Videomaker’s Best Products of the Year: 2015

2015 has seen fantastic new equipment for video production. 4K is everywhere, but cameras are also steadily moving towards higher frame rates. Customizable workstations meet a wide range of needs and high quality camera stabilization has come into the reach of even low-budget productions. Video producers have a world of options; it can sometimes be troublesome to sort through them all. 

Fear not! We’re here to sift through the options for you. After carefully reviewing 12 months of the newest, latest, and greatest, we have compiled the cream of the crop into one list.  The long awaited: Best Products of the Year Awards, 2015.

Criteria

Due to the demands of our magazine schedule, when we say 2015, what we really mean is October 2014-October 2015. To be considered for these annual awards, the Videomaker editors must have had a chance to have some hands-on time with a product within that time span. In some cases, a full review was never published, but you can be sure that we personally evaluated the product.

After carefully reviewing 12 months of the newest, latest, and greatest, we have compiled the cream of the crop into one list.

Additionally, there are some great products that were released in 2015 that we didn’t have a chance to evaluate before our evaluation window closed. Notably, the Sony a7S II and the most recent iMac 5K came in a bit late and thus will have to wait for the 2016 awards to be considered.

Main Considerations

When making a decision about winners, we prefer to recognize products that support our philosophical mission of encouraging democratization and inclusiveness in the media industry. We choose to award recognition to products that we feel will best help the largest share of our community share their ideas and express themselves with video.

And so, without further adieu here are the winners.

Best Interchangeable-lens Camera Under $1000

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7

[image:magazine_article:58642]The Lumix G7 packs a lot of camera into a small package with an affordable price tag.  It weighs  in at just about a pound, with a 16MP micro four-thirds sensor and can shoot resolutions up to 4K. Continuous autofocus, a mic input, built-in Wi-Fi with smart device control and an articulating screen ramp up the value for a camera with a $799 price tag. This impressive little camera is a well-suited way to start out the list of the Best of 2015. 

See the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/18174

Best Action Camera

Sony FDR X1000V

[image:magazine_article:58643]Sony’s camera shook up the action cam market this year. The FDR-X1000V can shoot high res 4K 30/24p at 100 Mbps or fast frame rates with a 720/240p option and a wide range in between. A 170° wide angle lens, great image quality, live streaming options and digital image stabilization set Sony’s action cam apart from the major competition. Stirring up the pot for action cams also sets the X1000V apart as the Best Action Camera of 2015.

See the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/17895

Best Interchangeable-lens Camera Over $1000

Samsung NX1

[image:magazine_article:58644]Zebras and focus peaking help maximize the NX1’s in-camera 4K capabilities. Or, go for slow motion, as Samsung’s new mirrorless camera allows 120fps at 1920 x 1080. Users will appreciate great ergonomics, lots of dedicated controls and a surprisingly low price ($1,500 as of this article).  With these features and more, the Samsung NX1 makes a strong debut, earning a coveted spot on the Best of 2015 list. 

See the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/17946

Best Fixed-lens Camera over $1000

Sony PXW-X180

[image:magazine_article:58645]A powerhouse camcorder, the versatility of the X180 lands it squarely on the list. Three full HD CMOS sensors allow maximum color precision and an increased dynamic range. The PXW-X180 shoots 1920 x 1080p at 1-60 fps or 128 x 720p at 1-120 fps and can be controlled via Wi-Fi with a tablet or smartphone. The two XLR inputs, a 25x zoom — equivalent to 26-650mm throw on a 35mm sensor — and built-in ND that allows for 12 stops of adjustment make the PXW-X180 a workhorse of a camera for a wide array of applications.  

See the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/17746

Best Introductory Editing Software

Apple iMovie for Mac

[image:magazine_article:58811]iMovie finds its place on the list with intuitive design and a user-friendly style. Beginners can learn the ropes of editing while more advanced users can appreciate the program’s ease for quick projects. Tools like chroma key and image stabilizer allow for creative effects, and the layout of the system lets users easily transition to the more advanced Final Cut Pro X. Oh, and it’s $14.99. Welcome to the Best of 2015, iMovie. 

Read more: www.videomaker.com/article/17741

Best Intermediate Editing Software

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 19

[image:magazine_article:58647]Unlimited-track, frame-accurate editing in 4K, HD, or 3D demonstrates the flagship version of Corel’s Pinnacle Studio 19 as a powerful editing platform. The software features a Multi-Camera Editor capable of handling up to 6 cameras, as well as audio syncing. With over 2,000 effects and titles included, it’s easy to see why Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 19 made the Best of 2015.

Read more: www.videomaker.com/r/825

Best Advanced Editing Software

Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015

[image:magazine_article:58648]The 2015 release of Premiere Pro CC saw the addition of the powerful Lumetri Color Panel for color grading and a dynamic link to Audition CC for sound editing and mixing.   Additionally, the new Morph Cut transition gives editors a tool to smooth over jump cuts.  Already a robust, easily customizable editing system, these new additions are among the reasons Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC earned a place on the Best of 2015 list. 

Read the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/18083

Best Mobile Workstation

HP ZBook 17 G2

[image:magazine_article:58649]This beast of a workstation packs a powerful CPU and GPU, allowing screaming fast performance even during power intensive processing such as rendering.  It’s 17’’ HP Dreamcolor display provides fantastic color rendition. A wide range of ports, fast Wi-Fi, and LTE capabilities just keep adding value. The HP ZBook 17 G2 can hold it’s own against specialty desktops; it’s no surprise to find it on the Best of 2015.

Read the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/18228

Best Workstation

HP Z840

[image:magazine_article:58650]HP is on fire! The Z840 has what you’re looking for in a video production workstation. The machine is highly customizable with 19 processor combinations, seven PCIe slots, 10 drive bays and 16 memory slots. This is a solid workstation capable of blazing fast speeds and heavy processing. The HP Z840 eases into its spot amongst the Best of 2015. 

Read the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/17877

Best Audio Recorder 

Zoom F8

[image:magazine_article:58651]At just 2.1 pounds, the Zoom F8 is lightweight yet durable. It has 8 lockable XLR/TRS combo jacks, each with phantom power, and can record at 24-bit/192 kHz. The Zoom F8 has to dual SD cards, accepts any of three power sources, and has a 2.4 inch full-color backlit LCD screen. Best of all, the F8 records all eight inputs to their own channels along with a stereo mixdown. These are some of the reasons the Zoom F8 claims the honor of Best Audio Recorder of 2015.

Read more: www.videomaker.com/r/826

Best Stabilizer

DJI Ronin-M

[image:magazine_article:58652]The Ronin-M gimbal is lightweight, gives smooths shots, offers long battery life, and is relatively quick to set-up. On top of all that, it’s easy to use. It can be operated solo, or in tandem using a transmitter that controls pan, tilt, and roll. Package all that for $1,400, and you have a recipe for the Best of 2015. 

See the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/18229

Best Mobile App

Shot Pro

[image:magazine_article:58653]Shot Pro gives filmmakers the opportunity to use their mobile device to block characters, props, and place lighting and cameras. Key framing movement, the gyro camera and real-time manipulation make it easy to create dynamic 3D simulation.  From there, exporting and sharing are easy prospects. These features make for a robust pre-visualization mobile app that definitely earns it’s spot on Videomaker’s Best of 2015.

Best Microphone

RodeLink Filmmaker System

[image:magazine_article:58654]Rode’s first wireless microphone offers quality audio with a great price tag. One-touch pairing makes linking transmitter and receiver a breeze. Under ideal conditions, the mic has a reach up to 100 meters. Most impressively, the RodeLink Filmmaker System can compare with other models twice as expensive, making a great addition to the Best of 2015.

Read the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/18170

Best Light

Photon Beam 80 LED

[image:magazine_article:58655]This impressive LED from Photon Beard uses a remote phosphor plate and mixing chamber which means it looks and is used more like a traditional tungsten light while being small, lightweight and power-efficient. The 80W LED delivers equivalent output to a 400W bulb. Balanced at 5600k, it has notable color accuracy and a great overall quality of light. Included barn doors, an optional tungsten color plate and the ability to fit all the existing Redhead accessories earns the Photon Beam 80 LED a spot among the Best of 2015.

Read the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/17896

Best Plugin Suite

Video CoPilot Element 3D V2

[image:magazine_article:58656]Creating 3D objects can be easy with this powerful plugin from Video CoPilot. Top-notch textures, animation options, and the ability to add shadows to your models mean you’ll be on your way to quality 3D. Video CoPilot Element 3D V2 is a creative tool that substantially ups production values. It is clearly worthy to stand as Best of 2015.

Read the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/18031

Best Field Monitor

SmallHD 501/502

[image:magazine_article:58657]The SmallHD 501 and SmallHD 502 are small in size but large in features. They offer 5-inch, full HD LCD screens with 441 pixels per inch, and joystick control to keep the screen fingerprint-free. Both models offer HDMI in/out, and with the SmallHD 502 also offering SDI. With easy to load 3D LUTs, these little field monitors pack a punch, knocking out the competition for the distinction of Videomaker’s Best of 2015. 

Read more: www.videomaker.com/r/828

Best Advanced Support System

Varizoom Solo Camera Jib Kit

[image:magazine_article:58658]It’s a jib, on a dolly. The Solo Camera Jib Kit is simple to assemble and can be operated by just one person. Five segments of track, each just over three feet long, letting you run the dolly in the smallest of rooms, or lengths up to 16-feet. Again, price point is key; this is a solid, very functional piece of gear for only $1,350. Put it all together, and you have what it takes to be the Best of 2015.

Read the full review: http://www.videomaker.com/article/17632

Best Tripod

Miller Air

[image:magazine_article:58659]The new Air Carbon Fibre System from Miller is lightweight while maintaining strength and superb stabilization. The true fluid head allows smooth pan, tilting, and has a great counterbalance that naturally brings the camera towards balance. The legs stretch from 9 inches to 6 feet and have a soft padding for shoulder-carrying. This thing is built like a Mack truck and will surely last a lifetime. The Miller Air sets a standard for tripods and sits comfortably as the Best of 2015. 

Read the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/17661

Best Storage

Samsung T1 USB3 Portable SSD

[image:magazine_article:58660]An ideal portable hard drive should be small, rugged, and fast. Samsung’s Portable T1 SSD hits the mark on every front.  Weighing in at just about an ounce and small enough to fit two of them in your shirt pocket, the SSD has no moving parts, which means less can go wrong, and Dynamic Thermal Guard protects from extreme temperatures. Top it all off with transfer rates up to 450 MB/s and you’ve earned a spot alongside the Best of 2015.

See Videomaker’s coverage from CES: www.videomaker.com/r/827

Best Drone

DJI Inspire 1

[image:magazine_article:58661]A drone should fly stable, get smooth shots, and capture quality images. DJI’s Inspire 1 does all that. It also has propellers that retract upward, out of the way for most shots. It has the ability to be used as a single or dual-operator system.l And it comes with DJI’s Lightbridge receiver, allowing full data and HD video downlink plus mapping software.  The Inspire 1 goes above and beyond, landing on Videomaker’s Best of 2015 ist.

Read the full review: www.videomaker.com/article/18030

Congratulations to Our Winners!

A hearty congratulations to all the winners of the Best Products of the Year. 2015 was full of excitement for video producers whether just learning, or already a legend. These products help us to do our jobs, create our art and bring our visions to the screen. We can only imagine what next year will have in store.

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Best Products Award Criterion

For a product to qualify for our Best Products of the Year, it must have passed through the Videomaker headquarters in 2015 for examination by our editors. From there, we judged products based on the following seven criteria:

1. Empowerment: How effective the product is at helping videographers be more effective storytellers.

2. Ease of Operation: How user-friendly it is.

3. Affordability: The product must provide a good value for the price.

4. Quality: It must be put together well, durable and show excellence in its category.

5. Innovation: It should have some inventive or original features.

6. Dependability: It needs to be able to endure the rigors of active video production.

7. Performance: It must work consistently and effectively. 

Erik Fritts is a multimedia specialist with a BA in Film Production.  He is an award-winning writer, photographer, and filmmaker.  He loves spending time outdoors and playing with his dogs.

Erik Fritts
Erik Fritts has worked in media production for CBS, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Berkshire Hathaway, and more. He holds a BA in Film Production from CSU Sacramento, a grad certificate in Screenwriting from UCLA, and is currently an MFA candidate at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I read “Sound & Vision” best products of 2015 right before I read the similar article in “Videomaker”. The S&V article took great care to have a “Value” category for most of their products. “Videomaker” recommended a $1,100 tripod. How does this fit your criteria: “3. Affordability: The product must provide a good value for the price.”?

    The article mentions a nearly free editing software for the Mac. What about the larger audience with Windows?

    I answer questions for a LOT of newbies who are just starting out in video. I am always looking for resources to point them to. I cannot point them to “Videomaker” when $1,100 for a tripod is considered a “good value for the price”.

    Please – include ‘runner up’ or a ‘best value’ for each area in your next best of article. And remember – many newbies have Windows based machines and are NOT professionals. We need to help this audience as well.

  2. I agree with the comment above about price but moreover the whole exercise is drab.
    Those you couldnt pick in advance (when was VM not going to pick Premiere and iMovie) were just daft – have you seriously tried to use a HP computer for editing or anything serious – their specialty is unreliability.
    How about tossing categories and asking what novel or interesting kit or software popped up this year that could be gamechangers for videomakers. But that would involve actual investigation rather than averaging other online gear lists.
    Boring ….

  3. You obviously don’t have an HP configured by a professional reseller. Our last two editing workstations have been HP (xw8400 and Z420) and I can count on one hand the issues we’ve had with them over the last 12+ years. I’m guessing Digital Pictures in Minneapolis builds many, many workstations for their customers using HP, and if their products were as unreliable as you say they would have stopped a long time ago.

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