The Best Digital Cameras 2014
2014 is quickly coming to a close. With all the new product announcements, which cameras outperform all the rest? We've done extensive evaluations, reviewed the competition, noted user feedback--and we're ready to share the best digital cameras of 2014. Not everyone will agree, and having a camera named as the best in the category certainly doesn't mean it's the best for every user, but these cameras outshine the others in the same category. And in the case where one category has a very wide price range, we've picked out the best budget model too, because price is always a consideration Some of these may even be from 2013 if there's suitable replacement yet, and we'll keep updating the list as the year goes on. But, without further ado, here are Digital Camera HQ's picks for the Best Digital Cameras of 2014.
Forget that the Canon N100's highlight feature is a secondary rear camera--this compact has a bigger sensor and brighter lens than most point and shoots, which is why it earns the top honors in the category. The larger sensor and brighter lens translates in to better low light images. Actually, image quality overall is quite good. It doesn't quite have enough features to be pushed into the advanced compact category and has quite a few features that appeal more to general consumers than enthusiasts. The downside to this bigger sensor and brighter lens is that the body isn't quite as compact as most point-and-shoots, but the tilting LCD screen makes up for that some.
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The super zoom category is jam packed, and for good reason. Zoom can achieve compositions that other cameras simply can't. The tough thing about purchasing a camera with a big zoom is that performance at the long end of the zoom isn't typically the best, but it's not something you can see on the tech specs. That's why we've selected the Fujfilm S1 as the top contender in the super zoom category--it had remarkable performance even when at full zoom. We reviewed a handful of these big zoom cameras this year, and the S1 had the most consistent performance from wide angle to full zoom. The S1 also had speedy performance when recording images. The lens on the S1 is fairly bright for the category, starting out at f2.8, and the five axis image stabilization really helps out with that long zoom. Add in advanced features like RAW shooting and manual modes and the S1 is a pretty capable camera. Plus, it's all wrapped up in a sturdy body that's capable of withstanding a little rain. At first, we were a bit discouraged by the $500 list price, but you can now find it for less than $400.
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Compact zooms mix the best features of point-and-shoots with the best of super zooms. The Olympus Stylus 1 is a camera worthy of the advanced compact category with a large 1/1.7" sensor and bright f/2.8 lens, yet still fits as a compact zoom with a solid 10x lens. Factoring in that larger sensor size, the 10x zoom on the Stylus 1 is the equivalent of a DSLR with a 300mm lens--and the camera is certainly quite a bit smaller than such a bulky combo. Speed is also a plus, with a solid 7 fps and the capability of shooting large RAW files without slowing down. But the best feature on this camera? Versatility. With that solid zoom plus the f/2.8 aperture that can be used at any focal length, the Stylus 1 can master quite a variety of different shots.
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The Olympus TG line has always been a top option for waterproof cameras, and the 2014 model is certainly no exception. The TG-3 keeps the things we loved about the TG-2, particularly the bright f2 lens. When you head underwater, lighting becomes hard to come by, so it's important for waterproof cameras to offer a lens that's brighter than the average point-and-shoot. That lens is paired with a back-side illuminated sensor. Olympus has a solid reputation for macro shots, and with ring lights and microscopic macro modes, the TG-3 is an excellent choice for macro fans. The solid performance is paired with a sturdy exterior that's waterproof to 50 feet and capable of handling drops up to seven feet.
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Advanced compacts pack features like manual modes, big sensors and bright lenses into a compact size--but are they really worth as much as an entry-level DSLR? For enthusiasts that can't swallow that $700 price tag--or consumers looking for above average performance from a compact camera--the budget advanced compacts make an excellent option. The Nikon Coolpix P340 takes the top honors here this year. Sure, it isn't the very best advanced compact money can buy, but it's one heck of a camera for the price. The P340 uses a 1/1.7" sensor, smaller than the popular Sony RX100 cameras, but larger than your typical point-and-shoot. That's paired with a bright f1.8-5.6 lens that translates into some pretty solid images. In our hands-on review, we also noted fast processing speeds, a nice 10 fps burst mode and solid autofocus.
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- Fujifilm XQ1
Sony has taken top honors here since introducing their RX100 line, and for good reason. The RX100 III isn't any bigger than your typical point-and-shoot, but packs in a whole lot of features. The large 1" sensor remains the same, but even the bright lens has been improved this time around. It still starts out of a bright f1.8, but even when fully zoomed can still shoot at f2.8 (the older models hit f4.9), albeit with marginally less zoom. The RX100 II now includes a pop up viewfinder, and that back LCD screen now tilts. Full manual modes, RAW shooting and macro focusing as close as 5 cm are also included, plus there's still a control ring around the lens so actually using manual settings isn't a headache. And true to Sony's reputation, there's a solid 10 fps burst mode included as well. The downside? It's rather pricey, and doesn't have much zoom.
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Sony does a pretty good job of making budget mirrorless models without too many sacrifices. The Sony a5000 includes an APS-C sensor (that's the same size as in entry-level DSLRs) all in a package that weighs less than eight ounces. While it's quite tiny, Sony has still managed to include an autofocus with 25 points. The LCD screen tilts up to 180 degrees, and even wi-fi is included. That under-$500 budget price means there's no viewfinder and the burst mode is a bit slow at 4 fps, but the a5000 offers pretty solid performance for the price tag.
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- Fujifilm X-M1
Fujifilm makes an excellent line of mirrorless cameras, and the X-T1 is their top 2014 model, packed full of excellent features. At it's core is an APS-C sensor with Fujifilm's X-Trans design. While we haven't yet been able to conduct a full hands-on review of the X-T1, we've noted the X-Trans sensors produce excellent color and details on some of the brands smaller models. It's autofocus speeds hit up to .08 seconds, according to the manufacturer, and burst is a nice 8 fps. Fujifilm's excellent imaging technology is wrapped up in a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body that features an electronic viewfinder with focus highlight peaking and a 3" tilting LCD screen. Five mechanical dials make it easy to adjust the camera's manual modes and settings. If you're looking for a small camera that packs in the most talked about features of today's cameras, the Fujifilm X-T1 is it.
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Nikon has a solid history of entry-level DSLRS, and their 2014 model, the D3300, shows just how far even the most basic models have come. The D3300 features a 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor without the optical low pass filter--so images are quite detailed. That's paired with a EXPEED 4 processor that turns out a not-too-shabby 5 fps burst mode. As the cheapest model, the D3300 has an 11-point autofocus, fewer points than any of Nikon's more advanced models, but it's certainly sufficient. The guide mode on the D3300 is perfect for beginners using manual modes, but more advanced users that choose the D3300 for the price can skip it entirely and take advantage of features like RAW shooting. For just over $500, you get a large sensor and quite a bit of versatility. While it's certainly not as feature packed as some of the pricer models, the D3300 has a lot going for it.
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There's such a wide range of DSLR options that there's pretty much at least one for every type of shooter. Well, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II takes top honors in the intermediate category for one big reason--speed. Fast burst performance is harder to come by in DSLRs because the mirror has to move every time a picture is taken. The 10 fps burst speed that the 7D Mark II offers is quite unheard of and something sports shooters should take note of. It's paired with a 65-point autofocus system that will also come in handy for action shots. Equipped with manual modes that hit up to 1/8000 in shutter speed and 51200 in ISO, the 7D Mark II is an excellent option for enthusiasts. It doesn't have a full frame sensor, but that APS-C sensor helps the camera perform at those fast speeds.
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- Nikon D7100
The Nikon D4S is our highest rated DSLR, and for good reason. But it's also over $6,000. The Nikon D750 hits all the right marks for even pros yet comes in at a more affordable price. It's the first full frame DSLR to offer both a tilting LCD screen and built-in wi-fi, but still has professional level imaging power. Behind all that power is a 24.3 megapixel full frame sensor--it still keeps the optical low pass filter but should still translate into excellent image quality. It uses an EXPEED 4 processor and even has a faster burst speed than the pricier D810 at 6.5 fps. Despite all the power, it's lightweight considering the competition and has an excellent battery life that will get you over 1,200 shots per charge.
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