Don't tell anyone we told you this, but cheap mirrorless cameras still take amazing pictures. In fact, many bargain-savvy photographers will tell you to look at models a few years old when shopping for a new camera, as the longer a model has been on the market, the cheaper it's likely to be, and it'll still take great pictures and shoot terrific video!
Just because a camera has been superseded by a newer model, that doesn't mean it's suddenly useless. Many manufacturers will keep their older models in circulation for years after new ones come along as they still represent a great bargain for the thrifty photographer, and there's also a booming second-hand market for older cameras.
The cheapest mirrorless cameras may offer the kind of features you wouldn't expect from something at their price point, and we've gathered a selection of our favourites. We've made an effort to include models that come bundled with lenses, so that you'll have everything you need to get shooting from the moment you open the box, but make sure you pay attention to exactly what a specific retailer is offering before you click "Buy". Different dealers will likely have different options on offer.
So here’s our list of the 10 cheapest mirrorless cameras you can buy right now, and what we think of them, starting with the cheapest and working up. We rate every single model on this list, and any of them would make a great buy for a photographer looking for a bargain (though we go into more detail about which kind of user we think each one is for once we get to the entries).
Prices do fluctuate, and they do vary in different territories, so while we've tried to put the cheapest cameras at the top, things may change...
The EOS M100 is designed for beginners and smartphone upgraders, with super-simplified controls that don’t even include a mode dial. This puts it at odds with every other mirrorless camera, and makes it a poor choice for anyone who wants to develop their skills with manual controls and settings. It does have a very good 24-megapixel sensor, however, and you do get a tilting touch-screen display. Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system is very effective, and the 15-45mm kit lens usually sold with this camera has a retracting mechanism to make it more compact for stowing away in a bag or a jacket pocket. The EOS M100 has been superseded by the EOS M200 further down our list, which helps because it makes it even cheaper to buy!
Read more: Canon EOS M100 hands on review
The Fujifilm X-A5 has just been superseded by the X-A7 – though the new camera is a lot more expensive, and already the X-A5 is being heavily discounted. This camera has beautiful retro styling and usually comes with Fujifilm’s new, compact 15-45mm power zoom lens. It’s more compact than Fujifilm's older 16-50mm kit lens and offers a slightly wider angle of view, too. The X-A5 does not have a viewfinder, but that’s a reflection of its price, and although it shoots 4K video, it’s only at a frame rate of 15fps, which doesn’t really count. If you want a cheap camera with a real splash of style, though, the X-A5 is still brilliant.
Read more: Fujifilm X-A5 review
The Sony A5100 was launched way back in 2014, and was a beginner-orientated model even then, with no viewfinder and a 180-degree ‘selfie’ screen. But these have come back into fashion with vloggers, and while the A5100 doesn’t shoot 4K video, it can film in full HD, which is fine for most users. And, old as it is, the A5100 nevertheless has a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, so it can match current cameras for resolution. This camera usually comes with Sony’s 16-50mm ‘pancake’ power zoom lens. The optical quality isn’t the best we’ve seen, but this is a very small lens, as is the camera itself, so if you’re looking for a pocket-sized camera, this could be ideal.
The GX80 uses a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor which sounds a bit weedy compared to the beefier 24MP APS-C sensors used by rivals, but what you lose in sensor size and megapixels, you gain in other areas – notably the built in electronic viewfinder, in-body image stabilisation, 4K video and Panasonic’s ‘4K Photo’ mode, where you can capture 8-megapixel images at 30fps, or shoot first and focus later, using the ‘Post Focus’ mode. We especially like the retracting 12-32mm kit lens usually sold with this camera. Its slim profile makes the camera very pocketable when it’s not in use, and while the effective focal range of 24-64mm isn’t as long as some, it’s an ideal lens for travel and street photography. Given the features you get with this camera, current prices are just plain silly. It's another cheap mirrorless camera that's actually rather good.
The Sony A6000 was not launched as a cheap mirrorless camera, but as a top of the range APS-C model for serious photographers. Sony’s policy right now is to keep older models on sale, however, at prices that just get cheaper and cheaper and cheaper… The fact is that for stills photography, the A6000 range has not moved on that far, making the original A6000 a real steal. The A6300, A6500, A6400, A6100 and A6600 have better autofocus, better video and (probably) better high ISO image processing, but the fundamental camera has changed little (there, we’ve said it). Unfortunately, getting the A6000 means getting the not-very-good Sony 16-50mm PZ lens too, but you can’t have everything.
Read more: Sony A6000 review
The G7 was launched in 2015, so it’s a few years old now, and that shows in its styling and its specs. It’s the ideal choice for mirrorless camera buyers who prefer the heft and grippability of a DSLR style body, and it comes with a viewfinder, which is terrific in a mirrorless camera at this price. Bad points? The G7 was launched before Panasonic started including in-body stabilisation in its cameras, so you’re reliant on any optical stabilisation in the lenses. It also has a relatively old 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, which knocks back the image quality ever so slightly compared to its APS-C sensor rivals. Prices vary a lot, so keep your eyes peeled – we have seen some crazy twin-lens deals on this camera.
Olympus is another maker that keeps older models on sale alongside newer ones, and given that the latest E-M10 Mark III is holding its price depressingly well, the older Mark II model shown here continues to be a cheaper mirrorless camera alternative. The sensor resolution is the same – both cameras use a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor – and the camera design and handling is almost the same too. The key differences are that the Mark III has 4K video (the Mark II is Full HD) and a more advanced autofocus system (more AF points) plus a couple of new Art Filters, but is that enough to justify the price difference? We’re not so sure. This camera is cheapest with the older 14-42mm retracting kit lens, but ideally get it with the smaller 14-42mm 'EZ' lens if you can.
The EOS M200 is essentially an evolution of the EOS M100, which we’ve already admitted we don’t like very much, but it is still a brand new mirrorless camera that’s amongst the ten cheapest mirrorless cameras you can buy. The key new features (compared to the EOS M100) are 4K video and improved autofocus, now with Eye AF. The standard kit lens is the 15-45mm retracting zoom, which is a good match for this camera and compact too. The EOS M200 might not appeal to enthusiasts, but its stripped back, super-simple approach could be just the ticket for smartphone upgraders who just want better pictures.
Read more: Canon EOS M200 review
Olympus specifically targeted "step-up" users with its Pen E-PL9, referring to users looking to make their first jump from a smartphone to a "proper" camera. Accordingly, it's incredibly easy to use, with intuitive controls and helpful guide modes to get the novice users familiar with the camera. It doesn't hurt that it looks pretty snazzy as well, and is light enough to slip into a small bag or even a large jacket pocket. There's no viewfinder, but the screen does tilt up and down and even flip around for selfie-shooting and vlogging, and it comes in a useful kit with Olympus's 14-42mm pancake lens. Images from the Pen E-PL9 look great immediately after you hit the button, making it easy and tempting to share them straight away with the built-in Wi-Fi.
Fujifilm’s entry-level cameras like the X-A5 and X-A7 are a big hit with the Instagram/influencer audience and its high-end models like the X-T3, X-T30 and (soon) X-Pro3 are legendary among experts. In between, almost forgotten, is the X-T100, and it’s just not fair. The X-T100 is an excellent 24-megapixel DSLR-style mirrorless camera, usually sold with Fujifilm’s rather good XC 15-45mm lens, which is simple, neat and elegant and produces excellent images. Its 4K video ‘feature’ is a bit of a swizz, since it only captures at 15fps, but for stills photography (or full HD movies) the X-T100 is just brilliant. This is what old-school 35mm film SLRs used to feel like. The new X-T200 is a much better replacement, but as a cheap mirrorless camera to get started with, the older X-T100 is just great.
Read more: Fujifilm X-T100 review