50 Greatest Cameras of All Time

50 Greatest Cameras

Best Cameras of All Time: Photography Monthly masters and retailers chip in to help us compile a list of the 50 greatest cameras of all time.

UPDATE - 21/10/11: A little over a year ago Photography Monthly unveiled its list of the 50 best cameras of all time. With a number of significant cameras released in the past year we thought we would revisit our 'best cameras' list and evaluate whether any of the year's newcomers warrant a spot. You might be surprised by what we decided.

A list like this is always going to stir controversy, and no doubt you have some strong feelings about the cameras on this list - as well as the cameras not on this list. We'd love to hear your opinions on the best cameras of all time in the comments below. So without further ado...

The 50 Greatest Cameras of All Time

A photographer's 'first' camera will always be the one which holds a special place in their heart, whatever we move on to owning. Some of us remain loyal to one brand, one manufacturer or one model throughout our photographic lives. Others are happy to jump to the latest 'next' thing or the 'hot' model of the time.

Whichever route you take when it comes to owning cameras, there is always a certain sense of nostalgia for those cameras from the past and there are few better ways to spend your non-shooting time than by compiling the 'greatest ever' list. Rather than just rely on our personal likes and dislikes, we asked the country's retailers to supply us with their top ten lists and a few of our Photography Monthly Masters to chip in with their votes to help us compile the 50 greatest cameras of all time in no particular order.

They are all winners in our eyes. Is it the ultimate list? Or just a good starting point? Only you can decide; either way, for some of you it will be a trip down memory lane and for others an introduction to some of the forgotten classics.

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 ?900 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.

A special thanks to: www.croydonphotocentre.co.uk , www.classiccameraexchange.com , www.waltersphotovideo.com , www.arundel-photographica.co.uk , www.parkcameras.com , www.mathersoflancashire.co.uk , www.graysofwestminister.co.uk , www.1stcameras.com


Related Articles

Post a comment (you must be a registered user to comment) Login | Sign Up

  1. Re: "A photographer's 'first' camera will always be the one which holds a special place in their heart, whatever we move on to owning"... I sure hope not. Mine was a often broken Minolta X-700.

    Comment made by: JvP
    13.08.10 06:05:23

  2. Two significant cameras missing that perhaps young salesmen in stores have no recollection of ... Pentax Spotmatic, which singe-handedly popularised the SLR camera (the K1000 was a mere descendant). The Kodak Instamatic (various models) meant people no longer had to touch that fiddly film stuff.

    Comment made by: wildeel
    13.08.10 06:11:45

  3. What about any of the Prakticas or the Zenith. Dear oh dear people are so young or so absent minded. What about the Nikon F3. No pro would be seen without one. The only DSLR that can be called great is the D1 which revolutionised photojournalism.

    Comment made by: DougMorley
    29.10.10 07:53:22

  4. I'd take the Mamiya 6 over the Mamiya 7 any day as the camera that gets closest to being perfect.

    Comment made by: ezpoppy55
    29.05.11 10:34:35

  5. I love my camera Canon Eos 100 SLR. Love shooting with film and this does everything I want it to. I intened to keep using it for as long as possible.

    Comment made by: PhilStarkey
    23.06.11 11:25:56

  6. Just put film in my fathers old Kodak Brownie 620 model C, I cant wait to see the results. Definitely No 1 to me, or perhaps I'm just sentimental.

    Comment made by: seanandshanks
    06.10.11 01:14:12

  7. CANON 1D X!!!!!(:

    Comment made by: chrysus
    21.10.11 14:29:54

  8. Your first camera is always the best, a 5D is nice, but my Praktica BX20 was magnificent. Prakticas and Zenits were the starter machines for many of us, and they were reliable and easy to use. But Dull and the likes of the MTL50 were seiously chunky and clunky... so I loved mine, but it won't make the top 50.
    However the EOS 100, that was a brilliant machine. The perfect blend of technology, ease of use, size and noise. It was with heavy heart I moved to digital.. Compared to the Bohemoth that is a 5D

    Comment made by: Buckz
    02.11.11 10:30:05

  9. This has to be one of the least intelligent efforts at an exercise that is usually pointless in any case. First, you have established no criteria for what you mean by "Great". There are many different ways to break out such a list: historical significance, social impact, quality and durability, popularity, etc. For every definition of great, you will get a different list. Secondly, digital cameras have no place on this list because the technology is too new, and changes weekly, so it can only come dow

    Comment made by: Luvantique
    30.01.12 23:56:00

  10. The Canon A-1 is certainly an awesome camera in its own right and deserves to be on this list but not for the reasons mentioned.

    Minolta's XD7/11 was the world's first camera with aperture priority and shutter priority, as well as a fully metered manual mode. This is a well known fact. However, less known but true and important: The XD7/11 features a hidden Program-mode, securing correct exposure whenever the available aperture-range is insufficient, in which case the shutter speed is adjusted. In fact

    Comment made by: tweisserth
    31.01.12 12:00:04

  11. I think the 5D mark II need to be on first place! This camera change it all forever!!! for videographer and photographer.
    My favorite camera still - as a photographer.

    Comment made by: yairhaim
    19.02.12 01:11:41

  12. An epic and inspired list. I am compelled to point out however that the Rolleiflex TLR description is written in past tense, even though the camera is still for sale. After more than 80 years in production, I think it deserves a higher place than #29.

    Comment made by: jwonder
    05.03.12 22:41:40

Average Article Rating 2 Stars
Your Rating Login Required!
Sorry - You must be a registered user & logged in to rate this. Login | Register
Back to Categories

Participate in the forum

Photography courses

Which Digital Camera - Camera Finder



You want to take the best photos you can and possibly explore photography as a hobby

Enter this section if you are looking for a more advanced camera with the ability to change lenses to suit your needs. You will find entry-level cameras through to high-end models favoured by professional photographers.


You want the convenience of a compact with the versatility of a DSLR

Enter this section if you are looking for the convenience of a compact camera but the photographic power of a DSLR. You will find both point-and-shoot cameras as well models offering more advanced functionality.


You want to take family snaps, events and holidays

Enter this section if you are looking for a small easy-to-use camera. You will find a wide range of models to suit every budget all of which offer a wide range of features for everyday shooting.
Become a member of Photography Monthly today!