Well if Christmas is on the way, then the end of the year must be just around the corner. And as ever, it’s a great time to look back on the year that was and reflect on the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens. As I have the good fortune to get to play with new cameras from time to time, I thought I’d look back at the best models I got to hold in my sweaty paws in 2014.
Olympus OM-D EM-10
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the digital camera market you’ll know that mirrorless cameras are the big thing right now. So I was really interested to get to try out a few different models this year and see where the technology is going. The first model I reviewed was the Olympus OM-D EM-10. [Hey camera manufacturers – how about some catchier names in 2015??]. Right off the bat I loved the look – what can I say, I’m a fan of retro things. I still shoot with my Dad’s old camera from time to time, and the EM-10 has that reliable feel that you get when you hold an old film camera.
You get two manual control dials on the body of the camera plus three customisable function buttons, which saves you having to navigate through the menus for commonly used function. Incidentally, I didn’t think the menus were particularly well organised on the EM-10, which was my only real criticism.
The EM-10 has a tiltable LCD screen, which is a pretty common feature nowadays, but what is unique about this LCD screen is that it is touch sensitive. This allows you another way to operate the menus, but more interestingly, you can change your focus point while shooting, and even enable tap-and-shoot which will activate the shutter as soon as you tap the screen. In theory this could be a bit of a game changer for shooting candid and documentary work, and is a much more intuitive way to shoot than what your average DSLR offers.
All in all the Olympus OM-D EM-10 is one of the best value mirrorless cameras out there, especially considering you get a very nice electronic viewfinder, which is a feature you generally find on the higher end (more expensive) models. The other great feature that’s pretty rare is in-camera image stabilization. The sensor inside the EM-10 can actually move independently of the rest of the camera body to compensate for camera shake which can blurry images when you’re shooting at slower shutter speeds.
Sony RX100 M3
The next camera I want to talk about was a camera that I really had a great time shooting street photography with: the Sony RX100 M3. The ‘M3’ refers to the fact that this is the third version of the highly regarded RX100. Although the camera packs a relatively small 1 inch sensor, it comes with a pile of great features, in a very unassuming little body. The RX100 is not an interchangeable lens camera though, so you’ll find it in the ‘Point and Shoot’ category here at BestBuy.ca. Make no mistakes however; this is a serious piece of camera equipment.
Stealthy Street Shots
The feature that really got me excited and allowed me to shoot some very stealthy street shots was the camera-to-smartphone wi-fi connectivity. Basically you can connect the RX100 M3 to your smartphone and get a live feed right there on your phone. So I was able to stand around looking like a photographer engrossed in his phone while all the while I was shooting away. Serious fun.
I was surprised to find that the battery life of the RX100 M3 was actually pretty decent, because generally battery life tends to be poor on cameras smaller than DSLRs. The RX100 M3 also comes with a lovely electronic viewfinder and a manual focus ring which, when used with the focus-helper which gives you a little zoomed-in view, makes this a focussing wizard.
Recharge By USB
The other feature that really impressed me was the fact that you can recharge the RX100 M3 by USB. This might not seem that noteworthy considering how many of our gadgets we recharge by USB now, but this is actually the first camera I’ve come across with this feature.
The last camera that I want to mention, and the one I reviewed most recently, is the Fujifilm X-T1. This is a bit of a landmark camera because Fujifilm have gone all out to produce a model that will satisfy the most demanding of photographers. Mirrorless cameras, despite the advantages they bring like smaller size, quieter shooting, wi-fi connectivity and electronic viewfinders, are still struggling to gain acceptance at the very top of the photography food chain. One of the reasons is that very few mirrorless cameras carry full-frame sensors, and most professionals won’t even consider using a camera with anything less than a full-frame sensor.
No Bad Digital Cameras
Pros like full-frame because a bigger sensor gathers more information, and crucially, better information. So you get better low-light performance and more options to enhance your images at the post-processing stage. The vast majority of users, even professionals, don’t need a full-frame sensor however. We live in what you might call the ‘post image-quality’ world. There really are no bad digital cameras out there anymore in terms of image quality.
With the X-T1 you get loads of manual dials and controls on the body of the camera, so many in fact that it will take new users a bit of practice to get comfortable with everything. But purists will love it for the same reason. The other feature that purists will drool over is the electronic viewfinder; it’s the biggest EVF available on the market, and the refresh rate is so fast that you won’t perceive any lag whatsoever.
I have to mention the fact that the ‘T’ in ‘X-T1’ stands for tough. This is a camera that is built to last. It’s dust and water-resistant, and can put up with some pretty harsh treatment, and when you hold it you can feel that build quality.
Fujifilm has just released a firmware upgrade for the X-T1 that allows you to shoot totally silent and at a mind-boggling 1/32,000th of a second!
What’s up for 2015?
Looking forward to 2015, I’m expecting to see more cameras with touchscreens, more cameras that recharge via USB, and more silent shooters. And I’m looking forward to a few surprises too!