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The Best Camera in the World. Official!

March 14, 2013 by Ian Pullen

Have you ever wondered what is the best camera in the world? Sure you have and you’ve most likely reached a conclusion too.

It’s a question that I’ve also pondered and in this article, I’m going to share my thoughts on what I consider to be the single best camera in the world right now. Before getting down to specifics though, I want to ponder some of the different types of cameras that are available and consider their pros and cons.

This should narrow down the search to a specific market segment, from which I can choose the ultimate winner. If you’ve got a few minutes, read on and see if by the end we’re in agreement about which camera truly deserves the title of The World’s Best.

Medium and Large Format Cameras

Pentax 645D
photo by Junpei Abe

If you drool over high pixel counts, then these are the kind of cameras that float your boat, with large sensors and often absurdly high number of pixels. These beasts are designed to capture as much image detail as possible to allow high quality prints at sizes the rest of us can only dream about. If ultimate image quality is what you need, these types of camera can’t really be beaten.

However, image quality isn’t always the whole story and these cameras do have their own limitations which means that in some respects they may not stand up too well to an entry level DSLR. The ISO ranges on some these cameras may make you think there’s a typo in their promotional material and, with their mammoth file sizes, don’t be surprised to see that their shots per second can be pretty well in line with many compact cameras.

Without a doubt, there are some photographers who couldn’t consider any other class of camera as the source of the best, but this probably isn’t you or I.

Full Frame DSLRs

Nikon D800
photo by Håkan Dahlström

Additions to Nikon’s and Canon’s ranges in late 2012 mean that this sector may no longer be as exclusive as it once was. Nonetheless, at the top end, there is some pretty serious photographic kit on offer.

For hard working professional photographers who put their kit through the mill on a daily basis, paying out for lesser types of body really may be a false economy. If you’re shooting for National Geographic in the Arctic circle, you really do need a body and lenses that have been designed to be pretty well bullet proof. Plus, would you fancy your chances of clubbing a Polar Bear senseless with anything less than a 1D or D4 body?

For the rest of us, however, how essential is a full frame sensor really? Hang around on a few photography forums and you’ll soon discover that it seems every enthusiast photographer aspires to owning a full frame camera.

For sure, the larger sensors offer benefits in terms of lower noise and image resolution, but there are also downsides that may be less convenient, particularly for enthusiasts who aren’t earning a living from their photography.

A Nikon D800 may seem like a very tempting prospect, but how long do you think it would take for you to get tired of RAW file sizes in excess of 40MB and often nearer to 50MB, even after lossless compression has been applied. If you don’t upgrade your computer hardware, your processing work flow is going to take a hit as your processor struggles on manfully to cope with all of those extra pixels. Oh yes, while you’re upgrading, you best buy some extra hard drive space too.

If you’re a professional who needs to balance performance with image quality and can charge for time spent processing large image files, you might want to end your search for the best camera in this sector of the market.

Crop Sensor DSLRs

Canon  7D
photo by Tara Oldfield

If you’re still with us, perhaps we can agree that one of the many crop sensor DSLRs deserves the title of The Best Camera. Let’s face it, photography is all about compromise and there’s a whole lot of compromises going on here.

The sensors may be smaller, but generally speaking their pixel counts have been marching up in line with all but the largest full frame sensors, which mean sensor manufacturers have to become more proficient at combating noise as photosites get smaller. On the plus side though, the smaller sensors do mean smaller bodies. I don’t think any of us would go so far as to describe even the smallest crop sensor DSLR as being conveniently small, though.

The lenses can also be smaller and lighter too and while often they are, with lens mounts shared across the different sensor sizes, it’s not at all unusual for lenses designed to cover a full frame sensor being mounted on a crop body.

On the positive side, a well designed crop sensor DSLR can match the ergonomics of full frame siblings and the variety of direct controls can ensure that you have handling that makes shooting a smooth and fluid exercise.

All in all, these do look like a sound compromise, but are there alternatives that offer a better balance of features?

CSC/EVIL/Mirrorless Cameras

Sony Nex-5
photo by Soe Lin

There are a few different descriptors for this type of camera and they are becoming a very popular type of camera. With many packing APS-C or M4/3 sensors, they should be able to compete with the best of the crop sensor DSLRs, despite their much smaller bodies. Generally these cameras don’t include a viewfinder and that may put off some DSLR users. However, there’s a lot to be said for composing your shots on a relatively large screen that offers 100% field of view, once you get accustomed to it.

There’s even more to be said for being able to pocket your camera between uses, though you’ll probably need to remove the lens if you’re using your front jeans pocket. If do you manage to get it in there with the lens attached, you’re going to get some odd looks. If you’re a man people will either struggle to meet your eye or appear thrilled to see how pleased you are at being in their presence.

Fortunately there are even more compact camera options available and are we now getting closer to the best type of camera?

Compact Cameras

Fujifilm Finepix
photo by Tsar Kasim

Now we’re moving into territory that’s full of cameras with sensors that appear crazy small compared to even the crop sensors. You don’t need me to tell you that these sensors have lower ISO ranges, higher noise levels, poorer resolution, slow start up times and painfully slow times between shots. Could anyone really consider a compact camera as The best Camera?

I could!

I’m not saying I’m going to, but their compact size can make these a compelling choice. These are so small, you can carry one of these with you everywhere. You need never miss another photo opportunity again, assuming the camera starts up in time.

You want manual control, you got it. You want a fast and bright lens, you can have that too! A wide angle telephoto lens is more important. Is 20x or 24x long enough for you?

Okay, the photos won’t match the other types that we’ve discussed already, but how often do you print your photos? Particularly at larger sizes?

I sense your disdain. You’re not buying this are you? Oh well, let’s get this over with shall we? Or maybe grab a Sony RX100?

Announcing the Best Camera in the World

Looking back at the various compromises that each camera type makes, it is absolutely impossible to name a single camera type as being the best and so it’s also impossible to select a single camera.

There is a well worn saying that you’ve almost certainly heard before – the best camera is the one that you have with you. I know that to some that may sound trite, but it is so true. A camera is just a tool that can achieve nothing without you. How much time do you think carpenters spend discussing what is the best hammer or electricians arguing over the best screwdriver.

The photos are what’s important and when you find yourself moved to capture a moment in time, just think yourself lucky to have a camera with you. Any camera.

Ian Pullen

About the author: Ian Pullen

I'm an enthusiast photographer and web developer by trade, based in rural Spain. I'm interested by all aspects of photography and am constantly trying to improve my technique and try out new ideas. Find Ian on Google+.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sheena.koontz Sheena Koontz

    Great Article! Love the polar bear bit! :)

    • Enrique Dsouza

      and the camera in the pocket

    • Richard Mundo

      So the best camera would be the one that could knock the polar bear out. Ian should do a field test sometime…

    • trisul

      I don’t think the polar bear could care less which one you decide to use to whack him, just as long as you get close enough for him to grab some lunch.

  • IronHooves

    Worst photos of the best cameras

  • Andre Theophane SITCHET-KANDA

    Hello Ian, I appreciate reading your article and agree with you that the
    best Camera is the one that you have with you, but by choice! I´m happy
    getting outstanding results from my Nikon D800E, which is also a robust Digital
    Camera. My Portfolio is located at http://www.sitchet-kanda.com – Gallery:
    http://www.WelcomeCity.Net

  • Marco Sausele

    Without any discussion: Pentax

  • Marco Sausele

    pentax of course, no discussion.

  • moghbaba

    Pentax, after releasing the K7, hasbalways had the best canera in APS-C Dslr segment.

  • Earl

    What about the Nikon D4?

  • Jakob Schmitt

    mamiya 7

  • http://onmymind-rich.blogspot.com/ Richard E. Tolle

    Ian is 100% right! There are so many aspects of photography (portrait, wildlife, landscape, macro, etc.) and a high-end camera best suited for each. In fact, it’s more often the photographer-camera mix that really matters. Photography is about creating a journal of life, which unfolds every second of every day. Since I can’t carry six Canon 1D-level cameras around, my “best camera” is the one I have with me; my walk-around camera. I like my Lumix LX7 with electronic viewfinder. Choose a camera that compliments your strengths and weaknesses (mine is focus), is mobile, and gives you images that please you – then don’t leave home without it! (If you plan to travel in areas that you’d expect to use your camera for self-defense, invest in a quality firearm and take pictures with your phone camera.)

  • amateur

    Right you are. There is no best in most of things. It depends who is asking.

    I shoot with 5D MkII and RX100. Both have their time and place. I like to shoot fairly tightly composed pictures of people in different situations. My favourite lens is the f1.2/85mm from Canon.

    Quite so often a DSLR is just too much to carry around and that’s when the RX100 comes handy. Apart from the sensor size and controls, my favourite feature on the RX100 is the pop up flash. I just wish I was able to lock it into an “indirect” position – well I can do it with a piece of tape. I usually just hold it with my finger to point the flash up to the ceiling. The difference this makes with a point and shoot is just staggering. My other gripe is the lack of a hot shoe as the indirect flash method doesn’t work quite that well in portrait mode. I have been thinking about devising a pocket sized flash reflector that could be fixed into the tripod mount. All in all, I think the RX100 is fabulous piece of equipment that truly fits into your pocket. As Richard put it, the best camera is the one you have with you.

  • disappointed

    Just wasted my time expecting some expert in the field to give advice on which camera(s) he recommend. The one in my pocket is old and broken and doesn’t take good pictures anymore, so I think you are wrong on that one.
    Would appreciate articles that don’t try to fool people into reading it by a misleading title.

  • http://www.activert.org Louna

    I am also disappointed. The title doesn’t reflect the content of this article. It is a way to make people read your article to the end while they are expecting to learn something. Waste of time.

  • stoffel45

    Thank you for VERY little.

  • Pete

    WHAT a let down

  • cee

    The best is the Hasselblad H5D-50c.

  • http://Parkleigh.co.za/ Marco Ronchese

    What a CON, all a lot of personal opinion useless wind that did nothing….

    • http://contrastly.com/ Contrastly

      It’s normal and perfectly ok to not agree with someone’s opinion, but instead of saying it’s a con, would you care to share yours?

    • Keith Penderis

      did you read the article? then the content was good and food for thought, applause for the heading since it is what got me here. lol. South Africa and legal should never be used in the same sentence.

      • Robert Carter

        Too right. Like Tony Blair and weapons of mass destruction perhaps?

        • joanne

          Like Bush and weapons of mass destruction

  • http://Parkleigh.co.za/ Marco Ronchese

    In South Africa you could be had up for a lot of legal trouble under the heading of “Misrepresentation” You misrepresented your case under a false heading….

    • http://contrastly.com/ Contrastly

      Nothing was misrepresented here. The second paragraph of the article says “I’m going to share my thoughts on what I consider to be the single best camera in the world right now”.

      Ian simply voiced his opinion, did he not? I believe that is legal in most countries. Maybe you don’t agree with him, or don’t like his opinion? That’s ok too. We can’t please everyone. Have a great day.

    • Matthew

      Not really. Have a look at the serving suggestion pic on a bag of simba chips…
      There’s no misrepresentation. The best camera is the one with you when you need it.

  • it depends

    for a planned shoot such as a wedding or event – full frame
    studio or landscape – MF
    street and casual – compact or phone

  • BertTheAce

    Right, it always depends….

    My choice when going to an Oldtimer-Car-Show is often my LEICA 3f from 1955 with a finegrain Slides-Film…..and the result is nice colorslides plus an excellent digital-CD from my fotomarked….

  • http://aeropix.pl/ Aeropix Fotografia lotnicza

    Mirrorless cameras like sony nex are the best for drone aerial photography, less weight longer flight time. I use also 7d, very good camera but crop sensor, i would like to try something like medium frame pentax.

  • Zos Xavius

    Pentax FTW! :)

  • Sam Chapman

    I completely agree with Ian’s final assessment, but my selection would be different … but wouldn’t actually own them, even if I had bucket-loads of money to do so. As Ian implies, but doesn’t actually say, every camera delivers ‘compromises’ when you use them. Be happy with what you’ve got and try and get the best out of the one you own. I’d guess, most people are not more ‘capable’ than the cameras they are using.

  • Paul

    Wow I don’t do this again i waste my time …thank you

  • John

    I’m actually with you on this one…I carry The Nikon D5100, D7000 and D7100 each camera has it’s advantages…in all honesty i’m not too fussed about which camera i’m using, nowadays it’s the lens that interests me more…3 different cameras with 3 different lenses…why go to the trouble of ‘humphing’ around the extra weight…cause I know exactly what i’m going to get.

    And no i’m not a Nikon fan boy…Pentax cameras actually hit the spot for me…if I stick with the crop sensors i’ll invest in Pentax next time around…if I feel a need for full-frame…which I don’t feel is necessary (necessary for my photography interest…everyone is different…understanding your needs is the key to affordable successful photography), then i’ll throw my money towards Nikon

  • http://www.121mcv.co.uk/ 121mcv

    a bit of a let down, you could at least chosen a best in class. I want to upgrade my 15 yo sony cybershot to one with a good zoom, high pixels, fast shutter speed – did I learn anything here – no – dont change your day job :)

  • Liam

    If you read this, you just wasted 30 seconds of your life…

  • Mike M.

    Interesting article and good points. I was surprised that ‘bridge cameras’ weren’t mentioned. I have a crop sensor DSLR with a selection of lenses, however, I don’t always want the bulk of the camera. I looked at several cameras that would provide good image quality, full manual to auto modes, convenient and fast selection of camera settings without using a menu, a clear, true viewfinder, a good focal range, and an articulated LCD screen would be a nice feature. I purchased the Olympus Stylus 1 a few months ago and love it. It provides all of the above. I think you will see other cameras introduced to compete with this camera.

  • defacto6969

    Tosh !!

  • Barry Robinson

    Interesting. I used to shoot with a 550D and a kit EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM. I looked at the images and hated them [grew up using pro film gear]. Then I got the money together to get a 5D MK3 and everything looked magically better. I was finally happy, until I started looking at lenses. Then I needed to have a 24-70 f2.8L, then a 70-200 2.8L. Then the other day I stumbled on a picture I’d taken years ago. Not even knowing where it was from I fell in love with it, then noticed that it was one of the first pictures I’d taken with the 550D & Kit lens. Now I take them both out! I love the 5D MK3, It brings me joy every day, but looking back getting that 550D was a small miracle that I never fully appreciated until now, and a turning point in my life that I’ll forever be grateful for! 24-70 on the 550D & 70-200 on the 5DMK3 :-)

  • Judge

    IPHONE