Better Photography Excellence Awards 2011
The BP Excellence Awards are a stamp of quality, and our way of celebrating the products that have earned the highest rating on our test bench, in the past one year.
Every month, the Better Photography office receives several cameras and lenses for testing. Some of these cameras are so much fun, that we feel quite disappointed once the testing process is over. Others promise, but then disappoint. This makes it interesting to see what equipment stands out after twelve months of rigourous testing. The BP Excellence Awards is an annual showcase that aims to recognise the best products tested by us in the last one year.
For eight of our ten awards, we recognise the gear that has scored the highest rating. For the Camera of the Year and Innovative Product of the Year awards, we weigh the pros and cons of each gadget, and then decide the best. Usually, one would think that the camera that dominates our memories would be a high-end DSLR. Interestingly, 2011 sees a marked change as a compact camera races to the prestigious title of the best camera tested by the BP team in the past one year.
This year we added to two new categories for Mirrorless Camera of the Year and Software of the Year. Olympus surpassed the competition to bag four out of the ten awards including Camera of the Year for the Olympus XZ-1 and Professional DSLR of the Year for the Olympus E-5. For the X10, Fujifilm was awarded the Advanced Compact Camera of the Year while the X100 won the title of Innovative Product of the Year for the retro style, a high quality Hybrid Viewfinder and an exceptional new-age sensor.
And The Award Goes to…
Camera of the Year
The XZ-1 boasts of many firsts. It has the world’s fastest lens in a compact camera, which is as fast as f/2.5 at the telephoto end (as compared to its competitor, the S95, which is as slow as f/4.9 when zoomed in). It is also the first time that the company has used a Zuiko lens in a compact camera, which makes a huge difference in terms of image quality. Would you rather buy this or a mirrorless camera that costs slightly more? Despite a smaller sensor, the XZ-1 holds it own. Combined with good ergonomics, RAW capabilities and a hot shoe, the Olympus XZ-1 is arguably the most complete compact camera in the market. Here is our review of the Olympus XZ-1
Basic Compact Camera of the Year
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V
The HX7V is all that a basic compact camera should be—pocketable, with a good amount of zoom (10x) and a feature list that does not seem to stop. With its innovative Sweep Panorama mode and GPS functionality, it is ideal for travellers. The quality of still images and video is the best you would get in a compact camera of its nature. Here is our review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V
Advanced Compact Camera of the Year
While the superb Olympus XZ-1 was a major contender, the Fujifilm X10 whisked past it by a small margin. The X 10 has the best dynamic range you would get in any compact camera. The manual zoom, dedicated exposure compensation dial and excellent retro-styled ergonomics enhance the overall shooting experience. The high ISO and low light performance rivals the best advanced compact cameras. We do not appreciate the extravagant pricing in India, considering that the XZ-1 is almost half its price. Here is our review of the Fujifilm X10
Consumer Lens of the Year
Nikkor AF-S 28–300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Rarely have we used a superzoom lens that we enjoyed so much. This Nikkor 28–300mm lens turns optical wisdom on its head, and offers superb image quality, despite the large zoom range, something that no lens has been able to achieve so far. If you wish to buy a do-it-all lens for a Nikon FX camera, this is it. Here is our review of the Nikkor AF-S 28–300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Professional Lens of the Year
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2
The Olympus 12mm f/2 plugged a crucial missing link in the Micro Four Thirds lineup—a fast prime lens that is targeted at the professional street photographer. Not only is the lens optically brilliant, it also focuses really quickly on the new-generation PEN cameras. Moreover, it boasts of being the first lens for the PEN that can switched to manual focus instantly. This is great for those who wish to use the concept of hyperfocal distance and take advantage of the large depth-of-field offered by a 12mm lens. Here is our review of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2
Entry-level DSLR of the Year
Canon EOS 1100D
The 1100D takes inspiration from the ever-popular 1000D and improves it by packing in an efficient new sensor. It can be said that the Nikon D5100 was unlucky to miss out on this title. But then, not only is the Canon EOS 1100D a competent upgrade for a compact camera user, it also offers excellent value for money. As of today, you can buy a dual lens, optically stabilised kit for just over Rs. 35,000. Here is our review of the Canon EOS 1100D
Professional DSLR of the Year
Due to the tsunami in Japan and floods in Thailand, 2011 was a lacklustre year, in terms of pro releases. We tested only two professional DSLRs, and the usual suspects, Canon and Nikon, were not a part of this list. That said, for someone who wishes to make best use of the company’s superb Zuiko lenses, the E-5 is the best ‘traditional’ DSLR available. Of course, whether the Four Thirds system has any future after the popularity of the PENs, is debatable. Here is our review of the Olympus E-5
Mirrorless Camera of the Year
Olympus PEN E-P3
When the E-P1 and E-P2 were released, you either loved the cameras or hated them. The fans would rave about the size advantage, while others would disapprovingly talk about the subpar autofocus. The E-P3 silences all the critics. It is astonishingly fast and even matches up well to DSLR s, in terms of AF speed, responsiveness and buffer performance. It is, quite easily, the best mirrorless camera today. Here is our review of the Olympus PEN E-P3
Innovative Product of the Year
Fujifilm FinePix X100
Sigma and Leica may have experimented with theconcept of a fixed-lens large-sensor camera, butthe X100 is the first product that almost gets itright. In essence, the camera is ideal for a travel,people or street photographer. The retro feel andhigh quality Hybrid Viewfinder work well alongwith the new-age sensor that produces excellentdynamic range and noise-free images. The camera’sfirmware, though, is disappointingly buggy, and ithas several limitations that you need to accept. Here is our review of the Fujifilm FinePix X100
Software of the Year
Adobe Photoshop Elements 10
As a software, Elements’ upgrades have always been modest, with new versions only offering a few new features over previous ones. But then, for someone who is wanting to buy his first photo editing software that is not too difficult and gets the job done well, but still has advanced options, Photoshop Elements 10 is the best software available at this point. Here is our review of the Adobe Photoshop Elements 10