2018 CAMERA MAGAZINE IMAGING AWARDS
The last 12 months has delivered a bumper crop of new imaging products, making judging this year’s awards particularly challenging, but also producing some exceptional winners.
It’s that time of year again, and our CMIA judges have been locked away debating the merits of all the key new imaging products launched in Australia over the last 12 months. We’ve let them out now so it’s time to reveal all the winners… drum roll please.
The year 2016 was a particularly challenging one for the camera industry after the earthquake which damaged Sony’s key sensor fabrication facility in Kumomoto, Japan, resulting in many delays and even the cancellation of some new products. (As an aside, it’s an indication of just how widespread is the use of Sony-made sensors, but that’s another story.) It took many months to get the facility up and running again, but subsequently it’s been like an opening of the flood gates, with a steady stream of new camera releases from Photokina 2016 onwards.
Consequently, 2017 has been a stellar year in all camera categories, further helped along by the frenetic activity which is currently the accessory lens business. There have been many highlights, but they’re probably topped by the delivery of the mirrorless digital medium format cameras from Fujifilm and Hasselblad. They have undoubtedly revived digital medium format photography, with the GFX 50S, in particular, making it much more accessible. It will be interesting to see what happens next here, especially as things are hotting up very nicely in the area of full-35mm format mirrorless cameras. Sony’s A9 is the currently the star turn in this category with the clearly stated objective of luring professionals away from the traditional top-end D-SLRs. Of course, both Fujifilm and Olympus are also going big game hunting with their topof-the-line mirrorless offerings, but the A9 has been very deliberately specced to win any comparison with a current D-SLR hands down.
Of course, the D-SLR is far from done – Nikon’s D850 is the proof of that – but it’s becoming very much harder to ignore (or, indeed, refute) the many benefits of the mirrorless configuration. Just how long can Canon and Nikon hold out? In reality, probably not much longer, and Nikon is already making positive noises about having a full-35mm mirrorless camera
in the pipeline. Given how Nikon – celebrating a creditable centenary in 2017 – turned the camera world upside down in 1959 with the legendary F 35mm SLR system (who thought 35mm would catch on?), this is a mouth-watering prospect indeed. We’re pretty confident we’ll be talking about a Canon or Nikon (or both) full35mm mirrorless camera system this time next year.
In the meantime, mirrorless continues to eat into the lower ranks of D-SLRs, given the capabilities and innovations inherent in cameras such as the Fujifilm X-T20, Leica TL2, Olympus OM-D E-M10 III, Panasonic Lumix G85 and Sony A6500.
The period of eligibility for the Camera Magazine Imaging Awards runs from 1 October to 30 September. These dates were originally selected to prevent things being skewed in a Photokina year by the many new products which were traditionally launched at the world’s biggest photo show. But this has changed over the last decade or so, as few companies want to delay a new product, and because there are also other important events on the calendar such as Japan’s CP+. From 2019 Photokina will be an annual event held in May rather than September (well, essentially it’s an annual event from 2018, but you know what we mean). We’ll probably stick with our current period of eligibility because it still works in terms of the quarterly cycles of new product launches.
Another essential requirement for eligibility is that a product must be on sale by the time we announce the winners. This means being physically available at a substantial number of retail outlets in the country’s major metropolitan centres by 30 September. Being available for pre-ordering isn’t sufficient because there could be – and quite often are these days – delays in actual deliveries. Likewise any online seller has to be able to guarantee a delivery by 30 September too. This is simply because, firstly, we actually have to get our hands on a product and, secondly, if you’re sufficient enthused by a winner to want to buy it, it’s better that you don’t have to wait. (That said, sometimes a product is immediately so much in demand that it sells out quickly and there’s a subsequent delay until the next shipment arrives – Nikon’s D850 being the case in point this year.)
We spend the whole year compiling long lists of potential winners, and these are fine-tuned as we go along, including after we’ve been involved with the annual TIPA Awards judging earlier in the year. All the eligible products in each category are evaluated on a number of design, operational and performance criteria. The key consideration is just how effectively the design brief has been met, and whether the product delivers everything that’s promised, including in all performance areas. The price is also taken into account, but isn’t necessarily a deciding factor as some products would still be winners even if they cost a whole lot more because they’re just so much better than anything else in the category. That said, some products represent such exceptional value-for-money that the price can’t be ignored.
Each of the judging criteria carries a point score. After we’ve arrived at shortlists of the topscoring products in each category, we then look at the subjective elements such as the styling, the user experience and the many other, often small, details which endow a product, particularly cameras, with emotional appeal. These are characteristics that are often hard to pin down and define, but sometimes it’s obvious – Fujifilm’s X100 series models are a good example – and they make a product irresistible.
Once again this year, we’ve made a change to our categories to reflect the current trends, adding one for digital medium format cameras. We may be a bit ahead of ourselves here, but we think there’s going to be a renaissance in medium format cameras, triggered by the mirrorless designs we’ve seen so far and the market growth that they’re already generating. As we had last year, there are separate categories for prime and zoom lenses which, again, are the most hotly contested, with new brands seemingly appearing on almost a monthly basis.
If you’re ready to upgrade your camera – perhaps even change formats or make the jump from D-SLR to mirrorless – or add a new lens to your kit, this year’s Camera Magazine Imaging Awards winners are a great place to start.