Amazon Shutters Photo Resource Website DPReview
After 25 years, it’s studio-lights-out for DPReview.com.
The venerable photography site (DP stands for Digital Photography) announced it will close on 10 April 2023, at which point its content will be “available in read-only mode for a limited period afterwards.” That content includes deep-dive reviews of camera bodies and lenses, plus articles covering all aspects of the field of photography. It’s an unmatched resource of photo information.
Why now? Unlike most sites, DPReview didn’t rely on scores of ads to survive. Amazon acquired DPReview in 2007 and largely left it as an independent outfit, to the point where many people weren’t aware of its corporate ownership. In addition to a few ads, DPReview received affiliate income when someone purchased products (even though DPReview and Amazon were under the same umbrella), and the site also occasionally featured sponsored content, such as videos about new cameras. Bucking trends, all third-party content was always clearly marked and above-board.
Unfortunately, being owned by Amazon is what ultimately killed DPReview. The day before the announcement, Amazon revealed it was laying off 9,000 employees on top of the 18,000 let go since November 2022. The retailer is also shedding other services to cut expenses, such as its Kindle Newsstand online and print magazine subscription service. DPReview wrote, “This difficult decision is part of the annual operating plan review that our parent company shared earlier this year.”
DPReview also boasts an enormous discussion forum where readers have formed a thriving community with over 47 million posts in upwards of 4 million threads. Forum members can request to download any photos or text they’ve uploaded, but only until 6 April 2023, which is fast approaching.
The wording of the announcement suggests that the site’s content and forums will be deleted at some point after the “limited period” following the April 10th shutdown; when I reached out to verify that interpretation, a source I spoke with at the company didn’t know what would happen. A separate source told me that the site’s engineers have been working to make the site exportable and coordinating with the Internet Archive to preserve the content. According to a post on Reddit, the Internet Archive’s Archive team is actively working on archiving the site. We hope they succeed in capturing everything.
Another casualty of the shutdown is the popular DPReview TV YouTube channel featuring Chris Niccolls and Jordan Drake. However, a few hours after the DPR news dropped, PetaPixel announced that it would serve as the new home for the duo beginning in May.
This is all disappointing news for many reasons, not just because I’ve been a contributor since 2017. My most recent piece, Pete Souza: In the West Wing and Beyond, was an interview with noted White House photographer Pete Souza when he was on a book tour.
DPReview was one of the Web’s few definitive resources. If you were in the market for a new camera or lens, or were looking to buy an older model, you could find exhaustive, objective, well-tested information about it. Online retailers (particularly parent company Amazon) include scores of reviews of dubious accuracy and provenance, and search engines are next to useless for trying to find reliable information. DPReview has been so good on this front that many photo sites opted not to publish in-depth gear reviews because they knew DPReview would have it covered.
I honestly can’t suggest an alternative site that even approaches DPReview’s level of detail about photography. It’s a loss for consumers and for the communities that spring up around photography. It’s also a stark reminder that corporate ownership, far from being a safe haven, may increase the likelihood of a popular site disappearing. As longtime online publisher Derek Powazek wrote on Mastodon, “Moral of the story: don’t sell your site to a tech behemoth that will only ever see you as an annoying line item.”
The close to your excellent piece, “As longtime online publisher Derek Powazek wrote on Mastodon, ‘Moral of the story: don’t sell your site to a tech behemoth that will only ever see you as an annoying line item.’” begs the question, “Why did they buy it in the first place?”
My guess is that the answer is, it was due to classic Capitalism. It’s a reasonable assumption someone decided that it was a wise/profitable acquisition.
Better advice might be “Take the money and head to the beach but first remind those being left behind to ‘Enjoy it while it lasts.’”
All good things come to an end.
Pretty sure you’re correct. That was why Amazon bought IMDB way back when, too. It was independent for years (founded in Cardiff, Wales). Few remember that it wasn’t always part of Amazon (if they know it was). This may also be why Amazon hasn’t tried to find a buyer for the archives: they’d rather horribly erase the knowledge instead of it being useful to a competitor in any way.
Oh this one hurts! DPReview is fantastic. I’ve bought cameras and equipment using their advice and have always found help in the forums. I had no idea Amazon owned it. :(
It was also a natural fit at a time when Amazon was cultivating a more customer-focused image. A site that could reliably push thousands of customers toward high-profit-margin items.
Om Malick wrote an interesting post about DPReview closing, including some web traffic numbers.
Please leave the politics out of this.
This has nothing to do with capitalism. Controlled socialist systems can also make brain-dead decisions based on short-sighted thinking.
While I agree that politics isn’t really the point of this discussion, saying that “this has nothing to do with capitalism” is flat-out wrong. Amazon and Google buying companies and then shutting them down after a few years isn’t solitary “brain-dead decisions”—it’s a recurring pattern that develops from the endless pursuit of increased profits. It has everything to do with capitalism, and it’s not being unnecessarily “political” to point that out.
DPReview guided me over the years through the transition from my original DSLR to several successive mirrorless cameras. The data has been more useful than any other source that I’ve found. The camera(s) that I bought were, and still are, taken on many of my hikes. At age 75+ I’m not going to be shopping for many more cameras in my life, but it would have been nice if they had just waited at least another 5 years or so to shut down this incredible information forum.
I totally forgot all about this acquisition!!! The worldwide information IMDB collects has helped Amazon become of the biggest internet sales and entertainment companies globally. In addition to the box office info Amazon collects from IMDB, they also have heavily visited links to historical information about movie and TV stars, films, TV programming and visitors can directly click on links to purchase from Amazon. And they have been steadily expanding internationally.
And they recently repositioned and relaunched a free streaming service:
Tim Cook should have bought IMDB. I think he might be sorry he didn’t.
Put aside all of the reviews and articles; the greatest loss of DP Review from my perspective is its side-by-side comparison features for cameras and lenses. This has been a most valuable guide, especially when deciding whether a new model is worth an upgrade, or comparing older models before a “used” purchase. Is there any hope of that being resurrected elsewhere?
I have used this site sometimes:
That’s another thing I didn’t realize Amazon bought. Is that why their forum/comment section was removed years ago?
I’m guessing that this is the case. Better no comments than bad comments.
Not as thorough as DP, but it does seem to have key stats. Appreciate the tip!
Agree with Diane. I used this site exclusively for photography equipment reviews and knowledge.
This is a BIG loss.
This is the worst news. DPReview is (was) by far and away the best photography news and info site out there. With this single action, Amazon have accomplished a near-impossible feat, in that they’ve managed to lower my opinion of them even lower than it was already. It’s gone from severely dislike to loathe.
I can only hope that there’s someone out there with resources that love the site as much as I and so many others have.
A big problem is that serious camera sales are declining, and it is a large decrease. Amazon will see the click throughs and decide this isn’t working. What they have probably decided is that it isn’t going to work for anyone, the advertising revenue isn’t high enough. I expect that in 10 years that serious cameras will be like serious hifi. Something that has a very small market, because your phone will take holiday snaps, complete with built in zoom and macro.
Unfortunate but true.
Fine and well for holiday shots and perhaps a bit for macro as well…but for anyone serious about macro it won’t be adequate…and for anything needing a long lens of say 100mm or more a phone will never be acceptable simply based on optical physics. Even taking pictures in a zoo with relatively close subjects a phone isn’t going to get you close enough or have adequate background bokeh although computational photography can Nell a bit there…but any animal more than double digits of feet away needs lens reach and that ain’t happening in a phone. The market for real cameras will continue to shrink but will remain bigger than the naysayers think.
Note that Archive Team from archive.org is working to mirror the DPReview content.
Reviews of products by people who have been exposed to many versions of an item, through products lent by the company, will go on the decline when there is not a valued name or site behind it. Relying on Star reviews and short reviews by individuals, regardless of their good intentions and experience, is not the same.
And I really don’t want larger digital cameras as high priced and out of reach as high end audio. I think something will fill the void for neutral reviews, I hope it is good.
DPReview is/will be a tremendous loss. As noted, it is one of the few places that have genuine reviews and tests for photography gear with out being heavily biased or goal-oriented towards shoving another product/service into your face. I wonder if the archive team will finish capturing everything in time.
Amazon “reviews” are generally little more than a social media comment stream. You can glean useful details, but the engine driving and curating them has one goal: To sell product. It takes a lot for me to report anyone or anything on Amazon. I almost always contact a seller first and try to resolve things before even thinking about adding my digital post-it note to the wall, if at all. However, I have directly reported sellers and products that were actually problematic (to say the least) and usually find nothing changes. As long as the fees roll in, Amazon does not do very much to correct problems.
Amazon has been running a highly successful and profitable Affiliate sales program for decades. In fact, it was one of the first online affiliate programs:
“However, the company isn’t the only one making a fortune. Affiliate marketers make up around 45% of the site’s market share. With over 900,000 members, it is also one of the world’s largest affiliate networks.”
I always take Amazon reviews with a grain of salt.
Agreed. That’s the reason I still take my old Kodak point-and-shoot with me on vacation. The 12x optical zoom and manual exposure settings are extremely useful in a wide variety of settings. It doesn’t have a many megapixels as my phone, but the picture quality is often much better, especially in unusual lighting conditions or over long distances.
Yep…for me instead of the Z9 and 3-4 lenses it’s just my Z7II and a 24-200…or if I’m being really light my wife’s Z50 2 lens kit which will fit in either a waist pack or some of my cargo shorts…and iPhone if I want lighter than that. Still using an XS Max but will upgrade in the fall and the 15 might replace the ‘real’ camera for all but dedicated photos trips since it shoots RAW so outside of lens reach its a really good camera.
If anyone has a connection to management at Flickr.com, maybe they could be talked into acquiring the site and continuing.
How much resources does it take to run such a site these days, anyway?
Surely it’s not so much that they couldn’t have sold it to another company to run – and even the Amazon affiliate links would remain working so they’d make money from it too.
I think he was referring to the economic attribute of capitalism and that’s how I understood the comment. You saw the political aspect. Amazon was just after more customers and sales.
There’s been another excellent photography review resource on the Internet that I’m surprised no one has mentioned yet: Ken Rockwell. His site has been around for decades (at least since 2005), still has that comforting nineties design but the best part is the content. His advice is honest and well-argumented, and he fiercely debunks the Megapixel Myth among other things. I’d say his site makes a good runner-up.
To be more accurate, he argues against the need for higher resolution; “debunks” implies that he is right and everyone else wrong, which is, at best, open for argument. IIRC, he also contends (or has contended in the past) that raw images have no advantages over jpeg.
I wouldn’t put KR on the same plane as DPR, however I did get great info on my camera purchase there and also tips on setting it up, all one one page. It’s definitely a site I keep in my bookmarks.
KR is a great resource to be sure. However, I will note the absence of any Panasonic/Lumix cameras on his site whereas DPReview did almost everything. Over the last decade I relied on DPR heavily for decisions that led me to the Panasonic FZ series of bridge/ultrazoom (fixed lens) cameras.
(Quick technobabble side-bar:) The FZ-200 (2013) had one of the biggest optical zooms at the time and somehow maintained f2.8. The later FZ-1000 and variants were great performers where carrying and swapping lenses was not viable. I also had great success with the ZS-100, a compact (semi-pocketable) retracting lens, superzoom with built-in viewfinder and a retractable flash that used a simple spring-release system. All of these cameras featured an AE lock button that I found critical in fast changing light conditions where playing with settings often resulted in missing the shot. There are many better cameras out there, but these hit the right price/feature/design spot for us.
I asked that of a source too and while I didn’t get a solid answer, I think it comes down to the fact that when you’re at Amazon’s size, it’s not worth selling something like DPReview because it will cost more in staff time and legal fees than it’s worth, especially when you’re trying to slash costs now. Not a satisfying answer, I know!
Folks might enjoy Maarten Heilbron on YouTube, his detailed, technical reviews don’t waste time and always clarify. A lot of Fuji (which suits me) but also Sony, Nikon and forays into video as well.
Just to be clear, we’re talking about DPReview and photography sites here. I’m deleting everything else…
If that’s the case, I think that you missed some things posted earlier in this thread. . .
There is a Change.org petition to stop Amazon closing DPReview and it is close to the 5,000 signature goal.
I signed, and though I doubt it will reverse Amazon’s decision, the points made in the last paragraph are valid. More signatures can move this story up the news radar and increase the chances of DPReview surviving in some form under another banner.
A few updates:
For those counting, the petition signatures are nearing 6,400 (as of April 10).
DPREVIEW CLOSURE UPDATE:
Scott Everett, General Manager of DPReview, posted a short update on April 7. Not entirely sure what he means by “archive”, how it may be accessed or by whom.
CAMERA DATA (SPECS):
DPReview’s data for over 2500 cameras has been ported to a new site called Digicam Finder. Lens data and a comparison feature are coming in the future. While the new site and its content are very basic at the moment (mostly specs), it is worth noting that this was accomplished in a very short time under the threat of DPReview’s closure. The site professes to be open-source and they are requesting input on features to add as time moves on.
The community has also started new forums to continue what was hosted at DPReview. Confusingly, there are two competing groups. One named DPRevived and another that changed its name a few times and currently has settled on DPR forum.
DPReview’s own forums have a discussion on the two competing forums, for however much longer that lasts.
ARCHIVE TEAM and DPREVIEW TV:
I am also including Petapixel’s story on DPReview’s closure (from March 22) that discusses the Archive Team’s efforts and includes a number of potentially useful links. It also makes note of the DPReview TV team continuing their work with PetaPixel:
Interestingly, I saw an article in my Flipboard feed the other day from a photography site (don’t remember which one) that said recent sales figures suggest that Gen Z in general is embracing “real” cameras and not particularly enamored of phone cameras. There’s apparently even a small surge in demand for actual film cameras. If this is true and continues, it makes Amazon’s shuttering of DPReview look even more short-sighted.
This posting on PetaPixel seems similar. Not sure how sweeping the trend is or if it will last:
Interestingly, there is also a trend with younger people using earlier digital point-and-shoot cameras for the “vintage look”.
When it came to film, this phenomenon was enough to drive the price of second hand cameras way up, mid-Nineties point and shoots which certain influencers use have skyrocketed in price. While that was not welcome, the big side benefit is any breath of life that film as a medium can get most certainly is.
It’ll be interesting to see if the digital point-and-shoot upsurge sticks as well, my old LUMIX LX-5 is a terrific 10Mp camera, I shot the heck out of that thing, my kids think it’s cute but they’d rather use their phone or a bigger camera.
Wow. I’ve been using my Kodak Z712 (7 Mp, 12x optical zoom) that it’s somehow become cool again.
And unlike some of the cameras mentioned in that New York Times article, this one takes very good pictures.
I still have a point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot SD500 Digital ELPH from 2005 that I use now and then. Some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken have come from that camera, even if a modern iPhone outmatches it from a technical perspective.
One thing those twenty-year-old cameras have that makes their pictures often look better than those from modern phone cameras is what they don’t have: post-processing. So much algorithmic processing is automatically applied to phone camera images (in order to make the phone not the size of a dedicated camera) that the images can lose the feel of “real” photography. A mid-2000s point-and-shoot isn’t post-processing anything, and you get a more genuine image as a result. Even so-called RAW files from an iPhone aren’t genuinely “raw” like those from a digital SLR.
But then, I’m still nostalgic for film. When cleaning out my late father’s stuff from a storage unit last year, I found a box full of some of his old cameras, including a few vintage Polaroids and an old Canon SLR body that I had used back when I was in college in the '90s (and it was old then). That brought back memories. Maybe it’s time for me to get back into art photography again.
All digital cameras perform some amount of post processing. Even a “RAW” file from a DSLR doesn’t actually contain the raw signal data from the image sensor.
Image sensor raw data is a steady stream of monochrome signal levels that is being continuously sampled by a processor (typically embedded in the sensor). The algorithm used for the sampling (dot-clock, frame-rate and other parameters) is driven by the exposure settings configured by the camera’s higher-level logic.
The sensor’s processor is almost certainly also combining the levels from the red, green and blue elements (which are discrete, similar to a display’s elements, but in a different pattern) in order to produce a stream of RGB values.
I can guarantee you that your raw data file does not contain the stream of signal levels coming off of the sensor elements before even hitting the sensor’s processor, but is capturing, at minimum, the output of the sensor’s on-board processor.
There may be additional post-processing (like noise removal and thermal calibration) taking place as well.
But you are correct that modern cell phones perform much more extensive post processing (usually including ML image enhancement these days), which goes far beyond anything that was done 20 years ago.
Ah, a fellow pedant. :-)
When I referred to “post-processing”, I was talking about after the sensor’s own processor has finished turning the data into an image. Obviously, there has to be some processing to transform the sensor readings into something usable. The raw stream of data is about as useful as reading a Photoshop file as hex in a text editor—maybe even less so.
But most of those old point-and-shoots really didn’t do anything beyond assembling the sensor data into an image. Even noise reduction was a premium feature twenty years ago. So it’s about as close to “raw” data as would be useful without further processing.
RAW files typically contain a preview to display, the creation of that alone would necessitate processing. Each of the camera manufacturers have their own algorithmic ‘juice’ in that regard.
DPReview.com is currently offline for me with a 403 error from CloudFront. Hopefully this is a temporary issue while content is being moved or the domain is being redirected.
I discovered this after receiving an email update from the Change.org petition:
It is working for me. I had a hard time getting in the other day but I tried again and it worked.
Thank you for the cross-check, Diane. I would rather it be something local to my area or ISP than a complete shutdown of DPReview.
I should have thought to check IsItDownRightNow. Too hasty.
The Change.org petition for DPReview just passed 7,500 signatures.
DPReview and its forums are still active. One discussion I found entertaining was about lens models correlating to historical dates:
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