2021 was almost a mirror image of 2020. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation, and international travel and trade shows being canceled, this didn’t stop new products from being released. While some may have been delayed, we still saw a ton of new products come to market in 2021.
So what are our favorite products of 2021? Well, Erik and Matt have assembled a list of what most impressed them during 2021. Their picks are personal choices based on what gear is relevant and useful for the type of work they do.
We would also love to hear from our readers as to what their favorite products of 2021 were. Feel free to tell us in the comments section what your personal favorites were.
Now, the criteria for these selections was as simple as following one rule:
- The product had to be announced for the first time in 2021, and preferably has already started shipping. Due to the global chip shortage and other issues, I am going to give a pass to some products that were scheduled to be shipped but are now delayed.
Erik and Matt have both picked a winner and one or two honorable mentions. Just to be crystal clear, these selections are personal choices otherwise they may have still been debating (or arguing!) over the winner of each category.
The categories are:
- Digital Cinema Camera
- Hybrid Camera
- Audio Product
- Camera Accessory
- Camera Support Device
Favorite Digital Cinema Camera
MATT’S PICK: Sony VENICE 2 8K
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Sony took what everyone liked about the original VENICE and improved on it. A new 8.6K sensor, internal RAW recording, and a range of other enhancements and tweaks os bound to make the VENICE 2 a popular high-end camera.
MATT’S HONORABLE MENTION: RED V-Raptor
I think the V-RAPTOR 8K VV + 6K S35 Dual-Format Camera is one of RED’s best releases in recent years. Sized only slightly larger than the KOMODO but boasting a new sensor, the V-RAPTOR offers multi-format capture in 8K VistaVision, 6K Super35, 4K, 3K Super16, and anamorphic options. The camera features dual 12G-SDI outputs, resolutions including 16-bit REDCODE Raw at significantly higher frame rates, 1080 streaming, and phase-detection autofocus (PDAF).
ERIK’S PICK: Sony VENICE 2
The Sony VENICE 2 looks like a nice upgrade with an 8.6K full-frame sensor that can record X-OCN RAW files internally. It’s available in two flavors including 6K. The interchangeable Sensor block design is interesting and the ability to remove it and use the Extension System is also innovative.
ERIK’S HONORABLE MENTION: iPhone 13 Pro Max
I know I’m going to get a lot of crap for this pick, but hear me out. The iPhone 13 Pro video features are simply impressive. Yes, the fake bokeh is sometimes distracting but the point here is how good it is for a mobile device. You can even record in ProRes. That’s crazy. Technology is moving so fast and the cameras in them do things that are hard to believe for how small they are. If you want you could shoot a feature film with the iPhone 13 Pro. I wouldn’t but it’s doable with the right support. Rember Tangerine in 2015? That was shot with an iPhone 5s. Anyone can produce a slick video with minimal gear and the iPhone 13 Pro is breaking new ground.
Favorite Hybrid Camera
MATT’S PICK: Nikon Z9
The Z9 was somewhat of a surprise, particularly when it came to the video features. For such a long time Nikon bought out hybrid mirrorless cameras with pretty underwhelming video functionality. With the Z9 Nikon certainly swung for the fences and their flagship mirrorless features video capabilities that currently exceed that of the competition. 8K 60p internal RAW recording, internal ProRes recording, good autofocus, and excellent stills capabilities all add up to an impressive camera.
If Sony or Canon had have released a camera with the exact same features as the Z9 people would have been singing its praises, however, because it’s Nikon it probably didn’t get the attention, nor the respect it deserves.
MATT’S HONORABLE MENTION: Sony a1
The Sony a1 packs a lot of features and functionality into a small-sized body. It is a 50.1-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 30-frames per second. As for video the alpha 1 shoots 8K 30p 10-bit 4:2:0 XAVC HS recording with 8.6K oversampling. The Alpha 1 is also capable of 4K 120p / 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 recording and includes S-Cinetone.
ERIK’S PICK: Sony a1
As Matt mentioned the a1 is a very capable stills and video camera. It does it at a cost with an entry price of $6,498.00
ERIK’S HONORABLE MENTIONS: Sony FX3
The Sony FX3 is an interesting camera and while it isn’t a true hybrid it does take stills. I think it was a great first release and I’m sure Sony will have a V2 sometime down the road. Yes I missed the EVF but I like that Sony took some chances.
MATT’S PICK: Prolycht Orion 300 FS
I have used the Prolycht Orion 300 FS on a lot of projects this year. Its versatility, color accuracy, power draw, and output make it hard to beat. I can use it as a soft light, hard light, attach a Fresnel or projector and create or mimic just about any lighting source you can imagine.
MATT’S HONORABLE MENTION: Creamsource Vortex8
The Creamsource Vortex8 is a 650W high power 2×1 RGBW panel fixture with a CCT range of 2200K to 15000K. Yes, the Vortex8 is a little niche in some ways, but it has the flexibility to be used for a wide array of lighting applications. Having the ability to use it as a hard lighting source and a soft lighting source is not something we usually see with 2×1 panel lights. The attention to detail and thought that has gone into this fixture is very apparent and it was one of the most impressive lights I have ever reviewed.
ERIK’S PICK: Aputure Nova P600c RGBWW LED Panel
Aputure keeps upping the output and build quality of their fixtures and the P600c is another example of this. The fixture offers full HSI color with plenty of power in white light modes. You can also remove the milky soft Plexi cover for even more output which can come in handy when using a large softbox.
It is a beast, but that is for the most part a norm when you move into the 600-watt range. It does come at a price as it retails for $3,590.00. this is the highest price Aputure fixture to date. In its class, it is priced very competitively.
ERIK’S HONORABLE MENTIONS: Prolycht Orion 300 FS
The Orion 300 FS is an interesting light. There are not many COB RGB fixtures on the market and I think this will change in 2022, but being close to first scores big points. I’m looking forward to trying one out soon as it is an impressive fixture with a lot of options.
I got a chance to use ARRI’s 65-300mm T2.8 Signature Zoom Lens with 1.7x Extender this year and it blew me away. Yes, it is incredibly expensive, but its optical performance even with the 1.7x extender is at least in my opinion, unmatched.
What is impressive is that when you are using the 1.7x Extender with the 65-300mm T2.8 the minimum focusing distance of the lens doesn’t change. So even at 510mm, the minimum focusing distance is still 1.3m (51″). That is extraordinary.
MATT’S HONORABLE MENTION: DZOFilm Catta 35-80 & 70-135mm T2.9 E-Mount Cine Zoom 2-Lens Bundle
My honorable mention is the DZOFilm Catta 35-80 & 70-135mm T2.9 E-Mount Cine Zoom 2-Lens Bundle. Just to be clear I haven’t seen or used these lenses, but I have to give them my honorable mention simply because of what you are getting for your money. Two cine zooms with a constant T2.9 aperture that cover a 43.5 mm image circle for under $6,000 USD is unheard of. Even if they aren’t as optically good as some other lenses, they are going to be extremely popular.
Full frame zoom lenses with ND filter holder in the mount? Yes, please! The DZOFILM Catta Zooms ticks a lot of boxes especially since a pair will cost $5,899.00. In the past, we all wanted affordable zoom lenses and it was impossible to find. DZOFILM has introduced not only the Catta but the S35 Pictor zooms late in 2020. They are making the cinema zoom attainable and that I like a lot.
ERIK’S HONORABLE MENTIONS: Tokina Cinema 25-75mm T2.9
Tokina Cinema is on a roll in general. 2021 brought some nice glass and one I want to try is the 25-75mm T2.9 for S35 sized sensors. This is an excellent range that I like to shoot in and being designed for S35 means it’s lighter and smaller. Yes, there is still a place for S35 lenses and Tokina has several very nice ones to choose from.
Favorite Audio Product
MATT’S PICK: TASCAM CA-XLR2d XLR adapters
Even though these haven’t actually started shipping yet, the TASCAM CA-XLR2d XLR adapters are something that should have come out years ago.
Tascam has collaborated with Canon, FUJIFILM, and Nikon to develop an XLR hot-shoe adapter that sends the audio directly into the camera using the hot shoe. Tascam states the high-quality preamps and digital to analog converters of the adapter improve the captured audio quality over using the 3.5mm audio input of the mirrorless camera.
The adapter supports mic and line-level switching, + 48V phantom. The analog output terminals support two modes.
MATT’S HONORABLE MENTIONS: Deity Connect BP-TRX
The Deity Connect BP-TRX is a real swiss army knife of audio. It can be used as an audio recorder, transmitter and receiver combo, audio recorder, or a timecode box. I like how it can transmit as well as record audio onboard to a MicroSD card.
ERIK’S PICK: Deity Connect BP-TRX
Deity did something special with the BP-TRX. They brought an affordable 2.4 GHz system with onboard backup recording capability and timecode. It was a brilliant move for the budget-friendly system. Their W Lav Pro mics are also excellent and affordable.
ERIK’S HONORABLE MENTIONS: Bubblebee Industries Invisible Lav Covers
I love Bubblebee Industries products and these updated Invisible Lav Covers are great. They are not the cheapest option but I feel they are one of the best. Yes, you can make your own and use surgical tape to mount them but the system makes it easy and the lav mics hold great under clothing and skin. If you like to hide your lav mics Bubblebee Industries has a lot of options for different situations and lav types.
Favorite Camera Accessory
I love this magic arm and its quick-release system. The MA5-6 Spider Crab has become my go-to monitor arm because it is easy to use, holds a good amount of weight, and most importantly it is very reasonably priced.
MATT’S HONORABLE MENTIONS: ZGCINE ZG-R30 Fast Charging Case for RØDE Wireless GO/GO II
This may appear to be a strange choice, but this is a brilliant little product. It can charge up to 3 RØDE Wireless GO/GO II’s at the same time inside a custom case. The charging unit features a built-in 3000mAh battery, so you can charge up to 9 RØDE Wireless GO/GO II’s before needing to re-charge the unit. If you are out in the field it is nice to be able to charge up your Wireless GO/GO II’s without needing to find mains power or hook them up individually to USB power banks.
The other great aspect is that it costs under $50 USD. I reviewed this product and you can read that review here.
ERIK’S PICK: iFootage RB-A300 Cobra 2 Round Base Monopod
When I first saw these round base monopods I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea but after using them I love them. You need to use a small sandbag on the base if you are going to add heavier accessories but I haven’t had any issues. What makes them nice is they take up less floor space than a light stand. They won’t replace a light stand or tripod, but I find myself putting small LED panels or other smaller devices to them. Very handy and keeps my small space easier to work in.
ERIK’S HONORABLE MENTION: Accsoon CineEye 2S Pro Wireless Video Transmitter & Receiver
I have limited patience with high latency wireless devices. The more affordable models don’t perform very well and in the end, I feel it can be a waste of money. The Accsoon CineEye 2S Pro meets me in the middle at 53ms, and if you don’t need SDI you can save a few bucks with the HDMI only model with the same performance only without SDI. It’s not zero latency but it is low and can be used for shooting dialog without driving you crazy.
Favorite Support Device
MATT’S PICK: DJI Ronin 4D
It is hard not to like the DJI Ronin 4D. Despite some of its flaws, you need to clearly remember that this is a first-generation product. Adding a Z-axis to a gimbal is a clever concept and the fact that it essentially comes with a cinema camera makes this one of the most interesting products of 2021.
MATT’S HONORABLE MENTIONS: Cinema Devices Ergorig CenterFit
The Ergorig CenterFit is a new version of the popular Ergorig that has been designed just for female operators. It is great to see a company listening to the market and coming up with a product tailored specifically for female camera ops and DPs.
ERIK’S PICK: Ergorig CenterFit
I love that Ergorig designed a camera support system for women camera operators. It’s about time!
ERIK’S HONORABLE MENTIONS: iFootage Spider Crab System
iFootage took the articulating arm and made it better with quick-release ends and a boatload of options. They even have a car mount based around the Spider Crab system. They hold strong and won’t break the bank. If you buy one you will end up with several more.
MATT’S PICK: Frame.io C2C – Camera to Cloud
Frame.io C2C revolves around two services. First, C2C enables instant proxy uploads the moment cameras stop rolling so editorial can begin within seconds of calling “cut.” In addition, Frame.io C2C can live stream footage to an authorized user’s device on or off set, allowing customers to watch production as it’s happening. This is ideal for productions working during COVID, as it greatly reduces the number of people needed on set.
Frame.io C2C also lets editorial and other traditionally linear parts of the creative process happen in parallel while footage is still being shot. Getting footage from a camera into post-production is a time-consuming process that requires backing up files, transferring them to a hard drive, and shipping them to another facility. Frame.io C2C eliminates that, letting customers simultaneously view a live stream of footage as it is being shot, while automatically capturing and uploading proxies as soon as the camera stops rolling.
While there have been other services that offer similar functionality, Frame.io is the first system to be widely adopted by Hollywood.
MATT’S HONORABLE MENTION: DaVinci Resolve
This program continues to give and give. Blackmagic Design constantly updates and improves DaVinci Resolve every year with new features and functionality.
ERIK’S PICK: Adobe Premiere Pro V22.1.1
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Premiere Pro and I have some good news. I don’t feel that hate anymore. Premiere Pro is finally a stable NLE for me. The updates have added features without making it unstable as it has in the past. Adobe has updated the software now to give it better render speeds on the new M1 Max and M1 Pro computers so all-around nice job Adobe!
ERIK’S HONORABLE MENTION: DaVinci Resolve
Like Matt said DaVinci Resolve is a giver and also still free. I recommended it to everyone that is new to editing as it’s very powerful for the $0 entry. Want to unlock all the features? A one-time $295 is all you have to spend. To date, BMD hasn’t made paid updates.
So there you have it, there are Matt and Erik’s favorite products of 2021. Again, these are very much personal choices and not products of the year. Please let us know what your favorite products of 2021 were in the comments section below.
Happy Holidays to all our readers and their families.