An incredible selection of different frame rates and bit-rates to choose from.
  • Cinema quality 4k DCI video and the flexibility to shoot 60 FPS in 1080p at 100 Mbps.
  • Solid design with a camera body that’s fully weather-sealed and a fully articulating screen.
  • Battery life is above average when compared to the other cameras in this article.
  • The memory card slot is on the side of the camera which makes it a lot easier to change if you have the camera on a gimbal or tripod.
  • A full selection of picture profiles to choose from which will make it easier to color grade your footage in post-production.
  • HDMI output allows you to record directly to an external recorder at a 4:2:2 sampling rate (professional standard), which is a nice option to have for a video camera.

CONS

  • The sensor is Micro Four Thirds, so it doesn’t have as good low light performance or dynamic range when compared to the APS-C sensor cameras. 
  • The autofocus is the worst in this article.
  • The slow-motion frame rate only goes to 96 FPS compared to 120 FPS on the Sony a6400, Sony a6100, and Fujifilm X-T200.
  • It’s best as a video camera so if you’re a hybrid shooter or photographer, the Sony or Fujifilm cameras offer a better package.

7. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a Micro Four Thirds sensor camera like the Panasonic G85 and Panasonic GH4 that is geared more towards photography than videography. So, if you plan to focus on video or are more of a hybrid shooter, the Sony, Fujifilmfilm, or Panasonic will be a better fit. 

The big deal breaker with this camera for video is that it doesn’t have a microphone jack. You might not need an external microphone jack right away, but eventually, as you grow as a videographer, you’ll come to see the importance of recording good quality audio. Yes, you can get around this by recording sound externally to a recorder. However, to avoid the extra trouble, it’s probably just easier to go with another camera altogether.

If you can get over the audio recording limitation of this camera and only plan to shoot video casually, this camera might still work for a hybrid or video focused shooter. It produces good quality 4k footage at up to 30 FPS, has incredibly stable 5-axis in-body image stabilization, and a responsive contrast-based autofocus system. So, it’s more than capable of producing cinematic looking footage.

Photography is where the OM-D E-M10 Mark IV really shines. This camera takes many of its features from the pro model Olympus EM-1 Mark III and EM-1X. This means you get a photography camera with fast and smart autofocus performance, the same 5-axis image stabilization that you find on the video side, and unique photography modes only found in Olympus cameras.

On the technical side, the camera has a 20.3 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor that can shoot at up to 8.7 FPS in continuous burst mode. It uses a 121-point contrast-detection autofocus system and carries over the same continuous autofocus tracking technology from the pro-level E-M1 and face and eye detection from the pro model E-M1 MarkIII series. Again, this will be fast enough in most situations, but if fast autofocus is important to you, the hybrid phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus systems found in the Sony cameras will be better.

Out of the different photography modes that’s in the camera, I think it’s worth spending a little extra time on the Advanced Photo Mode (AP Mode) as it’s one of the main advantages of this camera compared to the others in this article.

In the Advanced Photo Mode, the camera will assist you and make it easier to capture complex shot types such as light trails, long exposure, or HDR even if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

Here is just a brief overview of my 4 favorite shooting options that are in the Advanced Photo Mode. If you want to learn more about what other features are found in the AP Mode, here is a link to the Olympus page:

Live Composite: 
The Live Composite mode is a great tool for capturing light trails such as star trails, car light trails, or fireworks. Essentially, it’s an advanced bulb mode that creates a composite image out of multiple frames shot at the shutter speed and duration you set. What’s cool about this mode, is that the composite image is created “live” so you can see the preview being created on screen. 

Live Time: 
The Live Time mode is a very easy way to capture long exposure photographs. In this mode, you first press the shutter to start the exposure. Then you can watch the preview of the exposure build-up live on screen and when you feel the image has been exposed enough, you can press the shutter again to stop the exposure. 

Typically, to execute a long exposure, you would have to calculate the exposure time based on the aperture, shutter speed, and light available in the scene. Then once the exposure has been started, you wouldn’t be able to see what it looks like until the exposure has been completed. As you can imagine, Live Time makes this entire process much easier.

HDR:
In HDR mode, the camera will take 4 different exposures to capture details in both the shadows and highlights of composition and then combine them into a single image straight in-camera. Most cameras have an HDR mode. However, in most cases, you would have to merge the different images using photo editing software instead of having it created directly in the camera.

Keystone Compensation: 
Keystone Compensation is a powerful tool that allows you to change the perspective of your composition straight in the camera. This would be especially helpful to straighten the lines of a building in an architecture photo or to straighten the lines in a product photo.

With most other cameras, you would have to fix these perspective differences using photo editing software.

PROS

  • Very good autofocus performance from its 121 point contrast-detection system. However, it’s still not as good as the hybrid phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus system found in the Sony or Fujifilm cameras.
  • Amazing in-body image stabilization. Image stabilization is up to 4.5-stops.
  • A solid set of easy to use photography specific modes such as Advanced Photo Mode, Scene Mode, Advanced Auto Mode, and Art Filters.
  • Same continuous autofocus technology from the pro model E-M1X and face and eye detection from the pro model E-M1 MarkIII.
  • Classic ergonomic design that Olympus is known for with a selection of customizable dials to change camera settings.
  • High-quality UHD 4k video at up to 30 FPS.
  • Since it is a Micro Four Thirds, there is a wide variety of lenses available from Panasonic, Olympus, Sigma, Tamron, and many more.

CONS

  • The lack of microphone jack and picture profiles make this a photography-focused camera. Because of this, it’s not as flexible for a hybrid shooter as the Sony, Fujifilm, and Panasonic cameras.
  • The Olympus only has a 120 FPS slow motion frame rate in 720p resolution. Both the Sony and Fujifilm cameras offer this frame rate in 1080p resolution.
  • The sensor is Micro Four Thirds, so it doesn’t have as good low light performance or dynamic range when compared to the APS-C sensor cameras. 
  • Better autofocus than the Panasonic cameras, but it’s still not as good as the hybrid phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus system found in the Sony and Fujifilm cameras.
  • Plastic build and no weather sealing.

Honorable Mentions

illustration with three different awards of different sizes
  • Fujifilm X-T30: the Fujifilm X-T30 might be worth considering if you like the Fujifilm X-T200, but want a more video-centric camera. It has a flat F-Log picture profile, an even higher DCI 4k resolution, and the ability to externally record 10-bit 4:2:2 video like the Panasonic GH4 which is a definite plus in the video department.
  • Canon EOS M50: Still a great camera for photography and shooting video in 1080p especially with Canon’s dual pixel autofocus system, the colors it produces, and its APS-C sensor. However, in 4k video mode, it has a substantial additional crop and its dual-pixel autofocus doesn’t work. Because of these two big negatives, the Sony and Fujifilm cameras in this article are a better value.
  • Nikon Z50: the Nikon Z50 is a fantastic mirrorless camera option from Nikon. However, the other cameras in this article are a better value considering Nikon’s higher price point and lack of lens selection.
  • Olympus PEN E-PL10: this might be a good fit if you like the OM-D E-M10 Mark IV, but don’t need a viewfinder and want a slightly smaller form factor. The Olympus PEN E-PL10 uses the same sensor as the OM-D E-M10 Mark IV and has the same features so the main difference is in the design and a slightly worse 3-axis image stabilization.

Important Information to Consider Before Buying a Mirrorless Camera

infographic illustrating the important things to consider when buying a mirrorless camera

Budget – Why Under $1000

gif of piggy bank saying why under $1000

With so many different mirrorless camera choices, you might be wondering why I chose a budget of $1000 for the camera + kit lens in the article.

The main reason is that with the advancement of camera technology, you can now get an incredibly advanced camera with everything you need to create beautiful photographs or epic videos for under $1000. 

As a photographer or videographer what’s most important isn’t the camera or gear you have, it’s the time you put into it. You could very easily just get started with your smartphone. However, if you’re ready to invest in a new camera system, what will have the most impact on the quality of your images is a better lens (more on this below).

By choosing a camera under $1000, you’ll have more budget left over to upgrade your kit lens and to invest in the other camera accessories you might need. This might include:

  • Getting the right memory card for your camera.
  • Picking up an external hard drive to store your photos and videos.
  • Selecting a camera bag that fits your needs.
  • Investing in photo or video editing software such as Adobe Creative Cloud.

Investing in a Lens is What’s Important

illustration of cartoon camera lenses on a table

As you think about your overall budget for this camera, one important aspect to consider is the lens. 

The kit lens that comes with the camera will work just fine when you first start. However, once you gain some experience, the biggest difference-maker in your photography or videography is the lens.

For example, investing in a fast high-quality lens such as a 50mm f/1.8 or a 70-200mm f/2.8 will give you much more flexibility in executing your vision in a variety of different situations. The faster aperture will allow you to use a lower ISO in low light situations. At the same time, You will also be able to create more depth of field in your images for a more cinematic/professional-looking shot.

The good thing about lenses is that they last a long time and they hold their value. So, when the time comes to upgrade or change your camera body, you can either continue using the lens or resell it to help pay for your upgrade.

To give you a better idea of what a fast high-quality lens is capable of capturing, here are a couple of examples from my own photography:

Example #1 – Sushi at the Park

image of black and white shihtzu on the grass with blurry background

In this example, how shallow the depth of field is. By blurring out the background and using a shallow depth of field, I was able to bring all the attention to Sushi’s eyes which are in focus.

To create this image, I used a more expensive zoom lens at 59mm with an aperture of f/2.8. If I had shot this same image with the kit lens, the look would have been entirely different and there would not have been as much background blur.

Example #2 – Mount Rainier with Lenticular Cloud

image of mount rainier with lenticular cloud over

In this example, notice how the foreground (water and duck) are blurred while Mount Rainier with the lenticular cloud overhead is in focus. By getting low to the ground and blurring out the foreground, I was able to place even more emphasis on Mount Rainier.

To capture this image, I used a zoom lens at 200mm with an aperture of f/4.0. Many of the budget-friendly zoom lenses have a variable aperture. Most likely at a focal length of 200mm, the aperture would have been f/6.3, so it would not have been possible to create an out of focus foreground as you see in the image.

Upgrade Path – Is the Camera System Upgrade Friendly?

illustration of upgrading a camera

Each camera manufacturer has its own ecosystem. In this ecosystem, each camera has its own unique lens mount and only lenses made for the lens mounts will work with that camera. 

The reason why this is important to consider is that the camera and lenses you will be investing in are not cheap. Camera brands with the best ecosystems use the same lens mounts across most, if not all their mirrorless cameras.

Yes, some adapters will allow you to use lenses across different lens mounts, but adapters are expensive and don’t always allow you to use every lens function.

For example, Sony has an extensive line of E-Mount cameras. This means you could use the same lens on the beginner-friendly Sony a6100 as you would on the professional-level full-frame Sony a9.

The same ease of upgrading can be said for Fujifilm’s X-Mount or the Micro Four Thirds lens mount found on the Olympus and Panasonic cameras.

All the cameras in this article have an easy upgrade path that will allow you to use the same lenses on a beginner-level camera to their professional offerings.

Notes From The Field: In the case of Sony cameras, although the APS-C lenses will work on a full-frame Sony camera, there will be a vignette as the APS-C lens is smaller than the full-frame sensor. On the other hand, full-frame Sony lenses will have no problem when used with an APS-C camera as the lens covers the entire sensor.

The Case Against a Full-Frame Camera

illustration of a camera in a circle that's crossed out

During your research for a mirrorless camera, it’s likely you saw some recommendations about why you should invest in a full-frame camera.

Full-frame cameras have their advantages such as more resolution, no crop factor, and increased depth of field control. However, it’s not always the best idea to invest in a full-frame camera especially in this price range:

  • Full frame cameras and lenses are much more expensive than their APS-C or Micro Four Thirds counterparts. 
  • Full frame cameras and lenses are bigger and heavier making them harder to carry around
  • Most importantly, APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensor cameras are more than capable of creating beautiful photographs and videos.

For these reasons, I have not included any full-frame cameras in this article.

A Quick Note on Sensor Size

illustration of an apsc sensor vs full frame sensor

The two different sensor sizes that you’ll find in the cameras in this article are APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensors. 

For the most part, the larger APS-C sensors will give you better low light performance and greater depth of field than the Micro Four Thirds size sensors.

With that said, there are pros and cons of both systems so what’s important is understanding the differences and choosing one that will best work for you.

  • Why APS-C Sensor?
    • Better low-light
    • Slightly greater depth of field
  • Why Micro Four Thirds Sensor?
    • The performance difference versus an APS-C sensor is negligible.
    • Huge selection of affordable lenses as all Micro Four Thirds lenses will work on the camera regardless of camera brand.
    • Slightly smaller form factor.

Does Megapixel Count Matter?

illustration asking if megapixel count really matters anymore

For the most part, the megapixel count in modern cameras doesn’t matter anymore. This is because all modern cameras have more than enough megapixels for you to share the images on social media or even to print them out.

Yes, there are exceptions to this, as higher megapixels (e.g. the 42.4 megapixels Sony a7r III) will give you more flexibility to crop into an image and will give you exceptional resolution, which could be helpful for landscape photography or studio photography. 

However, this isn’t something most people should worry about. 

Just to give you an idea of why megapixels don’t matter, the print of the palm tree reflection below that is hanging in the bottom middle of the wall gallery is 24″ by 36″ and it was shot on the Sony a6500. The Sony a6500 is considered an older camera now and has a 24-megapixel sensor which isn’t anything crazy nowadays.

The lowest megapixel count you’ll find in this article is the 16 megapixel Panasonic G85and that would still be capable of creating a print like this one.

image of wall gallery for photos

Key Features to Consider in a Mirrorless Camera

illustration of different features to look for in a mirrorless camera

In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS)

illustration of a camera with lines on each side

Having IBIS will be important depending on the type of photography or videography that you plan to do. For photography, if you know you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to use slower shutter speeds without a tripod (low light situations, night photography, capturing motion blur), having IBIS will help.

On the video side, if you know you’ll be shooting a lot of video in real-time (e.g. 24 frames per second or 30 frames per second) and plan to handhold versus use a tripod, IBIS will also help. If you’ll be mainly be shooting in a slow-motion frame rate such as 60 FPS or 120 FPS, a lack of IBIS won’t be as big of a deal because the slow-motion will help minimize any camera shake. 

When it comes to IBIS, here are how the cameras in this article compare to each other:

  • Olympus (Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV) and Panasonic Cameras (Panasonic G85 and GH4): All have very good built-in image 5-axis image stabilization.
  • Fujifilm Cameras (Fujifilm X-T200 and X-A7): there is no in-body image stabilization, but it does have digital image stabilization in video mode. The downside to the digital image stabilization is that there is an additional crop on your video.
  • Sony Cameras (Sony a6100 and a6400): no in-body image stabilization or digital image stabilization.

Notes From The Field: Even though the Fujifilm and Sony cameras don’t have IBIS, many of their lenses have some sort of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS for Fujifilm cameras and OSS for Sony cameras). The same is true for Olympus and Panasonic lenses. A combination of IBIS and OIS/OSS will give you the most stability. However, having a lens with OIS/OSS may be all you need depending on what you’re using the camera for.

A Selection of Lenses That Fits

illustration of different lenses on a yellow shelf

As I mentioned before, each camera manufacturer has its own ecosystem and own lens mount so it’s important to consider the current selection of lenses to see if they’re a good fit with your workflow and budget.

The good news is that all the cameras in this article have a wide selection of lenses made specifically for its sensor size. In each lens ecosystem, you will be able to find prime lenses, all-around lenses, and zoom lenses in different price ranges for any budget.

With that said, if you want the most flexibility when it comes to the sheer number of lenses available, the Micro Four Thirds Panasonic and Olympus cameras might be the best choice. 

This is because the Micro Four Thirds lens mount is universal so you’ll be able to use lenses across camera brands.

For the Sony and Fujifilm cameras, you would need to buy a lens mount adapter for the lens to work on another camera system. However, even then, the lens will most likely not perform as well as it does on its native camera body.

Autofocus Performance

illustration of autofocus symbol

Depending on how you plan to use your camera, autofocus might be one of the features you rely on the most. For example, if you plan to focus your time on wildlife photography/videography, portrait work, or sports photography/videography, the better the autofocus, the easier it will be for you to execute the shot.

On the other hand, if you’ll be mainly creating landscape imagery, slower autofocus performance won’t be a deal-breaker.

One aspect to point out is that although all the cameras in this article have good autofocus, the difference between the different cameras can be quite drastic. Here is how the autofocus performance compares between the cameras in this article:

RankCameraPerformance Notes
1Sony a6400
Sony a6100
The best autofocus system in this article. It uses a hybrid 425 phase-detect and contrast-detect autofocus points system that gives you super-fast real-time autofocus tracking for both stills and video.
2Fujifilm X-T200
Fujifilm X-A7
An impressively accurate and quick autofocus system for both photography and video which also uses a hybrid 425 phase-detect and contrast-detect point system. It just loses out to the Sony system as its real-time tracking just isn’t as fast when compared to the Sony cameras.
3Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IVVery fast and responsive when using single shot autofocus mode with its contrast-detect autofocus system. However, the continuous autofocus just isn’t as good as what you find with the hybrid autofocus system in the Sony and Fujifilm cameras.
4Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4
The depth-from-defocus autofocus system in these budget-friendly Panasonic cameras work well for photography but are not as good as the other cameras when it comes to video.

Low Light Performance

illustration of a person taking photos of a night cityscape with cute monsters

Eventually, you’ll find yourself shooting in a low light situation. Other than having a faster lens with a wider aperture, the biggest deciding factor of a camera’s low light performance is how it handles at higher ISOs. 

Each camera has a “maximum usable ISO” which means the highest ISO setting you can use while still getting a reasonable looking image without too much noise. 

Although all modern cameras can perform in low light situations some cameras do it better than others.

When it comes to ISO performance of the cameras in this article, the APS-C sensor Sony and Fujifilm cameras will perform better at higher ISOs than the Micro Four Thirds Olympus and Panasonic cameras.

Video

illustration of a filmmaking camera

All cameras in this article can shoot video in 4k and 1080p. However, some cameras have better slow motion frame rates or more advanced video settings such as Log picture profiles, the ability to record externally at a higher bit rate, and built-in time-lapse modes. 

If you just plan on shooting video casually then all the cameras in this article will work great for you when it comes to pure video specs. 

On the other hand, if you plan on focusing on video, choosing a camera with more advanced video features like what you find in the Sony or Panasonic cameras will allow you to grow as a videographer with the camera.

Just in case you need to compare the cameras against each other, here is a table I created with the most important video specs for each camera in this article. The most important features you should look for in a more advanced video camera include:

  • Frame Rates: A wide selection of different 4k and 1080p frame rates.
  • Microphone Jack: So you can plugin an external microphone for better audio quality.
  • Articulating Screen: Although not 100% necessary, a fully articulating screen will make it much easier to capture footage from different perspectives.
  • Recording Limits: Cameras with no recording limits such as the Panasonic or Sony cameras are more flexible.
  • Flat Picture Profiles: Being able to shoot in a flat picture profile will allow you to capture footage with more dynamic range which will make it easier to color grade in post-production.
  • 10-Bit Bit Depth: A higher 10-bit bit depth versus 8-bit will allow you to capture more color information. Certain cameras such as the Panasonic GH4 will allow you to record to an external recorder at 10-bit bit depth giving you more color information to work with.

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