Every year I pick one product that I believe has changed the way I work in some positive way, or improved the quality of the productions I produce. Last year my product of the year was the Matrox MXO2 I/O device which brought low cost HD I/O to laptops and work stations at a very low cost.
This year there have been so many products to choose from. We’ve had cameras, viewfinders, recorders all kinds of gear, but it’s the cameras this year that have grabbed all the attention with a whole fleet of new, very capable camcorders with super 35mm sensors available for most budgets.
The first to market was the Panasonic AF101, followed by the Sony F3 and then the FS100. The new Canon C300 was not available to purchase in 2011, so does not qualify for my award.
The Panasonic AF101 never really excited me. It uses a DSLR sensor which is not ideal for a video camera. But, as anyone that reads my blog knows, I am a huge fan of the Sony F3, so much so that I own 2 of them so I can shoot 3D with them. The Sony PMW-F3 is my all time favourite camcorder. I really enjoy using it, it produces a great image and the workflow is straight forward and fast. Now if I was going to give my meaningless award to the F3, it would not go to the standard F3, but to the F3 with the S-Log option. You see the F3 with S-Log is a different camera again. The S-Log option takes the relatively inexpensive F3 into a whole new league, producing images that rival the Arri Alexa and in my opinion surpassing many cameras costing two or three times as much.
But, I’m not this year giving my award to the F3 or in fact any other piece of kit that I own. Instead my award for Product of the Year 2011 goes to the F3’s little brother, the NEX-FS100. Why? Well I think the FS100 is another great camera, so very close to the F3 in terms of performance, but at a price that makes it possible for many more people to own a tool that is quite capable of shooting a technically very good movie.
I’m lucky enough to be able to afford the F3, but many can’t, the FS100 is extremely affordable and that combination of amazing picture quality and affordability is why it gets my end of year award.
Other close contenders were the Convergent Design Gemini 444 and Atomos Samurai external recorders, both very capable devices, but suited to different applications. The Zacuto EVF and Cineroid Metal EVF also both deserve a mention as my eye’s are not as young as they used to be so a good viewfinder is something I need more and more these days. I can no longer use the LCD without having to resort to spectacles and in the middle of a severe storm or hurricane, glasses are a real pain. I use the Cineroid Metal EVF.
On the software front Apples FCP-X gets my turkey of the year award. Perhaps in the future it will get the full feature set that a “Pro” editing application needs, until then I’m going to be using Avid. The new Media Composer 6 is really nice and a major step forward for Avid as it much more open than it used to be allowing you to use pretty much any I/O card that you want.
So that’s it for another year. I can see that the 2012 shortlist will almost certainly include another camera, the C300 from Canon and a little birdie tells me that there is a very nice viewfinder coming around NAB time. I wonder what else is in store for 2012?