It’s that time of year again, as the AP Awards 2024 are announced! As a weekly magazine Amateur Photographer tests more cameras, lenses, software, and accessories than any other UK publication and our tests are widely respected around the world for their independence, quality and depth. The title of best camera phone is hotly contested, with the big brands competing to outdo each other’s features, lenses, and resolution. Representing the best of the best, read on to see the Best Lenses of the Year from the AP Awards.

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.

Prime Lens of the Year: Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG DN | Art

Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG DN Art review
Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG DN Art review. Image credit: Andy Westlake

l £849 l

Why we like it

  • Impressive optic
  • Quiet autofocus
  • Built-in aperture ring
  • Weather resistant build

Sigma’s original Art-line 50mm f/1.4 for full-frame DSLRs redefined our expectations of large-aperture primes, and rapidly became considered a modern classic. Now we have an all-new DN version that’s specifically designed for mirrorless cameras. Alongside completely revamped optics, it gains additional controls, including an aperture ring and an AFL button. Physically it’s lighter but a little longer, and it now boasts weather sealed construction. It’s available in Sony E and L mounts.

With its 50mm focal length, this is a general-purpose optic that’s suited to a wide range of subjects. Its f/1.4 maximum aperture makes it particularly well suited for shooting in low light, or in situations when you wish to isolate your subject against a blurred background. Sigma’s High Response Linear Actuator delivers quiet and accurate autofocus.

Optically the DN model maintains the excellence that we’ve come to expect from the firm’s Art line-up. In fact, it’s impressively sharp all the way across the frame with the aperture wide open. Overall, it’s a very fine lens with a compelling blend of features. For many users, it’s likely to represent a sweet spot of optical quality, usability, and price.

Read our full review of the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG DN | Art lens here.

AP Awards 2024 Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG DN ART logo

Telephoto Prime Lens of the Year: Nikon Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 S

Nikon Nikkor 85mm f1.2 lens
Nikon Nikkor 85mm f1.2 lens. Photo by Amy Davies

l £2999 l

Why we like it

  • Exceptionally sharp
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Quick and quiet autofocus
  • Professional build quality

This beast of a lens is part of Nikon’s S series of optics, which are designed to deliver the absolute finest in terms image quality. While its 85mm focal length makes it perfect for portrait photographers, those who shoot weddings, events and fashion are also likely to be tempted. The extra-large aperture delivers beautifully blurred out-of-focus areas, with Nikon saying special attention was given to the rendering of bokeh during the lens’s development. Unsurprisingly you do have to put up with some serious bulk in return: it measures a shade over 14cm long and weighs 1160g.  

Autofocus is very quick and quiet, working extremely well with eye detection for both human and animals. This is essential, given the extremely shallow depth-of-field available. Image quality is simply exceptional, with stunning resolution of fine detail complemented by gorgeous background blur. Sharpness is excellent throughout the aperture range, while shooting at f/1.2 produces beautiful results with deliciously smooth out-of-focus areas. 

If you’re somebody who shoots a lot of portraits, lens is capable of delivering truly stunning imagery. It’s an exceptional and hugely desirable optic.

Read our full review of the Nikon Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 S here.

AP Awards 2-24: telephoto prime lens of the year: Nikon Nikkor Z 85mm F/1.2S logo

Macro Lens of the Year: OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO

Micro Four Thirds lens: OM System M.Zuiko ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO mounted on OM-1 front view Lens Review
OM System M.Zuiko ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

l £1299 l

Why we like it

  • Offers 2x magnification
  • Compatible with teleconverters
  • Useful manual-focus clutch
  • Robust construction

OM System has made a remarkable macro lens that offers an 180mm equivalent focal length in a comparatively lightweight package, while boasting up to twice life-size magnification. That’s complemented by 7 stops of Dual Image Stabilisation, afforded by combining the lens’s optical stabilisation with the in-body stabilisation of Olympus and OM System cameras. This makes it ideal for hand-held macro photography outdoors, without necessarily even any need for a tripod.

While this lens is ideal for close-up work, it could also be useful for other subjects such as portraits, wildlife, or picking out details in landscapes and architectural scenes. It boasts weather-resistant construction to IP53 standard, and there’s handy focus clutch for quickly switching between auto and manual modes. A focus limiter switch on the side of the barrel includes an S-Macro position for 2x magnification, which equates to an image area of just 8.7 x 6.5mm.   

Examining images closely reveals an extremely impressive level of sharpness that’s maintained right across the frame, while out-of-focus areas are rendered beautifully. It’s a superb lens for what it does, and those who enjoy macro shooting will find that there’s an enormous amount to love.

Read how the OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO lens performs in the field, here.

AP Awards 2024: Macro lens of the year: OM System M.Zuiko ED 90mm F3/5 Macro IS PRO logo

Wideangle Zoom Lens of the Year: Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II in use
Sony’s FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II is an excellent addition to its line-up. Credit: Andy Westlake

l £2400 l

Why we like it

  • Stunning optical quality
  • Relatively small and light
  • Excellent operability
  • Fast and silent focusing

This high-end optic completes Sony’s second-generation trinity of pro-spec G Master zooms. With its wideangle view, it should be attractive to photographers shooting subjects such as architecture, landscapes, and interiors. Compared to its predecessor, it brings improved optics and superior operability, all in a smaller, lighter package.

One welcome new feature is an aperture ring that’s marked in 1/3 stop intervals down to f/22. This can be set to either clicked or clickless operation via a switch in the underside of the barrel. Alternatively, the aperture can be controlled using a dial on the camera body if you prefer. There are two customisable AF-stop buttons on the barrel, which benefits from dust and splash-resistant construction.

Autofocus is silent and practically instantaneous, even when shifting between very different distances. It keeps track of moving subjects impressively well, too. Optically, the lens produces the kind of excellent results we’ve come to expect from Sony’s GM range, delivering wonderfully clean, detailed images at all apertures and focal lengths. This impressive performance is maintained at close shooting distances, too, with attractive background blur. In fact, there’s barely anything not to like about this lens.

Read our full review of the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens here.

AP Awards 2024: Wideangle zoom lens of the year: Sony FE 16-35 mm F2.8 GM II logo

Standard Zoom Lens of the Year: Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G

Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G
Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G. Image credit: Andy Westlake

l £1300 l

Why we like it

  • Unusual and useful zoom range
  • Handy close focus capability
  • Quiet, quick autofocus
  • Relatively compact design

Sony has delivered a twist on the familiar formula for standard zooms, by extending the range to an unusually wide angle of view. Its FE 20-70mm F4 G offers a unique, and very useful focal length range in a relatively compact design. An impressive 25cm minimum focus distance adds further to its versatility. 

The lens balances and handles well, and all the controls operate just as they should. As with most of Sony’s recent designs, there’s an aperture ring that clicks in one-third stop steps from f/4 to f/22, and which can be switched to clickless mode for video shooting. Dust and moisture resistant construction provides reassurance when shooting in less-than-perfect conditions, while the autofocus is every bit as rapid and decisive as we’ve come to expect.

Optically, the lens performs very well, resolving so much detail wide open that there’s little need to stop down the aperture to increase sharpness – just to control depth-of-field. The ability to shoot near-macro images with this kind of standard zoom is extremely welcome, adding substantially to its all-round appeal. It’s a fine optic that could easily become a favourite of landscape shooters who’d prefer to carry minimal kit.

Read our full review of the Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G lens here.

AP Awards 2024: Standard zoom lens of the year: Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G logo

Telephoto Zoom Lens of the Year: Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS with hood
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS with hood attached. Credit: Damien Demolder

l £1500 l

Why we like it

  • Great image quality
  • Lovely handling
  • Relatively low price

With this superb telephoto zoom, Sigma is providing an f/2.8 aperture for less money than other brands expect for an f/4 lens. Yet there’s little, if any, compromise in terms of build quality, operability, or optics. It’s the firm’s first designed-for-mirrorless 70-200mm lens and comes with a completely new design, not just optically but also operationally. It’s available in Sony E and L-mount versions.

One notable feature is the aperture control ring, with third-stop values and an A position clearly marked. It can either be used with regular click-stops, or de-clicked so it doesn’t disturb your audio while recording video. It can also be locked to prevent accidental switching between its A and manual positions. Two HLA (High-response Linear Actuator) motors drive a pair of focusing groups. This helps focus the lens as quickly as possible, reduce focus breathing, and maintain focus while the zoom is being operated. Meanwhile the company’s new OS2 algorithm provides up to 7.5 stops of anti-shake compensation. 

Our image quality tests revealed the lens to be an exceptional performer with no obvious flaws. Even wide open, there’s plenty of detail uninhibited by colour fringing. It’s difficult to know what else we could ask for.

Read our full review of the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports lens here.

AP Awards 2024:Telephoto zoom lens of the year: Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sport logo

Make sure you have a look at the other AP Award winners!

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