The $500-900 category (based roughly on US MSRP) features quite a few strong offerings, some of which should satisfy first-time camera buyers with easy-to-use interfaces and point-and-shoot style functionality. Others are aimed more at seasoned-enthusiasts, offering direct manual controls and high-end features.
At this price point, all of the cameras use either Four Thirds or larger APS-C-sized sensors and all can shoot Raw. And while a larger sensor can mean the potential for better image quality and more control over depth-of-field, the difference in size between APS-C and Four Thirds is not enormous. As such, small differences notwithstanding, the vast majority of cameras in this roundup have what we would consider to be very good image quality.
All of the cameras in this selection are reasonably small in size (compared to pricier ILCs), but the number and arrangement of control points, grip size, build quality and weight all vary quite a bit. As do the inclusion of features like like 4K video capture and in-body image stabilization.
Let’s take a look at the currently available interchangeable lens cameras that fall into the $500-900 price range (give or take).
- Canon EOS M3
- Canon EOS M6
- Canon EOS Rebel T7i (EOS 800D)
- Fujifilm X-E2S
- Fujifilm X-T20
- Nikon D5600
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 II
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX850
- Pentax K-70
- Sony Alpha a6000
Canon EOS M3
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24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor | Hybrid AF system | Wi-Fi + NFC
What we like:
- Compact size
- Good ergonomics, twin control dials, dedicated exposure compensation dial
- Great JPEG / low light image quality
What we don’t:
- No built-in EVF
- Limited EF-M lens selection
- Subject tracking capabilities lag behind competition
- Raw files don’t offer as much dynamic range as the competition
The Canon EOS M3 uses the same 24MP APS-C format sensor and 49-point Hybrid CMOS III AF system as the Rebel T6s DSLR. The M3’s mirrorless design allows it to be a little smaller, lighter and less expensive, while offering a shooting experience that’s more familiar to compact camera users.
The M3 features more direct controls than previous M models, as well as gaining a decent hand grip, meaning it’s more fun to use as more than just a point-and-shoot. The flip-out rear screen is touch-sensitive, and can be articulated up to 45 degrees downwards and 180 degrees upwards.
And while there is no built-in EVF for the Canon M3, the pricey ($200) Canon EVF-DC1 can be attached to the camera’s hot shoe. If you’re likely to be shooting in bright conditions it’s worth considering the cost of the viewfinder compared to the cost of purchasing a Rebel.
“In terms of image quality, the M3 should be on par with the Rebel T6s and T6i.”
In terms of JPEG image quality, the M3 is matched with the Rebel T6s and T6i, meaning JPEGs with pleasing color and well-balanced tone response. Low light performance is near the top of this class, with relatively low noise levels even at high ISOs. Raw dynamic range is not as good as most other contemporary sensors, though. For JPEG shooters, this won’t make a whole lot of difference, but if you plan on doing a lot of work on your Raw files, you may find yourself limited in especially tricky lighting situations.
The M3 has a fairly standard set of video specs: 1080p capture at 24, 25 or 30fps. It offers a built in 3.5mm microphone jack, but no headphone jack. Users can enjoy full manual control during video capture. Feature-wise, the M3 offers built-in Wi-Fi and NFC. It is capable of bursts as fast as 4.2 fps and sports a tiny pop-up flash on top.
Although the M3 has a price and size advantage over its Rebel siblings, it faces some pretty fierce competition from its mirrorless peers. There are cameras with more capable video and autofocus available for around the same price, and even some models that offer built-in electronic viewfinders. Alternatively, the Rebels offer built in optical viewfinders in a tried-and-tested format for not much extra cash.
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