As a weekly magazine AP tests more cameras than any other UK publication 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 cameras 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 product to help you choose which one is right for you, and which really are the finest in their class. In addition to our own favourite products we have also re-introduced the AP Readers’ Choice Award for the product that most resonates with you, the camera-buying public.

Compact camera of the year: Fujifilm X100V

Why we like it
● Classic, stylish design
● Excellent image quality
● Useful tilting screen
● Improved lens design
● Robust, weather-sealed buildWhile only a few fixed-lens compacts were released in the past year, we were lucky enough to see some absolute classics. Indeed, it would be remiss of us not to give an honourable mention to Leica’s Q2 Monochrom, which delivers truly phenomenal black & white images while channelling the spirit of the firm’s M-series rangefinders.

But ultimately, it was just pipped to our award by Fujifilm’s fifth-generation APS-C compact. Few cameras garner the same level of affection and loyalty from their users as the X100 line. With each update, Fujifilm has had to consider carefully how to improve a modern classic without losing its spirit.

The X100V is arguably its most ambitious upgrade yet, gaining a new, improved lens and tilting rear screen while somehow maintaining the same slim profile. Outwardly the new model looks much the same as before, being reminiscent of old 35mm rangefinder cameras. It sports an array of traditional analogue control dials for changing exposure settings and maintains the unique hybrid viewfinder that gives a choice of optical or electronic viewing. It’s a uniquely engaging camera that delivers absolutely superb results.

Highly commended
■ Leica Q2 Monochrom
■ Sony ZV-1

Consumer camera of the year: Fujifilm X-S10

Why we like it
● Compact, SLR-like design
● Easy-to-use controls
● In-body image stabilisation
● Lovely Fujifilm colour output
● Fully articulated screen

With camera makers mostly concentrating their efforts on the lucrative full-frame mirrorless sector, new models with a sub-£1,000 price tag are becoming increasing scarce. However, Fujifilm came up with a beauty in the shape of the X-S10. Looking for all the world like a shrunken version of a conventional DSLR, it eschews the firm’s usual retro aesthetic and analogue dials to deliver the perfect mirrorless upgrade for those who are currently using APS-C DSLRs.

Internally, the X-S10 has the same proven 26.2MP sensor and X-Processor 4 as the flagship X-T4, which delivers excellent performance and image quality. It also includes 5-axis in-body image stabilisation to keep pictures sharp, along with a fully articulated touchscreen for shooting at creative angles.

Its large handgrip makes it really comfortable to hold, while twin electronic control dials combine with a focus-area joystick to provide an excellent shooting experience. Typically for Fujifilm, the X-S10 delivers lovely results straight out of the camera thanks to the firm’s peerless Film Simulation colour modes. It’s also compatible with the most complete range of lenses available for the APS-C format. As a result, it’s the best sub-£1,000 camera you can buy.

Highly commended
■ Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
■ Panasonic Lumix G100

Enthusiast camera of the year: Fujifilm X-T4

Why we like it
● Lovely retro design
● Superb all-round performance
● Rapid continuous shooting
● Excellent face-detection AF
● Strong battery life

It was a particularly close call in our enthusiast category this year, with three worthy contenders offering their own takes on how to make the most of their different sensor sizes. Nikon’s Z 5 is one of the best- value full-frame mirrorless models available, whereas Olympus’s OM-D E-M1 Mark III is a rapid-shooting technological marvel that’s crammed full of useful features.

Ultimately though, though Fujifilm won out again with its updated APS-C flagship. Its predecessor the X-T3 was already one of the best cameras around, but Fujifilm has managed to add in in-body image stabilisation and a fully articulated screen without a significant increase in size. The X-T4 also employs much the same array of top-plate dials and switches, that provide intuitive at-a-glance control over the camera’s main settings.

Its magnesium-alloy body is fully weather-sealed and rated for temperatures as low as -10 °C. With superb image quality including fantastic JPEG colours, rapid continuous shooting, and fast, reliable autofocus incorporating excellent face detection, the X-T4 is an incredibly accomplished all-rounder that’s capable of tackling practically any subject.

It’s a great choice for keen enthusiasts who’d like to build a smaller, lighter system, and probably the finest APS-C camera ever made.

Highly commended
■ Nikon Z 5
■ Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

Premium Camera of the Year: The Canon EOS R6

Why we like it
● Superb design and handling
● Supreme all-round capability
● Rapid continuous shooting
● Remarkable subject-tracking AF
● Works well with EF lenses

Canon has come in for a lot of criticism over the past decade, seemingly unwilling or unable to build mirrorless cameras capable of taking on the competition and appealing to the needs of serious photographers. It’s never appeared to be seriously committed to its APS-C EOS M system, and its initial efforts at full frame were equally lacklustre.

However with its latest releases, the firm has well and truly rediscovered its mojo, with the EOS R6 carrying off our Premium Camera of the Year award against stiff competition. Indeed for all the hype around the 45MP , 8K video-capable EOS R5, we think that its lower-resolution sibling is the more attractive and practical camera for the vast majority of photographers.

For a start, at £2,499 the EOS R6 is considerably less unaffordable, although obviously still very pricey. But what you get for your money is a ridiculously talented all-rounder that handles brilliantly and delivers absolutely superb images.

A glance at the spec sheet tells the story. Its 20MP sensor – borrowed from the flagship EOS-1D X Mark III – offers a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-102,400 that’s expandable to ISO 50-204,800. You also get continuous shooting at 12fps, or 20fps with the electronic shutter, and 4K video recording at 60fps. Thanks to Canon’s home-grown Dual Pixel CMOS sensor technology, phase detection autofocus is available across the entire frame, with a staggering 6,072 selectable points.

It also boasts Canon’s truly remarkable subject detection AF, that’s capable of recognising and tracking the eyes of both humans and animals with mesmerising accuracy. The EOS R6 also melds together Canon’s tried-and-trusted DSLR control layout with the best new interface ideas from the original EOS R.

It’s covered in physical controls, including three electronic dials and a focus-area joystick. In addition, it boasts a 3.69m-dot viewfinder and a 3in, 1.6m-dot fully articulated touchscreen, along with 5-axis in-body image stabilisation and dual high-speed UHS-II SD card slots for peace of mind.

As the icing on the cake, the camera also works really well with EF-mount lenses via Canon’s Mount Adapter EF-EOS, making it a tempting option for existing DSLR users who’d like to upgrade to mirrorless.

Highly commended
■ Nikon D780
■ Panasonic Lumix S5

Professional Camera of the Year: Canon EOS R5

Why we like it
● Superb design and handling
● High resolution and blistering speed
● Unprecedented video specification
● Stunning viewfinder
● Effective in-body stabilisation

At the top end of the market, one camera grabbed all the headlines this year. While the EOS R5’s biggest claim to fame is its ability to record 8K video internally, it gains our award by virtue of being an astonishingly capable stills camera. Just a glance at the headline specifications tells the story.

The EOS R5 employs a 45MP full-frame sensor that provides a sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,200, with phase detection autofocus across the entire image area providing 5,940 selectable focus points. It can shoot in full resolution at 12fps using its mechanical shutter, or a blistering 20fps with its silent electronic shutter.

Built-in 5-axis image stabilisation claims up to 8 stops of effectiveness with selected RF lenses. There really is nothing else quite like it. In terms of design, you get everything you’d expect from a professional Canon flagship, with excellent handling and a comprehensive complement of physical controls that are joined by a responsive touchscreen interface.

The superb 5.76m-dot electronic viewfinder is joined by a fully articulated screen that’s handy for shooting at high or low angles. Quite simply, it’s a sensational camera.

Highly commended
■ Nikon Z 7II
■ Sony Alpha 7S III

Still/Video Hybrid Camera of the Year: Sony Alpha 7S III

Why we like it
● Comprehensive video features
● Excellent handling
● Huge, high-resolution viewfinder
● Fully articulated screen
● Improved touch interface
● DSLR and mirrorless mounts

While for many enthusiast photographers, movie capability is relatively low on the list of priorities when buying a camera, there’s a sizeable market of content creators working with both stills and video for whom it’s equally important. Indeed for some it can be the most important consideration of all, and for these serious film makers, Sony’s Alpha 7S III is probably the best option on the market.

While Canon’s EOS R5 offers headline-grabbing 8K recording, Sony has chosen to produce a fully featured 4K workhorse instead. The A7S III can record in 4K at 60fps using the full width of its sensor and keep on going until you run out of battery power or memory card space. It suffers less from overheating problems than its competitors, too.

Stills shooters have to live with just 12MP resolution, but this does come with remarkable high-ISO capabilities. Sony has also made significant design updates, including a truly stunning new 9.44m-dot electronic viewfinder with a huge 0.9x magnification, a fully articulated screen, a vastly improved touch interface and a revamped, more logical menu system. It’s a brilliant design and Sony’s best-handling camera to date.

Highly commended
■ Canon EOS R5
■ Panasonic Lumix S5

Specialist camera of the year: Leica M10 Monochrom

Why we like it
● Sensational black & white image quality
● Exceptional high-ISO performance
● Classic design and exceptional build
● Elegant, pared-back interface
● Large, clear viewfinder

This isn’t an award that we usually give out. But that’s because in most years, we don’t see such a stunning one-of-a-kind camera as the Leica M10 Monochrom. This beautifully designed rangefinder camera that only shoots in black & white has lingered in our affections long after we had to return our review sample reluctantly to its makers.

Leica’s rangefinder cameras are very much an acquired taste. In many respects, they’re as far removed as it’s possible to get from today’s full-frame mirrorless marvels, with their startling speeds and near-magical autofocus. Instead, they demand significant input from the photographer, with manual focus and aperture setting at the very least.

But this also makes for an incredibly immersive shooting experience. The Monochrom goes a step further by forcing you to shoot black & white images, but then rewarding you with absolutely sensational results, including stunning detail and the ability to shoot at sensitivities as high as ISO 50,000 with good results. Of course, at £7,000 without a lens, the M10 Monochrom caters to an extremely small audience. But for its particular niche, it’s pretty much perfect.

Readers’ Choice Camera of the Year: Nikon Z 7II

Key features
● 45.7MP full-frame sensor
● ISO 32-102,400 (expanded)
● 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
● 10fps continuous shooting
● Dual card slots

Nikon has a famously loyal user base, so it’s no surprise to see the firm doing so well in our readers’ vote. Clearly users have been especially enamoured with the Z 7II, which takes the already excellent high-resolution Z7 and adds in a carefully judged selection of updates.

These include faster continuous shooting; a second card slot that allows images to be recorded to UHS-II SD media as well as CFexpress / XQD; compatibility with a proper vertical grip; and improved autofocus, especially during video recording. In other respects, the Z 7II maintains all the best features of its predecessor, including a rugged, compact body with excellent handling and a familiar control layout that should make DSLR users feel instantly at home.

It offers stunning image quality thanks to its 45.7MP full-frame sensor and effective in-body image stabilisation, while the superb electronic viewfinder gives an accurate preview of how your shots will turn out before you press the shutter button. We were impressed by how Nikon took one of our favourite cameras and improved it without losing the essence of the original, and it’s clear you were too.

What you said about the Nikon Z 7II
‘Awesome piece of kit, a master of both stills and video’
‘Fabulous spec and picture quality in lighter body’
‘Familiar control set-up, and I love Nikon’s colour rendition’
‘Feels good in your hand. Great menus. Incredible glass’
‘The best modern technology in a robust body. Love that I can still use my older lenses’

Highly commended
■ Canon EOS R5
■ Nikon D780
■ Nikon Z 6II

And the overall Product of the Year is….  the Canon EOS R6

‘Ultimately, the EOS R6 is one of the best cameras we’ve ever tested,’ says Ap Technical Editor Andy Westlake, ‘and is without doubt a worthy winner of the Amateur Photographer Product of the Year 2021.’

Canon EOS R6

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