For many, Sony mirrorless cameras are becoming an attractive shooting option. Whether you’re coming from film or another digital system, Sony has started to set the bar in almost every class of camera from compact to full frame. As a Canon shooter myself, the ergonomics and Sony menus are about the only complaint to be seriously aware of. The truth is that Sony’s color science and raw camera power has simply come to eclipse that of their competitors. Their cameras shoot faster, have more detail, and are cheaper than Canon’s comparable offerings.
Sony’s cameras may lack optical viewfinders (this is by definition a “mirrorless” camera), but they make up for it in myriad ways. Eliminating this mechanical aspect from a DSLR is what allows for small cameras to have such capabilities.
Here are the top five Sony mirrorless cameras in order of highest price to lowest.
1. A7R II – The World Class Winner
The A7RII may just be the best camera in the world right now. According to DXOMark, a website praised for its objectivity and science behind evaluating camera sensors, the A7RII has the best overall score of any camera under $42,500. Let’s break that down a bit.
The A7RII excels in the three categories DXOmark reviews: portrait, sports, and landscape. These three categories rate color depth, high ISO, and dynamic range respectively. The A7RII has among the best color depth and dynamic range (14 stops!) of any prosumer camera. On top of this, it has amazing high ISO capability, actually rating higher than the A7SII for stills on DXOMark. (See explanation below.) These three traits combined make it an unreal, all-around contender. In fact, for low light, it’s quite difficult to beat, besides the second camera on our list, the A7SII.
Drilling down into this particular camera’s features, the A7RII has excellent autofocus, a small body, and an almost ridiculous 42 megapixels. It shoots uncompressed raw images and peaks out speed-wise at an acceptable five frames per second. It shoots 4K. What more could you need? Well, some minor gripes include the lack of a touch screen, the lack of weather sealing, and a relatively short battery life. Some users also find the ergonomics to be annoying. These are easily solved problems, though. For instance, one can buy a battery grip or a cage to make the camera easier to hold.
One other big thing to consider with this camera, it’s basically a Lamborghini. Sure, it is “the best,” but do you really need it? The difference between this camera and the bottom of this list is a difference of 50% in megapixels, but almost every other measure has a significantly smaller differential. If one is putting their photos on any social media site, for instance, the difference between 42.4 megapixels and 24 is actually zero. The resolution of an Instagram photo is a little over one megapixel (1080 x 1080). If you need a Lamborghini, this camera will please you from day one. If you don’t need a Lambo, read on. Sony likely has the camera for you at a much lower price.
Why The A7RII Rates Higher Than The A7S II For Sports On DXOMark
DXOMark only rates cameras by image sensors, but users (dpReview forum post) consistently attest that one can shoot at much higher ISOs on the a7sII than on the a7rII so what gives? DXOmark essentially rates cameras up to the highest threshold they deem acceptable. The difference here is between what they rate at the highest usable ISO for each camera (a7rII – 3434, a7sII – 2993), and what other people think is acceptable. Image-resource.com says that “ISO 102,400 prints are normally unfeasible, but the A7S II bucks the trend with a totally usable 4 x 6 inch print!” One can see how noisy the a7rii gets at high ISOs in these images without its internal (and unsharpening) noise reduction. Here’s how the a7sII fairs at high ISOs. It’s a slight advantage, and this is definitely a corner case, but if one is looking to take pictures at night (and wants the best video capability in the game), see list item number two for the slightly better choice.
Price: $2698 (10 percent off MSRP)
- Widely considered to be the best prosumer camera
- 42.4 megapixels and 4K video mean it has among the most detailed images possible
- Hybrid AF with extremely quick autofocus capability
- Shoots up to 102,400 ISO
- Fantastic dynamic range and color depth
- A camera that leads many to switch from film to digital
- Ergonomics and user interface lead much to be desired
- Some users find AF performance to be middling
- No touch screen
- Not weather sealed.
- Battery life is on the short side
2. A7S II – For The Night Hawk
The A7SII is a better video camera than it is a stills camera, but it’s still the champ of low light shooting in either regard. For video, the A7SII is widely praised for its relatively small file sizes (4K at 100 mbps) and insane ISO range (clean at 25,600 ISO by many peoples’ standards).
As a stills camera, it’s outstanding for low light, easily touching 10,000 ISO for clean stills, but there are some trade offs, namely the twelve megapixels. Are you willing to invest almost $3,000 in a camera that shoots as many megapixels as an iPhone 7? It’s not the most deal-breaking drawback in the world; twelve megapixels is more than enough for must uses, but it’s something to be aware of. For photographers, the a7sII is very limiting.
That said, this is the camera to get if one wants a top of the line video camera with only some minor, annoying quirks (short battery life, annoying menus). S-Log 3, it’s built-in video codec, permits for great dynamic range. One can read more about the A7S II vs its primary competitor, the GH5 here. In short, this is the camera to get if you need extreme low light capability for video or stills. Otherwise, there are better choices. That said, there is something special about NEVER having to worry about how much light is available. If you have a reasonably fast lens, you’ll be all set to shoot video almost anywhere and at anytime with an a7sII.
Price: $2598 (9 percent off MSRP)
- Full frame low light beast
- Extremely popular in the video world
- Solid dynamic range in video with S-log III
- Good low light shooting for photography
- Footage is praised as crisp and clean
- Can shoot clean video at 25,600 ISO
- Can shoot up to 409,600 ISO
- Not weather sealed
- Poor ergonomics and challenging menus
- 12.2 megapixels isn’t much detail for stills
- Battery life is on the short side
- Color correction can be time intensive if one wants to maximize dynamic range etc
3. A77ii – The Budget Machine Gun
The A77ii is a fascinating camera because it just shoots so dang fast. 12 frames per second is borderline dangerous, and at 24 megapixels, it covers a solid amount of detail. It may not be the sexiest choice given the current state of Sony cameras, but if you’re doing action photography or anything that demands great resolution and lots of pictures, the a77ii is the best way to guarantee you won’t miss that critical instant.
This camera isn’t a low-light beast by any stretch, but it holds its own. The auto-focus is top tier, and it’s praised for its higher than average battery life (at least among Sony’s at 480 pictures. There simply isn’t another camera at this price point in the market that can take this many photos this fast. It’s a specific use case, but if it’s what you need, the A77ii delivers in spades.
- Shoots a blazing fast 12 frames per second
- Fast autofocus and decent low light capabilities
- Stabilizes images in camera
- Battery life of 480 photos is better than some Sony cameras
- Lightning-fast autofocus system
- Some users report auto-exposure can be wonky
- One user had issues with the color science
- Crop sensor means less shallow depth of field compared to A7R and A7S
4. RX100V -The Tiny, Slow-Mo Monster
Have you ever wanted to create footage of a flame emitting little sparks at 1/40 real time speed? Did you even know that flames emitted little micro-sparks? This author didn’t. See the video below if you want to understand more, but in the meantime, know that the RX100V is a tiny little hand demon with a unique trait: 960 frame per second video. Now, make no mistake, this is NOT 1080P. It’s 912 x 308 pixels, but for Instagram and other social media uses, that can fly. It’s not the most common use case, but no matter, if one finds it appealing, the RX100V delivers in other ways too.
It shoots 4K and 20.1 megapixels and for stills, shoots a blazingly fast 20 frames per second. Now, one might wonder why then is this camera not a “machine gun” as the A77II. It absolutely is, but the reality is that compact cameras just don’t capture images as well as cameras with larger sensors. They tend to be a bit less sharp and lack effective depth of field (on a small camera, everything is in focus). This camera is certainly more for the casual user or pro who wants a capable pocket pistol. As a primary camera, it just won’t do due to its tiny sensor size.
- Extremely fast AF system
- Solid megapixels at 20.1
- No additional lens costs (built-in)
- 4K video shoot with great autofocus video
- Shoots 960 FPS video in crop mode
- Very small and portable
- Some users found the autofocus unsatisfactory
- Viewfinder isn’t very useful, quite tiny
- User interface is poor
- Can overheat when shooting 4K video
5. Alpha 6000 – The Budget Beast
This camera may be at the end of our list, but make no mistake, it’s insanely popular for good reason. For most users, this tiny camera offers a huge amount of value. It shoots an incredibly fast 11 frames per second. It is definitely comparable to the A77II, but there are two reasons to bump up to the A77II: it offers slightly sharper images and better ergonomics for handheld shooting. See this article which explains the differences more thoroughly.
For people saying “Ergonomics? Slightly sharper? Who cares!” then opting for the A6000 makes a ton of sense. It’s compatible with less lenses, but it offers great low light quality, fast autofocus, 4K video, and a smaller size. It’s much cheaper and is many love it. For a Sony beginner or even a seasoned, practical photographer, the A6000 is a guaranteed great choice. It’s may not have the sky-high specs of an A7RII, but it is 1/4 as cheap and for many people just as good. If one needs the absolute utmost quality for a particular trait, this is not the right camera, but if none of the other cameras on this list jumped out at you as suiting your precise needs (or budget), the A6000 is the way to go.
Price: $598 (14 percent off MSRP)
- Shoots 11 framers per second
- 24 megapixels offers solid detail
- Praised for low light quality
- Extremely fast auto-focus
- Uses smaller, cheaper lenses than full frame Sony cameras
- No built-in image stabilizing
- A few users had issues with the build quality
Still looking for the right Sony mirrorless camera? Browse more top-rated Sony mirrorless cameras on Amazon.
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