Your camera isn’t just a tool, it’s also an accessory. And while performance is still the most important factor when buying a new one, having a good-looking camera strapped around your neck has a certain appeal to it. For that, the new wave of retro-inspired cameras fit the bill. Here are the ones we think deliver in the performance category as well as the visual one.
Phones are killing the affordable point-and-shoot camera, but the style isn’t dead just yet. In fact, as demonstrated by this Pentax, there are a few really nice models still being made. The 12MP MX-1 has an aperture range of f/1.8-2.5 allowing you to play with depth of field and produce stunning bokeh. While a bit larger and more expensive than similar cameras, the MX-1 is exceedingly comfortable in the hand, and the tilting screen allows you to take tricky shots without having to get creative with your stance. The painted brass touches (top and bottom) add to the retro vibe. There are lag issues along with image quality when shooting wide, but for what it is, the Pentax MX-1 is a sexy camera that’s far better than its competitors.
The compact and drool-worthy X-A2 from Fujifilm is the soon-to-be-released update on the X-A1. The entry-level interchangeable lens camera sports finer looks than competitors, and now comes with a flip-up display and improved autofocus with an eye-searching feature. Basically, it’s a sexy selfie taker. Battery life gets a boost as well, with reports stating that it will take around 410 frames per charge. It’s still loaded with a 16.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and an EXR Processor II. It’s an entry-level that doesn’t look like one, and, if reports are true, won’t perform like one either.
Olympus OM-D E-M10
Packed with a 16MP Live MOS sensor, impressive image stabilization, and an accessible interface, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 is an affordable camera that might sway some to save a few bucks and hop off the Canon or Nikon bandwagon. The Micro Four Thirds camera is plenty fast, has an electronic viewfinder and tilting display, and takes smaller lenses that keep the overall compact design intact when you’re swapping them in and out. It offers built-in Wi-Fi and a surprising array of useful features. All that said, it’s not a world-beater. It isn’t weather-sealed, images and video aren’t world-class, and the ISO range leaves something to be desired. All told, it’s a stylish camera that’s compact, relatively affordable, and good enough in the performance category to get a thumbs up.
The Fujifilm X100 line has given consumers that vintage Leica rangefinder look without that classic Leica price tag. The latest, the X100T, is the finest yet. Still complete with a solid 23mm f/2.0 fixed lens that helps takes some stunning photos, but now with a larger screen, seven customizable buttons, and an interesting optic and electronic viewfinder. Video leaves a lot to be desired and low light shots won’t rival those of higher-end models, but it’s a camera that’s fantastic up close and fantastic to look at.
When you make the decision to go with a full frame camera, you need to be prepared to spend more money. Normally, besides cleaning out your bank account, it also means ditching the dreams of owning a camera that doesn’t look like a clone of every other one on the market. Not the case with the Nikon Df. The camera packs vintage good looks and utilizes old-school dials. It feels as close to shooting with an old film camera as you can get with a full frame digital model. It has an ISO range of 100-12800, can shoot 5.5 fps, and has a 39-point autofocus. There is one downside, and it’s a big one in this day and age: it doesn’t shoot video. While that could be a deal breaker for many, for old-school fanatics that want a retro vibe that extends past the exterior, it certainly makes a lot of sense.
Say hello to one of the world’s smallest full frame digital cameras. Such a thing does not come cheap, and tack on the fact that it’s a Leica, and, well, you’re looking at something to the tune of $8,000. We’ll give you a second to gather your jaw from the floor. Good? Okay. If the insane price tag, even for a Leica, hasn’t scared you off, here’s what you can expect from the camera that’s a stunning nod to old rangefinder film shooters. Since it’s a rangefinder camera and it’s a Leica, you’ll have a bright finder regardless of lens, top-of-the-line image quality, extremely fast image-processing, the ability to use Leica R-Lenses, and a camera body that is worthy of being a centerfold in a naughty camera magazine. You can turn it on and take your first shot in under a second and shoot in low light situations without fear. Now for $8k some video capabilities would be nice, but if you’re the person this camera is targeted at, you already have a camera for that, that you keep on your ivory shelves with other expensive models.