Entry-level interchangeable lens cameras have never been so affordable or more capable. There are plenty of choices around the $500 mark that will take better pictures than most cameras ever made.
They don’t always have the very latest sensors or the premium build quality of their more expensive midrange siblings – and their controls tend to err on the side of simple, rather than extensive – but they tend to be excellent value and comparatively easy to use.
All of these cameras – both mirrored and mirrorless – produce good image quality, offer respectable performance and can record Full HD video. The majority have Wi-Fi to make it easier to share images to a smartphone. Many of them are targeted toward beginners, with ‘help’ systems that point out the best settings to use for various shooting situations.
Those unfamiliar with DSLR and mirrorless cameras may be wondering what advantages and disadvantages each brings to the table. DSLRs are larger cameras, with a more ‘traditional’ shape and control layout, as well as an optical viewfinder. While they’re great for shooting stills, they’re not as well suited to video capture, and focusing using live view tends to be sluggish. Mirrorless cameras are typically smaller and are very capable video shooters, and live view focusing is much faster than most DSLRs. Two negatives about mirrorless cameras are that battery life isn’t nearly as good as a DSLR and – especially true in this class – they often lack a viewfinder.
Let’s take a look at several entry-level ILCs, with US MSRPs in the $500 region, kit lens included:
- Canon EOS M10
- Canon EOS Rebel T6
- Fujifilm X-A3
- Fujifilm X-A10
- Nikon 1 J5
- Nikon D3400
- Olympus PEN E-PL8
- Sony Alpha a5100
- YI M1
Canon EOS M10
18MP APS-C CMOS sensor | Hybrid CMOS AF II | Tilting touchscreen LCD
What we like:
- Tilting LCD
- Well-implemented touch features
- Numerous special effects and creative filters
What we don’t:
- Poor battery life
- Limited selection of EF-M lenses
The Canon EOS M10 is a lightweight and compact mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that offers a number of useful features and an 18MP CMOS sensor at an entry-level price. Similar to other cameras in this class, it offers a tilting LCD, numerous creative filters, but no viewfinder. The M10 uses Canon’s EF-M mount, which is limited to just a few lenses at this point (it supports EF-S/EF lenses via an adapter).
The M10 has a composite body and weighs in at just 301g/10.6oz. Its articulating 3” touchscreen LCD display can tilt up to 180 degrees upward and 45 degrees downward. The camera is very light on buttons, instead relying on an easy-to-use touchscreen interface. Given this, the M10 doesn’t offer much in the line of customizable controls.
“The touchscreen display allows you to tap-to-focus, which is especially handy for rack focusing”
Its Hybrid CMOS II AF system on the M10 features 49 available focusing points, with 80% and 70% coverage (vertical/horizontal). While not as fast as Canon’s Dual Pixel AF, the M10’s AF system is still very respectable. The camera can shoot continuously at 4.6 fps with single AF and 2.2 fps with continuous AF. Battery life is not great; the camera can take 255 shots per charge, according to CIPA testing protocols.
The M10 is capable of shooting Full HD video at 24, 25 and 30, in MP4 format. The touchscreen display allows you to tap-to-focus, which is especially handy for rack focusing. Full control over exposure is available, as is focus peaking, audio level adjustment and a wind filter.
While the EOS M10 is a perfectly capable mirrorless camera, it falls behind other cameras in this class due to its very limited lens selection and poor battery life.