Choosing the right camera is one of the most important decisions for any filmmaker. That’s because your camera can be a considerable financial investment, and dictates the kind of content you’re able to create.

There are countless options available, all with their own merit, but often your research can leave you more confused than when you initially began.

In this article, we’re going to focus your attention to a camera type that has become a favorite for many in the world of filmmaking and content creation…

The mirrorless camera.

Mirrorless cameras (video courtesy of Robakidze)

What is the difference between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR?

Keep reading.

By the end of this article, you will not only understand the difference between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR, but you will also understand why mirrorless cameras have certain advantages when compared to their predecessors.

Let's discover what makes mirrorless cameras so attractive for video. 

MIRRORLESS CAMERA Definition

What is a mirrorless camera?

A mirrorless camera is a digital camera body constructed without an optical reflex mirror, which allows light to pass directly through the lens to the electronic sensor. This uninterrupted light allows the intended image to be previewed via LCD screen on the rear of the camera, or through an electronic viewfinder (EVF). 

1

THE Top 10

The best mirrorless cameras

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

The top 10 best mirrorless cameras

Now that you're primed, let's dive into the top 10 best mirrorless cameras that you should look into!

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

The Sony A7 iii sits at the top of the list for good reason. It is the ultimate video machine in the mirrorless camera world. 

sony alpha a7iii mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $2000
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Weight: 1.45 lb / 657 g
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Pixels: 25.3 (24.2) Megapixels
  • Resolution: 6000 x 4000
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30 fps | 1080p @ 100/120 fps

Pros: The Sony a7 iii is the Cadillac of mirrorless cameras as far as video is concerned. Sony took everything that makes a good mirrorless video camera and got it as close to perfection as possible. 

The 693 auto focus points comes in at the top of its class. Same lock-on AF with face detection, and improved battery life as the a7R iii, and it can use that battery life more efficiently because the megapixel count on the sensor is nearly half.

It is funny to think that we live in a world where a lower megapixel count is the exciting feature between cameras, but that is the paradoxical nature of digital video, and Sony understands that providing these options is helpful to their brand and their filmmaking customers.

The a7 iii has the same great internal stabilization feature. Combine with a lens that has its own internal stabilization, and a properly balanced gimbal to achieve unbelievable results.

It also comes in at $2000, which is cheaper than the brand new Nikon Z6 and Z7, the brand new Canon EOS R, and the very unique Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5s.

This camera could have been $3000, and we still would have put it at the top of the list. That is crazy good pricing.

Cons: Unfortunately there's a 1.2x crop in 4K when at 30fps. The LCD screen isn’t as good as the a7r iii, but the battery lasts longer because of that so... your call.

Many photographers and filmmakers take issue with Sony when it comes to lenses, and they aren’t wrong, but the price and capabilities of this camera way outweigh any lens limitation that Sony may have. You can always take the money you save and put it toward an adapter as well as a semi-serious set of cine lenses (say that 5x fast).

Sony a7 iii cinematic footage - Video courtesy of jakobmihailo

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

The Sony A7r iii is a really great camera, and if you are both a photographer and cinematographer you should consider this over the A7 iii. 

sony alpha a7r iii mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $3000
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Weight: 1.45 lb / 657 g
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Pixels: 43.6 (42.4) Megapixels
  • Resolution: 7952 x 5304
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30 fps | 1080p @ 100/120 fps

Matt Komo for MVMT - Shot with Sony a7r III & Sony a7 II

Pros: The Sony a7R iii is the newest hybrid video/still camera, and that is sort of how you have to look at it. It captures absolutely fantastic video, and improved on many of the features from the earlier models, but the a7R iii is more designed for those who want to get high resolution photography, time lapse capability, and some great video as a cherry on top.

Sony stripped the AA filter off of the a7R iii, and this is a missing feature that a lot of photographers were looking forward to. The 425 autofocus points is better than most mirrorless cameras, and it also features an AF with face detection.

Cons: 425 auto-focus points is absolutely great, but it provides less coverage than the Sony a7 iii, and the higher megapixel count takes away some of the low light capabilities and shallow depth of field accomplished by the a7 iii.

It also costs $1000 more than the a7 iii, and while price is probably the least important criterion on this list, it still matters. More money = more accessories.

Sony a7R iii slow-motion test - Video courtesy Jeremy Vessy

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

The DC-GH5s was so close to perfection for a micro-four thirds camera. They boosted the max frame rate to 240fps, but removed internal stabilization.

panasonic lumix dc-ghrs mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $2,300
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Weight: 1.45 lb / 660 g
  • Format Size: Micro Four Thirds (2x Crop Factor)
  • Pixels: 11.93 (10.28) Megapixels
  • Resolution: 3680 x 2760
  • Bit Depth: 10-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30/50/60 fps | 1080p @ 100/120/180/240 fps

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5s footage - Video courtesy 4K

Pros: The GH5S can record both 4K and C4K at 50/60p. It also improved on the GH5 by boosting max frame rate from 180fps to 240fps. This is a huge reason why the GH5s is one of the best mirrorless cameras for cinematic video despite having a M43 sensor.

You can tilt the LCD screen, and it gives you a preview with a lot of fidelity, which is the most important part of any image preview system. Panasonic also improved the ISO capability by basically lowering the megapixel rating.

Some run and gun shooters believe the Panasonic has a better workflow than Sony, and I wouldn’t disagree with that, but this list is for filmmakers, specifically working to get the best images they can, not the fastest images.  

As mentioned before, lens compatibility for M43 mounts is one of the best parts because they make a large amount for M43 lenses, and the adapters are pretty easy to come by, they are pretty inexpensive, and have decent functionality when attached.

The GH5s carries over the two memory card slots. Paired with the M43 sensor and long battery life, you can record for hours without slowing down. The camera also deals with heat pretty well, most likely due to the sensor size.

Cons: Panasonic had a really fantastic internal stabilization system in the earlier GH5, and somehow they decided to leave it out of the GH5s. It was a big mistake leaving this out, and it has left many filmmakers scratching their heads.

The auto focus isn’t as good as Canon, Sony, Fujifilm’s new X-T3, or the new Nikon Z6 & Z7s.

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 cinematic settings - Video courtesy YCImaging

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

Sony has made improvements with their new models, but this was the camera that catapulted them to the top of the mirrorless game. 

Sony alpha a7s ii mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $2,400
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Weight: 1.38 lb / 627.10 g
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Pixels: 12.4 (12.2) Megapixels
  • Resolution: 4240 x 2832
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30 fps | 1080p @ 100/120 fps

Pros: The Sony a7 ii series burst onto the scene and completely transformed digital filmmaking forever. You could now record professional video, often in low light, that you just couldn’t get from many DSLR cameras at similar price points.

That isn’t to say Sony didn’t ruffle some feathers, both with competitors and customers for separate reasons. When Sony released three different versions, the a7 ii, a7R ii, and a7S ii, it gave Sony users multiple options for the images they wanted to capture.

The a7S ii makes the list because despite being inferior to the new Alpha a7 iii series, the a7s ii is still a better video camera than many new mirrorless options.

It has a much smaller megapixel count (12.4 vs. 25.3), allowing the pixel size on the physical sensor to be larger, which has the effect of capturing more light, and creating a shallower depth of field which can be nice.

Cons: The a7S ii has fewer autofocus points than the other Sony mirrorless cameras, and many believe Canon still holds the throne for the best autofocus.

Its lower megapixel count means that any time-lapse video you get won’t be as clear as you may find with the Sony a7R iii or the Sony a7 iii, and it uses the old version of the Sony mirrorless battery (NP-FW50), which has a really poor amount of charge for video.

The a7S ii also has a big x2.2 crop when shooting at 120fps.

Here are a few of the new lenses compatible with the Sony a7R iii:

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

Nikon created a video centric mirrorless camera that shoots 4K in 10-bit.

Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $2,200
  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Weight: 1.29 lb / 585 g
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Pixels: 25.28 (24.5) Megapixels
  • Resolution: 6000 x 4000
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30 fps | 1080p @ 100/120 fps

Nikon Z6 overview - Video courtesy D Blend

Pros: You may be asking yourself why the Z6 is above the Z7, and we were asking ourselves the same thing, but alas here we are.  

This full-frame camera can shoot 4K at 10-bit, and it comes in $1,600 lower than its bigger brother, the Nikon Z7. That is $1,600 you can invest in lenses, adapters, batteries, monitors, cables, an external recorder, or your kid’s college fund (kidding - go with the recorder).

Its very attractive, because many cinema cameras that have similar abilities can MSRP at $6,000 - $100,000. The Nikon Z6 comes in at $2,200…

Now to capture this video appropriately, you’ll most likely want to get an additional battery pack and an external recorder, but those are relatively necessary for any mirrorless camera.

The Nikon Z6 has a 12mm flange distance which is one of the shortest ever, and this will give the Z6 better options as far as adapters go.

Also, the lens mount has a really big diameter when compared to the other mirrorless options, and bigger lenses allow for some really cinematic looks that most filmmakers like to achieve with their images.

Once someone creates an adapter, you’ll be able to put you S-Mount lenses from the 1940’s and 1950’s, but they won't have AF capabilities.

Cons: The Auto-Focus isn’t as impressive as the Sony cameras, and the Z6 has 273 AF points, and doesn’t operate as well as the Z7 which has 493 AF Points.

There is no 4K above 24/30 fps, and that is disappointing. The camera only has a single memory card slot, and has “upgraded” to an XQD. These are relatively expensive cards, but you'll want a nice card to record video regardless.

You’ll need to buy the F/Z mount adapter if you want to use your old lenses, but this runs around $150 if you buy it in a bundle. This isn’t limited to the Z6. The FTZ adapter autofocuses with F-mount lenses with a built-in AF motor, but not older models.

Nikon Z6 breakdown - Video courtesy DSLR Video Shooter

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

The DC-GH5 has the best internal stabilization of any camera on this list. Pair this with a stabilized lens, and a 3-Axis gimbal for super smooth video. 

panasonic lumix dc-ghr mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $1,700
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Weight: 1.59 lb / 725 g
  • Format Size: Micro Four Thirds (2x Crop Factor)
  • Pixels: 21.77 (20.3) Megapixels
  • Resolution: 5184 x 3888
  • Bit Depth: 10-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30fps | 1080p @ 24/30/50/60/100/120/180fps

Pros: The Panasonic Lumix GH5 has the best stabilization system out of all the mirrorless cameras, and when paired with a lens with its own internal stabilizer, this camera can produce smooth footage even when handheld.

You can tilt your viewfinder which can help when you’re on the move, and there is an exposure compensation in manual movie mode that allows you to maintain a constant shutter speed and aperture while the ISO value shifts with the light.

Lens compatibility for M43 mounts is one of the best parts because they make a large amount for M43 lenses, and the adapters are pretty easy to come by, pretty inexpensive, and have decent functionality when attached.

The battery power is much better than many of the other mirrorless options.

Cons: This camera has a M43 sensor which isn’t preferred for narrative filmmaking, but that doesn’t completely disqualify it as an option. Capturing 4K has a crop of ~1.25x.

There isn’t a microphone input or headphone output, but this isn’t as much of a concern since you’ll most likely run external sound, and the power normally reserved for (often low quality) in-camera audio instead goes toward the picture quality - so this could really be a pro too.

Here are a few of the lenses compatible with the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5:

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

The Nikon Z7 is the big brother of the Z6, but it costs more and is truly built for photography. If you shoot weddings, meet the camera made for you. 

Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $3,600
  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Weight: 1.29 lb / 585 g
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Pixels: 46.8 (45.7) Megapixels
  • Resolution: 8256 x 5504
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30 fps | 1080p @ 100/120 fps

The Nikon Z7 in action

Pros: The Nikon Z7 is a big mirrorless camera with a lot of cool new settings and some really nice capabilities. It has 493 auto focus points, which is better than every other camera other than the Sony a7 iii cameras.

Super bright EVF, and an in-camera stabilization system. That means you’ll have a full-frame camera to shoot 10-bit 4K that produces some of the most stable images you can get.

It also has USB charging capability so you don’t have to power down to charge.

On top of that, the battery is already much better than many of the other mirrorless options. The camera is really quiet which can be a real benefit when running sound.

Cons: Nikon did a better job rolling out their new mirrorless cameras than Canon did with the EOS R, but they didn’t stop from getting beat by not one, but TWO micro four third cameras… and that’s a real shame.

You can only go as high as 24/30fps when shooting 4K which is such a missed opportunity, and something we didn’t like to hear as filmmakers. Slow-motion is one of the most interesting and integral part of filmmaking today.

You can go to 100/120fps in 1080p, which is great, but for $3,600 I’m going to need a Swedish massage and a waterpark pass thrown in to make the price tag less demoralizing.

Here are a few of the new lenses compatible with the Nikon Z7:

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

The X-T3 give you a really good camera at a nice price, and you get Fujifilm's famous picture profiles. Skin tones have never looked better on mirrorless.

FUJIFILM X-T3 mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $1,500
  • Mount: Fujifilm X Mount
  • Weight: 1.19 lb / 539 g
  • Format Size: APS-C
  • Pixels: 26.1 Megapixels
  • Resolution: 6240 x 4160
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30/50/60 fps, 1080p @ 100/120 fps

Fujifilm X-T3 footage  - Video courtesy Cinema5D

Pros: The Fujifilm X-T3 is a really nice mirrorless camera, and you cannot beat certain aspects of what Fujifilm has done with their picture quality. This model boasts the Eterna picture setting, which gives you really nice skin tones for cinematic filmmaking.

The X-T3 performs better in low light, and the face detection AF on the Fujifilm is quite fantastic when compared to the Panasonic GH5 but comparable to the Sony a6500.

You get some really impressive slow motion at 1080p at 100/120 fps, which is one of the reasons the X-T3 made the list along with its AF and APS-C sensor.

It can film 10-bit 4K at 50/60fps with a bit of an additional crop. This is a pretty great feature that the Panasonics and Sony a6500 doesn’t have, and the ability to have a camera that takes really good 4K slow motion is important.

The Fujifilm X-T3 combines a great AF, high resolution recording with slow motion capabilities, decent stabilization, and a powerful APS-C sensor for low light that pushes it above the Sony a6500 by a very, very small margin.

It is also $200 cheaper than the GH5, which means you can invest that $200 on a really nice external recorder or some other useful accessories.  

Cons: The footage you get out of the camera won’t be as easy to grade as some of the other mirrorless options. Fujifilm does use H.265 compression, which makes the files much larger, and harder to deal with when cutting together footage.

Not as stable as the GH5s, and can’t go as high as 240 fps.

Fujifilm X-T3 overview - Video courtesy Gerald Undone

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

Canon throws its hat into the mirrorless ring with the EOS R. Get ready to shell out some money for the new line of super expensive lenses. Great auto-focus. 

Canon EOS r mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $2,300
  • Mount: Canon RF
  • Weight: 1.45 lb / 660 g
  • Format Size: Full-Frame
  • Pixels: 31.7 (30.3) Megapixels
  • Resolution: 8256 x 5504
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30 fps | 1080p @ 100/120 fps

Pros: The Canon EOS R is the new mirrorless option from a company that lost tons of business to the Sony mirrorless and even Panasonic cameras, and the company is hoping to steal some back with this new full-frame mirrorless.

Canon is a great brand with a ton of lens options, and they’ve released 4 new lenses with the novel RF mount.

They made the smart decision of building some nice adapters that will allow your old Canon lenses to work just like they did with the 5D.

It also has Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi capabilities, which can be important for some, but as far as narrative filmmaking goes it isn’t the selling point.

You can also plug your USB charging cable directly into the camera rather than taking batteries out to charge.

There is also a really cool internal filter slot that allows you to control your polarization or filter position through the electronic settings.. 

It has a dual pixel AF, and records at a higher data rate than the Panasonic GH5s.

The Canon performs pretty well as far as overheating, especially considering this is with a full-frame sensor.

All-in-all the Canon team tried to put out a camera that would compete with other mirrorless options, and they’ve accomplished that.

Cons: The Canon EOS R films at 4K… well… kinda. It films 1.7x cropped 4K footage, which sort of defeats the purpose of a full-frame camera. Especially considering the price point comes in at around the same as the Panasonic GH3s.

It does NOT shoot above 24/30fps at 4K, so that means no slow motion video at 4K, which is a bummer. You can record at 1080p with the full-frame at 50/60fps, but if you want to go as high as 100/120fps you’ll need to go down to 720p.

It seems that Canon wants to keep their cine cameras (c100, c200, c300) as their true filmmaking options, and the EOS R as a stop-gap for 5D customers abandoning the brand for Sony and even Panasonic mirrorless cameras.

They also forgot to add internal stabilization, which is one of the main reasons people switched over to the Panasonic GH5 even though it’s micro four thirds.

Here are a few of the new lenses compatible with the Canon EOS R:

Mirrorless camera BUYING GUIDE

Sony's Alpha a6500 is so reasonably priced it is almost criminal. You can get some seriously cinematic footage for next to nothing. 

Sony alpha a6500 mirrorless camera specs

  • Price: $1,200
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount
  • Weight: 15.98 oz / 453 g
  • Format Size: APS-C
  • Pixels: 25. (24.2) Megapixels
  • Resolution: 6000 x 4000
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Video Formats: 4K @ 24/30fps | 1080p @ 24/30/50/60/100/120fps

Pros: The a6500 is the top APS-C format mirrorless Sony has to offer, and with the modest price tag peeking just over the $1000 mark, this camera is worth serious consideration.

This mirrorless camera can shoot in 4k, has the ability to shoot1080 at  100/120 fps for really nice slow-motion video. It has some superb picture profiles and additional settings inside the camera.

The body is more solid, and the construction of the lens mount and stabilization are superior to the lower end Sony models such as the a6000 ($500).

Some people love how small this mirrorless camera is when compared to some other, but going smaller isn’t always better.

This camera also has a really impressive Auto-Focus.

It isn’t as impressive in low light, which is a hallmark of many mirrorless cameras, but still much better than other models and manufacturers.

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Cons: The a6500 will always fall short when being compared to the a7 series.

It can overheat when being used a lot, and while Sony has made some improvements, this is still a big reason they don’t completely own the market. 

The a6500 has a rolling shutter problem which can produce wobbly footage.

Battery life isn’t great, especially when shooting 4K. You can fix this by having a few extra batteries on hand. This is where the Panasonic models actually have a decent edge (other than stabilization), but it's mostly due to sensor size.

Poor battery life isn’t limited to the Sony a6500, because mirrorless cameras are fully electronic, and their compact size means less space for batteries. 

There are some battery pack accessories, like the Vello BG-S5, that will allow you to double your shooting time.

Sony has an issue with lens selections for their mirrorless cameras, and this is partially due to their changing of mounts over the years. The a6500 actually has more lens options than the Sony a7 series, but it is still limited.

You can also effectively triple your lens compatibility with an adapter, but some of the electronic signals may get lost when the adapter is connected.

Research before you buy.

Cinematic Settings for Sony a6500 - Video courtesy Cody Blue

Here are a few of the compatible lenses with the Sony a6500:

2

Mirrorless BASICS

The ins and outs of mirrorless cameras

Let's get to the basics of mirrorless cameras.

Due to the lack of the single reflex mirror (SLR), a mirrorless camera does not provide the optical viewfinder found in a DSLR.

Mirrorless cameras have been mechanically simplified, which allows many models to be smaller and quieter than standard DSLRs, but the addition of electronic components and smaller body size means that these cameras rely heavily on battery power when compared to a DSLR.

The single lens reflex-mirror (SLR) was designed to be placed behind the camera lens so that light would project the field of view to an optical viewfinder, and required no electronic components to allow the photographer to see the image they intended to capture.

This design was created when cameras were purely mechanical, and served an elegant solution to protecting the chemical-laden film used before digital.

The absence of the single reflex mirror also allows for less vibration, and smoother operation when capturing both photographs and video.

There is also a shorter distance between the lens mount and sensor plane, which give a shorter focal flange distance. 

Best-Mirrorless-Camera-What-is-a-Mirrorless-Camera-DSLR-Camera-vs-Mirrorless-Camera

Flange distance example of DSLR vs. mirrorless cameras (photo courtesy of B&H)

This can create some confusion with regard to lens compatibility. Some lenses will not work with full-frame cameras because they do not have a large enough opening to fully feed the sensor with light.

These are known as Crop Frame Lenses.

There is a growing selection of mirrorless-dedicated lenses on the market, and some lenses initially intended for DSLRs and film cameras can still fit some mirrorless camera bodies

If you’re concerned that your old lenses won’t be compatible with the new mirrorless camera you want to buy, you can always find a mount adapter.

This can be an inexpensive alternative to buying a new lens or lens kit to accommodate a mirrorless camera body with a different mount attachment. Unfortunately, some adapters can obstruct the use of auto-focus and other electronic signals.

Lens compatibility has been an issue for camera bodies long before the introduction of the mirrorless camera, and the standard operating procedure of any filmmaker is to research which lenses will be compatible with your specific camera model.

We’ll help you sort out some of the more popular options and combinations, but it is important that you always do as much research as you can, because each filmmaker has their own unique set of gear they’ve accumulated over the years.

1. Mirrorless camera BASICS: SENSOR SIZE

Sensor

Mirrorless cameras are not one-size-fits-all, and CSC (compact camera systems) that have been around for years like the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II fall into the category of “mirrorless cameras” because they do not have a mirror.

Canon Powershot Ad with Maria Sharapova (Make Every Shot A Powershot)

The main difference between these easy to use point-and-shoot models and the mirrorless cameras we're discussing today, is that they are not ILCs (interchangeable lens cameras), and therefore have a built-in zoom lens that allows the user to capture a variety of images with relative ease, but drastically limits your capability as a filmmaker.

Here is an advertisement that illustrates an ILC...

And it totally holds up 28 years later.

Canon EOS Rebel Ad with Andre Agassi (Image Is Everything)

For the mirrorless options we’re going over today, they will commonly feature CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) sensors that have 3 sizes:

Full frame

A full-frame digital camera incorporates a sensor with the physical measurement that comes in at 36mm x 24mm. This means that the aspect ratio of a full-frame sensor comes out to 3:2.

Full-frame sensors are the largest of the mirrorless sensors, and you will have more control over your depth of field, capture better images in low light, and often gain finer detail and better dynamic range than the APS-C or M43 sensors.

APS-C (Advanced Photo System)

An APS-C sensor is a cropped sensor that is commonly around 1.5x smaller than a full-frame sensor. The physical measurement comes in at 22mm x 15mm, but the aspect ratio is an identical 3:2. This is because the “C” in APS-C refers to “classic”, as it is attempting to replicate the dimensions of a full-frame camera.

Best-Mirrorless-Camera-APS-C-Sensor-Size-Crop-Factor-on-Mirrorless-Camera

Sensor Size: Full-Frame vs. APS-C

While many enjoy the image quality provided by an APS-C sensor, the capability can be limited when compared to the full-frame sensor.

There is some nuance with regard to sensor size and picture quality, which we will unpack a little more in this article.

Micro Four Thirds (M43)

Micro Four Thirds sensors are even smaller than the APS-C, and as such they have their limitations as far as capturing video goes, but there are some really nice options available, and there is some lens versatility with M43 cameras.

Micro Four Thirds vs. Full-Frame - Video courtesy of 4k Shooters

As you could see from the video above, the micro four thirds camera produced some really great images straight out of the camera.

You may have a harder time when shooting in lower light with an M43 camera.

Sony a7ii (Full-frame) in Low Light - Video courtesy Philip Bloom  

Don’t let sensor size bully your opinion of mirrorless cameras.

Best-Sony-Mirrorless-Cameras-Sensor-Size-Comparison-Full-Frame-Sensor-vs-Crop-Factor

Sensor Size Chart - Photo courtesy of B&H

2. Mirrorless camera BASICS: Image resolution

Image Resolution

Image resolution is the term used to describe the amount of pixels in an image. Resolution is often expressed by the width and height of the image paired with the total number of pixels in said image.

A megapixel is a measurement unit for images that is roughly equivalent to one million. When your image contains a higher amount of pixels, the image becomes denser, has a higher resolution, and can therefore achieve a higher level of quality and clarity.

Megapixel rating for a video camera should NOT be the determining factor when choosing your camera, but more resolution in your images can be nice.

This is an area where sensor size plays into things in a very interesting way.

If you compare an image from a full-frame sensor with 8 megapixel rating, against an image from an APS-C sensor with a 10 megapixel rating, the image from the full-frame sensor will often be superior.

This because how the camera allocates the digital light information is just as important as the amount of information captured.

A large sensor with a fewer number of large-sized pixels will capture more light, which in turn allows more information to be seen by the camera sensor, and can produce a more desirable video recording.

You can also get images in low light that other sensors struggle with.

Many early sensor iterations attempted to stuff twice the amount of pixels into the same sensor size, and the result was smaller pixels that let in less light.

This isn’t to say megapixels are a throw away statistic when comparing cameras, but often times video and still images require a different approach.

3. Mirrorless camera BASICS: Video format

Frame Rates

Your frame rate is the amount of frames your camera captures in each second, and as such is expressed by “frames per second” or FPS.

For cinema, the standard frame rate is 24fps (23.976fps), which means your shutter speed should be set at 1/50.

This means the sensor is exposed for 1/50th of a second. 

For television, the standard frame rate is 30fps (29.97fps), which means your shutter speed should be set at 1/60.

This means the sensor is exposed for 1/60th of a second.

You can increase your frame rate (x2, x4, etc…), which will allow your camera to capture enough frames per second to later be slowed down.

This is how you are able to achieve smooth and detailed slow motion video.

4. Mirrorless camera BASICS: Dynamic range

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is the difference between the maximum and minimum value of anything. This can be with photography, music, or anything that has a continuum of values.

With a camera, the dynamic range refers to the change in value between the darkest and brightest points of an image, also known as shadows and highlights.

So consider this...

Format size, image resolution, bit depth, lens compatibility, battery life, video formats, LCD quality, and camera price all play an important role when comparing mirrorless cameras.

Keep in mind that this list is specifically intended for film and video creators, not still photographers, and how these cameras capture moving images is more important than how they capture still images.

Note: A time lapse video is normally achieved by stringing thousands of still photographs together to get a perfectly stable and detailed video in post-production. If you are looking for a camera to do time lapse videos, the megapixel count will have a bigger effect.

This time lapse video was constructed thousands of still photographs, and you can see the amazing results of stabilization and image quality below.

Nightvision (time lapse - Video courtesy Luke Shepard

The article is also a buy/rent guide, and not a product review page. The intention of this list is to create a guide for those who are looking into mirrorless cameras to use on their next project, not which cameras have performed best in the past.

Every camera on this list is a truly wonderful piece of technology, and the hard working professional who developed these dream machines deserve our sincerest respect.

Get started on your next project with a mirrorless camera.

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More Resources

More resources after learning about mirrorless cameras

Go beyond mirrorless cameras: More Resources

You just did some serious research into some exciting new tools for filmmaking.

Were you inspired by the article to start your next film?

The filmmaking community is just that; a community. We want to see each other succeed, and share those achievements and experiences with other creators.

We want to see you create.

As a next step, we've put together additional resources to help you succeed as a filmmaker. Take a deep diver into the following resources:

This article will break down the key components of depth of field to help you gain more precision over your images. Learn everything about shallow depth of field, deep depth of field, and a lot more.

The filmmakers toolkit should consist of more than just a handful of shots since every scene may call for something a bit different. So how do you take your visual storytelling to the next level? Our guide will walk you through every camera angle and shot to master.

Being a talented and working cinematographer requires more than just technical lighting knowledge. Our latest guide will break down the top cinematography techniques that you need to know to get to the next level.

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