DPReview Awards 2018
This year was a busy one for DPReview and the camera industry as a whole. 2018 saw the launch of two new full frame mirrorless systems from Canon and Nikon, a brace of excellent lenses, and the development announcement of even more goodies due to be released in early 2019.
With so many great products to choose from, there’s never been a better time to be a photo enthusiast, but the amount of gear out there can be overwhelming. Every year in December we get together as a team to recognize the standout products of the past 12 months in our annual DPReview Awards. Click through the slides above to find out which products made our list of the best gear of 2018!
Best photography accessory
- Adobe Lightroom CC 2.0
- Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI
- Wandrd Prvke 21L Backpack
- Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD
Runner up: Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD
Photography accessories come in all shapes and sizes and this year’s shortlist includes four products that are as different as can be. But something they all share is the potential to help streamline the photographic process, whether that means improving the experience of transporting gear from A to B, or simply creating a better way to back up files on the go.
The Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD falls into the later category. It’s a solid state version of the company’s already popular wireless drive with a shock resistant construction. Core features include a built-in SD 3.0 card reader, USB 3.0 connectivity, Wi-Fi connectivity for reviewing media on a device, a built-in 6,700mAh battery for charging other devices over USB (and to power Wi-Fi), and preview support for Raw files. It’s available in 250gb, 500gb, 1Tb and 2TB capacities.
Winner: Wandrd Prvke 21L Backpack
The right camera backpack is a frustratingly elusive thing to find. No bag is going to be perfect for every photographer. But wouldn’t be nice if one came close? Meet the Wandrd Prvke 21L. It might have a weird name (it’s pronounced ‘wandered provoke’), but it’s awesome to use. So awesome, in fact, that it’s our favorite camera backpack on the market and our pick for photographic accessory of the year.
The Wandrd Prvke 21 provides an impressive balance of intelligent, rugged design with outstanding weight distribution and comfort. It’s also incredibly versatile: a roll-top provides an additional 4L of storage and the internal ‘Camera Cube’ can be completely removed. There’s also plenty of external storage pockets and even loops to attach bulky gear, like a sleeping bag, to the bottom of the pack. In short, this bag looks good, handles well, is super versatile and can carry a ton of gear. As such, it’s a worthy winner of our award this year for best photo accessory.
Best video accessory
- Atomos Ninja V
- Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 15
- DJI Ronin-S
- Sigma Cine 28mm / 40mm / 105mm T1.5 FF
Runner up: Atomos Ninja V
Video capabilities continue to improve every year, and it’s common these days to find advanced features such as oversampled 4K, 10-bit recording, and Log gamma profiles on many cameras. While it’s possible to shoot amazing footage with just a camera and a lens, specialized video accessories can make your shoot easier or take your production quality up a notch or two.
The Atomos Ninja V is a tool that lets you take complete advantage of your camera’s video capabilities, some of which may only be fully realized when using an off-camera recorder. With features such as 4K/60p recording, support for Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHR, a 5″ daylight viewable screen, anamorphic de-squeeze, and HDR monitoring there’s a lot to like, and it does so in a compact size that’s a perfect match for DSLR or mirrorless cameras. If you want to squeeze every bit of quality out of your camera’s video, or just have a more enjoyable shooting experience, this is an easy way to do it.
Winner: DJI Ronin-S
It’s easy to get stable video when using a tripod, or even when shooting a relatively simple shot using a camera’s image stabilization, but sometimes the key to great video is camera movement. Unfortunately, that’s where many in-camera or in-lens stabilization systems just aren’t quite good enough for things like run-and-gun documentary or narrative filmmaking.
Enter the DJI Ronin-S. It’s not the first one-handed camera gimbal, but it’s our current favorite thanks to its effective operation and ease of use. Setup is a breeze, thanks to its auto-tune feature for gimbal calibration, and the 3-axis motorized gimbal has some of the strongest motors DJI has ever put in a gimbal, allowing the Ronin-S to compensate for slight changes in balance when using zoom lenses. It’s also possible to save three distinct groups of settings and toggle between them at the press of a button – ideal for filmmakers who need to quickly react to changing conditions.
Other great features include an offset roll axis that’s cleverly designed to avoid blocking the screen while shooting, configuration using a smartphone app, and a 12-hour battery that will outlast your arm. It even supports remote camera operation including remote start/stop and a very precise remote follow focus knob.
Best smartphone camera
- Apple iPhone XS
- Google Pixel 3
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro
- Samsung Galaxy S9+
- Sony Xperia XZ3
Runner up: Google Pixel 3
The Pixel 3 is the first smartphone camera to truly rival traditional dedicated cameras, surpassing 1″-type and rivaling cameras with Four Thirds sensors in ‘Night Sight’ mode.* It does this by improving upon the Pixel 2’s already class-leading HDR+ multi-frame fusion technique, now capturing even more frames and merging them using a super resolution algorithm to extract more detail, reduce noise, and remove the need for demosaicing. A new learning-based white balance approach in this mode also renders pleasing colors even in challenging light.
Portrait Mode has been improved using machine learning to understand a variety of depth cues, rendering the most pleasing subject isolation and blur of any smartphone we’ve tested. ‘Synthetic fill flash’ uses learning-based segmentation to identify and re-light faces. ‘Top Shot’ captures perfect moments you may have missed before hitting the shutter button. The Pixel 3 outputs Raw, but these Raw files have image quality that far surpasses what you’d expect from such a small sensor, since they’re the result of stacking and merging up to 15 rapidly captured frames. To sum up: it’s the best smartphone camera for stills we’ve ever seen.
*Despite the name, you can use Night Sight mode any time of day to get its benefits, with the only downside being a positive shutter lag.
Winner: Apple iPhone XS
The iPhone XS faced fierce competition from the Google Pixel 3 this year, and from a pure still image quality standpoint the Pixel 3 wins hands down. But the iPhone XS takes the top spot overall thanks to a more rounded feature set that includes class-leading video, reliable AF, wide color capture and HDR display of imagery, plus a range of improvements over the original iPhone X.
New in the XS is a larger image sensor in the main camera for better dynamic range and low light performance, and a refined Portrait Mode. In a snub to traditional cameras, the XS allows you to choose your aperture after you shoot – all the way from F1.4 to F16. Cleverly, Apple has modeled the optical properties of real full-frame portrait lenses to accurately – and attractively – simulate ‘real’ bokeh.
Perhaps the biggest improvement though is Apple’s new ‘Smart HDR’ feature, which takes advantage of the faster processing capabilities of the phone to capture wider dynamic scenes in stills, panoramas, and even in video up to 4K/30p, making the HEVC 4K footage the best we’ve seen from a smartphone. Pair all this with improved contrast on one of the best displays on the market, with accurate color management under the hood so you get the benefits of the wide gamut display without a loss in color accuracy, and you have one of the best smartphones available today.
Best prosumer camera drone
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- DJI Mavic Air
- Parrot ANAFI
- Skydio R1
Runner-up: DJI Mavic Air
Drones have quickly become one of the most exciting new areas of photography, allowing anyone to capture stunning photos or video that previously required a helicopter or cable-cam.
The DJI Mavic Air is an ultra-compact, foldable quadcopter that’s small enough to be a true ‘take anywhere’ drone. Its 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor records 4K/30p or 1080/120p video at up to 100 Mbps, captures 12MP Raw photos, and ‘QuickShots’ modes make it easy to get cinematic looking footage even if you’re a beginner. It even includes DJI’s Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS), which uses numerous sensors to detect and go around obstacles so you can continue following your subject.
Winner: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The Mavic 2 Pro is the model that drone enthusiasts had been asking DJI to create, and in 2018 DJI delivered. It has all the great features of the original Mavic Pro, including a small, foldable form factor, but adds a camera built around a larger 1″-type sensor with Hasselblad branding. It’s the perfect match for the person who values exceptional photo and video quality in a compact package.
The Mavic 2 Pro’s standout features don’t stop with the larger camera, however. It’s capable of recording 4K/30p at up to 100 Mbps, supports both H.264 and H.265 codecs, offers 10-bit recording with DJI’s DLog-M gamma profile, and uses DJI’s OcuSync 2.0 video transmission system for reliable transmission over long distances. It also includes APAS for obstacle avoidance using 10 sensors that provide omnidirectional coverage around the aircraft and numerous intelligent flight modes for cinematic shots.
Best zoom lens
- Canon RF 28-70mm F2
- Canon RF 24-105mm F4
- Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD
- Tamron 70-210mm F4 Di VC USD
Runner-up: Canon RF 28-70mm F2
A lot of lenses get released every year, and it’s always a challenge to whittle the year’s releases down to a shortlist – let alone to pick a winner. That said, this year several lenses stood out from the pack.
Canon’s impressive RF 28-70mm F2L is perhaps the clearest indication that despite the mid-level positioning of the EOS R, the RF system should be taken seriously by professionals. This durable, weather-sealed lens features super-advanced glass and coatings designed to keep aberrations to a minimum despite its ambitious continuous maximum aperture. The result is a fast zoom that offers stunning image quality throughout its range.
Arguably falling into the category of ‘stunt lens’, the 28-70mm F2 is almost comically large and unbalanced on the R, but it’s clearly designed for a future – more professional – camera. We can’t wait.
Winner: Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD
At the other end of the scale from Canon’s behemoth is the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD. It might not be the widest or fastest (thanks to our runner-up), standard zoom of its kind, but it’s the smallest and lightest, and one of the best nonetheless.
The Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD has the distinction of being the first third-party zoom lens designed from scratch to be compatible with Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras. It has seriously impressed us with its optical quality, close-up ability, relatively fast (and silent) autofocus, pleasant handling and excellent value for money. A perfect companion to Sony’s a7 III, we hope that the 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD is the first of many future mirrorless-oriented lenses from Tamron, which has really impressed us in the past couple of years with its range of high-quality Di prime and zoom.
Best prime lens
- Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM
- Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM
- Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM
- Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN
Runner-up: Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary
The launch of several new mirrorless systems has helped 2018 become a bumper year for interesting prime lenses. The fact that after a lot of discussion, Canon’s ambitious (and super-sharp) RF 50mm F1.2L just missed out on an award gives a hint of how hotly-contested this category was.
One of the lenses that really caught our eye this year was the Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary. The 56mm F1.4 is the third in a set of affordable Sigma F1.4 lenses for Sony’s E-mount and the Micro Four Thirds system, and like the existing 30mm and 16mm lenses, the 56mm makes most sense on the APS-C format, where it’s equivalent to a classic 85mm portrait lens.
The 56mm F1.4 DC DN is small, light and, with an MSRP under $500, very sensibly priced. More than this, though, it’s sharp, fast to focus and exhibits pleasant bokeh, as a portrait lens should. In our view this makes it a great addition to the otherwise slightly under-served Sony APS-C E-mount lineup. We only wish it were available for other mirrorless APS-C mounts.
Winner: Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM
We’ve seen a lot of small, OK lenses this year, and a lot of very large, very good lenses, but it’s really nice when we see a manufacturer make a small excellent lens. The Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM is exactly that.
This medium-wide prime lens for Sony’s a7-series and a9 mirrorless cameras (it’s also a useful 36mm F2.1 equivalent on APS-C) is a great example of the lens-maker’s art. Superbly suited to landscape and astrophotography, the 24mm F1.4 is equally useful for low-light candid photography and portraiture. It’s uncannily sharp edge-to-edge wide open with little to no coma, bokeh is smooth, and longitudinal chromatic aberration – that purple and green fringing we loathe on many fast wide primes – is well controlled. Our decision this year was unanimous – the Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM takes the well-deserved top spot in our award for best prime lens of 2018.
Best compact/fixed lens camera
- Fujifilm XF10
- Nikon Coolpix P1000
- Panasonic Lumix DC-LX100 II
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VI
Runner up: Nikon Coolpix P1000
This year was another relatively slow one for compact cameras, but the models in our shortlist all have something special to offer.
Taking the runner-up spot this year is the Nikon Coolpix P1000, distinguished by its wonderfully bonkers lens, which covers an equivalent focal length range of 24-3000mm. This kind of zoom would be useless if the pictures were terrible, but the P1000’s lens is very impressive given its extraordinary range, and capable of everything from sweeping landscapes to sharp lunarscapes, thanks in part to a very effective effective image stabilization system. The bulky Coolpix P1000 might not be the ideal camera for everyone, but it has some unique tricks up its (very long) sleeve.
Winner: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VI
Another year, another Sony Cyber-shot RX100-series compact camera. What will it be this time – a faster lens? Better 4K video? Boosted continuous shooting? Well, in fact the RX100 VI offers none of those things compared to its predecessor the RX100 V/A, but instead adds a more versatile 24-200mm zoom to the lineup, which trades brightness (and a built-in ND filter) for extra telephoto reach.
The RX100 VI doesn’t replace the older RX100 V/A, but it does fill a gap in the established RX100-series lineup for a true ‘travel zoom’ camera, offering advanced video and stills features in a compact package, with a versatile zoom lens. Photographers have been asking Sony for a longer zoom in the RX100-series for a long time, and with the RX100 VI, Sony delivered, without compromising too much of what we love about the series as a whole. As such the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI takes our award for best compact / fixed-lens camera of 2018.
Best consumer stills/video camera
- Fujifilm X-H1
- Fujifilm X-T3
- Nikon Z6
- Sony Alpha a7 III
Runner up: Nikon Z6
Once the shape of things to come, ‘hybrid’ cameras that offer high-quality video modes alongside stills photography features are now the norm. The new video standard of course is 4K, and all of this year’s shortlisted cameras offer excellent 4K video features alongside 24MP+ stills capture.
Taking the runner-up spot this year is the Nikon Z6 – the companion model to the flagship Z7 in Nikon’s new Z-system lineup. The Z6 offers lower-resolution 24MP stills capture than the 46MP Z7, but cleaner, distortion-free 4K video, and slightly better autofocus sensitivity in low light, too. Coupled with effective in-body stabilization and a supremely adaptable lensmount, the Z6 is a highly attractive camera for hybrid stills and video shooting, and Nikon’s most convincing video camera yet.
Winner: Fujifilm X-T3
Every year, there’s at least one DPReview Awards category where we struggle to reach a unanimous decision. After a lot of discussion we awarded first prize in this category to the Fujifilm X-T3.
At first glance very similar to its direct predecessor the X-T2, this year’s model is in fact a major upgrade, offering a substantially improved set of video and stills features. In fact, despite its lack of IBIS, the 4K/60-capable X-T3 is arguably a better 4K video platform than the nominal video flagship of the X-series, the X-H1. Its ability to capture 4K/60p footage in 10-bit even puts it ahead of the latest models in Panasonic’s video-centric GH series.
All of this is made more impressive by the fact that until quite recently, Fujifilm’s X-series lagged seriously behind its competition in terms of video. The X-T3 is the clearest indication yet that Fujifilm has well and truly joined the game.
Best entry-level ILC
- Canon EOS M50
- Fujifilm X-T100
- Nikon D3500
- Olympus PEN E-PL9
Runner-up: Nikon D3500
Entry-level cameras are among the most important products in every manufacturer’s lineup. Once a new photographer has invested in a system, the hope is that they’ll stay loyal, growing their investment in lenses, accessories and – in the future – more advanced cameras.
The Nikon D3500 is a modest upgrade to the last-generation D3400, but it still offers the excellent 24MP sensor of its predecessor, and despite its entry-level positioning the D3500 handles very nicely, thanks in part to a redesigned, deeper grip. For anyone looking for an inexpensive first camera to grow and learn with, the D3500 fits the bill nicely. As such, it takes the runner-up spot in this year’s DPReview Award for best entry-level ILC.
Winner: Canon EOS M50
Canon’s EF-M range occupies an awkward spot in Canon’s current product portfolio – based around the APS-C sensor format, but incompatible with the lenses from Canon’s newer, full-frame RF mirrorless mount. Nevertheless, the best EOS M cameras are really nice to use, and have a lot to offer the beginner and enthusiast photographer alike.
The DSLR-styled EOS M50 is one of the standout cameras in the EF-M lineup, offering an attractive combination of pleasant handling, solid stills photography features, and usable 4K video in a small, lightweight package. As a beginners’ ILC, the M50 is easy to use, powerful, and un-intimidating. As such, it takes the winning spot in our award category this year for best entry-level ILC.
Best midrange ILC
- Canon EOS R
- Fujifilm X-T3
- Nikon Z6>
- Sony Alpha a7 III
Runner-up: Fujifilm X-T3
This year, the mid-range interchangeable lens camera segment saw a lot of action. All of our shortlisted models are capable of excellent still image quality, and feature a range of powerful features. Three of the four are also capable of superb 4K video capture, making them true ‘hybrid’ cameras of the sort unthinkable just a few years ago.
Runner-up in this competitive category is the Fujifilm X-T3, one of the most impressive cameras released in 2018. Despite its APS-C sensor, the X-T3’s image quality at low and medium ISO sensitivities gives a lot of full-frame cameras a run for their money, and its 4k video features are very competitive. The X-T3 is one of those rare cameras that is better than it probably needed to be, and this is reflected in the fact that it beat out several full-frame models to the runner-up spot in this years’ award for best midrange ILC.
Winner: Sony Alpha a7 III
One of the full-frame cameras that the X-T3 has to compete against is one of our favorite cameras released all year – the Sony Alpha a7 III, which takes the winning spot in this year’s DPR Awards category for best mid-range ILC. The a7 III won out thanks to its stabilized full-frame sensor, powerful autofocus system and excellent 4K video features. For anyone looking for a ‘do it all’ camera without spending a lot more money, the a7 III is hard to beat. For these reasons, it takes the top spot in this years’ DPReview award for best midrange ILC.
Best high-end ILC
- Fujifilm GFX 50R
- Nikon Z7
- Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S
- Panasonic Lumix DC-G9
Runner-up: Fujifilm GFX 50R
The high-end ILC category saw some serious innovation this year, from Fujifilm’s slimmed-down medium format GFX 50R to Nikon’s all-new Z7. At the other end of the sensor size scale was the video-centric Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 and the ultra-rugged G9.
This year’s runner-up spot is taken by the camera with the biggest sensor of all – the Fujifilm GFX 50R. Designed for active photographers, the 50R takes the best bits of the more costly 50S – including its most important feature – the excellent 50MP CMOS sensor – and packages them in a smaller, more affordable, rangefinder-style body. Medium-format has never looked more attractive.
Winner: Nikon Z7
The Nikon Z7 marks the beginning of a new era for the stalwart Japanese camera manufacturer, debuting the new full-frame mirrorless Z mount. With a wider diameter than the 1950s-era F-mount and a shorter flange-back, the Z mount is designed to be futureproof, and the enthusiast-oriented Z7 is an appropriately bold camera to kick things off.
In many respects akin to a mirrorless D850, the Z7 offers a proven 46MP sensor, traditional Nikon handling, deep customization and a powerful 4K video feature set with impressive video AF. While stills autofocus could be improved, the Z7 is a formidable camera signaling Nikon’s dedication to the future, and as such it takes the top spot in this year’s DPReview Award for best high-end ILC.
DPReview innovation award
- Canon RF 28-70mm F2
- Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- Google Pixel 3
Runner-up: Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI
Innovations come in all shapes and sizes, but sometimes the simplest innovation can have the biggest impact on how you make photographs. Take for example the Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI, an on-camera flash that uses a simple technique to demystify the art of bouncing light.
For years, hot shoe flashes have been able to measure distance to subject. Canon’s Speedlite 470EX-AI takes this simple action several steps further. By first measuring the distance to subject, followed by the distance to ceiling, the 470EX-AI can predict the optimal bounce angle and set itself there, automatically. Even cooler, it re-positions itself when switching from portrait to landscape orientation.
Winner: Google Pixel 3
Every year brings new innovation in the camera industry, and this year was particularly busy with new entrants in the mirrorless and full-frame camera markets, and stellar new optics. Despite this competitive landscape, we unanimously picked the Google Pixel 3 for our ‘Innovation of the Year’ award.
The Pixel 3 is the first smartphone camera to truly challenge traditional cameras from an image quality standpoint, surpassing 1″-type and rivaling cameras with Four Thirds sensors in ‘Night Sight’ mode. It does this by improving upon the Pixel 2’s already class-leading HDR+ multi-frame fusion technique, now capturing up to 15 frames and merging them using a super resolution algorithm to extract more detail, reduce noise, and remove the need for demosaicing altogether. That allows its image quality to rival higher resolution dedicated cameras with Bayer filter arrays, and allows for digital zoom that rivals modest optical zoom modules.
Google is also at the forefront of applying machine learning to photography. This pays off in more accurate white balance, sharper images, as well as ‘real’-looking background blur and subject isolation for the best portraits we’ve seen outside of a dedicated camera. The list goes on, but importantly: these techniques are bringing high quality photography – and videography – to the masses, on unprecedentedly small and convenient devices. This democratization of the art using technology is what garners the Google Pixel 3 our Innovation of the Year award.
DPReview product of the year, 2018
- Fujifilm X-T3
- Nikon Z7
- Sony Alpha a7 III
- Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD
Runner-up: Fujifilm X-T3
Picking the single best product of the year is always a difficult task, and if we’re being honest, it’s impossible. Everyone’s needs are different. There has never been a better time to be a photographer, and in 2018 there are fantastic cameras, lenses and accessories out there for everyone.
But pick we must. This year’s shortlist is comprised of those products that represent, in our collective opinion, four of the best bits of gear released in 2018. Two of them really stood out, though. Runner-up is the Fujifilm X-T3 which – in case you didn’t already get the message – we really like. Fujifilm didn’t need to make the X-T3 as good as it is – hell, Fujifilm didn’t even need to replace the X-T2 yet – but they did, and they did. And the resulting camera is one of the best APS-C format ILCs money can buy, even rivaling some full-frame models.
Winner: Sony Alpha a7 III
And the winning spot this year is taken by the Sony a7 III. Arguably the best-value full-frame ILC available right now, the a7 III is a superbly versatile camera for both stills and video imaging, at a great price. Other cameras in Sony’s lineup offer higher stills resolution and some nice extras, but the a7 III takes most of the essentials, and packages them inside an attractive, very usable and affordable body. As such, the a7 III is a worthy winner of our most important award – the best product of 2018.