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Top 5 Manufacturers of Mirrorless Digital Cameras

Updated on June 9, 2013
While still popular, DSLRs like the Canon 7D shown here are bulky and some people don't enjoy using them.
While still popular, DSLRs like the Canon 7D shown here are bulky and some people don't enjoy using them. | Source

In a previous article I asked the question "Are mirrorless cameras the future of digital photography?" While it is obvious that there are those for whom the "bigger and better" DSLR will always be their first choice, even many DSLR users now own a mirrorless camera for those occasions when portability outweighs the need for maximum performance.

But choosing the right mirrorless system can be a tricky business. While all DSLR systems are similar in nature, manufacturers have shown a lot more innovation in creating their mirrorless systems and it is essential that you know which features are most important to you before you buy your first mirrorless camera.

In some instances differences are based on the age of the system. Thus differences in the selection of camera bodies and lenses available should become less of an issue over time.

The size of sensor used in a system will never change, however, so it is important to realize what impact it will have on your photos before making your choice. While no manufacturer has yet produced a full frame mirrorless system, the principles in my article "Full frame vs crop sensors in digital SLRs" still apply.

Other things you may want to consider are whether you need an electronic viewfinder or built in flash, whether you want a stabilized body, a tilting or articulated screen, and even how important video performance is to you.

The chart below summarizes some of the differences between the brands discussed here. I have chosen to list Panasonic and Olympus together because they use the same micro four-thirds lens mount, allowing you to mix and match bodies and lenses across the two brands. Note however that their external flash systems are not compatible and that the lack of in-body stabilization in Panasonic cameras may necessitate more frequent use of a tripod when combining them with Olympus's unstabilized lenses.

Manufacturer
Panasonic / Olympus
Sony
Samsung
Fujifilm
Canon
Sensor size
17.3 x 13 mm
23.4 x 15.6 mm
23.4 x 15.6 mm
23.6 x 15.6 mm
22.3 x 14.9 mm
Maximum effective pixels
16.1 megapixels in top models
24.3 megapixels in top model
20.3 megapixels in top models
16.3 megapixels
18.0 megapixels
Crop factor
2x
1.5x
1.5x
1.5x
1.6x
Viewfinder
electronic, sometimes optional. some have models none
electronic, sometimes optional. some have models none
electronic, sometimes optional. some models have none
electronic, with extra optical in top model
none
Touchscreen
fully featured in top models
some models have limited features
limited features in newest model only
no
fully featured
Articulated screen
tilting in top Olympus models, articulated in top Panasonic models
tilting
tilting or articulated in some models
no
no
Stabilized body
Olympus only
no
no
no
no
Continuous drive
9 frames per second in top Olympus model, 6 frames per second in top Panasonic models
10 frames per second in top models
9 frames per second in latest model
6 frames per second
4.3 frames per second
Flash
pop-up in some Olympus and all Panasonic models
pop-up in some models
pop-up in some models
pop-up in cheaper model only
no built in flash

Further points on these brands

This list is not intended to rate manufacturers from best to worst as different people have different needs.

1. Panasonic / Olympus

This is the oldest mirrorless system and offers the widest selection of lenses, including third-party lenses by Sigma as well as Lensbaby lenses for those looking for out of the box creativity.

While there are disadvantages to the smaller sensor, it does mean that the lenses are smaller and lighter, especially if you use Olympus lenses which are not weighed down by a stabilizer.

If video performance is a priority to you, the Panasonic GH3 is probably the best mirrorless option available.

The fully featured touchscreen referred to in the chart offers the ability to shoot photos by simply touching your chosen focus point on the screen. The only other brand which currently offers this feature is Canon. If you don't require this feature, it can be disabled.

2. Sony

Another brand which offers a good selection of lenses including those by Sigma and Lensbaby.

Sony's NEX7 is the highest resolution mirrorless camera available.

3. Samsung

Samsung offers a decent selection of lenses and their top models offer higher resolution images than any mirrorless camera other than the Sony NEX7.

4. Fujifilm

Fujifilm is a relative newcomer to the mirrorless market and currently only offers two different bodies and a limited selection of lenses.

The Fujifilm X-Pro1 is unique among mirrorless cameras in offering a choice of optical or electronic viewfinders. Its sensor is regarded as the best mirrorless sensor around, but its focus system is probably its weak point.

5. Canon

While remaining one of the top names in digital cameras, Canon has done itself no favors by coming to the mirrorless party so late. To date they only manufacture one body and a very limited selection of lenses. With the use of an adapter, however, you can use any of the larger Canon DSLR lenses on this tiny camera.

While Canon currently has a lot less to offer than most other mirrorless brands, it seems likely that they will soon catch up with the other manufacturers discussed here.

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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I may have to read this a second time to absorb all of the information you've included. Lots of good stuff to know and remember.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Gina145 profile image
      Author

      Gina145 4 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks tillsontitan. With the ever-changing technology camera choice has become a very difficult thing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great information, Gina! As I mentioned earlier, I will be in the market for a new digital camera and hubs like this one are very helpful. Thank you!

    • Gina145 profile image
      Author

      Gina145 4 years ago from South Africa

      I'm glad the information is helpful, Bill. I hope you find the perfect camera for you.

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