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. This has changed over the last decade or so as few companies want to delay a new product, but 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), but 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 finetuned 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 has the design brief 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 and they make a product irresistible.