Best Mirrorless Camera Options of 2020

Jump to:

 

Brief Introduction to Mirrorless Cameras:

Mirrorless cameras have evolved at a breackneck pace over the last decade. In fact, they are now the top choice for most underwater photographers. Unlike compact cameras, mirrorless cameras have interchangeable lenses. The most obvious physical difference from a DSLR camera is their lack of mirror inside the body. This gives engineers more space to work with when they are designing camera technology. Therefore, mirrorless cameras feature cool new capabilities like in-body image-stabilization, electronic viewfinders, a single hybrid autofocus system (that works great in live view), autofocus point coverage over large areas of the sensor, advanced autofocus tracking, and more. Mirrorless cameras also tend to be slightly smaller than DSLR cameras but they can be a lot smaller as well, depending on the model. That makes them a great choice for traveling. If you want to shoot at the cutting edge of camera technology with the best image quality and autofocus the industry has to offer, than you should shoot a mirrorless camera.

Different Types of Mirrorless Cameras:

Mirrorless cameras are now featured in multiple sensor sizes including micro four thirds, aps-c, and full frame. Full-frame (35mm sensor) mirrorless cameras have become the top cameras for underwater photography. Full frame sensored mirrorless cameras have the best dynamic range, low light capability, autofocus, and image quality on the market. They also have less depth of field than their smaller counterparts. Currently, there are full frame mirrorless camera offerings from Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic. These cameras are equipped with the world's best photographic technology and are some of our top recommendations as underwater cameras. The Canon EOS R5 and R6 are two of the most anticipated full-frame mirrorless cameras on the maket, but it will take a little time for their housings to reach the market. In the meantime, the Sony A7R IV and Nikon Z7 remain two of the top high resolution full frame mirrorless camera systems on the market. The Nikon Z6 should be given a nod for being an all-around great full frame system with awesome video capability. Panasonic has tantalized video shooters with their S series cameras, the S1, S1R, and S1H. 

 

Sony and Nikon currently make aps-c, or cropped sensor, models. These cameras are smaller than their full-frame counterparts but produce high quality, professional images. An APS-C sensor can be a great option for macro shooters. APS-C sensors offer more depth of field than full frame sensors and offer a closer field of view with macro lenses. Currently the Sony A6400 and Nikon Z50 are two of the top APS-C mirrorless options on the market.  

 

Olympus and Panasonic both use the micro-four thirds sized sensor, the smallest of the mirrorless sensors, for their mirrorless cameras. They share a lens mount with a lot of high quality, small micro four thirds lenses on the maket. The Panasonic GH5S is still one of the top mirrorless choices for underwater video. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III is the current, top flagship model from Olympus. 

Left: Nikon Z7 (Full Frame Camera).  Middle: Sony A6400 (APS-C Sensor).  Right: Panasonic GH5S (Micro-Four Thirds Camera)

 

Mirrorless Versus Compacts:

If you want a smaller system, less expensive setup, or the ability to change between macro and wide-angle underwater, check out our best compact underwater cameras.

Mirrorless Versus dSLR Cameras:

A dSLR camera can be larger in size compared to mirrorless offerings but they offer quick autofocus, and some of the top, most mature camera technology on the market. Check out our best dSLR underwater cameras.

Still confused?

If you are still confused by all the options, call us at 310-633-5052 or email us at sales@bluewaterphotostore.com. We try to shoot all of these models when they are released, and we can talk you through the subtle differences.

 

 

Sony A7R IV

Pixel Shift, 4K Video, Full Frame Sensor & Great Lens Options

best mirrorless camera for underwater photography and videography

Read our Full A7R IV Review for Underwater Photography

The Sony A7R III established itself as a solid choice for underwater photographers, along with pros and semi-pros who were required to shoot both videos and stills on assignment. The Sony A7R IV is making waves as the highest resolution full frame camera on the market at 61 megapixels! It also improves on the A7R III with much better autofocus, a higher resolution EVF, and an updated pixel shift feature that can create 240 megapixel photos! If you want the latest and greatest hybrid full-frame system, look no further. In fact, this might just be the top full frame camera on the market. Read out Sony A7r IV review for underwater.

The A7R IV is a great option for still shooters proven by its full-frame high-resolution image quality, small size, great high ISO performance, good auto-focus speed, and high-quality lense availability. Video shooters will love the A7R IV for 4K video, good auto-focus, and excellent large aperture lenses.The autofocus speed on the Sony A7R IV is now similar to what you might experience with a high-end DSLR, if just a tad slower.

Downsides of the A7R IV include the price, which can be substantial once you include the housing, lenses, ports, and adapters. The lenses are typically quite a bit larger than micro-four thirds lenses. The high resolution 61 megapixel sensor in the Sony A7R IV does introduce a little more noise to images, but it's fine grain and easily removed in post.

Ikelite offers a great polycarbonate A7R IV housing that we took on dozens of dives when writing our A7R IV review. We found the ergonomics to be intuitive and well designed. The housing had great buoyancy and trim underwater. Finally, we loved using the system with the Ikelite Sony TTL converter. 

Nauticam, Isotta, Aquatica, and Sea & Sea all offer excellent anodized aluminum housings for the Sony A7R IV. The Isotta A7R IV housing is one of our favorites with top-of-the-line ergonomics and a very compact build - and of course, the artisinal red finish. You can almost shoot one-handed! The Nauticam A7R IV housing is tried and true with excellent ergonomics and great options when it comes to optics. The Aquatica A7R IV housing is extremely rugged and engineered to handle any diving conditions. The new Sea & Sea A7R IV MDXL housing comes with all the bells and whisltes including glow in the dark buttons, newly designed handles, ball bases, a vacuum system, and buoyancy pocket. 

 

Sony A7R IV Key Features:

  • 61 MP Full Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • Updated BONZX Image Processor
  • Updated pixel shift which now combines 16 still photos to produce a 240 MP photo
  • Improved autofocus capability
  • Eye Animal AF Tracking
  • Electronic Viewfinder with 5.7 M dots
  • New Multi Interface Shoe (for audio)

Sony A7R IV Underwater Housing Options:

 

Sony a7r iv sample image

Beautiful dynamic range with the Sony A7R IV. Taken with the Ikelite A7R IV housing, dual Ikelite DS 161 strobes, and the Sony 16-35mm rectilinear wide lens aboard the Socorro Vortex liveaboard. 1/250, f/10, ISO 320

 

 

A nudibranch photographed with the Sony A7R IV, Sony 90mm macro lens, Nauticam A7R IV underwater housing, Saga Magic Tube, and dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes.

 

 

Sony a6400

24.2 megapixel sensor, 4K video, great autofocus tracking

sony a6400

Read our A6400 Review

We think the Sony a6400 camera is the best valued mirrorless camera on the market - with the body going for $899.99. The 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor yields beautiful dynamic range and image details that go beyond what a micro four thirds camera is capable of. It's an especially great option for macro shooters because it offers more depth of field than a full frame camera with macro lens options like the Sony 90mm lens. The amazing autofocus of the A6400 is the highlighting feature of the camera. The autofocus tracking system is on par or surpassing most on the market and we found it very useful for underwater photography. Finally, the a6400 is also an excellent video camera featuring ultra high quality downsampled 4K video.

Sony A6400 Key Features:

  • 24.2 Megapixel APS-C type Exmore CMOS sensor for outstanding light sensitivity.
  • 425-Point Phase-detection Fast Autofocus with Real-Time Tracking AF A.I. Technology
  • 4 Focus modes with 6 focal area settings
  • 4-speed Sequential Shooting.  Hi+ – 11fps; Hi – 8 fps Mid 6 fps; Lo: 3fps.
  • 4K Cinema Video at 30/25/24 fps
  • 1/160th Shutter Sync for flash
  • Lightweight and Weatherproof Body
  • Lens mount: Sony E-mount
  • 3" 180-degree flip touchscreen / 921,000 dots
  • Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth Connectivity
  • Weight: 403g

Sony a6500 Packages Available:

  • Fantasea a6400 housing, port, lens, and lens gear package ($899.95) - Includes Fantasea a6400 underwater housing, Fantasea FML Flat Port 34, and Fantasea lens gear for Sony 16-50mm kit lens
  • Ultimate Fantasea a6400 housing package ($2,970.45) - Includes Fantasea a6400 underwater housing, Fantasea FML flat port 34, Fantasea zoom gear for SELP1650, Fantasea UWL-09F wide angle wet lens, Sea & Sea YS-D2J strobe, Sea & Sea fiber optic cable II, Bluewater +7 macro lens, ultralight tray, ultralight handle w/ ball adapter, ultralight 5 inch arm, ultralight 8 inch arm, ultralight clamps (3)

Sony a6500 Underwater Housing Options:

Camera Body & Lenses:

 

 
Wolf eel photographed with the Sony a6400, 16-50mm lens, UWL-09F wet lens, single Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe and Fantasea Sony a6400 underwater housing. f/8, 1/160, ISO-400
 
 
Painted greenling photographed with the 90mm macro lens. Sony a6400, dual Ikelite DS-161 strobes, Ikelite underwater housing. f.10, 1/160, ISO 200
 
 
 

Nikon Z6 

Read our Nikon Z6 Review

The Nikon Z6 is Nikon's first full frame mirrorless camera offering, and it is still one of the top all-around cameras on the market. It features a 24.5 megapixel CMOS sensor with in-body image-stabilization, a 273 point autofocus system, 12 fps burst shooting, 4K video @ 30p and more. Given that the body is now $1796, it's an extremely affordable and capable full frame camera. In fact, the Nikon Z6 is one of the top full-frame mirrorless camera choices for underwater video. This is because the Nikon Z6 uses video from the full width of the sensor and downsamples it to 4K, giving it extra detail. If you need more resolution the Z6's older brother, the Nikon Z7 features 45.7 megapixels of pure resolution.

 

Nikon Z6 Key Features:

  • 24.5 MP full frame CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-51,200 (more lowlight sensitivity than Z7)
  • 5 axis in-body image-stabilization
  • 273 point hybrid phase detection/contrast AF system
  • 1/200 sync speed
  • 12 fps burst shooting
  • 4K vdieo @ 30p
  • 3.69 million dot electronic viewfinder
  • 310 shot battery life

Nikon Z6 Underwater Housing Options:

Nembrotha kubaryana nudibranch photographed with the Nikon Z6 camera, Isotta Z6 housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-D2J strobes, reefnet fiber optic snoot. f/29, 1/160, ISO 160
 
 
 
Anemonefish photographed with the Nikon Z6 camera, Nikon 105mm macro, Isotta Z6 housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-D2J strobes, reefnet fiber optic snoot, Saga magic tube. f/16, 1/200, ISO 160

 

 
 

With their versatility, lightweight design, and top-of-the-line image quality, full-frame mirrorless cameras are the hottest on the market right now. Sony leads the charge initially with the A7 series, but Nikon, Canon, and Panasonic were hot on their tail with some impressive full-frame mirrorless cameras – some of which might just edge out Sony.

 

Panasonic S1R

Read our Panasonic S1R Article

The Panasonic S1R is Panasonic’s first full-frame mirrorless camera and very well might be the jewel on the crown of full-frame mirrorless cameras to date. The S1R has a 47.3MP sensor. The S1R also features the highest resolution EVF on any camera as well as the ability to shoot 4K at 60fps – something full-frame mirrorless shooters have long been waiting for. All in all, the Panasonic S1R breaks new ground in full-frame mirrorless cameras.

The only downside to the Panasonic S1 and S1R is that fact the there are limited lenses available. However, Sigma is releasing several L-mount lenses, which will increase the pool of native mount lenses available.

Panasonic S1R, S1, & S1H Underwater Housing Options:

 

Nikon Z7/Z6 

Read our Nikon Z7 Review

The Nikon Z7 is Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera and it’s fair to say they knocked it out of the park. The Z7 boasts a 45.7MP sensor, 435-point autofocus, 9fps continuous shooting, and 4K at 30p video recording. The in-camera image stabilization is fantastic and the densely populated 45.7MP sensor renders brilliant image quality. The Nikon Z7 was released in late 2018 and is one of the most popular underwater cameras of 2020. We consider it to be one the best cameras for underwater photography.

Nikon Z7 Underwater Housing Options:

 
 
 
Anemonefish photographed with the Nikon Z6 camera, Nikon 105mm macro, Isotta Z6 housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-D2J strobes, reefnet fiber optic snoot, Saga magic tube. f/16, 1/200, ISO 160
 

 

Canon EOS R

Read our Canon EOS R Article

The Canon EOS R is Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera as well. The EOS R did not receive the same praise bestowed to Sony’s A7RIII or Nikon’s Z7, but those are high standards and under different circumstances, the EOS R would surely not disappoint. The Canon EOS R is characterized by a 30.3MP sensor, excellent AF performance, and a lovely touchscreen. The EOS R is a very capable camera and will prove to be a great alternative to loyal EOS DSLR owners looking for a lightweight, run-and-gun camera. 

Canon EOS R Underwater Housing Options:

Wolf eel photographed with the Canon EOS R in a Sea & Sea EOS R housing, Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens, and dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes

 

 

Sony A7R IV

Pixel Shift, 4K Video, Full Frame Sensor & Great Lens Options

best mirrorless camera for underwater photography and videography

Read our Full A7R IV Review for Underwater Photography

The Sony A7R III established itself as a solid choice for underwater photographers, along with pros and semi-pros who were required to shoot both videos and stills on assignment. The Sony A7R IV is making waves as the highest resolution full frame camera on the market at 61 megapixels! It also improves on the A7R III with much better autofocus, a higher resolution EVF, and an updated pixel shift feature that can create 240 megapixel photos! If you want the latest and greatest hybrid full-frame system, look no further. In fact, this might just be the top full frame camera on the market. Read out Sony A7r IV review for underwater.

The A7R IV is a great option for still shooters proven by its full-frame high-resolution image quality, small size, great high ISO performance, good auto-focus speed, and high-quality lense availability. Video shooters will love the A7R IV for 4K video, good auto-focus, and excellent large aperture lenses.The autofocus speed on the Sony A7R IV is now similar to what you might experience with a high-end DSLR, if just a tad slower.

Downsides of the A7R IV include the price, which can be substantial once you include the housing, lenses, ports, and adapters. The lenses are typically quite a bit larger than micro-four thirds lenses. The high resolution 61 megapixel sensor in the Sony A7R IV does introduce a little more noise to images, but it's fine grain and easily removed in post.

Ikelite offers a great polycarbonate A7R IV housing that we took on dozens of dives when writing our A7R IV review. We found the ergonomics to be intuitive and well designed. The housing had great buoyancy and trim underwater. Finally, we loved using the system with the Ikelite Sony TTL converter. 

Nauticam, Isotta, Aquatica, and Sea & Sea all offer excellent anodized aluminum housings for the Sony A7R IV. The Isotta A7R IV housing is one of our favorites with top-of-the-line ergonomics and a very compact build - and of course, the artisinal red finish. You can almost shoot one-handed! The Nauticam A7R IV housing is tried and true with excellent ergonomics and great options when it comes to optics. The Aquatica A7R IV housing is extremely rugged and engineered to handle any diving conditions. The new Sea & Sea A7R IV MDXL housing comes with all the bells and whisltes including glow in the dark buttons, newly designed handles, ball bases, a vacuum system, and buoyancy pocket. 

 

Sony A7R IV Key Features:

  • 61 MP Full Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • Updated BONZX Image Processor
  • Updated pixel shift which now combines 16 still photos to produce a 240 MP photo
  • Improved autofocus capability
  • Eye Animal AF Tracking
  • Electronic Viewfinder with 5.7 M dots
  • New Multi Interface Shoe (for audio)

Sony A7R IV Underwater Housing Options:

 

Sony a7r iv sample image

Beautiful dynamic range with the Sony A7R IV. Taken with the Ikelite A7R IV housing, dual Ikelite DS 161 strobes, and the Sony 16-35mm rectilinear wide lens aboard the Socorro Vortex liveaboard. 1/250, f/10, ISO 320

 


Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

Read our E-M1 Mark III Review

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III is the "top of the line" micro-four thirds camera for photography. It is a competitor to the Sony A6400, and it accepts high quality micro four thirds lenses from Olympus and Panasonic. The E-M1 Mk III has a 20.4 megapixel sensor with exceptional resolution and image quality for a micro four thirds camera. The MK III also has 5 axis in-body image-stabilization, 121 points of cross type phase detect AF, 15 frames per second burst shooting, and 4K video @ 30fps. 

The OM-D E-M1 II offers more customization features over the E-M5 II and E-M10 IV, as well as an improved image processor, and auto focus system. There is also a great selection of micro-thirds lenses for all potential uses.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III Key Features:

  • 20.4 Megapixel Live MOS Sensor
  • TruePic IX Quad Core Processor (faster upgrade to Mark II)
  • 121 point cross-type phase detect AF system
  • 5 axis image stabilization up to 7 stops
  • 2.36M dot electronic viewfinder
  • 3 inch touch LCD
  • Weathersealed
  • 15fps [H]/10 fps [L] burst shooting with mechanical shutter
  • Topside features including handheld high res shot mode, live ND filter, electronic shutter
  • 4K video @ 30 fps with an OM-Log mode
  • 440 shot battery life rating
  • 90.9 mm X 68.9 mm X 134.1 mm
  • Weight: 580 grams

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III Underwater Housing Options:

Camera Lenses:

  • Lens Options - Olympus & Panasonic micro four-thirds lenses.

 

olympus omd em1 mark iii mosshead warbonnet underwater

Mosshead Warbonnet photographed with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, Ikelite EM1 Mark III housing, dual Ikelite DS 161 strobes w/Ikelite TTL converter, Olympus 60mm macro lens

 

 

Panasonic GH5

Read our Panasonic GH5 Review

This powerhouse has the same sized sensor as the Olympus mirrorless cameras and boasts improved autofocus, 5-axis image stabilization, great high ISO capability and more. However, it's real strength is for shooting video.

 

The original GH series cameras were discovered to be hackable by initial users, allowing them to be unlocked for high video bitrate and control. Since then Panasonic has made these features standard, giving photographers and videographers professional level controls in a small camera body.

Paired with any of the Panasonic or Olympus m4/3rds lenses there is a wide range of options for shooting both photos and videos underwater. Excellent rectilinear wide angle options like the Panasonic or Olympus 7-14mm or the Panasonic 12-35mm make great video options. In addition, the Panasonic 45mm or Olympus 60mm lenses allow for excellent macro shooting.

Pansonic GH5 Key Features:

  • 3.2" RGBW free-angle touchscreen LCD
  • Waveform and vectorscope monitors
  • Dual UHS-II card slots (V60 ready)
  • Advanced DFD autofocus
  • 9 fps shooting with continuous autofocus
  • 225-area Advanced Depth-From-Defocus AF system
  • 1080 video at up to 180p, enabling 7.5x slow-motion
  • 4K/59.94p and 50p shooting with 10-bit 4:2:2 output or 8-bit, 4:2:0 internal recording
  • Internal 4K/30p 10-bit 4:2:2 video capture
  • All 4K footage taken using full width of the sensor (oversampled from 5.1K footage)
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilization system with 'Dual IS 2' support
  • 20MP Four Thirds sensor (no OLPF)

Panasonic GH5 Underwater Housing Options:

Camera Body & Lenses:

 

 

 

 

Click Here to View the Mirrorless Camera Comparison

Click Here to View our comparison between the Nikon Z6/Z7 and Sony A7R IV