This week on DPReview, I noticed a post on the homepage that I never expected to see. In a short message with little explanation, staff announced that the site would, within weeks, be put in read-only mode. Soon after, it would be erased from the internet all together.
I felt disbelief. DPReview is the best digital camera reference on the internet, full stop.
Rationally, the decision and the timing both make sense. DPReview’s owner Amazon, like other large technology companies, is reckoning with macroeconomic conditions. DPReview was likely a single little red entry in a gigantic balance sheet. Shutting it down is an understandable step towards financial stability.
Regardless, the internet photography community are in shock. Not merely at the decision, but at the finality of it. There were no clues that this was coming.
One may point out, as Om Malik did, that the photography industry is not healthy.
I disagree. Photography isn’t going anywhere. The industry has matured. Pundits blame the smartphone for killing the camera. The reality is that most people never wanted a camera. To them, it was a means to an end. They wanted a way to capture memories and share them with friends and family. Smart phones do it better. Hence, people stopped carrying cameras around.
To those of us that are lamenting the impending death of DPReview, the camera is the destination. We still buy and carry dedicated cameras because they provide something the smartphone cannot. To us, the camera is the tactile connection to creativity.
We are enthusiasts. I would bet that the majority of cameras are sold either to enthusiasts or professionals. The story is similar to vinyl records, watches, and many other technologies. They each had a rise, and then a fall after a superior technology appeared. However, enthusiasts stay and keep sharing. Vinyl, for one, is growing again as people embrace its unique qualities.
DPReview’s camera database has helped me discover and learn my way through different cameras and systems. It, more than any other person or resource on earth, has made me the photographer I am. It’s also one of the few internet-native publications that I have regularly read for decades. Other sites have ebbed and flowed as staff turned over, owners changed, and they struggled with finances. DPReview has held strong to its focus and journalistic integrity.
What makes me sad is that DPReview has everything it needs to continue being the center of the camera enthusiast community. All it needed was evolution. Hodinkee shows us how a community can form around a niche hobby by adapting to the modern media environment.
Perhaps this is another story of a bureaucracy gone awry. Robert Moses saw entire neighborhoods as impediments to his vision of New York. These were places that many loved and called home. He bulldozed them to build his highways and parks. Fortunately, preservation organizations have sprung up to fight future destructive change in our built environment. No such thing exists on the internet.
Perhaps this is merely a cruel reminder of the asymmetry in life. It is much easier to end a life than it is to create and sustain one. It is much easier to release carbon into the atmosphere than it is to capture and sequester it. And it is much easier to delete content on the internet than it is to preserve it.
Regardless of the reason, I hope someone out there at Amazon is listening. DPReview isn’t merely a website. It is a center of a world for some of us. Please don’t let it end this way.
Thanks to Q for reading drafts of this.