Europe’s best products – Editorial comment
Amateur Photographer helped to found the European Image and Sound Association more than 26 years ago. Then a few friends, who happened to edit photo magazines in countries across Europe, got together to decide which of the year’s new cameras was the best.
They had a European Camera of the Year trophy made and presented it to the manufacturer – in the case of that first award, it was presented to Minolta for the fantastic X-700.
Now the association has grown to 16 members, representing the best magazines from 16 countries, and we now vote for products in 16 categories.
The principle has remained the same, though – that by coming together to compare notes, discuss merits and weaknesses we can, as a group, deliver sound, considered and well-balanced guidance to our readers.
Buying new camera equipment is almost always an expensive business, and the risk of buying a product that will not service your needs is always there. In truth, there are very few poor cameras and lenses on the market, but there are plenty of average ones, some good ones and only a few exceptional ones.
And it is the task of the EISA photo panel members, through constant testing, our meetings and face-to-face debate, to identify those first-class products that stand out from the rest, and to point them out to the readers of our magazines.
These awards are for your benefit, not for the bragging rights of manufacturers or to make us feel good. They exist to make sure you know which are the best photographic products of our time.
Damien Demolder, Editor
Best products 2010 – 2011
Best European Camera
Winner: Canon EOS 550D
Canon’s EOS 550D makes an excellent entry-level camera, as it offers a wide range of features in a well-designed and easy-to-use body.
Full HD video recording is available with full manual control of exposure and focusing, as well as still image modes for photographers of all skill levels.
The camera has the same 18-million-pixel resolution as the high-end EOS 7D, and offers very similar image quality, but in a camera that is much more affordable.
This is a well-specified camera packed with features that will help all types of photographer enjoy their hobby more.
European Professional Camera
Winner: Nikon D3S
The Nikon D3S is so sensitive it can focus and shoot in conditions in which even the human eye cannot see.
Although high ISO settings are a feature of most modern DSLR bodies, the quality of the Nikon D3S high ISO settings is unsurpassed for low noise levels and richness of detail.
Together with its extremely fast Expeed processing and an almost waterproof body, excellent battery life and high-quality construction, this is the perfect DSLR for professional sports, action and low-light photography.
European Advanced SLR Camera
Winner: Canon EOS 7D
Thanks to its new 19 cross-type AF points, its extremely high ISO settings and a burst mode that allows up to eight frames to be captured in one second, the Canon EOS 7D is the natural choice when it comes to photographing action and sport.
The camera uses Canon’s powerful Digic 4 processor and an 18-million-pixel APS-C CMOS sensor, which combine to deliver high-quality still pictures and Full HD 1080p movie capture.
Although moderately priced, the EOS 7D has a rugged magnesium-alloy body shell, is environmentally sealed and offers a bright, 1x magnification, 100% viewfinder.
European Micro System Camera
Winner: Sony α NEX-5
Although the Sony α NEX-5 is the smallest system camera in the world, by using a large APS-C CMOS image sensor it is still able to deliver excellent image quality.
The camera is aimed at compact camera users and beginners who want to improve their skills, so Sony has made the user interface simple and straightforward. The extra-large, hinged LCD screen makes viewing captured still images and Full HD videos a pleasure.
Already equipped with Sony’s Sweep Panorama, this will be the first camera to offer a 3D Sweep Panorama mode as well.
European Multimedia Camera
Winner: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2
One of the most exciting features of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 is its vari-angle 3in (3:2) touchscreen monitor, from which one can both take control of shooting settings and activate the shutter by touching the subject on-screen.
The camera’s excellent electronic viewfinder makes it easy and comfortable to frame and focus pictures even in strong light.
The contrast-detection autofocus system is impressively fast, and picture quality is good in both still and video (AVCHD Lite) modes.
European Compact Camera
Winner: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V
If you are looking for a compact camera that packs a powerful zoom but still fits the pocket, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V should be at the top of your list.
With its 25-250mm, 10x zoom lens and features such as GPS, compass, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, long-lasting battery, 10fps shooting and Full HD-quality video recording, it is an ideal companion for travel as well as everyday events.
Using Sony’s Exmor R CMOS sensor, the camera is able to work well in low-light conditions, producing images with very little noise.
European Travel Compact Camera
Winner: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 represents a big step forward for the company’s TZ series.
Beyond all the auto and user-selectable specialised scene options – with new Pinhole and Film Grain modes – the TZ10 offers the more traditional PASM shooting modes for greater control and increased creativity. As a travel camera, the inclusion of GPS and geo-tagging is very welcome, while the 12x, 25-300mm Leica DC Vario-Elmar zoom lens offers focal lengths for every occasion.
The feature set is completed with AVCHD Lite video recording. And better still, it all fits very easily into your pocket.
European Advanced Compact Camera
Winner: Samsung EX1
The Samsung EX1 is a very solidly built and high-quality compact camera for demanding hobby photographers.
The high-quality, super-fast, 24-70mm f/1.8-2.4 wideangle zoom lens allows photography in low-light conditions without the photographer having to resort to high ISO settings.
The camera offers more advanced users the choice to record raw as well as JPEG file formats, while the AMOLED tilt-and-swivel display is good quality and makes shooting from creative angles very easy.
European All-Weather Compact Camera
Winner: Olympus µ Tough-8010
The very robust µ Tough-8010 is not only waterproof, but also drop-proof and frost-proof. It is an excellent camera for using in extreme conditions.
The camera suits sports people as well as families with small children and people with active lifestyles. Dual-system image stabilisation helps to produce sharp pictures even when they have to be taken in dim lighting conditions.
The photographic features are also extensive: 14MP resolution, 5x zoom, a bright LCD, HD-movie functionality and an HDMI-connector for TV. Plus, if you don’t have a memory card to hand it’s not a problem – the camera has 2GB of built-in memory.
European Super Zoom Camera
Winner: Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Despite the huge 30x optical zoom range, which stretches from 24-720mm, this camera’s lens is comparable in size to a normal 18-55mm SLR kit lens.
A lightweight and relatively compact camera, the HS10 offers an image stabiliser as an additional safety net to ensure sharp and detailed images.
This camera is an excellent choice for beginners, but there are also plenty of creative functions for the advanced photographer. Besides PASM exposure modes, the HS10 provides raw-format recording, a hotshoe, an ISO 6400 setting, Full HD video and a 3in adjustable LCD – a camera that will be appreciated by photographers of any level.
Winner: Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM
As an all-round lens for an APS-C-format camera, the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM is an excellent choice that offers exceptional value for money.
For optical quality this wide-to-standard zoom can match lenses that cost three times as much.
It is very well made and features an excellent image-stabilising system and a silent ultrasonic focus motor that offers speed as well as quiet operation. Designed for macro photography as well as everyday use, it offers a maximum magnification of 1:2.7 and a closest focus distance of just 22cm.
European Zoom lens
Winner: Tamron SP70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD
The Tamron SP70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD is a very compact, comfortable and easy-to-use zoom lens. Its greatest asset is the razor-sharp image quality that makes full-frame photos look like medium-format images.
The near-silent autofocus system makes the lens ideal for wildlife as well as street photography, while the superb image stabilisation makes it possible to take sharp and detailed pictures more easily in low-light conditions.
European Micro System Lens
Winner: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f/4-5.6
This is a super-wideangle lens designed for Olympus’s Micro Four Thirds-system cameras.
It offers a 100° angle of view that delivers the coverage you would expect from an 18-36mm lens on a full-frame system.
Being surprisingly lightweight and compact, it proves the exception to the rule that super-wideangle zoom lenses have to be big and heavy. It has an extremely fast and almost silent focusing system, which makes it an ideal lens for video recording as well.
Winner: Epson Stylus Pro 3880
Epson’s Stylus Pro 3880 is an A2+ professional printer small enough to be classed as a desktop model.
The printer specialises in producing high-quality monochrome and colour pictures with print resolutions of up to 2880x1440dpi, using Epson’s Ultrachrome K3 pigment-based inks. Two new colours added to the nine-ink set, Vivid Magenta and Vivid Light Magenta, give the photographer better reproduction of red, violet and purple shades.
The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 is a great choice for photographers who print in volume, as each cartridge has a capacity of 80ml.
European Professional Lens
Winner: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II
Nikon’s AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II gives photographers a guarantee of high image quality, even in the most difficult lighting conditions.
The fast f/2.8 maximum aperture allows photographers to work in a wide variety of situations, offering the ability to shoot with higher shutter speeds and to have smooth backgrounds with attractive bokeh. The lens has three ED glass elements to eliminate chromatic aberration and Nikon’s Nano-Crystal Coatings reduce internal reflection.
The AF-S Nikkor is equipped with Nikon’s VR II image stabilisation system, making it a natural choice for photographers specialising in nature, wildlife and fast-action sports.
European Photo Software
Winner: Apple Aperture 3
Apple Aperture 3 is a winner when it comes to organising your pictures in a smart and effective way.
Thanks to face detection and GPS tagging, this software package makes it very easy to index, sort and retrieve your photographs by searching for the people or the places in the pictures.
The program is very easy to use, and offers many new additional features together with high-class album printing and multimedia slide shows set to music. The new edge-aware Quick Brushes tool is particularly useful for precision retouching.