Best Kit of the year awards 2014

Welcome to the inaugural Kit of the year awards, or perhaps it should be named kit that I used this year that made a big impression on me. Sadly there are no trophies or certificates for the winners.

Best camera.

A tricky category. As a long time Canon user I should be applauding the arrival of the Canon 7D, and I don't doubt that for some 'sports' shooters and wildlife long lens shooters, the transformed high frame rate camera will be welcomed but I believe it represents much of what is wrong with the 'Big' two camera companies Canon and Nikon  who for so long have relied on evolving cameras of the same DSLR form factor and not adequately responding to a world where we are all shooting with much smaller devices.

Fuji are a company which has bucked this trend and 'went their own way' with the mould breaking  X series cameras, after some years in the wilderness with their 'S' series cameras which inspired little enthusiasm amongst users and even less enthusiasm at the cash register.

Fuji's new way of thinking should show the 'traditional' manufacturers just what is possible but so far they have been very slow to respond and this is hurting their sales big time. Which should realistically mean that the excellent Fuji X-T1 which I know has many fans who get some really great results with it, and in many ways should get the nod, but for me it doesn't.

The very Lovely Fuji X-T1

For me though the winner is the Sony A7R.

Yes, I know it was released a couple of years back now and yes, mutterings populate the Internet, shutter shock, poor battery life, lossy raw compression and I admit some of these concerns do have more validity than others.

The Sony A7R-One day all cameras will be like this, small but capable of remarkable image quality

But the fact remains a camera which is little bigger than the width of an iPhone(5) that with the right lens delivers quality that has to be seen to be believed, outperforming all comers, what is more you can easily use you old glass with adapters and can buy it on the high street at a very modest price.

One week of constant use of the Sony A7R on a very big high pressure job had me stunned by the image quality and sheer practicality

From various interviews with the heads of Sony, Canon and Nikon it would seem that 2015 will deliver a bumper crop of high megapixel cameras, around the 50mp mark I think(but don't know)

The reason for the win by Sony is this.

If a camera this good has been around for nearly two years what on earth will they release in 2015?

Best Lens

Only one contender in this category and that is the Carl Zeiss Otus 85mm, a winner by a mile.

The amazing Carl Zeiss Otus 85MM -If you think resolution is all about megapixels, think again

The margin of the win by the Carl Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 over the sometimes lacklustre 50mm lenses made by Canon and Nikon came as no great surprise, but the margin of the win by the new Carl Zeiss Otus 85mm over the long reigning 'King' of the short telephoto market the Canon 'L' series 85mm F1.2 has to be seen and experienced to be believed. The Canon was my portrait lens of choice for many years and I have sold it to make way for a Carl Zeiss Otus 85mm.

Can a prime lens of this price ever be justified? In some people's eyes perhaps not, but put simply this lens unlocks the potential in your camera which unless you use an Otus you will not be experiencing. It really is that good. Great glass has always been important but I feel it will have even greater importance when the raft of forthcoming high megapixel cameras are released in 2015.

Best Light

There were two contenders in this category, firstly the oh so very clever Elinchrom ELC Pro HD studio light with its multi modes and switching capacitors, enables the user to do most things they want to do, while not breaking the bank.

A versatile and affordable light from those clever folk in Switzerland.

If you want to lose all the cables the Profoto B1 is an unbeatable light for location work.

The winner though is the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL, a battery powered location light which really moves the game on to an entirely new place in that it is powered by a lightweight lithium ion pack which is located in head itself meaning you have no cables at all to worry about at all - you just pop the head onto the light stand and away you go. All of this in a really well constructed housing which Profoto users will be familiar with but at a rather un-Profoto price which allows shooters onto the Profoto ladder without breaking the bank. The one thing you do have to be careful of is what light modifier you mount on the B1 as it does have the battery, albeit compact and lightweight, in the head itself and with the addition of a weighty modifier you could be left with a set up that is a bit top heavy. Personally I would live with this, as the freedom you get from a completely cordless lighting setup is creatively liberating and so fast and convenient to use.

*Next week I will talk about the photographers who caught my eye in 2015