A fun article. You have to be a pretty geeky photographer to love this…which I am.
It’s a list of the top 50 cameras of all time. Like any list, it’s subjective and will skew towards the inclinations of the times and this is no exceptions. I find it hard to believe that in the more than 150 years of photographic history that 11 of the top 50 models were made in the last 5 years. I guess if you’re simply talking about sheer power and ability that might be right but I think the determination has to be based on innovation and impact. I love my 7D (#21) but there really isn’t an argument that it has had more impact on the world of photography than the Graflex Speed Graphic that shot every Pulitzer Prize winning photo for about the first 25 years of the prize–and was left off the list.
I definitely agree with #1, it’s hard to argue against the camera that put photography into the hands of the masses for the first time, but the Nikon D300s? It’s a good camera that fits well in the current Nikon line but it will hardly be remembered as anything innovative or remarkable. The D3s at #2 can’t possibly match the immense 40-year contribution of the Hasselblad 500CM at #3. In lieu of the Canon 7D, how about including the original Canon Digital Rebel which brought digital to the masses in much the same way as the Brownie, Rolleiflex, and Pentax Spotmatic (also overlooked) were landmark cameras of their time? The original Digital Rebel is STILL the highest selling digital camera of all time–who did it need to sleep with to get a mention?
Regardless of your thoughts and loyalties, enjoy some of the more obscure models on the list like the Minox spy camera and the Ilford Witness and take some time to look up the models with which you’re not familiar and let all the vintage gear goodness wash over you! (The * is next to the models I own.)
Here’s the original list url, I certainly didn’t compile it so I can’t take credit for it.
50 Yashicamat 124The Yashicamat 124 is a twin-lens reflex (TLR) that is based on the much more expensive and iconic Rolleiflex system of medium-format cameras and was first introduced in 1957. It’s a capable camera with a good lens and the perfect low-price introduction to shooting square-format images.
49 Nikon D300sAnother big favourite with our readers. The D300S is a 12.3 megapixel DX format model launched in 2009. It replaced the D300 as Nikon’s DX format flagship DSLR by adding HD video recording (with autofocus). It has similarities to the Nikon D700, with the same resolution, but has a smaller, higher-density sensor.
48 Pentax K1000The K1000 was produced from 1976 to 1997 and if you went to art school during this period it was probably the camera you were given to use. They are still being handed out today! The K1000’s longevity makes it significant, despite its ordinary design. It was already technically obsolete in 1976, but its inexpensive simplicity made it a popular workhorse.
47 Sinar Norma Invented in 1947 asa large-format camera ofhigh precision and simple operation, with a system of parts that were readily interchangeable. The name Sinar is an acronym forStudio, Industry, Nature, Architecture, Reproduction, which sums up the versatility of the system. The Sinar Norma, made from 1947 to 1970, is a technological and industrial design icon.
46 Nikon D90The D90 is a 12.3 megapixel model launched in 2008 to replace the D80 and it is a firm favourite with our readers. The updated model includes live view capability and automatic correction of lateral chromatic aberration. It was also the first DSLR to offer video recording, with the ability to record HD 720p videos, with mono sound, at 24 frames per second and has a high resolution rear LCD screen. A built-in autofocus motor means that all Nikon F-mount autofocus lenses (except for the two rare Nikon F3AF) can be used in autofocus mode. The D90 was also the first Nikon camerato include a third firmware module, labelled ‘L’, which provides an updateable lens distance integration database that improves autoexposure.
45 Canon F-1The Canon F-1 was producedby Canon from 1971 to 1976 and was the model that saw the introduction of the Canon FD lens mount. The F-1 was Canon’s first truly professional-grade SLR system, supporting a huge variety of accessories and interchangeable parts so it could be adapted for different uses and preferences.
44 Pentax Auto 110Launched in 1978 the Pentax Auto 110 and Pentax Auto 110 Super were single-lens reflex cameras made by Asahi Pentax. The Auto 110 was introduced with three interchangeable lenses. A precursor to today’s compact camera systems it claims to have been the smallest interchangeable-lens SLR system created made to professional quality.
43 Pentax K20DThe K20D body was developed by Pentax while its CMOS sensor was manufactured by Samsung, which became Pentax’s partner in 2005. Until 2008, the K20D held the record for the highest resolution sensor in theAPS-C image sensor format,at 14.6 megapixels.
42 Hasselblad 503CWThe Hasselblad that brings old school to new ways. The 503CW can deal with analogue and digital capture thanks to the range of digital backs available. The perfect option for those unwilling to give up film.
41 Sony Alpha 900The α900 is Sony’s current flagship digital SLR, introduced in September 2008. As well as a hostof pro features it includesa massive 24.6 megapixelfull-frame CMOS sensor which makes it an obviousinclusion in our list forthat reason alone.
40 Canon T90 A lot of you still seem to be very fond of the Canon T90, which was first introduced in 1986, as the top of the line in Canon’s T series of 35mm SLRs. It was the last professional-level manual-focus camera from Canon, and the last professional camera to use the Canon FD lens mount. Although it was rapidly overtaken by the autofocus revolution and Canon’s EOS (Electro-Optical System) cameras after only a year in production, the T90 pioneered many concepts seen in high-end Canon cameras up to the present day, particularly the user interface, industrial design and high level of automation. Due to its rugged build, the T90 was nicknamed ‘the tank’ by Japanese photojournalists. Many photographers and retailers still rate the T90 highly even after 20 years as it is considered by many to have been the best slr Canon ever.
39 Nikon D2X The D2X is a 12.4 megapixel camera which was launchedby Nikon in 2004. The D2X was the highest resolution flagship in Nikon’s DSLR line until June 2006 when it was supplanted by the D2Xs and later by the Nikon D700 and Nikon D3, both using a newFX full-format sensor.
38 Olympus OM-1 The OM-1 really is one of the most loved and highly regarded of film SLRs. The first model was launched in 1972 and was called the M-1. Thirteen years earlier, the release of the Nikon F had made the 35mm SLR the standard choice for professionals accustomed to using Leicas and other rangefinders, but it had driven the market towards heavy and bulky cameras. The Olympus M-1 changed all that and with it began a reduction of size, weight and noise of the 35mm SLRs. Since Leica’s flagship rangefinder cameras are known as the M Series, the company complained about the name of the M-1, forcing Olympus to rename it theOM-1. The OM-1 is an all-mechanical SLR with a very large viewfinder with interchangeable screens but a fixed prism. It also featuresa through-the-lens exposure meter and, quirkily, has the shutter speed dial around the lens mount rather than on the camera’s top plate. It’s not fashionable but it is brilliant.
37 Nikon D40Despite having been on the market since late 2006, the D40 still has some benefits over its newer rivals. Because only six megapixels are fitted on to the standard Nikon DX format sensor, the sensitivity of each pixel is higher. The default sensitivity is ISO 200 and it adds an ISO 3200 speed (listed as ‘Hi1’ in the camera menu). The D40 has a very fast 1/500 flash sync, useful for daytime fill-flash. This compares to the typical 1/200 sync speed of other entry level and even some semi-pro DSLR cameras. But the D40 lacks a built-in autofocus motor, so only Nikon lenses with AF-I, AF-S or compatible focus motors can be used in autofocus mode.
36 Canon EOS 5DThe EOS 5D, launched in 2005, was a landmark camera. It was a 12.8 megapixel DSLR and the first with a full-frame sensor at an incredibly low price which made professional quality digital images available to all. The professional market changed overnight and despite what are now considered low ISOs, the 5D remains amuch-loved industry favourite.
35 Mamiya RZ67The RZ67 is the mediumformat workhorse of the pro industry and a modularsystem, meaning that lenses, viewfinders, ground glasses, film winders and film backsare all interchangeable. The RZ67 is designed primarily for studio use, but is often usedon location as well.
34 Panasonic DMC-LX3The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, or LX3, is a high-end compact camera launched in 2008 as a successor to the LX2 and continues to be oneof the best high-end compact point and shoots available.
33 Nikon D700 Another much-loved recent model from Nikon, the D700 is a professional grade dslr launched in 2008. It uses the same 12.1 megapixel FX-CMOS image sensor as the D3 and is Nikon’s second full-frame digital SLR camera. The D700’s full-frame sensor allows the use of non-DX F-mount lenses to their fullest advantage, with no cropfactor. The D700 bearsa physical similarity to the D300 and has a built-in autofocus motor for all Nikon autofocus-lenses, includes CPU and metering for older Nikon F-mountAI/AI-S lenses, and supports PC-E lenses.
32 Canon A-1 Launched in 1978 the A-1 is historically significant because it was the first SLR to offer an electronically controlled programmed auto-exposure mode. Instead of the photographer picking a shutter speed to freeze or blur motion and choosing a lens aperturef-stop to control depth of field (focus), the A-1 has a microprocessor programmed to automatically select a compromise exposure which is based on light meter input. Virtually all cameras today have at least one program mode.
31 Nikon FM2 The FM2 was designed notfor budget minded snappers who would never take the time to learn to use shutter-speeds and aperture settings, but instead to appeal to serious photographers who demanded a tough, rugged camera.At the time of the FM2’s launch in 1982, Nikon believed that advanced photographers were not interested in every latest technology, but instead favoured high quality and precision workmanship.The FM2 is very mucha photographer’s camera.
30 Pentax ME FThe ME F was the first autofocus (AF) 35mm SLR camera to reach production. It had a built-in through-the-lens (TTL) electronic contrast detection system to automatically determine proper subject focus and drive a lens to that focus point. Although it auto-focused poorly and was a commercial failure, the ME F wasa milestone in camera technology, pointing the way to present-day AF SLRs.
29 Rolleiflex TLRThe Rolleiflex medium-format TLR (twin lens reflex) film cameras launched in 1929 were loved for their compact size, light weight, superior optics, durable and simple mechanics and bright viewfinders. The mechanical wind mechanism was robust and clever, making film loading semi-automatic and quick. A wide range of accessories made this camera a more complete system, allowing close-ups, added filters and quick tripod attachment. Still much loved and used, particularly by art photographers.
28 Nikon SP RangefinderThe SP is a professional level, interchangeable lens, 35mm film, rangefinder camera launched in 1957 as the culmination of Nikon’s RF development which began in 1948 with the Nikon I. It is considered the most advanced rangefinder of its time.
27 Bronica EC-TLIIOften unfairly seen as the poor man’s Hasselblad, the ‘Bronnie’ was many people’s first medium-format camera. A reasonable price combined with a huge range of lenses available made the ‘Bronnie’a great enthusiast’s choice.
26 Hasselblad 500ELIn 1964 Hasselblad started production of the motorised 500EL. Apart from the housing that incorporates the motor drive and the batteries, the EL was similar in appearance and operationto the Hasselblad 500C and uses the same magazines, lenses and viewfinders.
25 Leica M9The latest in the legendary rangefinder M series from Leica and only the second ina digital format featuring an 18.5 megapixel sensor.
24 Holga 120NFew cameras create their own aesthetic but the Holga definitely has. It is an inexpensive, medium-format 120 film toy camera, made in China. The Holga’s low-cost construction and simple lens gives pictures that display vignetting, blur, light leaks and other distortions, all of which have led to the camera gaining a cult following.
23 Kodak Retina IIICThe Retina, launched in 1936, was a compact folding camera which pioneered the 135 film format. The IIIC first appeared in 1957 and was the fifthand final development ofthe original model.
22 Olympus Pen E-P1 Beautifully designed and named after Olympic’s original half-frame 35mm Pencameras launched in 1959, the E-P1 is another of the cameras leading the way in the compact system revolution.
21Canon EOS 7D Just as you were saving up for a 5D MkII, Canon brought out the 7D and made many of the qualities of the MkII available at an even lower price, even adding a host of facilities new to the EOS range.
20 Olympus TripThe Trip 35 was introduced in 1967 and discontinued in 1984. The name referred to its intended market, people who wanted a compact camera for holidays. More than ten million were sold. This point and shoot model had a solar powered selenium light meter and just two shutter speeds. Although the Trip is coming back into fashion due to its quality and ecological credentials, you can pay as little as £10 for one.
19 Gandolfi The maker of one of the greatest handmade large-format cameras ever made. Based in London, ithas been making and repairing cameras since 1885.
18 Pentax 6x7A fond favourite of any pro who worked with it throughout the seventies and eighties despite its weight and tendency to spend more time being repaired than used. The Pentax 6×7 looks like and is operated like a regular 35mm SLR camera but is loaded with either 120 or 220 roll film, which produces 10 or 206×7 format exposures. You have to love this camera with its wooden handle attachment and tank-like construction.
17 Rollei 35 The Rollei 35 is a 35mm miniature viewfinder camera launched in 1966, when it was the smallest 135 film camera ever. Even today the Rollei 35 series remains the smallest mechanically working 35mm cameras ever built.
16 Zeiss Contaflex Super BC The Contaflex SLR, introduced in 1953, was one of the first 35mm SLR cameras equipped with a between-the-lens leaf shutter. The Super, launched in 1959, is easily recognisable by the wheel on the front plate for setting the aperture.
15 Leica III This quirky rangefinder launched in 1933 used a coupled rangefinder distinct from the viewfinder. The latter was set for a 50mm lens and to use other lenses required an alternate viewfinder on the accessory socket.
14 Olympus Pen The Pen half-frame, fixed-lens viewfinder cameras were made from 1959 to the start of the eighties. The original was one of the smallest cameras to use 35mm film in 135 cassettes.
13 Polaroid SX-70 The original SX-70 was beautiful with a folding body finished in brushed chrome and tan leather panels. It had a whole array of accessories, including a close-up lens, electrical remote shutter release and a tripod mount.
12 Ilford Witness The Ilford Witness was a rangefinder with interchangeable lenses announced in 1947, but not released until 1953 because of manufacturing difficulties. A true industry secret due to its quality and rarity.
11 Panasonic GF1 Released in 2009, the GF1 has a strong following among pro and enthusiast photographers as a compact system camera which can change the way you can create images. Great quality of build and image.
10 Canon eos 1D MkIV The 1D has always been the peak of Canon’s camera range in all its different forms. However, the MkIII didn’t make many friends and took a little of the shine off the 1D for some. The MkIV has converted those doubters. It’s a solid piece of pro kit that gets everything right including making the 1D first choice again.
9 Nikon FIntroduced in 1959 and an instant classic, the Nikon F introduced the concept of the modular 35mm single-lens reflex camera (SLR) and changed the way in which photographers could take pictures, from the fashion studios of swinging London to the war zones of Vietnam.The F-bayonet mount isstill in use today, andremains essentially unchanged, except for some minor refinements to keep pace with technology.
8 Leica M4A classic within the legendary M series, the M4 was introduced in 1967 and is the direct successor of the M3and M2. Three ergonomic modifications were introduced in the M4: A different, angled film advance lever, as well as slightly different rewind,self-timer and frame selection levers; a crank for rewinding the film, replacing the telescopic knob of the M3;and a faster loadingsystem that did not needa removable spool.
7 Mamiya 7IIThe Mamiya 7II is a medium format 6x7cm rangefinder camera with interchangeable leaf shutter lenses but is no bigger than top 35mm SLRs. Quiet, compact and lightweight, the 7II has a panoramic adaptor accessory that can also be added for true 24x65mm panoramic images.
6 Canon EOS 5D MkII The camera which brought about the birth of convergence between photographers and filmmakers. The 5D MkII has become a landmark camera which is being used by pro photographers and Hollywood film-makers. The final episode of the US medical drama House was shot on a 5D MkII.
5 Contax RTS-3The RTS (short for Real Time System), was created by the Porsche Design studios and was the beginning of the new Contax line of SLR cameras which brought 13 different models. The RTS-3 became an instant hit with pro photographers the moment it was launched due to its looks, build and image quality.
4 Minox Minox is famed for its subminiature cameras. Originally launched as luxury items, they gained notoriety as a spy camera during the Second World War. Production moved from Latvia to Germany after the war. Minox continues to make miniature cameras today. Just keep it secret!
3 Hasselblad 500CM The professional’s first choice medium-format camera for more than 40 years. The 500 was the second generation of the Hasselblad 6x6cm format film and was launched in 1957. Strong build, high-quality lenses and ease of use have made it the professional photographer’s friend, whatever they are shooting.
2 Nikon D3s The latest top pro offering in the Nikon range. The D3s has broken new ground with its incredibly high ISO capability and super tough build and construction. Designed to meet the needs of the most demanding of pro photographers, it deliversand then some.
1 Kodak Brownie The Brownie, launched in 1900, popularised low-cost photography and introduced the concept of the snapshot. The original cardboard box camera took 2.25in sq pictures. The 127 modelsold millions from1952 to 1967.