I pride Inspired Eye to be a photography site, but from time to time I do camera reviews. Here's a few things I have picked up along the way.
1) The best camera doesn't exist
I always receive emails with folks asking me for recommendations, and the thing is, I usually recommend cameras that I don't like myself. Not because I am hypocritical or something, but because I know that some cameras aver very good for all intents and purposes but they just don't work for me.
I think the two best camera systems out there are Sony and Samsung. Won't use them tough, I love Fujis. And that's why I say that the best camera doesn't exist, there is no one camera that works for everyone, and it's all about finding your own camera, the one that clicks with you. And sometimes the camera that clicks doesn't go well with others. I can think of is my Panasonic LF1 review, quite frankly this camera was universally shunned, I ended up liking it quite a bit.
2) The most important aspects of a camera
The first thing that manufactures tend to do upon releasing a new camera is show the specs. After reviewing many, the first thing I will tell you is that most modern cameras are good enough. I don't even test out the Image Quality anymore, I just provide the raw and full size JPGs for the readers to make up their own mind. I like image comparisons like any other guy, but I think making IQ everything is misguided.
We've come a long way, modern cameras really rock in the image quality department and all of them have a certain baseline that makes all of the them pretty much good enough. I think the two aspects of the camera to pay more attention to, after you've made sure it's specs are for you is it's mojo factor and it's ergonomics.
The mojo factor is simply the pure physical looks of the camera. You need to want it just because it looks cool. Because the mojo will make you want to use it, and the more you use it it the better shots you will end up making. If the looks put you off, there is a good chance you will put off the camera too.
The second aspect is the camera handling, the way it handles also will make you want to use it or not. A good example that comes to mind is the CANON EOS M (The first one). It is for all intents and purposes a good, ney! a very good camera. But it's not a looker and doesn't have nice handling, I ended up only using it for jobs and eventually let it go. All I am saying is, don't underestimate the emotional resonance you have with a camera, it will draw you to shoot more or maybe less.
3) Linchpins make or break a camera
But besides all of the above, some cameras have linchpins. These are one killer feature that no other cameras have that end up making or breaking the camera. For example, Fuji's EVF-OVF hybrid, The Ricoh's Snap focus and full press snap, these really make the cameras what they are, and you can't find anything like that elsewhere.
But there is also negatibe linchpins, where one flaw really kills the camera. One type of camera that comes to mind are rangefinders. I LOVE me rangefinders but they have a tendency to go out of alignment. It kills it for me but others are fine with it. And that brings me to a secondary point, it's all about how much you want to put up with a camera. Fuji's hybrid OVF is Fuji only, but will you put up with the AF? Only you can tell. I'm personally fine with it but someone else might not be.
4) Many cameras suffer from Featuritis
It's a tried and true thing in software, when a program starts out simple and just ends up complicated in the second and third versions, that's called featuritis….it makes the software complicated and you end up with many options that you never use. I find many modern cameras to have featuritis.
Every new version has just more and more options killing the simplicity. If there is one camera company that thrives with anti featuritis, it must be Leica, heck they even have a screen less digital camera! they thrive on simplicity and so does Apple if you go out of the photography realm. I like my Fuji X100 because of it's simplicity, I turn off the screen, look at the viewfinder, dial the aperture, shutter speed, ISO and done. It's the good old less is more.
5) What's missing? A streamlined workflow
If you think about it, a digital camera today will blow anything that came out 10 years ago, in many ways we have come VERY far, but in another sense we didn't make another step when it comes to the approach. You shoot. You take your card out. You put it in the computer. You process. That has been the same for all these years. Picture this with me a moment.
You went out to shoot. 35 new images. You go home, and make yourself a nice cup of coffee. You fire up Lightroom, all of the images are waiting for you there. No popping out the card, no connecting with the wifi network. Everything has been done for you. Your camera sniffed that it was on the home network and instantly started downloading your images on the computer. Only the new images are downloaded because it knows when the last ones had been uploaded.
Why isn't this out yet? We have wifi transfer already, and all it needs is to be streamlined. And what about processing? That too can be streamlined, picture this:
You pop an image in Lightroom. You process it the way you want. Then you pop 2 other images in Lightroom and apply the same processing. You click a button “Upload preset to camera”. The software will make a preset based on the average of the 3 images. You upload it to your camera. You go on shooting. Boom, your preset is right there IN CAMERA.
Why isn't this out yet? I mean yeah sure cameras offer many customization that you can save, but the few options like “Contrast, Saturation, etc” are much too limited for me. That would make things so easier processing wise to have your images right about 95% of the time because you pre -processed them.
There you have it, after going trough many cameras as a camera reviewer (and ex amateur gear addict!) I've come to the conclusion that there is no THE best camera, that most of them are good enough and looks and handling are really important. All of this to say that you've probably got a great camera in hand, capable of doing much. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.