Staff Picks for The Best New Photography and Videography Gear of 2018
Last week, we shared with you our end of the year data showing off the most popular rentals for 2018, as well as the most popular new product rentals for the year. But one of the perks of working at Lensrentals.com, is that you have access to over 250,000 pieces of photography and video gear, meaning much of the staff is made up of photographers and videographers who are all working on their own projects in their spare time. Pairing that with constant inspecting and cleaning of all this gear, we’ve definitely found our favorites for the year. So for this list, I’ve reached out to various members of the staff and asked them what their favorite new products for 2018 were, and to share why they liked that product over the competition.
Here are the staff picks for their favorite gear of 2018. This list is compiled of only gear released in 2018, and attempted to limit each item to only two selections. As a reference to some of the most popular new products of 2018, here are the most popular new product rentals of 2018 —
Please note, this list includes our favorite gear that was released and announced in 2018. Many of us are still using and are extremely happy with products released in previous years, so we’ve limited this list to just the stuff from the past calendar year.
I’ve been on the Fuji train for a while now, and it’s been great to see the progression from X-T1 to X-T2 to X-T3 and see just how refined and consistent Fuji can be. This is my go-to camera for travel now, and a recent trip to Banff with it made me fall in love with Fuji all over again. Who needs full-frame mirrorless when this does everything I need it to do?
A couple of years ago, I wrote about how awesome I thought the Nikon 105mm f/1.4E was. When the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art Series was announced, I was just ecstatic because I love the Art series lineup, and if Sigma could knock this one out of the park, too, well, I had to give it a shot. And it did not disappoint. Super sharp and $600 less than the Nikon? There is literally nothing not to love about it. Ok, maybe you could not love that it’s not stabilized. Fine. But that’s it.
Why the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art? Because it’s something we have never seen before: a f/2.8 ultrawide that is incredibly sharp throughout its zoom range. I’m really big on ‘nobody has been able to do it before’. Ultra-wide zooms aren’t for everyone, they’re difficult to use, and this one’s big and heavy. But it’s a really sharp ultra-wide f/2.8 zoom, end-to-end and edge-to-edge. I don’t always shoot an ultra-wide, but when I do, it’s this one.
My favorite camera from this past year has to be the Sony A7 III. I know the Sony A7R III might be a little fancier, but this happened to be the one that I brought home one weekend and I loved it. I’m a Canon shooter, so I’ve been on the edge for a while about switching to Sony for weddings or sports because I didn’t fully trust Sony’s autofocus. The Sony A7 III has incredibly fast and accurate autofocus whether you’re shooting portraits or tracking sports/wildlife. The huge plus is being able to put any adapter/lens combo (let’s say a Canon 50mm F/1.2L) and have some of the best stabilization I’ve seen. Having that stabilization system built-in to the camera offers a huge range of lens options, especially for handheld video. I just love it…. period.
The Sigma 105mm f/1.4 Art is simply a beautiful lens. Sigma keeps getting better and is now, without a doubt, on the level of Canon and Nikon when it comes to image quality from their lenses. The Sigma 105mm is cheaper than the Nikon equivalent and I personally like the way it looks over the Nikon. It kind of reminds me of a mini Canon 200mm f/2.0L. It’s incredible for portraits, yet still fast enough for sports. The versatility and image quality of this lens is why it’s my favorite lens of 2018.
This choice is kind of a cheat since these carts have been available for a few years now, but it’s new to our warehouse, so I think it counts. I’ve been wanting to carry a camera cart forever, but, until we found the Inovativ Scout 37, we couldn’t get our hands on one small enough to ship. Incredibly, while it holds up to 600-pounds worth of gear, the Scout EVO folds up into a single 65-pound case compact enough to be checked as baggage on a plane. Every piece is designed and manufactured entirely in the US, and you can feel the thought and care behind each engineering decision, from the handle design to the material choices. They’re a little pricey, sure, but you get what you pay for and It’s a really incredible piece of kit. Worth every penny as an alternative to sweaty trips back and forth to a cargo van.
To be totally honest, I wanted to hate the DJI Ronin-S. I’m not exactly in love with the single-handle motorized gimbal product category in general, and DJI (especially in the gimbal category) have a history of releasing cheap copies of existing products. They hadn’t created categories before, or even really made improvements, but saved money on R&D and manufacturing quality and passed those savings on to consumers. Recent releases like the Ronin-S, though, have convinced me that DJI is capable of more than knockoffs. The Ronin-S isn’t just a cheap version of the Zhiyun Crane 2 or the Ikan Beholder. It’s better in every way. Movement is more fluid, it’s more elegantly designed, the app is easier to use, it’s more reliable, and it’s STILL cheaper. After just one shoot for our blog, I was a convert.
I’m primarily a Canon shooter, but I tend to make an exception when traveling to opt for a smaller Sony full frame mirrorless setup. This is easy because I rent everything I shoot with, but from the perspective of owning a system, the Canon EOS R release was very exciting.
The new EOS R has a lot going for it including its body size, and accurate autofocus even in low light. One negative is the massive size of the new lens lineup, but when paired with the petite Canon RF 35mm f/1.8, the combo is quite lightweight and perfect for street photography & travel. It feels solid in the hand and is light enough to carry cross-body all day.
Although I’m not sold on the system as a whole just yet, I’m excited about using Canon gear that’s super quick, light, and compatible with the setup I already use. Sidenote: The EF-EOS R mount adapters work really well!
My choice for the Canon EOS R was a simple one – because Canon has finally gotten mirrorless right. It might not have the resolution or IBIS as the Sony a7R III or Nikon Z7, but it does a lot of things right, and the price point is hard to ignore. Like many others, I own a lot of L-series lenses, which has led to my own stubbornness preventing me from switching over to the mirrorless world. Canon has finally offered a viable solution in their mirrorless market, and I’m excited to see where they go with the new lens mount, and the product line.
As I’ve mentioned before, someone could take superglue and permanently mount my Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS to my camera, and it’d probably take a few months before I’d notice. The one lens that I’ve used over the last year that has really shaken my love for the lens has been the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro Art Series. Per usual, Sigma has done a lot of things right with this lens. It’s incredibly sharp and accurate, and they’ve managed to do it all with affordability in mind. It’s not perfect, as I’ve discussed in my review, but it’s really good, and one of my favorite lenses from the past couple of years.
It’s really difficult not to give a nod to the Profoto B10. At 250Ws, and the battery design developed by Profoto, it’s an extremely capable flash unit, and everything that the Profoto B2 should have been – and that’s coming from someone who loves the Profoto B2. Adding mobile functionality with their smartphone app is just icing on the cake. While they’re still limited in their release, early reports show how efficient the unit really is. My next major purchase will certainly be the Profoto B10, and the small size should make it a perfect fit for my camera bag.
While at times I may style myself as a “photographer”, I’ve never been one to carry a camera around everywhere I go. This often leaves me discouraged, when I spy a painterly landscape during my morning commute, or, miss an opportunity when I find myself awash in the decisive moment with nothing but my phone. And yes, I do have that ubiquitous digital appendage permanently affixed to my person. Still, I find the quality of the image, lack of controls, and overall tedium of arguing with Wim Wenders over the artistic merit of phone photography leaving me wanting more, while simultaneously still craving the accessibility afforded to me by my phone. Fortunately, Sony has been steadily releasing and improving upon one of the best “point and shoot” cameras ever made. The Sony RX100VI is the latest edition and offers truly exceptional image quality, an unprecedented level of camera control, and most, if not all of the photo and video features offered by their professional line of A7 cameras. With the Sony RX100 VI, Sony opted to offer a 24-200 zoom lens in place of its predecessors 24-70, improving on the functionality of this little wonder of a camera.
Every good equipment review starts with a brief overview of the monopolistic tendencies of conglomerates. Monopolies by their very nature dilute the marketplace, and do little to inspire the advancement of fresh ideas, and cutting-edge technology within that monopoly. And yet, with the 703 Bolt, the video technology assimilating blob that is Vitec has managed to pull off a stunning, streamlined synthesis of two products, that might otherwise have remained star-crossed. With the 703 bolt, you have the perfect union of the wireless video capabilities of the Treradek Bolt, seamlessly designed into a Small HD 700 series monitor. Add in the well-integrated handles, and that makes the 703 the most efficient wireless handheld monitor available.
I have to admit, there is a kind of sick pleasure I get from disassembling newly released equipment just to see what changes the engineers might have made, and after we found the MTF variance to be so low on the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS II, I was curious. Anyway, it took a malfunctioning stabilizer (normal for a fresh batch of lenses, trust me) and a bit of disassembly before the true goods were revealed. And, I can honestly say that this lens was redesigned inside and out for the better. It is clearly organized with serviceability in mind, has robust focus rollers, and a far more secure system for maintaining optical alignment. Any reoccurring issues or service concerns we encountered with the mark I have been more than adequately addressed. It was time for a new version, and the enhanced features of the Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS II certainly include everything that should be expected, but with a little much-appreciated love from the engineering team. Canon opted for longevity on this design.
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED has quickly become a favorite of mine from 2018. I’m a big fan of the 75-degree angle of view on Full Frame 35mm sensor anyway, but I really wasn’t expecting to find this lens to be one of the best wide angle primes from Nikon that I’ve ever used. Overall sharpness is very good wide open with a little light falloff at the edges expected, but even just stopped down to f2-2.8, the image becomes superbly sharp from corner to corner. With smooth, beautiful bokeh, and practically zero chromatic aberration, distortion or coma, the new optical formula is dynamite for portraits, landscapes, and street photography. With the impressive build quality, fast, nearly silent AF, and innovative anti-glare coatings that I love about other Nikon lenses, this one really stands out to me as an exceptional addition to the Nikon arsenal. I really can’t wait to pull it out of my bag every time opportunity presents.
If I could rave about one new product that isn’t a lens or some new sensor technology and that is truly a game changer, it would be the Profoto B10 OCF Flash Head, hands down. It’s everything I wanted Profoto to do after first falling in love with their products several years ago. A wireless battery powered strobe that will fit in my bag, that’s compatible with an assortment of modifiers, and that doesn’t involve a cumbersome battery pack. Everything from sports photography to on-location portraits to wildlife, to macro, to just about anything else, just got easier and better. If you’ve been afraid to break from the familiarity with natural light photography, try the Profoto B10… it will change your life. There’s even an app that
The Panasonic GH5S took the success that the GH5 found with video professionals and catered a product even more specifically to their needs. The fantastic dual-ISO sensitivity, more rigid sensor, and BNC timecode improve an already great design and cement its place in my video load-out.
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k had a lot of hype to live up to, and I believe it found success. The camera has a surprisingly nice balance in your hand, and the improvements to basic usability by way of physical exposure controls are great. The image quality simply cannot be found in a similarly sized and priced camera. If you can find one to test drive, I recommend it.
I am smitten with my DJI Mavic 2 Pro. Between it and the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, DJI has struck a fantastic balance between size, portability, and image quality. Whether you prefer the 10-bit color and crisper image of the Hasselblad designed Mavic 2 Pro camera or the capabilities provided by the 24-48mm zoom lens of the Mavic 2 Zoom, you’ll find a smartly designed drone with impressive safety features that you can keep in your bag to be set loose at a moments notice.
I chose the SmallHD Focus 5″ monitor as one of my favorite releases of 2018. Some might say that something like an onboard monitor is a bit underwhelming but this handy little accessory was designed to be a workhorse. The Sony L Series type contacts mean you can power a monitor with higher capacity batteries, like an Anton Bauer NP-F976, for roughly eight hours on a single charge or the monitor and a camera for roughly four hours when using a battery adapter with the monitor’s auxiliary power port. The monitor is light despite having a decent build quality and the tilt arm and additional shoe makes it a dream solution for SLR shooters.
The Panasonic EVA1 was an obvious Best Of selection for me. The option of adding a PL mod from Wooden Camera, makes it one of my favorite compact cinema cameras. Taking features like dual native ISO, V-Log, and a home screen layout from the Varicam and adding them into a small, 5.7K camera with RAW output capabilities puts the Panasonic EVA1 at the top of its class in my book. This camera has great button placement and manages to stay lightweight without compromising performance, making it perfect for run-and-gun shooters.
The Fuji 200mm f/2 is my new favorite product in 2018. My style is a bit different than most, with that being said I loved the Canon 200 f/2L for portraits. The sharp defined edges and separation you can achieve with the distance from your subject is what drew me to such a difficult lens to use. So when I heard we were getting a long focal, fast aperture lens to the Fuji line I was ecstatic; and this lens delivers. A 305mm focal equivalent with paper-thin depth and smooth bokeh is something to marvel at. Included in the lens is a 1.4x teleconverter so a focal length equivalent to 427mm at f/2.8 is something that should interest sport and wildlife shooters alike. It’s not for everybody, but for the dedicated few that want to lug this thing around, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
The Fuji X-T2 was a great camera; the Fuji X-T3 is a greater camera. With times comes leaps in technology, and this camera is a shining example of that. The long awaited Fuji CMOS 4 sensor boasts significantly improved AF performance and impressive tracking performance for fast-moving subjects. Fuji claims the new X-Processor is three times faster than its elders. Videographers will be happy to hear that the Fuji X-T3 is now capable of internal 4K/60P and 10bit output. I’m a Fuji fan for their fantastic JPEGS and in-camera Film Simulations, and this camera is no different. While I shoot in RAW/JPEG, I often just use the wireless function to transfer my JPEGS straight to my phone for quick posting and instant delivery to my clients.
I’m a fan of “bridge cameras”. Having a lens built into the camera allows an allowance of some of the processing power and devotes it to the things that really matter. The Sony RX10 iv is a powerhouse of a camera. The zoom range spans from 24-600 with a variable f/2.4-4 aperture, and a necessary 4.5 stops of image stabilization this guy is truly one camera to rule them all. The autofocus speed is Blazing fast, and I’m continuously impressed with it’s tracking capabilities. Sony systems are really smart, so I don’t have a problem letting Auto do the work when I’m not trying to manually accomplish something specific.
Any of these surprise you? Any new products that were your favorites that you think deserve attention? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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.