Best of 2016: Innovative Video Gear

When you¡¯re in the mood for gift-giving, or simply have an obligation, what better way to celebrate holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries than to have a look at a some of the innovative video products that have become available this year? Last year, we wrote about some great cameras like the Panasonic DVX200 and the DJI Osmo, and while two cameras have made it to this year¡¯s list, I¡¯ve decided to shine the spotlight on some cool accessories and technologies that might change the way you work. We all know what you came here for¡ªthe gear! Let¡¯s have a look, shall we?
The Sony PXW-FS7 II was announced in early November, and at first glance, it didn¡¯t seem like much of an upgrade from the previous model. But look a little closer and you may notice a few differences. The lens mount definitely looks like the familiar E-mount, but it sports a lever lock. By incorporating the lever lock, and reinforcing the mount itself, Sony was able to keep the versatility of the short-flanged E-mount while allowing for heavier lenses to be secured without the need for rod-based support (I would still recommend rod-based support for heavy cinema zoom lenses, though). Taking a page from the FS5¡¯s book, the FS7 II incorporates an electronic ND filter behind the mount. The filter is constantly variable, between 2 and 7 stops, with no shifts in color or polarizing artifacts. Internally, support for the new Rec. 2020 standard ensures that the FS camera line is up-to-date for modern high-resolution productions.

Sony PXW-FS7 II XDCAM Super 35 Camera System

Also from Sony, and not without controversy (what great products aren¡¯t?), the ¦Á6500 mirrorless camera rocked many an enthusiast¡¯s expectations; combining the already chock-full-of-features-stuffed ¦Á6300 with much-requested 5-axis in-body stabilization and a seemingly resolved overheating issue while recording 4K video. While the camera is still on preorder at the time of writing, this one is sure to be popular with the photo and video crowds.

Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera

There has been no shortage of new glass at this year¡¯s conventions, but one set of lenses in particular caught my eye when it was announced at IBC this year in Amsterdam. The Angenieux EZ lenses are (relatively) affordable, fast, and modular compact cinema zooms. The base models of this set are a 15-40mm and a 30-90mm, both with fast T2 (f/1.9) apertures and Super 35mm sensor-size coverage. The mounts are user-interchangeable between PL, EF, and E to fit the production¡¯s camera choice. The modularity doesn¡¯t end there though; the rear element groups in each lens can be swapped out to transform the 15-40mm and 30-90mm into 22-60mm and 45-135mm lenses, respectively, both with T3 (f/2.8) apertures and full-frame 35mm/VistaVision sensor-size coverage. And if that wasn¡¯t enough, Movcam, a camera accessories manufacturer, is reportedly manufacturing bespoke servo units to provide motorized control of focus, zoom, and iris for the EZ lenses.

Angenieux EZ lenses

Zacuto stops at nothing to improve upon its existing products. This year, the VCT Pro Baseplate is available as an improvement on the original VCT Universal Baseplate. Most prominently, the VCT Pro sports a red-accented sliding camera-plate design, which can be removed from the main unit without requiring tools. This design also solved two sticking points: the camera can now be rebalanced on the plate without fiddling about with a screwdriver, and the gel shoulder pad is now no longer split to make room for the camera screws. The front of the plate of the VCT Pro houses a standard rosette mount for attaching handles without taking up valuable rod space. While an earlier version of this plate debuted with this Canon C300 Mark II ENG Kit, it is now ready for full-scale production and will be featured on Zacuto¡¯s customizable Recoil Rigs.

Zacuto VCT Pro Baseplate

In August, I had the pleasure of doing a hands-on review, Enduring Power: The Zacuto Gripper Series 75Wh Battery, for the Gripper Series GR-75 Battery. It¡¯s an interesting battery design, one that doesn¡¯t need a plate if you have a rig with 15mm LWS rods. It kept my ¦Á7S continuously powered for hours and didn¡¯t bulk up my rig. This battery is a must-own for anyone filming events or is going to be away from power for extended periods and doesn¡¯t want to deal with dozens of tiny batteries (one of these GR-75 batteries holds nearly the same amount of power as 10 NP-FW50 batteries). For even more power, the GR-100 version is also available.

Gripper Series GR-75 Clip-On Battery

G-Technology has continued to up its professional storage game, and with the ev|Series ¡°Edition¡± Readers for Atomos Drive Caddy, CFast 2.0, and REDMAG media, the manufacturer has managed to firmly integrate popular production hardware into its professional product lines, such as the G-SPEED Studio and G-SPEED Shuttle. Deep integration provides fast data speeds, and reliable data transfer to portable or stationary storage. With the Atomos media, G-Technology went one step further in providing its own SSD and HDD media in the Atomos Master Caddy line. These drives are built for the Atomos recorder workflow, and are manufactured from high-quality materials specifically for life on a film set.

G-Technology ev|Series Readers

What combines one of the most widely used live streaming platforms available and a fully-functional PC that can be taken on the road? Telestream¡¯s Wirecast Gear does, and does so at a relatively affordable price. Since the Wirecast platform is already installed and the hardware already integrated, minimal setup is required. And since the Windows OS is fully accessible and runs on high-spec components, Wirecast Gear can even be used for editing and finalizing your content for future distribution. The hardware comes in a few versions. The base model has HDMI inputs and 250GB of onboard SSD storage, while the models up have professional HD-SDI inputs and come with 500GB or 2TB of onboard SSD storage.

Telestream Wirecast Gear

The video equipment selection is subject to innovation on a constant basis, and it¡¯s nearly impossible to keep up with it all. I¡¯ve only mentioned a few things that have stuck out to me over the past year. Agree with what¡¯s on the list? Disagree? Feel free to comment below and mention anything that you think was innovative or just plain cool from the past year. We love to hear from you!