So what was the best gear of 2017? This year saw a vast array of new gear being announced but as we have become accustomed to, not all of it made it to market. The Newsshooter team covered all the major shows and announcements throughout the year and we not only saw plenty of products that were innovative, but also products that were improvements on existing technology.
Matt and Erik have sat down and had a discussion (or was it a heated debate?) over what products that they thought were the most impressive of 2017. To be eligible, the product had to be able to be purchased for the first time in 2017. Products that were announced in 2017 but have not yet shipped weren’t eligible.
The products selected are based on a personal assessment and just because Matt or Erik thought that particular piece of gear was good doesn’t necessarily make it the right bit of kit for you. The guys have made selections by factoring in performance, usability, and value for money.
So what products did the boys select as their best of 2017? Well let’s dive straight in and have a look!
Best Digital Cinema Camera
Canon C200 and Panasonic EVA1
For me, there wasn’t a clear winner in this category. I got to spend time putting both these cameras through their paces and both of them impressed me in different ways. If only there was a way to combine the best features from both of them into a single camera, perhaps the Canasonic EVA200?
The C200 has by far the best autofocus performance of any dedicated digital cinema camera and its ability to be able to record Canon Cinema RAW Lite internally is certainly impressive. The lack of internal 422 10-bit recording is disappointing, but this won’t be a deal breaker for some shooters.
I was was not only impressed by the compact size and usability of the EVA1, but also by the pictures it produced. The biggest let down for me was that the LCD screen is unusable outdoors in bright conditions, and as the camera has no VF you are going to have to purchase an additional EVF to really use the camera properly. The autofocus functionality is really poor given it has a native Canon EF mount.
With both cameras coming in at a very similar price, either one is going to get the job done for you, but which one you choose really depends on what your requirements are and how you operate.
Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro
Announced prior to NAB the URSA Mini Pro improved on the existing URSA Mini 4.6K and finally gave users internal ND filters. With its ability to record both in ProRes and in RAW internally it certainly is a very versatile camera that can be used for a lot of applications. It is not only priced very competitively compared to its competition but also the accessories available won’t break the bank.
Hey! Matt picked two! 😀 Tough to pick this one since Canon and Panasonic have come out with solid cameras in the popular sub $10K market. I haven’t got my hands on the EVA 1 yet to try, but will early in 2018. I’m playing around with the C200 and find it to be a very nice camera. I like it more than I expected to actually. The redesigned audio inputs on the body is huge for me as I didn’t like having the audio on the handle or the clamshell design of the C300. That EVF is very nice and crisp, but unfortunately the LCD touchscreen is limited to DPAF focusing and isn’t usable outside. The internal Raw Light option is oh-so-good you won’t want to use MP4. Just save up those Christmas cash presents for a few large CFast cards. Speaking of MP4, I found it to be pretty good and holds up fine in post for an 8bit 4:2:0 codec. Cant go crazy in the grades but works a treat. I know it’s wishful thinking but I sure would like to see the “coming soon” XF-AVC be a little more of a gift like 4:2:2 or even a stocking stuffer 10bit option.
The EVA 1 is also an exciting camera and it’s great to see Panasonic get back into the market, as it has been a long time since the AF-100 days. As with the GH5, Panasonic is feeling festive and giving all the good boys and girls the codecs they want in a light small body that fits neatly in between the GH5 and VariCam. 2017 made it tough to pick the right camera and the features set is what will make you lean towards one over the other. Need autofocus in video? The C200 will probably be high on your list. Like robust codecs? The EVA 1 is a great option. Oh and like Matt the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K Pro deserves a present under the tree. Very solid codec options and the addition of internal ND brought the URSA camera full circle.
Best DSLR or mirrorless camera
This was perhaps the easiest category for me to choose. While I have never really been a fan of M 4/3 sensor sized cameras the GH5 has too many features at a competitive price to be overlooked. Internal 4:2:2 10-Bit 4K video recording, anamorphic shooting modes, and 5-Axis sensor stabilization are just a few of the key features that let the GH5 punch well above its weight. The camera may not have blown me away as it has Erik, but simply can’t overlook it as being the best DSLR/mirrorless camera release of 2017.
Sony Alpha a7R III
Released towards the end of 2017, the a7R III is the latest full frame hybrid stills/video camera from Sony. With 5-Axis SteadyShot stabilization, the ability to record in UHD 4K video using the full width of the full-frame sensor it’s certainly a very capable camera. The lack of 422 10-bit internal recording is still a letdown, and perhaps it’s worth waiting for the a7S III if you are more interested in the video functionality. If you are required to take both stills and video for your job the a7R can certainly get the job done if you are prepared to swallow the almost $3200 USD price tag.
The GH5 is my pick as well. So much to like for video shooters. Panasonic’s decision to throw in some of the best codecs we have seen in a hybrid camera so far is impressive. Having 10 bit 4:2:2 All-I really raises the bar. Hopefully, the other guys will follow suit. Nobody likes a Scrooge with camera features! My only concern is longevity on the GH5. I have mine in for warranty repair now to fix the shutter dial and an issue with the rubber coating peeling on the grip. I’m sure you have heard from an elf lately that a new model is coming but be careful about those elves. They like to have some fun with us gearheads.
Best Audio Product
Sound Devices MixPre-3 and MixPre-6
Both the Sound Devices Mix Pre 3 and Mix Pre 6 are actually two devices in one. They are capable of accepting three or four inputs respectively and operating as a simple mixer on location. The boxes are designed to be able to sit under a DSLR-sized camera using a retractable ¼”-20 mounting point and can record to an internal SD card.
You can also stream the inputs over a USB connection, so you could quite easily use it to get a feed into a computer for use in a podcast or live web transmission.
With Sound Devices performance and build quality, as well as multiple levels of versatility, the Mix Pre series are certainly worth looking at.
RØDE VideoMic Pro+
The much-anticipated update to the VideoMic Pro, the Pro+ improved on on one of the most popular on-camera microphones by adding new features and improving the build quality.
If Santa put a GH5 under the tree this year then the DMW-XLR1 is a must have. It makes it so easy to get proper audio into the camera. Just slide it on the hot shoe and lock it in. No battery or cables to attach since the GH5 powers the device and the audio goes straight into the camera through the hot shoe. Two audio channels with line, mic and +48V inputs plus low cut and DB gain makes it a real winner.
Aputure Deity Condenser Shotgun Microphone Location Kit
Aputure is known for making video production gear at very reasonable prices and the Deity shotgun microphone is such a great deal and sounds great too. The kit is packed. You get a Rycote shock mount with handle, dead cat windshield, foam windscreen and a microphone clamp all in a waterproof case for $430.
Best Cinema Lens
At just 980g, with parfocal performance, and almost no focus breathing they are certainly not rehoused stills lenses trying to be cinema lenses.
Initially, they were only available in Sony E and Fujinon X mount, but companies such as MTF and Duclos Lenses now have mounts so you can use them on M 4/3 and Sony FZ mount cameras.
Retailing at $3799 USD each, the MK zooms offer exceptional performance and value for money.
Angenieux Type EZ Series 15-40mm T2 and 30-90mm T2
These two Angenieux zooms offer exception versatility, value for money and optical performance. With the ability to swap out the rear optical block so the lenses can be used to cover both S35 and FF or Vista Vision sensors with a diagonal image circle up to 46mm, there is nothing quite like them on the market.
Canon Compact Servo Cinema Lenses
Both the 18-80 T4.4 and 70-200 T4.4 are really nice lenses for video production. Being parfocal with a smooth manual focus makes them a dream to use. The optional zoom rocker is also very nice but you don’t have to have it since a smaller one is also on the lens. Having Image Stabilization on a cinema lens is also great and it works really well especially on the longer 70-200. Canon really went big with the Compact Servo Lenses. Yes, they get put on the naughty list a lot for holding back on features with a lot of their cameras but not on these cinema lenses. Paired with a C200 or C300 you have a really nice cinema kit. Yes T4.4 is a little slow but if it was 2.8 it would be a heavy and expensive Abominable Snowman of a lens.
Fujinon MK Cinema Lenses
I put these in my online shopping cart a few times this year but my sleigh needed fixing, unfortunately. Both aren’t as versatile as the Canon Compact primes due to the E-Mount, but if you have a Sony camera or GH5 you can attach these light cinema zooms on them. You will need to add the MFT mount to them for the GH5 but it’s easy and not expensive to do. The more affordable cinema zoom has really arrived in 2017.
Best Stills Lens
Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS
As far as full frame mid-range zooms go, the Sony 24-105mm f/4 is hard to beat. It offers optical performance and build quality that is better than similar lenses that cost a lot more money.
The lens is sharper than the Zeiss FE 24-70mm f/4 OSS and is lighter and easier to use than the Canon 24-105/4 L II. With a price of around $1300 USD it makes for a great all in one lens for video work, especially on the Sony a7R and a7S series cameras.
SLR Magic 18mm f/2.8 for Sony E-mount
At just $499 USD this lens represents excellent value for money for video shooters using any of Sony’s E mount cameras. With 0.8 pitch gears, clickless aperture and the ability to cover full frame sensors its a great wide angle choice for any shooter and its low weight makes it ideal for drone or gimbal work.
Sony 2017 E-Mount releases
- Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS
- Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS
- Sony FE 85mm F1.8
- Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS
- Sony FE 12-24mm F4 G
- Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM
With the popularity and huge growth of the a7s, a7r and a6300, a650 cameras Sony has really stepped up developing high-quality fast lenses for those cameras. It was an issue for early adopters since Sony wanted to keep the size and weight down on lenses by making them F4. Users wanted faster and Sony delivered. Today you have a lot of options in the fast category as well as some pro-level f4 lenses like the popular focal length 24-105. I use the heck out of the Canon version and the Sony model is getting rave reviews.
Best Lighting Device
This category had me tossing and turning at night as I have seen and reported on so many different lights during 2017. Trying to pick a winner isn’t easy as there are so many factors you need to consider, but ultimately I had to choose something.
The AEOS weighs in at just 1.4kg (3lb) and can be attached to an included aluminium ballhead which means you don’t have to carry around a heavy yolk frame. With a 42W power draw no other 1×1 on the market can run for as long remotely in the field off a camera battery.
The AEOS also comes with a host of included accessories and features that can’t be found on a lot of its competition. With good colour rendition and adequate output for a light of this size and power draw, it’s hard not to like it.
Kinotehnik Practilite 604 DMX
The 604 is the successor to the 602 and as far as build quality, quality of light and photometric performance goes, this is for me one of the most impressive lights I tested in 2017. Built like a tank, the 604 also features a great bluetooth control app and with a 15 to 75 degree beam angle and consistent output across its 3000 to 6000K range.
Quasar Science Q-LED Battery LED Tube Lamps
The Quasar Science bicolor Q-LED lights are very cool. The Q-LED arent all-new, however, these have been updated in 2017 with better output and longer battery life. I did a review of the battery-powered Q-LED models and love them. At first, my inner Grinch wasn’t sure, but once I used them and found different ways to mount and light people and scenes they have become a vital lighting tool for me. Bright and soft with a 4-hour battery life is nice. With the two strong magnetes on the back mounting them to metal surfaces is fast without having to pull out a stand and grip head. If you do want to use a light stand attaching a baby pin to the end is a great option. A single button press cycles through the dimming levels from 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, 10%. I wish I could use them with AC power as well unfortunately, you cant. Since using these I also picked up Quasar Science T8 4′ tube lights. At only $75 each, they are great inexpensive light for backgrounds and fill. So many options I never thought of until I started using them.
The Aputure 300D had a rocky start with the green fringe issue on the production units, however, Aputure took care of the issue and is now shipping replacement glass filters to early adopters. The light packs a heck of a punch in a fixture slightly larger than the 120 series lights. Having the Bowens mount makes them versatile for adding modifiers like a Fresnel lens or softbox. If you need bright the 300D delivers.
Best camera platform or movement device
Changing the fundamental design of any product that people have become accustomed to is a risky proposition. The Sachtler Flowtech 75 tripod is a striking departure from the normal tubular support systems we’ve been using for years. Sachtler have used the latest modern carbon fibre production techniques and have created a tripod that’s optimised for solo shooters.
Not only is the Flowtech 2.5x stiffer than previous models, but its easier to operate and easier to carry. Weighing in at just 2.9kg it can handle payloads of up to 20kg.
Hopefully the 100mm bowl version will be out soon, so more shooters will be able to take advantage of the new design. Gimbals come and go, but tripods are a solid investment and can last you for decades.
Zhiyun-Tech Crane 2
I have tested out a lot of one-handed gimbals and in my opinion, nothing comes close to the Crane 2. It can handle payloads of up to 3.17kg, run for up to 18 hours and it’s solidly made and well designed. With an easy to use app and integrated follow focus and camera control for certain cameras, you can’t do better for the price.
Tripods are one of those items nobody wants to spend a lot of money on yet they are an essential tool for getting great shots. The video tripod hasn’t had a major re-invention in a long time and Sachtler has done just that with the Flowtech. With a simple pull of the levers, the legs come out. Sachtler has spent a lot of time and effort manufacturing the Flowtech. They even manufacture their own carbon fiber.
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 14
Blackmagic continue to improve and refine DaVinci Resolve. The latest incarnation of the popular colour grading software continues to evolve into a more fully fledged NLE system.
With the full studio version of the software available for $299 USD or the very capable free version Blackmagic may well end up being the go to one stop program for your complete post production needs.
Digital Anarchy Transcriptive automatic transcription plugin
If you are working overseas and dealing with foreign languages interviews that need to be transcribed then Digital Anarchy’s Transcriptive plugin for Premiere Pro looks to be a must have piece of software. It transcribes the audio from your sequence and provides you with searchable timecoded text with a claimed accuracy rate of 96%.
Apple Final Cut Pro 10.4
I’m almost surprised I picked FCPX actually since I’ve been using it for such a short time but the improvements in the new release are commendable especially if you like to color grade as the new tools are really great. Apple hasn’t updated the software in a while and with the new iMac Pro and hopefully a new upgradable Mac Pro on the horizon the new 10,4 version will be a solid performer. 10.4 brought 360 VR editing, Advanced Color Grading, and High Dynamic Range Editing.
Best equipment bag or case
Think Tank StreetWalker Rolling Photo Backpacks
Think Tank have been a go to source for quality photography bags for years and recently they have started branching out making more video oriented products.
I have been using a StreetWalker Rolling Photo Backpack for over 6 months now and it’s my go to bag for keeping all my lenses safe, secure, and easy to access. The bag is built like a tank (no pun intended) and is perfect as a carry on item or even if you need to check it in.
With sturdy wheels, a robust handle and pockets everywhere, it’s amazing just how versatile this product is.
Think Tank Video Tripod Manager 44
I have been searching for years for a decent tripod bag that has wheels that is sturdy enough to be checked in on flights. The Video Tripod Manager 44 ensures that my tripod is protected, is easy to transport and easy to access.
Matthews C-Stand Rolling KitBag
When a product makes your life easier it deserves some holiday cheer. Matthews C-Stand Rolling KitBag does just that. C-stands are solid but a bit clumsy to travel with. The KitBag fixes this. The bag fits up to three stands plus arms and grip heads and rolls right on set.
Must have product
Hide-A-Mic cos 11 set
Sometimes the best products are the small, inexpensive ones. These clever lapel microphone holders help solve the old age problem of hiding microphones while eliminating rustle from clothing.
I use these on an almost daily basis and they have saved me so much time with making sure I get clean audio capture while not having to see a microphone on my talent. If you are a solo operator and don’t have the benefit of always working with a sound recordist, then these are well worth looking at.
I’m struggling with this one. I really didn’t find a product that was new in 2017 that was essential however the Hide A Mic is a very cool innovative product that won’t break the bank and makes getting rustle free audio capture much easier. I’ll give you this one to Matt 😀
2017 was a great year for gear, especially cameras. As you can see the list of them on this post shows some of the best. We have had some years in the past that felt like a lump a coal in my stocking but this year I think we all didn’t end up on the naughty list. What will 2018 bring? I can’t wait to find out.