Over the Christmas and New Year break we are normally still flat out catching up on website updates, getting paperwork in order and planning the stories and campaigns for the coming year. But we do usually get a bit of time to ruminate the year past and have a think about the multitude of products – and sometimes services – we have been lucky enough to play with.
(And make no bones about it. We consider it a privilege that vendors allow us to play with their stuff, sometimes before release and even in pre-production or beta mode).
Out of that rumination, it is fun to but together a sort of “Best Of” list and share it.
The problem with that is in this biz, there is no real “Best Of”, as everyone’s needs, and workflow are different.
One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor as Paul Simon said.
Having said that, what I do like to do is be a bit selfish and suggest out of all the products we have played with for the year, which ones especially struck me, and would go into making the perfect shooting kit given funds were no barrier.
This means that some stuff was not actually released last year of course as we don’t always get product within a reasonable time frame sadly. But all products ARE current on vendor’s price lists at time of writing.
So here goes:
Best Medium Camcorder
The number of models we have seen this year has been abysmally small sadly, so the field to choose from is not that extensive. Out of the ones we have played with though, the Panasonic HC-PV100 stands out. Both myself and Steve Turner have used the PV-100 this year and what we think is best summed up by Steve’s comment:
“Value for money does not come much better than this! At around $1800 the PV100 is stupidly cheap and I’d suggest you get one before Panasonic realise they’ve made a big mistake!”
Excellent in low light, has dual XLR ports, light enough as a run and gun and as long as you don’t need 4K – and many still don’t – the Panasonic HC-PV100 is very, very hard to beat in value for money.
Second choice goes to the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K for its technical brilliance and world-leading qualities. And it’s Aussie so there’s a REALLY good excuse to boot!
Best Action Camera
Tough one this. Whilst the field is dominated by GoPro and DJI there are some sleepers as well including Sony. The new Insta360 we talked of yesterday we have discounted at this stage due to a) we haven’t yet seen it in the flesh and b) it doesn’t qualify as a 2019 (or before) release.
I like the DJI OSMO Action Cam very much and said so in the review. But the GoPro Hero 8 was such a step forward over previous models, incorporating features that in a way should have been there from the start (especially the built-in mounting points) it gets the nod – but only just.
A special commendation does go to the DJI Pocket Gimbal camera which is an ingenious little device that should have more fans (and sales) than retailers tell me it does.
dSLR / Mirrorless
I confess we haven’t seen too many of these this year for review. The major players are Panasonic, Sony, Olympus, FUJI, Canon and Nikon and out of these, we have only REALLY seen Panasonic and Canon models.
We are trying to get models for review from FUJI (and are very hopeful here) and have doubled efforts with Nikon and Sony. Olympus don’t even bother to get back to us by the way …
So, the decision is probably not quite a fair one, but as these are all we have to go on, I am picking the Panasonic G9. Well priced and versatile, it is equally at home in the hands of the enthusiast and makes an excellent secondary camera (perhaps for the Panasonic SH1) for the professional. Me, I’d use it as an adjunct to the PV100 without hesitation.
Still an evolving market we feel, with the later emphasis being less on the obvious VR usage of the footage to more “extraction of selected shots from the whole” as these cameras grab everything in the vicinity due to the technology. Additionally, software has now caught up letting 360° footage be converted back to standard aspect ratios without loss.
The number of models available has grown remarkably as has the number of vendors involved. GoPro, Kandao, Ricoh, HumanEyes, 360Fly, Garmin, Kodak, Yi, Samsung and Insta360 all make 360° / 180° (panoramic) camera / camcorders.
Some come with dedicated software, with some of that really good and some not so good. ALL of the ones we tested come with a major fault in it being very hard to detect what mode they are in – still image or video – due to impossibly small or hard to see in sunlight indicators. Even if using a smartphone app, this too can be hard to detect in sunlight, so we strongly suggest ALL manufacturers take that on board.
My pick is the QooCam from Kandao due to its versatility and software. It’s not conventional with its “twist” design to turn it into a panoramic shooter, but it works, is pocketable and the imagery is very good.
Best Audio Product
We have only reviewed mics this year (if you discount software that is) so a bit tricky this one. I decided on going for value for money and technical all-round cleverness, and therefore chose the Sennheiser XS Wireless Digital Lav. I am using one to make a vide- based tutorial series and found the sound quality to be brilliant (using it connected to a Pany HC-PV100), easy to use and with excellent battery life.
A special commendation goes to the RØDE Wireless Go that a number of acquaintances swear by.
What Else Would We Add To Our Kit?
We haven’t tested any tripods at all this year.
I can only base what tripod I would pick then on what I know, and my trusty Manfrotto MV351B2 and 503HDV head continues to soldier on without missing a beat.
For a field monitor, there is a lot of noise about ATOMOS models about the place, but despite regular requests to the company over literally YEARS, again, we have NEVER had the courtesy of even a reply, let alone a “sod off”. Perhaps they are one and the same in their eyes …
Of course, Blackmagic has to be there with its Video Assist 12G HDR and at the price that is where we’d go. An honourable mention to OSEE with the G7 7” Field Monitor which is only let down by the lack of supplied battery and Australian power supply. The unit itself is excellent.
Camera cases / bags are another we haven’t looked at this year, and again, not for lack of trying. I am still using a combo of aluminium cases from JayCar and an old Turtle 039 MID, so barring a ripper of a waterproof decent size backpack, I’ll stay there for the moment.
For on-camera lighting we like the Apuiture range and I use an inexpensive $80 AL-M9 for the majority of the stuff I do.
Finally for external mounts, dollies, small cranes etc, we still have not been able to go past CameraGrip for all our needs. They are relatively inexpensive, have a HUGE range and built to last with quality components. The fact they are UK based is a bit o an issue, but they do deliver without the exorbitant costs that are associated with sourcing from the US thankfully.
Next, I’ll look at what goes into our editing suite, including computer hardware, software and ancillary stuff.
While we have you, on our “Donate” page we have four options: $5, $10, $20 and $50 donation buttons via PayPal (which also allows payment via VISA and Mastercard etc. These are in US$ by the way).
If you decide we are worth a small ONE-OFF donation via this method, we would greatly appreciate it and will allow us to continue at the same professional level we have strived for for almost 14 years now!
More information as to WHY we have added this option is on the Donate page.