Always with a thumb clamped on the pulse of the Zeitgeist, herewith TOP's totally idiosyncratic, completely subjective, plausibly deniable, and cheerfully self-incriminating list of Digital Cameras We Love at the cusp of 2015—the digital cameras we think are the hottest at the moment and the most desirable. (This is a rolling post—check back to see new additions.)
7. Ricoh GR. This camera has had a great run. It traces its lineage directly back to a series of film cameras that debuted in 1996, and for the last ten years has gone through a number of iterations as a digital camera with a small sensor. The current GR is the fifth in the digital line, and the first with a large APS-C sensor.
Photographers have loved these cameras right along and many have remained loyal. Adherents give the GR series the highest of marks for real-world usability in the field. Can be called a niche camera, but they are beloved of street shooters the world around, and that's no easy niche to fill.
No one knows what Ricoh will do next, but you can bet it won't stray far from the well-proven—and well-liked—magic recipe.
The GR is a steal right now, too. Not only has the camera settled from its inital (and, at the time, competitive) $800 down to $596.95 (at B&H Photo, this is), but you get the great optical viewfinder and a 32GB card too, for...nuthin'. [UPDATE: The free viewfinder is no more. Deals and prices change daily, almost hourly, at this time of year. The free viewfinder deal was active when this post was written. —Ed.] Here's the GR at Amazon and at Amazon UK.
8. How could we ever leave the best camera in the world off the list?
While many people who were wedded to the classic 35mm film rangefinders are grateful that Leica was loyal to them by making digital versions of those cameras, it's the Leica S (Typ 007) that's the truest expression of the Kaufmann era in Leica history. And a brilliant expression it is. A system conceived as a whole, it supremely achieves parallel goals: ease of use and image quality.
Now that the lens line has matured, it's better than it's ever been before, too. The S System Leica lenses are the best lenses available for photography. There are now an even ten of them, including one macro, one zoom and one tilt-shift lens. We'd start out with the 45mm and the 100mm (35mm-e and 80mm-e respectively).
Why no higher on the list? Alas, its high price is an unfortunate barrier to wide adoption, and will keep it out of the hands of many photographers—most people will never get to try one. There are more practical choices. However, this is the camera for you when only the best quality will do.
9. Ricoh Pentax K-3: A fan favorite, winner of popularity polls if not critics' choice awards, Ricoh's Pentax K-3 quietly continues on its way as perhaps the best alternative to the Big Two DSLR makers known collectively as Canikon.
The camera's lineage started out with the workmanlike, well-judged K-7 back in 2009, and has been sensibly evolved since then, through the K-5, K-5II, and K-5IIS. It shows the signs both of its sensible workhorse heritage as well as of its continual refinement, improvement, and updating. Unabashedly APS-C (Pentax's full-frame camera is the medium-format 645Z with its awesome 43.8x32.8mm, 51.4-MP CMOS sensor, the only real competitor to Leica's formidable S), the 24-megapixel K-3's fancy dog trick is its switchable virtual anti-aliasing filter. It is also the best attachment point for Pentax's lineup of very fine prime and pancake lenses, including such gems at the Tokina-built 35mm DA Macro, which is spectacularly good; the delicious and unique DA 20–40mm ƒ/2.8–4 ED Limited DC WR; the tiny 40mm true pancake; and legacy lenses like the beautiful 77mm ƒ/1.8 Limited. They're on the expensive side, but ya gotta love it when expensive things are worth it. Pentax's lens lineup might be a motley—requiring considerable deconstruction and research to get a handle on, too—but it's a cornucopia of treasures.
10. Panasonic LX100: One-half of the Micro 4/3 partnership, Panasonic has been on a roll since the GF1, making not only a plethora of pleasing small interchangeable-lensed digicams such as the GM5 (only available with a lens, alas) but also the formidable GH4, an SLR-style workhorse well equipped for and well known for video. Particularly pleasing is the Leica-like GX7, a handsome and fun-to-use premium compact that is a spectacular bargain right at this moment.
Making our list is the new LX100 which seems to have grabbed a lot of peoples' attention in a positive way. It's a handy all-in-one fixed-zoom camera with a twist: it competes with the smaller 1" sensor cameras by offering a much larger 4/3 sensor, but crops the sensor to offer different aspect ratios. Nice—we approve of whoever thought up that idea. Coupled with a fast Leica-branded 24–75mm lens. Also nice. The LX100 doesn't lead the field in any way but it's a splendidly well-judged compromise of competing factors in every which way, making it the perfect camera to have with you when you can have only one camera with you.
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.
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Featured Comments from:
Mahn England: "I agree with your summary of the Panasonic. I've acquired the Lumix LX100 to take on a trip to Cuba. For me it is a 'Goldilocks' camera: Not too big (my Canons and their lenses) and not too small (my Sony RX100). It gives me the control I like to have analogous to driving a car with an manual transmission as opposed to a car with an automatic one. It does a lot without shouting 'look at me I'm a serious camera.'"