What’s Your Favourite Camera?

Like many photographers I’ve used different types of camera gear including APS-C and full frame Nikon DSLRs, a brief flirtation with M4/3, Nikon 1, and bridge cameras. I thought it would be interesting to ask readers a simple question, “What’s your favourite camera?”

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 32mm f/1.2, efov 86.4mm, f/1.2, 1/320, ISO-160

To get the ball rolling it would be prudent to answer that question on a personal basis. For me, the clear choice is the Nikon 1 J5. I have not had as much fun with any other camera that I’ve ever owned. I recently added a third Nikon 1 J5 camera body to my kit for that reason.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/15, ISO-160

I originally dismissed the Nikon 1 J5 out-of-hand when it was first introduced because it didn’t have an EVF. The logical question is –  What changed my mind?

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/8, 1/50, ISO-400

Well, I discovered that not having an EVF wasn’t nearly as big a deal as I originally thought it would be. Within a week of getting my first J5 it felt comfortable and natural to use it. Unless I’m photographing birds-in-flight, I don’t even think about using an EVF when composing images any more. In fact, I’ve grown to prefer using the rear, tilting screen on the Nikon 1 J5 rather than use a V-Series body.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 12.1mm, efov 32.7mm, f/8, 1/60, ISO-800

What about the Nikon DSLRs that I used to own? Absolutely fantastic cameras to be sure. Fun to use? Not really. My DSLRs were little more than tools for work. I was always 100% confident that I could point them at virtually anything and get a usable image. For some reason they always felt like they were an impediment to the creative process.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 51mm, efov 137.7mm, f/8, 1/100, ISO-3200, extension tubes

My M4/3 flirtation? The Panasonic GH4 was a superb camera, especially on paper. I found it frustrating to use. RAW files were erratic and the auto-focusing wasn’t even close to any of my Nikon 1 cameras in terms of speed and accuracy. And, I found out that I hated the 4×3 format.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO-800

Why is the Nikon 1 J5 my favourite camera? I love how it feels in my hands and how it performs ergonomically. Basic external body controls for shutter speed, aperture and ISO are ideally placed. Setting a single AF point is easily done and provides lots of creative latitude.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 32mm f/1.2, efov 86.4mm, f/1.2, 1/250, ISO-160

The Nikon 1 J5 is small, intuitive and enables my creativity. The RAW files are superior to my V-Series cameras. More dynamic range and colour depth – nothing like my Nikon DSLRs – but certainly acceptable for my needs.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/16, 1/2, ISO-160

The auto-focus is fast and accurate. The camera is wonderful for close-up photography when equipped with extension tubes and the 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6.

Above all else, the Nikon 1 J5 is unassuming, impish, and impetuous all at the same time. So, what’s your favourite camera?

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. Images were created from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11, CS6, and the Nik Collection.

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29 thoughts on “What’s Your Favourite Camera?”

  1. I love my Nikon V1, although I’m conflicted about spending more money on a system which seems to be in limbo.

    You make an interesting point about the viewfinder. I’ve found that using a rear screen (even a smartphone) proves problematic in bright sunshine. That’s why I tend to go with viewfinder only cameras.

    1. Hi Mark,
      Thanks for adding to the discussion! Many folks share your concerns regarding not having a viewfinder the problem of using a screen in bright sunlight. The flip screen does help quite a bit.
      Tom

    2. The J5 can be had new on ebay for $260 right now. If you then turn around and sell the 10-30 PD zoom that comes with it (or if you don’t have that lens, your other 10-30 that came with the V1) on Ebay you are really looking at a super deal for a camera that has a much improved sensor over the V1.

  2. Hi Tom
    Your photos with various N1 cameras and lenses demonstrate that this system can deliver excellent quality under almost arbitrary conditions. If we remember, how restricted the light conditions have been with traditional film based cameras and what kind of excellence has been achieved by photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston, Robert Capa, Werner Bischof and many others, we can conclude, that those photo artists would have been thrilled by the qualities of N1. I think, your many photo essays are proof of this conclusion.

    Back to the original question: I am using a V3 with 10-100mm PD zoom for video and photography, 18.5mm, 32mm, 10-30mm, both PD and VR, FT-1 with 58mm f/1.4 G, 70-200mm f/4.0 VR. Other favorites of mine are the D810 and for sports the D3s.

    My wife uses J5. It is the first camera that she likes very much (better than D70, Fuji X100 or Nikon V1). AF via the touch screen is very helpful.

    1. Hi Rudolf,
      Thanks for adding further to the discussion! Your reminder about the restrictions photographers faced when shooting with film is instructive. While some folks loved the film days, I would never want to go back!
      Tom

  3. Hi Tom,

    My favorite camera is the one I’m using and giving me the results I like — that is a Nikon camera. I understand what you were saying about a camera being an extension of yourself and your creativity.

    I toyed around with Canon in the past but Nikon, I guess, is more aligned to the colors, the interface, the intuitiveness that I like so I guess it’s just a matter of personal preference — to each his own.

    I’ve used Nikon DSLRs (D70, D80, D200, D300, D800, D7100) to date plus two Coolpix cameras (5100, B700) and while there are differences here and there in features and user interface, these tools have given me the consistency of results as well as ease of use I want to make each an extension of myself in expressing my creative intent.

    Oggie

    1. Hi Oggie,
      Thanks for sharing your experiences with various cameras! I find it interesting how we can gravitate towards a particular brand of camera. While I’ve owned a couple of digital cameras from other brands, I’ve always liked Nikon colours in digital files the best.
      Tom

  4. I have multiple “favorites” for different purposes, though, if I had to choose one it would be the Nikon D750. The camera is a great fit for my large hands, is ergonomically sound and produces great raw material to work with even without a flsh. Great all around camera.
    Then I use the Nikon D600 cc0nverted for Infrared – special purpose use.
    I also have a pair of Nikon1 J3s with the WP-N2 housing for underwater work. Great balance of cost and quality.
    Then there is the Nikon1 J5, which I also love as an unobtrusive, but good quality, walking around camera. Where I live/work, in Saudi Arabia, it is best to have an unobtrusive camera for “walking around” photography and this fits the bill. It is also grat with the FT-1 adapter for long range telephoto with my full frame lenses (2.7x crop factor) and with the 40mm DX macro lens and with extension tubes for close-up work.
    In other words, pick the right tool for the job.
    Still, if forced to cut back to one camera, it would be the D750.

  5. I like all my cameras (having too many) and the favorites change over time and I often come back to a camera I haven’t used for a while and then it may become the current favorite.

    However, one camera stands out and that is the Coolpix A, which has stunning IQ even here 4.5 years after its release. Brilliant for light travelling and hiking.

    My D500 equipped with the 16-80 mm f/2.8-4.0 or the 35 mm f/1.8 almost instantly became one of my favorites. It is just a superb camera with a great grip.

    I also really like the V3 for its build quality and design and the IQ can be fantastic if the light is there (which is the case for the V1 too). The J5 is also a ultra portable camera with great image quality and a joy too use with “touch to focus and shoot” from the waist.

    I agree on the 4/3 cameras and really don’t like that format except for portrait mode.

  6. My favourite camera is my Nikon Coolpix A. Its my go anywhere holiday/people/landscape camera. It is stunningly sharp and produce fantastic images. I also love my CX70-300 lens for wildlife which at the moment is teamed up with a 2nd hand V1. I am interested in trying it with a J5 but I’m waiting to see what happens with the N1 line before I go ahead and buy yet another camera.
    Recently I have enjoyed shooting with the little known Sealife DC2000. This little beauty is a fully rugged, waterproof camera with a Sony 1″ sensor and a lovely fixed 31mm f1.8 lens. Its also very small and I’m happy to walk around with that as my only camera at times. I very much enjoy your website so keep up the good work.

  7. My preferred camera vor HD video is the Nikon V3.
    I am extremely impressed with its HD video quality. I am using it with the 10-100mm PD zoom, which can be controlled remotely with the Camera Control Pro2 software even for zooming. This is particularly useful, as I mount the camera on a gimbal for stabilization (Zhiyun Crane V2) and do not have to touch the camera or lens while filming. The video quality has been demonstrated by the Nice Lady Productions, in particular the absence of Moiré
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eOso9zsSes&t=10s).
    If someone is interested, I may write a blog, how this is all done.

    1. The 10-100mm PD zoom has the unusual property of essentially maintaining its center of gravity during zooming. This is particularly welcome when it is used on a gimbal as the camera and lens remain balanced during zooming. In this respect, the 10-100mm PD zoom may be unique in the range of consumer optics.
      The remote zoom control with Nikon’s CCPro2 software is only available on the V3. This is only badly documented. I found it out by a systematic search.

  8. I have owned more cameras than I will admit (or perhaps can even remember). Once I decided to try digital for serious work, I started with a D90 (and ended up owning two of these for a while). I have also owned a D700, D3X (which for many years was my favorite), a D7000, D7100, D7200, D3S, D800E, D810 and a D500 (along with a few others either owned or tried). I still own two Nikon 1 J5s, and have owned (and since sold) both a V2 and a V3.

    At this time the D810 is my favorite. I recently bought a Tamron 45 f/1.8 VC lens, to use as a dedicated walk-around lens for this camera. I used this combo as my main setup for pictures at a Civil War reenactment (the camp, people and things). For the actual “battle” I switched to a Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 lens. Pictures can be seen at: https://500px.com/qvphoto

    While I like the J5s for some things, in my hands they just feel a little small, and the ergonomics just don’t work out for me as well as using FX equipment. Perhaps too many years of shooting sports in low/poor light with large lenses.

  9. Especially with digital, I find I develop more emotional attachment to lenses than to cameras, so my favorite camera is the one that best allows me to use my favorite lenses. Which lenses these are varies over time, but typically they cover 35mm format, have manual focusing, and often a Nikon F-Mount. But there might also be a range-finder lens or something with yet another mount.

    It follows that at the moment my favorite camera is a Sony A7R2. I do have an emotional attachment to Nikon, and I would love them to release a mirrorless camera that’s an even better fit for my needs, but my hopes are not high. Usability with old lenses can’t be that high on a marketings departments list.

    1. Hi Christoph,
      Thanks for adding the point about the importance of lenses! That may make for another interesting topic, although it would be much harder to pick a single favourite lens!
      Tom

  10. Hi Tom
    Sadly enough, I have more than one:
    I am absolutely at ease with V3. I love even the reassuring sound of its release… It is always in my bag and comes with me everywhere I might go. It encourages to take pictures spontanaeously, which is very valuable for me.
    I am trying to connect with J5, because of better files (noise), but I still have some barrier (bad eyesight) because of the missing EVF. In sunny conditions, I have to carry my Hoodman with me and it is dangling on my chest and is getting constantly in the way.
    When it comes to planned shooting, I take FF with me. Lots of very “good pixels” (noise!!!), possibility to blow it up, etc. I often play with tilt and shift lenses and – at present anyway – I am stitching like mad. Big stuff needs big negatives 😉 It is fascinating to be able to see so much detail on a slope of a mountain for instance.
    Having/using more than one camera is not always a good thing though: I am not a very quick learner and tend to forget my defaults. As soon as I use predominantly only one camera, the problem vanishes. This might happen after an hour, maybe even sooner, I do not know exactly, but yes, it is an impediment.

  11. I don’t have a favorite camera. Or, put another way, whatever camera I’m using is my favorite. This evening it was two in separate shoots: the Olympus Pen F and the Fuji X100F. I love my Nikon 1 v. 2, when I’m using it. I especially love the two lenses I have for it, the two zooms. I have a Sony A7ii. It produces amazing images, especially when used in conjunction with Capture One. But it’s slow and feels cumbersome even if it isn’t really. I seldom use it. No fun. But when I am using it, I think of the stunning files I’ll see when I open the photos on my iMac; and for those moments, it’s my favorite camera. Were I to get a Leica Q (!), I’m sure it would be my favorite camera when it was in my hands, as it was the other day in the S.F. Leica Store. How can you have one favorite camera?

    1. Hi Bill,
      Thanks for sharing your perspectives and your experiences with various cameras. Unlike your experiences, I have seldom been able to make a creative connection with the camera gear that I’ve owned. Most of it got in the way of my creativity rather than facilitating it. As a format, Nikon 1 is the only one that has reached that level with me and the J5 does that best of the five models I’ve owned. That’s why it is my clear favourite.
      Tom

  12. Enjoy your work. I now depend on my N1V3 and V1 for all my work. I’m a retired surgeon and supported myself with photography thru most of school using 4×5 graphics for local studios and wedding photographers. The N1 cameras are a breath of fresh air. I photograph gardens for horticultural organizations and have no issues with quality. I make 13×19 prints with no issues. Other than the 10/30 and 30/100 my main lens is the Nikor 60macro with the adapter. Occasionally my Nikor 70-200. Everything fits in a small bag that I hardly notice.

    1. Hi Jerry,
      Thanks for sharing your experiences! When I had an FT-1 adapter I tried using the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 macro that I owned at the time. I found that the lens felt way too heavy on a V2. My V2 also struggled a lot to find focus with that particular lens. How do you find the 60mm macro in terms of size/weight and auto-focus performance?
      Tom

  13. I committed to Sony APS when the Nex-7 was released, 2012 by recollection. It was a great relief after a Nikon D50 followed by a D7000. This is the same as the difference between a rangefinder Leica and a Nikon FTN. The smaller one is with you, the larger one stays home, useless.

    As learned from Tom Stirr’s posts, I carry three bodies, each with a different lens. Used Nex-7 bodies in fine condition are now cheap. When one Nex-7 became electrically damaged by moisture (can still use it with manual lenses), I purchased an a6500, weather sealed + other improvements. It is now my favorite.

    Fuji X-T2 came along later. It has nice build but is heavier and larger.

    Nikon-1 came of age later, too, good system, especially for long telephoto.

    In agreement with Tom, I need tilt screens. To frame a flower up close, near ground, I am not going to lie prone in mud or poison ivy. But unlike Tom, I’ve found I must have an EVF for outdoors in bright light, for instance on snow or ice.

    With large investment in Sony lenses, I am staying with the Sony APS system. Favorite is the Sony/Zeiss 24/f1.8. To cover needs usually also carry a body w/ Sony 10-18/f4 and Sony 18-105/f4 G, both very light weight and very sharp.

    When really serious about macro, choose either the Zeiss 50/2.8 macro or a 1986 Minolta Maxxum 100/f2.8 macro with Sony full function alpha to E mount adapter.

    For night sky there is the Samyang 12/f2 manual.

    Soon to add the Sony 70-200/f4 and 1.4x teleconverter.

    My bag, with three cameras w/ lenses, is lighter than those of others who carry a huge FF DSLR + selection of lenses. Nor need I change lenses in the field, so sensors stay clean.

    Ideally I’d have several a6500 bodies, but my older Nex-7 produce same images and are still fun to use, second favorite.

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