These are the best cameras of 2017, as chosen by us...
Last year was an absolute tour de force for camera releases and meaningful milestones. Canon's EOS system reached the grand old age of 30, while Nikon and Gitzo found themselves celebrating a centenary. Not to mention Panasonic, whose mirrorless Micro Four Thirds journey hit the 10 year mark.
With so many causes to celebrate, it's no wonder that the production line was in full force. So we thought it only right to celebrate the monumental year by counting down our favourite camera releases.
It's hard to pick the best cameras of the year, but...
5. Fujifilm X-T20
At number 5, it’s the little body with a big heart. The X-T20 is Fujifilm’s answer to ‘can you give me amazing image quality in a compact body’.
Bursting at the seams with the exact same X-Trans CMOS III 24.2MP sensor found in the excellent X-T2, this miniature frame carries a lot of processing power. It also benefits from a tilting screen, Fujifilm’s Film Simulation modes (recreations of classic film stock which you can apply to your JPEGs) and a 325-point AF system. This includes 49 central points which use phase detection, and works a treat, especially when using the touchscreen to select your focus.
Beyond the basics, the X-T20 manages a nippy 8fps continuous shooting speed, as well as Panoramic and Multiple Exposure modes. Not forgetting it can also shoot in full 4K UHD video at 30fps, and has access to some of the best lenses pound-for-pound on the market. Fujifilm has also demonstrated its willingness to reward loyalty with its Kaisen philosophy (constant improvement), having included a number of aftermarket upgrades via firmware updates. This has drastically improved the ability of the X-T20, and greatly increased what you can achieve.
If you’re in the market for a travel camera with a great range of lenses and a relatively humble price tag, look no further.
4. Panasonic Lumix GH5
There’s no question that this 20.3MP Micro Four Thirds can take a decent shot, but it’s the step towards a real hybrid video and stills camera that makes it an important inclusion on this list.
Taking inspiration from the excellent Lumix Lineage, it comes with all the bells and whistles you’d imagine on their flagship camera. It uses the Venus 10 processing engine, has a 5-stop Dual I.S image stabilisation system and 4K/6K Photo, which allows you to take a short video clip and export as an 8/18MP image. It also has a 13-stop dynamic range, which is very respectable for Micro Four Thirds, and a rapid 0.05sec autofocus speed and 9fps burst mode.
Of course, it hasn’t gained the kind of reputation that’s spawned the video-centric GH5S for no reason. This camera has been adopted by thousands of YouTubers, amateur movie makers and film fanatics out there. It carries 4K video at 60fps, a world first for digital ILS mirrorless cameras at the time. It also boasts another first – 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording. It’s specs like these that have given it such a universal appeal.
It also confirmed the company’s dedication, when they released a 400Mbps bitrate recording mode and anamorphic 6K video mode via firmware updates.
All in all, there are few cameras that can claim to have made such a mark on the modern industry as the GH5.
3. Fujifilm GFX-50S
In a world where timing is everything, Fujifilm found itself waging war against Hasselblad, of all people. The two companies, not known to be bitter rivals, both had a mirrorless medium-format camera in the works. Although Hasselblad was the first to announce the X1D-50c back in 2016, the Fujifilm GFX was first to find its way to the masses.
There are so many good things you can say about this camera. It features 425 points of contrast detection AF (outclassing most every digital medium-format ever made), delivers a sensor size 1.7X larger than a full-frame camera and produces some of the most breathtaking images you’ll ever see this side of 100MP. To top it all off, it’s also the cheapest medium-format digital camera, coming in at a relatively attractive £5999, body only… almost £3000 less than its rival.
Of course, it’s not all good. The electronic shutter has some serious rolling shutter issues, the AF can be temperamental and the burgeoning lens range is a little on the short side. They may seem like issues, but when you consider that this camera is all about taking your time and enjoying the art of photography, those worries just melt away. This is the kind of camera you can fall in love with if you're not careful. It’s unforgiving and contentious, but also ultimately rewarding when you do it right. It may appear to cost a lot, but in reality it’s only £1500 more than a Sony A9, and will deliver that WOW factor, every single time.
If this is a sign of things to come from Fujifilm, we’ll start adding them to our stock portfolio.
2. Sony A9
The Sony Alpha 9 – how can any list be complete without at least giving a nod to this game changer?
This is the 24.2MP warning shot that Sony sent to Canon and Nikon back in the first half of 2017. It’s a mirrorless which is designed to shoot action, and it competes toe-to-toe with the likes of the D5 and 1DX. It became infamous for delivering 20fps blackout free shooting, letting you see every second of action through the EVF. It also near-eradicated the issue of rolling shutter. Then you have the fact that it has one of the, if not the best autofocus systems ever seen. It uses 693 on-sensor phase detection points, which offer up a 93% frame coverage. It also boasts amazing facial recognition tracking and ludicrous AF speeds, which work in tandem with the 5-stop image stabilisation.
Of course, this was as much of a shot across the bow as it was a product, but what a shot it was! Even the humble sensor drew attention for containing a stacked back-illuminated structure, combining with larger photosites for next-level ISO handling. It even came with full-pixel readouts on the 4K video, showing the world just how much of a versatile powerhouse Sony really is.
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again, this could really be the penultimate nail in the coffin of traditional DSLRs.
1. Nikon D850
Is this the last time a DSLR will be able to win camera of the year? Maybe. But what a camera to serve as a final hurrah. The D850 is already topping the wish-lists of photographers everywhere.
This mighty behemoth and latest entry into the D800 series, after the D810, is everything you want in a DSLR. It was created to offer you unlimited potential, designed to work equally well in fashion as it does in sports. This is evidenced by the massive 45.7MP back-illuminated sensor, which offers gloriously high resolution, and the increased 7fps burst rate, or 9fps if you buy the optional battery and grip. And let’s not forget the 153-point AF system, lifted straight from the D5, which can focus down to -4EV - that’s near-pitch black!
Apart from being a raging mass of megapixels, designed to handle speed and focus, it was the first camera to reach the coveted 100 score on sensor scoring website, DXOMARK, with a phenomenal dynamic range of 14.8 stops. It’s also garnered a reputation as a low-light beast. Nikon has said it delivers a full stop more than the D810, and we agree. It definitely appears to produce cleaner files at ISO 25,600… not to say you won’t need to add some noise reduction. It also managed to include a silent shooting mode, using Live View, which manages 6fps. To top it all off, it has one thing that mirrorless companies won’t have for a while - a battery life of 1840 shots, or 7 times that of a Sony A7R II battery.
Nikon has produced, perhaps, the finest DSLR ever to exist. It's a true testament to the ability of the Japanese tech giant. It may even be the greatest legacy of the early digital age, especially considering both Nikon and Canon are rumoured to be releasing mirrorless full-frame cameras in 2018.
So those are our top 5 picks of 2017. Do you agree with us, or have we missed anything out? We’d love to hear your thoughts over on Facebook or Twitter - feel free to drop us a comment and tell us how we did.