Best Mirrorless Camera Options of 2019

Top 2019 Mirrorless Camera for Underwater Photography and Videography

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Brief Introduction to Mirrorless Cameras:

If you are looking for an underwater setup that can produce amazing image quality while still remaining relatively compact, look no further - a mirrorless setup is right for you. These cameras focus faster than compact cameras, have better image quality, larger sensors, and better video. Thanks to their small size they compete against larger DLSR's by offering great results in a small package - perfect for traveling.

Different Types of Mirrorless Cameras:

There are two recommended options for getting a mirrorless setup - either a "micro-four thirds camera", or a full frame sensor setup. Sony spearheaded a larger sensor on their mirrorless cameras, such as a full frame 35mm or cropped sensor, similar to many standard DSLR options. Olympus and Panasonic both use the micro-four thirds sized sensor for their mirrorless cameras, and also share a lens mount, doubling the lens options available. The first full-frame sensors for Nikon, Canon, and Panasonic have all been announced and/or released at the end of 2018 - this is exciting news for those interested in a full frame mirrorless system. However, it is important to note that lens options are relatively scarce, and will continue to be for a little while.

Sony A7R III on the right and Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II on the left. Full frame mirrorless systems tend to be larger than micro four thirds systems.

The Sony cameras (along with new Nikon Z, Canon EOS, and Panasonic S series) have the advantage of larger sensor sizes and more dynamic range. People focused on wide-angle and/or video will gravitate towards this setup. The Sony A7R III and A7 III series boast full-frame sensors with unsurpassed image quality in this class of cameras. Only a select few DSLR's matches their image quality.

The micro-four thirds cameras support a much larger number of lenses, including the excellent Olympus 60mm macro lens, and more housing options. Now that the Sony 90mm macro lens is out, Sony has a great, albeit expensive, macro option.

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, although much larger underwater, does have advantages in the areas of dynamic range, autofocus speed, and high-quality lens options. 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 We try to shoot all of these models when they are released, and we can talk you through the subtle differences.



Sony A7R III

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

Read our Full A7R III Review for Underwater Photography

The Sony A7R II 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 III improves on the A7r II by adding longer battery life, faster high-speed shooting, additional video features, better auto-focus, and other bells and whistles. If you want the latest and greatest hybrid full-frame system, look no further.

The A7R III is a great option for still shooters proven by its full-frame dSLR type quality, small size, great high ISO performance, good auto-focus speed, and high-quality lense availability. DxoMark sensor ratings for the Nikon D850, Sony A7R II, and Sony A7R III are virtually indistinguishable. Video shooters will love the A7R III for 4K video, good auto-focus, and excellent large aperture lenses.

Downsides of the A7R III 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. Auto-focus speed & processing speed still do not quite match what you will find in a high-end dSLR, although the A7R III, Sony A9, and (we suspect) the A7III, all improve upon the A7r II.

The Nauticam A7 III, Sea & Sea A7 III, and Aquatica A7 III housings have great ergonomics, excellent lens support, a vacuum check, and an easy port change system. The Ikelite housing offers reliability and substantial cost savings, with a trade-off in ergonomics and durability.

Sony A7R III Key Features:

  • 42 MB Back-illuminated full-frame sensor with updated BIONZ X Image Processor
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot Sensor-Shift Stabilization
  • 399 Phase-Detect Auto-focus Points 
  • 425 Contrast AF points
  • Shoot up to ISO 102,400
  • UHD 4K30p Video 
  • Weather-sealed body to resist dust and moisture

Sony A7R III Underwater Housing Options:


Sony A7R III, Sony 28mm + KRL-01 Wet Wide Angle Lens



Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Bundle

Killer Deal for only $1,299.99

The Olympus E-M5 II Housing, Camera, and Port Bundle is the best deal of 2019. Every Bluewater Photo customer who gets an Olympus OM-D micro-four thirds camera is really, really happy with it. They are usually looking for better auto-focus and image quality than their compact camera system, and they are not disappointed. For a very good price of $1,299, you can get a good housing, port, and camera, for great fish, reef and macro photos. For another $1,074 you get a wide-angle lens and dome that gives you stunning wide angle shots.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 II offers fast autofocus and great versatility in lens choices. Both Olympus and Panasonic lenses have the same amount. The housing is larger than a compact camera housing but much smaller & lighter than a dSLR housing and other competing mirrorless cameras.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Key Features:

  • Great housing and camera for the money
  • High-end sensor, pro-level body with great controls
  • Excellent built-in 5-axis image stabilization
  • Better image quality and faster focusing than compact cameras
  • A smaller size and better price point than a dSLR setup
  • Excellent macro and wide-angle options
  • Takes ultra-wide, ultra-sharp wide-angle shots with the Zen dome port and 8mm fisheye lens
  • Great selection of small micro-four thirds lenses by Olympus and Panasonic

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Packages Available:

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Underwater Housing Options:

Camera Body & Lenses:


best mirrorless underwater camera 2012
Stunning color and sharpness taken with an Olympus mirrorless camera, Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens, & Sea & Sea strobe by Bluewater Photo's Kelli Dickinson



Sony A6500

Read our A6500 Review

If the OM-D sensor size (like on the Olympus E-M5 & E-M1) isn't big enough for you, the Sony A6500 offers the same large sensor as a dSLR, but in a much smaller sized camera. It offers excellent control and quality at an affordable price. With a 24MP sensor, and the ability to shoot 11 frames per second, you can get some great images with this small camera - and some incredible 4K video. 

The only slight downside is that battery life can be poor. The camera is good for about 310 shots without strobes and less when they're used. *Fortunately, Nauticam and Aquatica offer a battery pack designed specifically for this camera to go in their housings.

Sony A6500 Key Features:

  • The best overall image quality of the mirrorless cameras
  • Takes great hi-def video! The Sony cameras offer full manual video exposure control, and can record up to 4k.
  • 5-axis image stabilization, 4k video recording, improved image processing (from the A6300), and more.
  • Sony A6500 has a dSLR size sensor for great image quality & high ISO performance
  • The Sony 90mm macro lens is now out. This is an awesome macro option but the port, port adapter, and lens all together are pricey.

Sony A6500 Underwater Housing Options:

Sony A6500 Packages Available:

Camera Body & Lenses:


Nudibranch in the Lembeh Strait. Sony a6300, Sony 90mm macro lens, SubSee +10 diopter. Photo: Brent Durand
Sony a6500, Sony 16-50mm lens, Fantasea FA6500 housing, Fantasea UWL-09F wide-angle conversion lens, dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes. @18mm, ISO 320, f/13, 1/100. Photo: Brent Durand



Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Read our E-M1 Mark II Review

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is the "top of the line" micro-four thirds camera for photography. It is a competitor to the Sony A6500 & Panasonic GH5, and it accepts the same lenses as the GH5. The auto-focus on this camera is quite fast, and the Nauticam housing is exceptional.

The OM-D E-M1 II offers more customization features over the E-M5 II and E-M10 II, as well as an improved image processor, and auto focus system.

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

  • Improved autofocus - the fastest focusing on an Olympus mirrorless camera.
  • 4K video recording
  • Offers a variety of customizations for personalizing camera settings
  • Setting custom white balance is quick and easy
  • Great selection of small micro-four thirds lenses by Panasonic and Olympus
  • Incredible macro with the Olympus 60mm macro lens, incredible wide-angle with the Panasonic or Olympus 8mm fisheye
  • Great choice for shooting whales, dolphins & sharks when coupled with the Panasonic or Olympus 7-14mm lens or Olympus 9-18mm lens, tiny size and with very little drag in the water
  • Custom-machined aluminum Nauticam housing allows precise control of all camera functionality
  • Nauticam housing is rated to 300ft; has a lens release button, leak detector, great port release mechanism, and supports Inon and Sea & Sea style fiber optic cables, and vacuum electronics.
  • E-M1 II Nauticam housing includes dSLR style molded handles
  • Custom high-quality ports give you the best possible optics for all lens choices

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

Read our in-depth review of the Nauticam EM1 Mark II Housing

Camera Body & Lenses:


Diver entering the lagoon in Silfras, Iceland: Shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and Olympus 8mm FE Pro 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:




With their versatility, lightweight design, and top-of-the-line image quality, full-frame mirrorless cameras are the hottest thing on the market right now. Sony leads the charge in 2018 with the A7RIII, 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.

Nikon Z7 

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 will likely be one of the most popular cameras of 2019.

Nikon Z7 Underwater Housing Options:

Diver photographing a wolf eel out in the open, Monterey: Shot with Nikon Z7, Nikkor 9-15 circular fisheye, Ikelite Housing


Canon EOS R

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 is expected to release an upgraded full-frame mirrorless model so stay tuned for updates!

Canon EOS R Underwater Housing Options:


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, making it the highest resolution full-frame mirrorless camera so far. 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 and could potentially be THE most popular camera of 2019. The S series will be available March 18, 2019 and we anxiously await its arrival!

Panasonic S1R Underwater Housing Options:




Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II

Sony A6500

A7R III Panasonic GH5 Nikon Z7 Canon EOS R Panasonic S1R

Weight in grams




657g 725g 585g 660g 890g





127x96x74mm 139x98x87mm 134x101x68mm 136x98x84mm 149x110x97mm





42 20 45.7 30.3 47.3

High ISO capability




Excellent Great Great Great Excellent

Sync speed




1/250s 1/250s 1/200s 1/200s (1/8000 in high speed sync mode) 1/320s

Focus speed1


Very Fast


Very Fast Very Fast Very Fast Very Fast Very Fast

Battery Life


Very Good


Very Good Good Good Good Good

Image Quality




 Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent

Macro Capability3




Great Great Good6 Good6 Good6

Wide-angle capability




Great Great4 Good6 Good6 Good6

Lenses available




Many 48 5 (without mount adapter FTZ) 13 (with EF adapter) 18+

Control dials

2 dials

2 dial

3 dials

2 dials 2 Dials 3 Dials 2 Dials 2 Dials

Manual flash power settings




NA NA Yes Yes Yes


1080p, 60i

4K, 1080p, 60i

Excellent  -1080p, 60p + more

Excellent - 4K Excellent - 4K 30p, 1080p, 120p + more Excellent - 4K 30p + more Excellent - 4K 30p + more Excellent - 4K 60p, 30p, 24p + More

Electronic Viewfinder




Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Built-in image stabilization




5-axis 5-axis 5-axis 5-axis 5-axis

Price as of February 2019


(body only)


(body only)


(body only)


(body only)


(body only)


(body only)


(body only)


(body only)

  1. Focus speeds are relative to other mirrorless camera options
  2. All these cameras can auto-focus well during video; the Panasonic GH5 produces the best video quality
  3. Great macro is possible with the Pany 45mm, or the Olympus 60mm macro or Sony 90mm
  4. 8mm fisheye, 7-14mm and 9-18mm lenses are available, with the 8mm giving the best results
  5. The Sony fisheye conversion lens + 16mm pancake lens gives excellent results 
  6. Limited dedicated lens availability, many more lenses will be released in the near future