Good Stuff! Awards 2014: the best cameras of 2014

We regularly choose products with an attractive price-to-quality ratio for "Ivo's choice." And in December of every year, we share "Good Stuff! Awards" for system cameras and lenses with the highest image quality, regardless of the store price. The assignment of the Good Stuff! Awards is purely based on the image quality that we have observed in our practical and lab tests. Next year, we want to expand our evaluation system with other camera properties.
There is a break in the megapixel race, and the image quality of modern cameras is very similar. Therefore, it happened this year that prices have fallen for products that have been on the market for a while. What difference does that make? It's still a good camera! Because there are many different kinds of photographers, with different preferences, we have divided the cameras into a few categories.

CameraStuffReview, Good Stuff! awards, best camera 2014, best system camera 2014

Trend: Mirrorless system cameras are quickly becoming more popular

In October 2014, 40% fewer SLR cameras were exported from Japan to Europe than in 2013, as it appears from the data of the CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association). In euros, it's going a bit better for the SLRs, but not much. The market development for the compact cameras is running about the same. At the same time, there were 112% as many mirrorless system cameras sold with respect to October 2013. Expressed in euros, that's even more (135%). When you realize that the numbers from Samsung (South Korea) are not included in the CIPA statistics, while Samsung only makes mirrorless system cameras and Samsung's market share in Europe is growing, the trend is clear. The SLR camera is quickly losing terrain to the mirrorless system cameras from Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony.  NX1flash

Best camera 2014: Nikon D810

Nikon D810

It will not surprise anyone that the best camera with a full-frame sensor is also the best camera of all categories. There was nearly a system camera (Sony A7r) climbing to the top in our list of reviews, but Nikon stayed ahead of Sony with the Nikon D810. Dpreview chose the Nikon D750 as the best camera in the category "High-end full-frame camera". The Nikon D750 won in the DpReview over the D810 due to the lighter body, built-in WiFi, tilting screen and higher shooting speed. For us, the Nikon D810 beats out the D750 on resolution and dynamic range. This year, the Nikon D810 managed to push the Nikon D800E, which pulled a Good Stuff Award in both 2012 and 2013, out of first place. Even so, the image quality of the "Highlight weighted mode" of the Nikon D810 (and D750) makes the difference clear: you have less trouble with a Nikon D810 from any bleached-out highlights.
The Nikon D810 and the D800E both show what an SLR camera with a full-frame sensor is capable of: the highest possible resolution with a very good signal-to-noise ratio and an enormous dynamic range. What more could you want?

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Best APS-C SLR 2014: Nikon D7100 (5200/5300)

The answer from DpReview to the question, "Which enthusiast DSLR shoul I buy?" is: a Nikon D7100. Actually, we agree with them. In our list of reviews, there are three SLR cameras with an APS-C sensor (Nikon D7100 and Nikon D5200 and D5300) in the top 5 on the basis of their image quality. They offer you practically equivalent and unbelievably good image quality. The Nikon D7100 was chosen as best camera of 2014 on various other sites, including Dpreview and Imaging-resource. We give the Nikon D7100 the Good Stuff! Award 2014 because the built-in AF motor and the second rotating wheel in our eyes make this camera a bit more versatile than the Nikon D5200 and D5300, even though they differ little from each other in terms of image quality.

D7100 18 105 fronttop
StadhuisOrigineelIt is unimaginable how many noise-free images a sensor with a high dynamic range, like that of the Nikon D7100, registers.

Best system camera with a full-frame sensor: Sony A7R

A mirrorless system camera of less than 500 grams, with a 36 megapixel full-format sensor, nearly as compact as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and a list price of a bit more than 2,000 euros? It seems like a dream, but it's the Sony A7R. Aside from the noisy shutter, the most important disadvantage of this camera appears to be that there is only a limited number of lenses available for this camera. The image quality is triumphant. Sony-A7R-55mm

Best system camera with an APS-C sensor: Samsung NX1

At the Photokina 2014, Samsung surprised friend and foe with the Samsung NX1: a 28 megapixel camera that shoots 15 images per second, whereby the lightning-fast AF keeps doing its work with an unmatched number of AF points. We reviewed the Samsung NX1 and can be brief about it: It is the best system camera with an APS-C sensor, which, with its high resolution, also leaves many (full-frame) SLRs behind. NX1flash

Best "rangefinder" camera: Fuji X-E1

Some photographers choose the ergonomics of a rangefinder camera above an SLR. The Fujifilm X-E1 resembles a Leica camera in terms of build and ergonomics. And just as with Leica, this camera offers high image quality, partly thanks to the high quality of the Fujinon lenses. But in contrast to the traditional Leica cameras, a Fujifilm camera also offers AF. And personally, I find manual focusing with an electronic viewfinder—including the ability to enlarge the image and to make use of focus peaking—nicer to work with than the traditional rangefinder system. Count in the attractive price structure for Fujifilm cameras, and it will not surprise you that Fujifilm cameras and lenses sold like hotcakes last year. In the reviews of Fujifilm products, we've run a bit behind, so the X-E1 and X-T1 are not yet on our list of reviews. Therefore, the Fujifilm X-E1, just as in 2013 is also the best "rangefinder camera" in 2014.

x e1 s-front

Best professional system camera 2014: Panasonic GH4

GH4 back700

Last year, we chose the Olympus OM-D E-M1 as the best professional system camera. This year, it's the Panasonic GH4. The two cameras differ little from each other where image quality (for photography) is concerned, and they are very attractive alternatives for professional photographers who want lighter, but still high-quality, equipment than their current SLR. Certainly now there are increasingly more professional Micro-43 lenses (like the recent Olympus 40-150 mm f/2.8) coming to market. Add in that the Panasonic GH4, together with the Samsung NX1, is the only system camera with which you can currently save 4K video in the camera, and our choice will not surprise you. Dpreview also answers the question, "Which enthusiast mirrorless camera should I buy?" in 2014 with: Panasonic GH4. And for Imaging Resource, the Panasonic GH4 is at the top of the list of Dave's Picks for the Most popular professional SLR and SLR-like cameras. Is there anyone who is still surprised that Panasonic moaned now and then in 2014 that their production could not keep up with the demand for GH4s?


Best compact system camera 2014: Panasonic GM5


Nikon 1 cameras are popular with photographers who want a fast camera, with interchangeable lenses, but who think an SLR camera is too big. As a counterweight, Panasonic had the GF series, but those cameras were far from popular. I missed in them, just as with some Nikon 1 cameras, a built-in viewfinder. Now, there is Panasonic GM5, a small camera with a large sensor and two new, surprisingly small 12-32 mm and 35-100 mm lenses. Image quality, ease of use, 4K video and a built-in viewfinder—everything is right. On Dpreview, the Panasonic GM5 stands second in terms of popularity (for the readers) among all system cameras, just behind the Nikon D750. Even so, the competition is not bad. The Panasonic LX100 and the Panasonic FZ1000 are two solid competitors for the Panasonic GM5, with which Panasonic aims for the same target audience.

Finally, as an encore—for those who are not fed up with the best of 2014 lists—a video from Camera Store TV, with their "Best and Worst Cameras of 2014" list, in which they also go into the trends in photography for 2014.

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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