In one of our reviews about the best mirrorless cameras under $1000, we tried to present options as close as possible to the said price point to ensure our readers get the best set of specs. However, if you are really looking for the best budget mirrorless cameras, we also have something to offer cheaper than $1000.
This includes the Canon EOS M50 Mark II which is also one of the cheapest cameras Canon can offer. Nonetheless, besides its alluring price, it has plenty of things to offer. This includes the 4K capability, Digic 8 processor, and Dual Pixel autofocus system. The EOS M200 is also a notable choice from Canon if you are obsessed with the brand’s AF system. It is also much cheaper, though you would lose the external flash shoe, viewfinder, eye tracking focus, NFC, and AE bracketing.
Other brands such as Olympus and Sony also have something big to offer. For those who can’t live without IBIS, PEN E-PL10 and OM-D E-M10 Mark IV are the leading choices. But if you are really in search of THE most affordable mirrorless unit, Sony A6000 will give you all the basics you need in such kind of a camera.
That being said, this roundup can offer you all kinds of budget mirrorless cameras on the market. Nonetheless, to know more about the things you need to look for them, make sure to check our Buyer’s Guide section below.
1. Canon EOS M50 Mark II
The original EOS M50 made a remarkable name in the industry and now, we have M50 Mark II.
“The difference between the two is not that groundbreaking but for a few more bucks, the newer model can make things even better for you,” said SolidSmack Photography Editor Evangeline Summers. “This includes longer battery life which allows it to shot 70 more shots and the addition of eye-tracking focus.”
Besides being equipped with better autofocus both in photos and videos, it is an effective tool for vertical video recording. It is even capable of a wireless YouTube live-streaming function which is very ideal for vloggers. It also comes with few additions such as the Movie Servo AF, clean HDMI output, and movie record option. However, the notable Dual Pixel CMOS AF feature of Canon in EOS M50 Mark II still doesn’t cover the 4K videos which leaves you the traditional contrast-detect option. Yet, you can still enjoy it in lower resolutions and it is better than nothing. After all, it is a very affordable mirrorless camera and it is a surprise that Canon has even included this feature here.
On the other hand, Canon EOS M50 Mark II still comes with most of the same features of the M50 which are its main strength. This includes the 24.1 MP APS-C sensor resulting in the same 10.0fps burst and ISO 100 - 25600. Apparently, if you already have the original M50, the upgrade to Mark II is not necessary. Nonetheless, if you are in the position of choosing between the two, the newer model is a better choice.
2. Olympus PEN E-PL10
We have reviewed Olympus PEN E-PL10 before as one of the best cameras for Instagram and there is no way to deny it. It can even be a good opinion for vloggers and casual photographers who are looking for a convenient cam.
“It comes with a 16.1 MP Four Thirds sensor which should be enough for the day-to-day social media content uploads of most influencers,” started Summers. “Of course, you can always opt for something with a bigger sensor for high-resolution photography but I think the E-PL10 already makes all the cuts we are looking for. It is compact and equipped with literally all the things you need for Instagram content uploading.”
According to Summers, though E-PL10 is just relying on the slow contrast-detect AF technology (it has 121 points, by the way), it is still responsive and could still satisfy users who are looking for non-professional cam units. It doesn’t have a viewfinder but it compensates with a bright 3” 180° tilting touchscreen that is very responsive with just the lightest touch of your finger.
Further, it is also capable of 4K UHD video shooting up to 30 frames per second. Most of all, casual Instagram photographers would love its silent burst mode that can go up to 14.1fps! Sweet! Even better, it comes with great connectivity!
“Besides the USB micro and micro HDMI features, it also comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities,” said Summers. “Not only will it allow remote shooting, but you can also instantly transfer photos to your phone via the OI.Share app. You also have some art filter options available in the camera itself. That said, you have Instagram-ready content that you can post in just a beat.”
3. Canon EOS M200
EOS M200 isn’t just a budget mirrorless camera, it is also one of Canon’s cheapest cameras now. But with its build and beautiful finish, it doesn’t look any ‘cheap’ in any corner.
“I would suggest it for those who want an upgrade from their smartphone photography or for travelers looking for a camera with a compact system,” said Summers. “It supports vertical video capture and can capture 4K videos up to 30fps and has a modest resolution for stills, thanks to its 24 MP APS-C CMOS sensor and Digic 8 processor.”
According to Summers, it is a stirring action from Canon to design it this way given that it is an insanely cheap unit. With this, it has the panache to render decent details and colors at satisfying levels for beginners. It isn’t as good as other high-resolution cameras but again, it is a cheap camera so it is still quite impressive. Further, it still comes with the brand’s Dual Pixel autofocus system with up to 143 AF points depending on the lens being used. We didn’t even expect it to perform well in low-light conditions but it does! Face Tracking and Eye Detection AF are also first-class in doing their jobs, whether you are in a low-light environment or the subject’s face is momentarily obscured.
But, of course, as a cheap unit, expect some caveats. This includes the limitation of the autofocus when you shift to 4K shooting where you will end up with the slow contrast-detect AF. Thankfully, the Dual Pixel can still be enjoyed in shooting stills and 1080p videos. Its burst shooting, on the other hand, is fairly good for its price. Without the AF, the 6.1fps will be enough for the use of novices but if you wish to use the continuous AF, it will drop to 4fps.
It is also very ideal for beginners. Besides the user-friendly features such as the simplified button layout and tilting touchscreen (very responsive, BTW), it comes with Canon’s Creative Assist and other guide modes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a viewfinder which is a major drawback for folks who plan to use it for street photography.
4. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
There are lots of things to love about OM-D E-M10 Mark III such as its 4K video capability, 5-axis image stabilization, and small body. However, it has also received some criticisms due to its 16 MP sensor and problematic Continuous AF. Now, Olympus decided to resolve this by giving us the Mark IV.
With this, Olympus fashioned Mark IV with an MFT sensor with a higher resolution that comes at 20 MP. This allowed Mark IV to meet the standard of the current mirrorless cameras. As for the autofocus, compared to Mark III, everything becomes faster. According to Summers, this could be a huge attraction for beginners as it means less effort on their end.
“The Continuous AF has received great improvement,” stated Summers. “The Face Priority AF has become more capable of following subjects efficiently even in the awkward positions of the subject’s head. Even the Eye EF can easily identify the subject’s eyes without any fuss and the response time is almost instant.”
The continuous shooting speed, on the other hand, can charm enthusiasts. From the 8.6fps mechanical shooting and 14fps electronic shutter shooting of Mark III, you can now enjoy up to 15.0fps with Mark IV’s Sequential Shooting Mode. At such speed, you won’t miss a beat.
The design of the LCD monitor that can now flip down is also an inviting feature. It is great not just for beginners who might want to experiment with angles, but so as for vloggers who want to film themselves. It also now allows Bluetooth connectivity and boasts better battery life, allowing it to capture 30 more frame shots.
To make the M10 Mark IV more suitable for beginners, Olympus added the instructional videos on its Image Share app. The videos can be downloaded for offline viewing and though they aren’t the most detailed videos, it is still a good move from Olympus.
5. Sony A6000
Released in 2014, Sony A6000 is certainly one of Sony’s old mirrorless models. It now has a big number of successors such as the A6100, A6300, A6400, A6500, and A6600. You can see the improvements in them from autofocus, video, and other specs. But why are we still coming back to this old beauty again and again? Value.
“It doesn’t have the latest technology and all the bells and whistles of the modern mirrorless,” said Summers, “but it has all the basics any beginner would need in their first-ever camera. This means a huge deal since most beginners wouldn’t want to spend that much on their first mirrorless purchase.”
24.3 MP APS-C CMOS sensor, EVF, 1080p video, 11fps burst, and a hybrid AF system with 25 contrast-detect points and 179 phase-detection points. That’s what A6000 basically offers and during its reign in the APS-C sector, it was considered as a magnificent set of features. Nonetheless, even though years have already passed, everything about A6000 is still pretty decent even when compared to today’s standards. Even its AF is still pretty fast and reliable.
It also has a 3-inch tilting LCD and as you would expect for a camera at this price, it is not touch-sensitive. Nonetheless, it doesn’t lack in other important technology such as the built-in Wi-Fi and NFC.
Best Budget Mirrorless Cameras - Buyer's Guide
The AF system will determine how smooth your shooting experience will be with your camera. While the contrast-detect system is precise, using it can be tedious. The phase-detect, on the other hand, offers a better experience due to speed. If it’s possible, look for a camera that uses a hybrid autofocus system that combines the two.
Keep in mind that the resolution is not the only thing that can affect the image quality. The size of the sensor matters, as well. The bigger the sensor, the better.
The battery has always been an issue in mirrorless cameras. Compared to DSLR models, mirrorless cameras drain faster. With this, you might want to check how long the unit could last or how many stills it could take before the juice runs out.
Having too many buttons on the body of the camera can be overwhelming for a novice user. This is why it is important to check the controls available in the camera and their layout.
Just like the sensor, getting an in-body image stabilization can be hard at this price point. Though you can still execute your shots, a camera with an IBIS assures a better quality of photos whether you are using a tripod or holding the camera. Also, it means you won’t have to spend more on the additional purchase of a lens with a stabilization feature.
Best Budget Mirrorless Cameras - FAQs
The difference between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR lies in how they project the image. A DSLR camera uses a mirror that reflects or bounces the light it gains to the optical viewfinder. On the other hand, a mirrorless camera doesn’t have the same mirror but instead directly uses the sensor to project images on the LCD or viewfinder.
Generally, mirrorless cameras are lighter which can be an issue for users who are used to the weight and chunky body of DSLR models. They also have shorter battery life and limited access to lens selections.
Yes! Though some cheap mirrorless cameras have limited advanced features, you can learn a lot from them as a beginner. You can also use them with other lenses and this should allow your skills to grow. When you’re ready, you can always do an upgrade to more complex units that can offer you more functions.