The best products of the year (2019)
(AKA Colin’s Gear Guide)
I reviewed a lot of stuff in 2019. What is the best? Check it out here.
2019 was an amazing year for tech. There were a lot of revolutionary advances in the areas of Photo, Video and Creative tech. I wanted to share all my favorite products of the year. Kind of a Colin Smith’s creative tech roundup kind of thing. There are some that I included last year, that are in here again, Why? Because some are so good (DJI Mavic 2 Pro) that I still think they are the best available.
Now, the criteria for this isn’t just a bunch of things I’ve seen other people use. This is tech so good, I actually own and use everyday. There were some products that didn’t make the grade, which I returned or they are gathering dust somewhere. When I replace a piece of gear, I usually research and test many options before adopting it. Full disclosure, some of these were given to me and others I purchased myself. If it’s not the best of class I’m not including it, even if it was given to me, so this isn’t a sponsored post, its my unbiased opinion. (Ill add a little asterisk * by the products given to me, so that you know). Most of these I have reviewed throughout this year and I’ll link to those reviews.
This is purely my opinion and based on my hands-on experience. Yes, there will be “what about xyz products?” and these might not be included because I haven’t had hands on experience with them, so I won’t make blind recommendations. For example, I’ve never used a Nikon camera, so I can’t tell you how great or terrible they are. I’m mainly a Mac user, so I can’t talk about all the amazing Windows laptops (Although I do use Windows Desktop systems in my workflow as well as Mac). I think you get the idea, so please don’t fill up the comments with “what about” posts ?
Alright, let’s go!
2019 16″ MacBook Pro
Apple really used the anti this year with the 16″ Mac book pro. The entry level model remained the same price, while they offer better upgrade options such as 64Gb Ram, 8 Cores and 8Gb of RAM. This laptop is a powerful beast and even beat out the base model Mac Pro in some of my tests. They fixed a lot of the annoyances such as the keyboard, better cooling and longer battery life. The 2019 MacBook Pro is definitely a desktop replacement.
BenQ 27″ Photographers IPS Monitor.*
This monitor is very pleasant to look at with extreme care given to color accuracy and color management. It supports 99% Adobe RGB. It comes with a puck to change color modes as needed. I can go between Adobe RGB, sRGB and Rec.709 in an instant. It comes with a hood to protect it from glare and color contamination. The stand allows for adjustment of height and angle, as well as rotation. (Review coming soon)
The Best Drone
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
It’s going to take a lot to beat the Mavic 2 Pro. Why? This little drone is amazing. It’s the drone I’ve always wanted. It’s portable and easy to travel with and has great range and battery life. This in itself isn’t enough though. I really need the sharpest high resolution photos and video and the onboard Hasselblad camera brings this. Look for a Hawaii Vlog coming from me on this early 2019. Review
Yup, IMO the Sony A7 III is still the best mirrorless camera, features, quality and value for money keep this camera at the top. I replaced my Canon 77D with the Sony A7III. I had a hands-on experience with this camera at Sony Kando and loved it. So much so, I purchased one and use it as my main vlog/travel camera. The imaging quality is really great. Sharp pictures, incredible low light and (for the first time for me in a mirrorless) feels really good in the hand. Its shoots full frame 4K and 120 FPS (at 1080) which makes this a great camera for creatives. The still frames have an amazing dynamic range and its very fast. I have shot a vlog late 2018 in Hawaii and I just need to edit it and post it soon. I have a metabones V adapter, which lets me use all my Canon L lenses on it. Its not perfect though for blogging because there is no flip around screen. The screen tilts, but doesn’t hinge all the way around. But it’s the first camera I have used that is capable of BOTH excellent photographs and excellent video, I just really enjoy using this camera, which is why I’m awarding it not only the best Mirrorless camera of the year, but the best Camera of 2018 period.
Best 360 Camera
Insta360 ONE X*
The quality of this little 360 camera is amazing, and with the app you can recompose video in post to make it look like the camera is moving around. Miss nothing by capturing the entire scene at one. To boot, it has the best stabilization out of any camera I tested including the goPro.
There are actually 2 winners for this category
Google Pixel 4*
Wow! I never thought I would use an Android phone that I liked as much as an iPhone. The camera on the Pixel 4 is amazing. Crisp, clear quality with features that let you zoom and shoot in almost darkness. The screen is bright and saturated. The zoomed in images are better looking than the iPhone photos. Also the edge detection in portrait mode is better than Apples.
The camera on the iPhone 11 features the triple lens system and thus offers a nice wide angle that is missing from the Pixel. The iPhone shoots better video than the pixel with many more options including higher resolution. The availability of airdrop is also very useful for sharing images and video between iPhones or with Apple computers.
Rode Wireless GO
The wireless go is an amazing mic. It’s a belt pack with the microphone built into the transmitter. Its really fast and easy to set up and the built-in mic is very clear with great signal to noise ratio. You can also plug in a lav mic and use it like a traditional lav set. The range is also very good.
Freewell Magnetic Filter System*
You screw on a UV filter and it has a magnet that you can snap other filters on top of. I love the way you can instantly switch between different ND or Polarizing filters. The lend cap is also magnetic.
Adobe Photoshop 2020
Do I really need to explain why Photoshop is the best image editing software? It’s the industry standard for a reason. Review
Adobe Lightroom Classic 2020
Lightroom is the best tool for working with lots of photos. Use it to organize your photos, edit them and deliver in many ways. I have always been a fan of the quality edits I can make to my photos in Lightroom and it handles panoramas and HDR better than just about anything out there. It works with 3rd party plugins so you can extend its functionality. Review
Wacom Intuos Pro M*
Wacom is head and shoulders above all others when it comes to pressure sensitive input from a stylus. If you have ever used a Wacom tablet, you will realize these is a reason it’s what almost all the pros use. The feel is the closest you will get to pencil on paper, with no lag and lightweight pen that doesn’t need batteries. The latest Intuos Pro now supports 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity, which allows even the lightest touch to register and not turn into a dotted line (as almost everything else does). It has built in Bluetooth or USB-C connectivity, so you can choose how to connect. I find the medium to be the “goldilocks” in sizes. It’s large enough to provide the precision and real-estate for drawing and not too large as to hog your desk space. For retouchers the Wacom tablet is a necessary tool, not an accessory. I sure couldn’t create the imagery I do without one and the latest release is worth the upgrade with the Pro pen2, metal back and high level of sensitivity. review
Spekular Modular Lighting System from Spiffy Gear.*
These LED lights are really clever, and can be arranged into different shapes and configurations. They are quite powerful and can run on AC/DC. The code kit comes with 4 lights that can be arranged into different patterns. First look here (full review is pending)
GoPro Hero 7 Black
Everyone knows the name GoPro. I have a whole drawer full of them and go pro mounts. I passed on the Hero 5 and them I didn’t think I needed the 6. After all, my GoPro 4 still works fine. So why did I feel I needed a new action camera when the 7 was announced? 1 word (actually 2) Image Stabilization. This thing is amazing. It really smoothens out micro shakes and big shakes, yes, it really does work. It’s pretty close to being gimbal class stabilization. Another update is the audio is much better. Of course there are other nice additions I missed on the 6 such as built in touchscreen standard and voice activation. I haven’t done a review because there were already a million online by the time I bought this. Get it here
Hyper: Hyperdrive USB-C Hub
If you are using a MacBook Pro you know you need a dongle to get around the USB-C only inputs. I was actually a backer when this was still a kickstarter project. Unlike the Satechi (which is flimsy and fried my MicroSD card) the Hyper is solid and plugs into 2 USB-C slots for added stability. It provides everything you need such as USB3 2x Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, HDMI, SD card reader and micro SD card reader. If you have a MacBook Pro, you will need this device. Get it here
Portable Hard Drive
This thing is fast, VERY fast! It only works on Thunderbolt 3, and uses NVMe but that’s why it’s so fast. Ive been using them all year and so far haven’t had any data loss. Comes in 500Gb, 1Tb and 2Tb. Fun fact: The design was inspired by a hypercar
Epson SureColor P800*
Having used many different brands, I use only Epson desktop printers. The reason is the quality of the prints. As simple as that. The prints are bright, sharp details, smooth gradients and durable inks and papers. My favorite paper is Epson Hotpress bright. The P800 allows fast switching of photo/matte inks without having to open the lid. It has support for many paper types with multiple feeders and also support for roll paper. The P800 is the larger sibling to the P600, with support for borderless printing on 17″ wide paper. Review
External Raid drive
G-Tech Shuttle XL
If you are looking for large capacity and speed, this box is amazing. The unit I tested has 8 bays and 8 TB capacity. But wait, that’s 8TB of pure SSD storage. It’s rugged, but yet light enough to take to shoots. If you are shooting any 4K+ RAW footage, you will need massive storage. Also if you are getting an iMac pro, forget dumping all your money on Apple internal storage. This is your expandable storage here. When I tested it, the transfer rate was faster than the internal SSD on a MacBook Pro! It connects through USB-C. Look for my review on this soon. Its expensive, but its fast!
X-Rite Color checker XL*
If you are serious about color management, you probably already have an X-Rite color checker. This card enables you to have known colors when you shoot. This enables you to dial in correct colors when you are editing the color of your photos or video. There was a problem with the color checker though. If you are flying a drone or using 360 Cameras, the chart was a little small to get a good reading sometimes. Enter the XL (For Extra Large). As an Xrite Coloratti, I was involved in testing the XL and providing real-world feedback. Not only was it amazing for drone work, but I love it in the studio. I use this to calibrate my cameras, Its nice and large, has true blacks, whites and gray tones as well as skin tone and primaries. The larger size enables me to double it up as a take-off pad for my drone, bonus! see it here
Xrite Color Munki Display*
You really need a way to measure the color on your screen, so that you can calibrate the monitor You need to know that what you are seeing is true and accurate, so that your image adjustments are accurate. The Xrite Colormunki Display will do exactly that! I really like the i1 Display Pro, but I’m recommending the colormunki because its easier to use for people that aren’t experienced at color management. If you are more experienced, then you might like the additional controls on the i1 Display pro. see it here
Ok, that’s it for now. If there is a category that I have excluded, drop a comment and I’ll see what I can do to expand this gear guide.
Thanks for checking this out.
Great to see you here at the CAFE!
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