Cameras of the Year

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Every year a series of "revolutionary" and "game-changing" cameras are released into the market. They included amazing high-resolution sensors, new professional-grade cameras, and slim new mirrorless designs in 2012. So what could possibly change in just one year?

A lot.

Hover over and click on the cameras below for more information:


To start, we saw a variety of new tech from Canon. They released the smallest DSLR to date with the SL1, which weighs only 13 ounces. It even has all the features you have come to expect from a Canon DSLR camera, including full HD video. It brings with it a Video Snapshot feature for automatically combining short clips into one longer video file.

But, the dual-pixel autofocus technology in their 70D was the biggest splash they made this year. The newly developed 20.2-megapixel sensor utilizes two photodiodes within each pixel for faster and more accurate contrast-detect focusing times. Or, for those not up to date on CMOS sensor terminology, it means faster and more accurate focusing in Live View and video modes.

Another more recent addition to Canon’s DSLRs can be seen in the 70D's Wi-Fi capabilities. This is showing up more and more on cameras as a built-in feature to allow for wireless control via smartphones and simple transmission of images across devices.

Other DSLR sensor development came with the Pentax K-3’s ability to turn on and off the anti-aliasing filter. They managed this by using micro vibrations of the sensor to blur the image just enough to create the effect of an actual anti-aliasing filter. But, when turned off, you can maximize the potential sharpness of your image.

Additional features of the K-3 include a revamped autofocus system with an impressive 25 cross-type sensors and durable body construction. Pentax makes their professional equipment with all-weather sealing, meaning that if you get caught out in the rain or snow you can be confident that your camera will work flawlessly.

Many would find it difficult to follow up a year with Nikon’s D4, D800, and D600 as well as Canon’s 1D C, 5D Mark III, and 6D. Manufacturers still tried to fill the appetites of camera enthusiasts with new cameras and tech. But, the real surprise came from Nikon’s announcement of a retro-styled camera.

They released the Nikon Df. With a body style evoking the spirit of the classic F-series and a full-frame CMOS sensor, Nikon is trying to appeal to those simply wanting “pure photography.” It features physical dials for settings like shutter speed and ISO and can use practically every Nikon F-mount lens, especially if you consider the metering coupling lever that allows you to use AI and non-AI lenses without any additional modification.

The Df is sure to attract those who shot with film cameras, or even those who still shoot film, to make the move to digital. And sure to please many enthusiasts, a screw-in port for using a manual release cable is available. This camera’s photography-only theme is stressed with the purposeful omission of video found on practically every digital camera today, even the common point-and-shoot.

On to point-and-shoots: they have been completely redesigned for the Instagram age. The square design of the Canon PowerShot N exemplifies this concept, along with featuring Wi-Fi connectivity for instantly syncing to our phones and posting pictures to our social media profiles. It can even send photos and video back to a computer at home or to an online photo album to share with friends and family at home.

But, speaking of camera designs, the QX-series camera modules from Sony take the cake. The QX10 and QX100 are powerful point-and-shoot cameras that clip onto your smartphone, using Wi-Fi or NFC connectivity to transform your phone into a full-featured digital camera.

Then, by connecting to your phone via a free Sony app, you can access live view and camera settings. However, you aren’t limited to simply attaching the camera to your phone; you can detach it and use it wirelessly to capture images above crowds or in tight spots in which you would never get the right perspective, normally.

Getting back to the standard form factor, Sony’s RX10 features the new BIONZ X image processor along with Wi-Fi and 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second—impressive specifications and video capabilities for a point-and-shoot. It wasn’t alone however; Sony released two other cameras using the BIONZ X image processor, the A7 and A7r.

These full-frame mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras have 24- and 36-megapixel sensors, respectively. These maintain the image quality found in high-end DSLRs but with a compact form factor. Additionally, the A7r has a gapless on-chip lens design that better directs light across the entire sensor to each individual pixel and omits the low-pass filter for getting the maximum resolution possible out of the image.

On the other hand, the A7’s lower resolution sensor benefits from a “hybrid” contrast- and phase-detect focusing system. This means you will have faster, more reliable autofocusing. Regardless of which option you choose, these mirrorless cameras are perfect for constant travelers, or someone looking to carry a smaller gear bag for everyday use.

For adventurers who aren’t afraid to get a little dirty, the waterproof and shock-resistant Nikon 1 AW1 is perfect. It has superb weather-sealing and is waterproof up to 49.2’. The best part is that somehow, Nikon has endowed it with an interchangeable lens system, although I wouldn’t recommend swapping lenses while underwater.

Back on solid ground, the Galaxy NX from Samsung runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, meaning you can skip an entire step when dealing with your images. No more wireless transferring in order to work with your favorite photo-editing and sharing applications. The Galaxy NX even has Wi-Fi and 3G/4G LTE connectivity for uploading while on the go.

Don’t forget about the retro-styled bodies coming from Olympus. The new OM-D EM-1 addresses many of the gripes addressed to its predecessor. These have been resolved, with changes from simple generational updates in firmware and camera technology to the addition of a heftier grip for a solid handhold.

With the EM-1, Olympus is trying to reach out to the professional market. It’s designed with a durable build that is splash, dust, and cold proof. It also offers good image quality and a noticeable improvement in autofocus, a common issue on mirrorless cameras due to the lack of a dedicated autofocus sensor.

This year was filled with notable improvements across the board, and the cameras mentioned here were only a small fraction of those released. So, whether you need a tiny camera for quickly sending photos to your social media accounts, or the latest video technology in a DSLR, I'm sure there is something here for you.

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sorry not to see the Ricoh GR on this list ;-)

Tell fuji we are waiting to buy a X Pro Fuji fulll frame camera

How can you give "Camera of the Year" to some of these cameras when they haven't even been released yet??? Shouldn't you have a hands-on review first before deeming them "Camera of the Year"?? Your credibility has gone way down!

D7100? Awesome camera...

I agree that announced cameras should not be a camera of the year unless they have been reviewed. The concept of camera of the year is great, and would be really helpful if it were based on whether the camera is really any good or not....

you like mention every camera that hit the shelves, so what is the camera of the year, cropped sensor, full frame and mirrorless?

Yes, Canon and Nikon seem to dominate this article despite other leaders in different classes. Perhaps this has to do more with their marketing budget than their products.... though they have some nice stuff. The authors went almost the whole article before mentioning Olympus and didn't mention the em1's weatherproofing or wireless features. Speaking of M4/3 the article avoided Lumix altogether. If an article is going to be called Cameras of the Year, it would be logical that classes be established and winners be decided.

Well, the OM D EM-1 just got released and hasn't been in enough peoples hand and professionals long enough. The OMD E5 should be mentioned though, along with the new Panasonic GH3 which is a excellent camera on stills but steals the show when it comes to video in comparison to what else is out there. I was a huge Canon/Nikon fan for years, but Sony/Olympus and Panasonic are putting out some very comparable gear for less.

Seems people don't read what the article is called "CAMERAS of the year" that is plural plus the article is written as a guide. As an amateur I like Canon my friend swears by Nikon, it's all a matter of choice. I don't see the names Haselblad or PhaseOne so is someone out there going to complain that these great cameras are not on the list.

Love the article B&H even though I am not in the market for an upgrade just yet love my 6D with 24-105 and 70-300 "L" series glass too much

Its the Nikon D610 that was released this year, not the trouble-prone D600.

Great to see the Pentax K-3 mentionned. Pentax has excellent quality gear and as the underdog of the photo gear market it's often forgotten.

They are nevertheless innovative and their current APSC lineup is quite impressive and a great value.

Yep, it was a great yr for camera developement. I think, however, a wait and see attitude is manditory these days. If you don't absolutely have to have it now, wait. It'll be out in a better version tommorrow. Lenses are a different story they change less often and less radically. So as much as I would like some of the really cool cameras that just came out, I don't have to have them, so I'm focusing (no pun intended) on new glass over the next two yrs. Have fun, whatever you decide.

The entry regarding the Olympus OMD E-M1 is extremely lame. It starts out by casting the camera first in terms of retro style and then frames the camera as addressing "gripes" about prior cameras. As though the E-M5 had been in the weeds and the E-M1 finally got the brand out onto the playing field. Talk about a negative cast! While the article starts by lauding Canon for implementing on-sensor phase detect autofocus, they give no credit to Olympus for also implementing on-sensor phase detect AF opening up the full range of four thirds lenses (many of them stellar) to fast AF. Rather than saying that Olympus is reaching out to the professional market with this camera, the author states that they are "trying" to do so. Talk about damning with faint praise! This is the camera that many put as the top camera of the year (for instance Dpreview.com) but in this write-up Shawn puts it at the bottom.