It’s been widely reported that DPReview is closing down on April 10th. This is huge news! Not only is DPReview one of the oldest photography websites—first launched in 1998 when digital photography was a small niche—but it is one of the most popular. Its closure was a shock to me, and it probably was for you, too.
I’m not afraid to admit that I didn’t know DPReview was owned by Amazon. I was still shooting film when that purchased happened (and I think the only thing I had ever ordered from Amazon by that time was used school books), so it’s understandable that I didn’t notice. I suppose it makes sense that Amazon would want to own a camera tech website at the peak of digital camera sales. I’m sure that DPReview drove a lot of sales for them, and helped Amazon become one of the largest—if not the largest—camera seller in the world. Now that Amazon has a clear hold on that market—which has been a shrinking market over the last decade—DPReview has run its course and is no longer worthwhile to its giant parent company. After all, the many websites with affiliate links back to Amazon—which includes Fuji X Weekly—probably drive more sales nowadays than DPReview does.
DPReview had its time and place, but I think its demise was inevitable. I suppose that could be said for every website—including mine—but why I say that about DPReview specifically is this: digital camera tech has gotten to a point where it’s all pretty excellent and everything is more than good enough for most people, and forums are outdated. That’s DPReview’s bread-and-butter.
The bread is pointing out the small differences in digital camera tech that at one time actually mattered, but now matters a whole lot less. If you cannot do amazing things with your gear, it’s not the gear’s fault! At one point it might have been, and that’s where DPReview came in handy. Nowadays your gear can do more than you can, so it’s more important to learn how to achieve what you want with it than to spend your energies studying the extraordinarily tiny differences in dynamic range or high-ISO performance or autofocus speed or lens sharpness. In other words, the attention to fine detail that made DPReview relevant is also what made it eventually irrelevant—or at least less relevant—as the fine details themselves mattered a lot less.
The butter is the forums. This was a popular digital hangout for photographers for a long time. But, forums just aren’t cool anymore (and haven’t been for awhile). The problem is that trolls and jerks ruin it for everyone else. There’s someone genuinely trying to learn something and gain some insight, and there’s someone with pure gold to offer, but there’s someone else who belittles the person for asking, and another who argues why the pure gold is garbage. While a lot of good happened in those forums, there was also a heck-of-a-lot of toxicity. One bad apple spoils a whole bunch, but unfortunately the forums had a lot of bad apples. I just hope those trolls don’t find their way here, because their behavior is not welcome and will not be tolerated. DPReview shouldn’t have tolerated it, either, but they surely seemed to do so, which made their butter taste bitter for many good-hearted people.
There’s a lesson here that I think might get overlooked but shouldn’t. Technical reviews of camera gear are less important now than they were 25, 20, 15, 10, and even just five years ago. All of the gear is plenty good enough nowadays. What people want to know is how to use what they own. How to get the most out of it. How to achieve what they want to achieve, either the simplest way or the “best” way. That’s what most people are looking for. Fuji X Weekly is successful because I help people achieve the look they want the simplest way (and what I would argue is also the best way, but I understand that’s certainly debatable). DPReview didn’t do enough, in my opinion, to help people in the way that they increasingly needed it. The opportunity was there—they had the audience—they just failed to recognize it and seize it, or perhaps because it wasn’t in the interest of the owner to do so. Now DPReview is dead.
I think it’s easy to say that DPReview’s closure is a result of the economic times—and there’s certainly an aspect of that to the situation; however, I believe that its failure is pointing out an opportunity for whoever will listen. It’s not to fill the void. Certainly some are already eagerly trying to do that—attempting to capitalize on the failure by attracting their audience. No, that’s not where the opportunity truly is. What DPReview’s failure is showing you is that if you can help people in the way that they desire to be helped, there’s an opportunity for success—even in a struggling economy with a shrinking market. Figure out what help people need, and provide them with the easiest and/or best solution. If you do that, you’ll find success. Maybe I should write a book about this?
The best part of DPReview was their YouTube channel. Chris and Jordan will be moving over to PetaPixel’s YouTube channel (which I didn’t know was a thing), and certainly that will quickly become the best part of PetaPixel. I wish them much luck!