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Best Mirrorless Camera Under $1000 (2021 Top Picks)

In a few years, mirrorless cameras are going to be the only options out there. They are smaller, lighter, have more features, and no clunky mirror to break.

So to help you break into the world of mirrorless without breaking the bank, I compiled a list of the best mirrorless cameras under $1000.

All the big manufacturers are taking the opportunity to upgrade their lens mounts along with their new mirrorless lineups, so if you didn’t already have enough reason to invest in a mirrorless system…all the upcoming top quality lenses are going to be mirrorless as well.

So let’s dig into the reasons for the picks and give you a few additional options as well.

Best Overall | Sony A7II

The Sony A7II might just be the best value on the camera market today. You’ll get a 24MP full-frame Sony Mirrorless camera, great low light performance, and open up the possibilities of the great new Sony mirrorless lenses…for under $1000.

  • Release Date: 2014-11-20
  • 24MP – Full frame CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 25600 (expands to 50-51200)
  • Sony E Mount
  • 5-axis In-Body Image Stabilization
  • Tilting Screen
  • 2359k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 5.0 fps continuous shooting
  • Full HD video resolution (1920 x 1080)
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 599g
  • 127 x 96 x 60 mm
  • Weather-Sealed Body

Now, you may be wondering if I am crazy for calling a camera from 2014 the “best mirrorless camera for under $1000.”

I may be crazy, but not based on this.

While it does lack some of the more impressive features of the newer Sony A7III…that camera will cost you about $700 more.

What you get with this camera is an admission into the world of full-frame Sony mirrorless.

While Sony is a newer player in the camera market, they are producing some of the best cameras and lenses out there today. The A7II lets you start building up your Sony full-frame kit piece by piece while at the same time providing some top quality images.

DXO gave this camera a rating of 13.6 when it comes to stops of dynamic range. The other full-frame camera on this list is the Canon EOS RP, which has a DXO dynamic range rating of 11.9.

So while it doesn’t sport the back-side illuminated sensor of the newer A7III, it still delivers exceptional dynamic range and low light performance.

The autofocus on the A7II is plenty capable for most all types of photography, excpet for maybe very fast moving sports. The sensor has 117 phase and 25 contrast detection points. So while it doesn’t have the autofocus of newer Sony cameras, its still pretty good.

It also has 5-axis in body image stabilization, being one of the first cameras to implement that feature. This means that your shaky hands won’t ruin as many photos and any video footage you shoot will be a lot steadier.

Now on the subject of video…

One area where the A7II falls a little short is in its video capabilities. It can record in Full HD up to 50/60p and 50Mbps. It does have dedicated picture profiles and S-Log2, but the quality isn’t as good as some of the other options below and it has some visible aliasing. That being said, its still very capable when it comes to video, but it does show its age in that respect.

If your primary focus is on the best quality still images you can get for under $1000 and investing in a mirrorless system that is among the best around, then the Sony A7II might just be the perfect camera for you at this price point.

Budget Pick | Fuji XT-200

Coming in as the least expensive camera on this list, the Fuji XT-200 has a classic look and feel to it with some great modern technology built-in at a price that is a great entry point for beginners.

  • 24MP – APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 200 – 12800 (expands to 100-51200)
  • 3.5 Fully Articulated Screen
  • 2360k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 8.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K (UHD) – 3840 x 2160 video
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 370g
  • 121 x 84 x 55 mm

Fujifilm takes a unique approach to their camera design and technology and if you like the look and feel of Fuji cameras then this is a good option to get started with.

This is an APS-C sensor (a.k.a. a crop sensor) which means it is smaller than the Sony A7II and Canon EOS RP on this list. The sensor is the same size as the more expensive Nikon Z50 (although I would choose the Z50 over this one if it’s in your budget).

Like almost all of their newer cameras, the XT-200 uses the Fuji X-mount. With the recent increase in popularity of Fuji cameras, they have built out a pretty robust lens lineup. Fuji focuses mostly on crop sensor cameras and lenses so you can rest assured this lineup is their priority.

As far as the looks go, you either like it or you don’t. Fuji goes with the more traditional look and feel in their cameras and the XT-200 is no exception. You can get it in all black or the black and silver look that was popular in older film cameras. In fact, it looks a lot like the first film camera I ever bought when I was in high school.

I like that Fuji has included physical dials on the top of the camera. This is helpful for someone making the transition from a cell phone camera and allows you to make exposure adjustments quickly and without looking at the screen.

As for image quality, Fuji has done a really nice job with this camera, especially at this lower price point. You’ll get crisp, sharp RAW images and the JPEG processing by Fujifilm is among the best out there. So if you prefer to skip the RAW editing and shoot JPEG, then this is a great option for you.

On the video front, it shoots 4K video and looks pretty good. The HD video seems a little soft, but not bad. It has a feature called “digital gimbal” which is essentially built in digital image stabilization. It does that by cropping in and shooting at 1080p. It’s really great if you like to shoot handheld video and don’t want to bother doing the stabilizing in software after the fact.

The digital gimbal somewhat makes up for the fact that it doesn’t have in-body image stabilization like the Sony above.

Overall, this is a great affordable camera and a good option for someone who wants to upgrade from their cell phone and learn photography.

Runner-Up | Canon EOS RP

The Canon EOS RP is the least expensive entry point into the new Canon mirrorless system. Although Canon’s mirrorless lens lineup isn’t as built up as Sony’s (yet), Canon has a ton of great glass that you can add to the EOS RP with an adapter, and the mirrorless EF-M mount will surely catch up quickly.

  • 26MP – Full-frame CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 40000 (expands to 50-102,400)
  • 3 Fully Articulated Screen
  • 2360k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 5.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K (UHD) – 3840 x 2160 video
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 485g
  • 133 x 85 x 70 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

It’s a tough call between the older Sony A7II and this Canon camera. Both are affordable entry points into each brand’s mirrorless system for under $1000. I think the Sony will give you better still image quality and sensor performance, but the Canon is newer and the overall features and shooting experience reflects that.

No in body image stabilization

One area where the Canon certainly outperforms the older Sony is with the autofocus system. The EOS RP uses Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF. It has a total of 4,779 AF points. Canon claimed when they launched the camera that is sported the world’s fastest AF speed of 0.05sec.

More importantly, this camera makes use of Eye AF, which has gotten a lot of praise in recent years. This means that the camera will autodetect the eyes of your subject and make sure it’s focusing on the closest eye and not the nose or hair or something else. While it’s not perfect, it certainly increases the number of perfectly focused images overall.

If you are looking for a camera to shoot sports or fast-moving action, be aware that the EOS RP only has a 5fps continuous shooting speed, and this drops to 4fps with AF Tracking enabled. So if you are grabbing a camera to shoot your kid’s soccer games, the Nikon Z50 below is a better option with 11fps.

One notable downside of the autofocus is that Dual Pixel CMOS AF is not available when shooting 4K video. 

Another downside to video shooting is that there is a heavy crop when shooting 4K video footage. So you’ll have to factor in a significant change to the field of view of your various lenses when shooting 4K video.

Best Crop Sensor Option | Nikon Z50

This is the camera I chose as a backup/carry-around camera to use when I didn’t feel like taking my larger full-frame Nikon with me. The image quality is excellent and Nikon really nailed the ergonomics and handling, which makes the Z50 incredibly easy and fun to use.

  • 21MP – APS-C BSI-CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 51200 (expands to 204800)
  • 3.2 Tilting Screen
  • 2360k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 11.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K (UHD) – 3840 x 2160 video
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 397g
  • 127 x 94 x 60 mm
  • Weather-Sealed Body

It’s right up at the high end of this price range, but carries with it a lot of exceptional features in a small crop sensor body AND works perfectly with full-frame Nikon Z lenses so you don’t have to invest in two sets of lenses.

If you are familiar with the Nikon lineup, it probably fits somewhere between the D5600 and the D7500 as far as features and functionality, although it is much smaller than most.

The sensor in the Z50 is essentially the same as the one in the very popular Nikon D500 (considered by many to be one of the best crop-sensor DSLRs around). So while it’s not quite as good as the full-frame cameras on this list, it holds its own and is very close.

The Z50 is one of the few cameras under $1000 to come with a back-side illuminated (“BSI”) sensor. BSI sensors help a lot with low light performance and this is what helps the Z50 compete with some full-frame cameras in terms of high ISO and low light.

One of the things I love about this camera is the 16-50 kit lens. Just looking at the specs, it seems a run of the mill kit lens with a variable f/3.5-6.3 aperture, but it turned out to be impeccably sharp corner to corner and combined with the compact size it folds down to, turns the Z50 into a very compact APS-C sized camera that you can easily throw in a small bag for any excursion.

Nikon also has a 50-250mm crop sensor lens (Nikon calls its crop sensor lineup “DX”) that is equally sharp and, combined with the 11fps continuous shooting, makes it a great option for shooting sports.

The Z50 also has Eye Autofocus and it works great. I think Nikon has been a step behind Sony and Canon with this technology but they have a history of creating the best AF systems in the world and are catching up quick. They are regularly releasing firmware improvements to the AF systems in their mirrorless cameras as well.

The Nikon Z50 is a great option if you want to get into the Nikon Z system. You can start upgrading to the full frame Nikon Z lenses and use them with this camera before investing in a full-frame Nikon mirrorless.

Nikon has lost a little market share to Sony in recent years, but they still make some of the best cameras around when it comes to image quality and you can’t go wrong buying into their new mirrorless system.

Best Micro Four-Thirds Option | Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

For you micro four-thirds enthusiasts out there, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a compact little powerhouse that is a joy to carry around with you and can produce some big results.

  • 20MP – Micro Four-Thirds CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 200 – 25600
  • 5-axis In-body Image Stabilization
  • 3″ Tilting Screen
  • 2360k dot Electronic viewfinder
  • 15.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K (UHD) – 3840 x 2160 video
  • Built-in Wireless
  • 383g
  • 122 x 84 x 49 mm

The biggest appeal of a micro four-thirds (“MFT”) camera is that the camera plus a good kit lens is small enough to carry with you almost anywhere yet powerful enough to get most of the shots you’ll want. That aspect alone is enough to make it an easy choice for someone who travels a lot and doesn’t need high-end low light performance.

This model is an upgrade in quality and price from the beginner-focused E-PL series. With a 20MP sensor, you’ll get a lot of detail in your images even with the smaller sensor.

It’s smaller than the Nikon Z50 above, although not by a ton, and the Z50 will most likely give you better image quality.

One advantage the Olympus has in the 5-axis in-body image stabilization. With the smaller sensor they can fit the stabilization tech into the camera body while keeping the small form factor.

Like the Fuji, this camera adopts a classic look and feel, with the silver trim and multiple physical dials. This may seem antiquated in a world of touch screens but physical dials can be the difference between making quick adjustments and getting the shot or not.

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is for anyone that wants the most compact option available while maintaining great image quality and the ability to shoot great quality 4K video.

What To Look For When Choosing A Mirrorless Camera

Lens Compatibility/System

Camera bodies are upgraded on a regular basis and there will always be newer and better ones out there, but a good set of lenses can last well over a decade.

So one of the most important considerations when choosing a new camera (especially if you are jumping into a new mirrorless system for the first time) is the overall system and the lenses that are available (or will be available) in that system.

This is where the big three camera companies dominate. Canon, Nikon, and now Sony have the most complete lens lineups out there. Canon and Nikon have been around a lot longer, so you’ll see a lot more affordable older and used lenses in their systems overall, but when it comes to mirrorless specifically, Sony has aggressively built up their system.

Just on pure specs, I think the new Nikon mirrorless mount and system has the most potential. It’s the largest mount size and the closest to the sensor. Those two features may seem insignificant, but they allow Nikon to push the limits of physics a little further than their competitors when it comes to lens development.

That being said, you really can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list. While the big three have more options, all the systems represented here are well fleshed out and have a lot of great options at various price points.

Sensor Quality

The next most important thing when choosing a camera body is the sensor, which directly affects image quality.

There are three main aspects of a sensor that impact the image quality.

Megapixels (“MP”) is the one sensor feature that everyone knows. More MP means more detail. but it also means larger files. So if you shoot a lot and have a high MP camera, you’ll need more storage space on your hard drive.

The benefits of a high MP camera are more fine detail in the images and the ability to crop in after the fact without losing much visual quality.

Dynamic range and low light performance. This is the sensor’s ability to handle a wide range of light situations. Typically good dynamic range and good low light performance go hand in hand. Better sensors in this area will let you use high ISOs or brighten up dark areas after the shot without creating noise in the image.

Shooting Features

Shooting features can cover a lot of things and it’s mostly up to you and what you typically shoot that determines which of those things are important.

Some of the important ones to look at are autofocus, continuous shooting speed, and video capability.

There have been a lot of improvements in AF systems in recent years. Eye AF is the latest technology and is getting a lot of hype (for good reason). I’ve been using the Eye AF in the Nikon Z50 and it makes a big difference when shooting people. It let’s you grab perfect focus of the eyes much more quickly than having to move the focus points manually.

Continuous shooting is very important if you want to shoot any kind of fast moving action. This can mean anything from sports to just kids playing. More frames per second means less missed moments.

Video quality in mirrorless cameras could be its own 5000 word article on here, but I’ll try to break it down to the most basic points. 4K video is where things are headed. Many of us have 4K TVs already and even if you want to view the video in HD, shooting 4K allows you to crop in after shooting without losing any quality. So if video shooting is important to you, 4K is a must.

Pete LaGregor

Pete LaGregor

Pete is a photographer in New Jersey and specializes in portraits and commercial photography, but loves shooting landscapes and video for fun. You can check out his work on his website.
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