Holy bleep! I cannot believe this year is finally almost over. What a disaster 2020 has been! From COVID, to the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the US Presidential election, murder hornets, Brexit, that huge explosion in Lebanon, the busiest Atlantic Hurricane Season ever recorded, wild fires in the Western United States and Australia, and a seemingly endless barrage of bad news, 2020 seemed like one shit-show after another.
Rather than focus on all that went wrong in 2020, let’s take a look at some of the highlights of Mike Eckman dot Com in my annual Year in Review.
The biggest change to the site this year was a host switch from Bluehost to Amazon LightSail. You may remember in January 2019 I switched to Bluehost, intending on staying there for 5 years, but dramatic slow downs in performance caused me to reevaluate my hosting options and I chose AWS. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but for those of you who care about such things, the site is now on a dedicated dual core virtual Linux server with 4GB RAM and 80 GB worth of SSD storage.
There were some other very minor behind the scenes changes that you probably didn’t notice, like that I changed to a smaller font size in all of my articles in an effort to make more information fit on the screen on mobile devices.
I had some things planned for this year that didn’t end up happening due to, well, you know. But, being forced to work from home for more than three quarters of the year afforded me extra time to work on articles, so 2020 turned out to be the most productive year in the history of this site in terms of new content published.
Here are some highlights: (An extra asterisk should be added to all of the accomplishments I’m about to talk about just for finishing the year at all!)
- 54 new Camera Reviews, up from 50 in 2019, including those for cameras like the Hasselblad XPan, Leica Model A, and Asahiflex IIa.
- Two lens reviews, one for the Kowa 135mm f/4 telephoto lens for the Kowa SET-R, and the other for the KMZ Rubin-1 37-80mm f/2.8 zoom.
- 30 new Keppler’s Vault articles, up from 26 last year.
- A new One Hour Photo interview with Slovakian camera technician, Dr. Gejza Dunay who sells on eBay under the name cupog.
- Two new articles in my Rotoloni Report series, both about Nikon prototypes. The first article is exclusively about rangefinders including the SP2 and SPX prototypes, and the second about their SLRs and other cameras. These two articles have been very well received and feature some images never before seen online.
- Continuing with prototypes, in November I published an article about three Super Kodak 35 prototypes which recently were found by a collector at an estate sale in Rochester, NY. Prior to the discovery of these prototypes, only one was thought to exist, but now there are four, and I have detailed images of three of them!
- In March, I released a fun one called Eleven Unfortunately Named Cameras with short blurbs about cameras that have funny sounding names. That article proved to be so popular, that I did a follow up in September of Even More Unfortunately Named Cameras.
- For those of you looking to start your own photography blog, I collaborated with a large number of other bloggers and put together a guide called “So You Want Your Own Photography Blog?” In it, I include all of my tips and tricks to get started and how to grow your site, along with some thoughts from some of your favorite other bloggers.
- Finally, in December, I published a guide I had worked on for over six months explaining how to spot fake Leicas. If you’ve ever been in the market for a screw mount Leica and are concerned with it’s authenticity, this is an article you won’t want to miss. In the event the article is too long, there’s even a TL;DR version!
A big change last year was the addition of ads that help generate revenue for the site. The ads are still there, but I did dial them back a bit throughout the summer to hopefully make them less intrusive. I wish I could get rid of ads altogether, but they pay for a lot of the things that make the site better. This year, I spent the income from ads and your kind donations on the following:
- Premium Cryout Creations Septera theme
- Premium PDF Reader support for embedded PDFs
- Switch from Bluehost to Amazon AWS (4x price increase per month)
- Premium WP Site Backup Service to Amazon S3 (each backup is ~25 GB each, and I maintain several previous restore points at once)
- Premium Jetpack (popular WordPress plugin)
- mikeeckman.com domain registration
In addition to these services, I use the money from the site to pay for shipping each time I borrow a camera from another collector and have to return it. Cameras are heavy and it’s not unusual for shipping to cost $20 – $30 with insurance one way, and when you consider the number of cameras I have, these costs add up.
If you like stats, here are a few interesting site stats: (These numbers are through December 21, so I will come back and update these in January to show the complete year’s numbers.)
- 421,059 site views, which is up from last year’s 363,980 total (a 15.7% increase) for an average of 1153 per day. (stats according to Jetpack)
- My most popular month was December with 44,912 views, easily beating October as my busiest month.
- My most popular post of 2020 was also my most popular of 2019, the Breathing New Life into Old Cameras post, which suggests there are still a LOT of people wanting to get their old cameras working. Not too shabby for something originally posted in March 2016.
- 3,683.15 GB of data transferred through November (according to Cloudflare my CDN) for an average of 334 GB per month. My data rates are high as I generally have high resolution (for the web) images on the site. Each review usually has between 10-15 “beauty” images of each camera, along with 12+ or more sample images, which are all between 1-3 MB each.
Although not related to the site, if you can’t get enough of my thoughts on cameras and want to hear more, I participated in two podcasts this year, the first was episode 129 of the Classic Lenses Podcast and the other episode 93 of the Classic Camera Revival Podcast, so definitely check those out if you can.
As I have done the past two years, everything I do with this site is a lot for one person, so I am taking the month of January off from new content. Once I resume writing in February, what do I have planned for 2021?
For 2020 I had wanted to do more collaboration with some other bloggers and camera enthusiasts, but that didn’t happen. I still have some of those same ideas in my head that I’d like to try for next year, so I am still hoping for more collaboration in the coming year. I also would like to do more interviews. I only managed one entry in my One Hour Photo series this year, but have a variety of other people who have expressed interest with strong “maybes” so perhaps 2021 will be the year I get to some of those. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but two of the people I’ve been in talks with would make for VERY fascinating and very relevant interviews.
Another thing that I really want to do is expand into the world of YouTube video reviews. I’ve always liked the idea of video, but until recently didn’t have an ideal working area to record them. My idea is to create some video content that supplements my reviews which focuses on the use of the camera. While researching for articles on this site, I see a lot of YouTube content that is poorly done, sometimes with incorrect information, that really doesn’t give you anything useful about a camera. I think that with the cameras at my disposal, having a video to show off a camera’s features and how it is used, would be a nice supplement to my written reviews.
Although this isn’t exactly what I have planned, here is a sample video I recorded last year for my Argus C-Series article showing how lenses are changed on the Argus C3.
I also might, and this is a big might, branch into the world of physical media, namely magazines or even a book. I’m no author, but have seen some excellent work by other photographers using sites like Blurb or Magcloud, and I might give it a try.
With expansion into other media, I certainly have no plans on abandoning my online long-form reviews. I already have a large number of reviews ready to go for 2021 with many more in the queue. If I were to never get another camera again, I currently have enough for another two year’s worth of reviews, so there’s certainly no shortage of things to write about.
If I keep up my current pace, I’ll publish the 100th edition of the Keppler’s Vault series sometime next year. Sadly, the source material I use to create those articles is starting to dry up, so I may slow down on those and eventually replace that series with something similar, but as I find cool stuff to share, I’ll certainly keep doing it.
As always, I LOVE hearing from you. While seeing the number of site views and gigabytes transferred is exciting, it’s engagement from you all that really makes working on this site worthwhile. There are many of you who comment on reviews and even send me emails, but I would like to specifically call out four of you who have gone above and beyond.
Roger Beal, Kurt Ingham, Mike Novak, and Paul Rybolt have all been INCREDIBLY generous with donations, loaning me exciting cameras, and also regular emails and comments. The site is certainly better because of each of these guys.
Of course, there are MANY more people who have sent in donations and helped me in a huge variety of ways, but there’s simply no way I can thank all of you appropriately, without forgetting someone, so if you’ve sent me something and you are not one of the four people mentioned above, please don’t think your contributions aren’t appreciated as they definitely are.
Outside of this site, 2020 has been absolutely miserable, but I am happy to say that this was a really good year for Mike Eckman dot Com, and I have every intention of continuing that momentum into next year. I am excited to see what the year has in store and hope you do too!
In case I haven’t said it yet, Happy New Year, and here’s to another great year!