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AP Awards 2022 – The Best Lenses 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.

See our pick of the best lenses of 2022 below.

The Best Lenses of 2022

Wideangle Zoom Lens of the Year 2022

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO best lenses 2022

Why we like it

  • Superb optical quality
  • Remarkably useful zoom range
  • Impressive close-up capability
  • Great built quality

This premium ultra-wide zoom offers Micro Four Thirds users a uniquely useful range, from 16mm equivalent ultra-wideangle to 50mm equivalent. It also benefits from an impressive close-up capability, with a minimum focus distance of just 23cm. This makes it dramatically more versatile than conventional wide zooms, which means it can stay on the camera more of the time.

Like the rest of the Pro line, the 8-25mm f/4 is designed for use in harsh conditions, with an IPX-1 rating for dust- and splash-proofing, while also being freezeproof to -10°C. A space-saving retractable design reduces the packed length by 25mm. Autofocus is quick and silent, and the focus ring can be pulled back towards the camera to engage manual mode.

Optical quality is excellent, with the 8-25mm offering similar levels of sharpness to other M.Zuiko Pro zooms, despite its extended range. It also continues to perform well at close focus distances. In short, it consistently delivers extremely clean, detailed images.

In practical use, this turns out to be a uniquely versatile wideangle zoom. Indeed, in a way it’s better seen as an everyday lens that can zoom out to ultra-wide. For photographers shooting subjects such as landscape and architecture, it could be the perfect choice.

Read our Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO review


Standard Zoom Lens of the Year 2022

Tamron 17-70mm F/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD

Tamron 17-70mm F/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD best lenses 2022

Why we like it

  • Excellent optical quality
  • Versatile zoom range
  • Effective stabilisation
  • Moisture resistant build

Designed for use on APS-C Sony E-mount cameras, this versatile standard zoom lens offers a compelling mix of features. It combines a useful 25.5-105mm range with a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture, while also incorporating weather-resistant construction and optical stabilisation. The latter is crucial, given that most of the cameras that it’s designed to be used on lack in-body stabilisation.

What’s most attractive about this lens is the quality of the images it creates – quite simply, they’re excellent. Detail rendition is very impressive indeed, especially towards the middle of the zoom range. But this doesn’t come at the cost of bokeh, with out-of-focus areas being rendered with a smooth, attractive blur. It also deals elegantly with shooting into the light, with no obvious flare, while Tamron’s effective optical stabilisation keeps images sharp at slow shutter speeds. Autofocus is quick and silent, too.

With its versatile zoom range, bright aperture and impressive image quality, the Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8 is one of the best standard zooms currently available for APS-C mirrorless cameras. Given its feature set, it’s also very attractively priced. As a result, it hits a real sweet spot for Sony APS-C users.

Read our Tamron 17-70mm F/2.8 Di III-A VC RXD review


Telephoto Zoom Lens of the Year 2022

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II

Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II best lenses 2022

Why we like it

  • Superb optics
  • Impressively light weight
  • Rapid autofocus
  • Comprehensive controls

With a significant head-start over the likes of Canon and Nikon in building up its full-frame mirrorless systems, Sony is now revisiting some of its older optics and coming up with new designs. One standout example is its second-generation pro-spec large-aperture telephoto zoom. The FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II improves on its predecessor in almost every way while weighing in at just 1045g – strikingly lightweight for this type of lens.

Sony has also updated the external controls, with the lens now featuring an aperture ring that can be switched between clicked and clickless operation. Autofocus now employs four XD linear motors for fast, silent operation. Another benefit is a reduced minimum focus distance, which delivers a maximum magnification of 0.3x.

Of course, what’s most important from this kind of lens is image quality, and there’s absolutely nothing to complain about here. Images are incredibly sharp even when shooting at f2.8, with very good levels of sharpness across the frame and throughout the zoom range.

Background blur, or bokeh, is extremely pleasing, and flare resistance is impressive, too. Quite simply, it’s a lens that consistently performs exceptionally well, giving impressive shots time and time again.

Read our Sony FE 70-200mm f2.8 GM OSS II Review


Prime Lens of the Year 2022

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN | Art

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN | Art best lenses 2022

Why we like it

  • Superb image quality
  • Weatherproof build
  • Includes aperture ring
  • Attractively priced

Sigma’s Art-series f/1.4 primes have long been favourites of DSLR users, having gained a strong reputation for truly excellent optics. Now the firm has turned its attention to rebuilding the line-up for full-frame mirrorless cameras. Its latest 35mm F1.4 DG DN is a completely new design, with improved optics, build quality and handling. It’s available in both Sony E mount and L mount.

One welcome operational improvement is the addition of an aperture ring that provides click-stops at 0.3EV intervals. For video recording, the click mechanism can be disengaged to give smooth, silent adjustments. Autofocus is quick and quiet, with the lens also gaining an AF-stop button. Another important update is weather-resistant construction for outdoor use, complete with a fluorine coating on the front element to shrug off raindrops and fingerprints.

In use the lens delivers sharp images, even when used at f/1.4. It improves appreciably on stopping down, with truly excellent results achieved between f/4 and f/11. Flare is very well controlled, while out-of-focus regions of images look nice and smooth. Overall, it’s a reliable workhorse of a lens  that comes at a very attractive price.

Read our Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN Art Review


Macro Lens of the Year 2022

Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM

Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM best lenses 2022

Why we like it

  • Unusually high magnification
  • Stunning optics
  • Rapid autofocus
  • Effective image stabilisation

In a year that saw the launch of several superb macro lenses, one stood out for its sheer ambition. Canon’s latest 100mm f/2.8 is designed from scratch for full-frame mirrorless, with several unique features. Its 1.4x maximum magnification is the highest of any  autofocus lens, allowing users to fill the frame with a subject as small as 26mm x 17mm. What’s more, the lens boasts a unique spherical aberration (SA) control ring that allows a trade-off between sharpness and smoother bokeh.

Two nano-type ultrasonic motors provide impressively rapid, silent autofocus, which isn’t a characteristic we’d often associate with macro lenses. Canon’s optical stabilisation is rated for five stops of shake suppression on its own, rising to eight stops when used on a camera with in-body stabilisation. As usual for Canon’s L-series line, the barrel boasts weather-sealed construction.

Optically, the lens produces sensationally sharp images right across the frame at f/2.8, regardless of whether it’s focused at a long distance or for extreme close-ups. Background blur is really attractive, but manipulating the SA ring can make it smoother still. All told, this is a sensational optic for both macro and portrait shooting.

Read our Canon RF 100mm F2.8L Macro IS USM review


Budget Prime Lens of the Year 2022

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2

Why we like it

  • Very decent image quality
  • Quick, quiet autofocus
  • Small and lightweight
  • Weather resistant build

This compact, lightweight optic is built for use on Nikon’s Z-system full-frame mirrorless cameras. In effect, it’s a much more affordable alternative to the firm’s premium S-line 35mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.8 optics. With its 40mm focal length, it also slots neatly in between its siblings in terms of angle of view. Indeed many photographers find 40mm to represent the perfect ‘standard’ lens, offering a very natural perspective to images.

At just 46mm in length and 170g, the 40mm f/2 is half the length and weight of the 50mm f/1.8 S. But despite its relatively low price of just £259, is boasts weather sealed construction, aided by an internal focus design. Autofocus is generally very snappy, too.

There’s a lot to like in terms of image quality. Naturally the 40mm f/2 doesn’t reach quite the same heights as its pricier siblings at large apertures, but stop it down to f/8 and it delivers more than enough detail to match the 45.7MP sensor used by Nikon’s high-resolution cameras from corner to corner. This is the kind of lens that you can throw in your bag and carry around all way without a second thought, which makes it perfect for travelling light.

Read our Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review


Budget Zoom Lens of the Year 2022

Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC DN | C

Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC DN | C

Why we like it

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Impressively sharp
  • Quick, silent AF
  • Affordable price

In a camera market that can appear to be obsessed with full-frame mirrorless to the detriment of anything else, it’s been refreshing to see third-party lens makers continue to support the smaller APS-C format. Sigma’s 18-50mm F2.8 DC DN is a compact, lightweight zoom that combines a 27-75mm equivalent range with a bright f/2.8 aperture. Available in L-mount and Sony E-mount, it’s also one of the most affordable standard zooms to have appeared recently, at £429.

As part of Sigma’s Contemporary range, the design emphasises compact dimensions and light weight, along with simple external controls. At 65mm in diameter, 75mm in length and 290g, it balances nicely on the small rangefinder-style bodies on which it’s most likely to be used, most obviously Sony’s A6000-series cameras. A degree of dust- and plash-proofing is provided, including a rubber O-ring seal around the metal mount. Autofocus is rapid, decisive, and practically noiseless.

Optically, the lens is very sharp in the centre of the frame, even at f/2.8, and it still records plenty of fine detail right out into the corners. At large aperture settings, it’ll also render attractively blurred out-of-focus backgrounds. It’s one of the finest standard zooms available for APS-C mirrorless cameras.

Read our Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC DN | C review


Check out more AP Awards winners here:

AP Awards 2022 – Best Cameras, Smartphone and Drone 2022
AP Awards 2022 – Best Software and Accessories 2022

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

See last year’s winners here: AP Awards 2021: The Best Lenses and Accessories

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