...To continue from Number 4, yesterday....
The Fuji X100 next to a Leica MP.
Photos by Ken Tanaka, from his X100 review.
Number 3: The Fujifilm X100. No matter how you slice it, this thing has been a phenomenon. From all indications, Fuji fully expected the X100 to be a boutique camera and to claim no more than a modest niche in the camera market, but the buzz it created right from its announcement was widespread and genuine. The camera itself tends to provoke strong reactions, from both owners and onlookers, but it has become a major product, both for its maker and in cameradom as a whole, with its mindshare handily outstripping even heftier-than-expected sales. I tend to think it's overfeatured, which impinges on its functionality, but there's one great thing about it: its image quality. The combination of an all-out lens design effort and a great sensor, each betrothed from birth exclusively to the other, creates files that are special. No matter what their opinion of any other of its many other aspects, from its classical retro styling to its unique viewfinder, few people disagree about that.
Number 2: The Leica S2. (Here's the normal lens for it. And don't forget to budget for the hood.) The Leica S2 is a prime candidate for all of the following: a) the best camera in the world; b) the best camera Leica currently makes; and c) one of the three or four most significant and important cameras in Leica's history (according to my own humble estimation). It shows what happens when very smart people who have lots of resources and who are actual, real, honest-to-god, dyed-in-the-wool camera guys start fresh and imagine something amazing from the blank sheet on up. The best thing about the S2 might be that it's the only digital camera on the market with the courage to ignore "feature-anxiety," by which I mean the tendency every digital cameramaker has to anxiously lard their products up with too many features at the expense of simplicity and directness. The only guy I know personally who has an S2 actually uses it as his point-and-shoot as well as his serious professional camera, because it's so straightforward and comfortable to use*. A huge sensor and stunningly superb lenses are, of course, very nice bonuses.
• • •
Which leads us to...drum roll, please, Maestro....
The Sony NEX-7 with Sony ZA 24mm ƒ/1.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar-E lens.
Pity about the floods. And it really is: I want to avoid seeming to be flippant about the human cost of the flooding in Thailand, which of course dwarfs any effect the disasters might have on industrial production, of any kind. Still, those effects exist, and one of the most signal among them is that Sony's NEX-7, planned for a triumphal rollout this holiday season, has unfortunately been all but stillborn so far; we're going to have to wait until spring (although there are some early reviews out there) to get the real measure of this delicious new device.
Yet there are certainly signs. It is a NEX, which means it's among the handiest cameras with a "real DSLR-sized" APS-C sensor. (And that's significant, because the photography world seems like it might be undergoing one of its periodic sea-changes, from giant professional cameras the size of thick hardback books to small, light, but high-performance camera bodies.) It's the first APS-C sensor to have 24 megapixels. It's going to offer the same ability to have fun with adapters and adapted lenses that many NEX and Micro 4/3 users have been having such a good time with. It has an OLED screen. And so on.
In the world of traditional photography, there have always been Leica lens guys and Zeiss lens guys. I've always been a Zeiss guy. Lifelong. I admire Leica lenses; I just don't love them. I love Zeiss lenses**. If I'm really gonna have the lens I most want, I want it to be a Zeiss. If this one has that meaty large-structure (i.e., high 5–10 lp/mm) contrast and Zeiss's inimitable rich, saturated, yet still delicately vareigated and gradated color, like the best Zeiss lenses have always provided, then say no more. Once you fall for that look....
So, a small camera, with a potentially outstanding sensor (again, we really have to wait and see), and a potentially outstanding made-for-the-camera lens of perfect specification? This won't get the pull from the hoi polloi, the mass market, or the mainstream media that some cameras-of-the-moment get, but for real camera buffs, there's just nothing we desire right now more than this little beauty.
Wait for it.
*He has an M9, too, which hardly sees any use since he got the S2.
**Just not all of 'em.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by scott kirkpatrick: "I'm delighted to discover that I will exit 2011 with no serious but unrequited photographic desires caused by your list, and an exhaustive list it is indeed! Well, I think I can live without the 20x24 Canham camera, but #11, the Phase One 180 80 MPx digital back, I won't need because a few years ago I bought a lovely EBay Hasselblad SWC/500C 'point 'n' shoot' and last year discovered that I could put the still state of the art P45+ 39 MPx digital back on it for a fraction of the usual entry cost into the Luminous Landscape and GetDPI clubhouse. And I have an M9 which I do use frequently. In the small sensor arena I see that you didn't mention the excellent GRD series (I have the GRD, the GRD2, the GRD3 and GRD4)—they keep getting more capable, still fit into a shirt pocket, and are used by the whole family. So my 2012 New Year's resolution will be to get out and use 'em all.
"The TOP 2011 desireable list is wonderfully democratic—something for every pocketbook. And even the one piece of unobtainium, the #1 NEX-7, will be obtainium next year."