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Thursday, 21 May 2009


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Well, you did say there would be a cop out.

That said, I'm really hoping the K7 does well and does indeed make it on the next top ten list. I swear, every time Pentax makes an announcement, I regret buying a Nikon even more.

I don't know how most other photographers approach gear but I sure like to change mine around a lot. ADHD? Just a short attention span? Programmed by consumer culture? Whatever. All I know is that I'm currently using a D700 and like the mix of features on a Pentax 7 better. Change-o-prest? Maybe if the economy perks up...Can't get those DA lenses out of my head.

Mike, no problems with an empty #2 spot; I can live with that.

But...did you really say the K20D is out the door? I was hoping Pentax would have the, ermmm, good sense to leave the K20D in the line-up as the cheaper, larger, daddy of the K-7. Not everybody likes small cameras, and many people like $1,500 cameras for $700.

The Inscrutable Photographer.

"But...did you really say the K20D is out the door?"

The K20D will be phased out over the next couple of months. It's still a great bargain if you can find one, however--you just need to be aware that it's not going to be a current product much longer.

I've also been told several times that the K-7 is *not* "a direct replacement" for the K20D. There has also been a rumor that Pentax would be introducing *two* new DSLRs this year. This might portend a coming K30D that will be above the K-7 in the lineup. Note that the fact that I am saying this means that I don't have any real information either way. If I knew anything, I wouldn't be able to speculate.


Thanks for posting, Mike: as you saw, many of us were waiting for the explanations.

And while I accept your point of view, still I see a small contradiction with your own words.

This is what you posted in the comment about the missing number 2:

"but I'm going to have to hold off with #2 until about this time next month."

So we expected a choice, rather than to see the number 2 spot remaining empty in this year's list.

I know this is no big deal, but I was somehow surprised when reading your original comments.

Anyway, thanks again for the insightful comments on both the K20D and the K-7. I look forward to reading your testing and more datailed comments on the beast. :)

So you still havent told us which camera it was you bought!!?? or did I miss that?

An "existential flourish" indeed. A most thoughtful "cop out", dictated by the integrity and honesty of actor and process, and resulting in one of those perfect imperfections that turns beholder into participant. Top ten listing as art? Why not? I say "Bravo!"

Mike, as all personal 'best' lists are idiosyncratic, I wasn't bothered one way or the other what the mysterious number 2 was. What's keeping me awake at nights is how you couldn't find a special mention place in your top ten for the GPS feature currently finding its way into hardware. Who (on earth) can possibly regard themselves as a photographer without knowing precisely where (on earth) they were when they snapped little Chucky in, er, their front room? How anyone can base their excellence list on trivia like high ISO performance, ease of use, lens availability, etc, without considering the important stuff should hang his/her head in shame.

"If I knew anything, I wouldn't be able to speculate." -- M.J.

Well, that pretty much sums up my life. 8-)

I think an empty #2 is fine; perhaps you could have a retroactive plug-in if something terrific comes along. I'm thinking about the upcoming micro 4/3 from Olympus. I'm beginning to have a bad feeling about that camera, though -- since it was announced, Panasonic has produced two cameras (the G1 and G1H, which are actually quite different from each other) and other major manufacturers continue to spit out revisions and new models...but Olympus hasn't been able to get out this one, though it was announced early last fall, IIRC. To me, that means one of two things. (1) There are problems that they can't solve -- the camera's been bypassed by time (in features) or in marketing (by competitors' pricing) and has become less viable; or (2) Olympus is trying to pull off some kind of spectacular game-changer, like issuing a group of great m4/3 lenses, primes and zooms, and perhaps a sophisticated add-on OVF, all at the same time -- in other words, to create a modern M3.

I hope it's the latter, but I ha'e me doubts. Still waiting with bated breath, however, thinking that it could be a #2.

With the new Pentax, and pending the new Olympus, my Nikon system has been put on life support.

"A nice enigmatic existential flourish—even if I can't take any credit for doing it on purpose."

1. The artist takes credit for everything, especially his (successful) mistakes.

2. Intention is (mostly) irrelevant.

[/unreformed formalist]

I too was wondering if the #2 post would come up after all... Well, I'm not disappointed. Your last paragraph "I rather like the concept. It's a tacit acknowledgment of the vagaries of personal taste, the ever-changing firmament of the market, and the essential futility of ordinal lists" makes up for the wait. I couldn't agree more.

And since you had already offered quite a nice count-down, I don't think we needed yet another review. #2 will remain the mystery spot. The camera that was never really defined.

And I guess for most of us, since we dream of the moon but often must content ourselves with orbiting the Earth, the #2 camera could represent anything that is second best to our ultimate choice, to that super-fancy model that has all the features we'd like but costs 350% too much for our budget...

#2 is what we too often make of our dreams, we settle for less because it is a reasonable alternative, and easier to justify.

I think camera manufacturers are acutely aware of that fact because they always seem to have the perfect #2 model for each other model in their line up. Can't afford A? We put half of its features in B and it's cheaper. Can't afford B? Well, C features the same bell without the whistle. Oh, C is too big an investment for your needs? We just released D that has the same looks but is plastic. Just need it as a second camera? Ok, then why not buy E and get a free pouch with it? It has one of the same feature as D, uh, it takes pictures...


Look here: http://asia.olympus-imaging.com/products/dslr/special/pen50th/pen/

We should know one way or the other in a few days (I hope this isn't a long, drawn-out, annoying ad campaign).


I think that leaving the #2 slot empty ("Your camera here.") is perfect Mike. Leaving the #1 slot empty wouldn't be quite right, and an empty #3 slot would not have much meaning.


@Marc: Charming story of your pinhole camera project. That murky quirky little print will have a special, deeply meaningful spot in her heart for the rest of her life.

You could make a habit not "awarding" some of the positions in the list. The International Chopin Piano competition regularly fails to fill out all of its ranks. Some years no one is good enough to be number 1.

Perhaps there isn't a camera good enough to be number 2.

Well Done Marc Rochkind!!! My five year old's teacher recently asked mums and dads to each come in and do a "show and tell" morning about their jobs. I couldn't possibly talk about the source of my primary income (IT supportzzzzz), so instead I brought in my ancient Mamiya RB67 with Polaroid back. They looked through the huge viewfinder, wondered where the screen was, and were delighted with the photographs that actually came out of the camera that they could hold! The pinhole is far more primitive, but these days is from the same school, and in terms of education is a step up from an enormous camera and out of date polaroid film. So for an older class some day I will take your lead, and make some pinhole cameras with a bunch of kids and show them what's possible without a plug, screen or batteries!

@JC, Last I heard, Olympus will announce on June 15 an m4/3 camera "inspired" by the old Pen system, for sale this summer, targeted at a market that wants better image quality than compacts, but finds SLRs too pricey, bulky and complex. That may not answer much, but apparently something is coming soon, and Wired was able to confirm at least that it is an m4/3.


http://www.digitalcamera.jp/ broke the story (see the 5/13 item)

I knew it! Well, at least I suspected it was the K20d.
And I would add that the right time to buy it is just now. It still offers more than I need. But in any case, I'm pretty sure it will come out in disguise, as the K10D did, reincarnated in the K200D. Altough you mentioned that the K-7 is almost silent...

You put Pentax K20D as an option on #3, and then originally the same camera was also your #2? I found it rather ... amusing.

BTW, my TOP 10 cameras:

Dear Folks,

May I point out, once again, that this wasn't a "top ten" list of "best" cameras?

It was a T.O.P. list of "ten recommended" cameras.

"Recommended" is not synonymous with "best."

It means nothing more than what it says.

And so it doesn't matter if the list is 10 or 9 or 11 long. Nor is the ranking inherently based on quality nor merit relative to other cameras on the list.

It is a list that happens to be in an order, because all lists are, but that is not the same as an ordered list. Especially not one ordered best-to-worst.

pax / Ctein

"You put Pentax K20D as an option on #3"

Well, obviously it was not originally going to be there, if it had been #2.


"Nor is the ranking inherently based on quality nor merit relative to other cameras on the list.

"It is a list that happens to be in an order, because all lists are, but that is not the same as an ordered list."

No, I'd say it's definitely in order. I put a lot of thought into the ranking, although of course it *is* highly subjective.


Ordinality loses out to originality.
#2 slot remains appropriately blank.
Nice concept!
Well done, Mike.

As a proud owner of a (yes, I hate the cliche!) K20D I feel better. I knew it was good and was a lot better than many with a higher price tag. Still, being in agreement with someone like you is quite flattering anyway! And, yes, I am serious :)

The readers of your blog never have to take any #2.
So I'm fine with it. As long as you don't get #1ey about it.

"Perhaps there isn't a camera good enough to be number 2."

I have a problem with this whole list thing because the basic assumption is what is the recommended ones as of this moment. An obviously time-sensitive proposition, eh?

My top recommended cameras would be which ones are not only good today (maybe not even the technically best), but will be good tomorrow. What cameras in this list will have staying power? What cameras will have a cult-like following for very specific reasons?

This reminds me of the '80s and '90s when we had some very-well spec'd cameras that were the recommended flavor of the day, but didn't stand the test of time.

When it comes down to brass tacks, there are very very few cameras that have long-term staying power. The lowly Olympus E-1 is considered as one of those cameras. The Canon 5D will probably be more highly sought than the Mk2 five years from now. The 1DMk2 will be sought after long after the 1DMk3 is binned to history.

As an indicator of this, you only need to look at the Auto-focus wars of the '90s. How many of those #1 and #2 cameras are anything more than a sad, cruel joke today? Meanwhile, other less than current camera designs had legs to stand the test of time.

We're going to look back at this decade of digital cameras and wonder "what was I thinking?" In 24 months, not a single camera on this TOP-10 Recommended list will be anything more than a backup.


Ken N,
Possibly, but we're living today, and anyone who's thinking of buying a camera has to choose one that's available today. I can't predict the future.


I have an idea!

How about a sub-ordered list of, say, ten more cameras that actually fits in the #2 slot of the original list? Then you could branch out from #3 on the sublist in the same way, for example, and pretty soon you'd have a convoluted little camera hierarchy that would generate some pretty interesting discussion ... if anyone could figure it out.

On second thought please don't. Just thinking about it has given me a headache.

Let's just say that #2 is the camera that takes the pictures that make you happy. I can live with that.

Adam, I fear a long, drawn-out ad campaign is exactly what it is, leading up to the mid-June announcement. Likely three or four major revisions of the Pen will each get a video homage, as a run-up to the new "digital Pen".

Addressing Ken N: No, we cannot predict the future. At the time of introduction, noone could have forseen that the E-1 will become a classic, because no manufacturer (Oly included) would come up with anything as nicely made. Same for the Epson RD-1, or the Leica Digilux 2.

Whenever such a model arises, we are inclined to think that there will be successors. But in each of three mentioned cases we were proven wrong. Unfortunately it is always the best that is scraped.

But back to the OP: One cannot deny the beauty and elegance of leaving spot 2 empty, turning such a list into art, as robert said so eloquently. But I also think that - recurring to Mikes argument of us living today - the spot 2 should have gone to the K20D. I don't think that the K20D will be no longer recommendable when the K7 hits the shelves, its IQ and value won't not be any worse. Especially regarding price it _could_ be highly recommended also in terms of fighting digital obsolescence. And it would have done some justice to this camera, thinking of the many times at certain online photo mags when it gets positioned as a lower mid level and compared to D90 instead of D300 for example.

Dear Mike,

Oh, I'm sure you did! There's a narrative flow to be established. But establishing an order isn't the same as an ordered list.

I spent lots of time deciding the order of photos in my monographs-- what should open, what should close, what should follow what. It's not random nor arbitrary. Anything but! But it's not an ordered list, running from best to worst, or earliest to latest, or most favorite to least, or etc.

pax / Ctein

Mike - good explanation, and as a happy K20D owner I find it also very satisfying. Now I want to hear more about the DA15 performance that you hinted at recently.

Ah yes, I wondered how the K20D could be a contender for #3 when it was obviously a better camera for the money than any other in that list. And now I know it was also supposed to be #2. I suppose that makes the K-7 the real #1 then? ;-)

If I were the K20D, I'd feel cheated! :)

"Well, obviously it was not originally going to be there, if it had been #2."

Oh, I see. Silly me :)

Can you, please, provide links to previous and next posts, when writing a series of articles?

"A suggestion. Number 2 is 'last generation value.' It is any digital SLR camera that has just been replaced and hence is great value. The Canon 40D, the Pentax K20D etc."

I like this idea a lot. I thought for a while that the school where I work was going to buy me a D700--great advantages for the kind of photography I do here and (almost as important) giving me two cameras so I can still do my job if a camera breaks or gets run over or something. The grant didn't come through, no D700, so instead I'm getting a second D200, used, for $600. I think that stacks up pretty well against anything else you can get for that price right now.

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