As 2014 winds down, I realized that it was a particularly crazy year for me, photographically. I took 4 major trips, the most ever, which was a rich source of visual inspiration. I continue to embrace mirrorless cameras and move further away from the mainstream. I’ve gone retro and started dabbling in film. Finally, I bought a record number of cameras as I now acknowledge that I’m a collector.
Looking through my Aperture 3 library, I shot at least 35,000 frames in 2014. What’s different this year is how many cameras I’ve used. In addition to my ever-growing personal camera collection, I also reviewed the Sony A7 and Olympus OM-D E-M10. My friend Mark, let me use his Leica M on a couple of occasions and I started using an odd assortment of old film cameras.
There’s actually a few cameras that I bought but haven’t blogged about. No doubt I’ll talk about this fun new gear over the coming months. I’ve acknowledged that I’m a camera collector now, though not a serious one. Photography still comes first. It’s just that I want some neat, unique and quirky cameras for my collection.
I’m no radical, by any means — most of my decisions are measured and logical. But I just realized that, when it comes to cameras, I enjoy running counter to the mainstream. I embraced mirrorless earlier than most, moving away from the Canon and Nikon DSLR world, first to Sony then to Olympus. And while I still like Olympus micro 4/3 just fine, as they become popular, I’ve been shifting to other cameras. First to the Fujifilm X100S and then to the Pentax Q system.
I suppose my interest in film is also a move away from the mainstream. But it’s more than that. After years of pounding the table about low-light high ISO performance, I’ve shifted. Most cameras are already good enough. What I now crave are better colors and more dynamic range. Playing with the old CCD sensor in the Olympus E-1 and with film is part of this creative exploration. My continued use of HDR is another.
I bought 8 cameras this year. Yikes! The most expensive being the Fujifim X100S, for my 50th birthday. The other cameras were a lot less. I have an odd assortment that defies conventional wisdom. I thought it would be fun to do a non-standard “best of” list from my camera collection.
My unique best of list
The best quality for the lowest price: Rollei 35. This camera wins hands down. I paid $75 for a “full frame” 35mm film camera with an excellent Zeiss lens that oozes optical character. Released in 1966, acquired in 2014.
The best quality for the lowest price (digital): Olympus Pen E-PM2. A small, inexpensive do it all camera with terrific image quality. It has the best lens selection in the mirrorless world. The more expensive OM-D line gets all the buzz but this camera takes the same high quality pictures and uses the same lenses. You can find it for less than $300. Released in 2012, acquired in 2012.
The best built with the best grip: Olympus E-1. The first purpose-built Digital SLR. This camera was a high-end, some say Pro digital camera, that is weather sealed and has a spectacular grip. Released in 2003, acquired in 2014.
The fastest focusing camera: Nikon 1 J1. The Nikon 1 is still struggling for acceptance but these cameras are fast. I got mine for $200 when Nikon had a surplus and they needed to get rid of them. Released in 2011, acquired in 2013.
The funnest camera: Pentax Q7. This is my latest camera which I shot 8,000 frames in Japan. With a bunch of small lenses, it’s a surprisingly versatile system, and loads of fun. Released in 2013, acquired in 2014.
The most connected: Apple iPhone 5S. Great image quality for a phone and it’s always connected and always with you. No wonder traditional camera sales are falling. Released in 2013, acquired in 2014.
The goofiest looking camera: Pentax K-01. This designer camera by Marc Newson may feel more at home in a design museum. It’s actually a decent camera but I got it more for it’s unique looks. Released in 2012, acquired in 2014.
The neatest looking camera: Olympus XA. This tiny 35mm film camera has a fantastic design and an amazingly small, sharp lens. Released in 1979, acquired in 2014.
The best image quality: The Canon 6D. Despite my fondness for mirrorless, this full frame digital camera has the best overall image quality. It’s just that I don’t enjoy shooting it as much. Released in 2012, acquired in 2013.
The best camera that’s the least used: Canon G15. On paper it looked better than the Olympus XZ-1 but I don’t like it as much. It has good image quality but its chunky but compact form factor proved less desirable. It’s a good camera for my wife and kids. Released in 2012, acquired in 2013.
The best compact party camera: Fujifim XF1. Small enough to fit in a jacket pocket and with its elegant retro looks, it works great at parties. With a wide-angle lens at f1.8 and with killer super intelligent flash, you don’t get the deer in the headlights look. Released in 2012, acquired in 2013.
The best camera to make you a better photographer: Fujifilm X100S. With a fixed non-zooming lens, you will develop strong compositional skills. You only have one focal length, but at a 35mm equivalent, it’s very versatile. The controls are analog dials, like the old film cameras, so you’ll learn the classic way to make exposures. Because it is digital, you can take lots of pictures, make lots of mistakes and have the opportunity to learn from them. Released in 2013, acquired in 2014.
While there may be some apparent randomness to my acquisitions, each camera does have it’s unique proposition. If it goes according to plan, I’ll be traveling a lot less and buying a lot less cameras next year. I need to use and experiment with the cameras I already have. That should keep me busy for at least a year. We’ll see how 2015 actually turns out.
Note: I have a lot more cameras than I mention in this post. These are the ones that I chose to highlight for my “best of” list this year.
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