2018 in Reviews – Every Camera We Shot This Year

2018 in Reviews – Every Camera We Shot This Year

1320 742 James Tocchio

2018 has been a great year for the site. My amazing team of writers and I have worked hard to put out worthwhile camera culture content, and in the past twelve months more than two million readers have taken the time to read our words. That number makes me very happy.

Our most popular articles are camera reviews, and this year we’ve shot some big names. Cult favorites like the Yashica T series are bookended by deep dives into the machines of the Big Red Dot. We’ve covered some of the best cameras ever made, and some of the worst, and in either case we’ve penned reviews that entertain and inform.

Of course, all of these articles would be meaningless without you. Thank you for reading and for the more than six thousand reader comments that have been submitted. Whether those comments are typed to say we’re the best photography site around (many thanks) or to tell us we’re absolute morons (a few less thanks), we appreciate the feedback.

I thought it’d be fun to take a look at every camera we reviewed this year. So let’s do it. Enjoy this list, open a few articles in separate tabs, share them with friends, or save the ones you may have missed for a Sunday morning read. We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed writing them. Thanks again.

Yashica T4 Zoom – We started 2018 off pretty strong when Josh reviewed the less expensive and far zoomier version of the popular Yashica T4 in January. He shot the thing all over Los Angeles and came away with some very definite opinions on both this camera and today’s point-and-shoot culture. Read the review.

Contax G2 – Going from strength to strength, I started the new year shooting a camera that was one of my favorites of 2017, the Contax G2. I bought this unused example from a collector friend, and it was in impressively perfect condition. After a year of shooting it with the 45mm Planar, the 28mm Biogon, and even the much-maligned Vario-Sonnar, I finally penned my G2 camera review. Read it here.

Ricoh 500G – In keeping with the Casual Photophile tradition of spotlighting even cameras that have gone mostly forgotten, our pal Dustin discovered and ran with a special little rangefinder, the Ricoh 500G. He said it well, “…the tiny Ricoh 500 G is a relatively undiscovered secret. It has everything you need without any of the trendy bullshit.” See what it’s all about (plus Dustin’s typically excellent sample shots) in his full review.

Minolta X-570 and Maxxum 7000 – This review from Jeb covers the end and beginning of two important eras in the lifecycle of Minolta. The X-570 was the endpoint in Minolta’s manual focus SLR timeline, and the Maxxum 7000 their first autofocus SLR (indeed the first successful and capable autofocus SLR ever sold). His poetic take on the changing of technology is one of the best deep dives on the site. Read it and see.

Minolta Minoltina P – Oh, look, another Minolta and another camera no one talks about. The Minoltina P is an unusual machine, an EV viewfinder camera that’s about the size of a half-frame Olympus, but exposes full frames. It’s tiny, with a nice lens, an accurate light meter that requires no batteries, and a quirky analog display on top. It’s also a really gorgeous camera. Just look at it. It’s very pretty.

Olympus 35RD – Dustin has a thing for the classic fixed-lens rangefinders that Japanese companies were churning out in droves during the 1970s. He’s shot them all and reviewed most of them here on the site. But his favorite might be the Olympus 35RD. This amazingly compact camera has a sharp lens, near-perfect ergonomics, and a legendary pedigree. It’s also somewhat rare and the last of the classic 40mm rangefinders that Olympus would produce. Details in his full review.

Nikon FM3a – This one was special. The last dedicated manual focus 35mm film SLR Nikon ever made ended up being one of the storied company’s best. It’s the perfect Nikon SLR. Benefiting from close to five decades of SLR production experience, the FM3a is an ultra-refined and ultimately advanced camera for the photographic purist. It is the only SLR I need and the only one I really want, these days (I’m still hunting – new and unused with all papers and box, if you have one). Read all about it in my review.

Lomography Lomo’Instant Square – Seeing now that I followed up the Nikon FM3a with the Lomo’Instant Square is funny. I love instant cameras. I can’t be sure I loved this one, but at least it ended up being a functional, durable, and fun little machine. And hey, it made really gorgeous photos on Instax Square film! That’s not bad. Read my full review here.

Canon Canonet QL17 GIII – The quintessential popular rangefinder, the Canonet QL17 GIII has been reviewed on this site twice. I wrote my impressions of the machine in the earliest days of CP, but Chris did a far better job this year. His long experience with the camera really shows in this writeup, and his sample shots make the case for the Canonet’s popularity. See them, and more, in the full review.

Alpa 10D – Alpa is a name that not many photo geeks know in 2018. These days, the Swiss brand produces outrageously expensive large format cameras and multi-thousand-dollar tripods (and more). In the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s they made more easily recognizable machines – rangefinders and SLRs. The unifying theme among all of these creations is impeccable build and no expense spared. The Alpa 10D is an odd camera in every way, and shooting one was a treat (if not a bit of a challenge). My full review has all the details on this rare and interesting SLR.

Mamiya Press Camera Super 23 – Chris decided to take this enormous camera to a Porsche launch event at the New York International Auto Show, firmly landing him well outside his comfort zone. This trial by fire showed pretty quickly what the Mamiya Super Press is all about, and his discomfort resulted in some really amazing photos of New York City, world-class automobiles, and some surprisingly strong street shots. See them in his full review.

Nikon Nikonos – Less a review of a single camera and more a retrospective of the many amazing dive cameras from Nikon, my article on the Nikonos and Calypso cameras is among my favorite pieces I’ve written for CP. It covers the birth of the Calypso camera (designed in part by Jacques Cousteau) through the manual focus Nikon designs, and on to the only underwater autofocus SLR ever built. Add a splash of James Bond, a drizzle of sample shots, and a deluge of historical context, and it’s a deep dive indeed. Jump in and splash around a bit.

Nikon FM – How is a taco the same as a Nikon FM? Josh knows, and he tells us all about it in his review of the simple, mechanical SLR from Nikon. The FM may be all the 35mm film camera that anyone could ever need, and that’s coming from someone who regularly shoots far more complicated and “advanced” cameras. Works for him, maybe it’ll work for you. Find out.

Fed 5b – Jeb reviews a lot of Russian cameras here on CP, and he knows his stuff. In this article from the springtime he gives us a quick history lesson on Fed, and by extension, the USSR itself. This “beer can rangefinder” was a joy and also a pain, but not in the ways you may think. A camera whose shooting experience can be summed up by the phrase “thirty-six maybes” is bound to do that. See the highs and lows (and the many surprises) of shooting the Fed 5b in his review.

Olympus O-Product – The Olympus O-Product is the type of camera that we live for, here at CP. Unusual, uncommon, and uncompromising, it’s the product of one man’s radical design philosophy and a truly interesting camera. That aluminum body; that ridiculous on/off switch; the audacious statements stamped into its body. The O-Product is ridiculous, and I love it. The full review is here.

Contax IIa – I’ve long been a fan of Zeiss. Their optics create images that just have the right sort of look for my shooting. I’m such a fan I actually created an experimental Zeiss enthusiast website (which is still around, and very dormant). Surprising then, that it took me so long to shoot a Contax IIa, that company’s best classic rangefinder. Equipped with a Sonnar 50mm F/1.5, it’s made some of the images I’m most pleased with, and using it is a pure tactile joy. Samples and impressions in the full review.

Leica M-A – Chris had never owned a Leica, so I thought it would be fun to send him their newest (and one of their most expensive) film cameras, the M-A. As someone totally immune to the Leica brand mystique, his impressions of the M-A (and Leica, writ large) are concise and honest in a way that’s pretty unique. Read one Leica review and you’ve read ’em all, right? Maybe not in this case.

Olympus XA – The Olympus XA is one of my personal favorite film cameras. It’s everything I want in a machine – tiny, super sharp lens, manual control, aperture-priority. So imagine how annoyed I am that Josh reviewed it, and I didn’t. What an injustice. Who’s running this place anyway? Read the review, I guess, but don’t let him know you enjoyed it.

Agat 18K – Jeb traveled through five European countries with the half-frame Agat 18K film camera, and I won’t lie – I expected him to hate this thing. It’s plastic, cheap, fiddly, and unusual. Imagine my surprise (and maybe his, as well) when his sample shots turned out to be simply stunning. Sure, the sprawling vistas and charming old-world cities of Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Poland certainly helped things along. But the Agat 18K made those images and proved me wrong, and Jeb did a great job reviewing it.

MiNT InstantKon RF70 Instax Wide – Back in the glorious days of summer, the Hong Kong-based instant camera company, MiNT, sent us a prototype of their InstantKon RF70 for testing. I shot it for a week in a number of conditions, and it’s a good camera. But that doesn’t mean it’s a camera for everyone. Using Fuji’s Instax Wide film, it makes instant prints with full manual control, something that’s pretty unusual in the instant space. My full review is here.

Leica R5 – Some of my favorite articles here on CP are the ones that transport the reader to a place and time. I tried to do that with my review of the Leica R5. Part in-depth review, part travel journal, the article follows me and the Leica on a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard, a summertime island destination off the coast of Massachusetts. There’s hot donuts, sailboats, sandy shores, and… tech specs. Check it out, and bring your swimmies.

Leica M5 – Apparently I was on a bit of binge, because I followed up my review of the Leica R5 with a review of the Leica M5, Leica’s most maligned rangefinder. This thing was a challenge. How do you talk about the M5 in a way that’s new, and interesting, and worth the readers’ time? Tough questions, but I think I managed. I pulled up my sleeves and dived in. The review is full of history, specifications, and why all of these things mattered when the M5 was new and why they still matter today. Take a look.

Konica Autoreflex TC and the Hexanon 40mm – Jeb went a little wild on this one, combining a camera review and a lens review into some sort of Voltronean masterwork. He examines why Konica always seems to be left out of the classic camera conversation, how one of their most basic cameras may be one of the greats, and whether or not this humbly-priced Hexanon lens is worth owning. Hey, is this the only Konica review we’ve done this year? That makes it rare and worth reading.

Minolta XD – The camera that many people say is Minolta’s best, the XD had been on our list of cameras to review for a long time. Jeb took the reins on this one, bringing us along on his journey to find a perfect XD after his original died in his arms (and somehow shoehorning a Forrest Gump reference into his review). And then he weighs in on whether or not this much-praised Minolta really deserves a place when discussing the best 35mm SLRs ever made. Read it.

Polaroid Sun 660 On Tour – Josh is the cool one at CP. He’s a real life, honest to goodness gigging musician. When his band hit the road for an extended tour in the summer, he packed with him a Polaroid Sun 660 and plenty of Polaroid Originals’ film. The resultant review is as much trip into memory and nostalgia as it is an assessment of the classic 600-series Polaroid camera. As always with Josh’s writing, there’s more happening here than what you see on the surface. The review is here.

Voigtländer Bessa R – Before we reviewed it, the Bessa R was a camera that constantly pinged my inbox and Instagram DMs. People love this camera and want to read that we love it, or they have questions about it and want us to help. Which makes sense. It’s the ultimate value proposition in the ever-popular rangefinder segment. Chris’ review dives in, comparing the Bessa R to everything from a Leica M2 to a Canon Canonet, a Volkswagen Beetle and a Honda Super Cub (I’m not sure how he got there, but he did). Find out for yourself, everything about the Bessa.

Nikon F4 – When I realized the Nikon F4 was turning thirty years old this year, I knew we had to review it. Another popular camera, people had been messaging me about the F4 for years. Luckily, Jeb had one and was ready to shoot. His review has everything you’d expect, but more importantly it contains some thoughts on collecting, gear acquisition, and finding your own perfect camera. It’s a great read, with great photos, and you can see it here.

Olympus Mju II – Ah, the Mju II. The camera that no one on staff wanted to review. Dustin tried shooting it, and his thoughts contained so many unprintable words that I can’t repeat them here. Josh wouldn’t review it, saying he’d served his sentence by reviewing the original Mju. Jeb just laughed. Chris never replied to my messages. So, it fell on me. And let’s just say, things went as predicted. Hey, at least this review let me mention (even if briefly) my most admired camera designer. That’s not bad.

Minox Spy Camera – This one was a pure treat. The Minox Spy Camera (it’s not really called that, but it works) is another one of those cameras that CP was made to cover. It’s a special camera – uniquely constructed, with an interesting history, and a beautifully elegant design. The article is succinct, but thorough. I briefly outline the life history of the genius who invented the Minox, his path through the world during the horrors of World War II and beyond, as well as the camera’s place in all of that. Again following the mission of CP (to talk about special cameras and why they matter in 2018) I spell out where to buy film for this archaic camera today, how to develop it at home or through a lab, and best practices for digitizing images from this incredibly tiny film. It’s a good one. One of our best. Read it here.

Kodak Funsaver – Okay, so I know we’re supposed to cover special cameras. I really don’t know what happened with this one. Josh wanted to write about a disposable camera and since I really like Josh I decided to let him have his fun. I don’t know why he wanted to do this. You’ll have to ask him in the comments. The man owns a Leica M2, for the love of… Do you like disposable cameras? You might like this review.

Agfa Ambi Silette – Righting the ship after the squall of the disposable camera is a clockwork-like rangefinder from Agfa, the Ambi Silette. This camera is another somewhat undiscovered masterpiece from a lesser-loved brand. Interchangeable lenses (that are quite good), a concise and collectible system, a gorgeous viewfinder with built-in rangefinder and selectable frame lines – this thing was just a joy. There are some warts, but overall it’s a very lovable camera that more people should try. See all the details in my review.

Praktica MTL 5B – If it’s from Eastern Europe you know Jeb’s writing it. I really didn’t know a thing about the Praktica MTL 5B beyond what’s obvious to a trained eye. Jeb’s review remedied that. He explored the camera’s history (and that of the company that made it), its contemporary use, and its modern day legacy. Like most of Jeb’s write-ups, this one is nuanced and careful. Read it here.

Nikon F2 – For a long time, Josh was the unrivaled Nikon fanboy at CP (I’ve always admired their cameras, but not until this year have I found myself really losing it over Nikon machines). When a pristine Nikon F2 rolled through the shop I knew I had to offer it to him. He gobbled it up instantly and wrote a real love letter to what just may be Nikon’s best professional-level mechanical SLR ever. Here’s that love letter. It is deep. It is thorough. And it’s fun to read.

Olympus XA4 – Charlotte joined the team just this year, and her contributions have already made the site a better one. In her first camera review, she tells everything about a camera that she rescued from the junk drawer of her parents’ home. The Olympus XA4 is among the rarer of the XA lineup, featuring an unusually wide and macro-capable lens packed into the traditional XA body. It’s a great camera, and the review is a great read for anyone hunting for their perfect compact camera. It’s also a wonderful taste of what we can expect from one of our newest writers. Read it here.

Fujifilm Natura Black F1.9 – Another point-and-shoot that’s whispered about in reverent tones, the Fujifilm Natura Black F1.9 differs from a lot of the other super-expensive point-and-shoots in that it may actually be worth the price. I shot this camera on vacation recently, and its combination of super wide lens (24mm) and super fast maximum aperture (f/1.9) make it a very special camera indeed. It’s one of the only premium compacts that offers something totally unique – something that can’t be matched by any other camera. But then again, it’s got that sort of price tag too. Read all about it.

Canon Canonet 28 – Another of our new writers, Drew, launches into things with his first camera review. A practical look at the Canonet line, Drew examines whether the Canonet 28 is a viable alternative to the far more expensive QL17. Think of it as another value proposition article, and point your budget-conscious film friends this way when they’re hunting for a new rangefinder. It may help.

Pentax UC-1 (Espio Mini) – Jeb tried his hand at the pricey point-and-shoot camera and came away pretty impressed (at least in some ways). Reading the review I too was impressed at just how, well, impressive those sample shots were. The Pentax UC-1 has one of the best lenses I’ve ever seen fitted into a compact camera. It really is quite stunning. Now if only the shooting felt better. Read Jeb’s full review (and see those gorgeous photos) here.

Leica CL – The last review of the year (at the time of this writing – there will probably be a couple more added) went to the Leica CL. This most diminutive of M mount rangefinder cameras was (as most know) made in Japan by Minolta. But that shouldn’t turn away prospective buyers. Aside from some reliability issues, it’s one of the best M mount cameras you can buy today. I shot it on vacation, and though I won’t say it was the best camera I used while away, I can say that it was the camera that exposed the most film. That counts for something. Read all about this camera in my full review here.

And that’s the year in reviews. I have to admit – when I started this article I had no idea we’d published this many camera reviews. Compiling this list took a very long time. I may have grown a beard. I may have missed Christmas. What month is it?

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • Thanks for your review of the reviews. I discovered your site this year and have to say it’s an absolute jewel. Have you thought about reaching back to even earlier cameras? I’d love to hear your take on the Balda Jubilette (I’m remembering squinting into the sun waiting for my dad to take the picture). Happy Holidays and keep shooting and keep writing.

    • Thank you Tom. We’ll happily cover any and all interesting cameras, and some of our best articles have come from reader suggestions like yours. I’ll add the Balda to the list. And that’s a great memory to have. Thanks again.

  • Merry Christmas CP Crew! I certainly enjoy the writing and reviews you provide, but especially when you wander outside of the sprockets of 35mm!

    As it is with this fine list, I can count on one hand the number of reviews of non-35mm cameras you have penned this year, and three of those are instants! Any plans to drop a bit more variety format-wise into your well written review articles?

    • After reading your comment I had to go back and look and I’m surprised, but you’re right! I could’ve sworn we’ve done more medium format stuff, but I guess not. For sure, we will get more medium format and unusual format reviews posted this year. Thanks for the tip!

  • For 2019: Pentax 6×7 and Bronica RF645 😉
    Congratulations for your work 🙂

  • Grey’s of Westminster in London have a chrome FM3a ‘Unused’ with box and documentation for 1495 GBP.

    • I’ll take a look. I suspect I can get one for less from a Japanese seller, though. We’ll see.

      • Michael J. Ricciuti December 14, 2018 at 8:48 pm

        James–I was recently in Tokyo. Map camera in Shinjuku had a handful of FM3As in outstanding condition (around 60,000-70,000 yen) and a few “new in box” examples.

  • I am always happy to read this reviews! they are all awesome. I am happy with the great work you all have been doing for the film/vintage camera community. Keep film alive! I personally would like to see some darkroom lab stuff. I think that could be interesting especially since it is extremely hard to get good reviews on film developers. I would like to branch out from d76 its the only developer I have used for 10 years,

  • Hi James,

    Thank you guys so much for making such great content. The making of cameras is just science and engineering, the using of camera brings it to life. If you are interested, I can lend you guys my Mamiya C3. It was the camera Diane Arbus used when she went around to the social fringe. It was her weapon, her safety blanket and her access to the fringe. And her style of shooting was so direct and cruel, just like the contents. The subject was dead centered, like what the critics say, if it doesn’t work dead center, it doesn’t work. Please let me know if you are interested. I live in Boston, so it should be easy.

  • Dear Casual Photophiles,
    Many thanks for posting all the articles. You inspire me a lot. Especialy the one preseting Kodak films range encouraged me to try some new stuff like fast films. And the way you write is great too. Many thanks, keep doing great job for us, film photo geeks. Very Mary Xmas!
    Andrzej (Polnad)

  • Thank you so much for your blog! Love it! And thanks for selling me the Leica R5 after I read your review. Love that camera!

  • Great web site. Just discovered it recently. Thanks for this entry which summarizes all the cool camera reviews I need to read!

    I bought my Nikon FE new in 1979 and have been addicted to shooting film (especially slides) ever since. I shoot digital with a Nikon Df DSLR but I still shoot film today with the wonderful mechanical cameras of the past. Besides still using my FE I’ve picked up:

    2 Nikon FM3a – couldn’t decide silver or black so I got one of each
    1964 Leica M3 in beautiful condition (including a working clip on Leicameter)
    Contax G2 (with amazing Zeiss lenses)

    Got ‘em all on ebay and I shoot ‘em all.

    Again many thanks for the web site.

  • Thanks ever so much for bringing such frank reviews. When most of us buy a camera, new or used, we take a chance, so your wisdom helps us make the right choices and learn about good alternatives. Please try to publish something on the Mamiya 6 and 7, which would be my one “desert-island” camera.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio