Starting with number…
5. Sony RX100
Get the full countdown after the break…
The $699 RX100 was easily the most powerful camera per square inch and per dollar in 2012. Of course you are stuck with the zoom lens, but it is a rather good one. Image quality in stills mode is similar to the class leading Canon G1X but the RX100 is more innovative. It is smaller, genuinely pocketable, even walletable. Better lens, higher resolution, RGBW screen, faster AF and better video mode. Video quality compares very well to the NEX 7 and in some ways exceeds it. It is hard to think how it could have been better but an articulated screen would have been a bonus.
4. Canon 5D Mark III
After more than 3 years, this was an improvement on a good thing but not 3 years worth of improvement. Ignoring the political situation of Canon’s DSLRs vs their Cinema EOS range, and the obvious market segmentation and weird crippling going on here (no clean 1080p HDMI… we’ll add it in a firmware update… But you’ll wait until April 2013!!) this could have been at number 1 had it been pushed more in the direction of video. Sadly it wasn’t and Canon took a bit of the soul of the DSLR video scene away. DSLR culture in Japan and Asia is very conservative and heavily focused on photography, this is a camera born of that. I have a feeling Nikon will seize the full frame video crown next time out. The D800 was extremely close to doing so this time but for the moire & aliasing issues. The D900 should hit the nail on the head. However the Canon lens mount is more adaptable and the Canon lens range still leading edge. Still capable of a beautiful images despite the fact that it is no 1D C, and in many ways no GH3.
3. Olympus OM-D E-M5
Only the codec stops it being better than the GH3. A superbly handling camera and arguably the best mirrorless for stills. With the latest firmware update the in-body stabilisation which as solid as a rock is usable with any lens in video mode. This makes it unique on the market for handheld video. Rock steady handheld at F0.95 with the Voigtlander 25mm – what other camera can do that? A camera which is great for documentary shooters and those who need to shoot minimally with no rig. The next firmware update really should add 24p and high bitrate video, then it will be up there with the GH3 for image quality.
2. Panasonic GH3
Such a well specced camera for video. The best codec on a DSLR or mirrorless. More feature packed than a Canon. Image quality is superb for the price. You have to spend at least double to better it. They threw everything at the specs list but the execution is a little charmless compared to the quirky GH2 or retro OM-D E-M5. However it remains alone on the DSLR market for having such a large emphasis on video in the product philosophy.
1. Blackmagic Cinema Camera
Came out of nowhere and beats all the DSLRs for overall image quality, all for a consumer friendly price. I personally have very few qualms with the minimalist form factor and build quality is superb. A very simple camera to use especially if shooting ProRes. External battery option gives far longer running times on a single charge than a DSLR. Raw recording mode means you only really focus on the lens and ND during a shoot, and the camera gets out of the way. No picture profiles, ISOs, or white balance to be concerned about. All that gets done in post. Also has best bundled software on the market by a long shot.