Okay, sorry about this. Mea culpa.
This was supposed to be a Christmas list, but then the Thai floods interrupted the world's camera supplies—affecting not very many of these cameras, but affecting #1. I lost focus, no pun intended. Still, it's unkind to leave you hanging. So here, in a massive end-of-year blurt, is the rest of the list.
The List up till now
You might remember that we started with #11—the "turn it up to 11" option—the Phase One IQ180 back. (The links are to our original articles.) Why #11, when the Phase One generates arguably the best image quality in all digitaldom? Remember the wording—"most desirable." For better or worse, digital medium format backs don't make most hobbyists' radar, much less their Christmas lists. Next came #9, the Nikon D3x. That's another unpopular camera, as Hitler explained when it came out. But a killer bigcam. After that was the list's controversial choice, the Sony A77, which was generating a lot of buzz at the time but has since—uncomfortably literally—sunk beneath the waves. We'll have to see how desirable that one plays out to be in 2012 and beyond. Number eight was a tie—this is the way listmakers cheat!—between the biggest and most traditional camera on our list, the Canham 20x24, and the newest and most up-to-the-minute, the Apple iPhone 4s.
And that was as far as I got.
The rest of the list
So, without further ado, the identities of the remaining cameras. (The links from here on in are to Amazon or B&H Photo.)
Number 7: The Nikon D700. From the very beginning of digital, in the antediluvian days of the mid to late '90s, people clamored for two things: a digital Leica M6, and a digital Nikon F100. They finally got both, and both are firmly ensconced on this list. The nicest thing about Nikons has always been their rugged, no-nonsense functionality—they're good solid utilitarian tools with which to do anything and everything photographic. Perhaps placed a trifle low on our list because of the rumors of its impending replacement, the D700 is still one of the cameras photographers most want to own. And will be until you can freely buy whatever replaces it. (And by the way, this is off-topic, but the original film F100 remains one of the very best bargains in a used film camera on eBay—it was possibly the most-bought serious camera just before the digital onslaught, when everyone and his uncle suddenly wanted to dump their near-new F100 for digital alternatives. eBay is still awash with good ones for near nothing.)
Number 6: The Pentax 645D, our Camera of the Year last year. As with many of the other cameras on this list, the Pentax 645D is a culmination of design efforts reaching back several generations, updated for the moment. And it shows, in a superb layout intended for functionality. And by the way, did you hear the rumor from just yesterday? Toshiyuki Kitazawa, Pentax's Head of Business Development, apparently hinted in an interview in a Japanese camera magazine that Pentax is thinking not only of building a full-frame mirrorless camera, but maybe even a mirrorless 645-size medium-format digital camera. Pentax always was more flexible with regard to format than any other manufacturer, that is until Andreas Kaufmann's 21st-century Leica.
Number 5: The Leica M9. Not, in my opinion, Leica's best camera, but, again, remember the premise here—most desirable. As a result of every one of a thousand influences dating back more than 85 years, the M9 landed in an enviable place as a default choice for high prestige in digital cameras. I've always considered it basically a digital replica of a camera designed to use film, but nobody needs to listen to me. Owners love it, others want it, and those are criteria enough for this list.
Number 4: Canon 5D Mark II. Without any doubt, this is a camera that photographers just want. It's been among the top five most desirable digital cameras—sometimes quite high in the top five—since the original 5D first came out. I used a 5D Mark II briefly, and like others was struck by its most salient characteristic—simply wonderful image quality. I had some quibbles at first (one of which I didn't understand when I first encountered it)—since put to rest either by Canon or Canon users eventually—and ended up buying the competing Sony A900 myself, but there's no denying the continuing strong appeal of Canon's top amateur model.
And now, the hour grows late, and I hear the siren call of football beckoning. I'll post the remainder of the list—the top three most desirable cameras in the world according to me, that would be—tomorrow.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.