Thom's Mirrorless Holiday Winners

It's the early kick-off of camera buying season, and a lot of you are looking for some help in figuring out which camera to buy. Assuming it's a mirrorless camera, sansmirror is here to help. Simply find the category you're really interested in and then read who the winner you should really be considering is.

Entry Full Frame

  • Winner — No doubt that the Nikon Z5 is the most well-rounded, solid, deep featured product in the group. I'm not the only one saying that. Indeed, it seems like the only one not saying it loudly is Nikon, themselves. The only issue for some will be that the Z5 is a brand new camera still selling for (close to) its MSRP. Yes, it features a slower frame rate (4.5) and it's not the best low-light focuser you can find (it's not a see-in-the-dark focuser, but it does just fine for everything else). But that's about the full list of things people might really complain about on the still photography side. Bonus: this is a good candidate camera for UVIR conversion, or as a lower cost backup camera to another Z. 
  • Runner Up — At the right price, the Canon RP is the right choice for some. Its older technology is still better than Sony selling you an even older generation camera with lots of blemishes that they eventually got around to fixing in newer models.

Video Full Frame

  • Winner — The Sony A7S Mark III. Yes, it's only 4K at anything, but that includes 120P and really excellent low light capability. Personally, if I were deep into video I'm want everything that's here but in a slightly more video-oriented body, as the still photography type body does seem a little odd for top pro video capability. Still, a really nice camera. Note that it's in short supply and selling at full price.
  • Runner UpA bit of a toss-up, actually. The Nikon Z6 or Z6 II and the Panasonic S5 or S1H are all truly remarkable video cameras when configured, set, and used properly. The S1H is at the top of this closely contested heap, but more expensive; the Z6 is at the bottom, but at a fairly incredible price for a 5K oversampling 4K full frame.

Top End Full Frame

  • Winner — By a small margin, the Sony A7R Mark IV probably has to get the nod. That's particularly true if you're looking for a landscape camera, as both the 61mp and the pixel-shift capabilities of this camera make it a slightly preferred choice. But as I noted in my review, I don't feel the Mark IV is still as well-rounded a camera as the Mark III was. That pixel boost doesn't come without some drawbacks.
  • Runner Up — I'm going to go out on a limb here and select two products I don't have much experience with (but I do with their siblings and predecessors). By a slight margin, I'd probably say the Canon R5 is a close second now to the Sony. Canon brought the A Team to the table with their latest round of full frame cameras, and it shows in everything except heat dissipation in the R5. I regard the 8K video as mostly a parlor trick, but everything else seems to be exactly what I'd want in a high-end, many megapixel, full frame body. And right behind the Canon is the Nikon Z7 II, which retains all the excellent attributes that made its predecessor a top choice for the last two years, but fixes the three top customer pain points. Just note that the Z7 II is going to be a post Black Friday show, and in likely limited supply this year.

All Round Full Frame

  • Winner — You. Yes, you, the reader. That's because the Canon R6, Nikon Z6 II, Panasonic S5, and Sony A7 Mark III are all excellent choices. Canon users can choose Canon. Nikon users can choose Nikon. And so on. You almost certainly won't be disappointed with any of the four, and these bodies are all long on features, high on performance, and great on flexibility, even into the video realm. The Sony is the aging veteran, who'll get replaced within a year. The Panasonic is a young player that went through a quick round of training and came out better. Nikon went to the gym and toughened up an already excellent camera. And as I noted above, Canon brought the A Team and produced something that makes us all scratch our heads and wonder what the original R was all about.
  • Runner Up — None. If you're buying outside the four I mentioned for an all-around camera, you're probably making a mistake. 

Entry Crop Sensor

  • Winner — I'm sure some will say I just favor Nikon, but the Z50 is the most competent, straight-lace, no-nonsense design for an entry crop camera we've seen, and it performs excellently in all facets. It's what I bought my mom. The Fujifilm X-S10 is too new for me to know if it's going to eclipse the Z50, but I'd say it is probably worth looking at. 
  • Runner Up — Particularly if you don't need the optional EVF, the Canon M6 Mark II takes my silver medal. That's mostly due to its outstanding 32mp sensor and its no-nonsense handling. I prefer those two things to Fujifilm's APS-C lens set or Sony's technology-uber-alles A6### approach. But do make sure that Canon makes the lenses you need if you go the M6 route.

Top End Crop Sensor

  • Winner — The Fujifilm X-T4, and it's not even close; the competition falls far short on something when it goes up against the X-T4. I will say this, though: the X-T4's autofocus is still not as good as we've seen on some other cameras, particularly the full frame lot. It's competitive, but not the best focuser, in my testing. But that aside, the X-T4 is an excellent camera, though the body is getting up in the full frame size/weight category.
  • Runner Up — I'll bet you were expecting me to say Sony Something. Sorry, but no. The A6### bodies are all good, but they all leave me wanting for something, plus their ergonomics leave a lot to be desired. Some folk are going to spit on their computer screens when they read my actual choice here: Olympus E-M1 Mark III. Yes, I know it's an older, small sensor. Yes, I know the menus need a minister to interpret them for you because they're written in Aramaic. Yes, I know the autofocus is in my "good but not great" category. So how did this camera end up with a podium finish? Great ergonomics once you've finally figured out how to configure the camera. Rock solid build that holds up to weather and abuse. Really clever and useful additions, from pixel shift to live composite to many other things the other camera makers haven't figured out how to do well yet. A great lens set. Nope, the E-M1 Mark III is the height of what Olympus has produced, and still a viable candidate to consider.

Totally Video

  • Winner — We've got a couple of sneak plays here. The Panasonic BGH1 is a basically the excellent GH5S, only truly geared up as a video only camera (it can still take stills, but you won't want to with this body). I like this camera, and if 4K is all you need, I think it's a winner. If you've got the budget and are truly looking to be leading edge, the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K rears its head in a surprise from down under. How did this camera sneak in? Well, it has a flexible mount, which can adapt to EF or F mount lenses (but normally you'd probably want to put PL lenses on it). That plus incredible raw support sets it apart.
  • Runner Up — I'll bet you thought I'd say Sony A7C, right? Well, I didn't say it. Too much is wrong with the A7C in its first generation; Sony's got a long list of things that need improving to make this a true all-video choice. Which means that the field is opened up to the not-all-video cameras. That makes a camera like the Fujifilm X-T4 start to look like a contender. But at the price points we'll see this holiday, the Panasonic GH5 still takes my runner-up position, particularly when coupled with the right m4/3 lenses.

Okay, now for the also rans: I'd argue that if you're buying outside the list of what I present above, you need a very good reason for doing so. That shouldn't be because of marketing messages, perceived technology leadership, or all the other usual Internet memes and messaging. It might be because of price. But make sure you really know why you're buying the camera you're buying if it isn't in my list of winners and runners-up, or else you might be buying again soon (or just putting the camera away in the closet). 

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