Let's just address the elephant in the room right off the bat. I am not claiming these are the best cameras out there - but these are the best (most exciting) cameras for my use. Quality and precision are a piece of the equation - but all around enjoyment is the largest piece. That out of the way, let's get into it.
I shoot a lot of cameras. A lot. I have been through a bunch of (primary) systems over the years, from the full Nikon system (2006) to the Leica system (2013) and onto the Sony system (2017) to name a few. While shooting these complete systems I also shoot a lot of others on the side (non-primary: think Hasselblad 500c, Plaubel-Makina 670, Chamonix 45n2, etc.). I love to buy/borrow various cameras, give em a spin, then decide if they stay or go. I'd guess I have tried an average of six "side" cameras a year for the past 10+ years. I purchase a couple of these each year, and only a few ever stick around more than a couple years.
I'd say over the years that there are three primary formats that I tend to gravitate to: 35mm film, medium format film, and 35mm digital. So, I began thinking, what are the best (most enjoyable all around) cameras I have used in each format? This is my analysis.
35mm Film - Leica M2
35mm is an "original" format for me, as it's the one I began with in the early 1980's. I have tried so many various 35mm bodies, from the miniature viewfinder Rollei 35 to the huge Nikon F4s SLR. Of all the designs I have shot here, the rangefinders have been the most fun for me, namely the Leica's, Zeiss Ikon and Nikon S3. I love their size, their fast, sharp and small glass and of course, their amazing results.
And of all these, I always look fondly back on my 1958 Leica M2.
Sure, I've had a handful of M's (M2, M3, M-A) and they were all pretty similar. But the M2 design, with the button rewind, click-wheel counter and old school loader was easily my favorite. I've used it in the sun, snow and rain, in the mountains, city and sea. The little guy never failed me and always gave the most pleasing results of all my 35mm film cameras.
Oddly enough, I no longer own this camera... for now.
Medium Format - Pentax 67
This is my go to format for fine art and professional assignments, and my favorite to look at printed out. Again, I have shot a bunch of various systems and aspect ratios (6x6, 6x7, 6x4.5, 6x9) and have truly loved some of these. The Plaubel-Makina 670 was a close contender in this race, as I had a real blast with that camera - especially due to its compact size. In a 100 point system, I think it'd be just a few points shy of the Pentax 67. Hasselblad is also right up there for me, though I don't thoroughly enjoy the 6x6 format. But the Hassey's viewfinder is like nothing else on earth.
For me, the Pentax 67 is my ultimate medium format body, especially when paired with the 105mm f/2.4 lens. Yes, it's a beast, but I have become so used to it that it feels natural to shoot. That awesome wooden grip is just icing on the cake for me. And the results... damn.
This one I do not plan to let go of.
Digital - Sony RX1R II
This result actually surprised me a bit, as I was thinking the Sony A7R II was going to be it. I don't have a deep history with digital, mainly it was the Nikon D80, D700 and toying with a D4, then the Leica M-E, then onto the Sony bodies over the past 6 months. People like to hear themselves complain about the menu system, but there's no issue with it at all in my book. Each system I have used has had quirky a system. Once you are used to it, it's fine and dandy.
My question was, what's the most enjoyable for me to shoot?
Each and every day, I grab one camera off my shelf to have with me, on my side. And that's the Sony RX1R II. I love the results this little bugger achieves. My San Diego trip really solidified that with how versatile a fixed-lens full frame camera could be. It did everything I wanted and was perfect travel camera to have by my side. No matter what camera I grab off my shelves these days (Pentax 67, Sony A7R II, Nikon F4s, Nikonos V) the RX1R II never, ever stays home. Again - for my style - this was the most fun I've had with a digital camera and it produced results that I thoroughly enjoy.
What's my favorite of all these three? Man, I just can't say. There's something I love from each of them. But right now, that Pentax 67 and Sony RX1R II are a killer combo for my work.
What about you? What are your top cameras you have ever shot - whether you own them or not? Let me know in the comments below.