I've always been asked what the best camera is, where here I will answer that question in a more philosophical way instead of singling out certain cameras
There is no such thing as the best camera
Let's start by being controversial. I don't think there is such thing as the best camera. I've owned many cameras and I continue to review cameras for this site. If there is something I've learned it's that the best camera doesn't exist.
When someone asks me for recommendations, my answer will differ depending on the person and their needs. Sometimes I say go for the Fuji X100s, sometimes for the Alpha 6000 or sometimes something else. There is not a one size fits all camera. I remember when I was raving about my Ricoh GRD IV, while most people were happy with their purchase, a few peeps didn't like it at all and didn't get what all the rage was about.
The thing is, cameras are like partners. If you have a boyfriend/girfriend, they might be the perfect fit for you, but for somebody else, not so much. This is the same for cameras, some cameras might fit you, others might not.
I once asked what the best film camera was. While there are a few names that pop up here and there, many people chose cameras that I would never chose. This is to show there IS such a thing as the best camera for YOU. It's all about finding the camera you love.
Finding the camera you love
So, how does one recognize “the one”? If you haven't got it yet, rent as many cameras as you can to figure out which one is the one you love most. It could also be a past camera. If you always think about a certain camera you had, maybe it's that one. I remember when I sold my GRD III, I couldn't live without it and I think within the week I got another one.
As for the present, the one you love is the one you miss when you don't shoot out with it, the one you trust the most to make your images, the one that leaves the other ones in the dust. At one point in time I had 4 Ricoh GXRs. And then one day I bought their “little brother” home, the Ricoh GRD. From then on they have been gathering dust. It was evudent I found THE camera and I sold them all after months of not using them.
The one thing I have found when trying to hunt down your best camera it's that comparing specifications bears no indication on wether or not you will enjoy a camera.
There's a certain minimum that you might require for sure (at least a large sensor for example) but whatever the case, it doesn't mean that you will enjoy using it. The Fuji Xpro was, on paper, my dream camera, in practice I didn't like using it, it's too big. But for other it's the best camera ever.
My Ricoh GRD IV is outclassed by any new modern camera that comes out but I preffer my GRD IV. It's weird but it's not about the specifications really, it's about the camera itself. I had a NEX7 and a Fuji XE1, the first kicks the second one's butt but I preffer the XE1. So getting the better speced camera has no bearing on whether you will love it or not. Let's look at some benefits of actually finding “the one”.
Removing the middle man
There is nothing more liberating than finding the camera you love. There's only one thing that stands between you and the image you have in your mind: The camera. By finding your best camera, you will use it more and more and surely enough you will know it like the back of your hands.
Doing so will allow the camera to move out of the way and free you to make pictures like you intend to. Take my Ricoh GRD for example once again, if I look at the screen and see if it's underexposed, I know how many “clicks” I need to push the back lever to the left to adjust my aperture. When I have this camera, I don't even see in terms of fstops any more, only how much or how little clicks or wheel turning I need.
The cure to spending too much in gear
I used to be a gear addict. Spent 1000s of $$$ in cameras. Looking back, I should have invested that money in a mutual fund or something. But let's not go there. I use to buy new cameras as I sold old ones over and over again, and it's my experience that if you find the camera you love, you will not have the temptation to buy other cameras.
Let's take my Ricoh GRD, it's been with me for 4 years. I'm still shooting with it daily. I believed it was on it's last leg but looks like it's still has a few years or two. Sometimes it can't turn on tough but that's besides the point. I don't mind only using this camera for life.
It will make you a better photographer
A camera can and can't make you a better photographer. Let me explain. A camera, on a specification level cannot make you a better photographer, it can only allow you to do new things that you couldn't before. For example if you have a new camera with a macro feature, it just opened up the macro world to you.
But in a more real world perspective, a camera can make you better. Or for more clarification, a camera can make you WANT to be better. Once you have the camera you love, you will want to use it. Use it more and you will become better.
It's not really the camera that makes you better, it's that you get better the more and more you use it. I would not be the photographer I am today without having made the jump to compacts. Why? Because I had a Pentax K20D, one of the best cameras I used, but the problem was that it was BULKY.
I never wanted to go out and shoot with it. Even when I was home I never wanted to pull it out, just doing so felt like work. All of this changed when I got my Ricoh GXR, it's like the world opened up to me and I really WANTED to shoot everything. And I did. And I got better. MUCH better.
There is nothing my GXR could do that my K20D couldn't do. The difference was that I wanted to use on of them and not the other. That's why, even if I don't have a problem with DSLRs I preach for everyone to have a compact.
You'll take it everywhere
Chase Jarvis popularized the quote “The best camera is the one that's whit you”. And to a large extent I agree, but I think the underlying principle is still the best camera is the one you love. Simply put you will use what you love and love what you use. I tried that mobile photography thing, the phone being the camera that's always with you, and it just didn't work.
I hate using my phone as a camera. Fidling with a screen to interact with the image is not my thing. But again for others it's the best thing ever. I think the limits of what Chase said comes from the fact that you will probably not want to use something you don't like.
I've let many images pass just because I didn't want to pull out what I had in my pocket or bag. Alternatively I got many images because the camera I love is always in front of me. My wife got angry at me because “I didn't take pictures of her of the kids” and it was true, but it was because I REALLY didn't want to take my camera sling bag everywhere I went and pull out my large DSLR for some family images. When I got my pocket camera, I got the nickname Paparazzi. You'll take the camera you love everywhere. If you like it enough you'll probably start wearing Baggy pants just to slip it in your pocket.
A positive circle
Like I said above, the camera you love will make you love what you use and use what you love. It will alternate between the pleasure of using a camera you like, making some killer images with it, making you liking it more, and what to shoot it more. It's feeding positive energy into your photography.
Photography is about relationships, the relationship between you and your images, but also your relationship with your camera. If you can one that you love, it will liberate your photography, not only you will want to take it everywhere, you will also get better as a consequence. My photography took a serious turn when I found mine. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.
What about you? Did you find the camera you love? If so, what is it?