The Phoblographer’s Editor’s Choice Product Selections for 2015

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The year 2015 was an incredible one for photography; and we saw lots of awesome and great advancements when it came to cameras, lenses, camera bags, and software. With that said, the complete list of products that the site has reviewed and awarded an Editor’s Choice Rating to is after the jump.

Cameras

Olympus OMD EM5 Mk II

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus OMD EM5 Mk II first impressions product photos (4 of 10)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 2.8

In our review, we state:

“The sensor in the Olympus OMD EM5 MK II is the single best four thirds sensor that we’ve tested. It’s got a ton of dynamic range, great high ISO abilities, can give you a higher resolution photo if you need, lots of autofocus points that just work, and a heck of a lot going for it. On a personal note, I’m more partial to the simplicity that the Mk I delivers, but we totally see how photographers will relate to this product much more.

The Olympus OMD EM5 Mk II wins our Editor’s Choice award for the best Four Thirds sensor camera that we’ve tested.”

Sony A7s Mk II

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A7s Mk II extra product images (2 of 4)ISO 8001-160 sec at f - 11

In our review we state:

“As I was writing this blog post, I thought about not giving this camera the Editor’s Choice award. Afterall, the Sony A7r Mk II has it too; but that’s for its ability to capture incredibly high detail and to deliver very clean high ISO results while having so many megapixels on a full frame sensor. The Sony A7s Mk II is getting it for really great autofocusing, excellent high ISO results but most of all for what the dynamic range is capable or retaining. It’s really, really crazy and I’m not even sure that I would expect that with film.

With all that said, I really am wondering what Sony would have been able to do if this camera were given the new processor in the A7r MK II. The high ISO results would have been better and the dynamic range would have possibly been even crazier.

We really, really like the Sony A7s Mk II; and in the hands of the creative that needs these capabilities, it’s bound to produce incredible images.”

Fujifilm X-T10

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm XT10 first impressions (10 of 15)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 4.0

In this review, we state:

“It’s been a little while since I awarded a camera with an Editor’s Choice Rating due to trying to overhaul evaluations over how camera companies are stepping up their game. The Fujifilm X-T10 really deserves it. By far, this is the best APS-C sensor of any camera in a comparable realm and it shows with the image quality. Fujifilm took a great deal from its award-winning X-T1 and put it in a smaller package for a consumer that can’t reach for fruit as high. The result: a really kick ass camera.

So what do we hate?

I really want my ISO dial back. Yes, you can program one of the other dials to function like it but then you need to press it in and then turn the dial. The ISO dial on the X-T1 and the Sony A7 are really what any modern photographer really needs these days.”

Sony A7r Mk II

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A7r Mk II product images review (1 of 3)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.8

In this review, we state:

“The Sony A7r Mk II deserves absolutely nothing else but the site’s Editor’s Choice rating. It amazed in the high ISO results and even though we expected more with RAW file versatility, it still is rather impressive. When it comes to image quality, it puts the Canon 5Ds to shame. Beyond this, there is the spot on AF system, WiFi/NFC, 4K video, 5 fps, and a great overall experience when it comes to shooting. And again–it puts a DSLR to shame as well as other focusing systems. To be fair, the Micro Four Thirds system is still the fastest, but they’re also using a sensor with a 2x crop factor.

However, the Sony A7r MK II can be improved even more. If the company added legitimate weather sealing, more directional control with AF point selection, and changed the way that the screen flipped it would be the best camera in its class. With that said, the Sony A7r MK II is the closest thing there is to the best camera on the market for those who need it. It may be overkill for many, but for those that need it you’ll be very happy with your purchase.”

Lenses

Sigma 20mm f1.4 Art

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 20mm f1.4 Review product images (1 of 7)ISO 4001-160 sec

In our review, we state:

“If you’ve read the entire review before hitting the conclusions and didn’t expect an Editor’s Choice award, you need to lay off the alcohol for a while.

The Sigma 20mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens is sharp, contrasty, saturated, and overall delivers incredible image quality that you really can’t sit there and complain about. It’s a beautiful lens that will find its home amongst architecture photographers, street photographers, and landscape photographers. As I’m writing this review, I keep thinking about how sad I am to send it back to Sigma since the review is over. But it’s positively incredible and there is very little to hate here. Any of its flaws I wouldn’t even say I hate, I just wish that it were better in some regards. My biggest regret? I didn’t shoot this lens with a film camera.

For what this is though, Sigma is already giving you quite a bit of incredible performance and quality.”

Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia review product lead images (2 of 2)ISO 64001-70 sec at f - 2.8

In our review, we state:

“Without a doubt, the Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia is an incredible lens. Before I finished writing this review, I ran it by Julius, the site’s Managing Editor. The lens totally deserves all the praise it can get, and we don’t feel like it’s their problem that the focus peaking doesn’t work out so well. Instead, we recommend using the zone focusing system to get the best images that you can.

There is so much to like about this lens: the feel, the colors (saturated but not as saturated as Zeiss usually is), the lack of major distortion, the lack of wide open vignetting (despite my personal liking of that), the size, and we can go on and on. But there is so much holding me back from purchasing one. The price is one part, but then there are also things like the way that Zeiss hasn’t put in weather sealing throughout the entire lens–which I feel like this lens needed.

But those are very personal, and otherwise the optic performs like “the one” for any Sony full frame camera user.”

Sigma 24mm f1.4 Art

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 24mm f1.4 review product lead image (1 of 1)ISO 8001-20 sec at f - 1.4

In our review, we state:

“The Sigma 24mm f1.4 DG HSM has a lot to love: great image quality, a pretty decent size, fast focusing abilities, did we mention the image quality? We’re not as smitten as we are with the 50mm and 35mm offerings, but this one is a very solid choice.

And if you live by the 24mm focal length, it’s also the very best choice currently on the market.”

Zeiss 25mm f2 Batis

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss Batis 25mm f2 first impressions (24 of 24)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.8

In our review we state:

“The Zeiss 25mm f2 is a lens that offers top notch image quality–and that’s what Zeiss customers have come to expect. In many ways, the Batis line represents the pinnacle of what’s possible with this company.

You’ll fall in love with the image quality for many reasons. Not only is the lens sharp, but it offers excellent bokeh. Even better, the lens is just genuinely sharp without the need for micro contrast. Add onto that the absolutely spectacular color rendition and you won’t have a single reason to complain.

If you can get over the weird HUD on top of the lens, then you’ll be happy to pick one up.”

Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus lens review product images (8 of 8)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 4.0

In our review, we state:

“The Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus lens is highly capable–there should be absolutely no doubt in your mind. What I’m most in love with about this lens is the bokeh. Of any 50mm lens that I’ve tested, I’m very inclined to say that the best bokeh comes from this lens. I wouldn’t really expect any less considering that this is a Zeiss lens. Then there is the sharpness that is absolutely purely incredible. Mix in the fact that we couldn’t find any color fringing and you’re all set.

The colors aren’t all there–they’re great, but they’re not excellent like Sigma’s Art lens.

But what this lens has over all the rest is its weather sealing and excellent, solid build quality. It’s even better built than the Otus and Sigma’s lens because they both don’t have weather sealing.

When you consider this fact, this lens seriously deserves lots of praise–and that’s why I’m giving it an Editor’s Choice award. The results are great and for the price point, you’re getting quite a bit including weather sealing for only a couple hundred dollars more than the Sigma Art.”

Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Milvus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Milvus lens product images (2 of 7)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.0

In our review, we state:

“Where Zeiss’s 35mm f2 Milvus failed to impress me that much, the 85mm f1.4 Milvus more than makes up for it. Zeiss has always done incredible portrait lenses and this one is no exception. It’s super sharp wide open and you may never even need to stop it down. It renders beautiful image quality with solid color performance, no fringing and it even features weather sealing.

To be fair, you’re paying quite the price for that. But when you consider weather sealing, image quality like this and almost Otus levels of sharpness, then anything like the Canon 85mm f1.2 L or Nikon’s 85mm f1.4 look inferior.

And if you can justify the price of those lenses to yourself, you can absolutely justify this one.”

Camera Bags and Straps

Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Peak Design Messenger bag review product images lifestyle (8 of 8)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.8

In our review, we state:

“I like the Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag; and if I like it other folks will love it. It has a damned great build quality, it’s comfortable when properly set up, can carry lots of gear, has a great way to take the weight off your back, the best locking design I’ve seen thus far, and looks nice. Plus, it’s available at a fantastic price point.

But, respectfully, it’s not a bag for me. The ambidextrous design aspects are missing, I’ve got a little bit more to love on my body which causes some use complications, and these days I’m mostly using mirrorless camera gear. If you’re a mirrorless camera user, you’ll find that there is way too much space available and you won’t know what to do with it all. Plus, the bag is overall pretty big. On a trip to the Guggenheim Museum with a friend, even a security guard told me that the bag was really big; so I checked it in. If you’re a DSLR user though, then this will be a great–if not the greatest–option you have.

So what would have made this bag absolutely perfect for me personally? A better ambidextrous design, leather, a stabilizer system that works for my man curves (because real men have curves) and a smaller overall package. On a personal note, I’m sticking to the Tenba Cooper series for my mirrorless gear. But for DSLR gear, you simply can’t beat this bag and what it offers.”

Tenba Cooper 13″ Slim

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tenba Cooper bag review images (4 of 13)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 3.5

In our review, we state:

“For the past couple of years, I’ve been in search of my own camera bag that really suits me and my needs. I’ve spent hours on Amazon looking for cheap leather or canvas bags that I could modify myself to become a camera bag, and no one has really gotten it just right. The closest company for years was ONA, but even then they didn’t quite make it. At one point, I ever considered approaching a company about building a bag.

When it comes to a messenger style camera bag designed for the working pro using mirrorless camera gear, this is the only camera bag that you’ll ever need. Again, it’s stylish, comfortable, low profile, and it gets the job done.

Though I may not carry it around when using lots of DSLR gear, most of my kit is mirrorless and for that this bag will always remain close to me and will constantly be reached for.”

Langly Alpha Pro Backpack

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Langly Alpha Pro Camera Bag review photos (6 of 9)ISO 4001-900 sec at f - 1.4

In our review, we state:

“Though I usually don’t use backpacks unless I’m flying out for a trip (which I do at least once a month), the Langly has a lot to it. As a US Veteran myself, there is quite a bit of nice familiarity to it for both my past and my present. Stuff your camera(s), lenses, flashes, radios and all the essentials that you need in there and you’re ready for pretty much any situation that life will throw at you. Alternatively, you can leave most of that stuff at home and stuff it with lots of clothing.

When working in conjunction with something like the Peak Design Capture Clip, you’ve got a heck of a bag that really can’t be beat.

If you’re a backpacker, adventure photographer, or a travel shooter, you’ll want to bring the Langly Alpha Pro with you.”

TAP and DYE Horween CXL Strap

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tap and Dye Horween CXL Camera Strap product images (4 of 8)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 2.8

In our review, we state:

“There are certain readers that ask us why we geek out about straps so much. If you only knew how many more comments and emails we receive asking about what strap or bag we’re using in specific product images, you’d be surprised. There surely is a market out there that cares about aesthetics beyond what trolls living under a bridge conceal themselves with, and there are folks who aspire to get on that level.

It feels odd giving a camera strap an Editor’s Choice rating, but such a beautifully made product surely deserves it. The Nero is not only beautiful. It’s comfortable, durable and may be the single camera strap that you’ll want to hold onto no matter what camera you’ve got in your hand.

Sure, it’s expensive; and we will fully admit the Tap and Dye did this as a freebie as are many products on this site. But we’ve been at the point where freebies don’t cloud our judgement. Would I purchase this strap? Absolutely, in a heartbeat.

As I go through my closet and look at shirts for meetings or going out when I’ve got my camera around me, I always think about sweat and how it will be affected by the strap. The last thing that I want is a client staring at this giant sweat band across my chest caused by a strap.”

Lighting

Phottix Indra 500 TTL

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Phottix Indra500TTL Images portraits with Amanda (6 of 11)ISO 1001-4000 sec at f - 1.6

In our review, we state:

“For years, we’ve been asking for a monolight that can do both TTL transmission and manual transmission simply. Then Profoto gave it to us. Then Phottix came out with their solution which was years in development; and it’s exciting.

Now, more than ever, it’s easier to get into lighting: we are truly in an exciting time in the photo world.

The Indra 500 TTL monolight is simple to use, sturdy, has loads of light output, is compact for carrying, and at the end of a long shooting day doesn’t end up killing my back. What more could we really ask for?”

Software and Accessories

Adobe Lightroom CC

Lightroom CC logo

In our review, we state:

“Adobe Lightroom 6 and Adobe Lightroom CC are in some ways a minor upgrade when it comes to features, but when it comes to pure performance these new versions are incredible. Your workflow will be faster no matter what type of photographer you are. But beyond that, landscape photographers will probably get the most use out of the new program. In many ways, you don’t really need Photoshop at this point because of how great Lightroom 6 is.

With the addition of Lightroom CC, professional photographers and those willing to pay the minimal fee each year have deeper integration with their products through the cloud. Want to edit a DNG from your Phone? Cool, no problems. Want to work in other programs at all in a more seamless manner? You’ve got it.”

MacPhun Noiseless Pro

Processed Kodak Tri-X

Processed Kodak Tri-X

In our review, we state:

“It’s not often that a plug-in really impresses us this much, but when a plug-in tries to take a critical problem and fix it, it makes all the difference. As cameras become higher in megapixels, processors and software need to keep up. Adobe Lightroom does a pretty good job with killing imaging noise if you’re very careful, but MacPhun’s Noiseless Pro makes it simpler, more direct and overall actually helps you to save time. Again though, it’s a good idea to start with a preset and adjust it from there the same way you would with Instagram–except this time around you’re in Lightroom.”

Epson SureColor P600 Printer

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Epson P600 printer review (2 of 8)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 1.8

In our review, we state:

“Once you’re ready to make the leap and get beyond the initial setup phase, you’ll be amazed. It’s a big printer, and it’s bigger than my desk in some respects–but you’ll really appreciate what it can do if you’re a serious photographer. If you work with it and pay attention to the sounds and the LCD screen, you’ll realize that it was well-built and designed. And to be honest, we can’t imagine how printing could become any more fun or simple at the serious level.”