Cameras are an incredibly exciting area of technology right now. Snappers both large and small have been pushing the boundaries since the first sniff that the mobile phone might be encroaching upon their niche and, boy, have they come back fighting.
So, have a careful think through all the compacts, hybrids, super zooms, DSLRs, retro cams and, yes, even mobile phones, if you want to work out which deserves a nomination for Best Camera 2012 in the Pocket-lint Gadget Awards. Don’t forget to vote too.
Starting with the big boys, we may as well kick off with the biggest ones of all. The Nikon D800 is probably the prosumer/pro model that springs to mind. It’s full-frame and all that jazz from the D700 but suddenly so much more, with 1080p video shooting on top, and it simply must be seen to be believed. Go on, go and have a look.
Canon has been no slouch either in the full-frame field, with both the Canon 6D, brought out to bring full-frame photography to the masses - well, as much as possible - and the upgrade to the ever-popular 5D which has now become the Canon 5D Mark III.
Fortunately, it wasn’t all for the big spenders in 2012. Canon, yet again, had a quality offering in the shape of the mid-level Canon 650D as the latest descendant in the 500D line. For something of good value but more out of left field, though, we’d recommend a look at the weather-resistant Pentax K-30; not everyone’s first choice of brand these days but there’s plenty of good K-mount glass out there.
CSCs (Compact System Cameras)
Even if you haven’t, the camera industry seems to have settled on calling mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras Compact System Cameras or CSCs for short. It certainly sounds better than MILCs.
The one that really grabbed the headlines this year was the Canon EOS M. Why? Well, because with Canon entering the CSC market - after carefully waiting to see what everyone else came out with - we’ve finally got a full house of manufacturers in this class. Oh, and the Canon EOS M also happens to be something of a storming success.
Possibly the leader up until now in the CSC space has been Sony and there was certainly no lying down in the face of a fight with the announcement of the Sony NEX-6. Something of a mash up between the popular NEX-7 and NEX-5R, it was only ever going to be a good thing.
Finally, there were two brands in this area giving us all a nice taste of the old school in the way they chose to approach the idea of a compact camera with some serious IQ potential. The Fujifilm X-E1 looks the rangefinder part but is all about the OLED electronic viewfinder and seriously impressive X-Trans CMOS sensor from the X-Pro1.
For Olympus though, the OM-D E-M5 was another re-imagination of some earlier heritage, much in the same way that the Pen line has been in the past. The original Olympus OM series 35mm cameras is something there’s much love for and we’ve had little less for its digital renaissance. You can check out our thoughts on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 here.
As ever, there were more compact cameras chucked up on to the shelves in 2012 than there are stars in the sky. There were fashion models, Wi-Fi models, rugged models, tiny models, carry around pro models and just about any other type of model that you can think of. What there weren’t though, were many we actually really liked a hell of a lot at Pocket-lint - not enough to suggest them as ideas for a Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2012 nomination.
As ever, Panasonic was reliably impressive in compacts with the all-rounder Panasonic Lumix TZ30, for truly compact level quality and zoom power, and with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 for a chunky super zoom that could just as easily blow your subject’s head off with how close you can get in as make your hand fall off with having to carry it around all day.
At the other end of the spectrum is the pocket-friendly but deceptively powerful Sony Cyber-shot RX100. With a whopping - in compact camera terms, anyway - 1-inch sensor and 20 megapixels of resolution, Sony seems to have mastered the trade-off between image quality and camera bulk and actually packed in the best of both. It’s one you simply must have a read about.
Last of all for the compacts is the Nikon Coolpix S800c. For those who missed the murmuring at the time, it’s a Wi-Fi-enabled device with an Android operating system, 10x zoom and plenty of intrigue. The future? Maybe, or are those in the section below more likely candidates?
Finally, there’s a sub-category within our considerations for Best Camera 2012 that we simply call Others. Of course, what we generally mean is phones. Let’s take it as read that most smartphones - even ones that would pride themselves on having very good cameras - are probably not going to make it, but there are still two or three worth mentioning this year.
At MWC 2012, Nokia announced its PureView mission. That started off with the Nokia PureView 808 Symbian mobile phone. What’s special about it is the 41-megapixel camera on board which effectively gave users an optical zoom for the first time on a mobile phone. Worth a thought, as is the second coming of PureView in the shape of the more desirable Nokia Lumia 920 and its optical image stabilisation system which allows far better results in lower light conditions; again, a big step forward for mobile phones.
To finish it all off though, we have the true punt of the year in the camera world. The Samsung Galaxy Camera. A 21x optical zoom, 1.4GHz quad-core processor, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, f/2.8 aperture lens, able to make calls - just what is this thing?