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Date: 11/06/2014 | By: Heather

The 6 Best Mirrorless Cameras for Experienced Amateurs (2015)

E-M5, 1/100, f/ 28/10, ISO 800

The 6 Best Mirrorless Cameras for Experienced Amateurs (2015)

Having already written a guide to the best mirrorless cameras for beginners and professionals, we felt that the next logical step was to write an article aimed at the experienced amateur who knows his or her way around the technical aspects of cameras and has mastered the art of taking great photographs but has never made an living off of it. We’re talking about the enthusiast who is willing to invest more than your average person in quality gear but does not require all the advanced functions found on a high-end professional camera. Does this sound like you? Then you’ve come to the right place.

The following is a list of what we consider to be the six best mirrorless cameras for experienced amateurs and enthusiasts. These cameras have been chosen according to their features and affordability. ‘Features’ refers to the presence of a viewfinder, fast and effective autofocus capabilities, excellent overall image quality, and good high ISO performance, to name a few. As for affordability, most of these cameras sit below the price point of $1000 for the body and kit lens, which is about the most an experienced amateur or enthusiast might spend at the beginning of his or her adventure into the serious world of photography.

1. Sony NEX 6

Photo courtesy of Chris Ruggles (CC BY 2.0)
The Sony NEX 6 – Photo courtesy of Chris Ruggles (CC BY 2.0)

We start this article with the camera that takes the prize for being the “longest in the tooth”, the Sony NEX 6. However, with its many interesting features and unbeatable price, it is still an extremely valid choice for enthusiasts. As I mentioned in our article about mirrorless cameras that have recently become more affordable, the NEX 6 boasts a number of features that you’ll find on mirrorless cameras that have only just recently been released, such as a 16MP APS-C sensor, 10 fps shooting, fast hybrid AF with phase-detection, a bright OLED viewfinder with 100% coverage, full HD video shooting and WiFi capabilities. In a way, it is a camera that was ahead of its time, which explains its incredible longevity in digital camera terms. Are there any downsides to the NEX 6? Well, there is a lack of fast lenses for the E-mount system compared to other brands. Plus, in terms of pure aesthetics, it isn’t the most attractive camera on the list, but it is functional and that’s what counts.

You can find the Sony NEX 6 on Amazon, B&H Photo and Adorama.

2. Sony a6000

iPhone 5s, 1/590, f/ 22/10, ISO 32
The Sony a6000

The Sony a6000 took the place of both the NEX 6 and 7 this year, thus marking the demise of the NEX line. Though it is physically very similar to the NEX 6, it includes a number of extra features, of which the most interesting are the 24MP APS-C sensor, 1.4M dot OLED EVF with 100% coverage, stunning low-light performance, Wifi and NFC, improved BIONZ X image processor, and most importantly, the extremely fast hybrid AF system. It is in fact so fast that it can keep up with (and sometimes outperform) high-end mirrorless cameras like the E-M1, GH4 and X-T1. The price is another attractive element about this camera. Even with the kit lens included, it still costs much less than $1000. As for the downsides, they are identical to the NEX 6 – a lack of fast lenses for system and its physical attractiveness compared to, say, a more retro-styled Fujifilm or Olympus camera.

You can find the Sony a6000 on Amazon, B&H Photo and Adorama.

3. Fujifilm X-E2

Image courtesy of Scott Hill on Flickr (CC by 2.0)
Image courtesy of Scott Hill on Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Out of all the rangefinder cameras in the Fuji X series, the Fujifilm X-E2 is by far the technologically advanced. In fact, as far as technical specs go, it even outranks the X-Pro1, the company’s flagship camera. However, Fujifilm made what we consider the poor decision to release the X-E2 just before the X-T1, the company’s most advanced mirrorless to date. This resulted in many professional photographers selling off the X-E2 they’d just bought to finance the X-T1. While we’d undoubtably recommend an X-T1 to a professional, the X-E2 remains a great option for enthusiasts and advanced amateurs. Its autofocus is much faster than that on other Fuji rangefinder models, it shares the same X-Trans II sensor found on the X100s and X-T1, and the 2.36M dot OLED EVF has a great refresh rate even in low light. It is admittedly one of the more expensive options listed here, but this applies to all Fujifilm cameras in general.

You can find the Fujifilm X-E2 on Amazon, B&H Photo and Adorama.

4. Fujifilm X100s

E-P5, 1/4000, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
The Fujifilm X100s

The Fujifilm X100S is one of the few mirrorless cameras that truly straddles the boundary between the enthusiast and professional worlds. It is a fixed-lens premium compact with a 35mm equivalent focal length, making it ideal for street photography, a genre in which enthusiasts and professionals participate with equal enthusiasm. Not only is it good for street, but it works as an excellent environmental portrait and landscape camera as well, and is often used by professionals during informal events and receptions as a way of keeping a low profile. Two important features of the X100s are the X-Trans II APS-C sensor, which delivers spectacular details and colour, and the hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder. If you are an enthusiast who has a penchant for old film cameras and loves the street genre, you’ll definitely fall head over heels for the X100s. Just watch out for the price – despite being a fixed-lens camera, it is the most expensive on this list!

Note: Though the X100s is a fixed-lens camera, you can now purchase two lens converters for the system. One is a wide-angle converter (28mm equivalent) while the other is a tele-converter (50mm equivalent). Having these two converters will essentially give you the equivalent of a mini-interchangeable lens system.

You can find the Fujifilm X100s on Amazon, B&H Photo and Adorama.

5.  Panasonic Lumix GX7

DSC-RX100M2, 1/60, f/ 18/10, ISO 400
The Panasonic Lumix GX7

Speaking of cameras that are a good option for both professionals and advanced amateurs, the Lumix GX7 is another force to be reckoned with. With the same codec as the Lumix GH3 and almost identical image quality, as well as new features such as Stop Motion animation, it makes a great second body for simple video work. However, unlike the GH3, the GX7 has the design of a stills camera. It is the first mirrorless to feature a tilting electronic viewfinder, and is the first Lumix to have in-body stabilisation. This is a great advantage because it means you can use any non-stabilised MFT lenses with the GX7. It also has Wifi/NFC capabilities, effective focus peaking and a fast AF system – what more could you want?

You can find the Lumix GX7 on AmazonB&H Photo and Adorama.

6. Olympus OM-D E-M10

E-M5, 1/30, f/ 18/10, ISO 200
The OM-D E-M10

Anyone who regularly reads this website knows that we have a soft spot for the OM-D series, and this feeling extends to the newest addition, the OM-D E-M10 as well. Though the E-M10 is classified below the E-M5 mostly due to the presence of 3-axis instead of 5-axis stabilisation and the lack of weather sealing, it is in many ways an improved version of its elder sister. The ergonomics are better, the buttons and dials feel sturdier, the touch screen and EVF are brighter and more detailed, it has less noise at high ISO, and it has more focus points, not to mention that it is much cheaper. A neat addition to this camera is the Live Composite mode with which you can create light paintings, star trails and more. Whereas a professional would most certainly choose the OM-D E-M1 for its advanced functionalities and more rugged build, the E-M10 is the perfect enthusiast camera, as it provides all the necessary features in a small and compact package.

You can find the Olympus OM-D E-M10 on Amazon, B&H Photo and Adorama.


Looking for inexpensive and second-hand mirrorless cameras? Don’t forget to check out the deals on eBay!

Which of these six mirrorless cameras for experienced amateurs appeals to you?

Like our blog? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter! If you’re planning on buying camera gear, you can check out Amazon and Adorama. Prices remain the same for you, but a small percentage of your purchase value is valued back to us. Thank you!

About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Kaushik Parmar


    I am huge fan of Fujifilm cameras. I have used X100, X100S & X-T1. I also used Panasonic GH2, GH3 & GH4, and I also used Olympus OM D E M1 & Sony A7S.

    But I like more Fujifilm X-T1, it is an incredible camera and if you connect it with Fujinon XF 56mmm F1.2 would be stunning!

    Panasonic GH series is right now good for videos, I never use it for still photography.

    If we talk about M43 then Olympus OM D E M1 is best, actually it is similar like Fujifilm, and gives awesome image quality, and its video capabilities is better than Fujifilm but not as good as Panasonic GH series, in terms of videos Panasonic is king and Fujifilm is horrible!

    And Sony A7S is awesome little Full frame camera, it produce very sharp images but it has only 12MP, but images are very sharp, colors are not good as Fujifilm. best feature of Sony A7S is its low light performance, it is stunning and gives us surprise also, very neat & clean video in low light!

    This video I made by Sony A7S:

    Ultimate foe me is Fujifilm X-T1, here is my work:

  • Mathieu

    To answer both, I don’t think that the MFT system will die. It is and will remain the best choice regarding size and weight. There are already some limits with the APS-C and full frame formats. Physics is physics :)
    Fuji lenses are excellent, same for the Olympus lenses. The MFT has more choice, Fuji is closing the gap.
    If you prefer the Fuji camera ergonomics (dials etc), go for it then. Sometimes details matter most than the most obvious specs 😉

  • Antoine B.

    I am asking myself exactly the same questions… and I see that nobody in 4 months managed to give an answer :-)
    Fuji lenses are excellent… are the Olympus lenses as good? tough choice…
    In terms of ergonomy, I tend to prefer the Fuji X models, with shutter and aperture direct control.

  • norman shearer

    I think crop factor should be a consideration for the serious amateur. Not just because the bigger sensor has better resolution and noise performance but more importantlywhat the effective FOV the legacy glass they own will end up with. Amateurs, more than professionals will not be so concerned with always getting the shot. It’s no big deal to them to miss a few. They like the leisurely approach that manual glass and focus peaking gives and it also means they can re-unite the classic lenses they’ve become attached to. However, can they accept the compromise a 2x crop sensor gives or will they want to once again experience full frame?

    If you are a frequent legacy glass user, or want lenses on the cheap then APS-C from Sony and Fuji is hard to beat. I think the Fuji XA1 is king for value if you can live without an EVF. M43 is the choice if you want the extra reach but bear in mind the larger legacy glass would be better balanced on a larger M43 body. That leaves the Sony A7/A7R/A7S for those that like the wide angle or love their bokeh.

  • Mathieu

    The E-M5 is an excellent camera as well and you should be able to find it for a very reasonable price now. The IQ is very similar to the E-M10 and E-M1. It’s a lovely camera and I used it quite a lot last year before switching to the E-M1.

  • Candy

    I was wondering about the Olympus OM-D E M5. Any thought on this one? Seems to be a little older model (2 years) but does have the 5 axis stabilization. Thanks for your help!

  • Aivard

    Thanks for such great article, Heather. It’s what I have been looking for. I am quite confused on which camera should I get. The thing is, I am looking to invest in either OM-D or the X-Series. What has been bothering me is the Four-Third market that died already. In your opinion, will the Micro Four-Thirds be killed like the the Four-Thirds? And comparing to the X-Series, in terms of lens investment, which would you recommend? I ,personally, am slightly leaned towards the OM-D though I own some X-Series compacts and I love them so much.

  • kim

    Based on your comments and reading your reviews, I am excited about the GX7. I love the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 ED PRO but, without breaking the bank. What lens do you think I should match the the camera. To start I would like a lens that can do most things. I shoot my gardens, outdoors, travel, kids in action outdoors and in. The olympus lens spoiled me and if that is the best I will just have to save up. I would like to have a few options that handle different situations. Again I loo forward to your input. Thank you

  • Heather

    That’s very kind, Chris. It isn’t always easy running a blog but we enjoy it immensely. Hope you’ll share some of your photos in our Flickr and G+ groups!

  • Chris (MostDeadly)

    Great run down, Ive just picked up the GX7 in black and am loving it. I cant wait to get out and use it on a scheduled shooting trip. Thanks for the great site. Yours and Mr Robichauds are my favoured sites, so keep up the great work!

  • Heather

    As I said, the best thing to do on the E-M10 is to reduce the size of the AF points. It becomes more accurate. Along with the GX7, you could also have a look at the Sony a6000. It’s autofocus is very fast and accurate and costs less than the professional E-M1, X-T1 and GH4, despite having comparable AF capabilities.

  • kim

    I would not want to exceed 1,200 on the camera. I would rather spend the money on prime lens. To totally change my system will be an investment, that is why I am so anxious. I shoot in low light and love not having to use a flash. Also, I need a viewfinder. You seem to like the em10. I rented one based on your comments. I do like the camera but was concerned about auto focus on moving objects. That is one thing that the loved about the Nikon V1. Is their a was to overcome that problem on the em10? I will look at the camera you suggested. I would appreciate your comments.

  • Heather

    Do you have a specific budget, Kim? I am very keen on the E-M10 but to get the most out of the AF system, you should use the smallest AF points. Another nice option is the Lumix GX7. I used it at a modern dance performance in low light and it performed very well.

  • kim

    I have been reading your site for months trying to decide on an upgrade for my Nikon 1 V1. I was waiting for the Nikon 1 but the comments on the V3 are not stelar. I am an experienced amateur. I did try the olympus omd-em10. I loved the size and the weight Yet when I used it at my kids track meet, it did not always focus on the intended figure but on the background. I may have been using it incorrectly otherwise it took great pictures. I tried the em1 but it felt huge and heavy. I love to shoot family, sports and the outdoors. I enlarge photos. The V1 was no longer adequate especially when shooting indoor basketball. I took the V1 everywhere…Hiking, mountain biking, skiing and traveling. My favorite lens is the 18mm. Unfortunately, the other day, my V1 gave me an error code that would require about 300 dollars in repair cost. I am now in panic mode as I need a camera. The more I read the more confused I become. What mirrorless system do you think would be a fit for me? I appreciate your input as I love your site. Thanks

  • Heather

    Awesome, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it! We hope to see some of your photos in our Flickr and G+ groups. :)

  • Titus

    Thank You Heather !!

    I bought the NEX-6 and took the Amazon deal which you suggested.
    Thank you for helping me.

    Thanks a ton !!!!

  • Heather

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. If you want something very compact and portable that provides great IQ, the RX100 III is easily one of the best options out there. If, on the other hand, you are tempted by the idea of interchangeable lenses and a larger sensor, the NEX 6 is a great camera to begin with, since the release of the A6000 has made it much more affordable. By buying the NEX 6, you’ll also have some money left over for a lens or two (take this deal on Amazon for instance). Let us know what you decide to do!

  • Titus

    Hello Heather,

    Great Article !!!!
    I ‘m hunting for my first camera and in a dilemma to buy a compact or a mirrorless camera.
    I came across the Sony RX100 Mark3 & the Sony A6000 / NEX6&7. Heard some great reviews about them.
    I’m just looking to buy a nice,decent camera with good image quality for a vacation, party etc, etc.
    Photography is not my hobby (no offence) but I might like it ??
    I was keen to buy the RX100 M3 but then saw the A6000.
    I’m considering the A6000 cox down the line if I love photography I can just buy some good lenses (hope Sony increase their E-Mount lens family) but buying a RX100 would mean ending up with the same box for couple of years.
    I read bout your beginners blog but still confused.

    I have a budget of 1000$ .. Kindly suggest any good cameras.

    Also plz let me know what options do I have if I buy a Sony A6000 (not the standard kit lens) and buy any other E-Mount lens.
    Does the kit lens (A6000) really bad as people say ??

    Thanks in advance !!

  • Heather

    Perhaps you can have a look at our beginner’s page as well?

  • Andres

    I’m from Colombia, but right now im living in Canada.
    I just am a begginer, wanting to switch from dslr to mirrorless, but there are too many options. I really need help to decide which one.

  • Heather

    It is true – there are many cameras that could have potentially made the list. I was considering the G6 but the fact that it has the G5/GH2’s sensor put me off. I much prefer the low-light performance of the GX7.

  • Heather

    I’m glad you’re enjoying it, Andrew! Why don’t you share some pictures with us in the G+ community or on Flickr? :)

  • Andrew

    I’ve had my Fujifilm X100s for just a few months now, and am absolutely delighted with it. I am, though, exactly the type of photographer that you say it’s for — so no surprises for you, Heather!

  • Calvin Lewis

    I am surprised that the Panasonic G6 did not make the list. Despite its utilitarian DSLR looks it seems like a great all in one camera for those who want to do both still and video in one package. I currently have a GX1 and I have enjoyed it but I think it it time to move on to another body. I do like the NEX6 and A6000 but I currently have MFT because there is more choice of bodies and lenses. I thought about a GH3 but I am not ready to spend that kind of money yet on a body. I would prefer to get a 45mm, 45-150mm, and another prime or microphone. Also, I have super large hands and holding the NEX6, A6000, GX7, and A7 in hand was rather disappointing. None of the shops in Jeju, South Korea have the GH3 or G6, but the NX30 fit very well and I like the layout. In the end I am hoping to find a G6 to cop a feel plus it has everything an enthusists who need in my humble opinion. Such as focus peaking, touchscreen controls, different frame rates, mic input, variable screen, and a vast array of lenses.

    What do you think?

  • Heather

    I too own the E-P5 and it is the camera I use for most of my personal photography. I actually didn’t include it for the very same reason you would have included it – I find the viewfinder a bit awkward. I agree that the resolution is fantastic but it is almost impossible to slot the camera with the VF attached into a reasonably-sized bag along with other lenses and perhaps a second body. Though I love everything else about the E-P5, I would switch it with the E-M10 in a heartbeat.

  • soundimageplus

    ‘We didn’t include the A7r because of its price mainly ‘

    Olympus don’t sell their cameras cheaply. When the OM-D E-M5 went on sale in the UK it was the same price as the A7 when that went on sale. Plus the A7 is positively a bargain in the UK currently. As I found out when I sold mine on ebay recently!!

    From using the cameras I also think that the A7 and A7r are in a lot of ways more ‘amateur’ and ‘enthusiast’ than the a6000, which with it’s AF, burst rate and overall speed of operation has many reasons to be regarded as a more ‘professional’ camera. Certainly if I was in a pressure situation with a need to ‘get the shot’ I’d choose the a6000 over my A7r.

    We still suffer, I think, from this ‘size matters’ problem. I’m convinced there would be much less ‘Leica envy’ if they made bigger cameras. There are Nikon and Canon cameras and lenses that are just as expensive as Leica gear, but because they are bigger that is somehow OK. So if you spend a lot of money on Nikon and Canon systems that’s all right, but if you spend it on Leica then you’re a trust fund airhead or a doctor or dentist, when in fact I suspect that it’s doctors and dentists and trust fund airheads who buy most of the supplies of the Nikon D4s.

    Mirrorless cameras these days embrace everything from the GM1 to the A7 and X-T1 plus monster lenses and battery grips. It’s not about size any more and ‘amateur’ versus ‘professional’ and your posts on us ‘pros’ who use them proves that, as indeed does your own experience and work.

    I just thought that either the A7r or A7 should be included in The 6 Best Mirrorless Cameras for Experienced Amateurs because the sensor size and amazing resolution has taken the ‘Mirrorless concept / marketplace’ into new territory. One where mirrorless doesn’t always just equal small and compact camera like design. Plus it occurs to me that if Sony, Panasonic, Olympus actually ever want to crack the US market then the association between mirrorless and small needs rethinking.

    I’ve always thought that the notion that a point and shoot compact camera upgrader would want to upgrade to a camera that looks just like the point and shoot compact camera that they are trying to leave behind is flawed, in fact surely it’s the opposite. If they want to get serious then they want a serious looking camera. Which is why I think that making a mirrorless camera, with all the internal benefits of what that can achieve, look like a DSLR isn’t a bad move. And that’s why I think the A7 / A7r and indeed the X-T1 are important. I just don’t think the idea of ‘You’re an experienced amateur looking at mirrorless cameras, So you’ll want small because that’s what you’re used to’ is going anywhere. In fact it just permeates the myth that all those Nikon and Canon toting Doctors and Dentists subscribe to, that is basically mirrorless camera owners aren’t serious photographers, when in fact in reality often the opposite is true.

    The A7 / A7r and the A7s are game changers. Because if they aren’t what is? ‘Full-frame’ Superb low-light performance, great video, decent battery life, modular, pro lenses (if you can afford the top of the range a-mounts) and Sony are even setting up a worldwide pro network.

    Finally as you say, equating serious amateurs and value for money doesn’t always hold water. Both your and my system put together is as nothing compared to some of the systems I’ve seen ‘amateur’ photographers display on bragging post in forums.

  • Bob B.

    Olympus E-P5 should have made one of your lists. With the incredible VF-4 attached it blows the E-M5 right out of the water…. I had both and a few weeks after purchasing the E-P5 Kit…I sold my E-M5…the E-P5 is a much more fluid tool in my hands. I never have had an issue with shutter shock with my copy…I is just a great image making tool!

  • Mathieu

    We didn’t include the A7r because of its price mainly and because I think it is a more specific camera to use. That being said, it could suit an experienced amateur fine. And money isn’t always an issue. There are enthusiasts photographer who buy a Leica S2 :)

  • soundimageplus

    I’ve owned all of them and still have the a6000, which I think is the best all-round mirrorless camera so far and the GX7. I’m hoping that one day Fuji will abandon the X-Trans sensor. Imagine an X100 MkII or and X-T2 or X-E3 with the 24MP sensor from the a6000 and those Fuji lenses to put in front of it. Mouth-watering as far as I’m concerned.

    There is of course the steady rise of the 1′ sensor. The Sony RX100 and RX10 are impressive and the Panasonic FZ1000 announced today has specs. that are simply amazing and shows just what can be done lens wise with a sensor this size.

    However all of the cameras above will do a great job. No Sony A7r in the list though which is surprising. That camera can lay claim to probably the best image quality and resolution this side of medium-format.

  • Gord Seifert

    The EM-10 did it for me. I would have preferred 5 axis stabilization, but for me it is more what I want than either the EM-1 or the EM-5, particularly considering the price. Having a nice set of m4/3 lenses already pretty much cinched it, but I likely would have chosen it even if I didn’t already have the lenses.

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