With all the interest in the Sony A7r, Nikon Df and the Fujifilm X cameras, I was surprised to see the Olympus OM-D E-M1 made the best camera of 2013 list on two blogs that I follow. Both Kirk Tuck and Michael Reichmann over at Luminous Landscape voted the E-M1 was their top pick.
I’m surprised, not because the E-M1 isn’t an excellent camera. It absolutely is. I was fortunate to get pre-production access and wrote an extensive 7,000+ word review of the Olympus E-M1. I’m surprised because there are so many big name cameras that dominated the airwaves towards the end of the year and the Olympus didn’t get lost in the shuffle.
The Sony A7 and A7r made a big splash because it was the first mirrorless full frame camera (excluding Leica of course). But the first does not mean the best. I found the A7 to be unrefined. I can’t help but wonder if the camera was rushed to market.
The Nikon Df intrigued traditional film shooters into thinking that maybe the complexity of digital can be tamed and simplified. What they got, however, was a typical DSLR body with extra analog controls grafted on. Unfortunately, it’s more complex than a regular digital camera. Nikon blew an opportunity for a clean and simplified rethink of digital.
One company that gets integrating traditional controls with digital is Fujifilm. Starting with the X100 and then continuing with the X-Pro 1 and X-E1, Fuji have delighted photography purists. Perhaps Fuji didn’t make the top of the list because their 2013 offerings were just updates of existing models. But there is a bit more than that. While Fuji’s 2013 updates fixed and improved many of their earlier shortcomings, the cameras still need more tweaking. I enjoyed my time with the X100S but the camera is still somewhat slow. The X-E2 is faster but still does not match the refinement of Olympus.
What people may not realize is that micro 4/3, Olympus and Panasonic, are the originators of the modern mirrorless movement. They kickstarted this trend and they had more years to refine their shortcomings than any other manufacturer. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 is the culmination of this effort. It takes time to fine tune the details. Olympus has done so with this fantastic camera.
I’m not presumptuous enough to pick a best new camera of 2013. I haven’t used them all. However, I’m bold enough to say that 2013 is the year that mirrorless has finally matched or perhaps exceeded the traditional DSLR. Moore’s law of accelerating electronic improvements is only going to widen that gap. I wonder if Canon and Nikon will finally wake up in 2014?
Update: The Online Photographer also has voted the OM-D E-M1 as the TOP camera of 2013.
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