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Friday, 28 December 2012


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The real challenge in naming a single camera of the year (COTY) is that many are intended for such completely different uses. Thus, the COTY for a professional wedding photographer (like myself) would be completely different than that of a landscape photographer or a casual shooter looking for a travel system.

That said, my nomination would be:

Travel/Family: OM-D EM-5. It advanced the m4/3 system, the first and arguably most robust mirrorless system, into a true photographic tool in which the compromises don't outweigh the advantages.

Professional event/wedding/reportage: Canon 5DmkIII. It's not a revolutionary camera in any sense of the word, but it is probably the best camera released this year with the right balance of build, size, high ISO quality, the ability to tune RAW image size to your actual needs, and overall capability needed for event shooting. I say this as a Nikon shooter. In a business where volume is as real a consideration as pixel level quality, the D800 is not an ideal event camera. Processing overly large/detailed files is a very real productivity issue when you have 1500 to 3000 photos per event to contend with. Finally, the real benefit of all that image detail is lost without perfect shooting method on a sturdy tripod, but events are a generally handheld business.

Landscape: Nikon D800. Landscapes, unlike events, are where the D800 shines. Slower working speed, smaller overall quantity of files, and a real need for pixel-level detail make the D800 much better suited to this kind of work.

Of course, that's just my opinion.

I think innovation and future influence are the two primary requirements for CotY. Shouldn't it be a camera that in a decade or two one might say "Oh, yeah ... I remeber when that was introduced"?

Or perhaps that's camera of the decade.

On that basis I'd say the RX-1 and the RX-100 are the primary contenders. Full frame in a compact form factor and moving enthusiast into the "sensor gap".

The other thing this brings to mind is perhaps "camera" company of the year. In that case I think it's hands down must be Sony for both their push for better sensors (that are now used by Nikon and Olympus (and Panasonic?) and others) and for their ongoing efforts in trying to build up a serioous camera business with the NEX, Alpha, RX and their higher end compacts along with their video cameras. They really seem to be the "disruptive innovators" in the field today.

I own no Sony gear though I do have Sony sensors in some of my cameras.

Why not the iphone 5? Its pretty amazing for the size and cost.

When considering cameras of the year, I don't think any upgrades (like the Canon 5D or the Nikon D600) would be good choices. I think the COTY should be a camera that shakes things up -- like the Sony RX100 or the Fujis or the Nikon D800, the latter of which was the first to *really* challenge MF boxes. I also think the COTY shouldn't be a niche camera, like the Leica or the RX1 -- those are cameras for people who are more interested in status than photography (the Leica) or who have quite a specific and limited vision of what they're doing (the RX1.) The COTY, I think, should be a general purpose camera, and an exceptional one of its kind. Even eliminating the upgrades and the niches, that leaves a number of choices...but I personally would probably vote for the RX100.


If they don't ship one before Tuesday can it be considered for 2013?

I voted with my Wallet and after 30 years of Nikon pro use I sold the lot and bought the Fuji X PRO 1, Full manual control Incredable IQ even better with Capture 1 raw. AMAZING!!!!. My freelace that I use from time to time on large shoots could not equal the quality with his 5D Canon.

I'm not sure the new Leica M (240) would technically qualify considering its anticipated availability in early 2013.

While I do not (currently) own one and am having a hard time rationalizing where it fits into the cameras I do own, I think the Sony RX-1 is the most innovative design by virtue of being the least innovative product of the year. An amazing lens in front of an amazing full frame sensor. It takes me right back to the Canonet QL 17 (3).

And at only twenty times the price...

If I get a vote I'm going to say that the Camera of the Year was the Sony a99. It's the "weather vane" camera, showing us how we'll all be using cameras once everyone figures out the value proposition. Curse the EVF now. Enjoy it a few months from now. Evolution.

In line with your suggestion the other day that the best camera is the one you don't have with you, surely the Sony RX1 is a shoo-in?

None of the above Mike. Give it to the iPhone - best interface and connectivity of any... And it made the entire category of little point-n-shoots worthless. No Canikon can claim anything close.

"We'll announce our Camera of the Year soon," I am curious, who is "we" ? thanks joanlvh

[See here. --Mike]

Amazing technology aside, does the modern camera need to be styled like a cheap prop for a 'B' grade Si-Fi flick?

"Tebow Award"?! What, do 6Ds and D600s only work for a couple of minutes every other photo shoot and cost 10x their actual value?

For me it's the Canon 6D, because of the full frame sensor in a regular size body and particularly the wireless connectivity. I have already installed the EOS app on my iPhone, even though I'm not sure when I will buy the camera. Being able to use the iPhone (or iPad) screen for live view and camera control will be a big deal for me. First new camera that has tempted me to buy one in the past five years.

"TOP's endorsement doesn't bring fame and riches showering onto the heads of the lucky winners, nor does it mean big bumps in sales for the fortunate annointee, nor does it make news."

In might, however, result in sour gripes from those who may feel slighted that their cameras of choice were not named the CotY, perhaps even in some eggs and tomatoes being thrown in the direction of the selection committee.

I don't have a dog in this fight- but methinks it should well go either to the Fuji X-Pro1, or the iPhone. The Fuji has a remarkably new, innovative and yet practical viewing system that is well beyond pure gimmick. It can be used for a myriad of professional, street or travel uses, is well constructed, delivers excellent IQ and comes with a selection of top notch lenses. The other contenders fall more into the latest update or narrow niche categories.

The iPhone, on the other hand, has become a ubiquitous photographic tool used successfully by professionals, artists and casual shooters alike. It has nearly revolutionized the way people shoot, view, exchange and even think about photography, the photographic image and how we relate to it in our everyday lives. Remarkable (for better or worse)!

The iPhone, no contest.

My camera(s) of the year are by Graflex. The pacemaker speed and the rb super d , specifically. Both when outfitted with an aero ektar or pentac are just a ton of fun to use, with gobs of image quality. The added challenge of not having crutches like AF, built in meters, motor drives, or digital post production just makes each shot that much more earned and sweet.

I also have to go with the iPhone. It's everything the big boys have missed and still just don't seem to get. A modern digital camera is a computer with a lens attached and than can change everything. If Apple came out with a interchangeable lens camera first, phone second, Nikon and Canon would see a huge revenue drop. If I was a senior executive at Sony I would be courting Apple to build a hybrid system, it could change the industry and cameras as we know them forever.

Happy new year!

I think it's unfair to exclude the D800 and E-M5 just because you own them. You wouldn't have purchased them if they weren't fantastic.

Anoint Sony the "Sensor of the Year" and both your cameras win!

I vote for the Sony A57. It might not be as flashy as the other choices, but I think its value proposition is unmatched other than by some of the better sub-$100 compacts, and in an industry so strongly ruled by the Law of Diminishing Returns, that's a tall achievement.

I am excited about the Leica M (240) where I can use my R lenses - an option to shoot R lenses without going the Leitax route. Not too excited about the EVF though.

Still learning to exploit the D800E's super duper sensor.

Personally, I do not like the m4/3 rd system.

Waiting for the COTY. On paper, my vote goes to the Leica M (240) - revolutionary :)

My COTY is my Canon T2i (for the 3rd year in a row). It's not supposed to be a workhorse, but I've taken over 100,000 shots on it (including a LOT of time lapses), plus shot hours of 1080p video, and it has never let me down. When my photographic/video requirements exceed the camera's capabilities, I'll start looking for a replacement.

Shot on my T2i: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMi4jk4S_Lo

When I got the OM-D, I sold my DSLR and gave away my pocket camera (to a lovely friend who's using it to document Occupy Sandy), and I haven't missed them. That's pretty cool.

Of all the rest, I most covet the RX1. It's the one which made me say, "They did *what*? That's amazing!"

(I've never owned a full-frame camera, and I've never owned a camera with a fixed prime lens. So it would be a first for me in a couple of ways.)

I want to see your Photo of the Year article more than Camera of the Year. Here's why.

The camera award looks compromised. Your shortlist includes a Nikon that has no attribute of note other than its Sony sensor, and a Canon that is only notable for how much it improves the previous Canon that had numerous weaknesses. Easily the biggest newest camera of the year in this class is the Sony a99, it's a no-contest. However….

…. Olympus introduced a camera that, singlehandedly, completely upgraded an entire, relatively new class of camera from "flawed wannabe / upgrading point and shooter / pocketable spare / with a choice of cheap zoom lenses" status, to a serious all-round enthusiast solution in a new size factor. And part of this leap-frog involved new lenses that raised the ball game, which none of the FF contenders did, so it's a no-contest. However……

….you will have to change the name of this award to Camera Body of the Year, unless you only include camera-lens combinations offered as a kit by the manufacturer. The absence of the all important lens from your consideration is highlighted by the image at the top of this article, which comprises a camera subcomponent that by itself cannot take a single in-focus photograph. Some candidate! So, please see what your award looks like when restricted to body-lens combinations, i.e. cameras.

I am curious, who is "we" ?


Sorry - couldn't resist.


I would have assumed it more of a "Royal We" in light of the status of the editor

My Camera of the Year was the Yashica Mat 124G. It just edged out my Rollei SL66SE on the fun criterion, although the Rollei has nicer lenses and is much better for close-ups. Now that I have these two, I'm not expecting to be nominating a Camera of the Year for the next five to ten years.

The camera of the year for me is Sony's RX100. Mine went to Europe without me for three weeks and came back filled with delights. If it had been the DSLumpR that went instead I doubt that I'd have such vicarious pleasure. She, the photographer from whom the RX100 is now to be wrested, reckons it is great as well.

Another vote for the RX100, or the smartphone camera. Both are disruptive.

Shouldn't it be a camera that in a decade or two one might say "Oh, yeah ... I remeber when that was introduced"?

Hasselblad Lunar? I am not gonna forget THAT one.

The COTY committee:


Another first for the iPhone is that it's one of the only ambidextrous designs (short of a view camera). While many of us will complain that it isn't like a real camera, to a Leftie that's always struggled with the backwards controls of a SLR or RF design I bet it is great to have a neutral design.

.......the camera of the year is the same as every year. The blinking of the eye(s) to signal the brain, or is it the other way round, that we have recognized another scene in a moment that shows us how beautiful and annoying life can be and we follow with an image captured with a somewhat crude devise to look again and refresh the proof that we saw what we saw and think what we think.

Some root/radical questions. When product cycles are as radically short as they currently are, is a "year" the right unit of time? Just asking. The product cycles of a Pentax LX, Nikon F3 or F4, or Canon F1 or Leica M6? -- years and years. Now: months and months.

Or here is another idea: maybe the real "product" these days is firmware. Mike, the world of trying-to-nudge-the-Titanic of the camera industry, is there no hope of rewarding good under-the-hood design?

In the "I'll play" category: Fuji XP1. There is so much that is new in this camera -- and the pictures ain't bad either.

Ben Marks

I notice that, among the leading contenders, the Fuji X-Pro1 is the only one which does not get specific words of love - or an image, such as it happens for the Sony A99. Is this a sign that the higher endorsement is waiting for it just around the corner?

I don't really care about market penetration or newness. The camera of the year for me has been the Polaroid SX-70 that my uncle gave my last March. Loaded with Impossible Project film, it is just a giggle to make photos with.

Life's too short to always be looking for more more more. :-)

My COTY is a Canon T2i. I bought it in January, and it has served me well in 2012. I think I will keep it for awhile. The only thing that I do not like is the sound that the camera makes when you trip the shutter, a lot like I stepped on a squeaker toy.

Nothing out there this year to convince me to upgrade from the Sony a850. I wish Sony would come out with a FF with 36 MP, good tethering capability, and great AF. A camera like that would take care of all of my studio needs.

Mike said about the RX1

"...he smallest-ever full-frame camera." (meaning digital of course)

I'm wondering if you dropped the RX1 into a bucket of water, and then an M9 with the 40mm Summicron, which would displace the most volume?

Haven't tried it myself..

[Likely answer.... --Mike]

The Sony RX100 is a no-brainer winner. At a time when the pocketable point-and-shoot camera seems to be facing extinction Sony has single-handedly and unexpectedly reestablished a raison d'être for this style of camera by raising its engineering and performance standards while keeping the price in volkscamera range. The RX100's "1-inch" sensor and its excellent Zeiss-designed lens have benched nearly all my other cameras for candid photography. It's that good.

Sony's RX1 is even more earth-shifting. By building a coat-pocketable camera around a full-sized (36mm x 24mm) CMOS sensor and an outstanding Zeiss 35mm F2 lens Sony has left Canon and Nikon without excuses for not delivering such a product themselves. The RX1 has, yet again after the RX100, reestablished what's possible within the form factor of the pocketable camera. Whatever Canon and Nikon produce in response to the RX1, if anything, it will be a response to Sony's innovative initiative rather than innovation leadership.

But, alas, the high price of the RX1 will certainly limit its sales and prevent it from achieving volkscamera status.

Yes there were other quite notable camera models introduced in 2012, Olympus's OM-D and Fujifilm's X-Pro1 and XE-1 to name three with strong followings and distinguished engineering.

But if you're determined to name a "Camera of the Year" the Sony RX100 and RX1 have to be the winners, with the RX100 getting the wreath for its volkscamera-ness. No other cameras have come close to so boldly redefining engineering and performance standards in a genre thought to be in its waning years.

To its great credit, and my own gape-jawed surprise, Sony has really been sticking it to the digital photography world for several years now with innovative leadership. It seems that they are now the awakened sleeping giant in the camera world, much to the costly dismay of Nikon (which only recently awoke itself) and Canon.

@ Mike Plews: No fair. Deardorff won a CoTY for that same camera in 1926. (And they're probably still fulfilling bequested back-orders from 1940.)


If the writer and the reader don't agree, who gets to break the tie?

†"Author's we ("you and I") per wiki cited.

I suspect more people remember the Argus C3 than the Olympus 35RC. What does that say for how one picks "camera of the year"? (not that they came out the same year)

After being on a merry-go-round of several mirrorless cameras for the last couple of years, I finally gave them all up and bought a used M9. The M9 essentially cured my GAS, so that's my camera of the year. :)

In all seriousness, I'd say the Sony RX-1 is the biggest development, and their RX-100 is a close second. Everything thing else is pretty derivative.

I'm struggling between OM-D and the Fuji EX-1...not yet decided but for me both could be camera of the year!

At every year's end I have the same issue. Whether to buy products for my business with my head or my heart. My head says "Buy the D800 for the files it produces and you already have the lenses for it." My heart says "Buy the Sony RX1 because it's 90% of the camera you've always wanted or the a99 because you love Zeiss glass." So, this year the head won and a D800 is on the way but the heart is gaining some ground. There's a Voigtlander 58mm f1.4 in the same box.

Sony A99. It's difficult to design a good looking DSLR, and this one turned out freaking great.

....the camera of the year is the same every year. The blinking of the eye(s) signal the brain, or is it the other way round, that we have recognized another scene in a moment that reveals how beautiful and annoying life can be and we capture the moment with a somewhat crude devise so that we may look again and refresh the proof that we saw what we saw and think what we think.

It's a bit of a stretch, but I'll say that Instagram is the camera of the year, as it is introducing whole swaths of people to the joys of taking, editing, and sharing photos, many whom will progress to advanced point-and-shoots as well as dSLRs and mirrorless cameras. It's the Pentax K1000 of this age.

Sony RX100, what else! It´s certainly the most innovative camera of 2012, it's popular and versatile, it takes great pictures and fits in your pocket...



That Sony is "gorgeous"? Holy crap, it's an ugly blob of plastic, IMO. Sorry, but good design has been left in the dust except for maybe Fuji and Leica. Oh yes, Rollei is still making cameras including the TLR FX-N. A bit out of my price range, but for its style is a bargain. Now THAT is gorgeous.

MIke said about the RX1 vs M9 size

[Likely answer.... --Mike]

Wow! The RX1 is 34% heavier, and 88% thicker than the M9. (M9 w/o the lens of course, but the 40mm Summicron weighs next to nothing and is flat as a hedgehog roadkill victim)

So put a 35mm f/2 ASPH. (fair is fair) on the M9 and then do the calculations....


The Camera of the Year has to be the iPhone, despite the fact that many "serious" photographers won't like that.

Even after weeding out 90% of the iPhone images you see for being pure crap, the remaining 10% show that the iPhone has clearly raised the bar in terms of image aquisition, image quality, image sharing, and image processing capabilities more than any other camera in history.

...not to mention that iOS6's Panorama mode works better than most conventional software stitching solutions, the bar code scanning feature is extremely useful, and the whole FaceTime thing is pretty elegant.

For me the camera of the year is ... the Pentax Q!

No kidding, this is the camera I find myself using most often these days!

It is very ergonomic, and its 01 prime really is excellent ( http://www.photozone.de/pentaxq/688-pentaxq85f19 ). Think of it as a fixed lens compact, but with a fast normal lens. No other compact comes close (not the X10 and not the LX7). A bit like the Ricoh GR Digital, but with 48mm equiv. lens.

This guy here even sold his Fuji X-Pro because he found that he uses the Q much more often:


The Pentax Q makes very nice b&w, also in high ISO (but who needs more than ISO 400 with a 1.9 prime and sensor stabilization?).

So for me Q it is! And for 229 pounds for the camera with 01 lens it the best money I ever spent on photographic gear! Mike, do get one before they sell out in the US!!

No love for the Q? definitely not:

PS: here is a link where you can get the black Q with 01 prime for 229 GBP:


incredible, isn't it?

My latest addition is, well, Nikon V1 ... This year got A77, 5N then D600 then iphone 5 and ipad 4. But V1 is cheap and fun. Sharp and fast, the butto moves quite a bit but I would still vote for it. Got a lot of bird photos that I never think I would even start to take. With cheap lens like 28-300 Vr, it is quite feasible to be a poor man's wild life system. Use it for the Israel trip and it is quite a success (to me).

What do you meant it is not on your list?

The best camera of the year for me is the OLYMPUS OM 2n i bought some weeks ago. My god, it is beautiful!!!

Wish all of you a happy new year and thanks for the great work you are doing Mike.

I was contemplating switching over my Nikon gear and fully vest in m4/3 when the D800 was announced. For me, $3000 for a camera is not an easy decision to make, but based on how long I used my D200, I expect to get at least 5 years out of "The Beast". Everything about the D800 is big... the camera, the price, the viewfinder, the files and of course the image quality. I still like the m4/3 lineup and the OM-D would have been on my list if I had any money left :)

I am surprised that D800 received so few votes. This is the camera which charted new territory in Image quality. Sure, as the year ends, this is old news, but it was still this year. Also, for the naysayers, you don't need expensive lens, tripod, or perfect technique to enjoy the dynamic range, and color fidelity from this camera.

In APS-C category, my vote will be for Pentax K-IIs. This camera has received few reviews but just look at the images on dpreview site. The detail and noise level (or absence of it) at high ISO rivals the latest full frame cameras.

I'm late to this and couldn't read all the comments but for me, the OM-D, just for being a game-changer and persuading people that they don't need to lug around a ton of crap just to get some nice pics. I know that most people seem to vote for what they bought rather than what's 'the best' but hey, I wouldn't have bought it is it wasn't the camera I wanted!

"It's the sensor, stupid."

Sorry, not calling anyone stupid. Just using a worn-out phrase to note that many, if not most, of the great cameras of 2012 owe their surprisingly good image quality to the new Sony sensors. This includes the Nikon D800, Olympus EM-5, Pentax K-5, and Sony's own cameras (the RX, NEX and Alpha lines). I've never been a fan of Sony products in the past (I own the Oly), but the advances in most great cameras today - not made by Canon or Fuji - have been due to Sony sensor upgrades. The camera that best demonstrates this (shockingly well) is the tiny RX-100. The other cameras are evolutionary, but ten years from now, the RX-100 will be regarded as the one major "leap" that took place in 2012 in its particular product category.

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