Best New Photo & Video Products of 2020
A week or so ago, we put out our annual comprehensive list of rental data, where we hare which products in the photo and video industry rented best, and compare it to previous years to mark various market metrics. What we found is to be expected – mirrorless cameras are slowly taking over the DSLR markets. While Canon continues to dominate the photo and video industries, Nikon is showing their struggle. But as usual, we typically put out two pieces at the end of the year, one highlighting our rental data for the year and one highlighting just new products. And as such, we put out a podcast episode, where Roger, Ryan, Ally, and Zach all talked about their two favorite products for the year and their one bust for the year. Even still, we have more data to run through, so despite it being the second week of 2021, let’s look back at the best new products for 2020.
This year, we decided to do it a little differently than last year. In previous years, we only list the top 20 newest products as determined by rental data and then share staff picks for their favorite products from the year. For better or worse, 2020 was a unique year for the industry, where many jobs fell short, and products were put on hold. Brands like RED have allegedly halted their releases for the year to save cost, and as such, many exciting releases and announcements for 2020 have been shelved and brought back to the drawing board for redesign and tooling. So we figured, the most reasonable way to share our data is by breaking down our new releases rental data, broken down into three categories – New Lenses, New Video Cameras, and New Photo Cameras. This data is pulled for new products that have hit our inventory in 2020 – so while some of these cameras and lenses may have come out in early December 2019, they didn’t reach our inventory until 2020.
As expected, the Canon RF lenses took the top 3 of the 5 spots for 2020’s new product list, with Sony and third parties showing solid numbers as well. To continue the alarm, Nikon only has a single lens in the top list, which is their Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S. And of course, the other lens of note is the Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM – a favorite from Roger. And before we get to our staff favorites for the year, let’s take a look at the most popular new photo and video cameras from 2020.
|Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H
|Sony Alpha a6600
|Canon 1DX Mark III
|Sony Alpha a9 II
|Canon EOS R6
|Canon EOS R5
|Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
|Nikon Z 50
|Canon EOS M6 Mark II Mirrorless
One notable placement on the photo list is that the Canon R6 is actually renting more than the Canon R5, though that could be because inventory for the Canon R6 has been easier to find. Additionally, the Fuji X-T4 got many initial criticisms for being only a marginal upgrade from the previous version. Still, it was among the most rented new cameras for the year. You see many of what you might expect on the video side, with the Sony FX-9 and Canon C500 Mark II topping the list – two strong competitors in the pro video market. Does anything on this list surprise you? Chime in in the comments below. In the meantime, let’s go through some of our staff picks for their favorite new products from 2020.
Staff Picks for Favorite New Products of 2020
|Quasar Science Rainbow Q50R RGBX Linear LED Lamp Quad Kit
These are the coolest lights we got this year, and we got a lot of really cool lights. This kit is like four large lightsabers, with full-color control. Who doesn’t like lightsabers? They’re super easy to set up, easy to control, play well with DMX, and have plenty of cool effects. We’ve seen a few versions of things like these over the years, but these are by far the best iteration we’ve come across.
I’ve been a Fuji fan for a while now, having extensively used the X-T2 and X-T3 for the last few years. It’s my favorite mirrorless system by far. The 4 is a worthy upgrade to the 3, if only for the in-body stabilization and improved AF algorithm. I’m also a big fan of the new articulating screen, the much more useful position of the AF-On button, and that new, badass battery. You can’t put it in backward! This has been a headache with the other batteries for a while. If I owned an X-T3, I might not be tempted to upgrade, sure, but I don’t, so I’m actually thinking about buying a new digital camera for the first time since I started working here 9 years ago. That’s how good this Fuji X-T4 is.
To really understand the appeal of the Shure MV7, you have to understand the mic that inspired it, the SM7B. Originally introduced in 1973, the SM7 series has lasted nearly 50 years with barely any changes and has become a go-to vocal mic for both music and broadcast. Quincy Jones and recording engineer Bruce Swedien famously used the SM7 as their primary vocal mic while recording Thriller, and, according to Shure, it’s since found a place in recording studios for everyone from Metallica to Bob Dylan. In short, considering the cost and durability, many would call the SM7B the best vocal mic ever made.
What makes the MV7 so great is that it simply continues that tradition while adding a few quality of life touches that should come in handy if you’re not, for instance, Quincy Jones. Most importantly, it features a built-in headphone jack and USB output to be used directly with a computer; no board or USB interface is required. Sure, a recording studio will always be preferable (and there’s an XLR output too, if you’re able to use it), but that’s not an option for everyone. Podcasters, streamers, or just folks who want a little extra authority on their Zoom calls, now have a mic they can plug straight into their computer without bothering with a Cloudlifter or a USB Audio interface. And it sounds nearly identical to the legendary SM7B. AND it’s only $249 ($100 less than the SM7B). How could that not be one of the best products of the year?
I covered this in more detail in our year-end podcast episode, but I think what surprised me most about the C500 Mark II is how it finally convinced me that a full-frame sensor is worth the trouble. I’ve been fighting for years on the Lensrentals phone lines to try to convince people NOT to shoot their project on a 5D or an A7S just to get a “full-frame look.” “It’s not worth the hoops you have to jump through to make this a usable cinema camera,” I’d say. “You’re better off using something that was designed to shoot video.” And I do stand by that. I’d still recommend a C100 over an A7S any day of the week.
But, what if you combine the best of both worlds? Put a full-frame sensor in a professional video camera with all the appropriate inputs, outputs, battery options, and lack of record time limit? Then I have to concede that that huge sensor really does lend a look that’s not really possible to replicate by any other means. Do I want every movie to look like that? No thank you. Is it within everyone’s budget? Well, it costs a lot more than a 5D. But it does make a gorgeous image, and the camera is a joy to use. Between the C500 Mark II, Alexa Mini LF, Sony Venice, and others, large format video is coming no matter how I feel about it. I might as well get on board, and my working experience with the C500 Mark II makes changing my mind all that much easier.
|Canon EOS R5
I’ve been a Canon shooter for my entire photography career, and over the last couple of years, I’ve looked over to Sony with a ‘grass is greener’ gaze. Canon was finally able to get me out of that gaze with the release of the Canon R5. Unquestionably the best camera Canon has ever built for stills; it got a lot of flak for the 8K overheating scandal. But if you use the camera as intended, which is largely as a photography camera, with the occasional video, it is a perfect system. The autofocus is incredible. The in-body stabilization is a nice addition to their mirrorless platform. The 45MP sensor is a nice bump from the ~30MP from the Canon 5d Mark IV before it. As a stubborn photographer who was reluctant to move away from his DSLR into mirrorless, I finally have my eyes on my next camera platform.
While I don’t have the Quasar Science LED system, I do own a competitor with nearly identical features – the Nanlite Pavotubes 30C. I originally got these a year or so ago for a photo project I was working on and really didn’t think I’d love them as much as I do. In short, not only do this work as great video lights, with full RGB control and effects, they also work great for just day to day use. If I need a powerful shop light when I’m changing the oil in my car, I’ll use one of these. If I need a big light to dig through the dark back corner of my garage, I’ll use one of these. I’m utterly shocked how often I use these lights, not only for quick interview-style videos – but for all the other little chores I need to do.
|Canon C300 Mark III
This year the Canon C300 MKIII has been my go-to camera of choice. In my opinion, this is one of the best all-around cameras out at the moment. First, the new form factor of the camera feels great when shooting handheld with the grip. The new modular design can be built up for studio work or stripped down for a lightweight gimbal set up. The internal improvements make this the best all-around camera for the things I shoot: sports and documentaries. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF, up to 120fps, makes getting those slow-motion beauty shots a breeze. The Super 35mm dual gain output CMOS sensor makes this camera capable of handling a wide range of lighting situations on the fly.
Let’s face it, pretty much nobody needs a Leica SL2, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one of my favorite products to hit in 2020. The 47MP, 5-axis image-stabilized sensor, and camera features are very similar to the Panasonic S1H, but the Maestro III processor combined with legendary Leica glass make for an image quality that’s pretty unmatched anywhere.
If you’ve been waiting for Leica to release a camera with specs and performance that truly competes with the mirrorless world today, a Leica camera that you can pretty much do anything with, then look no further than the SL2. It’s the first “run and gun” Leica camera for your photo and video needs. It’s a significant upgrade to the original SL camera, with impressive and nearly silent autofocus, faster continuous shooting, 5K/30p, 4K/60p, 1080/180p Video formats, an improved EVF and body design, elegant controls, and touchscreen interface, and a super cool Multishot Mode that will combine 8 exposures into a 187MP monster RAW file. What’s not to love?
The Fuji X100V is the perfect little street shooter, travel camera for me. It’s everything I want from a compact with nothing to complicate or compromise my style. As a photographer, one of the hardest things for me is sacrificing my DSLR size for something less capable, but more travel friendly. Myself, my family, my friends, all want print-worthy photos of our travels together, but nobody (especially me) wants to lug a big camera bag around as we hike, climb, and explore. Enter the X100V. I shot my own engagement with this thing, took countless hiking/camping trips with it, explored cities and towns with it, and had no regrets (all in 2020). The redesigned 23mm f/2 lens is versatile and capable. Autofocus, fast, and quiet. The 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 APS-C sensor is perfect, even in low light. This thing even does 4K video. I control it with the app on my phone, so there’s proof that I went on the trip too, and I love shooting in JPEG and RAW because the Film Sim modes are perfect for on the spot looks I can transfer wirelessly direct to social media, and keep a backup of RAW files for attention later. It’s so easy to get great results from; I’m buying my wife one so we can both use it. Don’t spoil the surprise.
|Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro HDMI Live Stream Switcher
The Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini line was a blessing in a year where many people were forced into carrying on the work usually done in corporate studios or rental spaces in their home office. The all-in-one nature of the product makes the job of learning how to switch your own video as easy as possible and at a sub-$500 price. Value and simplicity cannot be overstated. Its 4 HDMI inputs with standards conversion, built-in effects, tactile switching, and video capture capabilities immediately sold me on the ATEM Mini.
The Oculus Quest was seen as a bit of a gamble by the larger VR community. It reduced the graphical capabilities found in most VR titles and applications but, in doing so, solved one of the biggest challenges with virtual reality. A heavy USB/HDMI cable no longer tethered the user. The theme of my favorite products of 2020 seems to be simplicity. The ease of sliding on the headset and grabbing the touch controllers made for a frustration-free VR experience this year and the $399 price put it within impulse purchase range for a lot more VR hopefuls. We’ll see if Oculus can do it again after we spend a year with the newly released Quest 2.
The BirdDog P4K is a rugged little camera that delivers a more traditional “cinematic look” to the world of PTZ thanks to its full 1” Sony CMOS sensor and effective 14.2 MP. It can capture 4K UHD up to 30 fps, or down to 23.98 fps, as well as full HD up to 60 fps, interlaced or progressive. It includes all of your I/O basics like HDMI, SDI, 3.5mm audio in and dedicated audio out, Genlock, and full bandwidth NDI for power, control, and video transmission over a single ethernet cable. It is a true workhorse and proves that you don’t have to compromise on image quality when working with PTZ cameras.
We introduced several affordable anamorphic lens options this year but the one that started the 2020 trend, and stole our hearts, was the Sirui 50mm. Sirui sent us a demo copy late last year before they had even committed to mass production, and despite the borderline dismal sample footage online, we decided to test the lens out. Fortunately, the sample footage was a poor representation of the lens’ performance. The corners were sharper than we expected, and the lens flares were pretty amazing (if you like that type of thing), and we couldn’t wait to add it to our budget-friendly anamorphic offerings.
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. And if you want to hear an expanded explanation of Ryan, Ally, and Zach’s picks, as well as Rogers favorites, be sure to check out our most recent podcast episode.
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.