The Best Mirrorless Cameras Used by the Pros

The Best Mirrorless Cameras Used by the Pros

In 2010, we asked professional photographers which point and shoot cameras they were using. We followed that up a year and a half later to see how their selections had changed. Since that time, we’ve seen an incredible shift in the types of cameras that are available with the introduction of mirrorless cameras and significantly improved smartphone cameras. So rather than restrict this year’s version to what we traditionally think of as point and shoot cameras (do they even exist?), we let the pros chime in with any type of non-DSLR that they use.

What’s changed?

  • Canon G-series cameras dominated the landscape 5 years ago, but have nearly disappeared from the pro’s arsenal
  • The rise of Sony, Fuji and Olympus in the mirrorless categories has challenged Nikon and Canon, which gives photographers many exciting choices
  • Smartphones like the iPhone and the Nokia 1020 have image quality that rival DSLRs from a few years ago
  • Photographers want smaller and lighter cameras unless the job requires a DSLR.

In no particular order…

Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 (I, II, III)

Katrin Eismann, Photographer/Educator, School of Visual Arts

What feature do you like the most?
Ability to shoot RAW files very quickly, the image quality, and the size for quality performance – I carry it with me ALL the time (and that is coming from a dedicated/compulsive iPhone shooter). When I need image quality the size and performance of the Sony are very hard to beat.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
Improved battery performance and better grip – presently I use the add-on grip by Richard Franiec. Also, better control over the in-camera panoramic feature, which I do use but much prefer how Autostich (iPhone app) guides you through shooting for much more successful panos. The in-camera pano feature is good but it should be great!

Photo by Katrin Eismann

Photo by Katrin Eismann

Tony Gale, Freelance Photographer

What feature do you like the most?
Large sensor, shoots RAW, allows full manual control of both exposure and focus, good high iso, sweep panorama is pretty fun

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
More video options, faster lens (which the new version does have)

Photo by Tony Gale

Photo by Tony Gale

Sony A7R/A7S

Brian Smith, Freelance Photographer (disclosure: Brian is a Sony Artisan of Imagery)

What feature do you like the most?
Shoots Fullframe RAW and has great glass.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
I’m good for now, but certain they’ll do something to pleasantly surprise me…

Photo by Brian Smith

Photo by Brian Smith

 

Sony RX-1/RX-1R

Matt Eich, Freelance Photographer

What feature do you like the most?
In 2009 I began using a Contax T2 for some family images and street photography when I was traveling. It was liberating not having to look through the viewfinder and to try and become more fluid and democratic in the way that I photographed. The tradeoff is not always knowing what you’re going to get, so I never really used this tool for assignment work. Five years later, the T2 is mostly gathering dust because it’s too costly to shoot film unless I’ve got a really good reason. When I picked up the Sony RX1 it was because I wanted a digital equivalent of the T2, and this camera has pretty snappy autofocus, it is silent and takes out the cost of the film and processing. It also handles itself pretty well in limited light. I’ve found myself using it for family, street and even assignment work.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
I’d like it if the focus was a little better or if there was an even quicker way to take over focus with manual control in a situation where the camera is missing the intended focal point (i.e. when shooting through glass).

Photo by Matt Eich

Photo by Matt Eich

Eric Larson, Freelance Photographer

What feature do you like the most?
It’s currently my favorite camera and I don’t hesitate picking it up for 75% of the things we shoot before, say, a 5D3+35 f/1.4. Compared to a phone, the EVF really allows me to shoot the way I’m more comfortable shooting….behind a camera. It’s small size and silent leaf shutter keep me from drawing too much attention away from whatever it is I’m shooting, whether it’s a wedding ceremony or a corporate function.

The real selling point to me was the flash sync made possible by the leaf shutter and lack of a mirror. We bought the camera before a shoot with professional golfer Suzann Pettersen. The publication wanted a dynamic image of her crushing a drive just after impact. We could only get her around noon. It had to be lit. This presents numerous challenges with a DSLR that is limited to 1/200 or 1/250 of a second. In order for you to use the RX1/r with lights, you need to ditch the hot-shoe mounted EVF and replace it with a transmitter or strobe since there is no dedicated sync out on the camera. Pocket Wizards seem to max out at 1/1000 every time, but the image I attached was shot at 1/2500 @ f/4 with two Profoto B4 packs on slave.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
If the next one has a dedicated PC out, WiFi / NFC, and maybe a bit better low light AF performance, I’ll be pretty stoked. If not….I can make this one work.

Photo by Eric Larson

Photo by Eric Larson

Nikon 1 J1

Preston Mack, Freelance Photographer

What feature do you like the most?
I like it because it is small and still has pretty good quality. I usually use it with the 10 mm (27 mm equivilent) lens as a grab camera. I think that I will start utilizing the video for b roll more in the future. I use this camera for travel and for theme park photos with the kids. I think it is a good balance between quality and size. I have no desire to take a DSLR to the theme park!

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
I think better, easier integration with social media is a must. I use the eye fi card, but it isn’t as reliable as I would like.

Photo by Preston Mack

Photo by Preston Mack

 

Nikon 1 V1

Robert Hanashiro, Photographer, USA Today

What features do you like the most?
The size is what appealed to me initially. But after buying the kit with 2 lenses I discovered that the auto-focus was incredibly fast and very accurate, especially in video capture mode. So for video assignments I use the Nikon V1 for a lot of “run & gun” shoots, it is a great “b roll camera”. It has an external mic jack, so if needed I can use any wired or wireless microphone.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
I’d like to see Nikon develop a couple of more fast prime lenses, especially a wide angle (in the 18-20mm range). I’d also like to see Nikon incorporate their speedlight system into the 1 V system. Maybe give the internal flash TTL master capability. And a headphone jack would be a great addition which would make it the ultimate run & gun video rig! (I know these are more professional features, but one can dream!)

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today

Canon Powershot S110

Gary Bogdon, Freelance Photographer

What features do you like the most?
Wifi-enabled. As a pro shooter and for fun, I need to be able to use them on instagram ( for  myself and several of my clients, including Sports Illustrated) and other social media- this is possible with this little camera and I love the compact size of it as well. It also shoots fantastic full 1080 p Full HD Video and has a nice 24mm wide zoom lens. The touch screen ( since we are so used to them with iPhone and other smart phones ) is a nice feature as well. Overall just a great little camera, that packs a lot of punch for a small point and shoot and shoots great in low light

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
A wider lens ( maybe a 20mm ) would be nice

Photo by Gary Bogdon

Photo by Gary Bogdon

Olympus E-P1

Whitney Lawson, Freelance Photographer

What features do you like the most?
I like the “art filters” – the one I like best is called “pinhole”.  I use it mostly for personal stuff of friends and family, or just as a little way to take notes before I shoot for real.  Eeeeverrrry now and then, I end up liking the Olympus version rather than the one taken by my Canon (5d mk iii).

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
I know that they have changed these art filters in the latest versions, so I’ll probably stick to the EP-1 rather than get the new generation.

Photo by Whitney Lawson

Photo by Whitney Lawson

 

Olympus OM-D E-M5

Alessandro Rampazzo, Freelance Photographer

What features do you like the most?
I was looking mainly for a camera I could carry everywhere without being noticed too much. The old style of the OM-D E-M5 Oly was perfect. I was also considering the Fuji X-Pro1 because of the image quality, but when I tried the Olympus autofocus I completely convinced myself in choosing the E-M5. For me the autofocus system is one of the best features in the E-M5 (also implemented with the 2.0 firmware release). Using the camera for producing reportages I found it really good in quality, especially if used with prime lenses (I work mainly with a 25mm 1.8 and a 17mm 1.8).

I do not say that the image quality is like the [Canon] 5dmkII but in reality I don’t really care to much about extreme quality but rather to the picture itself.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
The thing I’d really like to see improved is the wake up time, for me is very annoying not getting the picture because the camera takes up to 2 sec to be fully ready and focused on the subject, this time lost is the biggest problem for my job. You can say I can leave the camera on all the time, but in this way the battery will be drained really soon and I would need to carry at least 4 or 5 of them for a day of work and maybe just few pictures.

Photo by Alessandro Rampazzo

Photo by Alessandro Rampazzo

Nikon Coolpix A

Timothy Fadek, Freelance Photographer

What features do you like the most?
It’s small, has a DX size sensor, it’s rugged. I like the removable viewfinder, the ability to manually set the focus, aperture, exposure time. When all settings are fully manual, the thing I like best is that there is no shutter delay. High ISOs are not noisy up to 1600. Higher than that it gets noisy but can be easily controlled in Lightroom.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
Next model should include at least the following improvements: when turning the camera off then on again, the manual focus distance returns to infinity, which is the current default distance. I’d prefer to have the camera stay at the focal distance as set.

Photo by Timothy Fadek

Photo by Timothy Fadek

Panasonic LX-7

David Burnett, Photographer, Contact Press Images

What features do you like the most?
It will shoot a LOT of pictures quickly when you keep the shutter button pressed. With most P/S cameras I find you have to start shooting before the moment is terribly ‘decisive,’ and let the action run into the sequence. When something is happening quickly, that is the only way to do it, really. Usually frame 5 or 6 is “the one.” Quality is astonishing. I have made 20x30s of some photos made at ISO 200, and they are quite wonderful. Bruce [Dale] was right! The buttons on the back make a lot of sense, and you don’t normally have to spend too much time trying to wade thru a lot of menus. f-stop is ON the lens (excellent.) I have not yet figured out how to use the flash, but that isn’t a terrible thing (but it shouldn’t be so damn complicated.) I love the size (shirt pocket). The focus selector (M/Macro/Auto) also on side of lens and NOT a menu button – a good thing. Very fast to change it. I love the built in monochrome look.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
The speed of chimping is a bit annoying. You hit the “play” button and you get “Please Wait” with a sand timer counting off all that time that you wish you didn’t have to Wait. The tiny thumb wheel to do +/- exposures is hard to use. It should be easier and more responsive. I can’t think of a lot of things it needs, being a 24/1.4 after all, and VERY sharp wide open. Perhaps a lens out to 135 would be nice, but so far I have managed to live with it as it is, and it was a bargain. I suspect they are adding goodies for the LX8, and will be happy to see what those are.

Photo by David Burnett

Photo by David Burnett

Fuji X-T1

Aristide Economopoulos, Photographer, The Star Ledger

What features do you like the most?
With the Fuji’s I love the small size which is nice on my back but also it allows me to blend in more. The quality of the files are amazing and they give you the same options like a dslr but also at a fraction of the price.

The X-T1 is a lot faster than the X-Pro 1 in focusing and it is almost as fast as my canon DSLRs.

With them I find that I can still focus faster than when I had my Lecia M6 and now with focus peaking the Fujis are good to use manual focus also I was a big fan of shooting chrome film and a nice thing the fujis have is that they have different film stocks built into the camera so everything is done in camera. I loved shooting Velvia and I’m pretty much shooting most of my photos on the Velvia digital mode now

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
The next XT1 would be great with a full frame sensor and quicker focusing. That being said i think it is very good.

Photo by Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger

Photo by Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger

Fuji Instax Mini 90

Matt Slaby, Photographer, LUCEO

What features do you like the most?
The mini 90 really upped the creative game by including a double-exposure feature on the latest iteration of the business card-sized instant prints.  I’ve owned a few different cameras that take the same film and, ultimately, that’s why I bought this one.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
I’d love for the interface to be button driven rather than scrolling through awkward menus of icons to get to the features you want.

 

Photos by Matt Slaby

Photos by Matt Slaby

Leica M 240

Darren Carroll, Freelance Photographer

What features do you like the most?
Interchangeable lenses, compatible with just about every M-system lens ever made, including all of my 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s-vintage Summilux (f1.4) lenses (I have the 50, 75, and 35mm varieties, respectively), offering a low-light capability and a visual signature that most P&S cameras can’t touch.

Full-frame 35mm, 24-megapixel sensor with absolutely gorgeous tonal range. The files are bigger and better looking than those from my Canon 1DX’s. In fact, given the choice (i.e., when I don’t need super-telephotos, a high-speed flash sync or a high-speed motor drive), I’ll take the Leica over the 1DX every time.

A “real” viewfinder–I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I just cannot stand using or relying on an electronic viewfinder (I’ve had various iterations of the Canon G series and the Samsung TL 500 previously). With an EVF, I find it hard to take the camera or the process seriously, if that makes any sense. The M uses the tried-and-true rangefinder (completely manual) focusing system, which not only gives you a crisp, sharp focusing aid, but also allows you to focus in extremely low light. And what’s more, you never have the camera to blame if you’re out.

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
A truly silent shutter option, similar to the mode on the Canon 1DX where once the shutter button is pressed, the exposure is made but the camera doesn’t advance until you release it. Don’t get me wrong, this camera is quiet–but it’s not shooting-a-golfer-at-the-top-of-the-backswing quiet.

Photo by Darren Carroll

Photo by Darren Carroll

Blackberry Torch

Andrew Rowat, Freelance Photographer

What features do you like the most?

  • Always with me (allows me to shoot setups if need be)
  • Embedded GPS
  • Good macro (for business cards, notes, etc)
  • Other than that it is a terrible camera. Any current (or previous) iPhone or Android device has a WAY better camera in it

What feature do you want to see in the next version?
As for which particular point and shoot is on my list I have to admit that I haven’t done enough research to give you a great answer. I know people who have both Olympus and Fuji cameras that love them. But if I had my druthers it would just be an incredible camera in my phone; and for jobs I would have whatever ‘pro’ camera I needed for the requirements of the gig.

Photo by Andrew Rowat

Photo by Andrew Rowat

Smartphone

Donald R. Pettit, Astronaut, NASA

Donald uses a smartphone but because of government endorsement rules, he’s not allowed to say which one.

What features do you like the most?
I use a smartphone camera for two instances; to record the setup of my other camera or to capture unplanned discoveries when I did not anticipate having a camera.  I value a wide angle lens with the ability for macro-photography.

What feature do you want to see in the next verison?
For the next version I would like the auto focus to stay active (not lock after the first found target) so during the process of composing the shot, focus will quickly zero in on the subject.

Photo by Donald R. Pettit

Photo by Donald R. Pettit

Apple iPhone

Craig Mitchelldyer, Freelance Photographer

What feature do you like the most?
I like the convenience of it first of foremost, but I also like the image quality. The image burst is cool and something I use often when chasing the kids around too. The best feature it has is the panorama’s. I use that all the time. I mostly shoot photos of my kids and other random things. I never carry a camera on vacations or very rarely take photos of my kids with anything but my iPhone.

What feature do you want to see in the next verison?
A feature I would love is to have more control over exposure. There are many times that the camera can’t figure out the backlighting or shoots  ascend too bright or too dark. I’d love to have a little exposure compensation other than touching the brightest or darkest part of the frame to adjust the exposure. That would be my wish.

Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Brad Mangin, Freelance Photographer

What feature do you like the most?
One of my favorite things about the iPhone is it is always with me. I hate carrying things. I hate having keys in my pocket and I have not worn a watch for over 20 years. This means I never seemed to have a camera with me when I was not working, even the super tiny and cool Canon S95. I would see things that would make good pictures when I was out and about but never had a camera to use. Once I got my first iPhone that all changed. It’s funny how I had to get used to using the phone as a regular camera. In the beginning I would see something and think hey- that would make a cool image, too bad I don’t have my camera with me. Then I would remember that my phone is in my pocket and that is my new point and shoot camera!

The the thing I love about taking pictures with my iPhone is the sharing capabilities. I dove into Instagram pretty heavily right away and absolutely love sharing my iPhone pictures over the Instagram network, along with Twitter and Facebook. It is fun for me to show people where I am and what I am doing. I can publish to the entire world from my iPhone using one piece of equipment from anywhere! I love that!

What feature do you want to see in the next verison?
I am pretty happy with the camera in my iPhone 5S, but I guess I would like to see a newer model focus a little better. I never use my flash because it is pretty bad, so it would be nice if they could fix that and warm up the color temperature so it isn’t so blue.

mangin4

Photo by Brad Mangin

 

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There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Pingback: The Best Mirrorless Cameras Used by the ProsPhotoShelter Blog – The Click
  2. Jack at 2:13 am

    I’m a big fan of Micro 4:3 for mirrorless. Doesn’t have the bokeh or high ISO of full frame, but neither does APS-C.

    I’m currently using the Olympus E-P5 with a selection of primes. Small, lightweight, fast and reliable autofocus (faster and more reliable than Canon 5D Mark II) and excellent image quality up to ISO1600.

  3. Vince Wilcox at 10:23 am

    I’m surprised there wasn’t more Sony NEX’s. The NEX-5’s have all been amazing. The quality of exposure and glass are great. More buttons and a lesson in menu interfaces would be nice but you have some customizing but it’s surprisingly great in auto modes so maybe that’s why! They’re compact too, especially with a pancake lens and if you’re used to a D200 and D800 in your hands. Also you can’t beat the fact there’s adapters for every lens.

  4. Marlene Hielema at 5:46 pm

    Really? No Lumix cameras on your list? That’s surprising given that top end photographers such as Zach Arias are shooting Lumix. Zach is currently shooting with a Lumix GH4. Perhaps it’ time to widen your list of photographers you survey.

  5. Clint Hotaling at 1:11 am

    I’ve been very pleased with the Pentax K-01. It has an obscene sensitivity with low noise, is very fast on the draw and can take my old KM mount lenses. I mostly use my two up-to-date KAF-2 zoom lenses and my 40 mm pancake, but it’s nice to put on my old Sigma 70-300, Cosina 135, or my Tamron 24 when I need them.
    It’s reliable, recovers from small incidents well (I had an issue with dusty conditions, and my K-01 cleaned itself in a few power cycles.), and doesn’t suck battery.
    It’s performed well under conditions that would make my old K1000 balk. I look forward to the mirrorless version of the K-3.

  6. Mary at 12:49 am

    I’m surprised you don’t have the Olympus OM-D E-M1 but I guess there is only so many cameras that you can review. I upgrades this year from the M5 to the M1 and I’m thrilled with the results. Especially how quickly it focuses. Look forward to more posts on mirrorless cameras

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