A year in review: the biggest stories of 2020 (in our world)

I’ve spent the past two or so weeks attempting to construct a sentence that accurately summarizes the year 2020. While I have a few scattered about in my journal, none of my prose comes close to more aptly encapsulating 2020 than this quote from Clarke Smith, age 9, from Beverly Hills, Michigan:

‘[It’s] like looking both ways before crossing the street and then getting hit by a submarine.’

Such wisdom from one so young.

In this gallery, we’re revisiting some of the stand-out news stories of this wildest of years, selected by the editorial team here at DPReview. Browse through the collection, see which of our selections stand out to you and share any we may have missed in the comments below.

March: DPReview starts working from home

With DPReview’s home state of Washington being an early hotspot for COVID-19, our entire editorial team left the office in March, to work from home (where we will likely remain until at least spring). While Michigan-based news editor Gannon (that’s the ‘me’ in the ‘we’ of this article) is familiar with the work-from-home life, it’s been an interesting transition for the rest of the team.

But despite the challenges of virtual meetings, virtual product briefings, virtual happy hours and all the rest, we’ve continued to publish content throughout the year. If you haven’t noticed the difference, that must mean we’ve done an OK job.

Just – please – stop asking why there aren’t more pictures of ‘people and events’ in our samples galleries. We’ll make it up to you next year, we promise.

April: Cameras get turned into webcams

Hey, until this year, how much time did you typically spend thinking about webcams? Yeah, that’s what we thought. This was the year when we all started to notice how crappy we look on Zoom calls, and camera manufacturers were quick to spot an opportunity. As the year crawls to an end, Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony are all developing first-party utilities for improving the visuals of our video calls using their cameras.

It doesn’t matter how good your webcam is, though – virtual meetings suck. But at least with a proper high-fidelity camera your coworkers will have a better opportunity to judge your bookshelf.

The entire damn year: Shows and events canceled

After a strong start with CES and WPPI in the first few weeks of the year, as we got into spring, photo events around the world were first delayed, then rescheduled and, in some cases, canceled or indefinitely postponed.

As it stands, The photography Show, International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), CP+ and CES all either went digital-only or announced that they were planning to. Major Japanese show CP+ was canceled and will be online-only in 2021, while the biggest of all, Photokina, has been canceled indefinitely. WPPI has also announced its 2021 show has been tentatively moved from April 2021 to August 2021.

Will tradeshows ever really ‘come back’? We don’t know. But maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder. After months of quarantine, a Las Vegas Convention Center hotdog is starting to sound pretty good – and we never thought we’d say that…

June: NASA stuns us with a time-lapse of the sun

It wouldn’t be a proper year unless NASA released at least one incredible image from space. Thankfully for us though, this year’s surprise consisted of a whopping 425 million images in the form of a time-lapse captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

The time-lapse, which is over an hour long, covers an entire decade, with the first image being taken back on June 2, 2010, and the final image being captured on June 2, 2020. If you wan’t a shortened version, NASA also shared a highlight video (below) that shows the most impressive captures from the bunch.

July: Marc Levoy moves to Adobe from Google

Marc Levoy was instrumental in pushing the boundaries of smartphone photography at Google. Levoy spent six years at the Mountain View company as a Distinguished Engineer, where he ‘led the team that developed computational photography technologies for Pixel smartphones, including HDR+, Portrait Mode, and Night Sight,’ according to his LinkedIn profile.

This year though, four months after he had left Google, Levoy announced he was joining Adobe as Vice President and Fellow. As we explained in our original coverage, Levoy’s role at Adobe will be to ‘continue [exploring] the application of computational photography to Adobe’s imaging and photography products, with one of his focuses being the development of a ‘universal camera app’ that could function across multiple platforms and devices.’

It remains to be seen what will come from Adobe after Levoy’s hiring, but there’s little doubt he will have a profound impact on Adobe’s computational photography technology.

July: Olympus announces sale of imaging division

After many months of speculation and rumors, Olympus confirmed in July it had agreed to sell its imaging business to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) by the end of the year. In a follow-up announcement shared in September, Olympus confirmed that the deal had been finalized, effective Jan 2nd 2021.

The acquisition, which will see Olympus transfer all of its imaging business to a wholly owned subsidiary which will then be transferred to JIP in the new year, consists of Olympus’ entire global Imaging business, including all research and development, as well as manufacturing facilities.

Olympus said in its September announcement that the “Zuiko and OM brands, which are grounded in optics and digital imaging technologies cultivated by Olympus over many years […] will be appropriately positioned to further pursue new developments.” With new Olympus-branded products still coming out, only time will tell exactly what this all means for one of the oldest brands in the industry.

July: Canon EOS R5/R6 bring Canon up to date

Canon has come in for a lot of flak the past few years on our forums (and in our reviews) for its traditionally conservative approach to product development, especially in the full-frame mirrorless space. Well, that all changed in 2020. The Canon’s EOS R5 is a huge leap forward for Canon, offering fantastic resolution, amazing autofocus, great ergonomics, and seriously impressive in-body image stabilization.

Oh – and 8K video. While Canon made it clear from the get-go that there would be limitations on 8K (and high-quality 4K) video shooting due to the potential for overheating, it soon became clear from our testing that the issue could be quite a major problem.

One month after releasing the camera, Canon released updated firmware for the EOS R5, which addressed various bugs and improved the overheating issue. Similar issues with 4K recording on the R6 have also been addressed via firmware (and similarly improved). Looking back, we’re almost getting nostalgic for those glorious weeks this summer, after the lockdown and before the choking wildfire smoke, where all we had to worry about was how many minutes of video we could shoot on the EOS R5….

October: The Zeiss ZX1 is real!

After years of teasers, delays and downright mystery, Zeiss finally revealed its ZX1 Android-powered mirrorless camera back in October. As was expected, the camera isn’t cheap – a wallet-busting $6,000 – but it offers a unique feature set that lets you shoot, edit and share on the go thanks to a built-in version of Lightroom.

We’ve since gotten our hands on a unit and have shared a real-world sample gallery, an initial review, as well as a studio scene captured with the fixed-lens camera. We’re still working on a full review, but as reviews editor Carey summarized in his initial review, ‘[we’re] glad the Zeiss ZX1 exists. It’s refreshing to see a manufacturer do something truly different from the competition.’

In a year that has taken so much from so many, it was nice to see the Zeiss ZX1 go from what was essentially vaporware to a final product that can be purchased.

November: Apple ditches Intel with M1 computers

During its virtual November event, Apple revealed its new M1-powered MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini computers. While the devices remain almost unchanged on the outside compared to their Intel-powered predecessors, inside, these new computers mark a new era in the world of computing as they see the Cupertino company ditching Intel in favor of its in-house silicon, built on the Arm architecture.

We knew Apple’s computers were going to perform well, based on the performance of Apple’s mobile silicon (which is what these chips are based on) and leaked benchmarks. But we have been testing an M1 Mac Mini ourselves and continue to be blown away by the performance gains across the board, even when running non-native editing apps through Apple’s Rosetta 2 emulator. Early tests show our $1,300 setup is outperforming computers with twice as much RAM that cost two to three times the price. We’ll have a full review soon, but suffice to say, these things are fast. And it’s just the beginning.

What the future holds, especially for more pro-oriented machines, remains to be seen, but if these first-generation Apple Silicon devices are anything to go on, future MacBook Pros, iMac Pros, and Mac Pros may be (finally) worth the money.

November: Joe Biden shows us what drones can do

Almost a week after the 2020 Presidential election, when it was clear that Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris had won, the Biden 2020 campaign held a victory party at which both the president-elect and vice president-elect set out their visions for the future.

At that event, a swarm of drones were used to spell out pictures messages in the night sky, courtesy of Pennsylvania-based company Verge Aero. Look forward to more ‘drone light-shows’ in future. They’re more interesting than fireworks, and (in the right hands) less dangerous, too.

So what’s next, in 2021?

Oh boy – who knows. Locusts? A global chocolate shortage? Battery acid in our tap-water? Aliens? Whatever 2021 brings, three things are certain – there will be plenty of photo news, plenty of new cameras, lenses and accessories will be released, and DPReview will be there to cover it all.

As always, thanks for reading. None of this would be possible without you.

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