This has been another incredible year for video products and video production enthusiasts at all levels. We've seen more powerful editing systems and software, and a miniaturization of audio and lighting systems to meet the needs of DSLR and other small camera users. The camcorder market appears to be ready to strike back and challenge the dominance of DSLRs. It's a great time to be alive and passionate about video don't you think?
After yet another brawl in the Videomaker office for the top picks of the year, our editors are ready to reveal the best of the best. And here they are…
BEST Professional Camcorder
Sony wasn't messing around when they designed the FS700 pro level camcorder. With tons of professional features, such as three built-in neutral density filters, dual accessory shoes, easy-to-use controls, and exposure assist features such as peaking and zebra stripes, the FS700 is sure to get noticed. Add to that a plethora of interchangeable lens options, super slow-motion capture at 240fps in full HD and 4:2:2 color sampling via HD-SDI; then throw in a 4k-ready sensor for good measure (awaiting a future firmware update) and it's easy to see why the Sony NEX-FS700 is Videomaker's BEST Professional Camcorder of the year.
BEST Consumer Camcorder
With a 3MOS imaging system, 12x optical zoom, focus assist and manual controls for essential functions such as white balance, shutter, iris and focus settings, the HC-X900M is an outstanding camcorder capable of producing very high quality results. Attach the optional 3D conversion lens to add stunning, full HD 3D video to your repertoire. Plenty of recording space is available with 32GB of internal memory and a slot for SD card media. Lots of cool features and stunning images to boot, make the Panasonic HC-X900M worthy of our BEST Consumer Camcorder slot for 2012.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
A worthy successor to the revered EOS 5D Mark II, the Mark III adds improved audio control and a few other niceties to make a great camera even better. Manual adjustment of audio gain, an on-screen color volume unit (VU) meter for monitoring peaking and a headphone jack to listen for unwanted sounds or distortions while recording are huge steps forward. Recording time has been increased to just shy of 30 minutes, rolling shutter issues have been improved and an SD card slot has been added. All of this on top of an already awesome camera with superior low light performance makes the Canon EOS 5D Mark III our pick for BEST DSLR of the year.
BEST Camera Overall
With its large 36MP, full-frame sensor, the D800 is capable of producing gigantic still images and a very shallow depth of field. It has loads of external buttons and controls, dual card slots, manual audio controls and headphone jack, VU meter for monitoring audio peaks and the ability to output uncompressed video through HDMI. After slugging it out with the competition the Nikon D800 remains standing as the BEST Camera Overall.
BEST Action Camera
For those adventurous types who want to shoot video where normal camcorders dare not go, check out the GC-XA1. Small and resistant to both water and dust, it's perfect for shooting while surfing, skydiving or biking. A small, fixed LCD screen allows for instant playback while HDMI connectivity lets you share your creations on larger screens later. Wireless features let you transfer footage, stream live video and interact with your smartphone. Mix in two white balance settings specifically for underwater recording and you have our BEST Action Camera of 2012 – the JVC GC-XA1.
BEST Introductory Editing Software
Serif MoviePlus X6
Beginning level editing software should have a gentle learning curve plus enough features to produce a satisfying result. MoviePlus X6 has all this and more. A simple wizard invites you to Create, Open or Learn. Edit using either a storyboard or a timeline workflow. Record voice-overs directly to the narration track and create groups to organize assets. You can unlink audio, create titles or rolling credits, key frame audio transitions and more. When your edit is complete, use the integrated DVD authoring feature to finalize and publish your project. Simplicity and more makes Serif MoviePlus X6 our choice for BEST Introductory Editing Software.
BEST Intermediate Editing Software
CyberLink PowerDirector 11
To make short work of rendering and effects processing, PowerDirector 11 supports multi-GPGPU for multiple graphics card use and OpenCL for a broader range of compatible cards. New in PowerDirector 11, Content-Aware Editing analyzes footage for pans, zooms, faces and motion, searching for things like shaky video or poor lighting that can then be corrected using TrueTheater technology. The new Design Studio includes tools for designing titles, picture-in-picture, menus and particle effects. Tons of tools, effects and even 4k video support make CyberLink PowerDirector 11 an easy choice for the BEST Intermediate Editing Software of 2012.
BEST Advanced Editing Software
Sony Creative Software Vegas Pro 12
With innovative tools, powerful effects and compositing engine, and support for every video and audio format, Vegas Pro 12 can do it all. Designed for 64-bit operating systems and utilizing the OpenCL framework, Vegas Pro 12 is built to speed up your workflow. Professional audio features including more than 30 effects, VST plug-in compatibility, a complete multitrack audio environment, and a 5.1 surround mixer. DVD Architect Pro 5.2 provides a professional DVD and Blu-ray disc authoring solution. Sony Creative Software's Vegas Pro 12 is our pick for the BEST Advanced Editing Software.
BEST Production Suite
Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium
Adobe's CS6 Production Premium is packed with new tools such as Warp Stabilizer, adjustment layers and Rolling Shutter Repair in Premiere Pro CS6; a new ingest and logging application (Adobe Prelude CS6); automatic speech alignment and real-time clip stretching in Audition and new tools and GPU acceleration in Photoshop CS6 Extended and Illustrator CS6. Add to that new 3D in After Effects CS6, and major improvements in Media Encoder CS6; a sophisticated color grading application called SpeedGrade CS6 gives Adobe CS6 Production Premium our BEST Production Suite award.
BEST 3D Editing Software
Autodesk Maya Entertainment Creation Suite
Significant improvements in the interface, dynamics, character animation tools, full integration between packages and more makes Maya 2012 a very powerful 3D modeling software program that allows you to create highly sophisticated images faster than ever before. Quickly rig characters with complete IK and FK chains, access pre-fabbed skeletons, edit motion paths and their tangents without graphs and sculpt with precise control. With all this, it's easy to see why Autodesk Maya Entertainment Creation Suite is our pick for 2012's BEST 3D Editing Software.
BEST Post-Production Plug-ins
Boris FX Continuum Complete 8 AE
Continuum Complete 8 AE boasts a plethora of tools for manipulating images, generating effects and keying footage, plus more than 200 built-in effects. Tools include a vectorscope and waveform monitor, for better management of exposure levels and contrast; BCC Film Glow for soft film effects; Flicker Fixer for correcting footage shot under flickery light sources and 3D lens flares. Add in Stage Light for volumetric lighting effects; Particle Emitter and organic strand generation, and it's easy to see why Boris FX's Continuum Complete 8 AE takes the honor as our BEST Post-Production Plug-ins winner.
BEST Visual Effects Software
Autodesk Smoke 2013
Not just for visual effects alone, Smoke 2013 combines the familiarity of track-based timeline editing and the new ConnectFX node-based compositing, with color correction, re-lighting and more. With Smoke 2013, you can create sophisticated titles, logos and motion graphics, integrating 3D elements, geometry and light in a true 3D environment – without ever leaving your timeline. All this, combined with automatic media management with MediaHub and native support for RED, ARRIRAW, DNxHD and ProRes media make Autodesk Smoke 2013 an easy choice for this year's BEST Visual Effects Software.
BEST Audio Software
Adobe Audition CS6
To its already well-established cadre of powerful tools for editing, mixing and fixing audio, Audition CS6 has added several new features to help you get the job done more efficiently than ever. With real-time clip stretching, matching your audio length to a video clip is as easy as clicking and dragging. Automatic speech alignment analyzes the waveform to synchronize newly recorded automated dialogue replacement (ADR) dialogue with existing production audio. Factor in support for more types of hardware and you have our BEST Audio Software winner for 2012 – Adobe Audition CS6.
BEST Mobile Software
Socialcam is a great app for iPhone and Android users who want to add a little character to their mobile videos and share them with the world via Facebook and Twitter. An assortment of 10 filter presets lets you quickly modify the look of your creation and even allows you to preview the look before hitting record. Once you've finished recording, you can log in to your Facebook or Twitter account and share away. For ease of use and a big fun factor, Socialcam is our winner for BEST Mobile Software.
BEST Editing Desktop Workstation
Dell Precision T7600
Packing dual, eight core Intel Xeon E5-2687W processors, gobs of four channel RAM and a Quadro 6000 graphics card with Tesla GPU into a single workstation the T7600 has got to be a video editor's dream come true. Add to that, quick release, front accessible hard drives, an externally removable power supply and Reliable Memory Technology to monitor, capture and exclude memory errors and you have a highly serviceable, incredibly powerful, editing beast. You also have our pick for BEST Editing Desktop Workstation, the Dell Precision T7600.
BEST Editing Mobile Workstation
HP EliteBook 8560w
The EliteBook 8560w utilizes the Intel Core i7-2860QM processor, with four hyper-threaded cores running at 2.3GHz. Toss in 16GB of DDR3 RAM, wireless a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, a back-lit keyboard for low light computing and a fingerprint reader for security and you have yourself one powerhouse of a road warrior. Round it out with plenty of input options and the gorgeous DreamColor display and you'll easily see why BEST Editing Mobile Workstation honors go to the HP EliteBook 8560w.
G-Technology G-RAID with Thunderbolt
This G-RAID system uses the lightning fast Thunderbolt technology, which clocks in at 10Gb/s, twice as fast as USB 3.0. Two ports on the back connect to a computer and can daisy chain more Thunderbolt devices. At 4TB or 8TB, space is ample and comes in the form of two hard drives in a single enclosure set to the RAID 0 configuration for maximum speed. You can also reconfigure the unit to RAID 1 for data protection. For its simplicity, versatility and breakneck speed, G-RAID with Thunderbolt is our BEST RAID/Storage choice for 2012.
BEST Input/Output Peripheral
AJA Video Systems KONA 3G
Those who work with sophisticated, highly processor-intensive and collaborative workflows know that the usual assortment of graphics cards will likely have difficulty keeping up with the demands of the users. The KONA 3G is not your average card. When tested with Avid Media Composer 6 we found that real-time previews were actually real-time, resulting in a faster, more efficient workflow, while capture was reliable with no dropped frames. With loads of connection options, it meshes very well with high-end production environments. BEST Input/Output Peripheral goes to AJA Video Systems KONA 3G.
Vinpower Robotic Autoloader Aero VI
Vinpower's Aero VI is a six-tray, automated duplicator, with capacity for as many as 660 Blu-ray discs, DVDs or CDs. Once a project is set, simply walk away and let it do its thing. Setup and operation is relatively simple, with a fairly intuitive control panel and a (actually) helpful user's manual. Copies are made from a single master, or from multiple masters – without user intervention. For rapid delivery of large quantities of accurately produced discs, Vinpower Robotic Autoloader Aero VI is our BEST Duplicator.
Que Audio Q Sniper PRO Kit
With the proliferation of DSLRs and ever-smaller camcorders, their accompanying audio deficiencies have given rise to a new breed of audio capture devices dedicated to diminutive size and professional results. The Q Sniper PRO Kit is a pro mic kit packed in a case measuring a little larger than a three-inch stack of legal sized paper. It consists of a collapsible mini boom pole, mini shotgun mic, shock mount, accessory shoe, windscreen, wind muff, cables and adapters. Small in size but big in performance, the Que Audio Q Sniper PRO Kit is our pick for BEST Microphone.
BEST Audio Recorder
Roland Systems Group R-26
The R-26 audio recorder has four built-in microphones (two X/Y, two omni) with two XLR/TRS combo-type inputs along the bottom for additional professional mic input. Audio can be recorded simultaneously onto three stereo tracks for as many as six channels of awesome audio with maximum versatility in post. With its large backlit touch screen display and intuitive menus, the Roland Systems Group R-26 makes quality audio capture fun and easy, making it a simple choice for BEST Audio Recorder.
BEST Field Monitor
The MR7 is a solidly built field monitor with stereo headphone jack, SD card slot, 4GB of internal memory, built-in H.264 recorder, optional battery (7.4V to 24V) and five BNC connectors for HD-SDI I/O connectivity. The Vectorscope, Waveform and RGB Parade may be viewed in various configurations and user-definable keys give customized access to favorite functions. The Focus Assistance function lets you choose the in-focus color and intensity level for sharp, crisp focusing. All these and more make the ikan MR7, 2012's BEST Field Monitor.
BEST Light Kit
Litepanels Sola ENG Flight Kit
Packed neatly in a Pelican 1510 case the Sola ENG Flight Kit is ideal for travel. It consists of three Sola ENG LED Fresnel lights. Daylight balanced, independently dimmable and focusable, each is capable of output equivalent to that of a 100-watt HMI. They come with two-leaf barndoors, a soft box, diffusion and correction gels, light stands and ball-head shoe mounts. For loads of travel-friendly lighting awesomeness, the Litepanels Sola ENG Flight kit wins the top spot as BEST Light Kit.
BEST Individual Light
Digital Juice MiniBurst 128/256
The MiniBurst 128 and 256 portable LEDs are a great, low-heat, lightweight lighting solution for any situation. Excelling on your camera or in tight spaces, each comes in a padded bag with shoulder strap, hot shoe swivel mount, 12V AC adapter, 12V DC car adapter, diffusion filter and warming filter. Daylight balanced and super bright, intensity is adjustable using the dimmer dial. They require little power and run cool enough for handheld use. And speaking of cool, BEST Individual Light honors go to the Digital Juice MiniBurst 128/256 Portable LED.
Long respected for its quality, Sachtler has paired its Ace 75/2 D tripod and Ace M fluid head into an affordable solution for DSLR and small camcorder users everywhere. The Ace 75/2 D is a two-stage tripod with aluminum legs and mid-level spreaders. The Ace M is a true fluid head with near-frictionless action, and as a bowl-mount head, leveling is easy. Equipped with its Synchronized Actuated Drag and counterbalancing systems, the Ace M is capable of extremely smooth pans and tilts. Sachtler quality and pro features make the Sachtler Ace an easy choice for BEST Tripod.
BEST Advanced Support
indiSYSTEM AIRjib and AIRjibXL
The AIRjib and AIRjibXL by indiSYSTEM are sturdy, lightweight jib arms that are quick and easy to set up. The AIRjib weighs six pounds and collapses to 26", making it great for packing in to remote locations. Using either traditional weights or liquid-filled plastic beverage bottles to counterbalance your camera, the AIRjib and AIRjibXL will take your video to new heights – up to seven or 10 feet in fact. Affordable, innovative and just plain fun, the indiSYSTEM AIRjib has our support as BEST Advanced Support.
Videomaker Editor's Choice Award
While the small size of today's mobile phones has its advantages, it is oftentimes difficult to get a steady shot while holding them. The SlingShot aims to solve that problem. The "slingshot" cradle grips your phone, allowing you control it with one hand. Legs built in to the handle tilt out to use as a tabletop tripod or the cradle may be removed and mounted to a full size tripod or other stabilizing device. For bringing stability to the world of smartphone video, the WOXOM SlingShot gets our Videomaker Editor's Choice Award.
Videomaker Editor's Choice Award
HP Z1 Workstation
At first glance, the Z1 may appear to be a large monitor but it is far more than that. It is a 27-inch display and computer, integrated into an easily serviced, very powerful desktop workstation. The display tilts back flat allowing you to "pop the hood." With the latches released, lifting the screen reveals all the computer goodies hiding inside, making part swapping both easy and fun. With smooth, fast editing, rapid rendering, crisp audio and oodles of screen real estate, the choice is clear: the HP Z1 Workstation is a shoe-in for the Videomaker Editor's Choice Award.
Congratulations and thank yous are in order to all of this year's winners. Your dedication and innovation have made our year a fun and exciting one. Thank you all.
What does the future hold? While DSLRs have dominated recently we should be on the lookout in the upcoming year for a strong comeback from the camcorder sector. Interchangeable lenses, larger full-frame sensors, shallower depths of field and more. It promises to be another awesome year for video producers and we can't wait to see it unfold.
– 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 31, 2012. So the "2012 Best Products of the Year" implies products received from October 31, 2011 to October 31, 2012 – thus a full year, but not a typical calendar year. Many fine products came in after that time, and will be candidates for the "2013 Best Products of the Year". Similarly, you'll see products that appeared in some late 2011 editions that qualify for consideration this year, due to the date they were received by Videomaker. 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 didn't review, so our ethical standards won't allow us to award them honors if we haven't had any chance to look the product over, test it and give it some use time.