My Favourite Cameras – May 2020

Ah, time for a good old “what are you your favourite cameras” post…

I’ve been photographing with intention since around 2005, first with camera phones, then with a Nikon Coolpix, through hundreds of film cameras, after first stumbling through the entry gate with a humble Holga 120N, and through perhaps as many digital cameras since.

This is my core arsenal today.

DSLR for colour – Pentax K100D

As much as I love digital compacts and all their convenience and portability, I can’t imagine not having a DSLR, for the more immersive experience, and to enjoy the beautiful lenses I have (more on these in a future post, no doubt).

The golden age of digital cameras in my eyes was when sensors were CCD and only 4 or 6 or 10MP, and delivered lovely warm, natural colours.

There are a number of DSLRs I’ve had that meet this criteria – the Sony a100, Minolta Dynax 5D (very briefly), Samsung GX-1s (a clone of the Pentax *ist DS2) and also on the Pentax front, the K10D, K100D and K-m.

I still have and love the K-m too, but the K100D feels the optimum balance of simplicity and performance.

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DSLR for black and white – Pentax K30

The K100D has no in-camera black and white setting, but the K-m does. That said, it’s output is too many shades of grey for my liking, not the more dramatic inky blacks I favour.

The K30 however has far more adjustment for in camera b/w shots, and after some trial and error, I’ve been able to set this up to achieve results I like straight out of camera.

Whilst it’s not as simple and delightful to use as the older K100D or K-m, nor does it have a CCD sensor, it does feel great in the hands, and allows me to shoot b/w straight out of camera with those lovely old Pentax K mount and M42 lenses.

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Compact DSLR – Pentax Q

The Pentax Q is essentially the K30 that was left in your pocket on a hot wash cycle and shrunk drastically.

It’s an amazing camera for all kinds of reasons, not least of it feels like using a baby Pentax DLSR, complete with interchangeable lenses.

Mostly I use the 01 Standard Prime lens, equivalent to 47mm and f/1.9, but the 07 Mount Shield lens makes it even more compact, and like a pocketable point and shoot digital Holga.

The 02 Standard Zoom gives me a wider option of 28mm at the wide end, but really if I want something this wide and compact I’m more likely to use the Ricoh GRD III or Lumix LX3.

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Compact fixed lens – Ricoh GRD III

As I’ve raved about on more than one occasion previously, the GRD III offers probably the best handling and user interface of any camera I’ve used.

Add the cracking 28mm f/1.9 lens, great build, pocketable size, and high contrast mono mode, and you have a camera you can set up exactly how you want, then use with point and shoot portability, freedom and simplicity.

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Compact Zoom – Panasonic Lumix LX3

When I don’t want the fixed lens restrictions of the Ricoh, I turn to the Lumix LX3.

Mostly I use the Zoom Resume function to keep the lens at 35mm (the camera remembers even if you switch it off), but sometimes I’ll use the full 24mm wide angle.

The LX3 doesn’t, for me, have the best handling right out of the box, and needed some DIY mods that are ugly but effective.

But that combination of Leica designed lens and sensor is very special indeed, and the user interface is almost as good as the Ricoh – and indeed if you don’t need quite so much depth of customisation, the LX3 is probably a better option.

Oh and its Dynamic B/W mode delivers moody deep b/w images straight out of camera.

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Ultra Compact – Panasonic Lumix XS1

When even the Pentax Q, Ricoh GRD III or Lumix LX3 are too bulky and complicated, I turn to the smallest camera I’ve owned, the Lumix XS1.

Fortunately, aside from its super compactness, it has a pretty decent lens, and even better, a similar Dynamic B/W mode to its older, bigger sibling, the LX3.

It could easily be the only camera I need, especially if size and cost are a factor, it was the cheapest of all of the above, at just £12. At this price, pretty flawless.

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So there we are, my super six!

How about you? Which are your favourite cameras?

Do you have one above all others, or do you feel the need to categorise them like me (and sometimes even make up new categories to justify keeping a camera you can’t bear to let go of!)

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).

Thanks for looking.

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9 thoughts on “My Favourite Cameras – May 2020”

  1. My favourite camera is my Nikon P610, because it is an all-around performer with excellent optics and an addictive zoom capacity. Unfortunately it is dying. I went so far as to clean off the EVF in case it was dirt causing the low visibility, but that wasn’t it. So the battery doesn’t last, the view is growing dim, and the lens is loose (actually affecting some shots now). There’s nothing that can replace it either. This may force a change in my photography. As with the Kodak V1003 though, I will hang on to it until I can no longer coax it to make an image.

    1. This might sound like a silly question Marc, but you can’t you just buy another used P610, or a similar Nikon that preceded or succeeded it?

      1. Possibly. But it comes down to: will there be a good working one available when it necessary to buy? In all likelihood a used one would be suffering the same fate as mine.

  2. I have a few cameras but only two I use regularly; a Pentax Spotmatic Ii and Fujifilm X-T2. I have an adapter to use the Pentax SMC lenses on the Fujifilm. With a design that mimics a film SLR plus the ability to use legacy glass I’d say the Fujifilm is my favourite

    1. Interesting, I didn’t realise Fujifilm made DSLR-like cameras, I thought they were all much smaller and styled on the classic rangefinder look.

      I have only two film cameras left, in case I every want to shoot a roll again, and one of them is a Spotmatic F. Combined with a Super-Tak 55/1.8, it’s about as good as manual old school film photography gets, for me.

      1. Fuji has mirrorless cameras models such as the X100 series and the X-E series that are designed to look and operate like rangefinders. But Fuji also makes higher-end APS-C cameras such as the X-Pro, X-H and X-T that are designed to look and function like SLRs. Fujifilm even put a fake “pentaprism” bump on the top of the “SLR style” series. The classic film camera looks combined with knobs and dials, and lenses with aperture rings, complete the feeling of using a 35mm film SLR camera. This was what attracted me to Fujifilm cameras.

        I think photography can be an expensive hobby and my budget was limited when I bought my Fuji X-T2. I have just one lens for the Fuji but a few M42 mount legacy lenses (SMC Takumar, Soligor) for my Pentax Spotmatic II. But this month I added a Pentax ES II to the collection.

        My Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 28mm f/3.5 and SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 become 41mm street and 84mm portrait lenses, respectively, when attached to my Fuji X-T2 via a Fotodiox m42 adapter.

        I am sitting between two worlds.

      2. That’s a beautiful place to sit!

        I know very little about FujiFilm, I’ve had I think three of their cameras, the newest being something like 2005!

        That said, the S7000 bridge camera I have from 2003 still delivers a lovely image with its Super CCD and lens combo.

  3. I would classify them like this…
    For daily use, the Pentax K-S1. It can go to a high enough in ISO and gives me all the resolution I’d ever need, plus it’s very compact for what it is (I’ve gone on bicycle rides with it in my cargo shorts pocket – with a lens mounted on it!) It also has the CMOS sensor that I think, to this date, has the most natural colors that I know of (same sensor as Pentax K-S2 and Sony A5000).
    For artsy pictures, the K10D. The response that I get from the CCD sensor in terms of colors, luminance and sense of depth is unique in comparison with other cameras I have had.

    1. You do keep mentioning that KS-1… May have to add it to my camera wish list at this rate, especially with what you say about the natural colours of the sensor! Although the K-01 is further up the wish list, but I suspect it wouldn’t be that different to use and in the final image to my K-30, I believe they are much the same inside. Have you ever used a K-7?

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