Photographic Wanderings' First Camera of the Year

It is a proud moment here at Photographic Wanderings. For the first time in the history of this company and website, we are about to announce our top choice for the Camera of the Year award. We have not yet designed a plaque or banner that the winner can buy or license, but should said winner actually notice this momentous event, it may mention it in its marketing materials, free of charge.

Okay, this is tongue in cheek. I have tried too few cameras to actually call any camera The Camera of the Year. Then again, I've tried more than most other photographers and more than some bloggers who have named their top choices. This blog is still too small to do what DPReview did and run a camera beauty contest with the audience as the jury. Maybe next year. Nah...

Without further ado.

Virtually everyone gives the Sony A7R the title of Camera of the Year. Not Photographic Wanderings. Its main trick is that it has a high-caliber full-frame sensor in a small body. But we've seen that before. There's a luxury camera maker in Germany. In between designing cameras with lizard skin and alligator leather, they developed a small camera with a high-caliber full-frame sensor. It's mirrorless, but officially it's not mirrorless. It's a rangefinder and us poor folk tend to forget about it because we can't afford it. Still, the Leica full-frame camera was born when the Sony was still in the womb.

Therefore, the Sony misses the top title and my Camera of the Year is the Olympus OM-D E-M1. It's the first small camera that plays in the pro leagues. It's a mini Canon 1-series or Nikon D4. That's really a feat no other small camera was capable of before. Yes, it's only 16 megapixels, but that's actually more than enough for most photographers. And, hey, that D4 is also only 16mp. Sure, there are things that other cameras do better than the E-M1, but as an all-round small system it's unbeaten and upped the ante for other manufacturers.

My runner-up would be the Fuji X100S. Gorgeous, capable and a real photographer's camera.

Other interesting candidates don't make my cut. Nikon is onto something with the Df, but the lack of an old-fashioned focus screen for easy manual focus is a fatal flaw for the kind of camera they claim it is. Maybe next time.

The Sony A7 cameras certainly shake up the market and got a lot right, but they are not without their faults. I think version two will be the one to watch, as Sony hopefully addresses slow autofocus, write speed and lack of in-body stabilization (and the loud shutter sound on the A7R).

I was also going to look forward toward 2014, but that's actually just a real waste of our time. We tend to predict what we hope for, instead of what makes sense for the manufacturers. Sure, it would be nice if Canon would give us a camera that competes with the Nikon D800(e). But I doubt they're as desperate as many say they should be, what with a 50% global market share for DSLRs and plenty of photographers preferring the 5D Mark III over the Nikon D800(e), despite the latter's resolution advantage.

So, no predictions for 2014, other than that it will be interesting to see how the brands continue to position themselves.

By John van Rosendaal