Gratifyingly, there was a lot more to like than to laugh at for cameras this year -- and for the latter, the few products which earned a jaw drop did so because of their "You're charging WHAT for that?!" prices.
So here's my selection, in no particular order, of the 20 most interesting cameras I've seen in 2014. These are neither the best nor the worst products I've
encountered, nor have I gotten to test some of them yet. They're simply
all notable for their contributions, for good or ill, to making cameras
fun to cover in 2014.
Panasonic broke out of its small-sensor rut with the first Four Thirds-based compact on the market. Substantially larger than the 1-inch sensors which have made cameras like the Sony RX100 series popular, the LX100's large sensor, 4K video and fast lens, this is one of the more exciting advanced compacts of 2014.
Though its small sensor makes it hard to take Pentax's Q series seriously, its Playskool-inspired designs of the past didn't help. With its 2014 update, Ricoh/Pentax at least spiffed up the design for a more adult look.
Caption byLori Grunin / Photo by Stephen Shankland/CNET
Frequently, sub-$2,500 full-frame cameras sacrifice speed, preserving the old APS-C fast/full-frame slow dichotomy that used to be a technological fact of life. The D750 emerged as one of the most well-rounded pro cameras of the year.
It's telling that Leica heralded its entry into the mainstream interchangeable-lens camera market with a loooong promotional video about its unibody construction. Maybe the goal was to numb you to its $1,850, £1,350, AU$5,000 price tag for the body.
The GH series has really made inroads into the hearts of pro video/filmographers who wanted something smaller and lighter than a dSLR but with the same flexibility -- and more. The GH4 tossed in tons more pro-friendly features, plus 4K.
While the 1.5-inch sensor in Canon's G1X series is notable, it just didn't live up to the price premium it bore. So Canon bit the bullet and adopted a 1-inch sensor for a more compact, less expensive model to compete with Sony's RX100 series, and managed to beat it on photo quality.
One of the big drawbacks to using a megazoom camera lens is that moving subjects can move out of frame fast, usually requiring you to retract the lens some to relocate your subject. The SP-100's unique dot-sight keeps you from having to do that.
As it did with the RX100, Hasselblad took an RX100 II, and added a wood grip that, depending upon your taste, makes the camera look stunning or hideous. And priced it laughably high at $2,400 (£1,550).
Sony's QX series of cameras which eschew an LCD in favor of connecting to your mobile device via Wi-Fi made waves when they first appeared last year, and this year the company followed up by offering the first interchangeable-lens model of its odd camera.
Along with a new Foveon sensor for its 2014 line of advanced compacts, Sigma redesigned the camera with an odd wide body that actually turns out to be comfortable to hold, if not especially pocketable.
Lytro followed up its debut Light-Field technology oddball camera with another oddball model, but one that at least targets more of the niche market that the product addresses. Given the amount of thought and planning that goes into producing a decent refocusable shot, going with something more studio-oriented makes a lot more sense.