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The Best of Show: Digital Cameras from CES 2013
#1 Fuji X100S
[click to view image]One word - Luxury. This camera is a beautiful. With a retro camera body that looks almost identical to the X100, the X100S is the epitome of a luxury camera. An advanced 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor and improved EXR Processor II make this camera the fastest autofocus in its class. The X100S has a fixed 23mm f2 lens. But this beauty comes at a price. The camera is expected to be released in the spring of 2013 and available for around $1300. I bet your first reaction was, "Wow, that's a lot of money for a fixed lens compact camera." And I will admit that was one of my first thoughts, too. Personally, I am a budget oriented shopper. However, I have a love of fine photography. But it only takes one look at this camera to see that the X100S is more than just a sum of its specs. When you pick up the camera you can feel how well built the body was designed. It is solid. Also, the classic design is timeless and simple. The lens is just amazing. And the electronic view finder (EVF) is one of the best I have ever peeked through. Seriously, it is sharp and crisp and rivals what you see when you are looking through a traditional DSLR type viewfinder. The LCD screen on the back of the camera is also beautiful. Finally, the X100S takes the top spot due to Fuji's desire to provide the customer with a longstanding product. Fuji includes continued firmware updates similar to that which you would see for the iPhone. What does that mean to you? If the company decides that the camera will benefit from additional functionality that is utilized by upgrading the firmware, but you have already purchased the camera, all you have to do is a firmware update and you will have the same functionality as the newest release. I can't wait to get the X100S in my hands!
#2 Olympus TG-2
[click to view image]I know it's kind of crazy that a tough camera gets the #2 spots, but let me explain. When I saw the TG-2 in the initial press release, I must admit, I pretty much wrote it off as being just another "mediocre, at best" tough camera. Let's face it; the tough camera market is oversaturated with mediocrity. But it only took a millisecond to realize this camera is leaps and bounds above the rest. First, the camera is solid. It is not "plasticy" or wimpy. Also, it is fast. The autofocus is way better than I expected. That makes sense, of course. Olympus' cameras have amazingly fast autofocus. But I didn't know if that same functionality would be passed down to the "Tough" line. It was! In addition to the autofocus, I was impressed with the expandability of the TG-2. The camera has a removable ring that allows users to add optional lenses created for this camera. I was able to get my hands on two of these and I liked the ability to change focal lengths on such a durable, pocketable camera. As an added bonus, these lenses can even be changed under water making it perfect for divers and snorkelers. I can't wait for Olympus to send me the TG-2 so I can take it for a swim.
#3 Nikon D5200
[click to view image]The Nikon D5200 was a huge hit at Photokina and has been available in Europe for a couple of months. We are so happy that it has finally come to the United States. The D5200 will draw a huge following due to its ease of use and ability to accept the kit lens as well as the entire line of Nikkor and 3rd party Nikon mount lenses. Designed for the entry level DSLR user, the camera utilizes much of the same technology that is in the more expensive DSLRs. It has a 24.1-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor, an ISO range from 100-6400and is expandable to as high as ISO 25,600. It has a great price point. It also records video in 1080p at 30fps. Retailing for $899.95 with the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens, this camera will have a lot of bang for its buck. But I would highly suggest that users new to DSLR shooting ready the manual. This camera has a fair amount of functionality. If you don't read the manual, you will miss out on all that it has to offer.
#4 Samsung NX300
[click to view image]The Samsung NX300 is on this list due to its sturdy body and innovative 2D/3D lens. Although it's debatable if this technology will actually take off, the concept behind is pretty cool. I got to spend some hands on time with this technology in the Samsung booth (which was amazingly designed for both visual and auditory bliss). They had an NX300 with the 45mm f1.8 2D/3D lens hooked up to their 3D screen. I stood in front of the camera while the screen showed my 3D image. I couldn't believe it; my image jumped off the screen. Samsung told me that the camera lens' technology would be a great addition to anyone who already has a 3D television. Now you can record your home movies in 3D and watch them on your 3D television. I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that the NX300 has other great features besides this technology. It has a well-made, retro style body. It has 20.3 MP, an APS-CMOS sensor and an ISO range of 100-25,600. The camera will retail at $750. The 2D/3D lens retails at $500. For $1250 you have a fully functional 3D system. Not bad!
#5 Canon PowerShot N
[click to view image]So here's another camera that I was ready to write off before I even saw it. In fact, I almost wrote it off entirely. And I would have if it wouldn't have been for an image I took during my hands on time with the Canon N. Yes, a single image that I took in the camera's creative mode function changed my mind. In general, I am not a huge fan of the "creative mode" functionality in point and shoot cameras. The different effects are usually so-so and lack the true creativity I desire in my images. But the Canon N uses much different technology than any other camera's creative mode that I have used. The camera actually analyzes the image and creates 5 unique images in addition to the one you created. And it doesn't just reprocess the original image with 5 effects. No, the camera takes the original image and then "dreams up" the others. For example, I took a picture of another camera at the booth. The picture was comprised of the entire camera. The N took that image and gave me 5 unique images including one that was cropped in to just show the "Canon" name that was located on the front of the camera. It also gave me an image that was black and white. It gave me another image that was a crop from the opposite side of the front of the camera. The kicker was that each image retained a single focus point. And the focus point was not the same as what I deemed the single focus point in the original image. Holy cow! That's huge. After that, I was sold and also a little worried. That functionality is almost a little too creative for only $300. I am very interested in getting my hands on the Canon N to see what else I can create. If this function is as good as it seems Canon might want to invest into putting it into a more expensive line of cameras.