Ignore The Rest: Here Are The 7 Most Important Digital Cameras of 2014
By Seamus Payne, The Coolist, 4 December 2014.
By Seamus Payne, The Coolist, 4 December 2014.
Between mobile phones, action cameras, full frame DSLRs and mirrorless compacts, there were hundreds of new digital cameras released in 2014. Of these cameras, only a handful truly pushed the envelope. While the rest were wrestling with megapixel counts and other gimmicks, these 7 digital cameras stood out from the rest on innovation, quality and a genuine challenge to the status quo. They are the most important digital cameras of 2014, those that improved the photographic medium with new possibilities. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the best digital cameras 2014 edition.
1. A New Category of Camera: The Lytro Illum Light Field Camera
If you haven’t heard of light field camera technology, the concept is pretty simple - “shoot now, focus later”. Light field cameras allow users to snap a photo of a scene, then adjust the focus later to create a dynamic, interesting image. Until now, however, light field cameras were largely gimmicks, cheap toys without a serious real world application. In 2014, the maker of the revolutionary Lytro light field camera has revealed a new model, the Lytro Illum Light Field Camera. The Lytro Illum takes the torch from the early Lytro system and adds the fundamentals that a modern photo enthusiast could ask for. Namely, a zoom lens, a higher-resolution sensor and SD card storage. [Lytro Illum website]
2. A New Standard for Stable: Sony A7II Full Frame Mirrorless Camera
Camera shake. It’s a point of frustration that every pro and every casual photographer deals with - even your grandmother with a camera phone. Since the dawn of photography, the drive for stable images has created an industry of its own, as tripods and video stabilizers are costly, complicated and absolutely necessary. Could cameras become more stable on their own? Sony thinks so. The new Sony A7II full frame mirrorless camera introduces a new system to combat camera shake, the first-ever 5-axis sensor stabilizer. That sensor actually counteracts camera shake by adjusting its positioning with built-in motors. Unreal. [A7II at Sony]
3. A Newly Evolved Video Drone: DJI Inspire 1 Drone
The DJI Inspire 1 video drone is possibly the most advanced consumer video drone ever built. Equipped with an ultra high-quality 4K camera, it comes packaged with a bunch of functionality that was once relegated exclusively to units that were far too large or expensive for the average consumer. Even better, it manages to pack in all these features without making it any more difficult to use - it’s every bit as easy to fly the Inspire One as it is any other drone on the market. It makes an aerial video drone one of the most important cameras of 2014, a bold step forward for aerial photo and video. [Inspire 1 at DJI]
4. A No Nonsense Compact: Fujifilm X30 Compact Digital Camera
As a hobby or a profession, photography can be a burdensome undertaking. Photographers lament the days of carrying around a simple, lightweight camera. It’s on this frustration that Fujifilm maintains a very successful business creating professional-grade, compact cameras. Their latest Fujifilm X30 Compact Digital Camera is the next step for compact power, and it has photographers like me (and beginners like I was at one point) very intrigued. Whether it’s used as a pro’s sidearm or a beginner’s first step, it’s quite a powerful little machine. In my estimation, it’s the finest compact camera release of 2014. It represents a point where I would no longer recommend a crop-sensor DSLR to a beginner photographer, and cameras like this mark that change. [X30 at Fujifilm]
5. A Nearly Perfect Full-Frame Beast: Nikon D750 Full Frame DSLR
Nikon has a healthy grasp on resolution and power with their full frame cameras, but the Nikon D750 DSLR is instantly the most flexible of the pack. It’s also got itself a pretty nice pedigree to boot. It’s the spiritual successor to the D700, arguably the most popular full frame digital SLR that Nikon has ever produced. Its familiar name and flexible feature set make it a pretty compelling camera, and it instantly becomes a challenger for the most exciting DSLR revealed in 2014. Why the Nikon D750 over the Canon 7D MKII? Just ask DXOMark about that one… [D750 DSLR at Nikon]
6. A New Life for Instant Film: Lomography Lomo Instant Film Camera
Lomography is now offering a bit of instant gratification for vintage camera lovers, the Lomography Lomo Instant Camera. The Lomo Instant is a compact film camera that features attachable lenses, a range of standard exposure controls and its namesake feature - instant film produced on the spot. It’s an analogue answer to the popularity of Instagram, providing old-school instant gratification. [Lomo Instant Camera at Lomography and Kickstarter]
7. A New Challenger to the Status Quo: Samsung NX1 DSLR
In a game dominated by the usual suspects, the Samsung NX1 DSLR is definitely the new kid on the block. It isn’t, however, the entry-level new kid, trying to appeal to the first-time photographer. This is a US$1600 camera, and it checks off the feature set that a serious photographer is going to look for. High resolution imaging? Check - it’s got a 28MP sensor. Video capability? Double check - it will shoot 4K video out of the box. Low-light sensitivity? Again, check - it features a Back Side Illumination system to allow for low-noise shooting in low-light scenarios. Fast, accurate autofocus? Check, but that part deserves a paragraph of its own… [NX1 at Samsung]
Noteworthy Omissions in the Best Digital Cameras 2014 List: Canon, GoPro, etc.
What gives? No love for Canon or GoPro? There’s plenty of respect for both brands here, but neither released a product this year that was noteworthy enough to make this list. The GoPro Hero 4 is certainly remarkable, but is not a dramatic enough improvement over the previous generation. The Canon 7D MKII is a similar situation, a minimal upgrade - and one that didn’t receive the kindest reviews. Both companies produce some amazing cameras that would top this list any other year, but 2014 wasn’t a ground-breaker for either company.
Also, Fuji fans might wonder why we featured the X30 instead of the X-T1. The Fujifilm X-T1 is clearly the better camera, hands-down. Yet for professional compacts, the recently-introduced Sony A7II takes the cake. Its sensor stabilization system is truly ground-breaking, a milestone that no other camera in its class can match.
Speaking of which, if you’re into compact cameras, be sure to check out our feature on the 5 best wifi-enabled digital cameras of 2014.
Top image: Fujifilm X30 Compact Digital Camera. Credit: Fujifilm.
[Source: The Coolist. Edited. Some links added.]