I thought this might be kind of fun for a Saturday, although it's taken me so long to put it together that Saturday's half over already. The other day when I was writing the "Most Overpriced Camera in the World" post, it just occurred to me (I'm not even sure quite why) that I'm always taking price and value into account when I consider cameras. But there's not really a need to do that all the time. It got me to thinking—what are the most desirable cameras, price no object? It seems to me there are five, but don't let that stop you from disagreeing.
My picks, in no particular order:
• Nikon D700. It took Nikon nine years to make a digital analog (heh—sorry) of the F100, but they sure did it. Not quite Nikon's very best image quality, but the best 12 megapixels anybody could reasonably want. Overall a highly refined and flexible camera that's right in line with Nikon's age-old reputation for providing highly practical workhorse cameras with eminently sensible ergonomics. Could be 20% smaller if you ask me, but that's just me.
• Canon 5D Mark II. That famous and inimitable Canon CMOS image quality in push-the-envelope format—full frame, lots of size*, with outstanding high ISO capabilities. And decently portable, not like carrying around a calculus textbook. One test of a camera is when people still like it after they've owned it for a while and all the glow of newness (and self-congratulation) has worn off. This one, like four of my five here, qualifies with flying colors. And as a bonus, the best digital B&W I see consistently comes from Canon 5D's, old and new.
• Sony A900. It's true, you can buy the slightly de-tuned A850 for $700 less and be 98% as happy, and no, the slight refinements and almost imperceptibly better build of the A900 are probably not objectively worth the difference in price. (The A850 was supposed to complement an A950, which fell victim to the global economic slump.) But we're talking most desirable here, and the A900 still has that over its slightly younger brother. I love the no-nonsense, pared-down nature of this camera—it's the Porsche 911 GT3 of cameras. My favorite of the bunch, at least until I see the Pentax. If I do.
• Leica M9. Not really my cuppa—it's a replicam—but people do desire the M9, of that there can be no dispute. Photographers clamored for just this very camera, and, if you overlook a bit of a false start (*cough* M8 *cough*), Leica delivered—making users very happy. Unlike the M8, no excuses necessary; unlike the M8, no problems with familiarity breeding contempt. The vast and stellar lens possibilities is a plus, as is the fact that you can't even fit a zoom. To own an M9 is to love it, if the reports that reach me are true.• Pentax 645D. This list originally just had four cameras on it. I had to add this one—forced to—even though it's not out yet and isn't planned be exported to Europe and America in any case. This body style and its wonderful controls have been burnished to perfection over several generations, and, assuming the sensor measures up, this thing on paper looks like the coolest camera ever made. Anyway the key word in this post is "desirable," and I want one.
A few words of explanation: I rank the various "pro" cameras as a little less desirable than the four 35mm-style DSLRs above because they're too big and heavy. Plus, if you're just carrying around a camera to take an occasional snap with, like a normal person, they can make you look like a bit of a poseur if you're not careful. The big beasts don't appeal to me quite as much as the camera-sized cameras.
And much as I like little cameras, they're still, well, little. Their littleness is their big appeal. When you get right down to it there's no little camera that does as competently what a big one will.
And you'll note that even though we're going for ultimates here, I'm still being practical in the sense that these are all eminently usable and practical cameras. Even the "most desirable" cameras are still tools to take pictures with.
An Honorable Mention
The Most Desirable Lens Line on the Planet: The Olympus Zuiko Digital Super High Grade line. There are only six of them; two are primes, but both primes are extreme telephotos. But I think they're the finest lenses for photography money can buy at this point. We'll be posting a user report on the two best Zuiko Digital Super High Grades on Monday.
So: your turn. Agree with my Five? Disagree? Or do you just desire something not mentioned more? I'm all ears**.
**But we're just having fun here. Nothing we say has any real effect on anything.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by ER: "What—no Leica S2???"
Featured Comment by Kent: "The funny thing about this post is that everyone who owns one of the cameras mentioned will agree, and everyone who doesn't won't. Moi? D700 user. I agree totally! (That was easy.)"
Featured Comment by El Inglés: "I'd have to find room for the Nikon F6, the ultimate 35mm SLR in more than one sense."
Featured Comment by Isaac Crawford: "Eh, Richard Ritter's 8x10 is the only one that tempts me these days. I still don't like using cameras I have to turn on...."
Mike replies: I'd agree with that, except my Mamiya 7 has an on-off switch....
Featured Comment by hugh crawford: "The 'Most Desirable Cameras on the Planet' are the ones they don't make yet. Everybody knows that."