2011 was a great year for video products. The increasing convergence of traditional camcorders with DSLRs, the emergence of consumer 3D, the widening availability of cameras with interchangeable lenses and other innovations have made this an exciting time to be passionate about video. After duking it out once again, defending our favorites, we’re ready to reveal our picks for the best of the best from 2011. And the winners are…
Most Groundbreaking Camcorder
That the NEX-FS100 by Sony should receive Best Product honors was a given as it excels on so many levels. It sports a Super 35mm sensor, uses interchangeable lenses and records in a variety of sizes from 480 to 1080p, to you-name-it in the AVCHD codec at 9, 17, 24 or even at Sony’s new 28 Mb/s mode. Add dual medium recording, a viewfinder that rotates more than 90 degrees to either side and the ability to under or over-crank from 1 to 60fps and you’ll see why the Sony FS100 is our pick for Videomaker‘s Most Groundbreaking Camcorder of the Year.
BEST Consumer Camcorder
Big on low price and compact size, the HDC-TM40 is a very capable camera. Its ability to shoot full 1920×1080 HD onto a 16GB built-in flash drive and up to 64GB SDHC/SDXC media card, with 16.8x Optical Zoom, POWER Optical Image Stabilization, and all at an affordable price make the Panasonic HDC-TM40 a worthy recipient of Videomaker‘s Best Consumer Camcorder award.
BEST Professional Camcorder
More than just a pro look and feel, the XF300 proved itself most worthy of Best Product honors with intuitive, easy-to-use controls; focus, exposure and saturation assist features. Add to that 4:2:2 color sampling, dual CompactFlash card slots and the ability to switch frame rates, resolutions and bit rates on the same card – without rebooting. Throw in a killer 18x HD lens, with independent rings for focus, zoom and iris and the Canon XF300 is a shoo-in for Videomaker‘s Best Professional Camcorder of the Year.
BEST Interchangeable Lens Camcorder
Built for the professional, the AF100 has an abundance of features and manual adjustments galore. Embracing the Micro Four Thirds standard, its image sensor is near in size to that of 35mm film cameras. A standardized lens mount and specially designed interchangeable lenses complete the standard. In addition to Micro Four Thirds lenses, numerous other lens types may be used with the appropriate adapters. It is little wonder, therefore, that the Panasonic AG-AF100 is this year’s Videomaker‘s Best Interchangeable Lens Camcorder.
The Nikon D7000 produces extremely high quality still photos and for the video shooter. It includes a variety of exposure modes and external buttons for things like ISO adjustments, exposure, focus and white balance. Shoot photos and video in Live Mode without having to constantly switch back and forth between the two. A nice touch is the built-in intervalometer for capturing high-resolution timelapses. Built for the professional desiring a shallow depth of field, great low light performance and affordability, the Nikon’s D7000 is this year’s choice for Videomaker‘s Best DSLR.
BEST Hybrid Camera/Camcorder
The GC-PX10 is a true hybrid designed to squeeze maximum quality into both video and still photography. Gorgeous full 1080/60p video and stunningly crisp 8.3 megapixel stills are possible with this camera. Freeze fast action with 60fps continuous still recording for up to 130 shots at a time, or simply press the shutter button while recording full HD video without having to switch modes, for fast, simple operation. Record video at 300fps for super slow motion playback or use timelapse recording when you want to speed things up a bit. Without a doubt, the JVC GC-PX10 is well deserving of its place as Videomaker‘s Best Hybrid Camera/Camcorder.
BEST 3D Camcorder
The fledgling consumer 3D market has seen some interesting developments in the past year. One that stands out from the crowd is the Sony HDR-TD10. It uses not one but two full HD 1920×1080 sensors – one for each lens. This provides for higher resolution 3D video whereas other approaches split the resolution of a single sensor. With a crisp 3D glasses-free display, 3D Depth Adjustment and many other fine features, Videomaker‘s Best 3D Camcorder honors easily go to the Sony HDR-TD10.
If you’re after extreme, gritty, in-your-face, quality HD footage-taking ability then you’ll want to check out the Contour+. With flexible mounting options, configurable white balance and exposure, Bluetooth and GPS capabilities, the Contour+ smashes the competition and scores as Videomaker‘s Best Sportcam.
BEST Introductory Editing Software
With its unlimited timeline, Avid Studio allows you to manage volumes of assets in the library and prepare clips in the various media editors with enhancements such as trimming, stabilizing, panning and zooming. Expand your creativity using montages, the Scorefitter music generator, keyframe effects, animation and audio mixing. Its ease of use and wealth of options make Avid Studio an easy choice for Videomaker‘s Best Introductory Editing Software.
BEST Intermediate Editing Software
Magix Movie Edit Pro 17 Plus
Magix Movie Edit Pro 17 Plus is an affordable, powerful editing tool packed with impressive features. MultiCam editing, Dolby Digital 5.1 mixing, effects masks, extensive transitions, and numerous import/export options are just a portion of what you’ll find tucked away here. With 3D editing, 3D transitions and titles, proDAD Heroglyph Rapid 3D title editor and Reallusion iClone 4 SE for 3D character animation included, Magix Movie Edit Pro 17 Plus wins Videomaker’s Best Intermediate Editing Software hands down.
BEST Advanced Editing Software
Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11
Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 provides full 3D support from importing, editing and previewing to exporting to YouTube or Blu-ray disc. Included in the suite are DVD Architect Studio 5.0 for DVD and Blu-ray authoring, Sound Forge Audio Studio for audio editing and ACID Music Studio for music creation. With professional features such as image stabilization, primary and secondary color correction and enhanced camera support, Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 is our pick for Videomaker‘s Best Advanced Editing Software.
BEST Production Suite
Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium
CS5.5 Production Premium adds Adobe Audition to its suite of video editing tools. A killer audio editor, Audition provides heavy-duty support for multi-track recording, nondestructive editing, mixing, audio restoration and effects. Stabilization functions have evolved in this version to include corrections to camera rotation and rolling shutter artifacts. The Mercury Playback Engine adds more GPU-accelerated effects and support for NVIDIA graphics cards has broadened to include mobile video cards. With that and more, Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium secures the top spot for Videomaker‘s Best Production Suite.
BEST 3D Editing Software
Corel MotionStudio 3D
Create flying, whirling, twirling, exploding 3D text or other objects like fire, smoke or alien spacecraft. Import existing 3D models, build your own from scratch or draw from a library of more than 140 customizable objects. To these add lens flares, shadows, reflections, motion blur and depth of field effects to fully set the scene. For a fine mix of ease of use, powerful results and affordable price, Corel MotionStudio 3D is our pick for Videomaker‘s Best 3D Editing Software.
BEST Editing Workstation
DVGear DV Apprentice
With a quad core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, NVIDIA Quadro 2000 graphics card and a multi-format memory card reader the DV Apprentice editing computer is a force to be reckoned with. Loads of storage is provided with 300GB for the OS and two 1TB drives for everything else. With very favorable benchmarks and all the features of a top-of-the-line computer, the DV-Gear DV Apprentice wins Videomaker‘s Best Editing Workstation for 2011.
BEST Editing Mobile Workstation
HP Elitebook 8760w
With 16GB of DDR3 RAM, a quad core Intel Core i7 2.3Ghz processor and the NVIDIA Quadro 5010M graphics card with 4GB of memory you would be hard pressed to find an editing chore this beast couldn’t handle. Two 320GB Seagate hard drives take care of storage and visuals are provided by a 17.3″ LED backlit DreamColor display. With impressive performance the HP Elitebook 8760w is Videomaker‘s Best Editing Mobile Workstation.
Enhance Technology PROAVIO EditBOX EB400FR
Boasting a large amount of storage capacity, a ton of hi-speed ports, modular design, excellent warranty and reasonable price, the PROAVIO EditBOX EB400FR is a solid choice for any video editor. Its hardware RAID-5 controller saves on computer processing power by keeping it inside the unit itself and provides excellent protection in the event of hard drive failure. Videomaker‘s Best RAID kudos goes to the Enhance Technology PROAVIO EditBOX EB400FR.
BEST Capture Card
Blackmagic Design Intensity Shuttle
Blackmagic Design’s Intensity Shuttle allows you to bypass your camera’s video compression and capture high quality 10-bit uncompressed video by pulling it directly from the image sensor. Available ports include HDMI 1.3, Component, Composite and S-Video with the ability to capture a wide array of video formats. For easy to use, affordable, high quality video capture and playback, Blackmagic Design’s Intensity Shuttle wins Videomaker‘s Best Capture Card.
Primera Bravo 4102 Disc Publisher
The Primera Bravo 4102 Disc Publisher features easy set up of the unit and projects, fast and accurate burning, fast printing, a user replaceable print head and individual ink cartridges for greater economy. The included PTPublisher software gives you a variety of project options including data, audio, copy, video and disc image projects. You can also print-only, rip audio discs to iTunes or Windows Media Player as well as back up files and folders. A fantastic performer, the Primera Bravo 4102 Disc Publisher takes Videomaker‘s Best Duplicator honors for 2011.
BEST Handheld Microphone
Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid USB/XLR Mic
Turn the ATR2100-USB over, and in addition to the usual single XLR connector, you will also find a Mini-B USB port, an 1/8-inch headphone jack and a volume control dial. While it functions as any other XLR mic, the USB port allows it to connect easily, in true plug-and-play fashion, to any computer – Windows or Mac. Plug some headphones directly into the mic for instant audio monitoring, adjust the volume and wail away. And the quality? Excellent! For versatility and quality, the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid USB/XLR Mic is our choice for Videomaker‘s Best Handheld Microphone.
BEST Lavalier Microphone
The Countryman B6 is a well-balanced, concealable mic that competes favorably with larger lavalier mics. It’s equally at home on an amateur documentary as on a professional commercial. So, when it’s important that mic placement remain discreet, this is the one you want. It’s easy to conceal size (1/10-inch), rugged design and variable sensitivities make the Countryman B6 Videomaker‘s Best Lavalier Microphone.
BEST On-Camera Light
Litepanels Sola ENG LED Fresnel Light
The Litepanels Sola ENG LED Fresnel light brings greater versatility and control to portable lighting while delivering serious performance in a lightweight package. It delivers high output with low power consumption and low heat, is dimmable, focusable and is equally at home outdoors as it is inside. Suitable for any number of shooting situations, the Litepanels Sola ENG LED Fresnel Light wins Videomaker‘s Best On-Camera Light honors for 2011.
BEST Audio Recorder
Samson Zoom H2n Handy Recorder
The H2n has a bright, easy to read screen, good design and quality build, five microphone capsules providing multiple recording configurations, built-in Lo-cut, Compressor/Limiter functions, a data recovery feature – and it produces excellent quality results. All together this makes the Zoom H2n Handy Recorder an easy choice for Videomaker‘s Best Audio Recorder.
BEST Field Monitor
Zacuto Z-Finder EVF Pro
The Z-Finder EVF Pro by Zacuto solves one of the greatest deficiencies in today’s DSLRs by providing a small frame, high-resolution remote monitor with peaking for focusing, zebra bars for exposure and other professional features, while at the same time getting it off the camera where the Z-Finder can be easily used. Zacuto’s Z-Finder EVF Pro scores high marks as Videomaker‘s Best Field Monitor.
BEST Field Recorder
The Atomos Ninja is an excellent LCD monitor, records in full high resolution HD by capturing the uncompressed HDMI signal as it comes out of your camera and it records for better than 16 hours at a time. It’s little wonder then, that the Ninja is our pick for Videomaker‘s Best Field Recorder.
BEST Stabilizer Support
Cinevate Atlas FLT – Slider Dolly
The Cinevate Atlas FLT is built from CNC milled aluminum and steel. Its black satin anodized finish reduces unwanted glare, the dual-rail linear bearing system ensures smooth, quiet operation and the optional vertical kit allows the slider to be mounted vertically for short jib moves. For durability, versatility and some of the smoothest moves we’ve found to date, the Cinevate Atlas FLT wins the prize for Videomaker‘s Best Stabilizer Support.
Videomaker’s Innovative Product Award
Petrol Bags Cambio CA002 Camera Carrier/Tripod
Appearing to be nothing more than your typical luggage bag on wheels, this little transformer has a few surprises in store. The side wheels extend, small wheel chocks rotate down to lock the wheels in place and a tripod leg extends rearward from the frame. The handle rises vertically to about 50 inches, supporting a micro-fluid 75mm ball tripod head and most cameras under 10 pounds. With ample storage compartments, it is a compact, convenient tripod system and rolling camera bag. It’s the Petrol Cambio CA002 Camera Carrier/Tripod Bag, our pick for Videomaker‘s Innovative Product Award.
Videomaker’s Innovative Product Award
Kata ABS-HD Air Bag System
Something new for the traveling videographer, the Kata ABS-HD Air Bag System provides added protection for your precious camera while stowed away in the overhead bin during those long flights. Blowing into the bag’s fill tube inflates it to provide a soft cushion of air all around your camera, protecting it from other passengers and their luggage. Providing video professionals peace of mind garners Videomaker‘s Innovative Product Award for the Kata ABS-HD Air Bag System.
Congratulations to all our winners and thank you all for a job well done. You have made our year a fun and exciting one. In the coming year we’ll probably see refinements and innovations in the emerging 3D technologies and a further blurring of the lines between camcorders and DSLRs. It promises to be another awesome year and we’ll be right here bringing you all the latest news and reviews.
– The Editors
Side Bar: 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 2011 for examination by our editors. From there, we judged products based on the following seven criteria:
- Empowerment: How effective the product is at helping videographers be more
effective at video production.
- Ease of Operation: How user-friendly it is.
- Affordability: The product must provide a good value for the price.
- Quality: It must be put together well, durable and show excellence in its category.
- Innovation: It should have some inventive or original features.
- Dependability: It needs to be able to endure the rigors of active video production.
- Performance: It must work consistently and effectively.
Side Bar: Disclaimer – This Year Defined
Due to advanced publishing deadlines, we are unable to consider products that were received in the Videomaker headquarters after October 1st, 2011. So the “year” implies products received from October 1, 2010 to October 1, 2011 – thus a full year, but not a typical calendar year. Many fine products came in after that time, and will be candidates for the 2012 Best Products of the Year. Similarly, you’ll see products that appeared in some late 2010 editions that qualify for consideration this year, due to the date they were received in VMHQ. This is also not a completely comprehensive list, as it includes only products that passed through the doors at Videomaker. There are many fine products on the market that we were unable to give a hands-on look, so our ethical standards won’t allow us to award them honors if we haven’t had any chance to look the product over in person.