Gear of the Year 2013

Gear of the year 2013
Like 2012, 2013 has proved to be a truly exciting & innovative year for new camera releases. What follows are some personal thoughts about the “best” equipment I have been either lucky enough to have tested in the past year or that have received rave reviews from various sources (online / magazine).I emphasis what follows are purely personal preferences but I’d like to think there is at least some method and substance to my conclusions.
My overall camera of the Year 2013.
Not an easy one this. However several contenders immediately spring to mind:
Nikon D7100 / Fuji X100S / Panasonic GX7 / Pentax K-3 / Canon EOS 70D / Ricoh GR & Olympus OMD EM-1
For me the camera that promises the most, delivers by the bucket load and without exception has received rave reviews is the Olympus OMD EM-1.
The best travel compact zoom.
This was a surprisingly close call between the established rivals from Sony, Fuji, and Panasonic. However, once again for me Panasonic comes out on top with the superb Panasonic TZ40.
The best high end compact camera.
I am a bit of a premier high end compact fan but in 2013 as last year there was only going to be one winner. Unsurprisingly it’s the Sony RX100 Mk 2.
If I had to choose a runner up I’d probably be radical and go for the Ricoh GR with it APS-C sensor and fixed fast lens.


The best bridge camera / travel super zoom.
This is now a three horse race between the current Panasonic FZ200 and the recently announced Sony RX1 and Olympus Stylus 1.There haven’t been many reviews of the Sony and Olympus models yet but I am convinced the Sony RX1 with its 1” sensor will smash the competition?
Best high end Compact Camera System / Mirrorless camera.
To me this is a three horse race between two micro four third (MFT) cameras, the Olympus OMD EM-1& Panasonic GX7 and APS -C equipped Fuji’s XE-1 / 2. There is no absolute clear winner. The brain & heart says the EM1 wins but it’s an expensive piece of kit.The Panasonic GX7 is a sensible more affordable compromise, is not far off the EM1 re image quality, is smaller and has a tilting EVF.The Fuji XE1 / 2 probably just pip both the EM1 & GX7 in the image stakes, and give access to some superb Fuijion lenses, what’s my winner?


No, I just cannot turn a blind eye to the Olympus OMD EM-1 it’s simply too good and wins.


Best “entry” / “mid” level CSC / mirrorless camera.
Easy this, the new tiny Panasonic GM1 wins this. What can more want? A truly pocketable technical marvel.


 Best entry level DSLR
This is a difficult category on which to comment as competing models are pretty similar. On reflection I would give the nod (just) to the Canon EOS 700D over any Nikon or Sony rival.
The best fixed lens high end compact
A tie this one between the Fuji X100S and Ricoh GR. Both have an APS-C sensor, yet one (Fuji X100S) has an EVF whilst the other doesn’t but is even more compact.The winner really depends upon ones need for an EVF or not. Personally I’d risk a punt on the Ricoh GR


Best mid Level APS-C DSLR type camera.
Quite an easy winner here, the Canon EOS 70D comes out on top thanks to it new innovative sensor and wealth of features.


Best high end APS-C DSLR camera.
The return to form of Pentax via the Pentax K-3 takes my vote in this category just beating the Nikon D7100 which I tested earlier on this year and which impressed me a great deal. I just know the Pentax will “feel” better, offer sublime handling, fantastic image quality, all wrapped up in a compact yet robust body.
Best full frame DSLR / CSC (for mere mortals).
A possibly controversial personal candidate for this title would be the new Sony A7 closely followed by the recently announced Nikon D610. If you have no lens legacy I’d seriously consider the Sony A7 for whilst it’s not technically a DSLR (it has an electronic viewfinder), its physical size over rivals cannot be ignored and being a Sony it sports all sorts of wonderful features at a very reasonable cost. The Sony A7 wins.


Best full frame camera for the loaded.
Now I would have said that the Canon EOS 5D is still the camera to beat were it not for the recently announced sexy looking Nikon Df.If moneys not a factor (lucky) and you’re not bothered by lack of video and maybe you have old Nikon lenses gathering dust, the Nikon Df is a non brainer.


Best lens of 2012.
Easy, the Sigma 18- 35mm F1.8 lens take this by a country mile, it was the best lens I have ever tested. And the runner up would be another Sigma, the Sigma 35mm F1.4.


You’ll see from my personal selection that the traditional old guard and well known big names are under considerable pressure from companies not usually associated with photography. The photographic landscape is changing and this is reflected in the rising dominance of makes like Sony & Panasonic. It’s nice to see three of the old guard, Olympus, Ricoh & Pentax return to form with their recent releases
Most anticipated camera of 2014.
Well I suppose it has to be the Canon EOS 7D Mk2 / 7D2, its been rumoured and anticipated for at least 12 months and still no sign of it.
Camera I’m most hoping / looking forward to testing.
Probably the Sony RX10, Sony A7, Pentax K-3 and Panasonic GM1 would be the top of my wish list for testing the forth coming months.


Mark Baynham (December 2013)