Digital Life Awards 2015: The best cameras

Digital Life Awards 2015: The best cameras

Best overall camera & interchangeable lens camera (full-frame)

Editor's choice: 

Sony's α7 II

Not so long ago, a full-frame DSLR could cost nearly $10,000 and weigh more than 1.5kg.

Sony's α7 II costs only a fifth of that sum and is about a third of the weight, but still has a full-frame image sensor.

This mirrorless interchangeable lens camera may be light in weight but it is solidly built.

Its tough magnesium-alloy body resists dust and moisture, so you can concentrate on shooting instead of worrying about the weather.

A more pronounced grip and re-designed button layout make the α7 II a joy to handle.

Its new 117-point phase-detection autofocusing (AF) system, together with 25 contrast-detection AF points make catching the action that much easier. Furthermore, it is the first full-frame mirrorless camera to have an in-body optical 5-axis image-stabilisation system.

Despite competition from its own cousin, the α7 S, and three fantastic full-frame Nikon DSLR cameras ain the Best Interchangeable Lens Camera (Full-Frame) category, the Sony α7 II still stood out for its affordable pricing, compact size, solid build and superb image quality.

When it came to the Best Overall Camera category, it was a difficult decision.

The Fujifilm X100T, with its classic rangefinder styling and handling, has a special place in our hearts.

Nikon's D4S is a professional's dream full-frame DSLR workhorse that will never fail. However, these cameras are not for everyone.

Then, there is Canon's EOS 7D Mark II, the successor to the fantastic 7D, for which people have had to wait five years. But if you compare it with Sony's a7 II, the Sony camera wins on image quality.

The battle went down to the wire.

In the end, it was between the Sony α7 II and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100.

Best prosumer compact camera

The LX100 is a compact camera that fulfils many needs for any camera user, whether a professional photographer or a weekend shutterbug, with its fast Leica lens and Micro Four Thirds image sensor.

But Sony's α7 II has better image quality. It is not that much bigger than the LX100. And it offers users the option of changing lenses. Dollar for dollar, the Sony α7 II is better value for money but it won by only the slimmest of margins.

Reader's choice:

Best overall camera
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
43.4 per cent of total votes

Best interchangeable lens camera (full-frame)
Sony 7 S
26.4 per cent of total votes

Best overall camera finalists:
Fujifilm X100T
Nikon D4S
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

Best interchangeable lens camera (full-frame) finalists:
Nikon D4S
Nikon D750
Nikon D810

Best prosumer compact camera

Editor's choice: 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

For two years in a row, this category has been won by Sony's Cyber-shot RX100 cameras. So it was no surprise that the third version, the RX100 III, was all but a shoo-in.

Then the competition caught up.

Casio's Exilim EX-100 - with its convenient 10.7x optical zoom lens (28-300mm of 35mm equivalent), constant large f/2.8 aperture through its focal range, plus its compact body - won the hearts of our readers.

Then there was Canon's PowerShot G7 X, a great prosumer compact camera. But it was late to the party and felt like the first RX100.

And there was Panasonic's Lumix DMC-LX100. It has a fast optical zoom lens, just like the RX100, and a bigger Micro Four Thirds image sensor, nearly twice the size of the 1-inch sensor found in premium compacts, such as the RX100 III and Canon PowerShot G7 X.

The LX100's sharp built-in electronic viewfinder is one of the sharpest we have seen. It has a tough magnesium-alloy body. Its handling is also almost second to none.

Plus, it shoots fantastic 4K videos and the still images are just amazing. Without doubt, the LX100 is the best prosumer compact camera of 2014.

Reader's choice:

Casio Exilim EX-100
71.9 per cent of total votes

Other finalists:

Canon PowerShot G7 X
Fujifilm X30
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III

Best interchangeable lens camera (micro four thirds and below)

Editor's choice:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

The Nikon 1 J4 and Samsung NX mini are petite mirrorless cameras with 1-inch image sensors. While they are really compact and lightweight, their image quality is no match for the rest in this category.

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 is a more affordable option to last year's DL Awards Best Overall Camera and the winner of this category, the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

While the E-M10 does not have the magnesium-alloy construction of the E-M1, its lower price, intuitive handling and good image quality make up for it. Digital Life readers clearly love it as they voted it their favourite.

In truth, the main battle is between the two Panasonic Lumix cameras - the GH4 against the GM5.

The GM5 is the successor to the extremely compact GM1. Though smaller than most prosumer compact cameras, it has a built-in electronic viewfinder, hot shoe, rear thumb rest and built-in Wi-Fi.

The GH4, which looks like and is as bulky as a DSLR camera, is the only mirrorless camera in the market able to shoot 4K (4,096 x 2,160 pixels) and UHD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) videos at a high bitrate of up to 200Mbps.

Its fast autofocusing, responsive operation and great image quality make it an easy pick as our Editor's Choice in this category.

Reader's choice:

Olympus OM-D E-M10
48.2 per cent of total votes

Other finalists:

Nikon 1 J4
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5
Samsung NX min

Best interchangeable lens camera (APS-C)

Editor's choice: 

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Every finalist in this category was a very strong candidate worthy of the award. This was one of the toughest decisions we had to make.

We like the retro design, build and handling of the Fujifilm X-T1. Plus, the X-T1's body is made of magnesium alloy and it is resistant to dust and water. But it is not as fast as Fujifilm promised.

The Sony a6000 is superb value for money with its fast operation, speedy autofocusing (AF), intuitive handling and good looks.

Sony's a77 II is also amazingly fast, has an excellent build, handles beautifully and produces great pictures.

Samsung's NX1 is packed with plenty of features.

All the above devices use the slightly slower electronic viewfinder. Only the EOS 7D Mark II has an optical viewfinder.

It uses Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology, which enables all the effective pixels to perform imaging functions as well as phase-detection AF.

The result is a consistently fast and accurate focus lock during image capture and video-recording.

It might lack some features, but the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is our choice with its ruggedness, speedy AF, quick operation and superb image quality.

Reader's choice:

Canon EOS 7D Mark II
51.4 per cent of total votes

Other finalists:

Fujifilm X-T1
Samsung NX1
Sony α77 II
Sony α600

This article was first published on Jan 28, 2015.
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