The BEST CAMERA of 2021?

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2021 has been a crazy year in the photo industry. Despite the current world situation as well as both a chip shortage and supply problem, we’ve seen more cameras released this year than perhaps any other. 15 bodies in total from 9 camera companies. Nikon and Canon have officially entered the mirrorless game with the Z9 and R3 respectively to compete with the Sony A1.

Medium format is a thing for Fujifilm with 2 camera bodies introduced. If only you could buy them…

So what is my pick for the best camera of 2021? What does that even mean?

0:00 What does Camera of the Year mean?
1:25 The era of the $6000 camera
2:31 Why does everyone love the Sony A1?
4:08 Sony in 2001
4:31 Sony A1
5:06 Sony 50mm f/1.2 G Master
5:27 Three Compact Series G Lenses
5:44 Sony 14mm f/1.8 G Master
5:53 Sony ZV-E10
6:14 Sony A7 IV
6:55 Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 OIS II G Master
7:13 Fujifilm
7:22 GFX 100S
8:49 Panasonic
9:06 GH5 II
10:49 Panasonic f/1.8 Prime Lenses
11:01 Canon R3
12:20 Nikon Z9
13:25 Leica SL2-s
14:48 Hasselblad
16:09 Squarespace
17:34 Best Camera of 2021 is…
18:40 What is next in the camera industry?

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Ted Forbes
The Art of Photography
2830 S. Hulen, Studio 133
Fort Worth, TX 76109
US of A

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  • Fantastic video again Ted, Nikon mentioned in their latest earnings conference for investors that that have ceded ground at their low end (3000, 5000 series) to camera phones, so they know. My argument as a photographer is no camera phone includes inter-changeable lenses, essential for most pro's as even wedding photographers need that "bag of lenses" to get all the shots. As a landscape/macro shooter I need things that phones won't do so I sort of disagree but definitely can see where your coming from with your chioce.
    keep up the good work!

  • July 13, 2022
    Hi Ted,
    I just bought a Canon M50ii with the adaptor to use my Canon and Sigma lenses. The camera has a 24mgp sensor and I have really good lenses. I bought the camera for the purpose of vlogging and live streaming. The images and video are very good, for what I do, because my work is seen on small 8bit screens. I would recommend this camera to anyone.
    It records light and time. What the photographer gets out of the camera is dependent on their needs and ability to record light and time.

  • Great video Ted (as always), but I've seriously gone back to using my old Nikon D3. And my photos are soooooo special. 12.1mp and no video. But superb.

  • Watching this in 2022, and now being a MIrrorless camera owner, I still think that auto focus AI can be improved. Problem is that camera companies don't want to update their old cameras with AI firmware. They want to push the new models with faster AI Auto focus. Which for me personally needed for wild life photography.

  • The Pentax 67 is the King of cameras period.

  • I've got a Nikon 850D – great camera – but heavy, bulky. I carted it around the UK and Ireland in 2018, a lot of backpacking…. thinking I'd have been just as happy with the much lighter weight D7200. (key issues? stupid Nikon lens caps and hoods that always fall off, and always wanting a little wider or longer lens). But yeah I do use my iPhone far more often. Good point but in this video a bit of a cop out.
    I used to be a pro (I haven't charged anyone in ten years); I shot a lot of large format, 4×5 and 8×10, also 6×6 and 6×7 B&W (and hours weeks months… in the darkroom). The Nikon Z9 I predicted – probably as soon as I shot with a DX in about 2000 – so I think it was obvious – lose the mirror and internal glass. (As a long time pro I could always hold my Nikons over my head and get reasonably good framing; set up an 4×5 or 8×10 pretty close to where it needed to be, and rangefinders were always brighter – so faster, easier to point and manually focus (and the parallax almost never mattered). So that big chunk of glass and mirror mattered less than losing the weight and mechanical problems.)
    Also, trying to photograph bad actors with my iPhone 6s, I quickly realized I'd get more and better stills by shooting video – so that's where the motor-drive was headed. So Z9 300fps – I didn't think it would go that far this soon… I remember speaking with a guy in the 90s who was working with Panavision on the Red digital system replacement for film (The biggest issue was the huge amount of data coming from the sensor to storage – nothing could handle that). So I never realized a Sony-Canon-Nikon might start shooting feature films.
    So what would I like to see? The Z9 if it weighs even less than my D7200 (I've got more money than sense so lighter, smaller I'd be more likely to spend that money and carry it around). On the other end, I really want to see larger sensors. There is just so much about a larger format 'negative' that simply cannot ever be matched in a smart phone, or even 'full frame'. Every few years I check to see where large format sensors are at and how much they cost. Also how well they work. (If I have to cart multi pieces of heavy stuff, and then wait ten minutes while something happens… nah.) And here's the thing: that larger sensor doesn't have to be like 10 'DSLR' sensors butted together, it can be 40-50 megapixels. And should I just give up waiting for a digital sensor for my Pentax 6x7s? (I'm thinking that on my boat they might make pretty good dinghy anchors.) I guess I should've started this nonsense, "Dear Santa, "

  • People have not traveled much in the last 3 years, and have more discretionary funds to purchase a $6k camera.

  • I am still using Sony A6000 & see no reason to upgrade !

  • Oh my, we are on the same wavelength. You asked for our criteria – what do we need? I need a camera that makes me giggle. I have the 13 Pro Max. I've used it for theater, portraits, real estate, music, and so on and on. It is a magnificent photo-video-audio beast. I have to say, though, that it doesn't have top-end giggles. Ah, the Fujifilm X-E3. Humpless cameras have more giggle – they are simply more fun to use. Yet in the late 1990s I had the top-end Nikon F4 and it had lots of giggles – it was just SO competent. It did everything well, and it was strangely inconspicuous, thanks I suspect to the sound of the shutter which was an amplified version of the Leica "flllllt!" I could wander in tight crowds with a 20mm and bang away with the big honking F4 and nobody would notice. Weird. I have a Canon 6D and it is competent but it doesn't giggle much – it's like Mom's 10-year-old Honda SUV. The Fujifilm X-T20 was excellent but less giggly than the X-E2 and the 18-55 which were big giggles to shoot with.

  • About the lack of "photographer" input for camera design, as far as I know, that is not true. At least it was definitely not true back around 1990's. I doubt if it has changed since then. If you get to know the people near the head offices, you find out that the camera companies tend to have camera clubs. Their employees take pictures. You might not like a particular aspect of a particular camera, but it was mulled over by people who take pictures. They have engineering degrees (not many business degrees in Japan), they are not "professional photographers". But they take pictures. This is the real reason why most camera companies are still in Japan. In Japan, they take pictures.

  • In my opinion and something that could last forever and change the game, would be a fujifilm x100 series with full frame, ibis. That would be bonkers

  • i've just got back to my original 5D

  • It does not matter to me what the best camera of 2021 is, because the best camera for me is the one I already have. Spending more money, or changing to a different brand is not going to affect my photos one iota. What would change my photos would be more lenses; wider, longer, faster. But even then, lenses aren't going to magically makes my photos better; I still need to work on my skills.

  • one shot HDR photographs. which will require quad bayer sensors like phone's.

  • Good words Ted… just rewatched this one 🤠

  • What we need today from photographers and photography? ….
    The answer is in your YouTube name.

    We need the art of photography. Bring the art back, let's stop talking about tools for a moment and start talking about the result, the art, the romance.

    I couldn't tell you when the last time I looked at an image and went "wow, that is photography"

    Anyways that was my 2 cent.

    Keep up the great work.

  • I totally agree with you on the technological apex point. One thing I'd like to bring up that you didn't mention is the rapid improvement of AI enhancement algorithms, which, in my opinion, has made small-sensor cameras more viable than even before. I've been shooting a lot of personal work on my Sony Rx100 III (which is almost ten years old!!), and thanks to the new enhance feature on Lightroom, I can make huge prints of those files that look great.

    With that in mind, what I want to see from new cameras is better ergonomics. I would love to see a shift away from specs, and back toward usability and design. I would love to see a camera with similar specs to say, the a7III, but that just feels absolutely perfect in my hands, that I don't need to buy a grip for, that has a button layout that I can use with my eyes closed, smaller autofocus lenses that don't totally defeat the purpose of buying a more compact camera. I love my RX100 (with a smallrig grip) because of its supreme usability and compact design. That's the kind of camera I want more of.

  • To answer your question, and I think I'm pretty much in the minority here,what I would like to see is less technical stuff and a more intuitive way of taking photographs. We're starting to hit our heads on the ceiling of technology in terms of speed, focus, lenses etc. But I truly wish I didn't need to think about ISO, f-stop and all the other technical details. I usually have an idea of what I want to capture in my head. Instead of dialing in all the techical settings to try and capture the image I'm imagining, I would truly love to work with a device that is more an extension of me rather than a machine I use to take photoagraphs. I'm sure there must be others out there that feel the same way. In simple terms, I would like to "describe"what I want to achieve and let the camera handle the details. Great video BTW.

  • thanks for this video, ted. i just got rid of plenty of modern digital gear last year for a simple Leica M6 and haven’t looked back. i did just get a 5d mk ii for any digital that i NEED to shoot. this all taught me that we really don’t need much in the way of technology to make photos we’re happy with

  • Absolutely, Ted.
    I find it bizarre that we still think about the iPhone as a phone. Apple spends billions a year on R&D and I'll wager that not one cent is on phone call quality.

    It's not a phone with a camera stuck to it, it''s a great image making machine which also takes occasional phone calls.

  • I want the hybrid OVF/EVF in the x100v in the Leica M cameras.

  • great and very realistic take

  • I really like the tactile feel of manual focus but I do like to switch up my gear every couple of years But stick with vintage lenses

  • Agree. Still happy with my m240 and 50lux asph. My favourite combo for 2021

  • Just saw this literally after commenting to a friend that I saw no reason to upgrade my Fuji X-E3. I LOVE it. I don't shoot video so it totally works for me.

  • I still haven't found a need to move away from micro four thirds – I am just a keen amateur photographer and haven't found any reason yet to upgrade.

  • Agreed, Ted. (I started with film in 1975.) and we're all spoiled. So much great, easy-to-use gear today that makes many parts of the process easier.

  • The best camera is the one you have with you when the shot is there.

  • Coming from Nikon, I bought last year a new Fuji X-E4. My motivation were the Fuji film simulations and as a photographer, the way I can save custom recipes with special white balance interpretations plus the film simulations is the big game changer. I hardly spend any time anymore in Pixelmator (or Lightroom, but try to avoid it because of the subscription model) and just finish my work with the excellent JPEGs of this camera. Not even close to an iPhone. I would love to see even more manual options in camera for light and colour interpretation and these seem to me the most valuable features.

  • iphone camera is still 12 MP … for real photos that will age well it's just for amateur shit

  • gfx…..I have for the first time stopped looking at other cameras….I have no more excuses.

  • I remember when I bought my D700 brand new, people were saying "this camera is perfect – it has everything you could want in a camera." I still have it and love it, but I think the greatest advancements that have just about peaked now are low light low noise sensors, and they have all become video cameras – something I've never used.
    Thanks for your great content. 🙏🏽

  • There’s a case for micro four-thirds if you shootin the birds. I started shooting film in the early 2000s when a friend sold me his old Nikon film equipment. Shot with it for maybe 8 years until processing the film became too laborious and I quit. Recently bought an old D300 and love the pictures it takes. It was an $1800 camera body when I was shooting film and I got it for $220 with shipping. The camera quality is good enough for me. I’ve been reading a bit about the advances in camera technology and I would like 1080p video, focus peaking, and in body image stabilization. Maybe my next camera will be the Z5 or the X-H1. I certainly don’t need a camera better than that.

  • Great video! I agree about iPhone 13 Pro Max! Wish Canon would work on computed photography like Apple has. Imagine a Canon that could give you the Super HDR features of iPhone with interchangeable lenses. Would have to be one hell of a processor to deal with larger files. No doubt Apple chips will be capable of this soon.

  • what do I need? My beloved X-T2 and a really interesting subject…

  • 1) Like for the Fujifilm X-E3.
    2) I hate to take pictures with a phone. No matter the IQ, phones are not designed to take pictures, ergonomics are terrible.
    3) I didn't buy any camera last year (2021). Or the previous one. I'm saving for an MF camera. F*** all the features, just give me a good sensor and amazing glass and I'm good…

  • I do not think it is the photographer. You can have the greatest photographer and the greatest electronic device. I think you were close to the one missing link. That is the interface between the two. That is why cell phone cameras are so popular. All of us are not the greatest photographers and we can not afford or have no need for the greatest electronic device. What we need as an average photographer is a device we can easily use. No guessing where to find a setting or which button or dial was set to do a function. Maybe, as you mentioned, we should hold on to our equipment for a longer period of time so, we can have a familiarity or mussel memory developed over time. I feel that photography should be an expression of yourself and not that of a electronic devise. The camera is the tool we use and should not have the priority for expression. You asked!

  • Panasonic are always hunting for focus, whilst Sony are just killing it 🤣

    On a serious note, I hope that Sony and others release a cheaper way in to full frame.
    The A7III and A7c are still way more, almost twice as expensive as the (discontinued?) A7II

    I would like to see a 24MP retro styled A6?
    One version with flip up/down, and one more vlog style type, with the flip out style screen.
    Both with more modern displays and sensor, then the really old A7II and A7III.

  • Totally agree with your closing comments, I think the best camera of the year is the one you pick up without thinking and shoot. Yes medium format is amazing when printed and IBIS and 5 axis stabilization is great, BUT, if you don't use it then it's not great. The camera should be an extension of your mind's eye. I want a camera which makes it easy to reproduce what I see, I don't care if thats an S21, an instamatic or a Hasselblad (ok yes I do care about the HB) but it's got to be part of me and work with me. Look forward to more in 2022. Thanks for another year of inspiration.

  • A year ago I wouldn't have called myself a photographer. I got into photography in March deciding to go with a Canon M50. I quickly wanted another camera. Not because I was unhappy with the M50, but because I had ideas that required multiple cameras. Sadly, most photography videos I watch that talks about gear only takes about Full Frame. I think because that was all I was hearing about, I wanted my next camera to be the R6 (R5 is way to rich for my blood, R6 too but I have ways to pay for a R6 and buy nothing else for two years…). I talked myself out of wanting to get a RP because on paper I see it mostly as a downgrade, eventhough getting an upgrade was not the reason I intially wanted a second camera.

    I'm quite happy with my M50. If I could get my wish for what I truly want for my next camera, it would be another Canon APC with R6 like tech. At some point I want to get FF just so I can get a feels for taking pictures with one. But I think I would be happier staying with APCs and getting better lens for them.

  • Thx for the video and sharing your opinion. What I would like to see really in the camera market is a camera that I can customize by myself and to select the features and components that I like and that would’ve based on preference. 😇

  • i disagree regarding bringing photographers onto camera maker staffing. instead what they need to do is what you illustrated with I Phone 13. Camera makers need to integrate AI more into their products…'s still a major hassle to upload from your camera directly to the web, all the Apps they make are garbage. that alone would be a huge improvement and might even bring some people back from smartphones. and a lot of other AI features could be added. nope. they just don't listen. and their sales continue to shrink. gh6 just got delayed again. suxx

  • For me it made sense to upgrade, when I was professional 9 years ago. Now retired, I still use my old pro cameras. After all, the best software is behind the camera, and it can be biological upgraded with knowledge continuously. That said. Who doesn't want the latest super camera.
    Superb review. Happy New Year.

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