CNET included the Nikon J1 as one of their ten most disappointing tech products of 2011: "...committed the mortal sin of not living up to the hype." The Fujifilm FinePix X100 was one of their ten "one-percenters" (expensive high-end products). The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V (compact camera) was one of the their top 10 sleeper (overlooked) products. The ContourRoam HD Camcorder made their 10 most beautiful list (I suspect they meant pleasing-to-the-eye design, not beautiful). That was it for camera products making it into their "Top 100."
So let's play CNET's game and try narrowing the category from all of high tech to just mirrorless cameras and see what we get (my choices, obviously):
- The Winners: the NEX-7 has to go to the top of that list, I think. Others on the list would include the NEX-5N, the Nikon V1, and perhaps the Panasonic G3, each for slightly different reasons.
- The 1 Percenters: the NEX-7 again, coupled with the Zeiss 24mm lens. The Pentax Q probably also makes this list, at least if we consider it a high-end compact camera with interchangeable lenses.
- The Sleepers: here I'd nominate the Samsung NX200 and the Olympus E-PL3. The Sony NEX-5N also would be on this list, as it gets overlooked for the NEX-7 by many, yet is a very competent camera in its own right.
- The Beautiful: not a lot of nominees here, though some of the lower-end cameras do have simple, clean lines (GF3, E-PM1, J1). The Samsung NX200 would probably get my nod, though, for its simple, no-nonsense approach with a high quality build.
- The Disappointments: the Olympus E-P3 didn't press very far past the E-P2, but the Panasonic GF3 probably was the biggest disappointment (slightly less so now that the GX1 has been introduced). Aspects of the Nikon 1 models also put them in this category.
The purpose of year-end lists--at least for me--is not to anoint winners and losers, but rather to provoke discussion about expectations and whether they were met or if there are still things that users want that the product makers aren't delivering. In that sense, the NEX-7 does well because, perhaps other than its menu system, it pretty much fulfills the full check list of things serious users are looking for: image quality, EVF, tilting screen, direct user control, built-in flash, standard accessories, and a few other odds and ends, all in a well-made package. At the other end, the GF3 disappointed because of the absence of so many of those things.
While there will be fan boys and girls who jump on CNET or me for putting products in certain categories, I think it's important to have these discussions. And I emphasize discussions, not name calling or vitriolic responses. It's partly through such discussions that users can tell camera makers what is and isn't important to them.
Of course, users don't always know what is and isn't important to them until they actually get it in a product, something Apple keeps demonstrating over and over.