My Camera of the Year 2018. An easy pick for me.
By Steve Huff
It’s that time again, the end of another year which now marks 11 years since I started this website reviewing cameras and gear. In 2018 we had a slew of new cameras released and a few of them I loved, some I did not. I have shot with most major releases this year, the ones that got me excited to try them anyway (I do not review cameras that get sent to me to test that I end up not liking). One thing is for sure, this has been the year of mirrorless. I find it amazing and awesome at the same time as I remember so many telling me on these pages just 4-5 years ago that mirrorless would never ever beat a DSLR, and I was a fool for recommending them. I would get genuine hate mail and comments from those who did not like me praising mirrorless as the future of digital.
Well here we are, at the end of 2018 and Mirrorless is taking over. The DSLR will be DEAD soon. As in, there will be very few new DSLR’s being made starting NOW. Way less than in the past. The big gun DSLR’s we have now? There may be one more model upgrade for some of them. Maybe. From now on, the big three C, S and N will be focusing on mirrorless and that is a beautiful thing as mirrorless can bring a better experience all the way around when done right. I enjoy many mirrorless cameras these days, or should I say, enjoy testing them and using them.
For starters, the Canon EOS-R has been in use every day for me since launch, mostly for video but also for photos. I bought one and have no regrets. For me it has been the best video solution I have owned over the last 10 years and I have used MANY from big DSLR’s to dedicated video cameras to pricey cinema cameras. None gave me the ease of use, the IQ and the all in one fun factor of the EOS-R for video (for what I do, which is NOT big time cinema stuff). This camera with the 24 1.4 L II is my #1 goto video rig at home or on the go. This and my GoPro 7 are treasured by me and I use them both every day. With that said, neither these are not in my camera of the year pick though they are some of the best investments in camera gear I have made in a long while ; )
In fact, at first I had a hard time picking my “Camera of the Year” and was not even going to pick one! There are just too many great cameras out there these days, all are great and you can not make a bad choice!
Then I thought more about all of the cameras I shot this year and one did indeed stick out above all others, for me and how I like to shoot.
My pick for Camera of the Year 2018?
No it is not the Nikon Z or the Canon.
The Sony A7III will win for many of course as the specs and bang for the buck are huge. Other cameras beat it in the EVF department, in the ergonomics dept, and in the usability dept. But for the money, it’s tough to beat this “Do it all” entry level from Sony. So many have praised this camera so you all know how good it is. I am sure it made many Camera of the Year lists for 2018. It deserves all the praise it gets.
BUT THIS IS NOT MY PICK OF THE YEAR!
Nope, the Sony did not win for ME. Again, I value the experience, the way a camera is used, the vision it brings to me.
When I pick a camera of the year, I go by things other than cost, features or bang for the buck. I go for usability, overall quality, versatility, feel and build, pride of ownership, longevity, etc. In other words, the EXPERIENCE. I have been shooting with the Sony A7III, the A7RIII, the Nikon Z6, the Canon EOS-R and a GoPro 7 for months now. I also have a Hasselblad X1D and have shot extensively with all Leica products of 2018. With the Nikon and Canon and Sony brands kicking into high gear this year, well, all of these are fantastic cameras but none are my camera of the year! Any of them could be, and are probably on someones list for the year but for me none of these cameras were my pick for the “Experience” and all out enjoyment.
A camera for me has to motivate me, has to get my blood pumping and has to get me excited to get home and review my files. If I can be honest, most cameras these days are very capable but at the same time, very boring.
For me, photography has to ignite the passion within me and it does but when I shoot with a boring camera, over time, well the whole art of the craft starts to get boring. No matter what anyone will ever tell me, I believe and know that a camera does make a difference in how you shoot and what you shoot. Some cameras motivate me to get out and go after it, others do not.
The one brand that has ALWAYS motivated me to use it, has been Leica. The SL won my camera of the year a few years back, and I still today LOVE the SL. In fact, it is still in my top 3 cameras of all time, again, for me. The build is second to none, the EVF is still the best I have used as of 12/31/18 and using it with small M mount lenses is such a treat and joy. It also offers a unique color experience and while I never really shot the SL with native lenses (other than to test them), that to me is one of the best M mount cameras you can buy. But it is years old now so not my pick of 2018 ; )
The Hasselblad X1D has been a fave of mine this year as well and with its astounding IQ and file quality it is a special camera indeed. I’ve never had one issue with the X1D, and the design and feel makes my #1 design and ergonomics of all time, again, for me. Nothing even comes close to the feel of an X1D in the hand, for my hand.
Even so, there is still one camera that stood out for me above all others this year, and that is the….
Yep, the basic most minimalistic digital camera made today. The Leica M10D has no LCD and analog controls. It has that Leica color and pop and even when you use Voigtlander lenses with it (which is how I shot with it). It’s a camera I reviewed HERE but again, the fact that it slows you down, makes you think and doesn’t allow you to chimp means that as you spend the day shooting it inspires you to do better. It gets you excited to get home and see the files. It brings me back to the days of my M6 or M7 when I was out shooting film, and yes, it does give that experience except I never run out of film. It’s a beautiful as a camera can get and yes LESS IS MORE for me in photography. I am so over the million item menus, the confusing controls, the gimmick features that are not even needed. It’s a pure photography and photographers camera, period. Nothing else matters to the M10D. Just the image, the art of getting the image and the rewarding experience one gets when they get THE IMAGE! This is what it is all about as to me, photography and cameras are losing their way these days with companies trying to push silly gimmicks and marketing them as features we need, when we do not. With thousands of YouTube channels now doing the ad work for cameras these days it seems that the push for tech is at an all time high.
I have stated my reasons why this camera was my fave camera this year, and I will be making a purchase to buy one in 2019. In fact, it will be my sole digital stills camera and my EOS-T and GP7 will be my video workhorses. That’s it as I will be trimming down my camera gear to one camera, two lenses for stills. It’s all I need and something like the M10D for me will get more use than any Nikon, Canon or Sony for me combined.
The Leica M is such a great camera for stealth situations. It doesn’t scream “I have a huge fancy camera” nor does it garner attention. Even at ISO 12,500 in a dimly lit bar, the M10D brings forth amazing color, sharpness and depth. It’s also quiet as a baby mouse and super slim and sleek. Expensive? Sure, of course..but for me, well worth the investment for the enjoyment and experience it brings to me.
You can check out more info on the M10D HERE.
My Review of the M10D is HERE.
BTW I am still using the Nikon Z6 when I can with the 24-70 and 35 1.8. Tested it a few times for video and for me, the EOS-R beats it for video due to the AF and color, no contest here. For photos, it beats the Canon with a better (crisper) quality file it seems but of course a much different color signature. Can’t go wrong with either but ergonomics goes to the Canon all day for me between Sony, Nikon and Canon and all will deliver photo quality worthy of large prints that would make anyone but an avid pixel peeper proud.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!
Reviews referenced on this page:
Steve, I’ve been following your blog since day one. And you said it – mirrorless would be the future!
Hi, really cool article. Quick question again, about M10D you said “one camera, two lenses for stills” I’m curious to know what are your two lens?
Thanks for all your articles and energy, happy new year.
prob a 50 and 90 ; )
Perfect Steve, I’m shooting an M240 and an SL. I have both Canon/Nikon but the M240 with a 1959 Summilux is my M10-D, 6-7 years and it continues to amaze me with it’s IQ. For those that want to try Leica the M240 can be a lower cost entry.
Well, I have to do this. From your Gear page:
“The M10 is out again as I have realized that since I have owned the Leica SL twice now, I have bee spoiled by the experience, the feel, the quality and that EVF. I love using the SL with M lenses, old and new and I missed it dearly AGAIN, which tells me it is meant to be in my hands, as I am very happy when an SL is in my hands. I prefer this over ANY other camera today for daily walk around photos using M lenses and I do prefer it to an M10 today (due to my aging eyes).”.
So is the SL out? or have your eyes improved since the last test of the M10?
I do not own an M10-D, but would like to and hope to. Now that I wear glasses and/or contacts, makes it easier though still not a fan of wearing glasses with an M.
If I could justify that Leica for myself, I would get one. But alas, I’m not able to. I’m sure it’s a beautiful camera to use and enjoy.
I feel the same and thanks for the reassurance; hope to pick up my M10D today.
Two questions Steve: where do I have to look to buy a M10D with 40/1.2 for $7500? And which ones will be your 2 lenses of choice? I am a 50mm guy and thinking of selling my Lux for the new 1.2 Nokton as my always on plus a 50mm Cron and a 28mm Elmarit for my frequent travels. Image wise I adore the 35 FLE as a one lense set up, just that I am not a 35 guy 🙁
Such a Rebel, lol. Me personally am looking forward to the Ricoh Gr III keeping it really simple and cheap. I’ve sold off most of my camera equipment only the Fuji X100F and a Leica Summicron remain (because you never know. I actually had a focus tab professionally added to it years ago).
I’ve got the Leica itch Steve and you continue to make it incredibly difficult to NOT scratch at it. Always appreciative of your insight. Happy New Year!
Happy NY Steve! Are u getting rid of the SL and just going with the M10D? I have an SL but have been thinking of trading it in for an M for the smaller size and I mainly shoot M glass on the SL. Love your site and check it daily. Keep up the great work!
Sharing the experience, my M10D came in before christmas and its that feel that does it!
Question: Will you be keeping both an M10-D and an SL?
It is funny only Leica could create a digital camera in 2018 with no back screen to review your pictures and it gets camera of the year. Canon and Nikon come out with new mirrorless cameras in 2018 and they get roasted by a lot of reviewers for not having two card slots or internal body stabilization in this day and age. Go figure. Anyway great write up Steve, you magically write so that everyone feels good about whatever camera decision they made in 2018. You should be a politician.
Right. That’s because Leica caters to the less-is-more market, whereas Nikon and Canon cater to the more-is-better market.
How about the FUJI XT-3 Sir ?
I reviewed it, and said it was the best APS-C camera out today (In my opinion). Not a camera of the year for me though.
“To those who want something simple, something basic, and something beautiful at the same time, there is nothing in the world like the M10D”
It would have been even simpler and more basic if they didn’t put a fake film advance lever on it.
I much prefer it with that lever as its the best thumb grip I have ever used on an M. I hope they put it on all of their M’s in the future (I made the request).
I have more of a question than a comment. I have the M10 (not the M10D), and haven’t ventured into high ISO levels because I did not think it would be good at hight ISOs. Is the sensor and processing of the D an improvement and that is why you are raving about it’s low light capabilities or is it the same and I have just been a chicken for no good reason? I thought I was getting noise at 3200 and that’s why i did not venture higher, plus the ISO wheel only goes up to 6400 anyway. I guess there is a menu function for higher ISOs? (i really hate reading instructions, maybe I should have). Looking forward to your answers.
Nope, same sensor. This camera is an M10 and M10P when it comes to image quality and capabilities. I found I can shoot at 10k ISO in dark music clubs and bars as long as I expose correctly (which is the trick without an EVF) ; )
Happy New year to you and the ones that surround you.
I am glad that the M10-D makes you happy. Honoustly, I long for experiencing the same. Unfortunately this camera is out of my financial range. Which presently available or soon to be released (<€2,000) camera would you recommend for a similar experience?
So many great camera today and I will say that the $1200 Leica D Lux 7 is amazing. Micro 4/3 sensor, beautiful quality, 24mm at the wide end. No camera under $2000 or even above $20,000 will give you the same experience as the M10D, that is the Beauty of it. It’s one of a kind.
Try a M2, M3 or M4 😉
I love the choice, Steve. Definitely unexpected, but right in so many ways.
Happy new year to all.
Did NOT expect that! So read your article I anticipated the new Fuji 53 or whatever it’s haggled to be the winner, but not THIS! I do understand your reasoning, I also feel a sort of freedom and expectation when I use analogue cameras, and the pride is so much greater when the result is really successful. Besides, the ratio of keepers is way higher as it forces you to think more. Happy New Year Steve!
Thanks Peter, happy new year!
Happy New Year, Steve, and thanks for helping me with my decision between the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 and the new RF version of it. As recommended by you, I picked the old version and love its a bit more vintage character, it serves my way of shooting much more.
I can pretty well understand your choice of the Leica M as your personal Camera of the Year. Personally, I also love to shoot rangefinders, but I still use analogue ones. If I ever decide to walk on the digital side on this classic photography path I think such a minimalistic camera like the Leica M would be my choice, too. Maybe, in a few years, I will add a used M to my gear.
Have a good start into 2019, and thank you so much for your inspiring photosite that I check frequently for maybe ten years now. It is a bit like a steady rock in this fast changing tech world.
Thank you and hope you 2019 is amazing!
Thanks Steve and happy New Years to you and your family. Any idea when you will have the Z6 review up?
Thank you Elie, and very soon. To be honest, I have been having hard time truly enjoying the Z6. Not because it has any issues, but it’s just the same as everything else out now. It’s not much different than shooting a Sony or the Canon. It’s a solid camera though and better than the Sony and Canon in some ways and not as good in others. I would say that if you love Nikon and own Nikon glass, it’s a no brainer. If you do not own Nikon glass, then I would not switch personally. But it’s a wonderful camera with few flaws. (As is everything else out these days, so go by what speaks to you personally).
Great review Steve, you had me guessing till the end, but I agree with the conclusion. Ive been shooting with M cameras professionally for years and the simple joy of shooting with such a well made camera that offers stellar quality is unique.
Happy new year
Just finished reading your thoughts about “best camera for you ” and I agree with every word you wrote. Leica M are the most exciting cameras for me and I understand why you chose the M10D, no doubt the closest digital to film cameras,
I thought long about it but finally decided against as I am no expert and make mistakes and looking at the screen helps me fix that mistake.
I am truly happy you chose a Leica M 🙂
Want same in Monochrom.
But i firmly believe that the nikon d850 is a great and fantastic enginered tool. it will be having year s Ahead to fullfill photographers works.sure the z6/z7 are also New contenders.anyway good luck to phographers for New year 2019
Happy New Year! And thank you Steve for a great 2018 Camera of the Year–Agree.
Having never shot a rangefinder camera, I’ve always been intrigued. The technically beautiful images are reason enough to give it a go. Checking my friendly no tax, free shipping camera store, the body, with relatively modest Leica glass (for the full experience), 35mm f2, comes up to $11,290. Like I said, I’ve always been intrigued.
Happy New Year Steve!
Actually I prefer the Voigtlander 40 1.2 to the Leica 35 f/2. I can get a Leica M 10D with Voigtlander 40 1.2 for around $7500 (have to know where to look). In no way do you not get the full experience when shooting with Voigtlander lenses.
I think you´ll get the full experience with an M9 and a Summicron. 3.000-3.500$. And you can always get your money back if you don´t like it as the prices for the M9 drop very slowly now.
Went mirrorless this year from Nikon D600 to Lumix G9. Love the ergonomics of the G9 as well as the size/weight. So far so good
Excellent choice Steve!! My focus is much better with the SL, especially with longer than 50mm lenses, but you have inspired me to go out and shoot a roll of film with my MP. I sold my M10 for the SL, but now I am considering the M10D in addition to the SL. Thank you again for the inspiration!!
One other thing: we need Ken Hansen to continue to improve!!
I think this is a very ballsy call. This is an $8K camera with essentially only 4 settings (not counting turning on or off WiFi). Out of reach of most prospective buyers. Certainly a unique product in today’s market place.
I applaud your swimming against the rising tide of conformity… so easy to select the A7III as 15 million other reviewers and YouTubers have done. Gutsy and a great call.
This is why to me this is the Camera of the Year this year. Nothing else like it, and the experience it brings. It’s like nothing else and the experience is amazing. Takes me away from what this world has become when it comes to electronics, social media, and all that comes with it. Basic, simple, yet with a quality not many other cameras can meet when it comes to build, feel, size, and pride of ownership. The fact that it does not have a slew of features is why it is so special, to me at least. It brings back the meaning of what photography is, which so many cameras today have taken away.
I’m sure the Leica is a beautiful camera, but it’s way out of my reach, so I’ll have to admire it from afar.
Hey, really cool article. Quick question, you said “one camera, two lenses for stills” is it possible to know what are your two lens? 😉
Thanks for all your articles and energy, happy new year.
GREAT about the M10D. sadly, forever out of my reach
I feel your pain – would love one, but sadly may never be.
Happy New Year Steve, look forward to your forays in to the camera/tech world in 2019. However so chuffed that you took the most basic of digital Leica’s as your favourite. I have shot an M10 and think it is the most wonderful camera. I think the M10 – D version is the ultimate test of a photographer – in fact it separates the really photographers from the tech geeks who take pictures.
Maybe less is so much more.
I will keep saving.
See ya all in the New Year. Welcome 2019.