If you’re looking for the best mirrorless camera for your vintage lenses, understand this: there is no single, blanket choice that will be the best for everyone. Instead, the best one for you will depend on what you plan to shoot with it and where.
That’s a good thing though because it helps us narrow them down by how their features match up to your requirements. If you’re unsure what those features are, this post explains all, along with why a mirrorless is preferable to a DSLR for vintage lenses.
The table below gives a quick overview of three of the overall best mirrorless cameras for vintage lenses in case you’re an everything shooter. After that, we’ll dig deeper into some of the particular specifications that you may feel are important.
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. For landscape or cityscape, probably a full frame. For portraits and macro, you might want the micro four-thirds. For a general shooter, perhaps split the difference with the APS-C.
The three cameras in the table below – the Sony Alpha A7R IV, the Fujifilm X-T4, and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 III – cover each sensor size. 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.
So while it’s impossible to tell you which is the definitive best overall mirrorless camera for 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
- Fine Detail Performance:16 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor with no low pass filter resulting in a near 10 percent boost in fine detail resolving power over existing 16 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensors
- Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera Kit: With two super compact lenses 12 32mm F3.5 5.6 and 45 150mm F4.0 5.6, shoot lighter and faster with the modern hybrid photography performance of a mirrorless camera and nearly half the bulk of most DSLRs
- Advanced 24.2MP back Illuminated 35 millimeter full frame image sensor
- ISO 100 25600 (expandable to 51200). Lens compatibility: Sony E mount lenses
- Compact, Lightweight and High-Quality RF Lens with a Versatile Zoom Range of 24-105mm
- Optical Image Stabilization at up to 5 Stops of Shake Correction
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. 😀