A mirrorless camera can be crucial for getting great shots of the night sky and anything else you might want to snap. Despite being around for a while, mirrorless cameras are proving ever-popular with new and veteran photographers alike. Unlike SLR and DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras lack a mirror and a viewfinder prism. Instead, they rely upon a small screen in the viewfinder. The reduction in hardware means mirrorless cameras are lighter and more compact, making them easier to carry around.
A mirrorless camera offers sharper images with higher resolution, a wider dynamic range, as well as other features that surpass the abilities of DSLR cameras. However, not all mirrorless cameras are the same and as such, you’ll see a wide range in price too – from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand. Furthermore, you will have to choose between Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, and full-frame sensors. A different amount of compatible lenses are available for each camera, so picking out the best mirrorless camera for you may be more challenging than you expect. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide.
For astrophotography, the best mirrorless cameras aren’t your only option. You’ll want to check out the best cameras for astrophotography for other great camera options and you’ll also want to check out the best lenses for astrophotography guide to complete your setup. While these cameras won’t provide the type of view of the night sky you’d get from a telescope, they’re worth checking out and may be more suitable depending on your needs. Without further ado, read below for our round-up of the best mirrorless cameras on the market.
Best for professional level hybrid-shooters
Advanced and professional users who require excellent image quality for both stills and video will find the Canon EOS R5 well suited. The R5 captures 45MP stills that can easily be cropped and video footage that shoots uncropped 8K RAW at 30fps. Its performance in low light is solid thanks to the -6EV autofocusing detection range. This camera can practically see in the dark. There’s low image noise across the ISO sensitivity range thanks to the custom-designed DIGIC X image processor.
The R5 also comes with better dynamic range thanks to the improved Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) and Highlight Tone Priority + technology. This makes it easier for those newer to image processing to get clearer contrasted images of dark subjects. Also, due to the wider diameter and closer flange range of the RF mount in the EOS R5, it can take advantage of improved optical designs with sharper results and smaller form factor lenses which make it more portable.
The R5 can use its 5-axis stabilization up to a whopping eight stops, even on lenses without image stabilization because of the in-body image stabilization (IBIS) technology. This IBIS technology works well when shooting video although it doesn’t quite perform as well as expected when capturing 8k RAW footage.
Best for astrophotographers
The Canon EOS R6 is essentially the R5’s little brother so there is naturally a drop in both image quality and price. However, despite a lower image resolution (20.1MP compared to the R5’s 45MP) and less detailed electronic viewfinder, it performs better when being used for astrophotography.
It can autofocus down to -6.5EV which is 0.5EV lower than the R5. Having a maximum ISO sensitivity twice as high as the R5, it is more suited to shooting videos of the aurora and other night sky subjects. It’s also smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the R5 and the lower photosite count (pixels) means it should be less prone to image noise.
Best for general shooting
The key to the A7III’s uniqueness lies in its Exmor R image processor which is back-illuminated for improved light collecting ability. This, plus Detail Reproduction and Area-specific Noise Reduction technologies help to maintain clear, noise-free shots even at high ISO values — ideal for astro where ISOs are inherently cranked up high.
It has a 15-stop dynamic range so bright highlights and deep shadows can be rendered equally capably across the frame. A maximum ISO of 51200 (or 204800 for stills) and the integrated Hybrid-Log Gamma picture profile make the camera ideal for night sky shooting for HDR video processing.
Best for intermediate shooters
Though an APS-C camera, the X-T4 hits hard with its specs such as uncropped 4K video at 30fps, 26.1MP stills capture, and a nicely detailed electronic viewfinder for easier composition. It’s also lightweight and extremely affordable, considering the specs which makes this the ideal camera for those that want lots of features in a small form factor but without the hefty price tag.
The impressive -7EV autofocus range means this camera is top quality when autofocusing in the dark, although as with all camera AF range specs, the performance does depend on the lens attached (in this case the XF50mm f/1.0).
Best small-sized camera
A Micro Four Thirds image sensor means there’s less surface area to capture light. Despite this, Olympus has managed to pack a lot in to this little camera that fits in your pocket.
20.4MP stills compete with full-frame mirrorless cameras in terms of image resolution and it can even shoot 4K UHD 30p video. Though the ISO range (200-6400) is more limited than other cameras in this roundup although usually, most astro shooters will want to keep ISO as low as possible to avoid image noise which makes 6400 (or 25600 expanded) is more than ample. The vari-angle touch screen makes it easy to compose shots aimed straight up at the sky, and weatherproofing means it’ll keep shooting rain or shine.
Best for a detailed EVF view
If you were looking to buy the camera to rule them all (and have plenty of spare cash), this might be for you. A massive 50.1MP stills resolution matched by 8K 30p video, a class-leading electronic viewfinder and in-body image stabilization of 5.5 stops means you’ll effortlessly capture every star in the sky.
15 stops of dynamic range mean those pinpoints of bright, starry light are captured just as easily as the darkest patches of clear skies. The expandable ISO range up to 102400 allows for some stunning astrophotographs. It has incredible specs and is ideal for astro work, but the cost will price most people out.
Best for high resolution imaging
If it’s unparalleled detail you want to capture, then pay attention to this record-breaking Sony mirrorless camera. The image sensor in the A7R IV is capable of capturing huge 61MP stills images which at the time of writing is the highest resolution stills in a full-frame camera. Strangely, this doesn’t transfer to video with it limited to 4K UHD 30p maximum footage capture, but that’s still good enough for most shooters.
Sadly the ISO range tops out at 32000, or 102400 expanded, which makes other options from this list more appealing, especially when considering image noise and dynamic range. That said, if you have the funds, you won’t get a bigger or more detailed image of the galaxies than with the A7R IV.
Best mid-price all-rounder
The Nikon Z7 II turned things up a notch from the Z7 with better image processing and more advanced compatibility. Released in 2020, it provides fantastically sharp 45MP stills and high-quality, smooth 4K UHD 60p video.
Shooting for longer periods is possible thanks to the more efficient energy consumption. Its sturdy magnesium alloy body and full weather sealing mean it can be exposed to all kinds of weather without worry. Paired with the razor-sharp Z series lenses it’s priced mainly at serious and professional shooters.
Best entry-level full frame option
Full-frame cameras are notoriously expensive and often perceived as the reserve of advanced and professional photographers. This is why beginners and those still learning the ropes of photography tend to opt for APS-C crop sensors. However, the Nikon Z5 is probably the world’s most accessible full-frame mirrorless camera due to its affordability.
This does come with the caveat that the Z5’s features aren’t class-leading. Cropped 4K video is a little dated now for full-frame cameras. The viewfinder matches the resolution of the Z7 II but is out-performed by many competitors. Although the stills top out at 24.3MP this isn’t a show stopper as for low light shooting and astrophotography, lower resolution full-frame sensors tend to produce less unwanted image noise.
Best budget option for stills and video
While other cameras with similar specs only have tilting rear screens, the Lumix S5 has a vari-angle touch screen which favors newcomers to photography and vloggers equally as this helps with composition at awkward angles. It has a huge expandable ISO sensitivity range up to 204800 and due to the full-frame 35mm image sensor, image noise is kept extremely low.
Because it is so little, some lenses can feel a little too large and unbalanced in the hand, but this isn’t a problem when using a tripod. It has one SD UHS-II card slot and one SD UHS-I slot, which can be frustrating for professional users.
Best budget astro camera
The Z6 is one of two of Nikon’s earliest attempts at mirrorless cameras and boy did they get it right. It’s the lower resolution version of its bigger-bodied sibling (the Nikon Z7 (opens in new tab)) but reaps the rewards in terms of image noise, especially when shooting at its high ISO sensitivities during astrophotography.
Though cropped, the 4K UHD 30p video was impressive at its release date and is still not to be sniffed at today. It gives fine detail, has a fast refresh rate and the autofocus is sharp and fast.
If you’re serious about astrophotography, landscapes, or even portraits, then the Z6 is the ideal mirrorless. What it lacks in sensor size and burst shooting, it certainly makes up for in image stabilization, ISO capabilities, and pure handling feel.
Despite this top 11 list of mirrorless cameras highlighting a choice of options to suit different needs, there are still a few additional aspects to consider before making your final decision on which camera to go for. Decide whether stills photography will be the primary use or if movie-making is more important as some models favor one discipline over the other. If the answer is that both will be used equally, look to get a model that produces high-resolution stills and movie footage, preferably uncropped video too for maximum flexibility.
A hugely important consideration when buying a mirrorless system is how many compatible lenses are available so you’re not restricted when you further your photography and want versatility in your kit bag. A good range of wide-angles, zooms, primes, telephotos, macros, and other specialist lenses provide maximize the potential and keep the interest of those who like to experiment in lots of disciplines. For example, users that like to shoot wildlife, but also landscapes, astrophotography, sports, portraits, and macro subjects might want to consider a mirrorless camera with a wider selection of lenses available to complement it.
The most decisive factor in buying the best mirrorless cameras for most people is undoubtedly price. If you look at an older model, you will typically get a lower price but you will miss out on newer technology, like improved image stabilization and more detailed viewfinders. Newer models aimed at professionals will have features that outshine ones for beginner and intermediate photographers – but will also cost much more. It is important to weigh up your budget and what features you will need for your style of photography and the subjects you will be shooting in the long run.