When you’re deciding on the best mirrorless camera for your vintage lenses, narrowing down your options based on what you plan to shoot with it and where is a highly worthwhile exercise. It will ensure your choice has everything you need while saving you money by ruling out the things you don’t.
If you need a full rundown of all the features a mirrorless camera has and what they do, I recommend you start with this post and then come back here. But if you’re already familiar with those and just want to know your best options based on sensor type, camera size, and even some of the best budget buys out there, please read on.
To save you time, the table below gives a quick overview of three of the very best mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses. These are:
Sony A7C – the smallest full frame offering from Sony, boasting unrivalled battery life, in-body image stabilisation and weather sealing for a competitive price
Canon EOS R6 – a more budget-friendly option than the flagship EOS R5, but also bringing a full frame sensor, above average battery life and amazing frames per second in continuous shooting mode
Fujifilm X-S10 – another great value option from Fujifilm, coming in a retro-styled compact body with great handling, an APS-C sensor, and also packing in-body image stabilisation
Check those out, and then read on if you need to as we dig deeper into some further, more nuanced options based on what may be important to you personally.
- 1 The best overall mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
- 2 The best value mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
- 3 The best compact mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
- 4 The best full frame mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
- 5 The best APS-C mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
- 6 The best micro four-thirds mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
- 7 The best older mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
- 8 Wrapping up the best mirrorless cameras for your vintage lenses
The best overall mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
Although this guide is for buying a mirrorless camera for vintage lenses, it’s worth pointing out that the suggestions are being made with the idea that you may also want to use them with their native lenses and all their modern features.
It’s up to you quite how much this matters in your buying decision, though.
In the guide to buying a mirrorless camera for vintage lenses, we talked about the most important three features for when you’re considering which model to go for. These were:
- manual focus assists
- in-body image stabilisation
- the sensor size
The best overall mirrorless camera for vintage lenses should really have some form of manual focus assist like focus peaking, and preferably in-body image stabilisation or IBIS. The best sensor size is dependent on what you shoot, though.
The good news is, any new mirrorless camera will have focus peaking. Unfortunately, IBIS is less ubiquitous. As it takes up space in the camera body, it tends to be missing from the smaller APS-C models. However, Sony did manage to get it into their Alpha A6600.
Depending on which camera you buy, your sensor will be full frame, APS-C, or micro four-thirds. The most noticeable effect of the different sensor sizes is how they change the effective focal length of the lens you use. A very brief example of that is as follows:
- A 50mm lens on a full frame camera will give a 50mm field of view
- A 50mm lens on an APS-C camera will give around a 75mm field of view (50mm x ~1.5)
- A 50mm lens on a micro four-thirds camera will give a 100mm field of view (50mm x2)
If you don’t know why that is, all is explained right here.
The right sensor size for you will depend on what you plan to shoot with your vintage lenses. If you do a lot of landscape or cityscape, probably a full frame. If you only do portraits and macro, you might want a micro four-thirds. For a general shooter, perhaps split the difference with an APS-C.
The three cameras in the table below – the Sony Alpha A7C, the Canon EOS R6, and the Fujifilm X-S10 – cover the full frame and APS-C sensor sizes. They all have focus peaking and in-body image stabilisation as well as plenty of other features, and they’re all amongst the most recent releases by their manufacturer.
I’ve left out a micro-four-thirds option as I just don’t think they’re the best bet for shooting vintage lenses with for most people. Unless you really do only shoot with longer lenses, they’re just too restrictive with that crop factor.
So with all that said, and acknowledging it’s impossible to tell you which is the definitive best overall mirrorless camera for what you shoot with your vintage lenses or otherwise, these three are certainly high up among the current best.
Three of the best overall mirrorless cameras:
The best value mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
If you’re buying a mirrorless camera mainly for shooting vintage lenses on, there are a few functions and features that you don’t need to worry about or pay for.
The first and most obvious is the autofocus, which will be completely redundant with old manual glass. Next is the number of megapixels it has, which is a misleading number even when using modern lenses.
For what most people do with their photographs, which is to display them on a screen or print in small sizes if at all, huge megapixel numbers are unnecessary. If you’re using old glass anyway, they become even more so.
The usefulness of other functions and features will vary, depending on what and where you shoot. Weather sealing will be good when doing landscape work in Iceland but less important when doing portraits in a studio.
What all this means is you can get a great value mirrorless camera for your vintage lenses by going for one of a lower spec but that still meets your needs.
The lowest priced new Sony mirrorless camera, the Alpha 6100, doesn’t have IBIS but it won’t set you back very much compared to some others. And neither would the Canon EOS M200.
To get IBIS in a similar body, you can go for the Sony Alpha A6600, which is still good value relative to their flagship full frame models. Fujifilm’s X-A7 is another great value entry-level mirrorless camera that would be ideal as something to shoot your vintage lenses on.
The Panasonic Lumix G90/95 brings a few more features than the X-A7 and is a little more expensive too, but is also very good value for what you get.
Three of the best value mirrorless cameras:
The best compact mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
If a small camera size is more important than a small camera price, there are a number of compact mirrorless cameras that come packed full of features if you are prepared to pay a little more.
The aforementioned Sony Alpha 6600 is one of the very best compact mirrorless cameras out there, having one of the best battery capacities of any mirrorless today. It’s also one of the only APS-C models to have IBIS. The Fujifilm X-T4 does too, although it also has a markedly bigger body.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 III is another very fine compact mirrorless camera, although its micro four-thirds sensor could restrict you when it comes to shooting vintage lenses. That depends on your style of photography, however. For portraits or wildlife, the extra crop factor could be a good thing.
Another compact option is the Canon EOS M6 II. Its APS-C sensor is bigger and more versatile for vintage lenses than the OM-D E-M5 III‘s micro four-thirds one, although there is no IBIS or weather sealing or built-in viewfinder on the Canon.
If I were looking for a new mirrorless camera for my vintage lenses, I’d certainly want APS-C over micro four-thirds. And if I wanted a compact one, Sony pretty much have all price points sewn up with the Alpha 6600, the Alpha 6400, and the Alpha 6100 – three cameras that you can learn all about right here.
The Canon EOS M6 II does compete with those though, and the Olympus is a good option if you do a lot of portrait or wildlife photography, or anything else where the micro four-thirds crop factor helps rather than restricts your use of vintage lenses.
Three of the best compact mirrorless cameras:
The best full frame mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
To get the maximum out of your vintage lenses and shoot them at the focal length they were made to be shot at, you’ll need a full frame camera.
This is particularly useful if you want to do a lot of landscape work or wide angle street photography. And a mix of those two means a good, small and lightweight full frame mirrorless would be fantastic as a travel camera.
Unfortunately, that bigger sensor means having a bigger body too, although the Nikon Z7 is a lot more compact than a lot of its contemporaries. As is the cheaper Canon EOS RP in fact, although it lacks the weather sealing of the Z7.
If size is less of a concern, Sony’s flagship full frame mirrorless cameras like the Alpha A7R IV bring some serious specifications and great results to match. They are among the most expensive of all mirrorless cameras too, though.
The Panasonic Lumix S1R is another fine option from a company who usually stick to micro four-thirds in their mirrorless range, and brings their industry-leading video capabilities to a full frame model.
For sheer performance, the Sony full frames are hard to beat here. But if size is a factor too, don’t sleep on the Nikon and Canon offerings. They may be lower in spec but you might find yourself wanting to shoot with them more if having a big camera limits your willingness to use it.
Three of the best full frame mirrorless cameras:
The best APS-C mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
If a full frame sensor isn’t really important to you and what you shoot with your vintage lenses, you could get a fully-featured camera in a more compact body and probably for a lower price if you went with an APS-C mirrorless.
You will have around a 1.5x crop factor but I haven’t found this too restrictive with what I shoot. My 28mm lens acts like a 42mm and my 35mm acts like a 52mm, which are both absolutely fine for street shooting.
To get IBIS and weather sealing in an APS-C mirrorless camera, you’ll need to look at the Fujifilm X-T4 or the Sony Alpha A6600, which is getting quite a few mentions in this guide.
The X-T4 is quite a bit bigger than the A6600 with a lot more dials on top and an SLR-style housing for the viewfinder. Both of these cameras have above average battery life compared to other mirrorless models.
Another option is the Nikon Z50, which lacks IBIS but is smaller than the Fujifilm X-T4 and cheaper than both that and the Sony A6600.
Sony and Fujifilm are really the main producers of APS-C mirrorless cameras though. The A6100 and the A6400 offer further, cheaper options from the former, while the X-T200 and X-T30 are also great value models from the latter.
Three of the best APS-C mirrorless cameras:
The best micro four-thirds mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
Although I don’t think micro four-third mirrorless cameras are the best option for what I do with vintage lenses, their smaller sensors can be an advantage if you shoot something that requires longer lenses, like wildlife or portraits.
Besides that, you can also get more features packed into the camera body than you do with APS-C models and for a very good price too.
The compact Olympus OM-D E-M5 III comes with IBIS and weather sealing, which you’d have to pay a lot more for to get both on the APS-C Sony Alpha 6600.
The larger Olympus OM-D E-M1 III has those features too, along with a battery that is said to get you up to 420 shots on a full charge, which is around 100 more than the E-M5 III.
Panasonic are the other main producer of micro four-thirds mirrorless cameras, and one of their best options for vintage lenses is the Lumix G90/95. It also comes with IBIS and weather sealing, and will get you up to 290 shots on a single charge.
Whichever manufacturer you go for, all micro four-thirds cameras use the m43 lens mount, which is very simple to fit vintage lenses on using a simple and common lens adapter.
Three of the best micro four-thirds mirrorless cameras:
The best older mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses
All of the models suggested so far have been recent releases. I don’t think any came out any earlier than 2018. However, if you wanted to save some money, there’s no reason why you couldn’t go for an older mirrorless camera for your vintage lenses.
This could be a shrewd move if you need one to shoot only your vintage lenses and don’t care about most of the advanced features of the new ones.
For example, if you wanted a full frame mirrorless, you could pick up a Sony A7R II for perhaps around half of what an A7R IV might cost.
For a cheap APS-C Sony mirrorless, the older Alpha 6000 may lack some of the features of the more recent A6600, A6400 and A6100, but it’s available at a very low price to make up for that.
I could be here all day suggesting older models, but I think one of the best things you could do instead is click this link that will take you to a search on B&H Photo, sorted from low price to high. And then browse at your own leisure.
Another option would be to check out what’s available on the secondhand market. One option for this is to see what’s currently on eBay, but for more peace of mind and return policies etc, you can also take a look at KEH Camera and Used Photo Pro.
Wrapping up the best mirrorless cameras for your vintage lenses
What’s considered the best mirrorless camera for vintage lenses is going to vary from person to person. For some, a full frame sensor will be crucial while others will prefer a micro four-thirds. And plenty more will be happy in the middle with an APS-C.
I can’t tell you which is the single best choice for you, but I hope this guide has pointed you in the right direction and given you enough information to make your choice.
A lot of the suggested models are so fully-featured and come at such price points that buying one only to shoot vintage lenses may be overkill. If you’re going to take full advantage of everything they bring though, they are worth it.
For vintage lenses only, don’t be scared to scared to go for an older, superseded, or secondhand mirrorless. They’ll still probably be more than good enough and can save you a good amount of money too.
Whichever direction you take and whichever camera you go for, all that’s left to say is that I hope you enjoy shooting it as much as I do and that you get some results you’re proud enough of to share with the world. 🙂
- Next Gen speed: experience the world’s fastest 0. 02 sec AF with real-time AF and object tracking
- Enhanced subject capture: wide 425 Phase/ 425 contrast detection points over 84% of the sensor
- Photo and video capability 16 Megapixel micro Four Thirds sensor confidently captures sharp images with a high Dynamic Range (HDR)
- 4K capture 4K Ultra HD video recording (3840 x 2160) Plus 4K PHOTO pause and save frame that extracts individual high-resolution photos from 4K Ultra HD video
- World’s first 5 axis in body image stabilization in a full frame camera
- Use your favorite lenses without blur from camera shake; High 50 Mbps bit rate XAVC S21 format recording of Full HD movies
If you found that guide to the best mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses useful and want to dig deeper into the topic, why not take a look at these other posts too:
- The best mirrorless cameras for your street photography
- A comparison between the Sony A6100, A6400, and A6600
- A guide to buying a mirrorless for vintage lenses camera
And if you think others will also find this useful, help them find it by sharing or pinning. 😀
4 thoughts on “The Best Mirrorless Cameras for Vintage Lenses in 2021”
You have obviously seriously considered this question and bring many excellent points to the discussion. I completely agree with your suggestion of the Sony A7ii. I use exclusively vintage lenses on my Sony A7ii, from thread mount rangefinder lenses to Hasselblad and Leica. The results are amazing. When Sony released the A7ii they claimed in their literature that the camera was designed with the use of film lenses in mind. They got it right. I have made enlargements to 16×24 which are great. Another less common but amazing adapter is the Kipon Baveyes 0.7x reducer for Hasselblad. The increased field of view, additional stop of light, and increased (compressed) resolution allow for medium format results from a 35mm sensor.
Thank you, Clive. Yes, I think the A7ii is a great choice especially considering the price they go for second-hand these days too. I’ve always used an APS-C camera with my vintage lenses as full-frame mirrorless wasn’t really an affordable option when I got into it. But I have been thinking about a second-hand A7ii so I can shoot them on full-frame with no crop factor. 🙂
Great article, I went through the same logic when I was looking at a digital camera for legacy lenses earlier in 2020. As my old kit was a CONTAX system with both Zeiss and Tamron lenses. I ended up selecting the Fuji X-H1 both due to functionality and size with handling larger lenses. To compensate for crop factor I fitted a Metabones Speedbooster adaptor. Thus a 200mm F3.5 Zeiss becomes a 145mm F2.5. Achieved some stunning photo. As used by RHKYC.
Thanks for reading and adding your thoughts, Jules. It’s certainly a purchase that needs some consideration. Great to hear you’re happy with the decision you made and the results you get from it 🙂 And the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club are too! I had to Google that 😀