For a long time after the invention of digital photography, mirrorless cameras acted as a sort of stepping stone in the camera world.
They weren't quite as powerful as professional photographers wanted, but they offered more capabilities than the standard point and shoot camera.
However, since the smartphone began to replace the point and shoot camera and mirrorless camera technology continually improves, they have finally begun to establish themselves as a great option for aspiring photographers and professionals alike.
Here is our choice of the top 5 best mirrorless cameras under $1000
For travel photographers, mirrorless cameras provide a huge benefit over their much bulkier DSLR cousins due to their lightweight, portable natures.
But since almost all mirrorless cameras are more or less equally lightweight, here are the other factors you need to take into consideration before making your final choice.
As with any digital camera, one of your most important considerations when choosing a mirrorless camera is how it performs in terms of image quality.
Mirrorless cameras used to lag far behind DSLRs in this area, but their overall quality has gotten much better as digital camera sensor technology has improved.
Some mirrorless manufacturers even include the same APS-C size sensors that are used in their DSLR cameras, which makes them just as capable as more expensive offerings.
Many higher-end mirrorless cameras have started to include relatively large sensors, which gives them much better image quality than you might first expect.
Unfortunately, these have yet to reach the under $1000 market and are generally only found in much more expensive mirrorless cameras, but this will likely change in the near future.
Larger sensors perform much better in low - light situations and generate less digital noise in the images they create, especially when used at higher ISO sensitivity settings.
So the larger the sensor your camera has the better your image quality will be.
Regardless of what sensor size your camera has, there two major factors that you should be aware of that impact image quality: resolution and digital noise.
Resolution is measured in megapixels (MP), and describes how large your photograph will be and gives you an idea of what you'll be able to do with the final image.
A 24 MP camera creates images that are 6000 x 4000 pixels in size, which can be used to create a film-quality print at a size of 20" x 13.3".
Digital noise is the modern equivalent to film grain, and is created by tiny processing errors in the light data from the camera's sensor.
ISO measures how sensitive to light your camera's sensor is, and increasing the ISO setting makes it more sensitive to light but also increases the amount of distortion from the sensor, which creates more digital noise.
Composing and framing the perfect shot only to find out later that your camera focused on the wrong part of the scene is incredibly frustrating.
Depending on your lens configuration, your mirrorless camera may not offer you an easy manual focus mode, so having a quality autofocus system is essential.
Even if you're looking at a mirrorless camera that offers a full manual focus mode, having a solid autofocus option can be a great help in certain situations.
Many mirrorless cameras use a type of autofocus system known as 'contrast autofocus', which focuses by comparing the contrast of adjacent pixels until they are highly-contrasting enough to be considered 'in focus'.
It isn't the most effective method, as it can be a bit slow, and as a result it's not very good at focusing on moving objects. It also performs very poorly in low-light situations due to the lack of contrast required to get a focus lock.
As a result, many of the newer models of mirrorless cameras don't rely exclusively on contrast autofocus, but use a system known as 'hybrid autofocus'.
Hybrid autofocus uses contrast autofocus in combination with the phase-detection autofocus systems used by most DSLRs.
While an explanation of phase-detection AF is a bit outside the scope of this post, it's far more effective in low-light situations and it makes a hybrid autofocus system the better choice.
One of the biggest drawbacks of mirrorless cameras is the variety of lenses they have available - or, to be more accurate, the lack of variety.
While almost all mirrorless cameras allow lenses to be swapped out in order to increase the capabilities of the camera, there are usually only a few lens choices available.
Most manufacturers restrict themselves to producing one lens of each type for each camera model, such a single wide angle lens, a single telephoto, and perhaps a single macro or other type of specialty lens.
Some of the newer types of mirrorless cameras have specialized adapters available that allow you to mount a standard DSLR lens, which is a huge improvement over the stock lenses available for most mirrorless options.
These have a few drawbacks, however, as they are not always perfectly compatible despite being able to mount properly.
Using adapters may prevent your autofocus system from working properly, and they may also require you to adjust the aperture manually, so it's up to you to decide if this is more hassle than it's worth for you.
Manufacturers who use a proprietary mirrorless camera system, such as Sony, Pentax and Olympus, generally fall into the trap of limited lens selections.
Meanwhile, manufacturers who entered the mirrorless camera game early have a head-start in this area, often with a wider range of lenses available.
Canon and Nikon are probably in the best position to offer plenty of lens choice, since their mirrorless cameras will be able to make better use of the wide range of lenses available for their DSLR offerings.
Battery life is one of the biggest concerns with a mirrorless camera for the simple fact that they don't possess an optical viewfinder.
This is the reason they are called mirrorless in the first place - in a DSLR camera, a mirror reflects light from the lens upwards into the optical viewfinder.
This feature allows you to see exactly what your camera will see through the viewfinder.
Getting rid of this complex mechanical system allows mirrorless cameras to be smaller and lighter than their DSLR competitors, but their answer to the optical viewfinder is the electronic viewfinder.
Electronic viewfinders, also sometimes known as 'Live View', essentially display what the lens sees on the camera's screen at all times.
This can be extremely handy while you are composing your shots and experimenting with different exposure settings, but it also takes a great deal of power to run all the time.
Instead of simply using battery power when you press the shutter, mirrorless cameras are consuming lots of power whenever they are on.
As a result of this power drain, you'll want to make sure that your mirrorless camera choice has a removable battery so that you can carry around a spare or two in order to swap them out as needed.
There's nothing worth than missing a great shot because of a dead battery!
You may also be able to find an external add-on battery pack for your mirrorless camera, but these are much rarer in the mirrorless world than they are in the DSLR world.
Once you've covered the absolutely essential elements in your quest for a mirrorless camera, it's time to look at some of the added features that can be a real benefit.
Most new mirrorless cameras feature a range of connectivity options including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC).
While none of these are essential to the functioning of the camera, they can be a real help for travel photographers who want to share their experiences while they're still on the go.
Perhaps the most useful feature is Wi-Fi, because this can allow you to use a companion app on your smartphone as a remote shutter, as well as to control your camera settings.
You can even use the feature to transfer photos off your memory card into the storage space on your smartphone, allowing you to free up camera card space for more shots.
Just remember that added connectivity comes at the expense of battery power.
You're going to want to make sure that you've got those features turned off unless you're using them - or unless you've got a handful of charged batteries ready to go!
Now that you know what to look for in a mirrorless camera, it's time to take a closer look at some of our favourite options.
While all of the cameras we reviewed in this post are great options, our best pick for most travel photographers is going to be the Canon EOS M6.
It is one of the lightest cameras we reviewed, weighing in at just 383 grams for the body only, although adding in a 15-45mm kit lens doesn't add too much to the weight.
This makes it the perfect traveling companion when you don't want to carry around a bulky DSLR camera but you still want to get great image quality.
Its generously-sized 24MP APS-C sensor shoots high quality images in a range of lighting conditions.
Thanks to the Dual Pixel Autofocus system, you don't have to worry about whether or not you're going to get the shot in focus.
Travel photography presents a lot of 'once in a lifetime' photo opportunities, so the M6's reliable autofocus is a must-have feature.
The 425 shots you can get out of the M6 in its power-saving 'eco' mode means that you have lower chances of running out of power during your trip.
It's easy enough to stow an extra battery pack or two in your camera bag so that you can shoot for as long as you want!
Last but not least, if you want to share your photos with friends you make during your travels, the M6's built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC ensures that no matter where you are or who you meet, you'll be able to share your memories!
Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.
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