Jason Schneider, former longtime editor of Popular Photography magazine and well known as a camera collector, has written an intriguing list of "The 14 Most Influential Cameras of All Time" at Adorama's site.
As you can see from a glance or two at the comments, the list has been controversial. Although no one will argue with the Kodak Brownie, the last half of Jason's list is taken up with precursors to, and early examples of, the digital wave. His last choice, a current camera, has proven especially contentious.
But that's always true of such lists. The passage of time is required to judge influence, and appraising recent products in that context is purely an educated guess. Nothing to get one's knickers in a twist about.
As one commenter wrote, "Anything Jason S. has to say about influential cameras is going to be interesting, intelligent, and deeply informed, and this certainly was. I'd quibble with some of his later choices but I think the interesting thing is to follow his thinking—he's obviously decided to consider early digital precursors as influential on the current market, which is certainly a defensible tack, and he makes some very interesting picks following this line of argument."
That was one "Mike J. in Wisconsin."
Other commenters have not been so generous, so you should avoid this link if you dislike ugly sights such as genteel editors being dragged over coals.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Tom Kwas: "...gotta say, I think the list is pretty right on; shy on the larger format end, but basically correct when you consider all of photography as a whole market and it's influence on the 'art' of taking pictures.
"I remember when I was managing a big studio for an in-house retail catalog place, I was in a constant battle to keep the VP of advertising from driving us into making too early a decision on jumping into digital, especially from a 'return on investment' standpoint. We finally had to make the jump when cameras were about $50K, but I was warning them that film, Polaroid, processing, etc., was still cheaper than buying six digital set ups at $50K+ apiece (plus computers and storage!) that would last for a few years before needed replacement. (I mean, I was being pressed hard by people selling Sony systems that were the size and weight of old video cameras, and came with their own tripods on rollers, cost $200K, and had half catalog page printouts that were soft, but as the salesmen would say, '...doesn't look bad when it's screened and printed....')
"After I left, and was working at a place in in D.C., bingo, the Digital Rebel hit the market. The staff in D.C. went out 'en-masse' and all bought Digital Rebels, and started testing them against our high end 4x5 digital scan backs. By the time the result were compared in printed form at catalog size, there was virtually no difference! That was the big game changer! That's when I started to see 4x5 film guys start putting little DSLRs on a tripod in a studio.
"It was also around that time that multi-item, highly styled catalog photography seemed to change over to 'drop-and-pops' on white or gray seamless. Of course, no one needed to do any perspective changes with single item 'drop-and-pops' (although it could be easily fixed in Photoshop), and the stuff was infinitely and immediately usable for e-tail.
"That was the biggest game-changer ever in my end of the business, all launched by the Digital Rebel!"