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AP Awards 2022 – Best Cameras, Smartphone and Drone of 2022

April 7, 2022

As a weekly magazine Amateur Photographer tests a huge variety of cameras, lenses and accessories, and our tests are respected around the world for their independence, quality and depth.

Consequently, the AP Awards, which have been an annual highlight in the photography calendar for over 40 years, are held in higher regard within the global camera industry than any other UK award.

The products selected here are the most technologically advanced ever produced – we’re truly spoiled for choice – but our thorough testing identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each, to help you choose which one is right for you, and which really are the finest in their class.

Smartphone Camera of the Year 2022

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Why we like it

  • Four focal lengths
  • Pro shooting mode
  • Stunning display
  • Records 8K video

We’ve long been impressed with the quality of Samsung’s flagship smartphones when it comes to photography. The firm’s latest model is the Galaxy S22 Ultra, and once again it boasts a host of features that are squarely aimed at the enthusiast photographer. Most obviously, it employs four camera modules including two telephoto lenses, giving longer real optical zoom than its competitors.

Looking at this in more detail, the main wideangle camera employs a 23mm equivalent f/1.8 lens, with a 108MP sensor that normally gives a 12MP output. There’s also a 13mm f/2.2 ultra-wideangle with a 12MP sensor, while the telephotos are 69mm f/2.4 and 230mm f/4. Optical image stabilisation is on hand to keep things sharp, and the camera app offers loads of options including full manual control and DNG raw recording. Image quality is excellent, with plenty of detail and bright saturated colours.

Other highlights include a stunning 6.8in screen, a hefty 5000mAh battery, and IP68 water and dust resistance. It comes with Samsung’s unique S-Pen stylus, which among other things can be used as a remote shutter release. Overall, if you want the best smartphone for photography at the moment, it’s the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review


Drone Camera of the Year 2022

DJI Mavic 3

DJI Mavic 3

DJI Mavic 3

Why we like it

  • Superb stills and video
  • DNG raw recording
  • Very easy to fly
  • Long flight times

Top of DJI’s consumer-focused Mavic line, this latest model distinguishes itself by having the best camera we’ve yet seen on this type of relatively affordable folding drone. Its main camera employs a 20MP Four Thirds sensor with a 24mm equivalent f/2.8 lens, and is joined by a supplementary 12MP telephoto camera with a smaller 1/2in sensor.

Along with the ability to record DNG raw files, the Mavic 3 is capable of shooting 5.1K video at 50fps, or 4K at 120fps. The main camera offers shutter speeds from 8-1/8000sec, a sensitivity range of ISO 100-6400 and a variable aperture from f/2.8-f/11, which both improves low-light image quality and means there’s no need to use ND filters for recording video in bright light.

A compact folding design makes the Mavic 3 easy to transport between flights, while omnidirectional sensors help it steer clear of obstacles when it’s in the air. There’s 8GB of storage on board, plus a microSD card slot for greater capacity and easier file transfer. The rechargeable battery promises a flight time of up to 46 minutes.

Most importantly, thanks to the large sensor and high-quality optics, the Mavic 3 is capable of capturing superb-quality video and stills. It’s the best imaging drone available right now.

Read our DJI Mavic 3 review


Consumer Camera of the Year 2022

Fujifilm X-T30 II

Fujifilm X-T30 II

Fujifilm X-T30 II

Why we like it

  • Lovely JPEG colours
  • External manual controls
  • Compact metal body
  • Great value for money

This follow up to Fujifilm’s popular X-T30 doesn’t necessarily bring a whole lot of new features. It boasts a higher resolution screen, an improved AF system borrowed from the flagship X-T4, and a refreshed menu setup with separate stills and video settings. But that’s not really the point; it has all the same charm as its predecessor, giving exactly the same image quality as the X-T4 in a compact, attractively designed body.

At the heart of the X-T30 II you’ll find Fujifilm’s 26.1MP X-Trans 4 CMOS sensor, which offers a sensitivity range up to ISO 51,200. The camera is capable of shooting at 20fps at full resolution, and 4K video recording at up to 30fps. For composing your images there’s a central electronic viewfinder and a tilting touchscreen.

Despite its compact dimensions, X-T30 II has a host of external controls, including shutter speed, exposure compensation and drive mode dials and a joystick for positioning the AF area. Fujifilm’s unique Film Simulation modes give a wide choice of really attractive JPEG colour looks, while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity make it easy to share images via your smartphone. This makes the X-T30 II a great choice for those looking for excellent image quality in a portable camera.

Read our Fujifilm X-T30 II review


Enthusiast Camera of the Year 2022

OM System OM-1

Olympus OM-System OM-1

OM System ‘Olympus’ OM-1

Why we like it

  • Excellent handling
  • Robust IP53-rated build
  • 50fps shooting with C-AF
  • Superb in-body stabilisation

It may be last camera to bear the Olympus logo, and nostalgically named after a classic 35mm film SLR, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about this high-speed powerhouse. With its new 20MP Four Thirds stacked CMOS sensor, the OM System OM-1 is capable of shooting at up to 50 frames per second with continuous autofocus, or a remarkable 120fps with focus fixed. It also boasts the world’s first quad pixel AF system, which enables cross-type phase detection AF using 1053 focus points arranged across the entire frame. This works with updated AI Detection AF, which recognises planes, trains, motor vehicles, birds, cats, and dogs, as well as faces and eyes.

Other highlights include rugged weather-sealed construction, with an IP53-rating, and the superb in-body image stabilisation system inherited from its predecessor, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. But in comparison, the OM-1 gains an enhanced user experience, thanks to its large, high-resolution 5.76m-dot electronic viewfinder and comprehensively updated user interface and menu system. The camera also boasts an array of unique features, including Pro Capture, Live ND, and hand-held high-resolution multi-shot modes. Image quality is excellent, with particularly attractive colour rendition. For fans of small mirrorless camera systems, the OM-1 offers a really compelling option.

Read our OM System ‘Olympus’ OM-1 review


Premium Camera of the Year 2022

Sony Alpha 7 IV

Sony Alpha A7 IV

Sony Alpha A7 IV

Why we like it

  • Excellent image quality
  • Superb autofocus
  • Refined interface and handling
  • Fully articulated screen

Sony’s latest enthusiast-focused full-frame mirrorless model counts as a significant upgrade over its predecessor. Its headline update is undoubtedly a new 33MP sensor that offers usefully higher resolution compared the 24MP units more commonly found at this price point. But the camera also gains a fully articulated screen, a higher-resolution viewfinder, and an improved control layout and handling. This includes, at long last, a proper touch interface that speeds up operation when changing settings.

Indeed the A7 IV boasts a particularly comprehensive spec sheet, including 10fps continuous shooting and 4K video recording at up to 60fps. Its 759-point autofocus system includes face and eye recognition for humans, animals, and birds, and works phenomenally well when tracking moving subjects. Other highlights include in-body image stabilisation that’s rated for 5.5 stops compensation, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for remote control and sharing images to your smartphone.

Image quality is superb, with no real penalty for the increased resolution in terms of noise or dynamic range. As a result, the Sony Alpha 7 IV counts as a seriously impressive all-rounder that can do almost anything you might ask of it. For any serious enthusiast contemplating buying a new camera, it has to be right at the top of the list.

Read our Sony Alpha A7 IV review


Specialist Camera of the Year 2022

Fujifilm GFX100S

Fujifilm GFX100S

Fujifilm GFX100S

Why we like it

  • Sensational image quality
  • Relatively compact body
  • Effective stabilisation
  • Lovely in-camera colour

With the GFX100S, Fujifilm has taken all the best bits of its 102MP medium format GFX100 and placed them in a considerably smaller body at little more than half the price. The result is a camera that delivers sumptuous image quality, yet takes up no more space in your bag than a high-end full-frame DSLR. It’s it a particularly attractive proposition for landscape photographers, or indeed anyone who demands the ultimate image quality without sacrificing portability.

Fujifilm has also made it remarkably easy to get the best from all those pixels, regardless of whether you’re using a tripod or shooting hand-held. The low-shock shutter and effective in-body stabilisation combine to minimise image blurring from camera shake, and the phase-detection autofocus is snappy and accurate. The firm’s peerless colour science is also available via its Film Simulation modes, with the camera delivering lovely JPEG files.

The electronic viewfinder gives a large, detailed view, and includes a Natural Live View option that mimics the optical viewfinder of a DSLR. Meanwhile, the 3-way tilting rear screen aids shooting at creative angles in both portrait and landscape formats. For professionals and committed amateurs looking to make really large prints, the Fujifilm GFX100S is a very compelling option indeed.

Read our Fujifilm GFX100S review


Hybrid Camera of the Year 2022

Sony Alpha 1

Sony Alpha 1

Sony Alpha A1

Why we like it

  • Exceptional image quality
  • Records 8K video
  • Compact size
  • Sensational viewfinder

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the emergence of a new level of high-end mirrorless hybrid cameras that employ stacked CMOS sensors to deliver both high-speed, high-resolution stills shooting and 8K video recording. Sony’s Alpha 1 is capable of recording both 50MP stills at 30 frames per second, and 8K video internally at 30fps in 10-bit 4:2:2 colour. It’s also possible to output 16-bit raw footage to an external recorder.

Further enhancing its video credentials, the camera has a built-in heat management system for extended recording times, a full-size HDMI output, and a digital audio interface built into the hot shoe. It can also be powered via its USB-C socket for extended shooting. The dual card slots accept either standard UHS-II SD cards, or the faster CFexpress type A. In-body image stabilisation helps keep stills sharp and footage steady when shooting hand-held.

Another highlight of this breathtaking camera is its sensational viewfinder, which is a 9.44m-dot unit that offers a huge 0.9x magnification. Yet this all fits in a compact body that’ll easily fit on a gimbal. For those who need a camera that can do practically everything across both stills and video, it’s difficult to beat.

Read our Sony Alpha 1 review


Innovation of the Year 2022

Canon EOS R3

Canon EOS R3

Canon EOS R3

Why we like it

  • Unique Eye-control AF
  • AI subject recognition AF
  • 30 fps shooting
  • World’s fastest shutter

We’ve seen a lot of innovative kit over the past year, not just cameras but also lenses and lights. However, the one that really stood out was the Canon EOS R3. By resurrecting and updating an old technology, in the shape of Eye-control AF, and combining it with the latest AI-based subject recognition algorithms, Canon has revolutionised autofocus. Because this camera can detect the subject you’re looking at in the viewfinder, and then track focus on it as it moves around the frame.

For high-speed sports and action shooting, this is a revelation. You simply look at your desired subject in the large, high-resolution EVF and half-press the shutter button. The camera locks on instantly, outlining the subject and tracking focus on it. This works so well that after a few minutes, you almost forget it’s even happening. The AF system just does exactly what you want it to.

This wouldn’t be of much use if the EOS R3 couldn’t keep up with the action, but it’s one of the quickest cameras around. It can shoot at 30 frames per second, and boasts a world-record top shutter speed of 1/64,000sec. It’s a remarkable camera with a unique and brilliant super-power.

Read our Canon EOS R3 review


Professional Camera of the Year 2022 and Product of the Year 2022

Nikon Z 9

Nikon Z9 with awards

Nikon Z9 with awards: Professional camera of the year 2022, Product of the year 2022

Why we like it

  • Exceptional image quality
  • Extraordinary continuous shooting
  • Ground-breaking AI autofocus
  • Pro-level build and handling

When it comes to talking about the Nikon Z 9, it feels like there aren’t enough superlatives to quite do it justice. Nikon has clearly thrown everything it knows from its decades of accumulated experience at building the most accomplished professional camera possible. It’s produced an absolute powerhouse of a camera that combines high resolution, super-fast shooting and 8K video recording, all in a body that feels rugged enough to shrug off anything that demanding professional users might throw at it.

Even a quick scroll down the spec sheet reveals that the Z 9 is well out of the ordinary. It can shoot 45.7MP stills at 20 frames per second in raw or 30fps in JPEG, and keep going for more than 1000 frames. Switch to 11MP JPEGs and it can shoot at 120fps, complete with continuous AF. It can also record 8K video for extended times without overheating.

Technically, the Z 9 is innovative in the way that it does without a physical shutter, instead relying entirely on a super-fast electronic shutter provided by its stacked CMOS sensor. It also boasts Nikon’s most advanced autofocus system yet, which is capable of recognising and tracking focus on people, animals, and vehicles, including cars, motorbikes, trains, and planes. We especially like the way it can recognise all these subjects simultaneously, meaning you don’t have to specify in advance what you’re intending to shoot.

Nikon Z9 Back

Nikon Z 9 Back

Pro-level usability

All this technological cleverness comes in a robust, weather-sealed body that operates in much the same way as Nikon’s D6 DSLR, meaning it’ll look very familiar to the firm’s professional user-base. However, it gains five-axis in-body stabilisation that works in concert with optically stabilised lenses, which means you’re more likely to get sharp shots. The viewfinder is superb and the 3-way tilting screen facilitates low-angle or overhead shooting. Pro-spec connectivity, both wired and wireless, is also built in.

Nikon Z9 Tower Bridge Sunrise sample image

With its 45.7MP sensor, the Z9 is capable of superb image quality. Nikon Z9, Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 165mm, 1/640sec at f/8, ISO 100

In real-world use the Z 9 works brilliantly and gives fantastic image quality. Indeed, there’s no discernible penalty for its ultra-fast speed. When it comes to storing all those images, a new high-efficiency raw format dramatically reduces file sizes.

All told, we’re incredibly impressed by the Nikon Z 9. Even in a year when we saw top-spec pro super-cameras from all the main manufacturers, it stood out for its sheer capability and tough-as-nails build quality. It’s arguably the most impressive and capable camera you can currently buy.

Read our Nikon Z 9 review


Check out more AP Award winners here:

AP Awards 2022 – Winning Lenses 2022
AP Awards 2022 – Winning Software and Accessories 2022

Tell us what you think on social media, using the hashtag #APAwards2022


See last years winners for the AP Awards 2021.

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