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Top 12 Digital Cameras for 2012

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Top 12 Digital Cameras for 2012

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12 for '12: The Year of the Game Changer

December 10, 2012

The digital camera world is a different place now compared to a year ago, with new players, the revival of 35mm, mind-blowing new tech and mashups that make sense. What's the best digital camera 2012? Read on!

 

For the photography industry, 2012 was the year of the game changer. Highlights include: a new breed of relatively affordable 35mm sensor DSLRs; all-new mirrorless camera systems (including legitimate challengers to the Leica legend); the long-awaited photo industry response to the compact camera-killing popularity of smart phones; and intruiguing niche-defining models. In short, there are plenty of outstanding cameras and I've left out some very, very good ones.

Let's take an exclusive Adorama Learning Center look at what I think are 12 of the most intriguing, game-changing and category-leading new models of 2012, starting with what I feel is the best digital camera 2012. Remember, they're all available at Adorama! (Note: The choices here are the opinion of the author only, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Adorama ownership.)

 

Fujifilm X-Pro 1

Camera of the Year: Fujifilm X-Pro 1

The Fujifilm X-Pro 1 represents the maturing of the mirrorless interchangeable-lens compact (MILC) camera category. Designed to pose a direct challenge to the legendary Leica lineup of rangefinder cameras, it includes a refined version of the revolutionary hybrid heads-up optical and full-on electronic viewfinder that debuted in last year's Fujifilm X100, with the added benefit of a small but growing lineup of interchangeable lenses. the X-Pro 1's sensor is also exceptional, eschewing the typical Beyer pattern found in almost all digital sensors for a semi-randomized pixel array, which resulted in images that simply blew us away. For photojournalists, documentary shooters, and street photographers, the future of digital cameras has arrived, and it is the X-Pro 1. Read the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 product review at the Adorama Learning Center.

 

Nikon D800

Nikon D800

The hands-down winner in the overall image quality competition (based on DxOMark's unbiased lab test results, the Nikon D800's 36MP, 35mm-sized sensor even beat out medium-format sensors. Despite its high pixel density, AdoramaTV's Rich Harrington reports outstanding image quality, even in low light.  This was confirmed by DxOMark's tests, which showed noise-free images at up to ISO 3200 and an impressive 14-stop dynamic range. Weather-sealed, the camera is rugged and well-suited for a variety of extreme shooting conditions. Want studio-quality images? Get the D800E—Nikon removed the low-pass filter, further improving color fidelity and dynamic range. For just under $3k (add a few hundred for the D800E), the D800 is a tour du force of image quality and durability. Watch our review of the Nikkon D800 on AdoramaTV.

 

Canon 6D Nikon D600

Canon 6D/Nikon D600 (Tie)

Third place is a tie between two direct competitors that bring the price of entry to full-frame DSLR photography down considerably. Both the 24MP Nikon D600 and the 20MP Canon 6D offer pro image quality for serious amateurs, and provide pro shooters with a relatively affordable second body—and they do it for around $2,000. Canon offers  an ISO range of 100-25600, boostable to 102,400, and 11-point AF and up to 4.5fps, while the Nikon has a native ISO range of 100-6400, boostable to 25,600, a 2016 pixel RGB sensor, and 5.5fps. Both cameras have built-in Wi-Fi. Watch our AdoramaTV hands-on overview of the Nikon D600 and the Adorama Learning Center's first look at the Canon 6D.

 

Olympus OM-D

Olympus OM-D

Olympus provided the most excitement in the Micro Four Thirds category with the introduction of the OM-D E-M5, the digital reincarnation of its legendary OM SLR series. Yes, side by side, the resemblance is remarkable and intentional, but this is a camera for the digital age. Featuring an all-new 16MP sensor, this ruggedized little camera has a DSLR-like look with a housing that holds an electronic viewfinder. It boasts the world's first 5-axis image stabilization system that handles different kinds of camera movement, and what Olympus claims is the world's fastest AF system (in our hands, it was indeed DSLR-fast). Read the Adorama Learning Center Olympus OM-D E-M5 Product Review.

 

Sony NEX-7

Sony NEX-7

Introduced late in 2011 but available this year, the NEX-7 blazed the trail for high-end mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras. With a design that's more than a passing nod to Leica and a 24MP APS sensor that delivers some of the best image quality in its size class, the NEX-7 has quickly attracted an enthusiastic base of street photographers and photojournalists. It can accommodate DSLR lenses via adapters, making it a compact base for a full system of lenses and flash. The 2.4 million dot resolution electronic viewfinder is one of the best out there, its trio of customizable physical dials makes this camera very adaptable to the shooting habits of each individual user. Read the Adorama Learning Center Sony NEX-7 Product Review.

Nikon Coolpix S800c

Nikon Coolpix S800c 

The Nikon S800c looks like just another compact camera, but it is, in fact, a game-changer for the compact camera category. It is the first Nikon to run on the Android operating system and has built-in WiFi, making it the world's first "Smart Camera." A strong answer to smart phones, the S800c offers a larger sensor than smart phones, which should translate into better image quality, an optical zoom lens, and manual exposure controls for those who want it. But thanks to Android, it allows users to download apps so you can effectively customize the camera. Want to use Photoshop Express or Instagram without needing to transfer images to your smart phone or tablet? Want to add Angry Birds...or even Skype? The Nikon S800c lets you do this. Read the breaking news about the Nikon S800c at the Adorama News Desk.

Sony Alpha SLT-A99

Sony Alpha SLT-A99

After too long a time since its last full-frame camera, Sony finally introduced the Sony Alpha SLT-A99. Unlike the original and very traditionally-grounded Sony A900, is a technological wunderkind, starting with its class-leading 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor. Not purely a DSLR, the Sony A99 uses a very-high-resolution (2.4M dot) electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one and while some purists may scoff at that, the quality of the projected image is outstanding and outshines optical finders in some circumstances, like in low light shooting. Other high-tech features include built-in GPS, ISO 100-25,600, up to 6fps burst rate, a tilt/swivel 1.3 million dot LCD, and 14 bit RAW output, plus full HD video with stereo mic and headphone jacks. Can this camera offer a viable alternative to the Big Two? If pros and prosumers can accept the utility of the EVF as a serious tool, then absolutely yes. Read the Adorama Learning Center Sony A99 First Look.


Panasonic Lumix LX7

Panasonic Lumix LX7

In a year of game-changing cameras, the Panasonic LX7 offers a big advantage over all other compact cameras: Its lens. Never before has a compact digital camera been introduced with a 1.4 lens. Combine this with its largish (for a compact) sensor and super-responsive autofocus and lack of shutter lag and you've got a nice little sports car that's great for quick shooting without compromising much by way of quality, and which is a great unobtrusive camera for low-light photography. The biggest surprise? The amount of depth of field you can get with the lens at f/1.4. Chalk that down to physics of using a 4mm (actual focal length) lens with small sensors. Read the Adorama Learning Center Panasonic LX7 Product Review.

 

Canon EOS-M

Canon EOS-M

What happens when you mash up an APS-sensor with an interchangeable lens compact camera body that draws its inspiration from the Canon Elph? You get Canon's long-awaited entry into the mirrorless compact interchangeable-lens category, the Canon EOS-M. Built around an 18MP APS-sized CMOS sensor, the camera has a simple control layout, and accepts both the new M-Mount line if Canon lenses and any Canon EOS-mount lens via an adapter. It is pocketable when used with the 22mm f/2 pancake lens. Despite its simple design and lack of an eye-level viewfinder, the EOS-M is a full-featured camera with menu-accessable manual controls that are very similar to the features found on the Canon T4i. There's also hot shoe for all Canon Speedlite flash units, and full HD movie capture capabilities. Read the Adorama Learning Center First Look at the Canon EOS-M.

 

Leica M Monochrom

Leica M Monochrom

Why would anyone pay close to $8,000 for a camera that can "only" shoot black-and-white? Because it does it better than any other camera in the world. The Leica M Monochrom—one of three digital rangefinders announced by Leica this year (that's gotta be some kind of record)—has an 18MP APS sensor that has no filter array. There's also no anti-aliasing filter, rendered unnecessary by the lack of color.That means it captures more of the available light, which translates into an amazingly high dynamic range and virtually noise-free performance at nearly all ISOs up to 10,000. If money is no object but the best possible image quality is your goal, this is the camera for you. Read about the Leica Monochrom M at the Adorama News Desk.

Pentax K-5 II

Pentax K-5 II

Pentax has always been an inventive company, but it has only been in the past couple of years that it has found its niche in the photographic world, and that niche is in the rugged, adventure-ready world. The 16MP Pentax K-5 II is a weather-sealed camera clad in a magnesium-alloy chassis that holds a Sony-made CMOS sensor that excels in low light both in image quality and focusing accuracy. Pentax has also added new WR-series water-resistant lenses, designed for use with the K5II and its predecessor, the K-5. And if you want to squeeze the best possible image quality out of the sensor (albeit with a touch of post-processing), the Pentax K-5 IIs comes without an anti-aliasing filter, making it ideal for studio work. If you are the outdoor and adventure type, the Pentax K-5 II is the camera to bring with you. Read the Adorama Learning Center first look at the Pentax K-5 II.

Your turn: Is Resnick crazy? How could he include the ______ but leave out the _____? Leave a comment below and let us know which cameras you'd choose for the top 12!

 

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