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Photography / Buying Guide

Cameras Of The Year, 2015

         

Since I’m very happy with my Nikon D750, which was released in late 2014, I have not been on top of all the latest camera offerings from this past year, despite the fact that some incredible cameras have been released. Fortunately, I work with a group of men and women who know every last detail of the latest and greatest, so I surveyed our brightest minds to come up with a list of (drum roll): the Cameras of the Year for 2015! Of course, there are great cameras that didn’t make our list, so please comment below on your favorites, whether they made our list or not. 

Sony Alpha a7R II Mirrorless Digital Camera

 

And not just because everybody put the Sony Alpha a7R II on their list! Its 42MP full-frame BSI sensor, 399 autofocus points, high ISO, Internal UHD 4K video, reduced vibration shutter and beefier body are just some of the reasons that this iteration of the now “legendary” camera series has taken photographers by storm. Those who joined the Sony full-frame mirrorless caravan on its first pass through town are delighted with the improvements that Sony gave this model, and those who were clinging to their DSLRs until a “worthy” camera came along have been convinced to make the mirrorless move to this camera.

Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R Digital Camera

 

This pick applies to the Canon EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R, which was listed side by side with its sibling on many of my colleagues’ rankings. The 5DS R provides a Low-Pass Filter Cancellation Effect for even more detailed resolution, but the attraction here is that Canon has broken the 50MP barrier, creating a DSLR with the high resolution of a medium format digital back in the body of a familiar DSLR. One colleague “yadda-yadda’d” the rest of the camera’s features because all it supposedly offers is more megapixels, not improved video or dynamic range, and while it is not the 5D Mark IV that many have been anticipating, it does have “the solid Canon build and functionality” for those photographers who need the increased resolution to go with the EOS system.


Olympus OM E-M5 Mark II Mirrorless Camera

 

“Small, fast and stylish” is how one of my co-workers described the Olympus OM E-M5 Mark II mirrorless camera. I think its descriptions go beyond that to also include tough (weather-proofing), multi-functional (Wi-Fi, vari-angle LCD, high-res EVF) and high IQ (40MP multi-shot mode and 5-axis image stabilization). The truth is that the E-M5 M II is an all-around great camera with a comfortable retro design and controls in all the right places. Its major upgrades over the original E-M5 include a faster maximum shutter speed, 1080p at 60 fps, the improved EVF and LCD and, of course, the ultra-high resolution Multi-shot mode.

Podcast

To listen to this week’s episode: Listen to or download on SoundCloud, or subscribe to the B&H Photography Podcast on iTunesStitcher; SoundCloud; or via RSS.

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV Digital Camera

 

With point-and shoot cameras like the RX100 IV, Sony “leads the way in preventing the extinction of digital compacts by smartphones,” says the inimitable camera connoisseur Zevi Slotkin. And he is correct—the RX100 demonstrates how a well-designed compact camera will create much better images than your phone and will still fit easily in your pocket. The latest iteration of this series features a new 20MP 1" stacked CMOS sensor, a pop-up, 2.35-million-dot-resolution electronic viewfinder and 4K video recording. The BIONZ X image processor enables low noise, high-ISO shooting and 16 fps continuous shooting; its Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8-2.8 lens has the 35mm equivalence of 24-70mm.

Leica Q (Typ 116) Digital Camera

 

Leica made a bold move of its own this year to keep point-and-shoots relevant, and/or to compete with the Sony RX1 camera. The Leica Q may not be your typical pocket shooter, especially when you consider its price tag, but its 24.2MP full-frame sensor and Leica Maestro II processor provides it with image-creating resolution and speed unmatched by other compact cameras. Add to that a 3.68MP electronic viewfinder, touchscreen LCD, a fixed 28mm f/1.7 lens, 10 fps continuous shooting, 1080p video, Wi-Fi, and the renowned Leica build quality, and you quickly realize why this camera has impressed so many.

Nikon COOLPIX P900 Digital Camera

 

Also a point-and-shoot but not necessarily compact, the Nikon COOLPIX P900 offers another feature that camera phones still can’t touch—a super zoom. It’s 83x optical zoom lens provides a 24-2000mm focal length equivalence and gives you the telephoto reach that only the longest and most expensive lenses can match. On top of that, its image quality is top-notch, as demonstrated by this review. A 16MP sensor, Vari-angle LCD, electronic viewfinder, Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction, and built-in Wi-Fi round out its feature set. Its “bridge” camera form factor enables a large, stable grip.

Samsung NX500 Mirrorless Digital Camera

 

A mirrorless camera with the profile of a point-and-shoot but specs that push it closer to Samsung’s flagship mirrorless model, the NX500 enables the use of a growing set of NX-mount lenses. What is most attractive about this camera, however, is that it provides serious specs and features, including 4K HEVC video at an impressively low price and in an easy-to-use form that combines professional touches with consumer convenience. A 28.2MP APS-C sensor, hybrid autofocus with 205 Phase-detect Autofocus points, a 3.0" tilt-touchscreen monitor, dual command dials, and advanced Wi-Fi system are the calling cards of this stylish system.

Ricoh Theta S Spherical Digital Camera

 

“Groundbreaking” may be a bit strong here, but the Theta S, which follows up on the Theta m15, has been described as a the closest consumer product for virtual reality image capture now on the market. The size of a small TV remote control, it features dual 12MP sensors with a twin-lens system that takes 360° spherical photos and full HD videos. Images can be stored on 8GB of internal memory, live-streamed via USB or HDMI ports or transferred wirelessly with its built-in Wi-Fi. Manual exposure control and high ISO give it photographic chops, but the draw is the incredible spherical images you can create with just the press of one button.    

Cambo ACTUS-B View Camera Body

 

The ACTUS-B, along with the B2, B4, B6, and B8, enable you to transform your DSLR or mirrorless camera into a digital view camera. The ACTUS-B camera body provides the principal components (monorail and bellows) for geared camera movements, including perspective and depth-of-field control and selective focusing, and enables the mounting of a range of camera bodies and lenses. The B6 and the B8 models include Sony E and Fujifilm X bayonet mounts, respectively, allowing you to shoot your mirrorless cameras with tilt, shift, rise, and fall movements.

Olympus Stylus TOUGH TG-4 Digital Camera

 

As the premiere “tough” camera on the market, the TG-4 offers what most point-and-shoots don’t—durability and the capability to be effective in extreme situations, including 50' underwater and in temperatures as low as 14°F. It is also drop-proof from up to 7' and crush proof to 220 lbf. While tough cameras are not new, the TG-4 also creates wonderful images and has “real” camera specs that other toughs don’t offer, including a maximum lens aperture of f/2.0 and RAW capture. A 16MP CMOS sensor, built-in Wi-Fi, full HD 1080p, 5 fps continuous shooting and microscope and underwater modes add up to a camera that is great for a family at the beach but can also accompany serious photographers on extreme adventures.

Honorable Mention

The cameras below, while not on our top 10 list, need to be recognized for their quality, their value as an application-specific tool, or just for the attempt by their manufacturers to try something new.


Nikon D810A DSLR Camera for Astrophotography


Fujifilm X-T1 IR Mirrorless Digital Camera for Infrared Photography


DxO ONE Digital Camera for use on your iPhone or iPad.


Leica SL (Typ 601) Mirrorless Digital Camera for getting “very serious” in the mirrorless arena


Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera for 4K in an all-around first-rate compact mirrorless


Vivitar ViviCam T426 Digital Camera; entry-level point-and-shoot with specs to match the big guys 

With thanks to Todd Vorenkamp, Shawn Steiner, Liz Groeschen, Gabriel Biderman, Bjorn Peterson, Allan Weitz, Levi Tenenbaum, Tezz Caires, and Zevi Slotkin

Discussion 46

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Great line up, thank you.  But there seems to be a gap; what are your thoughts on the Pentax K-3 II?  An interesting offering for the Pentax system...could they be the emerging Apple of cameras....

The Pentax K3II camera is definitely a good camera with some unique features to it that sets it apart from other manufacturers and offerings out there.  Combined with their choice optics it is quite a powerful tool to work with. 

What you think about Lumix DMC FZ200? I love the 2.8  25-600 leica zoom. Or FZ300 4K.

Thanks for reading Victor.  Both are fine cameras with powerful optical zoom lenses by Leica. As you noted, the FZ300 is updated to include 4K video, 5-Axis HYBRID O.I.S, touchscreen and Wi-Fi, so I see the advantages, but if you already own the FZ200 (released in 2012) and are not specifically intending to use the improved capabilities, you may want to hold on to your current model as its basic photo specs are very similar to the new model.

I use the Canon 5Ds with their 600mm f4 lens to photograph birds. Often this is at distance because of nest location. The high megapixel count (50+) allows me to crop and enlarge a nicely detailed picture without all of the surrounding unnesessary stuff. One example is an Osprey nest on top of an electrical pole with the only place to get a view of the nest 300 feet away. Even with the long lens, a lot of cropping is required. Hats off to Canon for a sturdy smooth and quiet working body. My Osprey pictures are received with admiration wherever they are seen.

Thank you Jerry for the great comment...a practical demonstration of how a new system with heightened capabilities can improve your work.  Enjoy.

what about Nikon d7200?

Thanks Brian...the D7200 is a great camera, please see my review from earlier this year. Perhaps it didn't make the list because it is not a new model line or did not change drastically from its predecessor, but don't let that discourage you, it is a wonderful camera by any measure and the top of the line for Nikon DX (APS-C) DSLRs 

I guess I spoke a day or two too soon!  While the D7200 is still a great camera, Nikon just released the D500, which seems to take over the top spot in their line-up of new DXformat cameras. 

I have many really high dollar Canon interchangable lense cameras and pro Video cameras so i am pretty well addicted to Canon, recently i bought a camera for my wife and found out that it has a 1003mm telephoto lense.  You might want to advertise it, it is an SX520HS Power Shot and i am very impressed with it and its telephoto lense.  As i said very pleased with it!!!!!  It is very reasonably priced considering its lense!!!!   Mike Warrick

Thanks Mike... I attached the link for the SX520 HS for reader sto have more information on this camera but it is currently "no longer available" as a new model as it was released in 2014. I also linked our Used Department in case it becomes available there.  

5Ds(r) is on the list purely as it has 50MP? That is just dumb.

Thanks for reading Neilyb.

Neily,

I have both the  Sony A7r 11 amd  Canon 5Dsr ..... both very good cameras..... the 5Dsr definitely belongs there....

Sincerely,

Nick

Thank you for the input Nick, it's great to hear from photographers using the cameras on the above list...

I'm serious concidering the Leica Q and it was great to see it on the list. I'm a real big fan of the 28mm FOV and I hear it's super fun to shoot.

Thank you Alexander.  My colleagues who have used this camera, have nothing but  the best to say about it. If you do end up gettig it, let us know your thoughts.

and what about the Sony RX10II? with the 24-200mm f2.8 constant lens, internal 4K at 100Mbs, 24 to 120fps full HD at 100Mbs constant recording, 240fps, 480fps and 960fps in burst mode; 1" sensor, etc, etc....

Gerardo...thank you. Absolutley, an impressive camera... we just finished a podcast episode in which that camera was mentioned.  

Seems like the obvious omission of the LUMIX series was intentional. Being new to the M43 platform, I did extensive research and settled with the LUMIX GX8. The LUMIX line up is certainly a worthy mention and this review lineup seems painfully flawed without the Panasonic Flagships GH4 and the new GX8 even mentioned.  

I recently bought the Nikon D7200 after much research. I am surprised this camera did not make the cut.

I could not agree more.....as awesome as last year's D750 is (and the D750 really is awesome!), I think I prefer the D7200 ;-)

Robert and Ranger6:  I agree that the D7200 is just about all you could ever ask from a DX format Nikon.  Please see my review from earlier this year.

Oh yes, I saw your review.......I still think it deserves a spot on this list, even if it is just an upgrade.  Of course, I understand that not every camera can make the best of the year list.......

Thanks again Ranger6

Although it was released in late 2014, I was expecting some mention to the D750 that I am thrilled to own!

This is just an ad for Sony.

Thanks Olga, I have the D750 and love it, but I woudl refer you to the first line of the article for some mention of it.

In the ~$500 range I think you be hard pressed to find a better all around than the Pentax K-S2.  Great camera for new to DSLR type shooters.

If one is evaluating the quality of an image produced by a given camera then the Sigma DP Quattro camera will compete favorably with any camera on the list.  Yes, the "haptonics" are not ideal and the fixed lens can be a problem for some.  However, for those seeking to replicate the look of film in a digital image the Quattro should be considered....and the price is extremely reasonable.

Thank you Dr. Puritz.  I am a fan of the dp Quattro series, I even like the shape of the camera. I think they get overlooked, but three of the four came out in 2014 and the dp0 was quietly released in Feb of 2015. On another note, can you define haptonics for me? I think I know what youre getting at...the dimensional shape or feel...but I'm not familiar with that word.  Thanks

As for P&S cameras, the Canon Powershot G7 is a great little camera with a hot shoe, shoots RAW, and a bright lens 1.8.  If Canon would somehow make a camera that the batteries lasted longer, this would be included in a Top10 list.

Somewhar surprised that the Nikon D750 did not make the list, another complete package with more than several lens available.

Seconded.

As he states in the beginning, it's not a "NEW" camera.

Thank you Paul

I guess the Panasonic micro four thirds - one of the best camera systems in the world IMHO - didn't make the cut. But meh
 

Indeed, 2015 Belongs to Panasonic. Micro 4/3rds may have been around for a bit, But they crushed it this year. The Gh4 Has Lived up to the run and gun Video and stills machine we hoped for, while taking stills that put the 5D MIII to shame on a crop sensor. Yes it has a few compromises that makes it not foreveryone, But Wow, what an amazing camera.

Thank you for the input Nathaniel.  No doubt the GH4 is a great camera, but the main criteria for this list were cameras released in 2015, the GH4, while still relevant and available was oficially released in February 2014.

This.

Bravo, Sony!  Great line of cameras.  They have so many "A" designations and they keep turning out more new modles that I get confused.  People ask me which one I shoot and I cant remember the designation so I just say that I shoot an A7 with 24 megpixels.  Personally I think that the megapixle war has gone on long enough.  Unless you are shooting wall sized images I really dont think that you need all of those little pixels sunning themselves on the sensor.  It's like using a Ferarri to haul garbage to the dump. It looks great but I'd rather have a blond in the right hand seat instead of garbage bags. All it does is clog up your computer storage and make you compress all your images if you want e-mail them.  

Sony has indeed recently brought out an A7 12 mega pixel body.  Are they telling us something?  Why not designate them A-7-12, A-7-24 or A-7-42.  Is that to difficult a concept?

Dan-THANK YOU! I agree with you on the megapixel war. The average consumers these days are more interested in many smaller images used in creative ways than the 30 x 40 art pieces we sold in years past. Enough already with the MEGApixels! Keep up the innovations. We are always interested in something new.

Sherry, Thank you for reading and commenting.

Good points Dan, thanks for  the comment.

Very surprised the A7s ii didn't make the list. Guess there aren't that many improvements on it from the A7s, but it's defiinitely pretty close to the complete package for my needs.

Thank you Robby. No doubt it's a great camera and part of the ever-evolving a7 family of cameras. Can I ask if you shoot primarily stills or video?

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