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Equipment

Here Are Our Top Ten Favorite Products of the Last Ten Years

With the recent celebration of being ten years in business, there is a sense of nostalgia throughout the office. What started as an idea by Roger, and a small garage full of camera gear, turned into an incredibly successful business that has been able to help and service millions of photographers in the industry. But the business at LensRentals.com hasn’t been the only thing that has changed considerably over the years, the world of photography and videography has as well. So when coming up with an idea on how to highlight the last ten years of camera and optic innovations, we decided to build a list of our favorite products that have been announced in the last ten years.

Not only are we staffed by experts in the field of photography and video gear, we also staff a considerable amount of photographers and videographers – each with their own unique styles and preferences. What we’ve found, is that there is no right piece of gear for everyone, and we all have varying tastes and expectations when it comes to gear. So while building a comprehensive ‘Top Ten’ list, we ran into a variety of opinions. After some long discussions, here are our collective top ten products in photography and videography over the last ten years, in no particular order.

Top Ten Gear of the Last Ten Years (In No Particular Order)

Pentax 645Z Medium Format System

The anti-cell phone camera. Yes, it has some shortcomings compared to a $45,000 Phase or Hasselblad, but it’s 15% of the price and has a decent selection of relatively reasonably priced lenses. Proportionately, that’s like being able to buy a nice full-frame SLR for $450. Of course, not everyone wants or can afford medium format, but it makes it an option for a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t have that option. A year from now I might be putting the Hasselblad X1D-50c in place of it, but not until I see if Hasselblad has begun to solve their lens problems.
Roger’s Take
If the Pentax 645Z should be remembered for anything, it’s how it made Medium Format practical in a digital era. Sure, Phase One and Hasselblad still exist, and are more common in the industry than ever, but Pentax was really able to break the ground and show people what medium format systems were capable of, without breaking the bank (in comparison to Hasselblad’s and Phase One Systems). It misses some key features, like a modular body, and the lens lineup is pretty lackluster by comparison, but the system give’s people an opportunity to see what that Sony 50MP 44MMx33MM CMOS sensor is truly all about.
Zach’s Take

 

Leica SL Typ 601 

Usually the word “new” when associated with Leica cameras indicates a slightly different surface finish or that one of the already few features has been removed. Leica has, after all, been tweaking the rangefinder camera for over a century now. The introduction of the Leica SL (Type 601), in 2015 was perhaps a necessary change from the company’s norm, one that might enable Leica to be more competitive and utilize now standard technologies in ways that a rangefinder can not. The Leica SL is capable of using any Leica lens (via adapter) including of course the M-mount lenses, as well as R and S lenses. So far the native lenses have proven to have comparable autofocus and stabilization. But the Leica SL (Type 601) carries with it Leica’s propensity for refinement, and it is the intuitive layout that makes this camera so enjoyable. Versatility? Absolutely. Features? As should be expected, but chosen carefully.
Aaron’s Take
The Leica SL Type 601 is currently my favorite camera available. It looks big and bulky and sort of ugly, but once it’s in the hands, it feels just right. Image quality is excellent, with great dynamic range and noise performance. The EVF is the best one I’ve ever used on any mirrorless camera. I can focus the 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux wide open in a dark bar and nail the focus 70% of the time. Oh, and the ability to use all M-mount lenses on it? Yes, please.
Joey’s Take

 

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

Before the Canon 11-24mm f/4L came out, Canon had nothing that could compete with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. They made this lens even wider with image quality that is just as impressive all the way to 11mm. Yes, it’s big and front heavy, but when you need to get really wide without the fisheye distortion, this lens is the one to grab.
Sarah’s Take
The Canon 11-24mm f/4L was a game-changing lens when it was first released, and so far nobody else has really competed. There are lenses nearly as wide, but nothing nearly as wide that is so breathtakingly sharp. It’s not an everyday lens, of course, but it provides a completely different look and perspective for those who take the time to master it. It’s a lens I think about whenever a bunch of us are photographing the same thing because the photos I take with it make that thing look different than the photos everyone else took.
Roger’s Take

 

Freefly Movi M5

In the Spring of 2013, Freefly Systems shook the filmmaking world with the introduction of their M?VI M10 stabilizer. Since that time, the design has inspired innumerable imitators, none of which live up to the nimble performance of their original. However, it is our opinion, that Freefly Systems ultimately perfected the design with their M?VI M5 that followed in 2014. The Movi M5 reduced the overall size and weight of the gimbal, without sacrificing performance. On the contrary, many happy users have found the Movi M5 much more capable than its larger siblings (M10/M15). If a camera can be hacked onto it, the M5 will fly it better than any other gimbal on the market.
Kris’ Take
I’ve only been working at Lensrentals for two years, so I wasn’t around for video milestones like our first audio recorder or cinema camera, but I’d been here about three months when we started carrying the Movi M5, and it felt like a pretty big step. At the time, the Movi was the only handheld motorized gimbal, and it changed the way a lot of people shoot video. After a couple years and countless imitations, it’s still probably the best gimbal on the market, and it’s still really fun to use.
Ryan’s Take
I remember when the Movi M10 was announced, and the little promotional video put together by Vincent Laforet was released. Everyone on my social media collectively lost their minds as the possibilities this new stabilizer could bring. Since it’s announcement, steady cam operations have truly gone to the next level and pieces like the Movi M5 make it possible, allowing for some silky smooth camera operation in situations never really seen before.
Zach’s Take

 

Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II

The Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II is not your grandfather’s DO lens. Every other diffraction optics lens ever made has been an optical compromise of some degree that we accepted because the lens was so much smaller and lighter than it would be without diffraction optics. This one is as sharp and contrasty as a regular refractive lens, but still significantly smaller and lighter. It’s lighter, about the same price, and arguably of better image quality than a Canon 300mm f/2.8 with a teleconverter. This has never been done before, and rumor has it may never be done again. If that’s the case this will be a collector’s item, similar to the old Canon 200mm f/1.8.
Roger’s Take
The Canon 400mm f/4 DO IS II is a lens you have to see to truly appreciate. It’s a 400mm lens I can actually hold. And unlike the previous version, this lens has great contrast and clarity. This is the perfect lens for wildlife or sports shooters who are traveling or are getting up there in age (like Roger).
Sarah’s Take

 

Canon 5d Mark III

After their previous entry to the 5D line of professional DSLRs started a digital cinematography coup, Canon had customer’s expectations quite high for a follow-up. Pre-release rumors swirled with video-centric features such as Raw codecs, high frame-rate acquisition in HD, and continuous auto-focus. In early 2012 Canon delivered the 5D Mark III, a camera with none of those features. Needless to say, early buzz was polarized, to say the least; nevertheless, the camera proved to be a solid performer, quickly overtaking the 5D Mark II. Its success highlights one the best qualities of Canon cameras, a devotion to prioritizing reliability over all else in their design.
Kris’ Take
I’m not a super-experienced or highly-skilled still photographer, especially compared to many of my co-workers. I dabble, though, and when I do, I usually rent a 5D Mark III. Not because it’s objectively the best camera we carry, or the most exciting, but because I’ve shot with it enough that I can finally operate it without fumbling. There’s something to be said for sticking with a camera until you know it by heart. Plus it’s like always in stock – purely because of the number of units we carry.
Ryan’s Take
I continue to use the Canon 5d Mark III more than any other. When it was new, it completely upgraded my DSLR shooting experience with amazing low light performance paired with Canon L series glass. Not to mention a beautiful rear display. I still use it because the image quality is great for what I need while keeping the file sizes manageable. This camera has been the long time favorite of our wedding and portrait customers.
Sarah’s Take

 

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens

The Sigma 24-35 f/2 is unique for a modern zoom. The short focal range is an interesting compromise to achieve the open aperture of f/2, where most “fast” zooms only achieve f/2.8. It covers the three classic wide angles (24, 28, and 35) leaving those situations requiring longer focal lengths, often portraiture, to faster primes that will offer a narrower depth of field. The image quality at the extremes of the focal range is also very consistent, as there is less to balance out optically. I think of it not so much as a short zoom but an extended prime.
Aaron’s Take
This glass can be half-empty, or half-full. It’s a pretty limited range for a zoom, roughly 1.5X. It’s not as wide an aperture as a fast prime. But it is the first full-frame zoom with a f/2.0 aperture and you have to be impressed when a company does something that’s never been done before. You have to be more impressed when they make it optically excellent. I was certainly ready to say ‘yes, but it’s a full stop wider so we can’t expect it to be quite as good’. But it’s every bit as good as any other best-quality zoom. And far less expensive than any other best-quality zoom.
Roger’s Take

 

Profoto B1 AirTTL Strobe

The Profoto B1 Strobe has changed my life as a photographer more so than any other piece of gear made. I’ve always been a Strobist at heart, and prior to the Profoto B1 system, I was often carrying Alien Bee systems on location, along with their massive Vagabond II battery system. Now, I had all that power at my fingertips, in a small and lightweight package. But Profoto also broke ground on being among the first strobes with TTL and High-Speed sync, giving them an edge over just about every other strobe manufacturer ever.
Zach’s Take
While the Profoto B1 wasn’t the first battery powered strobe we ever carried, it marked a real turning point in quality, reliability, and performance over the competition. TTL and high-speed sync in a 500Ws battery powered strobe compatible with the whole range of Profoto modifiers? Seriously, what’s not to love? And I loved this light a lot, right up until its little brother, the Profoto B2 came along. For my needs, the Profoto B2 is a better option, but most of our clients need the extra power the Profoto B1 can deliver.
Joey’s Take

 

Sony a7R Mark II

The Sony A7R II is my second favorite camera available, and the one I shoot with the most. The small size makes it easy to travel with, especially when I go camping and hiking or when I go urban exploring. The high resolution combined with the great low light capabilities of the backside illuminated sensor are a dream combination for all my late night shooting for my personal work. And the in-body stabilization is a godsend.
Joey’s Take
It’s pretty simple: 42 megapixels, 5-axis in-body image stabilization, 4K video, and hybrid autofocus at a reasonable price. Add to that faster burst shooting, reduced shutter vibrations, and electronic first curtain and you have a game-changing camera. It’s a big improvement over the Sony A7R, which was a big improvement over the Sony A7. I love the Sony A7r II camera for what it is, and also for the rate of improvement, which makes me a little giddy thinking about what the A7R III might be.
Roger’s Take

 

Canon 5d Mark II

In 2008 the cheapest large sensor digital cinema cameras were tens of thousands of dollars and weighed 20+ pounds. Canon’s decision to add 1080/24p video recording to one of their still photography cameras changed the world. The 5D mark II upended an industry, launched careers, changed attitudes, and altered the look of cinematography for the next decade, all on its own. It is one of the most important cameras in history.
Kris’ Take
The Canon 5d Mark II was the first full frame digital camera I ever owned. I bought it shortly after it’s announcement in 2008, and it was really a groundbreaking piece of equipment for its time. Being the first Canon DSLR with video capabilities, the Canon 5d Mark II can really be credited for the DSLR videography boom that took place after it’s announcement. Suddenly, shows like House, and movies like Black Swan and Captain America were able to harness the power of the Canon 5d Mark II, bringing professional level video camera capabilities in a small, and affordable package. While it’s a bit old now, it’s impressive to know that a camera nearly ten years old can hold up to the standards of this ever-developing industry.
Zach’s Take

 

What do you think of our list, was there any big surprises as to what we’ve decided on? Over the last ten years, the photography and videography industries have changed faster than ever before, so some pieces of gear had to be left out on our list. If you have anything that you’d like to add, please do so in the comments below, and we look forward to another ten years of being your source for gear rentals and expert advice!

Author: Lensrentals

Articles written by the entire editorial and technical staff at LensRentals.com. These articles are for when there is more than one author for the entire post, and are written as a community effort.

Posted in Equipment
  • Nikita

    So Nikon has made no meaningful contribution over the last decade? Strange list.

  • Unrest

    Canon has also had recall and launch issues.

  • Unrest

    The D3/S, D700 and D4/S were not Sony sensors. Your logic is flawed.

  • If you haven’t had the opportunity, I recommend at least checking out the a7rII. The digital viewfinder sort of blows my mind and makes me feel like I’m cheating. The sensor is pretty spectacular, and I think we can all agree that in-body IS actually makes some sense.

  • Christopher J. May

    Fair enough. I tend to think that the D800/e did a better job than the a7r of implementing what that sensor could do because of Sony’s compression and 11 bit processing but your argument for the second version of the a7r makes those points moot.

    The a7r Mk II is indeed a step up in many ways. I’m still not ready to give up on DSLR’s yet because of issues like AF performance and battery life, but I at least understand the mirrorless appeal and the a7r Mk II definitely exemplifies a lot of the good points of mirrorless.

  • I think the purpose of the a7 series was to sacrifice ergonomics for size. While the battery life isn’t quite there yet, it’s pretty incredible that the camera system has all the features and more of the Nikon D800/Canon 5DIII, and is 35% smaller in size. And while their lens lineup isn’t there, they’ve come a long way even in the last 6 months with their G series lenses.

    And if anyone has the money to throw at developing new lenses to catch up, it’s Sony.

  • Unrest

    We may have to agree to disagree here. Sony ergonomics are seriously lacking. In addition, do you remember the Nikon D3X and the Sony a900? Nikon’s version of that 24 mp FF Sony sensor was superior. Yes, Sony sensors are amazing but Sony still has a long way to when it comes to legacy (and current) lens selection and ergonomics.

  • Nikon deserved more love on this list, no doubt. However, Nikon gets their sensors from Sony, and sony has been doing a pretty fantastic job of putting their sensors in better systems than Nikon has as of late. Plus nikon has had a struggle with recalls as of late, which shakes trust in the brand. (Recalls I can think of as of recent have been the Nikon D700, Nikon D750, Nikon D600 and Nikon D800)

  • That sensor is incredibly no doubt, but I think we agreed that it works best when packaged into the Sony a7r, and the a7rII was a pretty big improvement in the alpha series from Sony, which is why it made the list.

  • I completely agree with the D3, it really did change the digital photography world when it was released. The D800, however, is nothing more than the sony camera packed into a DSLR, where it’s much better in the a7R version from Sony.

  • The Movi suggests that it’s not entirely photography.

    The reality is that it’s borderline impossible to select only ten products that we love that have came out in the last 10 years. Nikon didn’t get nearly the love it deserves on this list, and if it was a top 15 or even 12, the Sony FS5 would have likely made the list as well.

  • Christopher J. May

    The last paragraph of the article would seem to indicate that I can.

  • Fiatlux

    Perhaps not Canon-biased but certainly focusing on very recent products, apart from the 5D MkII. Maybe the exercise of choosing a single product per year would have been more challenging?

    I would have elected the D700 as the DSLR that converted a lot of Nikon users to FF, and perhaps the 14-24 2.8 even if I never used it myself.

  • T N Args

    I am glad that you are enjoying so many huge cameras and lenses. I guess the fact you can put them back on the shelf at work makes them ‘hugely enjoyable’. 🙂

  • T N Args

    It says ‘Favorite’, not best, not seminal, so you can’t argue what is in or out.

  • Lee

    I would’ve listed the D3 before the 5D2. That’s the camera that really made low-light / high-iso usable for more than b&w newsprint.

  • Gert_W

    I had a mobile phone with camera really early, but i never used it the way I do it with my smartphone. I shot a picture from time to time an sent it as MMS, which was slow.
    Now I have a lot of ways to send my photos – WhatsApp, Instagram etc.
    Not the existence of the camera in a phone has changed, but the ways people use it!

  • Johannes Dahlström

    I hope you don’t think Apple invented the camera phone…

    “By 2003, more camera phones were sold worldwide than stand-alone digital cameras. In 2005, Nokia became the world’s most sold digital camera brand. In 2006, half of the world’s mobile phones had a built-in camera. [–] In 2008, Nokia sold more camera phones than Kodak sold film based simple cameras, thus becoming the biggest manufacturer of any kind of camera.” –Wikipedia

  • Nicolas Bousquet

    There not a 70-200 that is bad. This may be a great product. Some may think it is better than the competition but this isn’t a game changer.

  • Nicolas Bousquet

    You brought both and spend a month with each to be sure about that? This is just a list… We can’t all have our prefered or beloved product in it otherwise we get all the gear in it 😉

  • Bob Thane

    The Nikon D500 and 200-500 are also arguably game changers, or the Tamron 150-600 if you want to see what started the whole affordable wildlife bandwagon.

  • Jack, I don’t disagree, but Canon is almost 2/3 of our photo gear. If you look at it that way, someone else would say it was biased against Canon.

    Roger

  • Aren’t all lists kinda lame? I don’t disagree with you. It looks like what it is: a list made by a committee trying to cover too much territory.

    Roger

  • IanHirst62

    I forget, were people this obnoxious before the invention of the internet and below-the-line commenting?

  • C0der7

    No GH4 or Sony F5? It seems like this entire list is focused on photography, not products they carry. Just my opinion, Lens Rentals still rocks!

  • Hans Christian Steen Hansen

    The milestones to me, i.e. where I put my money:
    1: upgraded from the spectacular and innovative Sony r1 (1995) to the Nikon D800. WOW!
    2: Sony rx100 ( II ) is a gem, tiny, well-built and pin sharp (with some fabrication quality control issues that were resolved at no cost to me).
    3: Panasonic FZ1000 25-400mm extending to ~600 mm delivers truly amazing 4K video @ its weight and price point. A true game-changer that forced Sony to respond in kind a couple of years later.
    4: Sigma 15mm F2.8 Fish eye Lens and the hemi-fish-eye plugin. Yes you CAN make group photographs of people in confined spaces without distorting near-edge faces hideously. Focuses really close and is sharp @ f2.8.
    5: Tamron 15-30mm F2.8 stabilized – the only of its kind. Adequately sharp edge-to-edge @ F2.8. Excessive weight? I guess the “no pain no gain” rule applies.
    6. (wish list) Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f4 E PF ED VR – a diffraction lens “for the rest of us” @ 1/3 the price of the Canon EF 400mm f4.0 DO
    7. Having used my friends Canon 1dx and 200 mm F2 and 70-200mm F2.8 I would say this camera is truly exceptionally robust and excellent at low-light indoors sports events.
    8. Samyang should be applauded for bringing a hole series of affordable and high-quality primes to the market. I have the 14mm F2.8. I now prefer the Tamron 15-30mm for versatility and optical quality.
    9. Adobe should be applauded for LightRoom and Photoshop where the most interesting feature fro me is the “miraculous” context-sensitive fill that allows me to easily get rid of power lines and adding missing pieces of sky in panoramas etc.
    10. Sony should be applauded for its development efforts in sensor technology which is so far ahead of anything else that my D800 is far from obsolete. One might say Sony is the GOOGLE of the camera world – can’t live without either of them!

  • Neo Hsu

    I see, so people would rather buy Nikon products, but only rent Canon.

  • newworld666

    It’s strange that a gamechanger like the Canon 1Dx is not in the list,
    and a nearly unusable toy like A7RII (no joystick, no touchscreen, poor
    batteries, a few second zone lenses available) is selected.

  • true

    Now now, there’s no need to add 60-130 on the list when there are lenses that are actual 70-200

  • Gearsau

    Still like my Nikon 14~24 lens. Just amazing. Its taken Canon years to come out with a competitor, that is wider, but, slower.

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