Top 12 Cameras of All Time [2006]

... A Photo Enthusiast's Perspective

Feel free to disagree with me but this is the top 12 cameras of all time from the perspective of this photo/camera enthusiast.  What would make  your list?  Add your opinion to the comments. The cameras are listed in roughly chronological order:

Kodak Box Brownie - Before the Brownie photography was the exclusive preserve of the rich.  Eastman made a cumbersome, technical, expensive process available to just about anyone.  Before the 1900 launch of the brownie, Eastman had been lowering the entry point for amateur photographers with the introduction of daylight loading, roll film and folding vest cameras, but the Brownie cost $1 and used film that cost 15c.  No focusing or pesky shutter speeds and apertures to deal with, simply press the button and we'll (Kodak) do the rest.

Leica II - Leica's importance in the history of cameras is undeniable but why the II not the I?  The II was the first real 35mm system and it introduced the rangefinder as the focusing mechanism. The Germans reigned supreme until the Japanese revolution at the end of the 60's when they forgot how to innovate and never caught up again.

Argus AArgus A - The Leica I was all well and good if you had money to burn. The Argus A was the American Leica I for those of more limited means but it is probably THE camera that ensured the success of the 35mm format. It had a collapsible lens like the Leica and resembled the Leica in many ways at first glance.  However, the A's body was Bakelite (the first plastic camera?) among other innovations.


Argus C3Argus C3 - The brick, as it was/is affectionately named, carried on the A's tradition of democratizing Leica's technology in an affordable, reasonably spec'd camera.  One of the best selling cameras of all time, the C3 introduced interchangeable lens and rangefinder focusing to the mass American audience. Although targeted directly at the enthusiast the C3 was, nevertheless, capable of very professional results.

Nikon F - Before the Nikon F, the professional standard for a photo-journalists 35mm camera was an expensive, German rangefinder. The F proved that Japan was now an innovator rather than a cheap copyist.  SLR technology had come of age; the F was built like a beautiful tank proving itself reliable and rugged. Still, if you want to look like a war photographer you should pick up an old F.

OM1Olympus OM1 - Japanese 35mm SLRs had proved their metal but they were much more bulky than the old German rangefinders. The OM1 elegantly slimmed down the SLR's profile with a more architectural aesthetic rather than its forerunner's industrial designs without sacrificing any durability or features. The OM system was the system of choice for many photo-journalists, travel photographers and scientific (especially astrological and macro) photographers.

Canon AE1 - The first camera with an embedded micro-computer; either the beginning of the end or the start of a revolution depending upon your point of view.

Pentax K1000Pentax K1000 - Not innovative, especially well featured or pretty the K1000 still makes my list.Why? Because it is the camera a generation or two of professional and enthusiast photographers learnt their craft/art on. It's lack of pretension and unnecessary features allowed/allows a student to learn photography without the camera getting in the way. It was the required camera for many college-level photography classes.

Olympus XA & XA2Olympus XA - a fully-featured 35mm rangefinder in a pocket able, cam-shell case - the influence of the XA is hard to miss in all point-and-shoot designs that followed. It became the pocket camera for professionals and enthusiasts while the consumer-orientated XA2 sold in even greater numbers to those less concerned with rangefinder focusing and exposure control..


Minolta 7000Minolta 7000 - Minolta was something of an also-ran until the auto focus revolution. While Nikon, Canon and Olympus ummed and ahhed Minolta steamed ahead with the first in-body, auto focus SLR. For a few years, in the 80's, Minolta out sold everyone else combined in the 35mm SLR market as they were the only game in town with a full auto focus 35mm system. Beyond auto focus the 7000 set the trends, features and aesthetics for the plastic-wonderkind camera. In an age when many cameras still were made from brass, chrome and leather the angular, plastic 7000 looked positively space-age.

2000zNikon Coolpix 950 / Olympus C-2000Z - Two of the first 2 megapixel, zoom lens cameras available for under a thousand dollars; they add fuel to the digital revolution fire. It was the end of the millennium and these were the first digital cameras that enthusiasts could afford with image quality and features sufficient to contemplate moving from film. They sold very well and set the standard and format for all digicams that followed.


Canon Digital Rebel - At a time when the cheapest digital SLR was priced around $3000 Canon launched the 300D for less than $1000 with a kit lens. Digital photography enthusiasts quickly moved from high-end digital point-and-shoots to the Digital Rebel and its equivalents from Nikon, Minolta, Olympus and Minolta. Enthusiasts reclaimed SLR flexibility with consumer DSLRs becoming the fastest growing segment of the camera industry.

Article created in response to Problogger's Lists writing project.


I still wish for that Canon ;).

Posted by: MamaDuck at August 18, 2006 6:10 AM

I think the Rolleiflex TLR and the Speed Graphic 4x5 have had a grater impact on history-making pictures than any of those point-n-shoots you got on that list.

Posted by: tuco at May 28, 2009 10:55 AM
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