[Ed. Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, as ever (the principle being that I tell you where I stand and then you can decide for yourself if I'm biased), I have to admit to some feelings about Ricoh-Pentax. I liked both constituent companies, pre-merger, but, as you might recall, Pentax was our lead advertiser for a few years. The basis for it was a handshake deal I had with the "old king," who was a very fine fellow and a very fine fellow was he. But when the old king was beheaded (um, figuratively speaking—sorry, Ned!) and a new head was crowned, they said, "You got a contract? No?" and traipsed off...owing me quite a pile of moolah. The company was unconcerned about this. It's a blip on the balance sheet for Ricoh-Pentax but a big deal for l'il ol' me, and I admit I'm kinda holding a grudge. Not because I intended to—I intended not to, actually—but because that feeling of resentment is still...well, there, smoldering with a tiny wisp of smoke.
You might want to take this minor departure from equanimity into account in your peregrinations around 'n' about TOP. —Mike the Ed.]
As you know we are currently surveying the year that's coming to an end looking for our "Camera of the Year 2013." That award comes with no grand cash prize and does not affect sales figures, confers no prestige and apparently goes unnoticed by whichever company wins it, and our readers are independent-minded and experienced mavens who go their own way regardless of what we say. But we do it anyway, because what the hell.
So to continue our survey of the landscape:
Ricoh-Pentax: The huge news from Ricoh in 2013—okay, the only news from Ricoh in 2013—was the new Ricoh GR. Although based on previous Roman-numeraled iterations of the basic body shape, tracing its roots back to a film version, the GR 2013-version has an APS-C sensor, a huge leap up from the "tiny" <8x6mm sensor in the GR IV.
Like the Leica of old—I mean back when it was just a camera company—Ricoh gets high marks as well as outsized mindshare from photographers. At least, those photographers who try its products. The GR is therefore a nominee for Camera of the Year.
On the Pentax side, there's yet another significant and thoughtful updating. The excellent 24-MP flagship K-3 builds on the K-5IIs / K-5II / K-5 / K-7 line. Which is a good thing, as we liked those cameras and especially their silent-ish shutters and sturdy and handy body styling.
Pentax's new (well...) camera design for this year is the MX-1, which uses some design cues from the old MX of sainted memory and is solidly parked in the "retro" camp that's allegedly been trending over the last three years or so. A digicam (née point-and-shoot) that is definitely not bad but also nothing extraordinary (although note the current very low price), the MX-1 stands no chance of winning overall and therefore gets shunned by the Academy.
So, a serious contender in the form of the Ricoh GR for Ricoh-Pentax. But remember that Pentax is the Subaru of camera brands, as one of our readers put it the other day, and we love Subarus.
Nikon: First, the Nikon Df is a shoo-in nominee. Needs no introduction further than this to our audience. The Df is a) proof that Nikon is listening, and b) an option—choice—for those who like old-fashioned-y knobs 'n' dials. Choice be good.
Seems like it's been a good year for Nikons. The D5300 is, as one reader pointed out the other day, better than almost any digital camera you could buy more than a handful of years ago; the D7100 is a mainstream 70D competitor and the beneficiary of long development; and we actually quite approve of the D610, a mistakes-were-made-but-we-admit-nothing course correction of the problem-plagued D600. What's wrong with fixing problems? Nothing as far as we're concerned. The D600 is a camera we really liked a lot, and if you like FF DSLRs with their excellent viewfinders then the D610 has got to be on your short list.
The fine little Coolpix A, a GR-fighter, is, at $300 more than the already expensive GR, priced out of the discussion, and has been since its introduction. You don't hear it talked about much. But we've also liked it since the beginning, so it snags a nod.
And the coolest Nikon of the year is the great-great-grand progeny of the once-famous Nikonos, and why O why they didn't call it a Nikonos is a missed marketing trick and a mystery. But the Nikon 1 AW1—a shock-proof, fully waterproof, and temperature-tolerant take-me-anywhere camera with interchangeable lenses—(although, granted, there are only two of them—where are we, Sony-land?)—definitely garners a nomination from us. Give it to the kids at the swimming pool and say "What, me worry?"
So, Nikon's got three nominees: The Df, the Coolpix A, and the Nikon 1 AW1. Fine and dandy.
We're up to five nominees now, with four companies considered. And the best is yet to come....
[Part I is here. To be continued....]
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Featured Comments from:
Edward Taylor: "'Give it to the kids' may be the best advice for the Nikon 1 AW1. I admire the concept, and I admire Nikon for actually building such a camera. So, I bought one as soon as it was available. I tried to like it. I am going to the islands with the family in a few weeks and really needed a better underwater camera. But, alas, I sent it back. The problem: image quality, or lack thereof. Maybe I just had a bad copy, but the images, with or without pixel peeping, seemed no more impressive than my various point-and-shoot, tiny-sensor underwater cameras. And, those cameras are smaller and more convenient. I don't know what they did to that 1" sensor, but it doesn't seem to measure up to the 1" sensor in my Sony RX100 II. So, I'd vote for it for idea of the year, but camera of the year?—No way!"
Giovanni: "With all due respect, I saw the Nikon Df up close, and my good ol' FM back home said: Well, I put on weight and waist size just as much as you did over the past 30 years, man. Yep, even Leica added a bit of weight around the waist since the good ol' M6, but it's invisible by comparison. I would have been tempted to give my Nikkor AI lenses some good mating opportunities, but it seems like they'll have to stick to the old lady, a bit frayed at the edges but as svelte as ever...."