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BorrowLenses Year in Review: The Cameras of 2013

Gear Talk

2013 is a record year for new camera models at BorrowLenses.com, which means having the biggest selection of models we’ve ever had. There is something for every kind of photographer, from mirrorless pocket cameras to huge 60+ megapixel medium format DLSRs. We selected a bunch of our favorites from this bountiful season. Discover what’s available for exploration in our year-in-review.


Mirrorless/MFT/Compact

Panasonic’s GX7 boasts in-body stabilization and Light Speed AF all inside a super stylish design with a comfortable rubber grip. Other notable features include an impressive action-stopping 1/8000th of a second shutter ability and flash syncing at 1/320th of a second and a DSLR-esque twin-dial control system. The fully 90 degree tilting viewfinder is also a welcome feature. The GX7 has this crazy 40 FPS mode when using the electronic shutter. However, to use it you are limited to reduced-resolution JPEGs but it’s still a fun option to have. Autofocus on the GX7 is blazingly fast. AF locks onto the subject immediately even in low light where manual focus is often the only option. Continuous AF, however, still tends to hunt around as one would expect with no phase-detect sensors. Overall, the GX7 is comfortable, cool looking, and accommodates a vast array of MFT-mount lenses that are very fast.

Pairs well with:

Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 Lumix G Vario Zoom Lens

Fuji’s X100 set the gold standard for retro design when it first came out. Since then it has continued that tradition, packing increasingly advanced technology into the classically designed mirrorless cameras that take their cues more from rangefinders of yesterday than anything else. The success to the X100 is the “s” variant of that camera and it includes Fuji’s most advanced sensor to date, along with a new image processing engine, into a package that also features improved handling, faster autofocus, and an awesome manual focus mode. The same film emulation modes are still present, as is the super-silent leaf shutter that has made it the darling of strobists and street shooters alike. This is a camera that many a pro has dubbed the best camera they’ve ever shot with — and a lot of us tend to agree with that.

Pairs well with:

32GB SD Memory Card

First, take the interchangeable, compact body Fuji introduced with the X-E1 then add in the fast autofocus system of the X100s, as well as its new X-Trans II sensor and the manual focus aids such as peaking and digital split prism. Finally, stir and viola – you have the X-E2! On the surface, it looks just like its predecessor, the X-E1, but inside, this is a substantially different camera. Not only is the AF faster and better but so is everything else — the menus feel more responsive, the LCD is higher-resolution, and the buttons and layout have been tweaked based on a lot of user feedback. Moreover, Fuji has added WiFi to this model, making it easier to quickly upload images from it to a smartphone or tablet.

Pairs well with:

Fuji XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R OIS Zoom Lens

Chris-Gampat-The-Phoblographer-Olympus-OMD-EM1-Product-Photos-4-of-8ISO-2001-40-sec-at-f-2.8

Olympus OM-D E-M1 MFT Camera. Read a more detailed take on this camera from The Phoblographer.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 represents a shift in Olympus’ strategy. It is the spiritual successor to the E-series DSLRs and the king of the roost of the Micro Four Thirds crowd. In every way possible this is a still shooter’s pro Micro Four Thirds body. You get the same 16MP LiveMOS sensor that’s in the E-P5 and the OM-D E-M5 but the similarities end there. The OM-D E-M1 fairly bristles with physical buttons, dials, and switches, allowing you to perform almost every function of the camera very quickly. The entire layout is extremely customizable and the menu system is fairly easy to grasp with helpful tool tips available along the way. A 5-axis image stabilization mode built into the body means that the plethora of lenses available for the Micro Four Thirds mount, both native and those with an adapter, are all stabilized. With all of that, the OM-D E-M1 is a worthy entrant into the professional Micro Four Thirds market.

Pairs well with:

Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO

Chris-Gampat-The-Phoblographer-Olympus-EP5-product-images-5-of-5ISO-2001-125-sec-at-f-4.0

Olympus E-P5 PEN MFT Camera. Read a more detailed take on this camera from The Phoblographer.

Fuji may get a lot of the accolades for pushing retro design into the mainstream but it’s the Olympus Pen series that really started that trend. With the E-P1, it created a camera that tugged at the heartstrings of many photographers and Olympus has carried that trend forward with the E-P5. Its classic lines are evocative of the old Pen series of film cameras but under the hood this is very much a digital beast. A 16MP LiveMOS sensor, in-body image stabilization, WiFi, and a tilting screen make the E-P5 an ideal street shooter’s carry camera.

Pairs well with:

A fixie. And the Olympus 17mm f2.8 Lens for Micro Four Thirds.

BLBlogCams-8

Sony Alpha a7 and a7R Mirrorless Digital Cameras

Every once in a while something new comes along that sets a new tone for an entire industry. Sony has the whole camera industry talking again with the new Alpha a7 and a7R mirrorless cameras. The a7s are sporting full-frame sensors and DSLR features, but packed into a much smaller package. It’s true that there are many other full-frame cameras already but most are big and heavy and leave a desire for a more portable solution. The a7 is equipped with a 24.3 megapixel full-frame sensor with embedded phase-detect AF, while the A7r sports a 36.4 megapixel full-frame sensor with the AA filter removed, resulting is sharper photos. The full-frame sensors on both models are larger than the APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensors found in most mirrorless system cameras, resulting in shallower depth of field, superior low-light performance, and dynamic range. Both cameras have outstanding image quality, shooting up to ISO 25,600 when needed, and are noise-free around ISO 6400. Other notable features include WiFi/NFC, variable continuous shooting modes, Full HD 1080 video at 60p / 50p, 60i / 50i or 24p / 25p with full manual exposure control, and various shooting modes.

Pairs well with:

Sony Alpha LA-EA2 Camera Mount Adapter

Chris-Gampat-The-Phoblographer-Sony-RX100M2-product-photos-first-impressions-3-of-8ISO-32001-100-sec-at-f-4.5

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II. Read a more detailed take on this camera from The Phoblographer.

It’s not every day that such an impactful new product is introduced into the digital camera space. The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 initially caught the attention of amateurs photographers, professionals, and critics alike. With an integrated 1” sensor packed into a small body, most observers wouldn’t think twice about this camera.  The RX100II successfully delivers excellent image quality from a truly pocketable camera. The new Sony Cyber-shot RX100 II produces some of the best images you could ever expect to see from a compact camera. Sony has pushed the limits for this camera category and produced something really innovative. Among many new features, some that stand out are the new back-illuminated 20MP sensor, NFC-mediated WiFi allowing file transfer and control from smartphones, 10 FPS continuous shooting in ‘Speed Priority’ mode, tiltable 3″ 1.2M-dot ‘WhiteMagic’ LCD screen, and Steady-Shot image stabilization.

Pairs well with:

Your pocket. And a 64GB SD Memory Card.

The Sony Cyber-shot RX1R doesn’t replace its predecessor, the RX1, but holds a place alongside it at the top of Sony’s Cyber-shot lineup. The difference between this camera and its “brother”  is that the RX1R lacks an anti-aliasing filter on its 24MP CMOS sensor. Anti-aliasing filters slightly blur the image to prevent a rainbow-like moiré pattern in areas of very fine detail. The AA filters are often a good thing but removing them does provide the potential for slightly higher detail resolution. The RX1R continues to possibly be the most serious compact camera of the year. Featuring a full-frame 24MP sensor and a fixed 35mm f/2 lens, the RX1 is targeted towards serious photographers, delivering stunning images and being a very enjoyable camera to use. What’s not to like about a quiet shutter, sleek design, fast lens and excellent image quality?

Pairs well with:

Sony FDA-EVM1K Electronic Viewfinder

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 Digital Camera. Read a more detailed take on this camera from The Phoblographer.

Most photography enthusiasts will says that if you want the best pictures then you want interchangeable lenses. The Sony RX10 busts the myth, opting out of interchangeable lenses for just the one fixed lens. With a wide f/2.8 aperture and a variable 24-200mm equivalent range, you would need a ton of big, expensive glass to match the RX10′s lens on your DSLR. The RX10 also has a huge advantage over its “bridge camera” rivals, attributed to a much larger sensor. Additionally, it debuts some interesting features including full-sensor readout for video capture, generous zoom range, a great viewfinder, swift performance, plenty of enthusiast-friendly features, including raw shooting, and WiFi/NFC wireless sharing. That’s not even scratching the surface of what this great camera offers. The Sony RX10′s feature list is jaw-dropping, including superior electronic viewfinder optics, a new and super-fast autofocus system, 10 FPS shooting, and exceptional video capabilities.

Pairs well with:

Sony HVL-F60M Flash with LED Video Light


Video

Canon’s 1D C lacks some of the pro features of the C300 and C100 but it still provides professional and novice filmmakers alike a formidable number of shooting choices, not to mention access to a wide variety of cine-lenses. It is also a very sports-friendly camera, shooting at 14 FPS for up to 400,000 cycles with its newly-designed shutter and carbon fiber blades. This pro body DSLR retains a lot of the photography options of the 1D X but also shoots 4K RAW at 24p internally and sports the Canon Log Profile for a low-contrast image that has a ton of latitude for color correction in post production. Our video team likes to think of the 1D C as the perfect 2nd camera on set or a great main camera if you need an all-in-one package suitable for photojournalism-esque on-the-go shooting.

Pairs well with:

Canon CN-E Primes Cinema Package

The Sony FDR-AX1 Digital 4K Video Camera is an “affordable” 4K option that is easy to use fully automated without leaving out fine controls that pros need. It is one of the most plug-and-play-friendly video cameras we have. It will record 4K in the familiar MP4 format that most editing systems can easily read and comes equipped with an ultra versatile 31.5-630mm (35mm equivalent) Sony G lens that is made specifically for 4K imaging. The built-in ND filters are also handy.  XLR inputs and built-in mic/speakers are also included. This video camera is designed for those already used to shooting with a standard HD 1080p camcorder who want to take their shooting to the next level before diving into seriously pro gear, like the RED Epic.

Pairs well with:

Sony 64GB XQD S Series Memory Card

Sony’s PMW-F5 CineAlta Digital Cinema Camera rivals Hollywood film cameras. It sports complete compatibility with cine-style film lenses and consistency of vision for cinematographers who prefer shooting on 35mm film thanks to its Super 35mm sensor size. Unlike the Sony FDR-AX1, the F5 does not record its 4K footage internally but worry not because we provide with the rental the additional recorder that attaches directly to the camera. You can still always record 1080p internally very cleanly due to the sensor downsampling from 4K to get the best possible 1080p image (you can record 4K and 1080 simultaneously). The F5 is very modular and is specifically designed to be configured to your specific needs on set. There is also the added bonus of shooting up to 240 FPS at 2K to the external recorder.

Pairs well with:

Cooke Panchro Prime Lenses Prime Lenses in PL Mount

This camera, when it first came out, was greeted by a mixture of confusion and delight. On the one hand, the sensor and resolution were somewhat unusual but, on the other hand, the extra resolution and the inclusion of RAW video gave video shooters a camera whose footage was built to be edited in post. Its wide dynamic range, choice of Micro Four Thirds or Canon EF mounts, touch-screen controls, along with a variety of inputs and outputs and recording on SSDs made Blackmagic’s entrance into the camera world a cult hit. This was, finally, a camera that DSLR users could step up to relatively easily and get footage that could be put through the post-production gauntlet with aplomb.

Pairs well with:

Anton Bauer Gold Mount Plate for Blackmagic Cinema Camera

This adjunct to the Blackmagic Cinema Camera ignited a lot of interest the second it was announced. For one, it promised RAW and ProRes recording in a package the size of a Sony NEX camera. For another, the mount is an “active” Micro Four Thirds mount, which means active aperture and focus control for MFT lenses. Add to that the fact that you could get image stabilization with Panasonic lenses that included OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and you had a movie camera under $1000 that really fires imaginations. Despite its drawbacks – poor battery life, picky about SD cards, and no RAW recording until a couple of months after release – the BMPCC has proved itself to deliver on the most important promise it made: stellar image quality.

Pairs well with:

Switronix PocketBase Battery Holder and Charger with Batteries

When the GoPro Hero3+ was released this year the big question that everybody was asking was what improvements and updates were made to the newest member of the GoPro family. The Hero3+ boasts significant improvements and additions with image quality and audio. Improved image quality, especially in low-light tests, show that the color has been improved in the Hero3+, with darker blacks and a sharper image overall thanks to a sharper, faster lens. Although you can reduce the distortion in post, the new image takes on wide-angle look rather than a fisheye look with the SuperView setting – meaning that you can see more while reducing image distortion. Another popular improvement is the longer battery life of the Hero3+. Now you can record for over 2 hours — about a half hour longer than with the Hero3. With this update the Hero3+ remains a top choice for small action cams.

Pairs well with:

SanDisk 64GB microSDXC Memory Card Ultra Class 10 UHS-I with microSD Adapter


DSLR

The Canon 70D takes a lot of great things from other cameras and finally puts them into one – articulated touch screen, WiFi, and a 20MP crop sensor – among other, smaller, features like improved ISO. The big draw for the 70D is its Dual Pixel AF system, which makes it capable of phase detection autofocus in live view and movie mode. It’s also a pretty fast shoot at 7 FPS (though still slightly slower than the 7D at 8 FPS). It is almost identical to the 60D in build but with an upgraded mono mic to stereo and the hard-stopping mode wheel converted to a continuous one. The built-in Speedlite transmitter from the 60D and 7D is retained. This camera is also STM lens compatible for exceptionally quiet and smooth continuous autofocus while recording video.

Pairs well with:

Canon EF-S 55-200mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Telephoto Zoom Lens 

Touted as the ultimate “family camera”, the Canon Rebel SL1 is a diminutive entry-level DSLR that can still shoot with STM lenses for nice, quiet autofocusing during live video shooting. It’s a little slow at 4 FPS and the screen does swivel nor does it have WiFi. However, it does have a stereo mic input (this, coupled with the STM compatibility, makes this camera surprisingly videography-friendly). The grip on this camera is very tiny and is suitable for even kid hands – adding to the whole “family camera” vibe. At 18MP and 1080p video, this is a great camera if you are (petite) beginner  who still wants to explore manual shooting options without breaking the bank or sacrificing a lot of quality.

Pairs well with:

The equally tiny Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens

Chris-Gampat-The-Phoblographer-Pentax-K3-first-impressions-product-photos-2-of-8ISO-4001-80-sec-at-f-3.2

Pentax K-3 Digital SLR Camera. Read a more detailed take on this camera from The Phoblographer.

The Pentax K-3 is definitely for the rugged with its stainless steel chassis, 92 seals, and ability to withstand subfreezing temperatures. In keeping with recent trends, the K-3 omits the anti-aliasing filters that typically sits just in front of the sensor to prevent moiré. Without it, you get sharper images at the risk of pesky artifacts in tightly woven patterns like fabrics or screens. While color accuracy is excellent on the K-3, noise level is high and just generally doesn’t perform well at higher ISOs. The autofocus is speedy and, at 8.3 FPS, this camera is suitable for capturing action. This, in addition to a deeply-cut grip for extra leverage when hand-holding long lenses, makes this a good choice for outdoor speed-dependent shooting like birding or track/field sports. Just don’t try and shoot with it in low light. It also captures video at 1080i and have stereo mic input but doesn’t sport an articulating screen (the LCD is a fairly large 3.2″, though). The built-in image stabilization is also handy. This camera is great for a rugged outdoorsy person who doesn’t mind the nearly 2 lb weight.

Pairs well with:

Pentax DA* 60-250mm f/4 ED (IF) SDM Autofocus Lens

Hasselblad’s H5D-40 received a lot of pomp and circumstance as being their best high end camera yet with the world’s biggest and brightest viewfinder. This made the wait all the worse (it was supposed to ship in 2012 and continued to get delayed, hence its inclusion in this list). It’s huge, it’s clunky, and the menu isn’t intuitive. It’s slow, it’s loud. The images that come out of it, however, are amazing. Though only marginally more megapixels than the D800, the size and resolution of the files is nonetheless stunning. Also, easy flash syncing at 1/800th of a second is nothing to sneeze at. In our opinion, the real winner is the new selection of H lenses. The H5D is really worth trying out just to use the glass.

Pairs well with:

A giant ego. Or a fantastic assignment. Also, all of these lenses.

The Nikon D600 was famously fraught with controversy surrounding its oil and dust build-up issues and many believe the Nikon D610 is a “smoke n mirrors” release put in place to prevent a formal D600 recall. The stats on the D610 support this theory, as its updates are only slight. It’s a bit faster (6 FPS vs 5.5) and the shutter mechanism is better. This camera is very simple: no 10-pin or sync cable ports. Popup flash and hot shoe are your options for off-camera flash control and the built-in time lapse function gets you around the lack of 10-pin. WiFi usage requires an adapter but it does sport headphone/mic jacks, which is nice for video shooting. Overall, for the megapixels (24) and the fact that it is full-frame, it is a pretty good value but don’t expect to trick it out with peripherals. The D610 is great first full-frame camera or a more seasoned shooter’s backup camera, especially since the battery life is good and it has dual SD card slots for image backup.

Pairs well with:

Nikon 24-70 f/2.8G AF-S ED

Because they came out in such relatively close succession, the Nikon D5200 and D5300 are going to be a face off.  The D5300 has a larger screen and larger viewfinder but is, overall, smaller. The battery life is longer than in the D5200 and the ISO sensitivity is higher. It also has GPS, whereas the D5200 does not. You can shoot video at 60 FPS on the D5300 but only 30 FPS on the D5200. Why go with the D5200 over a D5300 ever? The D5200 is still a good camera and cheaper. However, along with the aforementioned improvements, the new carbon fibre reinforced thermoplastics body of the D5300 is nothing to sneeze at. Also, in keeping with the trend, the D5300 omits the anti-aliasing filters that typically sits just in front of the sensor to prevent moiré. If the idea of correcting for moiré is upsetting, then maybe stick to the D5200.

Pairs well with:

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G AF-S DX IF-ED 

2013 was the year of iterative updates and Sony’s a58 is an example of that. It is marginally smaller than the previous a57 but the megapixel increase is significant: 20.1 vs 16. The metal mount was replaced with a plastic one, which is durable but still a troubling change. What’s not troubling is the conversion of the proprietary hot shoe to a Multi Interface shoe, which will accommodate mics, Pocket Wizards, and other accessories without an adapter. Another interesting change from the a57: the LCD tilts rather than fully swivels and it is a hair smaller. The electronic viewfinder on the a58 is better than on the a57 (OLED vs non-OLED). Continuous phase-detection AF is possible during movie shooting and, during higher speed continuous shooting, is active before, during and after the actual exposure. This means there is a greater chance of capturing a number of sharp images when burst shooting rather than just 1 or 2 lucky shots. You can shoot up to 8 FPS when in Tele-Zoom Continuous Priority. Overall, the a58 is more on the beginner’s side but a good choice for a beginner who is into shooting sports.

Pairs well with:

Sony SAL-18200 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 AF Lens

The Nikon D7100 had the tall task of living up to the nearly universally adored D7000. The first change made was with removing the anti-aliasing filter that typically sits just in front of the sensor to prevent moiré. If you’ve been reading through every entry of this post you’ll noticed that this is the major trend this year. Without this filter, images are potentially sharper at the expense of dealing with artifacts in finely-woven fabrics and other textured objects. It’s a great feature – just don’t go around photographing screen doors with it. The AF system in the D7100 has been greatly improved over the D7000 by using the system in the D4, which is a tremendous camera ideal for sports shooting. However, the D7100 isn’t super fast – just 6 FPS (same at its predecessor). The D7100 does feature a new 1.3x crop mode which will creep your FPS up to 8 (and give your lenses a little extra reach). The D7100′s battery life is purportedly not as good as in the D7000, though. Pick up some spare batteries. In short, if you loved the D7000 then you’ll love this camera, too.

Pairs well with:

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VRII Zoom Lens

The Canon Rebel T5i is Canon’s latest additions to its novice-targeted Rebel series. With more than 20 years of continuous success in its film and digital iterations, these popular SLRs have been improved and designed to the point that they are nearing perfection. The T5i’s headline specifications feature a 18MP CMOS sensor, 9-point AF sensor, and 3:2 flip-out 1.04m dot screen. Canon’s ‘Hybrid CMOS’ sensor includes pixels dedicated to phase detection autofocus. The Hybrid AF system uses these to quickly set the lens to roughly the correct distance, then uses contrast detection AF to fine-tune focus. A capacitive (contact sensitive) touchscreen allows for a smartphone-like tactile experience and also supports iPhone-like multi-touch and gestures. The swiveling LCD is redesigned with no air gap between the display and cover glass, which reduces reflections and improves visibility in bright light. This is not your average beginner’s camera – it packs a lot of punch.

Pairs well with:

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Telephoto Zoom Lens


Special thanks to Sohail and Scott for contributing to this post.

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Alexandria Huff is a portrait photographer based in San Francisco. Her tutorials can be found here on the BorrowLenses Blog, 500px, Shutterfly, Snapknot, and SmugMug. She specializes in studio lighting. Follow her work on 500px.

Comments

  • Bert says:

    An interesting list. The pairings are a little curious even omitting the the 55-200 STM typo.

  • Awesome post Alex. Very thorough and comprehensive…. but maybe I missed it…the elephant in the room?

  • merry christmas to all of you.

  • JC says:

    The Pentax K3 did remove the antialiasing filter, of course, but you left out that it’s the first DSLR capable of simulating one using the shake resistant sensor. That was a pretty important feature. :)

  • Shane says:

    Just one thing, the Canon 1D C doesn’t record RAW 4k. It uses 8bit 4:2:2 motion JPEG for the 4k :)

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