Best Mirrorless Camera Under $1000: All You Need To Know

a boy using the best mirrorless camera under $1000

Mirrorless cameras are the new fad in the digital camera industry. Both amateur and professional photographers are drawn to them due to their combination of price, portability, and quality.

Mirrorless cameras have only been released within the last 10 years, and in that time, they have undergone much evolution. Consequently, there are many factors to consider before purchasing one

In this article, we discuss the most important factors to consider before purchasing a mirrorless camera in 2018. Specifically, we focus on mirrorless cameras that cost less than $1000. Finally, we offer our take on the direction of the mirrorless camera industry in the future.

Image Sensors on Mirrorless Cameras

Sony a5100 16-50mm Interchangeable Lens Camera with 3-Inch Flip Up LCD...
  • Ultra-fast auto focus with 179 AF points and 6Fps
  • Capture life in high resolution with 24MP APS-C sensor.Lens compatibility Sony E-mount lenses
  • Instant sharing via smartphone with Wi-Fi and NFC1
Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera 24.3MP SLR Camera with...
  • 24 MP APS C CMOS sensor and Focus Sensitivity Range :EV 0 to EV 20 (at ISO 100 equivalent with F2.8 lens attached)
  • ISO 100 25600 (expandable to 51200). Lens compatibility: Sony E mount lenses
  • Hybrid AF with 179 point focal plane phase detection and 25 contrast detect points
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III camera Kit with 14-42mm EZ lens (silver),...
  • In body 5 axis image stabilization for blur free stills and smooth 4K video
  • 16 Megapixel Live MOS Sensor and TruePic VIII Image Processor
  • 4K 30P video plus HD 120 frames per second high speed video

Mirrorless cameras are lauded for their small size, often weighing less than a pound. But, this does not make them unique since point-and-shoot cameras offer similar compactness for a fraction of the price.

What makes mirrorless cameras unique is their combination of size and image quality. Their higher-quality images are achieved by including a larger sensor in the camera then the sensors that point-and-shoot cameras include.

The best mirrorless camera under $1000 will feature image sensors that are either Micro Four Thirds or APS-C. APS-C is a larger sensor size than Micro Four Thirds.

Many of Sony’s mirrorless cameras, like the Sony a5100 or the Sony a6000, offer an APS-C sensor for less than $700. Alternatively, the Olympus E-M10 Mark III offers a slightly smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor for only $579.99.

The size of the image sensor isn’t the only important factor to consider when buying a camera. Yet, the best mirrorless camera under $1000 will generally offer a larger image sensor while more inferior mirrorless cameras will generally offer smaller image sensors.

The Nikon 1 J5 mirrorless camer​​​​a, for example, costs $500, but houses an image sensor that is half the size of the Micro Four Thirds Sensor. Thus, it’s not an ideal mirrorless camera, as a mirrorless camera with a larger image sensor and better image quality can be purchased for a similar price.

Electronic Viewfinders on Mirrorless Cameras

Some digital cameras that include a larger sensor, like DSLR’s (Digital single-lens reflex), also include a system of mirrors that allows users to view the same image that the lens is viewing. These optical viewfinders are cherished by photographers because they are reliable and accurate.

Mirrorless cameras do away with this system of mirrors because they take up a lot of room in the body of the camera. Consequently, mirrorless cameras are able to provide large image sensors in a compact camera.

But, the drawback is that mirrorless cameras do not feature optical viewfinders.

Advantages of Electronic Viewfinders

The best mirrorless cam​​era under $1000 will instead feature electronic viewfinders.

These fulfill a similar function as optical viewfinders in that they help block out peripheral light which can be distracting while photographers frame their shot. By holding your eye up to an eyepiece that features a preview of the shot, photographers can focus their sight on particular parts of the image.

In addition, they can avoid using the live mode of an LCD screen which is often inaccurate or difficult to see due to the surrounding light.

  • ​Help block out peripheral light
  • ​Can avoid using the live mode of an LCD screen
  • ​Video recreations of the scene being photographed
  • Able to provide more information about the scene being photographed
  • Can simulate certain settings like shutter speed before the photographer actually uses

What’s unique about electronic viewfinders is that they are video recreations of the scene being photographed rather than direct portals into the view of the lens. With Electronic viewfinders, you are not seeing directly what the lens is seeing but rather a sample video of your frame that is displaced on a screen.

The main advantage of an electronic viewfinder is that it’s able to provide more information about the scene being photographed than an optical viewfinder can.

This includes exposure numbers, white balance settings, and even a histogram of the tones in an image. Furthermore, electronic viewfinders can simulate certain settings like shutter speed before the photographer actually uses them to take a shot.

Electronic Viewfinders on the Best Mirrorless Cameras

PANASONIC LUMIX G85 4K Digital Camera, 12-60mm Power O.I.S. Lens, 16...
  • FINE DETAIL PERFORMANCE: 16 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor with no low pass filter resulting in a near 10 percent...
  • MIRRORLESS INTERCHANGEABLE LENS CAMERA: With 12 60mm lens, shoot lighter and faster with the modern hybrid photography...
  • CLASS LEADING DUAL IMAGE STABILIZATION: In body 5 axis dual image stabilization works in both photo and motion picture...
Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera w/ 15-45mm Lens - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth,...
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase detection
  • 24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS C) Sensor
  • Built in Wi Fi*, NFC** and Bluetooth***

The best mirrorless camera under $1000 with feature electronic viewfinders that are dynamic and more expansive than optical viewfinders. Some mirrorless cameras under $1000 don’t even have electronic viewfinders, or if they do, they only display a preview of the image without offering complementary information.

One of the best mirrorless cameras under $1000 that offers a high-quality electronic viewfinder is the Panasonic Lumix G85, which costs about $697.99. This electronic viewfinder even allows the photographer to magnify parts of the image, which is a unique feature.

The Canon EOS M100, on the other hand, does not feature an electronic viewfinder at all despite being mirrorless.

Number of Megapixels on Mirrorless Cameras

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera 24.3MP SLR Camera with...
  • 24 MP APS C CMOS sensor and Focus Sensitivity Range :EV 0 to EV 20 (at ISO 100 equivalent with F2.8 lens attached)
  • ISO 100 25600 (expandable to 51200). Lens compatibility: Sony E mount lenses
  • Hybrid AF with 179 point focal plane phase detection and 25 contrast detect points
Sony a5100 16-50mm Interchangeable Lens Camera with 3-Inch Flip Up LCD...
  • Ultra-fast auto focus with 179 AF points and 6Fps
  • Capture life in high resolution with 24MP APS-C sensor.Lens compatibility Sony E-mount lenses
  • Instant sharing via smartphone with Wi-Fi and NFC1
Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera w/ 15-45mm Lens - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth,...
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase detection
  • 24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS C) Sensor
  • Built in Wi Fi*, NFC** and Bluetooth***

The number of megapixels in a camera is one of the most overrated features of a camera, but this doesn’t mean that they are insignificant.

Megapixels matter when you intend to blow up an image or a part of an image, as more megapixels translates to more information concerning the captured light.

However, if you intend to only display your photographs in their raw form on screens like phones and televisions, then megapixels don’t really matter.

The main problem is predicting how you’re going to use the camera – as many people think they won’t crop their photos but end up falling in love with certain photography editing software. Thus, its generally better to get more megapixels to increase how dynamic your photos are in post-production.

The best mirrorless camera under $1000 will feature a high number of megapixels, usually greater than 16 megapixels. Several good options to go with if you are fixated on megapixels is the Sony Alpha a6000, the Sony a5100, the Canon EOS M100, or the Canon EOS M5. Each of these models offer 24 megapixels.

The Canon EOS M5 Mirrorless Camera

We think the EOS M5 is one of the best mirrorless cameras under $1000. Specifically, it costs $799.00.

What’s truly unique about the EOS M5 is its tilt screen, which makes it perfect for filming yourself, as you can see a live view of the frame at all times by simply tilting the monitor under the camera.

The tilt screen dovetails perfectly with the 1080p HD video recording potential of the camera, which utilizes image stabilization technology to create smooth, sharp videos.

Many customers have claimed that they prefer the kind of tilt screen on the EOS M5 to other kinds offered from Canon. These inferior tilt screens require the user to tilt the screen to the side first before rotating it up or down.

Many customers claim that this method is slower whereas simply tilting the screen beneath the camera is much quicker. While this might seem insignificant, every detail matters when shooting, and spending several extra seconds tinkering with the screen can mean missing a photo opportunity.

Additionally, the screen on the EOS M5 is a touch screen, which makes it incredibly easy and convenient to use.

Many customers have noted that going from using their touch screen smart phone to a manually controlled screen can be strange and burdensome. The touchscreen technology on the EOS M5 means that a synergy will develop between how your use your electronics, and over time you will become more efficient at using them.

Thus, the M5 makes it evident that the best mirrorless cameras under $1000 will offer tilt touchscreen screens and stabilized HD video recording.

Built-in Wi-Fi on Mirrorless Cameras

Many of the best mirrorless cameras under $1000 will offer the ability to connect to local Wi-Fi, which allows users to transfer photos and videos to compatible devices like cellphones. In addition, this Wi-Fi technology allows users to upload their photos and videos to various social media sites, like Instagram and Facebook.

This technology also allows users to upload their photos to cloud storage, which is a good way of preventing lost photos from various memory card errors.

One of the best mirrorless cameras under $1000 that offers this Wi-Fi technology is the Canon EOS M5, which is discussed above. The EOS M5 also offers the ability to print photos using a Wi-Fi printer, which makes the post-production process significantly more seamless.

Lens Options on Mirrorless Cameras

sony camera beside its lens and strap

Image Source: Unsplash.com

The best mirrorless cameras under $1000 offer many interchangeable lens options in order to make these smaller cameras competitive with DSLR cameras.  

A huge drawback to mirrorless cameras is that many DSLR lenses do not fit them. Thus, users who have traditionally used DSLR cameras and have built up a large supply of lenses will have to invest significant money in new lenses if they buy a mirrorless camera.

Yet, part of the draw of mirrorless cameras is their price, so this investment actually offsets some of the benefits of mirrorless cameras.

However, the best mirrorless cameras under $1000 will offer adaptors that allow for DSLR lenses to be used on the camera. Many of Canon’s mirrorless cameras offer this ability.

Some mirrorless cameras offer the ability to adapt lenses made from other companies, though sometimes certain features are compromised like autofocus and image stabilization. Thus, the best mirrorless cameras under $1000 will offer lens adaptations that do not result in significant compromises.

Weather Sealing on Mirrorless Cameras

Olympus OM-D E-M5 16MP Live MOS Mirrorless Digital Camera with...
  • 16.1MP CMOS Micro Four Thirds sensor
  • 9 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 35-area contrast detect AF

Many photographers decide to invest in a mirrorless camera because they are so compact. This makes the photographer more dynamic and lighter in the field. However, some photographers push this portability to the extreme by using the camera during rainy weather, which can result in damage to the camera.

The best mirrorless cameras under $1000 will feature weather sealing technology. While this does not mean the camera is waterproof, it does mean that the camera has rubber sealing throughout the body that makes it more resistant to moisture and dust.

The Olympus E-M5 is one of the best mirrorless cameras under $1000 that also features weather sealing technology. Specifically, it costs about $425.00 for the body only. The E-M5 offers a magnesium alloy shell and many customers boast that they are able to take it out in the rain and still get stunning shots.

Autofocus Systems on Mirrorless Cameras

Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera, Silver (Body Only)
  • 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor with no low-pass filter and X-Processor Pro
  • 5.0Fps Live-view shooting, start-up time of 0.4sec., shutter time lag of 0.050sec. And shooting Interval of 0.25sec
  • 3.0" tilting Touchscreen panel for operation at almost any angle

Even though mirrorless cameras utilize interchangeable lenses and offer significantly more control over the image then point-and-shoot cameras, many users still like to fall back on the autofocus system when composing a shot.

The number of focus points is perhaps the most important distinction when considering the quality of an autofocus system. Some cameras offer only 50 focus points while some mirrorless cameras, like Fujifilm’s X-T20, offer  up to $599.00.

Furthermore, the best mirrorless cameras under $1000 will also offer customizable autofocus settings.

Fujifilm’s X-T20 offers users the ability to switch between Single Point Autofocus, Zone Autofocus, and Wide/Tracking Autofocus. This gives the photographer the best of all worlds, as they can customize the settings before going on a shoot but then ground themselves in the moment of capture without having to tinker with manual focus settings.

Many customer’s claim that autofocus systems on many mirrorless cameras are only effective in isolated scenarios when certain conditions are met. For example, many autofocus systems will not be effective when the subject is moving at fast speeds.

However, the best mirrorless cameras under $1000 will also be effective with moving photography and videography, making them ideal for documenting sports games and young children who like to run around.

​Our Final Thoughts on The Best Mirrorless Camera Under $1000

two cameras beside a notebook

Image Source: Unsplash.com

We think the best mirrorless camera under $1000 will offer a wide range of benefits without compromising on image quality and size.

Some of the cheapest mirrorless cameras make significant sacrifices in order to achieve their price. These inferior cameras end up offering smaller image sensors, lower megapixels, a limited range of lenses, and no electronic viewfinder.

The best mirrorless cameras under $1000, on the other hand, offer Micro Four Thirds or APS-C Sensors, over 16 megapixels, advanced electronic viewfinders, and many lenses to allow for more manual control over the shot

We think mirrorless cameras represent a huge step forward when it comes to compact digital cameras. Digital cameras are only going to get smaller in the future, but customers will probably continue to crave manual control over their photography and videography. This is because greater control translates to greater artistry.

More than anything, we think that future mirrorless cameras will dovetail more seamlessly with other portable electronics, like laptops and cellphones.

You can already see these developments through the inclusion of Wi-Fi technology, but we think this is only the beginning. In fact, we can imagine a future where our cameras are not separate from our phones and computers but are one and the same. While this might seem unrealistic, we think it’s just around the corner.

Featured Image Source: Pexels.com

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