What is really, truly the best camera a keen, competent but probably not professional photographer can buy? My first instinct is to say a Leica or Hasselblad. But Leica is not for everyone; while they are great for street and reportage photography, you most likely wouldn’t take one on safari or use it for sports photos. And although Hasselblad launched its superb new X1D last year, even this amazing, relatively compact camera is, like all Hasselblads, more for serious landscape or fashion work. Hasselblads’ size and huge sensors make them overspecified for quick-fire, reportage-type photography.
What about a big Canon DSLR or a Nikon? Both brands are kings of tackling anything and delivering superlative quality – the estimable Canon 5D Mark IV, perhaps, or a flagship Nikon D5. But these are enormous beasts, with most of that weight and bulk dedicated to professional requirements (like having to keep working all day in a war zone). Which I guess would leave us with a pro-quality camera, but for regular enthusiasts who are not at the battlefront – a Nikon D500 or a Canon EOS 5DS, around £2,500 and £4,000 respectively with a lens.
And until very recently, that would have been my answer. But now there is a spectacular new contender in this bracket from Japan’s resurgent Olympus. The OM-D E-M1 Mark II is in the same price category and offers indistinguishable performance, some impressive flourishes in functionality and one massive plus. In classic Olympus style (the company has been doing this since it launched the innovative Pen cameras in 1959), the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is significantly smaller than its competitors. Quite dinky, actually. The body weighs 498g; compare that with a Canon 5D body (845g) or a Nikon D500 (760g); another competitor – the similarly retro and compact Nikon DF – has a 765g body. You doubtless see where I’m going with this. The new Olympus is also a third smaller in the hand but its list of exceptional features could take up half this page. A few I especially like, either for their utility or their wow-ness: a battery sufficient for several hundred shots (some early users have said over 500); the ability to take 60 stills per second (seriously); a top shutter speed of 1/32,000th of a second, four times faster than the second‑fastest competitor; and twin SD card slots.
The OM-D E-M1 Mark II – big name, little camera – is the real deal, a bonsai contender for the sumo incumbents. I love it.