It’s time for something new. In the past, Photofocus has made it a practice of acknowledging a specific camera and/or lens as the “camera/lens” of the year. This year several of us are putting together a list including camera and lens choices along with a few other pieces of gear that we think you’ll like.
While it’s not designed specifically as a holiday gift guide, this list does happen to be a resource for photographers (and their friends/family) who want to get the ball rolling on their holiday shopping.
A few things to note:
1. Only products announced and shipping by press time (November 21, 2016) will be eligible.
2. We make this list with no regard for sponsors. Our sponors’ products may or may not be on the list but they can’t buy their way on to the list. It’s strictly a personal choice by our authors.
3. There will be overlap meaning some of us will pick the same products. We’re not meeting to discuss our picks. Each of us is making their selections in secret so as not to influence the other.
4. If your favorite product isn’t on the list it doesn’t mean it isn’t a fine product, it just means it wasn’t something we personally pick as a best of the year.
Without further ado here are the picks by Levi Sim:
Camera of the Year: Lumix GX85
This rangefinder style camera is packed with features well beyond its compact size. It’s got all the controls you need on the outside with plenty of programmable buttons and tabs, plus incredible in-body image stabilization (IBIS). Its 16-megapixel sensor lacks an anti-aliasing filter and makes crisp images in all kinds of situations. Touch Pad autofocus is a huge benefit for this camera (set it to OFFSET). Many cameras have touchscreens that allow you to focus on the spot you touch, but this one allows you to look through the viewfinder and place your thumb on the large screen on the back and anywhere you move your thumb you can focus while keeping your eye to the viewfinder. It’s the most wonderful way to focus. Everyone I show it to is shocked and amazed. It’ll help you catch the right point of focus in every photo. It’s small and light, but I use it for my professional work daily. The price is low, and the benefits are huge. It comes in silver or black, and I chose black. Check out the Lumix GX85 and you won’t be disappointed.
Lens of the Year: Lensbaby Twist 60
I’m in love with this lens. It’s incredibly sharp, compact, inexpensive, and it makes really fun pictures. At wide apertures, it remains razor sharp, but it also has an effect of twisting the out of focus bokeh at the edges of the frame. I love the effect, but I also reach for it for normal portraits when I need a super sharp no-nonsense lens. I can’t believe how cheap this all-metal-made-in-America lens is. See my full review here, and pick up the incredible Lensbaby Twist 60 right here.
Accessory of the Year: SpiderLight Hand Strap
The latest addition to the Spider Holster lineup is the SpiderLight Hand Strap. This strap is intended for mirrorless cameras and lightweight DSLR’s. The magic of this strap is that it takes the weight of your camera off your fingertips and distributes it to your entire hand. You’ll find that it makes your grip more secure, your arm and shoulder will be less tired. It’s well made and durable. I’ve been using it continuously for several months, and now I can’t imagine working without it. The kit includes an adapter for practically every mirrorless camera and you’ll find it makes holding onto small camera bodies much easier and secure. The price for this high-quality accessory is also light on the pocketbook. Check out the SpiderLight Hand Strap here.
If you use a large DSLR, then the full-size Spider Hand Strap is for you and is highly recommended.
Accessory Runner-Up: Platypod Max
I’ve written so much about this tool that I don’t know what else to say. I use it, and I can’t go without it anymore. It’s convenient, packable, well-designed, and always there when I need a steady camera platform. It’s only runner-up because I technically use the SpiderLight Hand Strap more often. Check out all the articles on Photofocus about it, and pick up Platypod Max at B&H right here.
Video Product of the Year: Adobe Spark
Unlike many of my co-authors on Photofocus, I’m not a video Jedi and I’m not very experienced as a designer. I dabble occasionally, so it’s important for me to find tools that make video and design simple. Adobe Spark is one such tool. It makes simple videos that make a big impact. You can use it with your still pictures to create a story about a shoot, or even create a promotional video to get more clients. Spark has templates and themes to guide you, and it even includes a library of snappy music you can use for free. It resizes things automatically for different screens and it syncs from a mobile device back to your Adobe Library for access from your Adobe apps. I’ve enjoyed using it on an iPad, but it’s also a web app so you don’t have to be an Apple user to enjoy it. This app is ideal for photographers who are best at making pictures but also need to create videos and designs. It will help you create engaging videos to share and promote your work. Adobe Spark is online right here.
These are all tools I’m personally using right now. The prices are very low for the value they deliver, and there’s something here for just about everyone. I like the camera and hand strap, so much that Lumix and SpiderHolster have asked me to be an ambassador for these and other products they make. But, as stated above, these products didn’t buy their way onto my list. I love using them, and I’m sure you will, too.