Choosing the “Best of…” products for 2018 has not been easy and made all the more difficult by the reason we just have not been able to get hold of as many products and models as we would have liked.
And we tried. Oh, how we tried. So, if your favourite product is not here, AND it was a 2018 release, please let us know and we’ll try again. Likewise if there is something you would like our experts to look at, play with and comment on.
So out of the ones we DID manage to play with – either short term or long term, here is our list – and the runner’s up – of the best hardware products of 2018.
You may agree, or you may disagree. Either way, let us know your thoughts in the comments section at the end.
Best Pro Camcorder
Over the course of 2018 we tested a number of pro level camcorders – not as many as we would have liked as simply, we couldn’t get access to a lot of them which is a shame.
Despite that, our experts still consider that the winner, the Blackmagic URSA Mini would still have held its own among other esteemed company such as that from Canon, Panasonic and Sony.
As our reviewer Steve Turner commented, “This is a stunning camera”. (For those that don’t know Steve, he has a very long history as a cammo, producer and director for Australia’s ABC, Channels 7 and 9 and as a freelancer. He has been reviewing cameras and editing software for over 20 years).
Steve went on to say, “The URSA covers all the bases you can think of. A stunning range of Codecs including RAW options including 60fps at 4.6K lossless”.
The Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro is not an inexpensive camera we grant you. A fully kitted unit will set you back in excess of $14K. But for your dollar you get everything you could possibly need for just about any circumstance for now and into the immediate future.
The fact it is also a fair dinkum home-grown Aussie product is a bonus.
Highly Commended: Sony NXCAM HXR-NX200
Best Prosumer Camcorder
This was a no brainer. The Panasonic HC-WXF1.
For a modest price tag of under $1400 you get a brilliant wide angle F1.8 Leica lens, 4K shooting capability, viewfinder, manual focus (or zoom) ring, superb low light performance and the ability to record picture in picture via a twin lens system.
These are the core things that make up a good camcorder, along with ergonomics which includes weight and balance plus ease of use via a logical and intuitive menu system.
If you successfully marry all these things together, you have the makings of a great camcorder.
With the Panasonic HC-WFX1, all the right boxes are ticked.
Highly Commended: Canon Legria HF G40
Best Mirrorless Camera
Of the models we were able to have a play with, the Panasonic GH5S came out shining. Sure, we are not a fan of the dSLR shape being used as a camcorder, and have never made any bones about that over the years, but in the case of the GH5S, Panasonic has successfully put all of the attributes of a camcorder into the body of a dSLR camera – as the market demanded – and come out of the other side with a brilliant product. A dSLR DESIGNED to be used as a camcorder, not a dSLR that can also be used as a camcorder.
That is the difference.
Throw in the huge range of lenses available the 4/3rds form factor mirrorless gives you access to, especially those from the Leica stable with an affordable price tag, and you have a winner.
Highly Commended: Sony A7
Best Action Cam
Most people would say that GoPro has this one hands down. But they would be wrong. And the winner is not some knock-off wannabe either. In fact, in many aspects the winner is not even an action camera in the popular sense of the definition.
The Sony CyberShot DSC-RX0 is a bit of a hybrid in that sense. Yes, it has all the attributes of an action cam; it is small and light, waterproof and shockproof, has a wide angle of view, rear view screen, can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet and mounted just about anywhere.
But that is where the comparison ends, as the DSC-RX0 has a feature set in terms of shooting way beyond any standard action cam. For example, frame rates up to 960fps are available with ISO selectable to 25,600. Multiple RX0s can be used together to create a multi-cam shooting environment and there is a whole gamut of accessories available specifically for this camera – and of course it can be adapted to take advantage of the huge list of GoPro type mounts available if required.
At $999 it is beyond the range of “standard” action cam pricing, but for that sticker price, you get a very, very capable action style camera, and a whole lot more besides.
Highly Commended: GoPro Hero 7
Best 360° Degree Camera
In November we did a shoot-out between the major 360° degree cameras on the market, and the GoPro Fusion narrowly beat the Ricoh Theta V, primarily due to the waterproof capabilities of the GoPro, the availability of dedicated 360° degree software and of course the enormous range of mounts and add ons available.
We still think the difference between image capability of the two is cigarette paper thin though.
As per the shoot-out results however, the GoPro does win this category but we are looking forward to pitting it against the new VUZE 360° camera we expect to get very soon. That will be interesting to say the least.
Highly Commended: Ricoh Theta V
In Australia at least, Chinese company DJI has this category won hands down. There really is not much choice other than one of the models from DJI. We chose the MAVIC 2 Pro on the advice of our drone flying experts, Steve Turner and Dr David Smith.
It has all the features you want, is relatively easy to become comfortable with and takes fabulous images.
In short, the DJI MAVIC 2 Pro does everything you want a drone to do.
Highly Commended: DJI Spark
This category brought out as surprise. You would expect that a “standard” sort of mic you would see nailed to the top of a camcorder, at the end of a boom, being yelled into like a Jimmy Barnes try-hard or similar would be the pick of the bunch.
But not so.
We chose the Sennheiser Memory Mic due to its simplicity, value for money and ease of use yes, but more so because it is just such a brilliant idea!
A stand-alone mic with built in memory that can be later synced to a smartphone app? Why was this not thought of before?
The Sennheiser Memory Mic means you can now always have a mic with you to record interviews or ambient sounds no matter where you are. It is unobtrusive, lasts for ages on a single USB charge and records excellent quality.
If it could be got it in other colours apart from white (black or charcoal would be a good start), the $379 Sennheiser Memory Mic would be almost perfect!
Highly Commended: RØDE Videomic M- EL
Best Field Recorder (Video)
If you use a dSLR or camcorder for recording video, have you ever lamented the difficulty to see exactly what you are recording due to the smallness of the display and / or outdoors, you just cannot see it?
This is where adding an external monitor/ recorder comes into play, and we reckon there is none better than the Video Assist product range from Blackmagic Design in this area, particularly the Video Assist 4K version, our winner of the Best Field Video Recorder (Video).
With a heap of features such as built in LUT support, focus and exposure tools, recording in 10 bit 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHx formats and both 7” and 5” touchscreen models available, the Video Assist range, starting at only $755 is one of those items that once you have one, you wonder how the hell you got by without it.
Runner Up: None
Best Backup Drive
For this category, we chose the Seagate Backup Plus. Why? Because we use one, an 8TB USB 3.0 model, and bang for buck it is a brilliant buy.
There is not much you can say about hard drives. In review terms they are fractionally less exciting than printers, and a little more than a UPS. But in times of disaster, a secure backup is a must, and we have learnt from sad experience here, that when something did go wrong, our Seagate Backup Plus saved our bacon.
There can be no better accolade we reckon. A winner not based on fancy packaging, ergonomics, its colour or anything else. It just did what it was supposed to do when it mattered.
Runner Up: WD My Passport Wireless SSD