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.

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