It’s quite possible that in coming years we’ll look back on 2010 as a very important year in the world of digital photography. Not only were existing products bolstered with the addition of new features and improved specifications, but several all-new cameras hit the market to make photographers sit up and take notice.
There’s no doubt that the landscape of photography has changed. Not only do most cameras released these days come complete with video capture, but now it’s almost always of the HD-variety and complete with full manual control. Full HD video capture has become a staple for many DSLRs this year, and the story for compact cameras is much the same It’s also worth noting that there were a host of firsts announced this year – 3D started to become reality not only with TVs but also with cameras. Fujifilm announced its second-generation 3D compact, while Sony added the third dimension to its popular and already boundary-pushing Sweep Panorama capture mode.
Sony also stirred up the ever-growing Compact System Camera market with the launch of the NEX-3 and NEX-5, while Samsung’s entry with the NX10 indicates that the Compact System Camera market is here to stay.
All this innovation hasn’t meant that the big manufacturers have been complacent about their main models. Canon and Nikon released a host of DSLRs that made consumers rush to the stores, though the competition was stiffer than ever.
Throw in a range of great lenses, must-have accessories and workflow-enhancing software and you start to get an idea of just how difficult the judging process was. After much deliberation, here’s the very best of the bunch.
Awards 2010 – Best consumer compact 2010
Panasonic Lumix TZ8
Panasonic has a long tradition of producing excellent compact cameras in its Lumix range – it scooped this award last year. Despite strong competition from the likes of Canon, Nikon and Fuji, Panasonic has pulled off the trick again with the TZ8. The 12MP compact is the travel photographer’s dream. It boasts a 25mm wideangle 12x Leica optical zoom lens with Power O.I.S, an HD video mode, full manual control and Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto mode, as well as an ample LCD screen. Overall, this is as complete a consumer compact as you could wish for.
Nikon Coolpix S8000
Canon IXUS A495
Sony Cyber-shot W380
Awards 2010 – Best advanced compact 2010
Panasonic Lumix LX5
The advanced compact category was one of the most hotly contested in this year’s awards. The need for the photographer to have all the functionality of their DSLR without the bulk is ably met by nearly every manufacturer. This year, however, one camera stood head and shoulders above the rest, and has resulted in a compact double for Panasonic. The Lumix LX5 exudes quality in both design and performance, and with a stunning specification to match, few would argue with the award of the advanced compact camera of the year.
Sony Cyber-shot HX5
Nikon Coolpix P7000
Canon PowerShot G12
Awards 2010 – Best superzoom compact 2010
Fujifilm FinePix HS10
What do you get when you combine the world’s first 30x Fujinon optical zoom, 10fps continuous shooting at full 10MP resolution and Full HD video capture? The answer – the winner of our 2010 superzoom compact category of course, Fujifilm’s HS10.
Fujifilm really pulled out all the stops in producing the HS10 and it really shows. The camera has the zoom range that superzoom owners are looking for – a 24-720mm focal range that would otherwise equate to a hefty camera bag full of lenses and, as such, offers the photographer a range of shooting options in one body. The bonus added feature of a continuous shooting rate of 10fps at full resolution just further serves to justify the HS10′s winning position.
Panasonic Lumix FZ100
Pentax Optio x90
Awards 2010 – Best compact system camera 2010
If 2009 was the year in which the Compact System Camera – or Micro System Camera as we previously labelled it – took off, then 2010 will be remembered as the year that it threatened to take over completely. While the market comprised of a mere three models previously, by the end of 2010 there were almost five times that amount available, with two more major manufacturers entering the fray with impressive new additions.
The current strength of the market is such that a decision on an overall best model was a lot tougher than last year, but at the end of the day it is one of the manufacturing newcomers that takes the crown. With its class-leading images and true compact-esque body, the Sony NEX-5 epitomises everything the Compact System Camera stands for, and with a recent firmware fix answering many potential reservations we had about the model, it is the standout model in a now truly impressive category.
Panasonic Lumix G2
Olympus Pen E-P2
Awards 2010 – Best entry level DSLR 2010
In an entry-level DSLR, the user invariably looks for an easy-to-use model but one that offers a substantial leap in functionality in comparison to a compact camera. To win our entry-level DSLR category then, the camera would have to succeed in all these areas, while also offering that extra something. While the Sony A390 and Pentax K-x are both worthy of mention this year, it’s the successor to last year’s winner in this category that really impresses and takes the gong.
The Nikon D3100 picks up where the D3000 left off, and adds a bunch of extra functionality to boot. A new 14.2MP CMOS sensor, combined with EXPEED 2 image processing engine, allows an extended ISO range up to 12,800, as well as Full HD video capture. All this advanced functionality is not only packed into a compact DSLR body but is also supplemented by a Guide mode that serves as an in-camera tuition service perfect for the DSLR newcomer.
Awards 2010 – Best mid range DSLR 2010
Canon EOS 60D
The Canon EOS 60D ticks all of the boxes when it comes to the mid-range DSLR category. This new release was never going to have an easy task in replacing the popular 50D, but it succeeded with flying colours. A specification including a vari-angle screen, Full HD 1080p video and an 18MP CMOS sensor is enough to make any enthusiast photgrapher happy. Where the camera really excels, however, is creating a very real bridge between the EOS 550D and the EOS 7D, both in functionality and price – it offers many of the features of its bigger brother, while holding just enough back to meet a lower price-point.
Honourable mentions go to the 60D’s little brother, the 550D, as well as the Sony Alpha A550, but in terms of a winner the 60D is an easy choice.
Canon EOS 550D
Sony Alpha A550
Awards 2010 – Best advanced DSLR 2010
Canon EOS 1D Mk IV
One of the most important categories of any manufacturer’s portfolio of DSLRs is the advanced range. While eye-watering specification is the stuff of dreams for many amateur photographers, for the professionals out there the cutting-edge technology is a must.
This award category has long been a showdown between Canon and Nikon and despite a fine challenger in the shape of the Sony Alpha A850, it was a tight run race between the pair again. In the final assessment, however, Canon triumphed.
The EOS 1D Mk IV’s 16.1MP APS-H CMOS sensor delivers stunning images, and that’s just the beginning. The dual DIGIC 4 processors offer a 10fps for up to 121 JPEGs, a mind-twistingly high sensitivity up to ISO 102,400, and Full HD movie capture with manual control also features. The 3in Clear View II LCD is now complete with live view, while focus utilises a 45-point AF system with 39 cross-type sensors.
While it may be out of reach for most amateur photographers, professionals have been quick to update to the new addition and, when you do the maths, it’s easy to see why.
Sony Alpha A850
Awards 2010 – Lens
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
There have been several excellent lenses launched this year. The new Compact System Cameras have brought with them a range of new mounts, and as such have presented new opportunities for lens development. However, the lens that really caught our eyes this year is the new 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II zoom from Nikon.
Featuring Nikon‘s latest vibration-reduction technology, as well as its silent wave motor technology, the lens also features a pro-spec build, as well as a three-mode focusing slider mechanism. Where the lens really excels, however, is in its optical capabilities. It achieved a near-perfect score on optical testing charts and, thanks to a recent drop in price, it’s the stand-out candidate from the year.
Leica 45mm (MFT)
Tamron 180mm macro
Awards 2010 – Innovation
Sony’s SLT Translucent Mirror Technology
It’s fair to say that 2010 has been the year that 3D has finally taken off and reached a mainstream audience. 3D TVs started to become widely available, while Sky also launched a 3D channel to cater to the new audience. Photography, as always, is at the forefront of this technological innovation, with Fujifilm launching the second of its dedicated 3D cameras this year. Sony also joined in by adding 3D to its Sweep Panorama shooting mode.
However, it’s away from 3D that we look for the winner of the Innovation category. Both the new A33 and A55 cameras feature new SLT mirror technology that promises to herald a new era of functionality. SLT stands for Single Lens Translucent mirror technology and opens up a range of photographic possibilities: the translucent mirror enables high continuous shooting rates (7fps and 10fps respectively in the case of these two models) as well as ultra-fast phase detection autofocus during live view. Finally, the mirror technology allows 100% frame coverage in both the electronic viewfinder and LCD screen. Overall, it’s a great example of a camera manufacturer pushing the boundaries of design and a very worthy winner of the award.
Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W3
Adobe’s PSE9 Content Aware Fill
Sony’s 3D Sweep Panorama
Awards 2010 – Software
Photoshop Elements 9
2010 will be remembered as the year that Microsoft finally, for the first time in several generations of the software, got Windows right. Not only does Windows 7 look good, but it brought improved functionality, a stripped-down install and, most of all, stability where it was once lacking.
While Microsoft was fixing its software, Adobe was enhancing its own and adding more features as always. Photoshop Elements 8 impressed us so much last year that it not only scooped a WDC Gold Award but was also named software of the year, and Elements 9 has repeated the trick. Elements 9 serves as a ‘lite’ version of the excellent, although rather pricey, Photoshop CS5, and as such offers a range of new features in relation to its predecessor. Content Aware Fill, Photo FX filters, Guided Edits and Photomerge Exposure all feature, and serve to make Elements 9, once again, the best value for money photo-editing suite on the market.
OnOne Plugin Suite 5.5
Awards 2010 – Accessory
Kata Bag Bumblebee 220PL/222UL
Kata has a long history of producing bags that combine complete carrying solutions with cutting-edge design. This history has served the brand well in the production of two of its latest backpacks. So well in fact, that the pair are our chosen accessories of the year. The 220PL and 222UL ‘Bumblebees’ combine in offering the perfect backpack solution, with the 220PL catering for the more professional photographer, and the 222UL for those with slightly less gear. Both backpacks will carry a wide spectrum of camera gear, accessories, laptops and the like, in cutting-edge and ultra-protective material. The specification and orientation is such that there really isn’t enough space here to go into details, so take our word for it and head down to your local camera store for a first-hand inspection.
Awards 2010 – Product of the Year
Last year will be remembered as the year when the Compact System Camera market came of age and sat itself firmly at the serious photographer’s table. When Sony chose to join the party, it did so by introducing the best of the bunch so far.
As the world’s smallest interchangeable-lens camera on debut, the NEX-5 genuinely feels like a compact when you’re holding it. However, this ably conceals a plethora of high-end features. Not only can you alter the lens to suit, but you can also make the most of an APS-C sized CMOS sensor, 1080i HD video and an accessory port for expansion of the camera system. The NEX-5 doesn’t just impress on paper, however, as image quality is truly class-leading. Even at the high-ISO levels of 6400 and 12,800, the images are first class.
The whole package is what could be described as a ‘game-changer’ and, as such, it’s a worthy winner of our product of the year.