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The 20 most interesting cameras of 2014

From overpriced to overwhelming and all stops in between, here are the cameras that made an impression this year.

Lori Grunin
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Lori Grunin
1 of 21 Lori Grunin/CNET

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.

2 of 21 Lori Grunin/CNET

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

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.

3 of 21 Stephen Shankland/CNET

Pentax Q-S1

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.

4 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Nikon D750

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.

5 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Nikon D810

The sensor in this dSLR delivers  some of the best image quality to date, not just in its class but even some classes up.

6 of 21 Lori Grunin/CNET

Leica T

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.

7 of 21 Lori Grunin/CNET

Pentax K-S1

You have to give Ricoh/Pentax props for its willingness to experiment with its dSLRs. In the case of the K-S1, that means flashing lights and a design optimized for back-panel operation.

8 of 21 Lori Grunin/CNET

Samsung NX1

Samsung threw every new technology it could think of into its high-end interchangeable-lens camera; if it doesn't pry at least a few pros away from dSLRs it's not for lack of trying.

9 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Fujifilm X-T1

With the X-T1, Fujifilm was the first company to make a real effort at producing an interchangeable-lens model with performance intended to rival a dSLR.

10 of 21 Lori Grunin/CNET

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

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.

11 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Nikon D3300

Nikon has dropped the antialiasing filter from all of its dSLR sensors, which made the D3300 the least expensive model to benefit from the sharper images the technology delivers.

12 of 21 Lori Grunin/CNET

Canon PowerShot G7 X

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.

13 of 21 Lori Grunin/CNET

Olympus SP-100

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.

14 of 21 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

Panasonic brought the first 1-inch sensor megazoom to market with the FZ1000 -- and, what the heck, threw in 4K video as well.

15 of 21 Hasselblad

Hasselblad Stellar II

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).

16 of 21 Sarah Tew

Sony Alpha A7S

Sony expanded its A7 full-frame interchangeable-lens camera line with this low-resolution but very-high-sensitivity model optimized for video -- both 4K and HD.

17 of 21

Sony Alpha ILCE-QX1

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.

18 of 21 Pentax

Pentax 645Z

With prices dropping quickly, medium format is becoming affordable to a lot more people. Pentax broke new price ground with its 645Z, at a relatively affordable $8,500 (£6,800, AU$10,000).

19 of 21 Sigma

Sigma dp Quattro

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.

20 of 21 Lori Grunin/CNET

Sony ILCE-QX30

Phone, check. Megazoom camera, check. Sony even offers a handle to hold that unwieldy package. But it hits all the market checkboxes.

21 of 21 Sarah Tew / CNET

Lytro Illum

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.

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