My Favorite Cameras of 2010, Digital and Film
By Steve Huff
It’s been a little slow here the last week or so as I am awaiting for the new cameras to come out and be delivered to me for review. Reviews for the Panasonic GH2, Pentax K5 and possibly the Ricoh GXR are on the way soon but today I decided to post my first ever “Best of” camera buyers guide for 2010. These are MY favorite cameras that came out in 2010. Later in the week I will write about my favorite accessories and software from last year.
Today I bring you MY PERSONAL best of the best in regards to my overall favorite camera, overall best bang for the buck and even my favorite film camera of 2010. I always get e-mails asking “What Camera Should I Buy” and while I can not tell you what is best for YOU and your situation, I can tell you what I really liked and enjoyed during the last year of the digital camera releases.
Also, you can be assured that every item listed here was used extensively by me and gets my highest recommendation. Also, these are MY opinions. You may agree or disagree but these are MY picks! With that said, let’s get on to the list!
MY FAVORITE OVERALL DIGITAL CAMERA OF 2010 – NO PRICE LIMIT CATEGORY!
The Leica M9 – $6995.00
The Leica M9. My pick for the overall BEST digital camera of 2010. True, this was released on 09/09/09 but it was not readily available until 2010 so most shooters were not able to even see one until this time. I wrote a huge review of the M9 that you can see HERE so I will not re-hash all of the amazing things I love about this camera. Basically, as much as I like the Leica M8, the M9 took it to another level and gave us a true digital M with a full frame 18MP sensor that provided amazing quality when paired up with some decent Leica or Zeiss lenses.
You can also see my list of my favorite Leica lenses for the M9 HERE because not all lenses will provide you with the magic quality that this camera is capable of. No AA filter, no need for IR/UV filters, and superb color and detail, the M9 may not be as versatile as a NIkon D3x but it is much smaller, much quieter and feels like a real old fashioned camera in your hand. Manual focus, manual control. The M9 is a true photographic tool and with lenses like the 50 Summilux ASPH and Noctilux ASPH, there is no digital camera that can give you the unique quality that this one can. A Leica image can and does stand out when shot with the any film M or the M9. If you want the ULTIMATE digital camera and want to learn photography, the M9 is a super tool. BUT, it’s not for those with light wallets! The M9 comes in at $6,995 for the body only. You always pay a premium for the Leica red dot but the camera is a work of art. Not perfect, but this could be my last digital ever as it leaves me wanting for nothing more.
ABOVE: The M9 with the cheaper 35 Summarit in an old Kentucky town 2010.
ABOVE: Even at ISO 2500 the M9 can give you usable results.
ABOVE: Landscape is a dream with the M9. Id take an M9 over ANY other 35mm digital for this ANY DAY.
ABOVE: The M9 and 35 Summilux ASPH. A killer street combo.
So where should you buy an M9? I have a list of dealers that you can trust as I have bought from them all and have been buying cameras for over 15 years. Stick with any of the dealers below and you will never have to worry about being scammed or ripped off.
You can buy the Leica M9 from B&H Photo (IN STOCK) HERE, Dale Photo HERE, Amazon HERE
or Ken Hansen via EMAIL
MY FAVORITE OVERALL BANG FOR THE BUCK DSLR OF 2010 – BANG FOR THE BUCK CATEGORY
The Sony A33 and A55 – $749 – $849
I am not saying that the Sony A33 is the best DSLR sold in 2010 but I am saying that out of the DSLR’s released in 2010 that I SHOT WITH the A33 proved to be a really good camera for the money. For $749 you get a slightly plasticky feeling DSLR but it’s performance is on par with cameras costing upwards of $1400. It’s translucent mirror technology provides blazing fast AF speed for photos or video. Speaking of video, this camera puts out amazing full HD video. I wrote a full review of this camera HERE with tons of test shots and a video sample. The A33 is a camera that will give you great color, superb low light capabilities and the ability to use some fine Zeiss glass as well. If I were in the market for a DSLR under $1000 the Sony A33 or A55 would be my pick.
I WOULD BUY THE Sony A33 HERE from B&H Photo. For $100 more you get the Sony A55 which adds GPS and more MegaPixels.
MY FAVORITE SEMI-COMPACT DIGITAL CAMERA OF 2010 – TIE
The Sony NEX-5 and Olympus E-P2
1st: THE OLYMPUS E-P2
There are SO MANY cameras in this category and most of them are really really good but at the end of the day TWO stood out for their versatility, quality and size. The Olympus E-P2 and Sony NEX-5.
I had a tough time deciding between these two cameras. On one hand you have the Olympus E-P2 (see my full review HERE) with its vintage styling and rangefinder-ish feel. The E-P2 is a fantastic camera though it is limited by it’s higher ISO capabilities due to it’s small micro 4/3 sensor. BUT, if you want a solid feeling small slim camera with great controls and great video capability then the E-P2 deserves a look. I love it for its styling, feel, control and price. You can pick up an E-P2 with 17mm lens these days for UNDER $700. That is a great price for a camera like this as I have achieved beautiful results with my E-P2. Attach the Olympus 17mm or the Panasonic 20 1.7 to this camera and you have a thin, small and kick ass combo for just about any situation. You can also mount many different lenses to your E-P2. For example, have a Leica lens? Just buy an adapter and mount it to your E-p2 and you have a sweet little manual focus setup with astounding qualities. The Sensor size is smaller than most other cameras but the quality is there if you have good light.
2nd: THE SONY NEX-5
If you read this site you know I love my Leicas and also lately have been showing the love to the Sony NEX-5. What is it about this TINY camera with it’s not so good kit lenses that has me falling head over heels for it? I will tell you right now! It’s SIZE, QUALITY and VERSATILITY is off the charts. Like the E-P2 and Micro 4/3 mount cameras the NEX-5 can mount almost any lens with the right adapter. I have shot it with Leica glass with wonderful results. What I love about the NEX-5 is its swivel LCD, it’s tiny size, its metal construction and great feel. I love that you can mount almost any lens to it and that the high ISO quality is so good. It also has blazing fast AF and great color. The kit lenses are not the best in the world but they can give you decent results at times. They are not AWFUL but they are not sharp from corner to corner.
The NEX-5 has one flaw though and that is it’s menu system that I discussed in my full review HERE. There really is a lack of manual control and feel but that is just the nature of the camera and how it is designed. I can say though that once you get used to it then it is not a big deal and it becomes second nature. Also, the latest firmware update for the NEX-5 added the ability to customize the rear buttons to your liking. Overall the Sony NEX-5 has massive bang for the buck qualities. HD video, High Resolution APS-C sensor, Sweep Panorama, Low light modes and a take anywhere size. Bravo to Sony for the NEX system!
You can buy the Olympus E-P2 at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE (amazon has a killer UNDER $640 price WITH LENS!)
The NEX-5 is available with the 16mmm lens HERE or the 18-55 HERE
MY FAVORITE COMPACT CAMERA OF 2010
The Leica D-Lux 5 and/or Panasonic LX-5
For me, these are the two hottest compact cameras on the market right now. They are basically the SAME camera, both are made by Panasonic but the Leica model has different styling, different firmware and comes with better software and a better warranty. BUT, the Panasonic can be had for under $420 at B&H Photo where the D-Lux 5 is $799, so almost double the price. Whichever you choose, the Leica or the Panasonic, these cameras will give you some of the best image quality in a small sensor compact. These cant really compete with a big DSLR in high ISO or low light shooting but these “take anywhere” cameras will always be with you and will always be ready to give you superb images. These cameras offer loads of features like HD video, multiple aspect ratios, a Leica branded f/2 lens, super fast AF and a gorgeous feeling body. I loved the older D-Lux 4 and the new D-Lux 5 improves upon the 4 in a few ways. You can read my full review of the Leica D-Lux 5 HERE. It’s the most read D-Lux 5 review on the internet!
You can buy the Leica D-Lux 5 at B&H Photo HERE
You can buy the Panasonic LX-5 at B&H Photo in BLACK or WHITE
MY FAVORITE NEW FILM CAMERA RELEASED IN 2010
The Fuji GF 670 Medium Format Rangefinder
Yes, even in 2010 a new FILM camera was released, and it was a good one. I love the Fuji GF670 for a few reasons. One is due to the fact that it is a medium format rangefinder. Think of it as a Leica M on steroids (though not nearly as well made). The GF670 is a fold out camera and when you fold in the lens it is fairly compact. You can read my full review of the camera HERE if you want the details but if you want to get into film, this is a great camera to choose if you want a rangefinder that shoots those big, fat juicy medium format negs. This camera is not cheap coming in at $1600 or so new. Many will argue that you can buy older versions for less, and you can…BUT if you want a new one with warranty it doesn’t get much better than this. Shooting film can be a hugely rewarding experience and the negatives this camera pumps out are pretty amazing. Big, fat, and full of color and life.
You can buy the Fuji GF 670 at B&H Photo HERE who usually has them IN STOCK!
CAMERAS THAT I HAVE NOT YET REVIEWED THAT LOOK PROMISING
The Pentax K5
The Pentax K7 was an awesome little DSLR with a pro build, weather sealing, awesome image quality, HD video and the size was very small. The new K5 promises much more with more resolution, much better high ISO performance and a slew of other improvements. Look for my review soon!! I loved the K7 but it had sub par high ISO when compared to the new cameras of today. The K5 should kick some serious behind so hopefully I will not be disappointed!
The Ricoh GXR
This camera has been calling my name for months and months. A buddy of mine told me about it months ago and he has been sending me some incredible images for a while now. I originally dismissed this camera thinking it was a gimmick but then I realized that those who own one LOVE IT. I even know of a couple guys that sold their Leica M9 and made the GXR their main camera, so it has to be pretty good. Ricoh are releasing new lens modules and the latest 28 2.5 looks REALLY sweet so I have one on the way here real soon and I will be giving it a thorough review. Check back every day!
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When can we expect to see your Pentax K-5 review?
Steve, thanks for all the great info. I’m just stepping up from a point and shoot. Based on budget and your reviews, I think I’ve narrowed my search down to the Lumix G2 or the Sony A33. I know you like both, but what are the major differences I should be know before buying. Size is not a factor in my decision. Also, the 720 vs 1080 video is not a dealbreaker either. Looking for high quality images for our new baby as well as outdoor shots. Thanks for your feedback. I’ve noticed Amazon has the best prices on these tow cameras and will be sure to use your link for the purchase.
Hi, I have bought the Leica D-Lux 4 , a few months ago but I noticed grain in mostly all my pictures. Are there any special set up on camera to avoid this or is normal in Leica. This is my first Leica and sometimes I feel disappointed for the price that I paid. Please give me some suggestions and how to get better pictures.
Thanks and have a great day,
Hi Julio. I don’t own a DLux 4, but have owned a DLux3 (the predecessor) and used a Panasonic LX3, which is almost the exact same cameras as the DLux4. I’m not a professional or know it all, but I’ll try to give you some suggestions. Maybe others with more experience will chime-in later.
The grain or noise increases as the ISO goes higher. Even at ISO100, there is going to be a little bit of noise on the DLux4/LX3. That tends to be the case, because point and shoot cameras have small sensors. To minimize the noise, I’d recommend shooting with as low of ISO as possible while still maintaining a fast enough shutter speed so that camera shake won’t affect the quality of the photo. If it’s too dark, then you really have no choice but to use flash. Also keep in mind that the photos are exposed properly. If the camera underexposes the photo, meaning that the images come out darker than they should, then the darker areas will tend to look noisier. So sometimes you have to adjust the exposure compensation to increase the exposure time. The camera will increase exposure time by decreasing the shutter speed.
If you have anymore questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck.
Hmzzzzzz, Steve, no suprises here…….M9 remains the King of it all. But you state that it’s not as versatile as an D3x. Personally I think it is even more versatile………
since a D3x would stay
in its case during the night and during the day
while an M9 would be the choice of play…..
yeps, in Holland it’s corny rhyme season due to Sinterklaas…..
Greetings, Ed Kuipers
As far as IQ, design and build quality goes, the Ricoh GXR has it all for me. I’ve tried and owned most of the comparables listed here at one point and although some of them are very good, the GXR is calibrated for the discerning professionals eye. One poster here said that he/she thought the images were dull. Well if by that they meant that they aren’t all ‘Disney’d out’ like the typical colour management engine found in most cameras that come out of SE Asia, then yes I suppose you could say that. But I would say that in my experience the GXR and Leica X1 are share the most ‘film-like’ IQ of any camera in it’s their class….period.
What I also like about them is that they don’t go up beyond ISO 3200 just to apease the consumer, yes the sensors are capable of going higher but in their opinion, at the expense of IQ. So when you see that it has a maximum high ISO of 3200, it means you can shoot there in complete confidence and print with stunning results.
The D7000 is a very good camera but again calibrated to appease the consumer. The IQ is pretty shite to be honest because it uses excessive NR even with it turned completely off, I would go as far as to say I hate the IQ from that camera and also agree with Steve in that it’s just too bulky/heavy/clumsy and unnecessarily over-conjested with dedicated buttons for practically everything. The D700 even without video is by far in a way superior with les pixels over a larger space.
Going back to the GXR (for the sake of Elaine), compared to the X1 I find the GXR files more pleasing. Although the X1 is a good camera, the AF is unacceptable for that kind of money and the files are way too over-sharpend for my liking. Again, I love what the engineers at Ricoh are doing with their approach, the camera has soul.
Well also that you can change modules on the Ricoh, as opposed to the X1 which is fixed. I’m interested in the camera, but find the whole module thing confusing. Maybe Steve’s article will enlighten us about that whole deal. As for me, I’m still getting used to the Sony NEX 5, having finally figured out how to use Leica glass on it. I can’t wait to shoot with the lenses. I also heard rumor about Sony adding Zeiss to their line? I wonder when that will happen? I love Zeiss lenses. Another camera that is interesting is the Samsung NX100 which also has an APS-C sensor that will rival the Sony, I’m sure. I love the Sony, or the files, getting used to the menus. Still, it’s an awesome camera. These are exciting times for small cameras! I can’t wait to see the Ricoh and then the Fuji X100 review. . Steve, can you do reviews of the Samsung NX 100 as well?
I’m also really looking forward to the GXR review. I absolutely can’t understand how someone of sound mind would trade a full-frame Leica for a Ricoh.
The GXR S10 unit is pretty much the same lens/sensor combo as the GX200. The GX200 I have handles extremely well, but the IQ is a total disappointment. Outdoor photos are OK if it isn’t badly overcast, and it excels at the grainy BW pics you often see in Flickr if you search for Ricoh pics. But just forget using it indoors. Argh… the camera frustrates me to no end. But I’ll end the rant here.
So if you’re reviewing the GXR, do it with the A12 50mm lens module. Just sayin’
In the past few months I spoke with two guys who sold their M9 after buying the GXR. Im not saying the GXR is better, but what these two guys have done. I am shooting it now with the 28 2.5 and the 50 macro. I’m not saying a word about it until the review…
I’m also curious to know if the Ricoh measures up to the Leica. I’ve read somewhere about their lens system, and heard a new lens was coming out that is pretty interesting. I don’t know that the files would beat a Leica, but if they come close to it, I am willing to bet many people would buy it, along with the Sony NEX 5, to save themselves at least 6K of their money.
I had two…just like the ad said 🙂 Sold one…
Have you tried the Leica Glass with the camera yet?
Am eagerly awaiting your verdict on the “digital CL” (GXR with the two primes). Hopefully, a comparison to the X1 files will be included in your review.
If the Sony NEX 5 is one of your favorites, why are you selling it, Steve? You had a bunch of reviews on this camera and said it was wonderful, but now I see an ad in the classifieds for it. Don’t you like the camera anymore? I just recently purchased the kit so i can try the Leica lenses on it. I can’t afford the M9, and thus figured by your raving reviews that this camera was very good.
Awesome year-end recap, and good for the photographic holiday shopper in all of us!
Agree the Fuji x100 looks amazing and if it does what it says on the tin then it could well find a place in my bag 🙂
Yes waiting for the Gxr review thanks
looking forward to your K5 review- I just playing with one over the last week.
One recommendation: Do not draw any conclusions about the camera when using the kit lens.
In my experience the kit can not show the quality of the sensor of the K5. If you want to judge IQ you need to also use either a high quality zoom (16-50 seems better) or a good prime.
Kind Regards, Tom
And where is the X1?
Am definitely looking forward to the upcoming reviews of the GH2 and GXR. I bought the GXR with A12 when it came out, but found its AF annoying (slow, hunting, inaccurate at times). Tried to sell it at a bargain price but had no buyers. So it spent the last few months in a closet, until the new FW was out. With the new FW, AF is no longer an issue, it is fast enough. Maybe at the EP2 level, and definitely much much faster than the X1’s. Coupled with the brilliant Ricoh UI, two excellent lens modules (28 and 50mm equiv), premium build quality, EVF option the GXR looks quite attractive. Will be interesting to see how the GXR and X1 files compare. DPR saw an advantage for the GXR files, Sean Reid favored the Leica’s.
The Fuji GF670 keeps calling my name. But it has that tiny negative (compared to my GW690) :-). If Fuji ever comes out with a 6×9 folder, I’m in. Heck, I might be in for the 670, even if they don’t make the 690, because the packability of a folder is great.
Nikon D7000 is doesn’t seem that promising? i’d like you to review D7000 because you are one of my favorite reviewer ^^
The D7000 is a fine camera, better than the D300s IMO but again, the picks above were what I liked. Many would have put the D7000 up top but me, Im not a fan of the bulk so it’s not here. Is it a fine camera? INDEED it is, but not for me so didn’t make it to my picks.
@tdk if you get a chance check out a gxr at your local shop…dont judge the iq from ricoh’s web site..take a few shots with it on your sd card and see for your self.
Not impressed with the IQ from the sample images of the GXR though, http://www.ricoh.com/r_dc/gxr/sampleimage.html
Color looks dull?
Ive seen many samples from the GXR from a friend and they look Leica like to my eyes.
cant wait to see what you think of the gxr….i think its as good as the pentax k7/k5 just with less mega pixels, and way better then any of the 4/3 rd’s systems…hope you get to use the new 28 mm unit …as i havent had the chance to try it yet !
Have you been shooting with the GH2? I know video is less of a priority for you, but Phillip Bloom posted an amazing short he did with the GH2 and the new micro 4/3 Voigtlander lens.
I was supposed to get one but it has not showed up yet. Hopefully soon.
Hope you get your GH2 soon, Steve. It would be great to see your take on it.
Steve, I really hope you’re on fuji’s shortlist of people they’ll give the first review samples of the X100 to. I think it will be the camera of 2011. If it turns out as good as I hope, I’m going to buy one and take it around SE Asia for 6 weeks. Can’t wait.
If the shape, hybrid viewfinder and perfect control scheme of the X100 made it onto a future interchangeable lens, full frame, fuji camera with an m-mount and a set of fujinon primes… I think Leica would be in for a battering. Especially if it was 1/3 of the price of the M9/M10 and took m lenses.
Also, the X100 is the camera the Leica X1 could have been if Leica were more innovative and didn’t want to protect sales of the M series. Hopefully Leica will respond to their first bit of competition in decades with some new ideas.
I sent Fuji e-mail requests but not even sure I was sending to the right people. Hopefully I will be able to get a hold of one because this is one camera I am truly excited about.
same with me
I have yet to see the GXR in the flesh, and thought it was a crazy concept at first.
but somehow I can’t shake off my curiosity.
The concept of buying a sensor with each lens is both a pro and a con I guess.
Really looking forward to that review.
Yeah, the Ricoh GXR is a camera I really want to get my hands on. It’s a bit pricey, but looks really nice. The 28mm F2.5 and 50mm F2.5 lenses seem awesome as well. Hopefully I can buy one soon, but I’ll wait for your review just to make sure ;-).
Its coming 🙂
Hey, what happened to the G2 you were once raving about so mightily? 🙂
I still rave about the G2, it is FANTASTIC but overall the E-P2, due to its styling and feel and new prices tipped the scale in its favor. The G2, Gf1, E-P1, E-PL1, E-P2, are all great.