Monday, January 11, 2010

2009 Camera Of The Year

This was a tough choice. There was no clear-cut winner like the Nikon D700 last year. In the DSLR arena, companies spent time refreshing models introduced over the last several years, but there was no breakthrough camera like the D3. The Canon 7D and the Pentax K7D were nice, but hardly breathtaking. Frankly, I was most impressed by the Pentax Kx and nearly ordered one in orange from Japan Exposures. Call it my Runner-Up for Camera of the Year.

Over on the compact side not even the Canon G11 seemed to excite. One of these days that APS-C compact will come along (I’m betting Nikon), but not this year.

And, lest we forget, there was the Leica M9. While unquestionably a triumph of technology, its price tag was equally as eye-popping. While I am certain it is a joy to use and own, I am more interested in cameras that real people can afford.

Perhaps most importantly, I was not impressed with anything enough to shell out my hard earned dough for it. And that’s saying something.

The real action in 2009 was in the inter-changeable lens compact (ILC) market. Although both Ricoh and Samsung announced ILCs, neither made it to market by December 31st. On the other hand Panasonic and Olympus announced two micro 4/3 cameras each. Panasonic had the DSLR-like GH1 and the compact GF1. The GF1 sold like hotcakes in Japan and its 20mm kit lens was a home run. Olympus introduced the E-P1 and its clone the E-P2. The E-P1 was not very well reviewed and seemed to run out of gas fairly early on. Insofar as I was concerned, while each of these cameras was exciting in its own right, none of them was my Goldilocks camera. In exchange for the excellent EVF on the E-P2, I had to give up stereo sound and anything like a state-of-the art display. While the GF1 had those features the EVF was sub-standard.

This brings me to the winner -- the Panasonic GH1. If any camera introduced this year came close to my ideal the GH1 was it. Hard to come by, I finally got to test drive one this fall. Although I wound up returning it, there was a lot to like. From the tilt and swivel display to the state of the art EVF, the GH1 was very impressive indeed. Full 1080p HD video and stereo sound packed into a right-sized body. DSLR image quality in a small light weight unit, a kit zoom lens finely-tuned to video and tons of adapters to use legacy lenses. What’s not to like? Well, it isn’t coat pocketable, which, it turns out is important to me. And the design, while very ergonomic, just didn’t grab me. Still and all, the GH1 is a very good value, a giant step in the right direction and the WBTL Camera of the Year.

No comments: