AP Awards 2022 – Best Software and Accessories of 2022
April 7, 2022
As a weekly magazine Amateur Photographer tests more software and accessories than any other UK publication and our tests are widely respected around the world for their independence, quality and depth.
As a result, the AP Awards, which have been an annual highlight in the photography calendar for well over 40 years, are held in higher regard within the global camera industry than any other UK award.
The software and accessories below are the most advanced ever produced, but our thorough testing identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each product to help you choose which one is right for you, and which ones are truly the best in their class.
So, without further ado, here are the two key winners of the AP Awards for Best Software and the seven deserved winners of the Best Accessories accolades for 2022…
Photo Editing Software of the Year 2022 – Zoner Photo Studio X
Why we like it
- Comprehensively featured
- Excellent tonality controls
- Attractive output
- Affordable subscription
Within the crowded imaging software market, Zoner Photo Studio X (ZPS) stands out for its sheer breadth of capabilities. In fact, it promises to do pretty much everything you might need once when you get home from taking pictures. It can be used to download and organise pictures from your camera, develop and edit raw files, and then build web galleries or buy prints. It’ll even integrate with external services such as Dropbox and Facebook.
Available for Windows only, ZPS boasts a full suite of raw development tools, with a particularly useful range of tonality controls that go beyond those offered by other programs. It also provides a degree of layer-based editing. Then when you’ve finished working on your images, it includes a range of templates for using them further, for example to design photo books or calendars. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with how everything works, it’s also reasonably easy to use.
While some photographers object to paying a subscription for software, ZPS costs less than most of its rivals and benefits from regular updates. Crucially, it delivers high-quality output. As an all-in-one option for all your imaging needs, Zoner Photo Studio X is difficult to match.
Read our Zoner Photo Studio X review.
Specialist Software of the Year 2022 – DxO PureRAW V2
Why we like it
- Simple to use
- Integrates well with other software
- Supports existing workflows
- Delivers fantastic image quality
DxO is famed for its excellence in image processing, particularly its profiled lens corrections and AI-based PRIME and DeepPRIME de-noising algorithms. But the firm has recognised that many photographers will always prefer to work with familiar software such as Adobe Lightroom, rather than learning another, similar program in DxO Photolab. With PureRAW, it’s set out to appeal to a wider range of users.
In essence, PureRAW takes your camera raw files and applies DxO’s raw processing, including lens corrections and noise reduction. It then saves them as 16-bit DNG files that can be used with your favourite imaging software, just like conventional raw files. The aim is to produce the most faithful reconstruction of the scene that was in front of the camera, providing the best possible image data for creative processing. The software supports a huge range of camera and lens combinations, now including Fujifilm X-series cameras that use the proprietary X-Trans sensor.
PureRAW is incredibly easy to use and delivers excellent results that demonstrably improve on Adobe’s processing. It’s not just for high-ISO files, either; almost any image will benefit. With the improved image quality it delivers from your raw files, it’s almost like getting a new camera.
Read our DxO PureRAW 2 review.
Camera Bag of the Year 2022 – Vanguard VEO Adaptor S46
Why we like it
- Sensible capacity
- Comfortable to carry
- Good kit access
- High quality construction
This high-quality backpack is perfectly sized for a day out shooting. It’ll hold a camera and four or five lenses, along with a laptop with a screen size of up to 15in. There’s a tripod holder on the front, along with elasticated pockets on either side for carrying such things as a water bottle or umbrella. Camera kit is easily accessed via zipped flaps on either side, and a separate top section provides space for personal items or accessories.
Where the Adapter S46 really shines, though, is with regards to comfort. Both the shoulder straps and the back are deeply padded and designed to facilitate airflow, which should stop you getting sweaty in hot weather. Along with a sternum strap to stabilise the load, there’s a waist belt that can be tucked away when you don’t need it.
The bag is constructed to an impressively high standard, with waterproof outer fabric, a soft liner material, and generous padding in between. A rain cover is also included to help keep everything dry. As the icing on cake, it boasts a USB pass-through feature that allows you to charge your camera or phone on-the-go from a power-bank stored inside the bag.
Read our Vanguard VEO Adaptor S46 backpack review.
Camera Support of the Year 2022 – Benro SupaDupa Pro MSDPL46C
Why we like it
- Supports large telephotos
- Excellent fit and finish
- Clever design
- Arca Swiss compatible
It may be pricey and have a cheesy name, but this is genuinely one of the best monopods we’ve ever used. Benro has looked at every aspect of how monopods are used and re-thought the ideal solution. This starts with the unusual combination of leg locks, with a single clip-lock at the top that enables quick and easy height adjustment. It’s joined by four twist-type locks which provide waterproofing while keeping the overall weight down.
The innovation continues at the top, with a bowl head of the kind more usually seen on video kit that allows the camera to be adjusted freely in any direction by up to 20°. The Arca-Swiss compatible quick release clamp also rotates, to allow smooth panning of the camera. As usual for Benro, the fit and finish is excellent, while the gun metal and matte silver finish looks smarter than the usual dull black.
Most importantly, the SupaDupa Pro provides robust support for hefty lenses. It extends to 157cm and weighs 900g, despite its 32kg load rating. If you regularly shoot with large telephoto lenses and need a mobile support, it’s a superb choice.
Read our Benro Supadupa Pro MSDPL46C review.
Filter System of the Year 2022 – Cokin NX-Series Filter Holder System
Why we like it
- Quick and easy to use
- High quality build
- Uses protective filter frames
- Remarkably little vignetting
Cokin was one of the first companies to popularise square filter systems. Now, with its new NX-Series holder, it’s gone back to first principles and come up with an innovative design that aims to minimise vignetting with wide-angle lenses.
Strikingly, the firm has done away with conventional screw threads and slots for attaching filters to the holder. Instead, they’re all held in place via a unique system of small sprung ball bearings. Both neutral density (ND) and graduated ND filters are housed in metal frames, which maximises their usable area and protects them against accidental drops. Meanwhile the matched polariser is an unusually generous 95mm in diameter, and simply snaps into place from the front of the holder with a little firm pressure. Impressively, we saw no vignetting with lenses as wide as 15mm.
Cokin is offering the holder both on its own and in a variety of kits that include selected filters from its premium Nuances Extreme range. The most expensive Professional Kit includes seven filters and a well-designed case for £690, which represents very decent value for money. For serious landscape photographers looking to invest in a high-quality 100mm filter setup, it’s a fine choice.
Read our Cokin NX-Series Professional Kit review.
Lighting Product of the Year 2022 – Rotolight NEO 3
Why we like it
- Compact, lightweight design
- Full colour output
- Continuous light and flash
- Intuitive touchscreen control
LED lighting technology has advanced dramatically over the past 10 years, and UK-based Rotolight has been at the forefront of its development. Five years ago, the NEO 2 blazed a trail by combining variable colour temperature with both continuous light and flash. Now the NEO 3 goes several steps further, with increased brightness and full-colour output via its RGBWW LEDs.
With its intuitive touchscreen control, the NEO 3 offers photographers a choice of modes. In CCT, you get variable colour temperature from 3000 to 10,000 K, while HSI gives a choice of 16.7 million colours covering pretty much the entire spectrum. In Gel mode, Rotolight has programmed in the spectral characteristics of 2,500 different filters. In any of these modes, the NEO 3 can be used either as a continuous light or flash. A variety of special effects is also available for video work.
Powered by a Sony NP-F type battery, the NEO 3 measures 145mm in diameter and weighs 354g, which means it’s small enough to be used on a camera’s hot shoe. We’d recommend getting the Ultimate kit, which includes a diffusion dome that noticeably improves the quality of the light. Overall, it’s a great option for those who shoot both stills and moving images on the move.
Read our Rotolight NEO 3 review.
Film Accessory of the Year 2022 – Intrepid Compact Enlarger
Why we like it
- Easy to use
- Compact size
With film photography continuing to remain popular, one problem facing analogue enthusiasts is how to make prints at home. Conventional enlargers tend to be expensive and bulky, especially those capable of holding medium format film as well as 35mm. By exploiting the latest LED technology, Hove-based Intrepid Camera Company has completely re-imagined how enlargers should work and come up with a remarkably compact, affordable unit.
The Intrepid Compact Enlarger is built around a compact light source that employs full-colour LED technology. Its attaches magnetically to the bellows that hold the enlarging lens and is operated from a separate control unit. This serves as both an exposure timer and focus light, and lets user switch between black & white and colour printing at the touch of a button. Without any need for filters, it offers both contrast control with multigrade B&W papers, and full colour balancing when making colour prints.
Intrepid has created a fun, easy-to-use enlarger that’s both extremely versatile and very affordable. It has the potential to open up home darkroom printing to a whole new generation of photographers, and especially those who can’t accommodate a permanent darkroom setup.
Read our Intrepid Compact Enlarger review.
Mobile Accessory of the Year 2022 – Fujifilm Instax Link WIDE
Why we like it
- Makes beautiful prints
- Portable design
- Intuitive app
- Bluetooth connection
We’ve long admired Fujifilm’s Instax film printers, which produce instant prints from images stored on your smartphone, so were especially pleased when this wide-format model finally appeared. It produces prints that measure approximately 6x10cm, which is more than double the size of Instax Mini, and 60% larger than Instax Square. It’s portable, too, being powered by an integrated Li-ion battery that promises 100 prints per charge, equating to 10 packs of film. It recharges via a Micro USB port.
Operation is via the eponymous app for Android and iOS, with the printer linking to your phone via a robust and easy-to-use Bluetooth connection. After initial pairing, all you have to do is switch on the printer, start up the app, and send off a picture. A print will pop out a few seconds later and then take a couple of minutes to develop fully. The app also includes editable templates for more complex creations, and lets you build collages with a wide choice of layouts.
We think the Instax Link WIDE is the best portable printer you can currently buy. It’s easy to use and produces lovely-looking prints with bright, strong colours. But now, they’re bigger and better than ever.
Read our Fujifilm Instax Link Wide review.
Video Accessory of the Year 2022 – RØDE Wireless Go II
Why we like it
- Dual-channel recording
- Quick and easy connection
- Good working range
- Back-up recording
RØDE’s original Wireless Go established a new template for wireless microphone kits, with its extremely compact, rechargeable transmitter and receiver units. The updated Wireless Go 2 improves on it in almost every conceivable way, most obviously with its support for dual, rather than just single-channel recording. Kits are available with either one or two transmitter units.
Another significant upgrade is the addition of onboard recording to the transmitter units, with each capable of storing 7 hours of top-quality audio, or 43 hours compressed. The transmitter can output audio in a choice of Split mode, where the sound from each mic is recorded separately, or Merged, where it’s blended together. Further advanced features are controlled using the free RØDE Central app for Windows and Apple computers.
The transmitters offer an impressive 200m range, given a clear line of sight to the receiver, and boast up to 7 hours battery life. Even the microphone windshields have been improved, with a secure bayonet fitting.
To produce video successfully, getting the sound right is crucial, and the RØDE Wireless Go II makes this easier than ever. This makes it one of the most attractive microphones around for recording interviews, vlogging audio or ambient sounds.
Read our Rode Wireless Go II review.
Discover more AP Awards winners from 2022…
The Software and Accessories categories are just part of the prestigious Amateur Photographer Awards 2022.
We also give out AP Awards 2022 – The Best Cameras, Smartphone and Drone, which includes the top overall award of Product of the Year.
As well as that you can also discover the AP Awards 2022 – The Best Lenses of 2022.
Tell us what you think about the winners on social media, using the hashtag #APAwards2022
There are also Good Service Awards (to celebrate the quality service given to photographers by imaging dealers across the UK).
And that’s not all – as well as celebrating fantastic products and great service AP also gives out a number of the special awards to photographers and those in the photographic industry who have made a huge impact during their careers.
Watch out for news of those award winners too…