A month or so ago, I was finishing up our most recent "T.O.P. Ten Recommended Cameras" list, and I had to put off revealing #2. Here's the story:
Number 2 was originally intended to be the Pentax K20D. The entry I wrote began, "This one rightly belongs lumped in with the cameras under # 3, but for one thing: value. Primarily, the Pentax has a superb sensor that is capable of a very high level of detail and image quality; weather-sealing; peerless lens backwards-compatibility; and in-body SR (shake reduction, a.k.a. image stabilization). We’re not saying the Pentax is a 'better' camera than its able competitors below, necessarily, but those are features said competitors mostly don’t have...and for significantly less money."
And so on. The K20D was selling for about $775 at the time, and as it left the supply pipeline I saw prices as low as $670. For a camera as able as the K20D, those were outstanding bargains—basically a mid-level advanced-amateur DSLR with some high-value features for the price of an entry-level camera. Can't beat it with a stick.
The trouble was that literally mid-way through the list, Pentax contacted me and asked if I'd like to take a look at the new K-7, confirming that the K20D was at the end of its lifespan. This is always a danger when "recommending" cameras; nobody likes to be told to buy something only to have it be discontinued shortly after they purchase it. So, recommending the K20D was out. Of course, since I had signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), I couldn't explain any of this to you at the time.
So anyway, that was #2. As for plugging in a last-minute substitution, nope, not going to. Tell you what—if you have a strong opinion about it, insert your own choice. Think it should be the 5D Mark II? Okay with me. (I liked both the A900 and D700 better, but that's just me. Then again, it was my list.) Does the DP2 deserve the nod, as the closest thing yet to a DMD? Okay. I haven't seen one yet. Like the looks of the K-7? Well, maybe the K-7 will be on the next T.O.P. Ten list. But not this time around. I like the K-7, but it's too new, and I haven't even seen a production camera yet, or done any image-quality trials.
Finally, I have to say that although leaving the #2 slot blank was entirely unintended, I rather like the concept. It's a tacit acknowledgment of the vagaries of personal taste, the ever-changing firmament of the market, and the essential futility of ordinal lists. A nice enigmatic existential flourish—even if I can't take any credit for doing it on purpose.
Featured Comment by Marc Rochkind: "Here's my #2: Last weekend my young daughter and I made a pinhole camera, partly because she wouldn't believe me when I said we could make a camera, and partly to contribute to her education, as all she knows is digital.
"We used a corn meal (similar to oatmeal) box (after pouring its contents into a plastic bag), painted the inside flat black, pushed a needle through the cap from a can of tennis balls for the pinhole, glued the lens board onto the end, and put some photo paper in the other end. Under a red safelight in the otherwise dark basement, of course. That pinhole was too big, so I replaced it with some aluminum foil with a smaller hole in it.
"We processed the paper normally (well, normally for those who still have a wet darkroom). This is our shot, after scanning, reversing, and bit of tuning up in Lightroom."
Featured Comment by Alistair Williamson: "A suggestion. Number 2 is 'last generation value.' It is any digital SLR camera that has just been replaced and hence is great value. The Canon 40D, the Pentax K20D etc."
Mike replies: Nice idea, Alistair. We might even be able to concoct a whole list that is essentially conceptual: a few items on this list more or less already qualify, and #1 could be "the camera you have with you" as numerous people have suggested.