This year's camera or product of the year in our field is an easy choice for me. Tastes vary, of course, but 2014 will be remembered (well, if camera products o' the moment are remembered at all, it must be added) as the year that mirrorless came of age. The Fujifilm X-T1 and the Panasonic GH4 joined Olympus's late-2013 OM-D E-M1 to form a triumvirate of top-of-the-line cameras. All are "right-sized" mirrorless cameras that are being used as only cameras by certain types of professionals as well as by their natural constituency, dedicated enthusiasts.
I still think the E-M1 is a better all-around recommendation, despite the "wrong" position of the on-off switch. Once learned (an important caveat with that camera and its "crapware" excesses!), it's faster to operate, the ergonomics of its two-position selector switch dual control wheels are superb (indeed, the ergonomics of the whole camera are excellent), and its effective 5-way IBIS is a big score over most competitors. Add the proliferating native lens options and it's a lovely design that "has it all."
2014 is the year the Nikon D750 came out, too—an important enough camera, we think, that it would have walked away with the prize in many years. (If you'd like to see more of our judgments on specific cameras, see our post "The Ten Best Digital Cameras" from December.)
The delicious Graphite Silver edition of the X-T1
Still, the X-T1 is just too...yummy. Technically it's very advanced, with just about every capability a stills camera c. 2014 could want. The big, beautiful viewfinder is better than an Olympus OM system OVF from back in the day; the size and weight are "Goldilocks" perfect; and the lenses are everything the most fastidious perfectionist could ask for.
I hear its video capabilities will send a videophile running to the open arms of the GH4, and, based on our user sample of one, the Wi-Fi cannot be figured out by middle-aged people. Other than that, the X-T1's worst shortcoming is that the thumbwheel, multi-way controller, and SD card access door are frustratingly mushy, frail, and cheap-feeling. In light of the excellence of the rest of the camera, this is like dropping a 300-yard drive four inches from the hole and then missing the putt—the rest of the knobs 'n' dials on the very same camera feel crisp and precise, and thumbwheels and card doors are not exactly hard to get right.
But never mind. The accumulated effect of the X-T1 is pretty addictive. It does what you want, when you want, and feels, looks, and sounds great doing it. I'm not saying it's even the best Fuji, because Fuji offers a wide choice of cameras and each choice has its fans. But it matches my own taste in cameras, and dovetails well with how I like cameras to work. (I've chosen the X-T1 to use for my OC/OL/OY project this coming year.) Your mileage may vary of course.
And of course a big plus for any Fuji X system shooter is the expanding range of native lenses. The range includes absolute standouts such as the 23mm ƒ/1.4 (one of the best 35mm-e lenses I've used, and I've used a whole lot of 'em) and the 56mm ƒ/1.2 (for which I'm saving my shekels). And based on Fuji's track record, you can be pretty confident it will be following its own intelligently strategized lens roadmap, too—as this morning's introduction of the professional-level, weather-sealed, constant-aperture 24–84mm-e at CES indicates—the new XF 16–55mm ƒ/2.8 R LM WR.
A friend in the industry told me a number of years ago that a Canon official had confided to him that Canon was only scared of one other company, and that company was not Nikon, or Leica, or Sony or Panasonic—it was Fuji. Since 2010, we've been seeing, more and more, what that meant.
Original contents copyright 2014 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Ash: "It's great to see the X-T1 win. Completely deserves it in my opinion. I am a little biased though—the X-T1 and 35mm ƒ/1.4 go almost everywhere with me. Maybe this is the year for a project?"