The world of mirrorless cameras has expanded in recent years to cater to a wide variety of buyers, from veteran users to novice shooters who are just moving on from their phone cameras or a point-and-shoot. While buying a camera that currently outstrips your skills and knowledge as a photographer is tempting and could prompt you to improve upon your own capabilities, it can also be helpful to start with something more inexpensive to familiarize yourself with manufacturer-specific quirks and ergonomics as well as their selection of lenses before doling out a lot of money.
It's important to recognize that overall performance can vary depending on the lens you use. The lens affects the amount of light that enters the camera, so it also plays a role in an image's depth of field as well as the autofocus and stabilization performance. Also, lenses can add a bit of weight to your camera, which can impact their portability. We currently test our cameras with its standard kit lens, so for the sake of consistency, this article will focus on cameras that retail for under $1,000 with their kit lens included.
We've tested over 25 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best mirrorless cameras for beginners. You can also take a look at our recommendations for the best mirrorless cameras and the best mirrorless cameras under $1,000. If you're looking for a traditional DSLR camera instead, you can also take a look at our list of recommendations for the best DSLR cameras for beginners.
The best mirrorless camera for beginners that we've tested is the Canon EOS M50. This compact mirrorless camera has a bright, sharp touchscreen display that can be used to operate almost all of the core functions, from adjusting focus points to changing exposure settings. You can also use it to navigate its menu system, which has a guide mode to explain some of the features. The screen is fully articulated, so you can see what's being displayed even when the camera is pointed at you, which is great for vlogging.
It delivers good overall image quality, with high color accuracy out-of-the-box and a broad dynamic range, though image sharpness can decrease slightly at higher ISO levels, which might only become apparent when shooting in darker environments. Its autofocus system delivers good performance in photography and FHD video, and it's capable of tracking and maintaining focus on moving subjects and faces reasonably consistently and accurately. Video quality is good in FHD, with sharply rendered object contours and surfaces, though you may notice some graininess if you're recording in a dimly-lit environment.
Unfortunately, its capabilities in 4k recording are quite limited, as it can only record in this resolution at 24 fps with a severe 1.58x crop, resulting in a very tight field of view. Autofocus and video stabilization performance are also notably poor when it's used in this configuration. Its battery life isn't particularly impressive, either, though this can vary depending on settings as well as personal usage patterns. That said, if you plan on using this camera for still photography and FHD recording, it's a versatile, easy-to-carry choice.
If you're looking for an easy-to-use mirrorless camera that delivers superior image quality, consider the Fujifilm X-T200. Its squared-off body isn't as comfortable to hold as that of the Canon EOS M50, but it captures sharper images that are lower in graininess even as you increase ISO, which is helpful if you plan to use it in dimly-lit environments. Its fully-articulated touchscreen is also larger, sharper, and brighter than that of the Canon, which makes it easier to see what's being displayed even under direct sunlight. Its menu system is easy to use once you get the hang of it, but it doesn't have a guide mode to help you explain certain functions. Unfortunately, depending on your usage patterns and settings, it isn't likely to supply enough battery life for a full day of shooting. Its plastic body also doesn't feel especially sturdy, and some of its controls feel rather sluggish to respond.
Consider the Canon if you want a better-built camera with a slightly more user-friendly menu system, but take a look at the Fujifilm if you prioritize image quality above all else.
The Canon EOS M200 is the best mirrorless camera for beginners with a portable design that we've tested. Without its relatively compact kit lens, it isn't much bigger or bulkier than compact point-and-shoot options like the Canon PowerShot SX740, so it can easily be stored in a coat pocket or a small bag. Its flip-out touchscreen is also sharp and fairly bright, so you should be able to see it even under direct sunlight. Its menu system is also easy to navigate, and the guide mode is a convenient addition for novice users unfamiliar with some camera functions.
It delivers good video quality in 4k and satisfactory FHD recording capability, with reasonably well-rendered, sharp footage in well-lit environments as well as decently low levels of graininess when shooting in poorly-lit surroundings. Image quality is also quite good, with a wide dynamic range and good noise handling capability, though image sharpness can decrease somewhat as you increase the ISO level. Despite its lack of in-body stabilization, its image stabilization performance is good, so you should be able to capture a clear shot even at a relatively slow shutter speed.
Unfortunately, it can only record 4k video at 24 fps with a tight 1.57x crop. The autofocus system also does a terrible job of maintaining focus on people's faces as they cross the frame while recording video, though it does slightly better when it comes to moving objects. Its selection of ports and inputs is also quite limited, with no microphone or headphone jack to improve the quality of your audio or help monitor audio levels in your recording. However, its mix of portability, ease of use, and good image quality make it a compelling alternative to traditional point-and-shoot cameras.
The best mirrorless camera for beginners for video that we've tested is the Sony α6400. This APS-C mirrorless camera is compact and easy to carry around for extended periods of time. It also feels quite well-built and has a flip-out screen that's bright and spacious. Depending on your own usage patterns and settings you choose, its battery should supply enough charge to last you throughout some fairly long shooting sessions.
Out-of-the-box, it delivers great video recording quality in 4k and FHD, with sharply rendered object contours and surfaces as well as low levels of visual noise, even when shooting in dimly lit environments. Its autofocus system also delivers superb overall performance while recording video, as it tracks moving objects and subjects' faces without difficulty. You can also use its clean HDMI output to attach an external recorder free of any overlays or fit an auxiliary mic for higher quality audio in your footage. As you advance your editing skills, you can also use the S-Log shooting mode to preserve a wider range of detail, allowing for advanced color grading in post-production.
Unfortunately, its menu system isn't the easiest to use, as several functions are buried within sub-menus, though there is a guide mode to help walk you through certain functions. You also can't use its touchscreen to navigate the menu, forcing you to rely on its physical controls instead, which is a little frustrating. Otherwise, its impressive build quality and overall versatility also make it one of the best mirrorless cameras that we've tested.
Mar 31, 2021: Verified that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best mirrorless cameras for beginners to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the US).
If you'd like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews for interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras under $1,000. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.