dpreview to Close After 25 Years

When I first met Phil Askey—dpreview’s founder—a quarter century ago I wasn’t sure about what would eventually happen. At the time, I had already been helping Nikon users on the Internet (via a Nikon Newsgroup) for five years, and Phil seemed a little brash and naive, which is not usually a good combination.

But it worked for dpreview, partly because the timing was right. You’ve probably all seen one or more forms of the previous graph (I believe it was a Mayflower presentation at CP+ that first showed this version of CIPA unit volume data). Dpreview started just before the blue happened (compact digital), and was in full force by the time the green (DSLR) and red (mirrorless) appeared. For dpreview it was a bit like catching a wave as a surfer: it didn’t take a lot of paddling to get enough momentum to have a wild ride. 

Phil and I got into a lot of fights over the first few years before he sold the site to Amazon. You’ll note that my profile doesn’t start until 2001, a few years into the site’s history. That’s because Phil and I fought heatedly over signatures on posts. His stance was the usual Internet should be free nonsense, that anybody should be able to pose as anyone (handle: imadogontheinternet). My stance was one that I’ve had since the very first days of the Internet: if you know who you’re dealing with (and better still, can see a history of what they’ve written, including on other sites), you can create an informed opinion as to who might be presenting information as accurate, useful, and valid. That fight ended up with a compromise (the current dpreview signature can be hidden by readers, and isn’t required). 

That wasn’t the only fight I got into with dpreview during its history. I stopped posting on the site in early 2010 when the staff removed a series of posts I had made over a few months that each corrected something that the staff had written that was factually wrong. It wasn’t that my correction was incorrect; apparently the editors thought that to be corrected publicly made them look bad, and they owned the football, so they make the rules (they did not correct their information themselves). From that point I saw no value in me spending time to post accurate information if it might be later removed to make someone else look good. I’m not an energy waster.

Still, despite all the hiccups along the way, dpreview was a very central site that provided both deep and broad useful information about digital cameras, and it’s sad to see it go. For a number of years it provided in-depth and insightful reviews on pretty much every camera (not so much recently, the latest X-H2 review being an example of the way these eroded to more “mailed in” status). dpreview also is a historical record of digital cameras, as well, both through the news section and the timelines. 

Initially, Amazon’s purchase of the site in 2007 was good news. A lot of the smaller issues got addressed, and some of Phil’s odd choices and decisions were smoothed over. Over time, the database underlying the site got more robust, and at least until recently, faster at serving up data. 

dpreview was also a place I met a lot of what I call my Internet friends (Hi Iliah!, et.al.). Behind the scenes, many of us emailed and messaged one another with information we learned or questions we had that were beyond what the site really supported well. To say that dpreview was the central hub of most things digital camera in the world is not an exaggeration. 

I actually expected dpreview to be part of Amazon’s first round of cuts, not the third, but the shutdown was not unexpected, just sad.

We’ve had pillars of the digital camera information web disappear from deaths, job changes, lack of funding, technical challenges, and far more, and we’ll see other sites disappear in the future. The problem with dpreview’s demise is that a big searchable database of useful information is going to go away, too. Databases are notoriously difficult to keep archives of, so once dpreview disappears, it may really disappear. Apparently Amazon doesn’t have enough spare AWS storage sitting around to let it stick around permanently. 

Instead, it looks like our future may be just chatting with AI engines who’ll just draw our photos for us instead of us needing a camera, not other like-minded photographers who want to engage in (lively) debate about which camera can do what. Again, sad.

Bonus: True story, I swear. At one point during dpreview’s history I attempted to measure it’s signal-to-noise ratio (dynamic range!). I’m an analytical kind of guy, so numbers and analysis don’t scare me. The problem I quickly found was that dpreview had a high ceiling—no real saturation point—but the noise floor had an enormous standard deviation. Sometimes (or in some fora) the noise floor was low, while at other times there was so much noise you couldn’t see the signal. Any significant new camera introduction increased the noise level in multiple fora. Canon users would create noise in the Nikon forums, while Nikon users would create noise in the Canon forums.  

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