Always one to notice and indeed seek out patterns, I’ve found significant similarities with the small collection of cameras I’ve come to settle on, after years of exploring hundreds.
Here are the main ones –
– They’re digital.
– They use a CCD sensor, between 6 and 10MP.
– They were made between 2003 and 2011.
– The essential (for me) features are present and easy to access (ISO, focus lock, exposure lock, exposure compensation) but there’s nothing (or very little) that’s superfluous.
Here are my absolute favourites –
Released – 2007
Sensor – 1/1.75″ 10MP CCD
Lens – 24-72mm f/2.5-4.4
Notes – Fantastic user interface, including a step zoom that cycles through 24, 28, 35, 50 and 72mm and back down with each press of the zoom switch. Superb handling. Focuses down to 0.01m.
Ricoh GR Digital III
Released – 2009
Sensor – 1/1.7″ 10MP CCD
Lens – 28mm f/1.9
Notes – Much like the GX100, brilliant handling and user interface, very customisable so it can be as simple as you want it to be. Also focuses down to 0.01m. Plenty of in camera control over images, including options like cross processed and dynamic b/w.
Panasonic Lumix LX3
Released – 2008
Sensor – 1/1.63″ 10MP CCD
Lens – 24-60mm f/2 – f/2.8
Notes – Great user interface, excellent lens/sensor combo, even better are the film modes, including dynamic b/w.
Released – 2006
Sensor – APS-C 6MP CCD
Lens – Interchangeable
Notes – Along with the K-m and K10D which have 10MP sensors, but with very similar rendering, the K100D is one of very few cameras that delivers lovely colour images straight out of camera. Very compact, and every control seems to make sense. Nothing seems superfluous on the K100D.
Released – 2009
Sensor – APS-C 10MP CCD
Lens – Interchangeable
Notes – Successor to the K100D, but with a 10MP sensor, though in practice I can’t tell the difference between the output of the two cameras, using the same lens. Has a few more features, like digital filters, but certainly isn’t overloaded and remains very easy to navigate and use.
FujiFilm FinePix S7000
Released – 2004
Sensor – 1/1.7″ 6MP Super CCD
Lens – 35-210mm f/2.8-3.1
Notes – The combo of lens and sensor is really special with the S7000. Pretty simple menus because of its age. Outperforms digital compacts many years newer.
And a few others I’ve really enjoyed but no longer have or use –
Canon Digital IXUS i – 2003, 1/2.5″ 4MP CCD, 39mm f/2.8 lens.
FujiFilm FinePix F810 – 2004, 1/1.7″ 6MP Super CCD, 32.5-130mm f/2.8-5.6 lens.
Olympus Camedia C4040 Zoom – 2001, 1/1.8″ 4MP CCD, 35-105mm f/1.8-10 lens.
Panasonic Lumix LZ1 – 2005, 1/2.5″ 4MP CCD, 37-222mm f/2.8-4.5 lens.
Panasonic Lumix TZ2 – 2005, 1/2.5″ 5MP CCD, 37-222mm f/2.8-4.5 lens.
Pentax K10D / Samsung GX10 – 2006, APS-C 10MP CCD, interchangeable lenses.
Samsung GX-1S – 2006, APS-C 6MP CCD, interchangeable lenses.
Samsung NV10 – 2006, 1/1.8″ 10MP CCD, 35-105mm f/2.8-5.1 lens.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-L1 – 2005, 1/2.7″ 4MP CCD, 32-96mm f/2.8-5.1 lens.
The characteristics of all of these cameras are so similar that it feels to me like they all belong to the same glorious golden age of digital cameras.
An era before CMOS sensors became mainstream, hit 12, 18, 20MP and beyond, and made images increasingly clinical and sterile.
An era before ISO sensitivities headed well into the thousands, cameras could see in the dark better than we can, and any connection with the ISO range of film was long forgotten. (When I shot film I nearly always used ISO100 or ISO200 emulsions and rarely felt it limited me.)
An era before zooms got into silly ranges and the aperture speeds and image quality dropped in proportion. Though my FujiFilm S7000 does run from 35mm to 210mm, the latter being way beyond what I’m ever likely to consider using, but at least it’s still f/3.1 even at this extreme.
An era before the numbers on the spec sheet became more important than the character of the sensor and lens, the usability of the camera, and the directness of the controls.
I do have a few cameras that don’t meet all of the above criteria.
The Pentax Q has a 12.4MP CMOS sensor. But otherwise it ticks all of the boxes, and as I nearly always use its dynamic mono mode, those sometimes overly precise and cool qualities of CMOS sensors are well buried.
The Pentax K30 falls down on most criteria, being from 2012, and with a 16MP CMOS sensor and too many features I don’t use or need. And perhaps this is exactly why it’s a camera I admire, but still struggle to love and embrace. It’s almost too new, too advanced, too complex, too good.
Because of my such positive experiences with my cameras from the golden age of digital, it’s unlikely I’ll be looking beyond these criteria for any future purchases.
And I plan to continue to enjoy those above that remain my core favourites.
How about you? Do you have any cameras from this golden era? What would you consider the golden era of cameras, and why?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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