The 50 Greatest Cameras of All Time

Chris Dodkin

West Coast Correspondent
The 50 Greatest Cameras of All Time

Photography Monthly has a great article listing their 50 greatest cameras of all time - it's few years old now, but so are most of the cameras listed!


Makes for great reading - and it's good to check one or two off the list - or more in the case of some forum members I'm sure.

50 Greatest Cameras of All Time

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 50 Nikon 1 series (Nikon V1 and Nikon J1)
Perhaps the most controversial camera on this list, the Nikon 1 cameras – the Nikon V1 and Nikon J1 – mark Nikon’s first venture into the CSC market, and as one would expect the company spent considerable time and energy getting it right. What we have as a result is a small, compact body with incredible speed – 60fps continuous shooting speed, 10fps speed in AF mode and it can process images at 600 megapixels per second. We believe Nikon has set the bar here, and several years for now we’ll look back to the V1 and J1 as turning points as we do a number of the other cameras on this list.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 49 Nikon D300s
Another big favourite with our readers. The D300S is a 12.3 megapixel DX format model launched in 2009. It replaced the D300 as Nikon’s DX format flagship DSLR by adding HD video recording (with autofocus). It has similarities to the Nikon D700, with the same resolution, but has a smaller, higher-density sensor.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 48 Pentax K1000
The K1000 was produced from 1976 to 1997 and if you went to art school during this period it was probably the camera you were given to use. They are still being handed out today! The K1000’s longevity makes it significant, despite its ordinary design. It was already technically obsolete in 1976, but its inexpensive simplicity made it a popular workhorse.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 47 Sinar Norma
Invented in 1947 asa large-format camera of high precision and simple operation, with a system of parts that were readily interchangeable. The name Sinar is an acronym forStudio, Industry, Nature, Architecture, Reproduction, which sums up the versatility of the system. The Sinar Norma, made from 1947 to 1970, is a technological and industrial design icon.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 46 Nikon D90
The D90 is a 12.3 megapixel model launched in 2008 to replace the D80 and it is a firm favourite with our readers. The updated model includes live view capability and automatic correction of lateral chromatic aberration. It was also the first DSLR to offer video recording, with the ability to record HD 720p videos, with mono sound, at 24 frames per second and has a high resolution rear LCD screen. A built-in autofocus motor means that all Nikon F-mount autofocus lenses (except for the two rare Nikon F3AF) can be used in autofocus mode. The D90 was also the first Nikon camerato include a third firmware module, labelled ‘L’, which provides an updateable lens distance integration database that improves autoexposure.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 45 Canon F-1
The Canon F-1 was producedby Canon from 1971 to 1976 and was the model that saw the introduction of the Canon FD lens mount. The F-1 was Canon’s first truly professional-grade SLR system, supporting a huge variety of accessories and interchangeable parts so it could be adapted for different uses and preferences.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 44 Pentax Auto 110
Launched in 1978 the Pentax Auto 110 and Pentax Auto 110 Super were single-lens reflex cameras made by Asahi Pentax. The Auto 110 was introduced with three interchangeable lenses. A precursor to today’s compact camera systems it claims to have been the smallest interchangeable-lens SLR system created made to professional quality.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 43 Pentax K20D
The K20D body was developed by Pentax while its CMOS sensor was manufactured by Samsung, which became Pentax’s partner in 2005. Until 2008, the K20D held the record for the highest resolution sensor in the APS-C image sensor format,at 14.6 megapixels.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 42 Hasselblad 503CW
The Hasselblad that brings old school to new ways. The 503CW can deal with analogue and digital capture thanks to the range of digital backs available. The perfect option for those unwilling to give up film.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 41 Sony Alpha 900
Launched in September 2008, the Sony α900 offers a host of pro features and includes a massive 24.6-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor which makes it an obvious inclusion in our list for that reason alone.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 40 Canon T90
A lot of you still seem to be very fond of the Canon T90, which was first introduced in 1986, as the top of the line in Canon’s T series of 35mm SLRs. It was the last professional-level manual-focus camera from Canon, and the last professional camera to use the Canon FD lens mount. Although it was rapidly overtaken by the autofocus revolution and Canon’s EOS (Electro-Optical System) cameras after only a year in production, the T90 pioneered many concepts seen in high-end Canon cameras up to the present day, particularly the user interface, industrial design and high level of automation. Due to its rugged build, the T90 was nicknamed ‘the tank’ by Japanese photojournalists. Many photographers and retailers still rate the T90 highly even after 20 years as it is considered by many to have been the best slr Canon ever.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 39 Nikon D1
The Nikon D1 was the first professional DSLR to challenge Kodak’s early reign. Launched in 1999, the Nikon D1 featured a 2.7-megapixel CCD sensor and is generally regarded as one of the early milestones in the development of digital cameras for its excellent signal-to-noise ratio and 4.5fps continuous shooting.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 38 Olympus OM-1
The OM-1 really is one of the most loved and highly regarded of film SLRs. The first model was launched in 1972 and was called the M-1. Thirteen years earlier, the release of the Nikon F had made the 35mm SLR the standard choice for professionals accustomed to using Leicas and other rangefinders, but it had driven the market towards heavy and bulky cameras. The Olympus M-1 changed all that and with it began a reduction of size, weight and noise of the 35mm SLRs. Since Leica’s flagship rangefinder cameras are known as the M Series, the company complained about the name of the M-1, forcing Olympus to rename it theOM-1. The OM-1 is an all-mechanical SLR with a very large viewfinder with interchangeable screens but a fixed prism. It also featuresa through-the-lens exposure meter and, quirkily, has the shutter speed dial around the lens mount rather than on the camera’s top plate. It’s not fashionable but it is brilliant.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 37 Canon EOS D30
Launched in 2000, the 3.1-megapixel Canon EOS D30 was the manufacturer’s first consumer DSLR developed in-house. Before the D30, Canon had a contract with Kodak, which combined the latter’s digital backs with Canon bodies. While its spec sheet may seem pedestrian to us today, at the time the EOS D30 was a game-changer, bringing photographers better image quality at a lower price, which marked a watershed moment in the development of consumer DSLRs.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 36 Canon EOS 5D
The EOS 5D, launched in 2005, was a landmark camera. It was a 12.8 megapixel DSLR and the first with a full-frame sensor at an incredibly low price which made professional quality digital images available to all. The professional market changed overnight and despite what are now considered low ISOs, the 5D remains amuch-loved industry favourite.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 35 Mamiya RZ67
The Mamiya RZ67 is the medium-format workhorse of the pro industry and a modularsystem, meaning that lenses, viewfinders, ground glasses, film winders and film backsare all interchangeable. The RZ67 is designed primarily for studio use, but is often usedon location as well.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 34 Panasonic DMC-LX3
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, or LX3, is a high-end compact camera launched in 2008 as a successor to the LX2 and continues to be one of the best high-end compact point and shoots available.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 33 Nikon D700
Another much-loved recent model from Nikon, the D700 is a professional grade dslr launched in 2008. It uses the same 12.1 megapixel FX-CMOS image sensor as the D3 and is Nikon’s second full-frame digital SLR camera. The D700’s full-frame sensor allows the use of non-DX F-mount lenses to their fullest advantage, with no cropfactor. The D700 bearsa physical similarity to the D300 and has a built-in autofocus motor for all Nikon autofocus-lenses, includes CPU and metering for older Nikon F-mountAI/AI-S lenses, and supports PC-E lenses.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 32 Canon A-1
Launched in 1978 the A-1 is historically significant because it was the first SLR to offer an electronically controlled programmed auto-exposure mode. Instead of the photographer picking a shutter speed to freeze or blur motion and choosing a lens aperturef-stop to control depth of field (focus), the A-1 has a microprocessor programmed to automatically select a compromise exposure which is based on light meter input. Virtually all cameras today have at least one program mode.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 31 Nikon FM2
The FM2 was designed notfor budget minded snappers who would never take the time to learn to use shutter-speeds and aperture settings, but instead to appeal to serious photographers who demanded a tough, rugged camera.At the time of the FM2’s launch in 1982, Nikon believed that advanced photographers were not interested in every latest technology, but instead favoured high quality and precision workmanship.The FM2 is very much a photographer’s camera.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 30 Pentax ME F
The ME F was the first autofocus (AF) 35mm SLR camera to reach production. It had a built-in through-the-lens (TTL) electronic contrast detection system to automatically determine proper subject focus and drive a lens to that focus point. Although it auto-focused poorly and was a commercial failure, the ME F was a milestone in camera technology, pointing the way to present-day AF SLRs.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 29 Rolleiflex TLR
The Rolleiflex medium-format TLR (twin lens reflex) film cameras launched in 1929 were loved for their compact size, light weight, superior optics, durable and simple mechanics and bright viewfinders. The mechanical wind mechanism was robust and clever, making film loading semi-automatic and quick. A wide range of accessories made this camera a more complete system, allowing close-ups, added filters and quick tripod attachment. Still much loved and used, particularly by art photographers.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 28 Nikon SP Rangefinder
The SP is a professional level, interchangeable lens, 35mm film, rangefinder camera launched in 1957 as the culmination of Nikon’s RF development which began in 1948 with the Nikon I. It is considered the most advanced rangefinder of its time.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 27 Bronica EC-TLII
Often unfairly seen as the poor man’s Hasselblad, the ‘Bronnie’ was many people’s first medium-format camera. A reasonable price combined with a huge range of lenses available made the ‘Bronnie’a great enthusiast’s choice.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 26 Hasselblad 500EL
In 1964 Hasselblad started production of the motorised 500EL. Apart from the housing that incorporates the motor drive and the batteries, the EL was similar in appearance and operation to the Hasselblad 500C and uses the same magazines, lenses and viewfinders.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 25 Leica M9
The latest in the legendary rangefinder M series from Leica and only the second in a digital format featuring an 18.5 megapixel sensor.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 24 Holga 120N
Few cameras create their own aesthetic but the Holga definitely has. It is an inexpensive, medium-format 120 film toy camera, made in China. The Holga’s low-cost construction and simple lens gives pictures that display vignetting, blur, light leaks and other distortions, all of which have led to the camera gaining a cult following.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 23 Kodak Retina IIIC
The Retina, launched in 1936, was a compact folding camera which pioneered the 135 film format. The IIIC first appeared in 1957 and was the fifth and final development ofthe original model.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 22 Olympus Pen E-P1
Beautifully designed and named after Olympic’s original half-frame 35mm Pencameras launched in 1959, the E-P1 is another of the cameras leading the way in the compact system revolution.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 21 Canon EOS 7D
Just as you were saving up for a 5D Mark II, Canon brought out the 7D and made many of the qualities of the MkII available at an even lower price, even adding a host of facilities new to the EOS range.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 20 Olympus Trip
The Trip 35 was introduced in 1967 and discontinued in 1984. The name referred to its intended market, people who wanted a compact camera for holidays. More than ten million were sold. This point and shoot model had a solar powered selenium light meter and just two shutter speeds. Although the Trip is coming back into fashion due to its quality and ecological credentials, you can pay as little as £10 for one.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 19 Gandolfi
The maker of one of the greatest handmade large-format cameras ever made. Based in London, ithas been making and repairing cameras since 1885.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 18 Pentax 6x7
A fond favourite of any pro who worked with it throughout the seventies and eighties despite its weight and tendency to spend more time being repaired than used. The Pentax 6x7 looks like and is operated like a regular 35mm SLR camera but is loaded with either 120 or 220 roll film, which produces 10 or 206x7 format exposures. You have to love this camera with its wooden handle attachment and tank-like construction.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 17 Rollei 35
The Rollei 35 is a 35mm miniature viewfinder camera launched in 1966, when it was the smallest 135 film camera ever. Even today the Rollei 35 series remains the smallest mechanically working 35mm cameras ever built.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 16 Zeiss Contaflex Super BC
The Contaflex SLR, introduced in 1953, was one of the first 35mm SLR cameras equipped with a between-the-lens leaf shutter. The Super, launched in 1959, is easily recognisable by the wheel on the front plate for setting the aperture.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 15 Leica III
This quirky rangefinder launched in 1933 used a coupled rangefinder distinct from the viewfinder. The latter was set for a 50mm lens and to use other lenses required an alternate viewfinder on the accessory socket.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 14 Olympus Pen
The Pen half-frame, fixed-lens viewfinder cameras were made from 1959 to the start of the eighties. The original was one of the smallest cameras to use 35mm film in 135 cassettes.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 13 Polaroid SX-70
The original SX-70 was beautiful with a folding body finished in brushed chrome and tan leather panels. It had a whole array of accessories, including a close-up lens, electrical remote shutter release and a tripod mount.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 12 Ilford Witness
The Ilford Witness was a rangefinder with interchangeable lenses announced in 1947, but not released until 1953 because of manufacturing difficulties. A true industry secret due to its quality and rarity.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 11 Panasonic GF1
Released in 2009, the Panasonic GF1 has a strong following among pro and enthusiast photographers as a compact system camera which can change the way you can create images. Great quality of build and image.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 10 Canon EOS-1D
The 4-megapixel Canon EOS-1D was Canon’s first professional-level DSLR developed in-house, which was hailed as a major breakthrough by professional photographers when it launched in 2001, as it offered 8fps continuous shooting, faster image processing and better performance at higher sensitivities.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 9 Nikon F
Introduced in 1959 and an instant classic, the Nikon F introduced the concept of the modular 35mm single-lens reflex camera (SLR) and changed the way in which photographers could take pictures, from the fashion studios of swinging London to the war zones of Vietnam.The F-bayonet mount isstill in use today, andremains essentially unchanged, except for some minor refinements to keep pace with technology.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 8 Leica M4
A classic within the legendary M series, the M4 was introduced in 1967 and is the direct successor of the M3and M2. Three ergonomic modifications were introduced in the M4: A different, angled film advance lever, as well as slightly different rewind,self-timer and frame selection levers; a crank for rewinding the film, replacing the telescopic knob of the M3;and a faster loadingsystem that did not needa removable spool.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 7 Mamiya 7II
The Mamiya 7II is a medium format 6x7cm rangefinder camera with interchangeable leaf shutter lenses but is no bigger than top 35mm SLRs. Quiet, compact and lightweight, the 7II has a panoramic adaptor accessory that can also be added for true 24x65mm panoramic images.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 6 Canon EOS 5D Mark II
The camera which brought about the birth of convergence between photographers and filmmakers. The 5D MkII has become a landmark camera which is being used by pro photographers and Hollywood film-makers. The final episode of the US medical drama House was shot on a 5D MkII.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 5 Contax RTS-3
The RTS (short for Real Time System), was created by the Porsche Design studios and was the beginning of the new Contax line of SLR cameras which brought 13 different models. The RTS-3 became an instant hit with pro photographers the moment it was launched due to its looks, build and image quality.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 4 Minox
Minox is famed for its subminiature cameras. Originally launched as luxury items, they gained notoriety as a spy camera during the Second World War. Production moved from Latvia to Germany after the war. Minox continues to make miniature cameras today. Just keep it secret!

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 3 Hasselblad 500CM
The professional’s first choice medium-format camera for more than 40 years. The 500 was the second generation of the Hasselblad 6x6cm format film and was launched in 1957. Strong build, high-quality lenses and ease of use have made it the professional photographer’s friend, whatever they are shooting.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 2 Nikon D3s
The latest top pro offering in the Nikon range. The D3s has broken new ground with its incredibly high ISO capability and super tough build and construction. Designed to meet the needs of the most demanding of pro photographers, it deliversand then some.

Greatest Cameras of All Time... No. 1 Kodak Brownie
The Brownie, launched in 1900, popularised low-cost photography and introduced the concept of the snapshot. The original cardboard box camera took 2.25in sq pictures. The 127 modelsold millions from1952 to 1967.

Just 31 and 1, and a varient of 23 with a urge to get a 19 lol :D
Sadly, those are all I have off the list.

Impressive start Brian - any on your target list?

- - - Updated - - -

Just 31 and 1, and a varient of 23 with a urge to get a 19 lol :D

I wonder how many of us have a 1 - I certainly do

From the list I think I have:

20 (Thanks to Hamish and RPF)

And I would love 8 and 3 please :)
8 sold
11 sold
34 sold

Non 's' versions of 1 and 49 too ... Both sold :)

If this list was redone id guess it would have the fuji xpro1, sony rx100 and d800 ... It suprises me there isn't a nex on there too... The few years since this has been done are arguably the most notable for a while!
mass market cameras without AA filters
compact cameras with much bigger sensors
and cameras that rewrite the rules about large mega pixel counts and high noise
all things that have happened since this list!
Well, I have the K1000 (to save you looking up at the numbers) and briefly, the T90, described here as the "best Canon ever" - I'm sure that will raise a few eyebrows. I even have the Holga 120N. And the Canon A1 - oh no I don't, I have the AE-1. Actually, that belongs to Rhona - but I bought it! So, I have three of the greatest cameras of all time. Not bad!

I'd like the Leica M9, of course...
I wonder if you looked at a list of 50 of the greatest photographers of all time if any of them used any of the cameras in this list?

I think this list would be better, but also quite subjective, although it is the photographer that takes the photo rather than the camera.
Pete rockets into a commanding lead :)
:D Same :D

That's actually a really good idea!
Top ten cameras would do, photo of each ... I think I still own all my favorites bar maybe 1
To the cameras, AWAY!
Or perhaps we should have a list of all the cameras members own, so that if someone was looking for advice on something like an FM2n or a speed graphic they could check out details about the camera and perhaps a test shot something like:

Camera name
Approx age/year made
Shutter speeds
Aperture settings (if fixed lens)
1 good point
1 bad point
Test shot

Kinda like a mini review, I mean there are loads of different cameras everyone has and you only get to know about some of them if someone says 'check out my new roll from X camera'.

Just an idea :)