25 years of April Fools at DPReview

Revisiting past pranks Happy April Fools' Day! In internet lore, this is a hallowed day for outlandish stories, friendly pranks and the birth of tale tales. Over the years, we've created our fair share of them. Some scared us when too many people thought they were true, and others amused us years later when what we thought was a ludicrous proposal turned out to be an accurate prediction for the future. With this being our 25th anniversary year (our first article was published in Dec 1998), we've been feeling nostalgic. Let's take a look at some of our past pranks from our first quarter century. DPReview 25th anniversary About this series:Celebrate with us all year as we look back at a quarterly century, reflect on where we've been and look ahead to where we might be going. It's our party and everyone's invited! Read the entire series here. While this list is exhaustive, there's a chance we may have missed some. In the comments, let us know if we missed any of your past favorites. The circular sensor that wasn't there When we look back at the annals of April Fools' tomfoolery, one trick stands heads, shoulders, knees and toes above the rest. In 2010, we created a fake camera sensor company that said it planned to make circular sensors. Through an elaborate backstory, fake patents and a website, we tried to make it as 'real' as possible. "The circular sensor brings you a host of new opportunities beyond the conventional boundaries of digital capture. No longer do you need to throw away half of the circular image seen by your lens, now you can use it all – getting more from your glass than ever before," the press release read. The story walked the fine line between seeming plausible but not logical. It sparked some debate in our forums with some not noticing the date. We even managed to trick our good friends over at Steve's Digicams, who took the press release and reported it as news. Good times. The ultimate food photography camera In 2017, DPReview's Carey Rose was feeling somewhat spicy when he cooked up this tart of an idea. Samsung's then new line of Family Hub 2.0 refrigerators featured a built-in camera that allowed users to see all the eggs, hot sauces and leftovers inside without having to open the door. Rose gave the fridge's camera the DPReview treatment, complete with a rundown of specs, in-studio testing and some in-field reflections (you'll want to opt for the most extended extension cord). We determined that the camera, combined with the fridge's LED lights, had made basic food photography as easy as can be. "The camera fridge acts essentially as a large softbox or cove, with ample space to style your food with ease," Rose wrote at the time. This prank actually started in a serious place. We were thinking about where imaging is going and how cameras were beginning to appear in doorbells, cars, robot vacuums and other unexpected places. "Also, Samsung's exit from the consumer market was still relatively fresh in our minds," Rose recalls how the idea came about. "Other than phones and tablets, I think the fridge lineup was the only other product line of theirs that had anything imaging-related about it. Plus, let's be real, a fridge might be one of the edgiest of edge cases where consumer imaging might even be considered relevant, so it seemed extra ridiculous to me." Readers seemed to pick up quickly that our review was a prank. If they didn't right away, they certainly must have by the time we got to the field tests with wild bears. As is the DPReview way, commenters also joined in on the fun. At one point, someone pointed out that we did a poor job comparing it with actual competing models (apparently, LG also had a fridge with a camera in it at the time). Perhaps a round-up would have been appropriate the following year. A DPReview Golden Ticket Inspired by the 50th anniversary of 1971's Gene Wilder-led "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," we decided to hold a Golden Ticket contest of our very own. Readers were invited to enter for a chance to win a trip to visit us in Seattle for two days, tour our studios, meet the editors, borrow some equipment and work on a sample gallery with us. They would also go home with a prize pack that included a new camera, lens and some DPReview swag like t-shirts and stickers. We created an elaborate scavenger hunt on social media and our website announcing the contest, but we made one mistake. We overlooked that we announced the contest on April 1. Most readers thought it was an April Fool's joke. It wasn't. Whoops! Due to legal reasons, we couldn't change the terms of the contest at the last minute to start it on April 2, and in the end, we only saw about 30 people enter. Joseph N. from France won and wowed us with an exceptional sample gallery. A pet cam reviewed In 2018, DPReview's Dale Baskin wrote a review of the Petzi Treat Cam, a pet camera with a built-in treat dispenser. Baskin had actually gotten a few emails from companies that wanted

Apr 2, 2024 - 08:30
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25 years of April Fools at DPReview

Revisiting past pranks

Happy April Fools' Day! In internet lore, this is a hallowed day for outlandish stories, friendly pranks and the birth of tale tales. Over the years, we've created our fair share of them. Some scared us when too many people thought they were true, and others amused us years later when what we thought was a ludicrous proposal turned out to be an accurate prediction for the future.

With this being our 25th anniversary year (our first article was published in Dec 1998), we've been feeling nostalgic. Let's take a look at some of our past pranks from our first quarter century.

DPReview 25th anniversary

About this series:
Celebrate with us all year as we look back at a quarterly century, reflect on where we've been and look ahead to where we might be going. It's our party and everyone's invited!

Read the entire series here.

While this list is exhaustive, there's a chance we may have missed some. In the comments, let us know if we missed any of your past favorites.

The circular sensor that wasn't there

When we look back at the annals of April Fools' tomfoolery, one trick stands heads, shoulders, knees and toes above the rest. In 2010, we created a fake camera sensor company that said it planned to make circular sensors. Through an elaborate backstory, fake patents and a website, we tried to make it as 'real' as possible.

"The circular sensor brings you a host of new opportunities beyond the conventional boundaries of digital capture. No longer do you need to throw away half of the circular image seen by your lens, now you can use it all – getting more from your glass than ever before," the press release read.

The story walked the fine line between seeming plausible but not logical. It sparked some debate in our forums with some not noticing the date. We even managed to trick our good friends over at Steve's Digicams, who took the press release and reported it as news. Good times.

The ultimate food photography camera

In 2017, DPReview's Carey Rose was feeling somewhat spicy when he cooked up this tart of an idea. Samsung's then new line of Family Hub 2.0 refrigerators featured a built-in camera that allowed users to see all the eggs, hot sauces and leftovers inside without having to open the door.

Rose gave the fridge's camera the DPReview treatment, complete with a rundown of specs, in-studio testing and some in-field reflections (you'll want to opt for the most extended extension cord). We determined that the camera, combined with the fridge's LED lights, had made basic food photography as easy as can be.

"The camera fridge acts essentially as a large softbox or cove, with ample space to style your food with ease," Rose wrote at the time.

This prank actually started in a serious place. We were thinking about where imaging is going and how cameras were beginning to appear in doorbells, cars, robot vacuums and other unexpected places.

"Also, Samsung's exit from the consumer market was still relatively fresh in our minds," Rose recalls how the idea came about. "Other than phones and tablets, I think the fridge lineup was the only other product line of theirs that had anything imaging-related about it. Plus, let's be real, a fridge might be one of the edgiest of edge cases where consumer imaging might even be considered relevant, so it seemed extra ridiculous to me."

Readers seemed to pick up quickly that our review was a prank. If they didn't right away, they certainly must have by the time we got to the field tests with wild bears.

As is the DPReview way, commenters also joined in on the fun. At one point, someone pointed out that we did a poor job comparing it with actual competing models (apparently, LG also had a fridge with a camera in it at the time). Perhaps a round-up would have been appropriate the following year.

A DPReview Golden Ticket

Inspired by the 50th anniversary of 1971's Gene Wilder-led "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," we decided to hold a Golden Ticket contest of our very own. Readers were invited to enter for a chance to win a trip to visit us in Seattle for two days, tour our studios, meet the editors, borrow some equipment and work on a sample gallery with us. They would also go home with a prize pack that included a new camera, lens and some DPReview swag like t-shirts and stickers.

We created an elaborate scavenger hunt on social media and our website announcing the contest, but we made one mistake. We overlooked that we announced the contest on April 1. Most readers thought it was an April Fool's joke. It wasn't. Whoops!

Due to legal reasons, we couldn't change the terms of the contest at the last minute to start it on April 2, and in the end, we only saw about 30 people enter. Joseph N. from France won and wowed us with an exceptional sample gallery.

A pet cam reviewed

In 2018, DPReview's Dale Baskin wrote a review of the Petzi Treat Cam, a pet camera with a built-in treat dispenser.

Baskin had actually gotten a few emails from companies that wanted us to review remote pet feeders with integrated cameras. "To this day, I have no idea how I got on that press list," he recalls, "But one morning a lightbulb went on over my head, and I thought, 'Let's review one of these as a real camera!"

Baskin contacted the folks at Petzi, who thought it was a fun idea and sent us the Petzi Treat Cam. We ran the camera through field tests, examined image quality through our studio scene and, for good measure, compared it to a Fujifilm GFX 50S, a 50MP medium format camera.

"Because why not? The Petzi earned a positive 'paws up' rating," said Baskin. We gave the camera high marks for its easy setup and large treat reservoir, and we were impressed by the Petzi social media network where pets could follow other pets. Less impressive was the camera resolution.

"The article had a bit of a reverse April Fools' effect. Some readers thought we had made up the Petzi for April Fools' Day, and we had to explain that it was, in fact, a real product," said Baskin. "One reader even sent an angry (and, as far as I could tell, serious) email accusing me of selling out to Big Pet."

That would be the end of the story if not for a tiny screw-up. The review included a video Baskin shot with Carey Rose that was supposed to illustrate how difficult it would be to replicate Pezti's treat dispensing functions using a regular camera. The video was only supposed to be seen by people who read the review.

This video was meant to be a humorous example of what it would take to replicate the Petzi Treat Cam's remote feeder function using a regular camera. We accidentally pushed it to all of our YouTube subscribers.

But nothing ever goes perfectly, and we accidentally sent push notifications to tens of thousands of our YouTube subscribers who collectively said, WTF? Undoubtedly, it is the weirdest, most out-of-context video ever published on what would become DPReview TV.

"We were still getting emails about that one weeks later from confused subscribers," said Baskin. "It still feels a little bit strange that, to this day, my review of the Petzi Treat Cam is often the #1 hit when searching for the product on Google, but I'd like to think it's pretty good publicity."

Voice-controlled AI drones take to the sky

When we came up with this one, drones and smart speakers were pretty new in the marketplace, but it already seemed evident that combining the two only made sense. Then, for extra measure, we imagined a drone where you could tell it what to do and an onboard computer (we weren't quite calling it AI back then) would go out and fetch any image you wanted.

To sell it, we described how we'd tested the drone around Seattle by prompting it: "Hey drone, get me some images of Orca whales."Two hours later, the drone had returned with images and video it had captured of whales from the Puget Sound. We didn't fool too many folks, with many readers calling the two-hour run time impossible.

But little did we know in 2011 that in 2023, we'd be invited to review the real thing. Japanese upstart NisaymonoIt had announced the world's first autonomous AI drone, the Nisaymono Flight, and it was uncanny how close we were, even down to the voice prompts the real-life 2023 version used.

That time we accidentally invented mirrorless cameras, sorta

Leading up to April 1, 2008, DPReview's Richard Butler asked a friend to post an image to our forums under the guise that they'd seen this camera in the wild and wanted to know what it was. (It perhaps went out to a Flickr group as well, our memory is a bit hazy.)

The camera did not exist. It was a composite created from photos of three other cameras, and we wondered how folks would respond.

"A bit of a dud, this one," Butler recalled about the prank. "We mocked up the kind of camera we all thought we'd like, using the flip-up screen from a Sony DSLR, the lens of a Sigma DP1 and some of the styling of my 1970s Olympus 35RC rangefinder."

For the prank, we tried to make sure Butler was recognizable, along with London's Tower Bridge (a frequent feature of our sample galleries at the time) in the background.

Three cameras were composited together to create this final image.

Little did we know at the time that a rangefinder body type with a tilt screen wasn't too far off from what modern mirrorless cameras would start to look like.

"Unfortunately, no one really bit. I suspect we over-estimated how recognizable we were and, in the days before rumor sites got going, there was no real way to build up any momentum behind it," said Butler. "Still, if nothing else, I think we got the "what sort of camera would people be interested in" aspect right."

The mashup didn't look anything like any cameras of the day, but looking back, it sure does look an awful lot like cameras to come, such as the FujiFilm X100VI.

As for the 'sorta' in inventing mirrorless cameras, well...

Since both the Sigma and Olympus are fixed lens cameras, we can't quite claim to have invented the mirrorless camera (this was five months before we first had a need to use that term), but we did effectively prefigure the X100 by nearly two and a half years (except we thought a tilt-up screen would be useful, which would take Fujifilm another decade to implement).

So, 'sorta.'

The ultimate selfie stick

We don't see them as often today, but around 2015, a groundbreaking coalescence of technology, dexterity, and tubing came together to produce the selfie stick. An innovation in imaging support systems, the selfie stick became the must-have smartphone accessory for everyone, from influencers and tourists to grandparents and children.

It's hard to overstress this; the selfie stick was everywhere! If you weren't using one, you were probably being annoyed by one and taking to social media to complain about it. We decided to get in on the action and crafted a very tongue-in-cheek selfie stick buying guide.

When we tabulated the results, we had several five-star recommendations, including using your own arm.

And now, one final prank...

... that's not really a prank.

Thank you for making DPReview an amazing community and for choosing to spend your day with us. Whether you've been here since the beginning or just recently discovered us, we're glad you're here.

Today, we revisited only a few of our favorite April Fools' Day pranks over the past 25 years. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Now, if you'll excuse us, since we're 25 and in the US, we're finally old enough to rent a car with a surcharge, perhaps a road trip is in order.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Did we miss any past pranks that were your favorites? Do you have any stories of having been fooled by us? Let us know in the comments.