Mirrorless Camera Guide for 2022
We’re already a month into the new year, and if our end-of-the-year data has anything to say, it seems that a lot of photographers and videographers (including myself) moved over to the mirrorless platforms in 2021. With each of the brands bringing their full attention to the mirrorless platform, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the DSLR is dead. With no major brands coming out with an update to their camera lines, it’s probably time for all of us to finally make the leap to mirrorless, if you haven’t already.
But with mirrorless cameras, comes a whole lot of new things to overcome while shooting. Many of those who move from DSLR to mirrorless, have to get used to the “what you see is what you get” design of many mirrorless camera’s viewfinders, and unfortunately, all the mirrorless platforms will come with a new lens mount to learn and slowly convert your glass collection over to. And since we’re talking about cameras, you can bet your bottom dollar that all of the camera brands have gone to efforts to make sure their camera naming scheme is as convoluted and confusing as possible. So that’s where we’re here to help, and I’ve put together a nice guide explaining each platform’s best cameras based on what you might need, and your budget.
As such, I’ve put together a list of the best cameras based on three categories from the 4 major brands – the Best Entry Level, the Pro Middleweight, and the Cream of the Crop. By all means, use this as your guide, but understand, that all cameras qualities are circumstantial, and most of the “cream of the crop” listings aren’t required for 95% of photographers/videographers…in fact, in some cases, the Pro Middleweight might be better suited for the work you do. Secondly, before diving into the recommendations, it’s important to invest in a platform that will have a long and prosperous life, and so I want to present some information about each of the cameras before we dive into recommendations, so let’s get some fast facts, starting with each one of the lens mounts rental market share here at Lenrentals.com for 2021.
As you can see above, Canon and Sony lead the charge in the way of lens rentals based on their mirrorless platform mounts. This is no surprise, as they have been the two most aggressive brands in the way of product development. But with a new lens mount, it’s also important to look into the availability of a variety of lenses, so let’s look at the lens options available for each brand manufacturer —
- # of Sony E mount Lenses developed by Sony – 63 Lenses (18 APS-C/41 Full-frame)
- # of Canon RF mount Lenses developed by Canon – 24 Lenses
- # of Nikon Z mount Lenses developed by Nikon – 29 Lenses
- # of Fuji X/GFX mount Lenses developed by Fuji – 14 GFX Lenses / 36 X-Series
Certainly, all of these numbers are going to increase with time, and as time goes on, there will be more third-party lenses available for each brand – but it’s important to see what options you have available prior to upgrading. Additionally, all the platforms have great lens adapters, allowing you to use other mount lenses on the camera systems. So without dragging our feet any longer, let’s look at some of our selections for the best mirrorless cameras from each brand.
Of the four brands, Sony has certainly been the most dedicated to the mirrorless platform. Coming out with their alpha line of cameras years before Canon and Nikon even started teasing (legitimate) mirrorless, Sony has had a pretty significate headstart on the systems, and are usually regarded as the most polished of all the systems – if nothing else, for their trial and error ability given with their headstart.
It also makes Sony one of the more difficult brands for recommendations, as they simply have more options than the competitors. As such, I expect the comments to be going wild with these recommendations, as they probably didn’t read the headnote expressing that ‘Pro Middleweight’ doesn’t signify that it’s not a top-tier camera, but rather, based on price points rather than features. Alas, here we go.
Best Entry Level Sony Mirrorless – Sony a6400
The Sony a6400 is an exceptional entry-level mirrorless system from the Sony platform. While its APS-C sensor is a little limiting on lens options, this camera makes up for it with its small size and feature-heavy design. Whether it’s as an entry point for Sony mirrorless systems, or a great second camera, the Sony a6400 makes our top choice for an entry-level system into the Sony platforms.
The Pro Middleweight Sony – Sony Alpha a7RIV / Sony a9II
The Pro Middleweight is a really difficult recommendation for the Sony systems specifically – as they’ve had an aggressive camera release schedule, and the 1 to 2-year-old cameras are still in the top echelon of camera technology. For that reason, we’ve concluded on a tie with the Sony a7RIV, and the Sony a9II. Both cameras are top of the line by all reasonable standards and very similar in features. But if you need resolution, the Sony a7RIV is amazing at 61 megapixels – and few can compete with the Sony a9II‘s shooting speed at 20fps. Both offer nearly identical video technology and are nearly identical in design and other features. Picking up either of these cameras will give you a top performer for years to come. A full comparison of the two can be viewed here.
Cream of the Crop Sony Mirrorless – Sony a1
At the top of Sony’s lineup is the Sony a1 – a camera that can do pretty much anything, and the top of the spec sheet for just about all cameras available. While more appropriate to write a full love letter to, the Sony a1 has 30fps continuous shooting, a 50-megapixel sensor, 8K video functionality, a 1/400 sec flash sync speed, and all in a small camera package that is nearly identical in size as the competitors. Literally, when Sony announced this camera a year ago, I and the internet collective didn’t think a camera with these specs was possible, but the seemingly impossible will cost you at the price point of $6500.
Of the four camera brands in this article, Canon’s done the best job of capturing the market in the shortest amount of time. This is no surprise, as Canon has been the industry leader for cameras and lenses for a couple of decades now. Even still, Canon’s strategy for the mirrorless platform is impressive, and something I’ve discussed a bit more on this very blog in the past. So let’s look at the three avenues we’ve determined for Canon RF recommendations.
Best Entry Level Canon Mirrorless – Canon EOS R
To lead the list of recommendations is Canon’s first camera in their RF platform, the Canon EOS R. Released in October 2018, the Canon EOS R is still a really great and capable camera – especially with its price lowered to $1800 and lower at most places. Marked as mostly a Canon 5D Mark IV with a smaller frame and RF lens mount, the Canon EOS R was a really great introduction to the RF platform. While it has its quirks, its strange touch bar being one of them, the Canon EOS R is a really great camera to be had, and is able to keep up with the latest releases.
The Pro Middleweight – Canon EOS R5
In the Pro Middleweight category, we had to lean more on the pro half of the title than the latter, and cannot recommend the Canon R5 enough. By all accounts, the Canon R5 is the latest flagship by Canon and is a feature-heavy camera that belongs in the top tier of cameras. This nearly perfect camera got some bad press in its release – most notably its overheating issues when shooting in 8K. But if you’ve seen the size of the camera in person, you should have a better understanding that it’s not meant to be a cinematographer camera, but a camera for those who might want to do the occasional video project. Despite its overheating flaw, the Canon R5 is very much one of the best available.
Cream of the Crop Canon Mirrorless – Canon EOS R3
Finally, to round out the Canon recommendations is the camera they released right before the 2022 Winter Olympics – the Canon R3. As a replacement to their 1DX line, the Canon R3 is kind of magic by all accounts. 30 fps shooting on its 24-megapixel full-frame sensor, and some alchemist-like technology with their eye control autofocusing (where the viewfinder detects where you’re looking, and focuses on that object), it’s easy to be overwhelmed with all that the Canon R3 can do – which is why it’s billed as Canon’s Cream of the Crop.
Next, we’ll look at the options from Nikon. At the risk of being called a Nikon hater in the comments, I think it’s safe to say that Nikon’s entry into the mirrorless platform has been a difficult one. Canon has been able to outperform them in sales, but even still, Nikon has done a great job padding their lens releases with a lot of great options – most notably, their Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct. However, Nikon’s customer base is loyal and they’re looking to cover some ground with their latest z9 release – which I’ve only heard incredible things about. So let’s look through some of Nikon’s camera options on their mirrorless platform.
Best Entry Level Nikon Mirrorless – Nikon z50
I’m not sure if there is a brand that did anything more right than Nikon did with their Nikon z50, so we had to include it on this list. At only ~$850, you get an incredibly capable camera that introduces you to the Z-series of cameras, with a 21-megapixel APS-C camera, with plenty of features that should give any photographer a great start on the mirrorless platform. Offering 4K video functionality, and 11 frames per second, this camera is a great all-around camera system for those who want to dip their toe into the mirrorless era.
The Pro Middleweight Nikon – Nikon z6II/z7II
If you want to dip a little more than your toe into the Z-series from Nikon, they’ve got a few great options in their camera platforms with the Z 6II and Z 7II. For $2000, the Nikon Z 6II gives you a 24.6-megapixel camera with 4K30 video options and plenty of performance and speed in a compact camera system. For $1000 more, the Nikon Z 7II nearly doubles the resolution, doubles the recording speed in 4K, and just a more robust camera in a very similar designed package.
Cream of the Crop Nikon Mirrorless – Nikon z9
And finally, Nikon’s ‘Cream of the Crop’ camera is unquestionably their latest release, with the Nikon Z9. To put it bluntly, the Nikon Z9 spec sheet sounds like something from a sci-fi novel, and not something that we could see in today’s tech. 20 frames per second RAWs (30 from JPEG and 120 for scaled-down jpegs) are impressive numbers in their own right but are only more impressive when you understand this is a 45-megapixel camera, nearly double the resolution from Canon’s offerings. Additionally, the Nikon Z9 offers 8K video functionality and promises the industry’s best autofocusing system. It also offers a blackout-free electronic viewfinder and a new state-of-the-art processor in a camera that’s a bit more affordable than Canon and Sony’s top offerings at $5500.
While maybe not in the direct spotlight, Fujifilm has been developing cameras and lenses for its mirrorless platform for the last decade – however, their platform has admittedly gotten a little convoluted as of late. Titled X-series, the Fujifilm platform is all crop body cameras, with its focus being on film and rangefinder aesthetics. In recent years, however, Fujifilm has fractured their lineup, offering lenses and camera options on the GFX platform – a medium format camera system. That’s right, Fujifilm offers medium format cameras, and APS-C cameras, but nothing in the 35mm sensor platform. Even still, Fujifilm is perhaps the most interesting of the main four, and one of the reasons I actually moved to the Fujifilm platform this past year.
Best Entry Level Fuji Mirrorless – Fuji X-S10
First on the list for Fujifilm is the X-S10 – a 26.1-megapixel APS-C system on the X-series platform. This sleek camera is designed to appeal to the professional photographer market while keeping the camera body under $1000. With Fuji being one of the older brands in the mirrorless market, you get the benefit of the well-developed X-Series line of lenses, while also having a camera with lighting fast and accurate autofocus, and features in line with the much more expensive Fuji X-T4.
The Pro Middleweight Fuji – Fuji X-Pro3 and/or Fuji GFX 50s II
In the pro middleweight category, Fuji has a couple of different pathways you can go – the APS-C X-Series line of lenses, or jump into the GFX medium format platform. If you choose the former, the Fujifilm X-Pro3 is the gold standard for the X-series platform. Its sophisticated design takes homage to some of the rangefinders costing 3-5x as much, and still offers 4K video, fast and accurate autofocus, and supreme image quality. If you choose the path of the medium format camera, you can go with the Fuji GFX 50s II, and get an admittedly slower camera (probably more designed for studio work), but a gold standard in image quality and resolution with the 50-megapixel medium format 43.8 x 32.9mm sensor. Unlike the medium format systems of yesteryear, the GFX 50s II offers an incredibly fast and accurate autofocus system and full HD video recording in the most affordable medium format package.
Cream of the Crop Fuji Mirrorless – Fuji GFX 100s
And to round out our list for Fuji, and for this article is the Fuji GFX 100s. Some things of note – the camera is part of the GFX platform, meaning it only has 14 lenses available from Fuji (at the time of writing this), and is a little limiting in speed, as it is a 100-megapixel medium format sensor. That still, the Fuji GFX 100s is the least medium format camera you’ve likely ever held – its autofocus is fast and accurate, the system is feature-heavy, and the camera is incredibly small despite holding a massive sensor. I could talk about this camera all day, but I’ve already put together a pretty expansive review on the camera when I made it my main camera last year.
So what do you think? Any recommendations on the mirrorless platforms that you’d like to chime in with? Feel free to do so in the comments below.