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What you need to know about mirrorless cameras

If you’re looking for a decent camera with interchangeable lenses that are a step up from your smartphone camera, you might want to find the best mirrorless cameras for beginners. You may have heard that DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras are extremely similar, but they have a few differences in the technology they use. 

Before buying, you should find out more about mirrorless cameras and what they offer. This will help you decide if a mirrorless camera is the best choice for you and teach you how to use one. 

What are mirrorless cameras?

While DSLR cameras have a mirror inside them to bounce the light that comes through the lens to an optical viewfinder, mirrorless cameras simply channel the light that comes through the lens directly onto a sensor. As such, they’re mirrorless compared to DSLRs, which contain mirrors. 

Are mirrorless cameras better than DSLRs?

DSLR cameras are digital versions of SLR cameras, which use old technology from back when cameras were analog and captured photos on film. Now that cameras capture images digitally, there’s no need for the mirror in DSLR cameras, as the image can be captured directly on the camera’s sensor and viewed on a digital screen rather than through a viewfinder.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that mirrorless cameras are better than DSLR cameras. The image quality of two comparable cameras will be roughly the same, but mirrorless cameras are slightly smaller and lighter than DSLRs. They also usually have more auto modes and record better quality video. On the downside, mirrorless cameras have slower autofocus and shorter battery lives compared to DSLRs.

Using a mirrorless camera

Anyone who’s coming to mirrorless cameras from phone cameras or compact point-and-shoot cameras will find there’s a learning curve to using mirrorless cameras. To get the most out of them, you’ll need to learn to use their manual mode, but automatic and semi-automatic modes are great for getting started. 

Auto mode

The auto mode takes care of all the settings for you, so all you need to do is point your camera at your subject, engage the autofocus (usually by half-pressing the shutter button) and capture your image. You might not always get perfect results, especially in difficult lighting conditions, but it’s excellent for beginners. 


The aperture setting allows you to control how wide the diaphragm in the lens opens and ultimately how much light the lens lets in when you press the shutter button. The lower the aperture setting, or “f stop,” the more light is let in. A low aperture is great in low light conditions and when you want a greater depth of field, while a high aperture is great in bright conditions and when you want a shallower depth of field with a blurred background. The A or AV mode on a mirrorless camera is the aperture priority mode, a semi-automatic mode that allows you to set the aperture, while the camera takes care of everything else.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is the length of time that the shutter opens. A longer shutter speed lets more light in, which is great in low-light conditions but leaves the image more susceptible to motion blur, especially when photographing something moving. You can use this to get interesting effects in your photos, but it isn’t ideal when unintentional. The S, T or TV mode on a mirrorless camera is the shutter priority mode. This semi-automatic mode lets you set the shutter speed while the camera balances out everything else.

Mirrorless camera lenses

If you’re new to using cameras with interchangeable lenses, it’s beneficial to learn more about mirrorless camera lenses before. If you’re used to DSLR cameras, the principle is the same and you can even use your DSLR lenses on a mirrorless 

Prime vs. zoom

Neewer 35mm F1.7 Large Aperture APS-C Manual Focus Prime Fixed Lens

Prime lenses are lenses with a fixed focal length. They’re fast and lightweight and tend to perform well in low light. Zoom lenses allow you to zoom in and out to focus on distant objects or fit more into the frame, which is often beneficial.

Basic lens types

It’s essential to learn about your basic lens types so you can pick the right one for the shooting conditions and the types of photos you want to take.

  • Standard lenses have a fixed focal length or a small zoom. They’re versatile and great for everyday shooting. 

Sony SEL90M28G FE 90mm f/2.8-22 Macro G OSS Standard-Prime Lens for Mirrorless Cameras

  • Macro lenses take close-up photos of small things. They’re ideal for photographers interested in taking detailed photos of flowers, insects and anything else you want a sharp image of at a close range.
  • Telephoto lenses can zoom in close to distant subjects and are perfect for wildlife photography and photographing sporting events. 

Meike 25mm F1.8 APS-C Large Aperture Wide Angle Lens Manual Focus Lens for Sony E

  • Wide-angle lenses fit as much as possible in the frame, which is great for street photography and landscapes.

Four best mirrorless cameras for beginners

Canon EOS M50 Mark II

Canon EOS M50 Mark II

A solid entry-level mirrorless camera with a digital viewfinder is ideal for anyone used to a DSLR.

Sold by Amazon

Fujifilm X-E3 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Fujifilm X-E3 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Excellent for those who have no experience with manual cameras, this model has an exceptional auto mode that you can use while figuring out the manual controls.

Sold by Amazon

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

This model is smaller and lighter with a compact micro four-thirds sensor than models with larger sensors, though image quality takes a tiny hit. It’s an excellent upgrade for newcomers used to smartphone cameras.

Sold by Amazon

Sony Alpha A6100 Mirrorless Camera

Sony Alpha A6100 Mirrorless Camera

Although this camera isn’t cheap, it has impressive specs and is great for anyone serious about photography but new to mirrorless cameras.

Sold by Amazon


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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