Imaging Resource Camera of the Year 2021: Reader’s Choice Award
posted Friday, November 19, 2021 at 1:00 PM EST
Last year, we introduced a Reader's Choice award into our Camera of the Year Awards repertoire, giving you all a say in what you consider the year's best camera. The response we received was very positive, and so we've conducted a reader poll once again this year. A few weeks back we opened up the voting booth and asked for your pick as to which model was the best camera of the year.
In the running this year, we had several high-end models from nearly every major camera manufacturer. From the folks at Fujifilm, we had the high-resolution yet compact GFX 100S. Sony managed to hop on the list with two entries, the flagship Alpha 1 and the versatile A7 IV enthusiast model. Nikon, too, doubled up on our poll entries, with the Z7 II and Z6 II full-frame cameras (although both of these cameras were technically announced in 2020, we were unable to review them before for our 2020 award deadline; we reviewed them both in 2021). Next, we have the refreshed Panasonic GH5 II video powerhouse, and finally, the Pentax K-3 III, Ricoh's long-awaited update to their popular flagship APS-C DSLR line. These are all excellent cameras, each of which took home an award in their respective categories.
Now it's time to see which camera takes home the prize! The votes have been tallied, and wow, did you all come out to have your say! Much like last year, the response to the poll was amazing, with an impressive number of votes cast and with entries from nearly 70 countries and regions around the world!
So, without further ado, let's see what rose to the top of the ballot boxes...
Reader's Choice, Third Place: Pentax K-3 III
This was a rather unexpected camera to see rise towards the top of our Reader's Choice poll, but we are pleased to see the Pentax K-3 III get a podium spot! Given the explosion of mirrorless cameras across the industry, it feels easy to forget about the tried-and-true DSLR. Pentax, meanwhile, is determined to remind photographers of the strengths of the DSLR camera, and with their latest APS-C camera, they opted to upgrade this flagship DSLR both on the inside and out. Pentax fans are a devoted bunch, and for good reason. Pentax DSLRs are excellent cameras, featuring great image quality, extremely durable and weather-sealed construction and the K-mount lens systems allow Pentax DSLRs to use an extensive catalog of lenses both new and old.
The K-3 III, in particular, is a long-awaited update to the popular predecessor model from 2015. Featuring a new sensor, upgraded AF with more AF points and better performance as well as a significantly improved optical viewfinder experience. The camera performs well, offers excellent image quality, plus the pleasing ergonomics, controls and crisp, large optical viewfinder that DSLR fans appreciate. Overall, the Pentax K-3 III is an excellent example of a modern DSLR camera and one that focuses on the strengths of a DSLR-style camera. The K-3 III earned a pick as a Camera of Distinction for our Enthusiast Crop-Sensor Camera category, and it seems that a good number of you all also want to show this DSLR some love!
Reader's Choice, Second Place: Fujifilm GFX 100S
Ah, it appears many of you are fond of Fujifilm and many, many megapixels! That's excellent because we are, too! Coming in second place in our Reader's Choice Poll is the 102-megapixel Fujifilm GFX 100S. Sporting the same impressive 100+ megapixel medium-format sensor as the big GFX 100 camera squeezed into a smaller, non-vertical-gripped body that's about the same size of a full-frame DSLR, the new GFX 100S is an all-around outstanding camera if you care about image quality first and foremost. But, unlike most traditional medium-format cameras, the GFX 100S is small, portable and weather-sealed. Plus, it features a hybrid AF system with phase-detect AF, in-body image stabilization and 4K video.
The GFX 100 was a downright impressive camera in 2019, but the GFX 100S feels even more impressive because it offers the same outstanding imaging performance in a smaller size and at a more palatable price point. It can more easily go places and shoot subjects not typically feasible with bulkier, slower medium-format cameras. It's still expensive, don't get us wrong. But $6,000 is better than original GFX 100's $10,000 starting price. Simply put, the Fuji GFX 100S is the best medium-format camera of 2021. It's a camera that brings amazing medium-format image quality within reach of many more photographers.
Reader's Choice, First Place: Sony A1
And here we are folks. The First Place winner of our Reader's Choice poll: The Sony Alpha 1. Given how consistently popular the Sony A1 has been on our site, as well as across the web, we can't say we're too shocked to see the A1 ascend to the top of the results in our reader poll. There is a lot of hype around Sony's flagship mirrorless camera, and fortunately, the A1 lives up to that hype.
Packed with a 50MP stacked full-frame sensor, up to 30fps continuous shooting, amazing autofocus tracking and 8K video as well as comfortable ergonomics and excellent user customization, the Sony A1 really feels like a "Swiss Army knife" in camera form. It has the features and capabilities to fit nearly any kind of image creator or tackle almost any subject matter. It has the resolution for detail-oriented subjects and also great high ISO performance. Plus, despite the megapixel count, its fast processor and sensor design let it shoot incredibly quickly, making it highly capable for sports, action and wildlife pursuits. On the video side, its 8K and 4K video modes as well as long continuous recording abilities make it a versatile tool for serious video creators.
This camera has all the bells and whistles and the best technology and features Sony has to offer in their mirrorless cameras. Much like the second-place pick, the Sony A1 is quite a pricey camera, coming in at around $6500 body-only. Nonetheless, the Sony A1 is an incredible camera and one worthy of recognition.
Thanks very much for your votes, photo world!
-The IR Editorial Team
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Check out our other 2021 Camera of the Year Awards