The Best Budget Mirrorless Cameras for Beginner Photographers

When you’re just starting out in photography, there’s a lot of questions you need answered. From “How do I compose a good photo?” to “How do I control exposure?” to “What photography gear do I need?” you have a lot on your mind.

Something else that beginner photographers question is the price of photography gear. In a word, it’s expensive. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find great deals on gear, especially gear that’s used but in excellent condition.

Why Mirrorless?

Choosing a mirrorless camera as your first camera is a good bet all the way around.

There has been a shift toward mirrorless design in recent years, and companies like Sony, Fuji, Olympus, and Panasonic have focused much of their efforts on making innovations to mirrorless cameras.

What’s more, due to the lack of an internal mirror, mirrorless cameras are smaller, more compact, and lighter weight. That makes carrying them a breeze compared to their larger DSLR counterparts.

Many mirrorless cameras also have many of the same features as beginner DSLR cameras, giving you something that can grow with you as you acquire more photography knowledge and improved skills.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, mirrorless cameras tend to be less expensive than DSLRs. That’s a great thing for the budget-conscious beginner.

With that in mind, let’s examine a few mirrorless cameras that have a budget-friendly price, but come with a host of features that will help you learn photography.

Sony Alpha a5000

Key Specifications:

  • 20.1-megapixel APS-C sensor
  • Max shutter speed: 1/4000 seconds
  • Max ISO: 16000
  • Display: 3-inch LCD with 460,800 dots
  • HD video: 1080p
  • Weight: 269g

Don’t let the small appearance of the Sony Alpha a5000 fool you. This is one capable camera.

The 20.1-megapixel APS-C Exmor sensor captures images with excellent detail, bright colors, and good sharpness.

The autofocus system is quick and efficient too, allowing you to take improved shots of moving subjects. See it in action in the video below by ReviewLamp.

The camera sports modern conveniences like Wi-Fi and NFC, which makes sharing the photos you take much easier.

Most importantly, the a5000 is extremely easy to learn with. It’s menu settings are well organized and intuitive, and the controls on the camera body are positioned in a way that makes sense.

If you’re looking for a powerful camera that offers you more in the way of features and functions than your smartphone, the Sony Alpha a5000 might just be it.

Canon EOS M3

Key Specifications:

  • 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Max shutter speed: 1/4000 seconds
  • Max ISO: 25600
  • Display: 3-inch tilting LCD with 1.04 million dots
  • HD video: 1080p
  • Weight: 366g

Though well known for their DSLR cameras, Canon hasn’t jumped into the mirrorless market with as much gusto as Sony, Fuji, Olympus, and Panasonic.

But their EOS M3 camera is nonetheless a solid choice for beginner photographers because it offers many of the same features as the Sony Alpha a5000 and then some.

The EOS M3 sports a high-resolution sensor with 24.2-megapixels that gives you highly-detailed images and videos as well.

To help you in composing your shots, the EOS M3 has a tilting LCD that’s nearly double the resolution of the one found on the Sony Alpha a5000. See this and other features of the EOS M3 in the video above by Gordon Laing.

As you advance in your skillset, you can purchase an add-on electronic viewfinder for an even better viewing experience to compose your shots.

The EOS M3 has a higher maximum ISO value too – meaning you can shoot more effectively in poor lighting conditions without using a flash.

This camera weighs more than the Sony (366 grams vs 269 grams), but that’s a small price to pay for the added functionalities of the Canon.

Olympus Pen E-PL7

Key Specifications:

  • 16.1-megapixel micro fourth-thirds sensor
  • Max shutter speed: 1/4000 seconds
  • Max ISO: 25600
  • Display: 3-inch tilting LCD with 1.037 million dots
  • HD video: 1080p
  • Weight: 357g

As noted earlier, Olympus has fully adopted mirrorless technology and offers a complete line of mirrorless cameras, including the E-PL7 shown above.

This mid-range model is perhaps a little more advanced than the previous cameras on this list, but don’t let that scare you.

What’s great about the Pen E-PL7 is that it is built like a tank, so it can take a few bumps and bruises that are sure to come as you figure out this whole photography thing.

Pair that with great image and video quality, a tilting 3-inch LCD that has the highest resolution of any camera on this list, and built-in effects you can add to your images, and you have a good all-around setup for taking better photos.

The Pen E-PL7 also sports customizable functions, meaning as you gain skills and confidence, you can tailor some of the camera’s features to your specific tastes and workflow.

Wrapping It Up

Price will certainly be at the top of the list, and each of these cameras will fit into any budget-conscious buyer’s agenda.

In fact, you can buy any of these cameras for less than many DSLR lenses, particularly if you opt for a used camera that’s in great shape.

Beyond price, also consider the type of camera system you want.

By that I mean each manufacturer is a little different and provides photographers with options that vary.

When buying your first camera, this is an important decision to make because once you start buying gear, you want to be able to use it with future cameras.

Naturally, you’ll want to investigate the features that cameras offer to you. If you’re into video, for example, look for the budget camera that offers the best in the way of HD video recording.

In the end, your first camera doesn’t have to be the best camera you’ll ever own, nor should it.

Simply find something that’s in your budget, has most of the features you want, and use it to become the photographer you want to be!

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