Camera of the Year 2016: Best Overall
posted Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 3:00 PM EDT
We test many good cameras and lenses over the course of a year, but each year some rise to the occasion of simply being outstanding in their class. Our Camera of the Year awards are a chance to let us showcase the cameras and lenses that really shined for us over the past year, and we're honored to give them the recognition they deserve with our Camera of the Year awards.
The bottom line is, we've tried to cull the best of the best for you from 2016, and we've decided to reverse the order for this year and start with our Best Overall camera models. It was a very difficult decision picking one above the others, and we feel that these three cameras deserve ample attention for our enthusiast audience. We therefore proudly present to you the "Best Overall" winners in Imaging Resource's Camera of the Year Awards of 2016!
(Stay tuned, as we'll be introducing four more Camera of the Year articles for the remaining categories across the coming weeks.)
Best Overall Cameras of 2016
What constitutes the Best Overall? We try and look at every angle possible. This includes the build quality, image quality, performance capabilities, special modes, video capabilities, advancements over the predecessor, the available lens selection and more. We then factor all of these criteria against the price and verses the current competition, debate the merits of each, and arrive at a decision. This year was a difficult one indeed, as all three cameras we chose to honor in our Best Overall competition have shined very brightly in both our lab and in our real world testing. Ultimately, we felt that one triumphed as the best camera for 2016 weighing all critical aspects, and it's a worthy camera indeed! But the two Cameras of Distinction listed here are equally deserving of your closer inspection depending on your needs, budget and shooting style.
So dive right in, and for further study of each model simply click the additional links to our full review content!
Camera of the Year, Best Overall: Olympus E-M1 Mark II
The mighty mirrorless reigns yet again! Following up on the major success of the original, the new Olympus E-M1 Mark II offers massive improvements to performance and AF capabilities as well as image quality and ergonomics to take the top spot as our 2016 Camera of the Year.
Olympus made a big splash with the original OM-D E-M1 back in 2013 -- compact, weather-sealed and packed with technology and horsepower. It was like a mini-DSLR, yet full-featured enough to suit professional and enthusiast photographers, or that was the idea anyway. While the E-M1 was rather groundbreaking in the amount of performance it offered in such a small size, it still fell short in a few areas, namely continuous autofocus, that really prevented it from taking the crown over DSLRs for professional work in areas like sports and wildlife.
Olympus took notice and really pulled out all the stops to pack in an impressive level of performance capabilities into this new model. Sporting a new 20MP sensor, vastly more on-chip AF points and an updated image processor with a *dual* quad-core design, the E-M1 II feels nimble and capable no matter what you’re photographing. With an entire quad core dedicated just to AF and the other to image processing, the camera can just chew through images shot after shot -- up to a whopping 60fps with S-AF with RAW! Continuous AF, more importantly, is just fantastic. In our testing, the E-M1 II was able to keep up with moving subjects nearly flawlessly, even at its fastest C-AF burst rate of 18fps.
Factoring in its other qualities, including up to Cinema 4K video recording; dual SD card slots; tons of external, customizable controls; and impressive battery life, the Olympus E-M1 Mark II is the compact, professional-level Micro Four Thirds camera we’ve been waiting for!
Camera of Distinction, Overall Achievement: Nikon D500
It was a long time coming, but the Nikon D300 successor finally arrived this year in the form of the Nikon D500. It doesn’t pack the most megapixels onto its APS-C sensor compared to some of Nikon’s other DX cameras, but it does offer impressive high ISO imaging performance, a reliable 153-point autofocus system and 10 frames per second continuous shooting, making it particularly well-suited to the most demanding photographers.
Like the D300 that matched the simultaneously-launched full-frame Nikon D3 in many ways, the D500 similarly mirrors the flagship D5, including its autofocus and metering systems. These internal features are matched by a rugged, comfortable camera body that includes numerous quality-of-use features such as a tilting touchscreen display and illuminated buttons. Not only that, it is one of the first Nikon DSLRs to include 4K UHD video recording and Nikon Snapbridge compatibility via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. We gave the Nikon D500 this award due to its impressive balance of imaging performance and speed. If you are looking for the ultimate sports and wildlife DSLR, you need not look further than the Nikon D500.
Camera of Distinction, Overall Achievement: Fuji X-T2
The Fuji X-T1 was a major offering from Fujifilm in 2014 with their first enthusiast-grade, DSLR-styled camera. It packed a lot of firepower and terrific image quality but lacked in a few key areas compared to its DSLR rivals of the day. With the improved X-T2, the Fujifilm engineering team has really stepped up their game and added some serious upgrades both internally and externally, bringing the camera line up from the enthusiast realm and into serious professional territory.
The new 24.3MP sensor and upgraded processor shared with its range-finder-styled brother, the X-Pro2, offer a serious boost to overall image quality including excellent high ISO performance that rivals or exceeds the best from the APS-C world. Performance has also been notably amped, scoring high marks from our test lab across the board as well as performing admirably in our Field Tests in the C-AF category for wildlife shooting. Add in the addition of 4K video and a battery "booster" grip (with 2 extra batteries!), and you have an enhanced professional arsenal at your disposal.
Rounding out those important internal factors are a truly superb build quality that we found could withstand the brute force of a hurricane, super-solid external controls that will thrill any fan of retro knobs and dials, and a line of excellent lenses covering all the key bases. The Fuji X-T2 is a truly exceptional camera and one that we've very much enjoyed our time with at IR.