ReadWriteReflect offers a look back at major technology trends, products and companies of the past year.

The literal and figurative flash of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is just starting up, so it’s the perfect time to review the cameras and photo gadgets that defined an industry in 2013. Consumer cameras are still experiencing some growing pains in the age of smartphone ubiquity, so it’s hard to imagine that the dust will settle out any time soon—and for consumers, that's a good thing.

The awkward tension between casual photography (think Instagram) and pro-level photography has given rise to clever design, impressive iteration and some camera categories we couldn't have dreamt of a few years ago. With a focus on the products that truly innovated, here are some of our favorite highlights from a year in photography.

Best Pocket Size Shooter That Impresses Just About Everyone: Sony RX100 II

A large sensor compact shooter that could even woo the pros, the first RX100 was a force to be reckoned with. Then Sony came back with the RX100 II, which delivers on just about every front, from its improved sensor to the new articulating LCD display to its still-pocketable design. The RX100 II isn't exactly cheap, but it can best any smartphone around while singlehandedly saving the ailing point-and-shoot class from extinction. 

Smartest Evolution: Canon 70D & Dual Pixel Focus

Canon’s 70D is a solid upgrade from the 60D even you take its cleverest feature into consideration. The newest update to Canon’s mid-range DSLR line, the 70D’s killer feature is Dual Pixel AF, an advanced autofocus boost that’s sophisticated enough to track the subject of a 1080p HD video. For better or worse, creating seriously cinematic video with relatively cheap gear has never been so easy.

Best Smartphone Camera: Nokia Lumia 1020

If the best camera is the one you have on you, Lumia 1020 owners are in luck. Toting around the 1020 means you’re packing a 41-megapixel camera too. Arguably more of a camera than a phone—or a close synthesis of the two—Nokia’s Lumia 1020 is widely regarded as the best camera ever built into a smartphone, and we’re inclined to agree. 

Craziest Design That's Actually Pretty Cool: Sony QX10 and QX100

As happy to deliver a proof of concept as a real consumer product, Sony just keeps innovating. Clearly tuned in to our collective self fixation, Sony’s lens-sized QX100 and QX10 latch onto your smartphone giant squid-style and put it to work as a viewfinder. Tackling the tension between casual and more serious photography with a playful twist, here’s hoping Sony keeps thinking outside the box into 2014.

The Full Frame Compact Of Your Dreams: Sony A7R & Sony A7

A full frame revelation in a remarkably small package, the Sony A7R is the hybrid you've been waiting for. While pro-tier leaders Nikon and Canon make iterative upgrades, Sony's reinvented the wheel with a full frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera that crams an unprecedented amount of oomph into a comparatively tiny package. Event photographers with back and shoulder pain: rejoice! 

 

Herald Of A Whole New Way To Shoot: Google Glass

Love it or hate it, Google Glass could make big waves in photography. Even if you think wearing a smartphone on your face is absurd, you’ve got to give the camera credit. On its own, the 5-megapixel camera built into Google Glass isn’t much. But affix it to your face and mix in instantaneous and hands-free shutter options and Glass can take everything from outdoorsy Go Pro-style shots to street photography to new heights.

What did you like shooting with last year? Where do you see photography going in 2014? Feel free to toss us your two cents in the comments.