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 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 and the autofocus and stabilization performance. Also, lenses can add a bit of weight to your camera, impacting its 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 70 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best mirrorless cameras for beginners. You can also look at our picks for the best DSLR cameras for beginners, the best mirrorless cameras under $1,000, and the best cameras for beginners.
The best mirrorless camera for beginners that we've tested is the Nikon Z 50. It's a well-built APS-C camera, and while it's not the smallest mirrorless camera out there, it's lightweight and feels very comfortable to use. Its menu system is very well laid out and includes a guide mode to walk novice users through core settings. It doesn't have a fully articulated screen, but its screen can tilt and flip up 180 degrees to face you for vlogs or selfies.
It delivers impressive overall image quality, with good dynamic range and noise handling capability, and photos that look very sharp at higher ISO levels. Its video quality is good overall in 4k, although it's noticeably worse in FHD and looks disappointing when recording in low light. The camera's autofocus system is decent at tracking moving subjects for photography, but it excels when recording video, doing a great job of tracking objects and faces in 4k and FHD. It also shoots at up to 120 fps in FHD, which is great for generating slow-motion footage.
Unfortunately, it lacks in-body image stabilization, though its electronic stabilization combined with the optical stabilization of the Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens does an excellent job of smoothing out camera shake. Its battery life is also mediocre, although this can vary with settings and usage habits, and you can't use it while charging. Still, this entry-level sibling to the more advanced full-frame Nikon Z 6 II is a solid choice for beginners looking to get their hands on a mirrorless camera.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is one of the best entry-level mirrorless cameras we've tested. This Micro Four Thirds option is very portable and lightweight, and Four Thirds lenses also tend to be smaller and cheaper than other systems, making it a great choice for travel and street photography.
Unlike many cameras in this price range, it features in-body image stabilization to help reduce handheld camera shake. It delivers impressive image quality right out of the box, and images have relatively minimal noise as you raise the ISO, so it's fairly good in low light, despite its smaller sensor. It's well-suited to capturing fast action or wildlife thanks to its quick 10 fps burst rate, which goes up to 15 fps in its silent shooting mode.
That said, its autofocus system can be inconsistent. It struggles especially at tracking moving faces continuously, as it tends to lose the subject as they move, sometimes even if the face is clearly in view. Still, this is an excellent choice for beginners because of the value it offers for its price, with well-rounded photo and video features, excellent portability, and in-body image stabilization.
The best entry-level mirrorless camera we've tested for video is the Sony α6400. It's a relatively portable APS-C camera from Sony's popular Alpha 6000 series. While it's a capable stills camera, it's also a good choice for amateur videographers thanks to Sony's incredibly effective autofocus system. Although this model doesn't support eye detection, it does a remarkable job of keeping moving subjects in focus, whether you're shooting in 4k or 1080p.
Its overall video quality is impressive; it looks great in more controlled lighting situations and low light. The camera also offers several frame rate options, including 1080p at up to 120 fps and 4k at up to 30 fps, meaning you can capture everything from high-resolution cinematic video to fast action and slow-motion footage. It also has several inputs and outputs, including a micro HDMI port and a microphone port, though it lacks a headphone jack.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have in-body image stabilization, so videos may look shaky when shooting handheld, despite having digital and optical stabilization. While it does a good job smoothing out camera shake in 1080p, it performs noticeably worse in 4k. Overall, this is still one of the best mirrorless cameras we've tested, and it's a great option for beginner videographers.
The Panasonic LUMIX G100 is one of the best mirrorless cameras for beginners interested in vlogging. This Micro Four Thirds camera is designed with vloggers in mind. It has a bright, fully articulated touchscreen that you can flip around to face you, a dedicated video recording button, and a very portable design that makes it easy to take on the go.
It's a great choice for beginner vloggers who might not have a dedicated microphone just yet, thanks to its directional audio tracking feature, which works with face-tracking to pick up audio from different directions depending on where you are in relation to the camera. When you flip the screen around, the camera automatically goes into 'Self Shot' mode, enabling the audio tracking feature and face tracking and giving you access to relevant settings directly on the touchscreen.
That said, while the camera offers several frame rate options, including 4k up to 30 fps and 1080p up to 120 fps, shooting in 4k incurs a noticeable 1.29x crop. Add in the crop incurred by digital image stabilization, and the video may be cropped too close to your face for those types of vlogs. However, this is less of a problem if you shoot in 1080p. Overall, for its portability and the value it offers, this is one of the best mirrorless cameras you can get for under $1,000.
The Canon EOS M50 Mark II is the best mirrorless camera for beginners on a budget. This lightweight APS-C camera is portable, comfortable to shoot with, and has a highly intuitive menu system with a guide mode to explain features to novice users. It also has a fully articulated touchscreen to help you shoot from different angles or take selfies.
It uses a 24-megapixel sensor and delivers great overall image quality out of the box, and photos look okay even in more dim conditions thanks to its decent noise handling capability. Its autofocus system is quite good overall. It tracks subjects very well when recording video in 1080p and does a decent job tracking and keeping moving subjects in focus when taking photos. It can also take fairly quick bursts of photos at 9 fps, although it has a small photo buffer, which may slow you down when shooting extended bursts of fast-moving subjects.
Unfortunately, while the camera can record 4k video, it can only record 4k at 24 fps with a severe 1.5x crop. Its autofocus system also performs poorly in this resolution. On top of that, its battery life isn't the greatest, and it doesn't support USB charging, which is unfortunate. Still, if you're looking for a solid entry-level camera for general photography and 1080p video, this one offers a ton of value for its price.
If you'd prefer something even more portable, consider the Canon EOS M200. It differs from the Canon EOS M50 Mark II mainly in form factor, with a highly compact body that makes it easy to travel with or carry around wherever you go. Unfortunately, that comes at the cost of not having a handgrip or EVF, so it isn't the best option if you prefer to shoot through a viewfinder. On the upside, it's even cheaper than the M50 Mark II, and it uses the same 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, so image and video quality are roughly the same. While it doesn't have a fully articulated screen, its screen can tilt out or flip up to face you for vlogs and selfies. It's also a bit less suited to video work than its sibling, with an even bigger crop on 4k footage and no 24 fps frame rate option in 1080p.
Get the M50 II if you want a more ergonomic design and a viewfinder, but if portability is your top priority, the M200 is a solid alternative.
Jan 24, 2022: Renamed the Canon EOS M50 Mark II the 'Best Budget Mirrorless Camera For Beginners' with the Canon EOS M200 as its 'More Portable Alternative'; renamed the Panasonic LUMIX G100 the 'Best Beginner Mirrorless Camera For Vlogging'; added the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV as the 'Best Micro Four Thirds Camera For Beginners'.
Nov 25, 2021: Verified that picks still represent the best choices for their given categories.
Sep 28, 2021: Moved the Fujifilm X-T200 to Notable Mentions and replaced it with the Canon EOS M50 Mark II as a 'Cheaper Alternative' to the Nikon Z 50. Added the Panasonic LUMIX G100 as a 'Vlogging Alternative' to the Sony a6400.
Jul 30, 2021: Replaced the Canon EOS M50 with the Nikon Z 50 and moved the Canon to Notable Mentions.
Jun 02, 2021: Verified accuracy of picks and updated text for clarity.
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.