The winners of this year's Editor's Choice Awards had to meet the highest standard ever: For American Photo's editorial team to choose them, they had to qualify as "game-changing"—to have transformed, or have the potential to transform, the very way photographers work. To be fair to all the other great photo products that came to market this year, that's a tough standard to meet in a field in which progress is largely incremental. But the rigor we brought to bear on the task challenged our preconceptions and helped us transcend our usual category-based thinking.
Of our dozen winners some are obvious breathroughs, such as FujiFilm’s FinePix W3, a point-and-shoot that brings 3D image creation out of Hollywood and into the home, or Sony’s Alpha A55, which represents a new camera genre combining DSLR and EVF traits. Others push the envelope in an established category, such as Sigma's 8-16mm zoom, the widest ever for APS-C-format DSLRs, or Leica’s M9, the world’s first full-frame digital rangefinder, a camera that manages to merge tradition and high technology.
Many of our winners are exemplars of larger trends in the industry. Sony’s NEX system joins the burgeoning ILC (Interchangeable-Lens Compact) phenomenon, significantly advancing the convergence of still and video capture. Likewise, we include Nikon’s D7000 DSLR because it is the first DSLR to provide continuous autofocus in video capture mode, challenging ILC dominance in that arena. The application of consumer technologies to high-end products is yet another common thread, one that makes both the Pentax 645D and Einstein Monolight more capable and/or affordable than their competitors—and thus deserving of our recognition.
The “wow factor” influenced us too, with products originating in the space program (GigaPan's EPIC Pro) and the computer industry (Apple’s iPad) empowering photographers to create and communicate in exciting new ways. Yet for winners like the Canon PowerShot S95 and Induro PHQ Panhead, it was human engineering that made them compelling choices. After all, photographers are only human—and, as always, the best photography products recognize that truth.