An idea, and some help requested

I think I’ve figured out a way to run the site running going forward, that will enable me to both keep it advertising and subscription-free. But I need the help of all of my readers to make it workable; so what I’m going to do is outline the plan and put it to the vote.

I’m going to start producing and selling consumer insights research on the camera industry.

Logically, it makes a lot of sense: I have access to camera brands, a large, educated reader pool, and the professional background to collect, analyze and derive insights from large quantities of data. After all, this is what I did both for the majority of my professional career in management/ strategy consulting at BCG and in private equity. The latter is the missing bit for just about every other writer/photographer/blogger online at the moment.

I benefit because I can sell this research – camera brands already pay for it, helping me to monetize the site in a way that isn’t obstructive (subscriptions) or obnoxious (big ads) to the readers.

You, the reader, benefit because you can help me to keep the site running without having to pay anything, and you get a channel to give feedback to your favourite camera maker to help them produce a better product, which of course benefits you in the end. Moreover, the additional revenue stream buys time I don’t have to chase commercial clients and can instead spend on the site. This means more of the time consuming stuff: reviews of things that might interest the group, but not necessarily be useful for me (previously, I’d have avoided this due to lack of time); how-tos, videos etc.

The camera brands benefit because the existing market research isn’t anywhere near as focused or insightful; I’ve seen (and purchased) much of it in the past as supporting data for another venture I was looking at starting a couple of years ago. For the most part, it’s just raw sales data with little insight into the end consumer, much less curation and insight supplied by somebody with both photographic and management strategy expertise.

As far as I can see, it’s a win-win situation for all involved: the question now is, how many of you would be willing to participate? I might even be able to arrange a lucky draw for all of the participants…all that’s required is a statistically significant number of readers to take a short survey every six months or thereabouts.

But before even going down this road, I should determine if there are enough willing participants to make it workable, hence in true mingthein.com style, a poll!

____________

Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. I wonder who may have given those 16 funny votes :D

  2. Hi Ming,
    I have just recently found your site and have found it very useful, seeming written from the perspecive of using gear to accomplish a purpose vs machine stats and resolution tests, so thanks for the great work,

    Re your goal to commercialize your site, all good, that said, ad sales, subscriptions and or research fees are not at all mutually exclusive. Older material could be made available for ‘free’ with ads, current material via subscription – subscribers would also have access to older material without ads – as for providing research data, great, easily accomplished with both, why choose?

    Thanks again
    Ken

  3. Hal Knowles says:

    Hi Ming. I am a long time follower, but first time commenter. Your site is an amazing fusion of artistic inspiration, product insights, and professional tradecraft. I voted yes and wholeheartedly agree to respond to surveys. I would even be willing to agree to a requirement to join a “survey emailing list” as a condition for the free content. It doesn’t obli gate people to respond to the surveys, but makes them more likely to be aware of them as they are posted.

    I also like the idea of some nudging and simple benefits for site sponsors. Lately I have been thinking about doing a better job of donating to the bloggers I follow…even if only $5 per year. For some sites I buy products like books or in your case the iPad app as a way to support the site.

    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for your site, for its “free” content and for all you do for the photography world!

  4. despite being in the minority and not interested preferring what others have not, i will go with the (majority) flow just to see you keep your site up and continue to read your blog which is one of my favourites — and certainly my favourite photography blog.

  5. Michael says:

    Great idea, I think having a global focus group of enthusiasts will be beneficial for camera makers with offerings aiming at that group. The only suggestion I have is to try to keep the survey on the shorter end. I had an experience with a recent stay survey of a hotel chain, which ended up being a very long and very tiring sequence of questions dancing around the same subject matter over and over and over again. I ended up closing the browser window while muttering some choice four letter words.

    • The plan – as with everything site-related – is to make something I’d personally want to participate in. And a few well-asked questions are much better those recruiting psych-test things that try to trick you by asking the same question in 20 different ways…the objective here is to get clear information, not confusion. :)

  6. Count me in, always a pleasure to have reviews from you :)

  7. James de Penning says:

    Great idea Ming, would be more than happy to do so.

  8. This has to be the survey with the most selection bias I have ever seen. Survey: Who is willing to take a survey? Every on that does answer said yes. Go figure. I am a huge fan but your methodology needs a little work.

    Personally I’ll do anything I can, to keep you doing what you do.
    John

  9. Jorge Balarin says:

    It would be a pleasure to help.

  10. Hi Ming,
    – If the poll is within the “flow” of discussion, based on your blog, I don’t see why people would not be willing to provide a survey for market research. Just be sure to maintain transparency, so people are aware that the survey goes to fund the website…
    – However, if is a rather intrusive random survey, I think folks may object to it.
    – If only the camera companies would listen to us (the consumer/enthusiast/pro), then we might actually get the camera that we want! (As you said, a win win situation…)
    Good luck and keep up the good work! DId you everything you would enjoy being an artist/educator?

    • 1. Absolutely – otherwise, I wouldn’t even be posting this post :)
      2. It’s purely voluntary.
      3. We can only hope!
      4. Not sure I understand the question?

      • - 4. Sorry, I meant to say “Did you ever imagine that you’d enjoy being an artist and photography teacher…?” I believe you may have started out as an enthusiast and then moved into becoming a pro…? From what I’ve read, you are a good teacher.
        – Anyway, as always, we sincerely appreciate your efforts to continue the “conversation” with your readers.

        • Ah – well, I figured that I’d have to do it eventually. But I’ve met so many great people through the teaching, it’s become one of my most enjoyable activities :)

  11. Anatoly Loshmanov says:

    I vote “yes, definetly”.
    I hope survey will be in plane English.
    I read almost all of your essay.
    Sincerely,
    Anatoly

  12. Ming, isn’t your poll a wee bit… oriented? ;)

    Interesting to learn that you had a « previous life », and in consulting/PE on top of that. From what I hear about these fields, I can venture a guess as to why you chose to switch careers at some point.

    Anyhow. Yes, it could make sense considering you know how to format your documents to the ways of your readership, i.e. the guys over at the marketing/strategy department.

    I don’t know who you’ll be targeting and if they will really find your offering compelling, though.
    Filling the gap between raw data gathering and in-development consumer feedbacks sounds attractive, but it’s not like Canon/Nikon/Olympus/etc. are not already watching forums and inviting select users to give their inputs on prototypes.
    The failure of their products, then, is not because they lack insight on the state of the market and on the gripes customers have had with this or that feature; it is because *they choose not to care* about them – after having diluted these feedbacks with whatever other imperatives they have or think they have.
    Good information, bad decision.

    Your positioning may therefore be delicate. But it’s not like you would have much to lose, preparing a sample and showing it to the camera makers’ local higher-ups you may have access to.

    Bonne chance.

    • Thanks. Actually, the camera makers do monitor the forums, but there’s far more noise than signal there. They certainly don’t listen to the ‘select user group’ – I’ve given my fair share of direct feedback but not had anything much come out of it, the logic being what I want isn’t what everybody else wants – fair enough. However, I don’t think they have a clear picture of what ‘everybody else’ wants, either.

  13. I voted nope!, even though I don’t necessarily think it is a completely bad idea. That is the danger of such a black and white poll.

    Sometimes the devil is in the detail. Some thoughts:
    1. Time is money. We donate some of our time to you in reading this blog, and in your previous poll on this topic, I voted for some advertising to help out with your costs. If I can put up with advertising on facebook, I can put up with it here. As long as you can be satisfied that it doesn’t compromise the integrity (visual or otherwise) of the site. (In fact you already have some very limited advertising, for your app and also for B&H and Amazon.)
    2. Advertising and surveys are not mutually exclusive. Why limit yourself to just one option? I can handle a little advertising, and I would contemplate doing a survey.
    3. I would only contemplate doing a survey if I knew a bit more about how much personal information I would have to give (would I have to give a verifiable email address etc.) and roughly how long would it take me (time is money, after all).
    4. Even if I thought the survey would be fine, I still might not do it. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered. The direct benefit to me would be minimal, and I could let other people spend the time doing the survey whilst I could just get on with reading your work. If you didn’t get enough people taking the survey, would you ever consider make the survey mandatory? Take the survey to get an active subscription for the next quarter, for instance?

    • 0. It wouldn’t be black and white.
      1. Yes, you ‘donate’ your time, but that’s free choice and what you get in return is far greater than what I get (right now, nearly nothing).
      2. I got quite a bit of resistance to advertising. And yes, it would entail compromises (or perceived compromises) – this changes the whole dynamic, which I’m trying to avoid as much as possible.
      3. No, it’d be anonymous. I have no use for the email data (since I can contact everybody who answers via posts on this site anyway – after all, that’s how they found the survey in the first place) and it’s definitely not ethical to sell it. Unless I can get a sponsor to offer a prize for participating, in which case if you don’t leave your contact details, there’d be no way to contact you if you won :)
      4. The direct benefit to me to addressing your concerns is zero, yet I still do it – do you see the point here? We help each other out and everybody wins – I thought that was clear. I wouldn’t make it mandatory though, I’d go to subscription only before that, and before that still, I’d take a long, hard look at shutting down entirely.

      • Good answers.

        With that last point, I was deliberately playing devil’s advocate. Apologies if it came across across rudely. I do understand how it would benefit all. And given the previous answers, would be happy for you to give it a go if you think you could make it work. After all, I’ve probably spent as much time leaving comments now, as it might to take a survey. :)

        • I figured as much – I’ve had several close friends rip the crap out the of the idea, but ultimately not fault it…

          I guess I just don’t like the idea of restricting information; it’s elitist. If I can make it work without doing it – and so far we’ve got a healthy number of people on board – it might just work…

  14. include me in. I for one would be devastated if you had to cease your blog.
    Hope it is a winner for you

  15. I will participate in such a survey, even though I’m (hopefully) not in the market to buy any more cameras for a long time. Current state of affairs is that my cameras are better than me and so it doesn’t make much sense to upgrade. What would entice me, though, are more geeky things not directly related to a “classic” camera.

    Sensor, shutter, menus, ergonomics, whatever, are all more than good enough for me as it is. But I’m really sold on Thom Hogans programmable camera idea. So, please give me a camera where I can program MA for every focal lengths of my zooms, if I so desire. Give me the ability to bracket 20 exposures in 1/3 increments, starting wherever I want in the range and not centered around what the meter calls zero. Or 10 brackets for shadow detail and 5 brackets for highlight detail, when I press the shutter once. Give me an option to set MLU, wait 3 seconds (or however long I want), open shutter for 89 seconds, close shutter and open it again for a new 89 seconds exposure or whatever I want, with no mirror down in between. Let me see the image on the back of the camera with whatever ISO the meter thinks is right, 3200 for instance, but let the raw be written with ISO 100/200 so that I can both review my image in-camera immediately, but also decide how I want to handle highlights in post. Or how about getting to set the aperture to f/8 or whatever and just keeping it there during a time lapse recording, to avoid the flicker due to the aperture not being 100% accurate each and every time.

    That’s the message I want to send to camera makers, and I hope you would ask questions in the survey related to what current cameras can’t do today, that you’d like to have them do. :) I do unfortunately think I’m a minority in wanting this, but the possibilities are endless, and it would really make some things simpler to accomplish.

    • You’re not. I wanted to build a camera like this, but had issues with funding and a flaky hardware partner. It would be perhaps the most customizable camera in existence…to the point that you’d have to run a setup program before shooting with it. Alas…

      • Alas…

        There’s an interesting line between flexibility and complexity. Many an enthusiast probably wouldn’t mind a setup procedure, while it might drive Joe Average away. I’m intrigued though. I’ve been fairly happy with the vendors defaults, because, well, I haven’t had much choice, but if I could change everything, I might not be happy with those defaults anymore. Though they might be a good starting point for adjustments. I’m not sure I’d want to move the shutter release to the bottom left button on the back of the camera for instance. Except something like that could be useful while shooting in portrait orientation without a grip.

        Also, I wonder if Canon is closer to something like this than Nikon. They already have Magic Lantern, and I hear Canon firmware is more properly split into an operating system part, and the various functions that run the camera, while Nikon apparently is more of a “here, this is the big everything mesh that runs the camera and everything in it”. Not really sure any of them are any good at software, though.

        Anyway, ’tis just a dream.

        • Think of it like setting up your phone or computer: the camera comes with sensible defaults, but you have the option to change them.

          Nope, neither are good at software. There, we agree. :)

        • Kristian Wannebo says:

          We hear now that Android was started as an OS for cameras. ( And there are two (simple) cameras with it.)
          And only Ricoh seems to invest enough in software.
          ( With technical products software has a long tradition of being neglected, consider VHS machines, microwave ovens etc. – and, of course, cameras…)

          With mobile phones there is now a growing separation of hardware and software production.

          So how can the separation of software and hardware suppliers in the camera industry be promoted?
          It will, I guess, be harder than for phones.

          Imagine a camera with the “right” kind and number of buttons and dials and with a basic Android OS with API:s for all the controls.
          And a growing market for additional human interface software.
          Then even a small group of dedicated photographers could be able to influence some programmer(s) to develop an alternative way of interacting with a camera model.

          And there would be no real additional problems with cameras with a (not too) different set of controls so long as they used the standard API:s, and let new API:s be open source.

          And, perhaps, we could – with time – have a few different well established interface programs usable in many different cameras for, let’s say, Point-and-shooters, Street-photographers, Landscapers, Macro-shooters, Allrounders or what have you.
          You could have several in your camera or just your favourite – or you might even be able to build your own just by adding a few modules.

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            PS.
            We might even be able to choose the in-camera JPG engine.

            • That would be the ideal, but it would also mean probably zero after sales support because of the huge degree of customization involved – so it will never be mass market.

              • Kristian Wannebo says:

                I suppose you are right, and I admit I was speculating far ahead.
                But consider the beginning of a similar development with camera-phones.
                You get after sales support for the hardware plus original software.
                And you can add camera apps that expand control of the camera with upgrades and limited support from the software firm.
                So I still think that a change to Android for “normal” cameras could be a good thing.

  16. I hope it all works out. The reason so many readers (myself included) are willing to do such a survey is because we all respect your opinion and analysis. Your reviews and insights are well thought out and revealing of yourself and to ourselves in our own photography. In addition, you take the effort to get back to us and respond to most of the comments.

    Even better, as you said, hopefully the camera brands will use this information and create the camera we all want / need. So the next generation cameras will be even better (i.e. not the Canon 700D as a rebranded 550D etc.)

    I sincerly hope that this works out for you and wish this endevaor as great success. Speaking for myself, and likeminded individuals like myself, I come back because the quality of your articles and images. As an avid reader, please let us know how we can continue to support you in this process.

  17. Peregine says:

    I’m up for it.Hope it works out.

  18. I’d love to see this working, for you, and eventually, for me :-). Do you think the camera industry will perceive this as 1. significant amount of potential customers and 2. expect more than wishful thinking and the usual bashing of all the features that are missing, and that the camera is too expensive? (Rhethoric question). I did not intend to put this too negatively, just thinking whether the camera brands could be interested in this at all. Otoh, you’re certainly a brand on your own… Good luck!

    • 1. We’re surveying the influencers, not the mass – the influencers influence the mass because they care more than the average consumer.
      2. Yes, because it’s like an image critique: bashing is fine, but only if you give solutions too, not just complaints :)

  19. Seems reasonable. I appreciate the thought that went into this and the extra effort to count readers’ opinions. Hope it works out well.

  20. Dear Ming,
    That is a great idea! It is really win win, not only for you and the camera industry, but also for us, readers! Is gives us an opportunity to influence the next generation of digital camera’s. I think that lot’s of polls are of interest, So why only limit your poll to twice a year? Every quarter is o.k. for me! So you can count on my vote!
    I wish you a lot of succes with this initiative.

  21. Doing something like this seems to be reinforcing the idea that gear matters most , if you want to be a good photographer.
    Are commercial realities dragging you away from your own ideas about photography ? I thought this was a labor of love ?
    Nevertheless, i’d still participate if it’s only once every 6 months and if it brings in enough income to keep the site going

    • No it doesn’t. Telling people NOT to buy gear but to focus on their own skills generates precisely zero income. However, we still need camera companies, so at least telling them what WE want to buy benefits both: they make money, we get cameras we want to use instead of endless iterations of mediocrity.

      Commercial realities dictate everything. If you think you can run a website that requires this much time and effort – about 50% of the day, EVERY day, on just sunshine and fresh air, then perhaps a reality check is in order…

      • I’m not saying that there are no commercial realities. All I’m saying is that this blog must not turn into a site about gear, instead of about photography.

        • Oh, I completely agree. I collect information on gear, package it for the people who want it, but the site remains photography-focused. Without that, gear is meaningless anyway. That will not change.

  22. Excellent idea.

  23. Michael Matthews says:

    I’m all for it — if you can sell the idea to your research clients without killing yourself in the process.

    A suggestion offered with utmost humility: moderate your pace. You work too much, sleep too little. Bank enough resources to avoid burnout. Or, at the pace you appear to be going, a spectacular flameout.

    This comment may be inappropriate because it is personal and off-topic. Do not hesitate to delete it.

    • I actually don’t delete anything unless they’re duplicates or spam. WordPress requires me to moderate everything from new posters for some odd reason. The trouble is, I have to keep up the pace in order to continue to make this work financially. Photography is a very tough business these days…

  24. Mark Olwick says:

    Has anyone in “the industry” said they’d buy it? I’m sure they have reams of market data with whole teams of people constantly mining data, so I’m curious what gap you’d fill, and what the value would be to them to buy from someone “off the street”. You may consider running a trial balloon by some of your industry contacts before diving in.

    As much as I love your blog, the vast majority of readers don’t represent the majority of their market. Nor do the fanatics on DP Review. Camera makers worry about the “big rocks” that can move share price, not niches.

    I wish you the best of luck with this, and I hope it works for you.

    • Not yet, but then again there’s also been no point in approaching them if I don’t have a sufficient level of participation. I’m not looking to mine data from everybody, but from those who are active/ involved enough in the hobby that they represent points of influence for others. Think of it this way: how many if you care what I think about a particular camera? The stats say in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Do you think my opinion is important? What if the survey covered a few hundred people who influence a few hundred more each? That’s significant numbers. There are of course the niches, and that’s where future gains are going to be – either in unique products that take off, or features filtering down the line. Not in minor spec bumps.

  25. Kristian Wannebo says:

    I do hope your idea of canalizing consumer power works out! (My vote is yes.)

    Ming, whenever you publish a review here, readers who already use that (or similar) equipment will probably *really* think about their own experience,
    and a reader survey might get better results just then.
    …perhaps with a special survey about the user interface…

    Or (I’m just brainstorming now) perhaps if you revive the photo competition with typical subjects but restrictions on allowed equipment and require the participants to comment on the difficulties (with a maximum word count or being given a series of dedicated questions) – no prizes, just a promise of publishing some results.
    E.g. something the cameras in question are supposed to (or hyped to) do well but really don’t … plus something they are (really) good at.
    ( This might also increase the interest for your teaching.. )

    Re: The ideal camera:
    There was a motorcycle company (mentioned in a bike magazine) that researched what kind of bike their customers wanted.
    They built that bike … and nobody bought it.

    And a more succesful example:
    Then there is openpandora, a handheld game computer (that is also a Linux computer) built as a community effort.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandora_(console)

    Of course, a camera requires much more of specialised expensive technology (optics and sensor).

    • Tom Liles says:

      Hi Kristian,

      They built that bike… and nobody bought it

      Haha :D
      Isn’t that just perfect. I’m clipping that story to go in my scrapbook.

      I think there’s a weighty brand bias in the case of the bike: if you’re going to be handing over that much money, I’m sure customers want a name they can trust. Bit similar to books in a bookshop: if you’re an author and your book makes it into a bookshop, most people assume it must be kosher and would buy; the same book, only available as an e-book, directly marketed by the author online, may sell zero. The same book! With the bike, I can see you’d get the daring people who go for it; but most might just talk the walk. How would you feel, though, Kristian, about a camera? Costing at most $1,000, say? Would you go for it?

      If it was MT’s project and all the capable people here were contributing… I dunno, I’d sell a couple of my cameras and give it a go. I might be like one of those people in the motorbike story though! Haha. Good story though; that made my day.

      Cheers Kristian

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Hi Tom,

        Right.
        Bit there is also this.
        A (hopefully small) part of camera buyers buy trendy or cool cameras – consider the flame wars on other people’s cameras in some forums.
        It is even more so in the motorcycle market, at least in Europe where motorcycles are not used for commuting anymore except by messenger services.
        ( Compare with scooters, they are usually much more practical.)

        As to cameras, I believe there is more consumer power, and Ming Thein certainly is in a position to channel it into development labs.
        Except to those who have the “not invented here” syndrome … which often enough are the bigger companies.

        Also consider my second example, Openpandora. :-)

        Cheers!
        Kristian

      • I’m definitely NOT going to build motorcycles!

    • Thanks for the ideas!

  26. This is a great idea and I will wholeheartedly support it.
    Maybe you can give the camera industry some hints about us, their customers. When I’m looking at the things they try to sell us, I’m under the strong opinion that they have no idea who we are and what we want.

    • Thanks Thomas. I think they *think* they know who we are and what we want, but then get surprised when some products bomb, and others are huge hits – this suggests a big disconnect. The challenge now is convincing them that this information is worth paying for, or even something they should be taking seriously period.

  27. erikjohansson says:

    I hope it works out Ming. Also, have a look at the Deck: http://decknetwork.net/ they do nice, unobtrusive ads. Another suggestion is to have sponsors and give them space in the blog once a week or so. A message from them in your words.

  28. I think you have an excellent idea (backed up by your insight and experience), you might just have nailed it and found your niche/place in this digital media world: the more readers you gain by keeping the site free of charge, the better your idea may work… BRAVO!
    Very interesting times, I’m very excited how’s it gonna work out!

  29. Will vote yes, simply because I do want to support your work – one of the few that offer an opinionated but fair and professional view of the equipment you review. Not sure how “the industry” can be inflluenced since they do their own market research and produce “what people want”, small P&S with superzoom meaningless capabilities but sometimes CAN be (as in the past when DPreview bravely put it out in the public, that was before the Amazon acquisition), more meaningless megapixels (Canon G9 or G10 era).

    Well thinking aloud, definitely “the industry” needs some guidance. Producing fewer but better models would sure help reduce the trash pile of junked/ never really usefully new/ obsoleted cameras. Certainly in another realm Robert Parker did do some good to the wine industry, so something might be possible in the photog world too – an MT rating, maybe multidimentsional for each new camera coming out. So consumers could just skip the insignificant new models. His model might be best to emulate, how did he end up getting paid for his work?

    Looking over the past few years, also: would it have been possible to forecast the surprising success of the Fuji X100, or the demise of the standard 4/3 vs the success of the micro 4/3, this *should* have been worth a lot to the camera makers.

    Another venue for funding should naturally come from manufacturers wanting your input on their future lineup and specific model pre testing – with the appropriate provisions re competitive know how – as a counter balance to their own in house research.

    Well – that was my two minute contribution for now – all the best – we do need more quality everything in our lives, less junk & trash at all levels ;D

    • Thanks – yes, that’s the plan. In hindsight, I think we could say certain things would work or not especially with specific audiences – I think this group of people associated with the site certainly has more insight and valuable opinion in niche and high end products. Such a report could also add value in refining features, controls etc before the final product is released. I do some beta testing – rare – but most of the time, I get the impression that they’re looking for validation rather than genuine feedback. A lot of the issues/ responses I’ve seen to recent camera releases can firmly be put into the ‘I told you so’ category. But hey, all we can do is give it a try and see what happens.

      As for Parker’s guide, have you seen my Camerapedia?

  30. Tom Liles says:

    Maybe you could just use the intel to crowd source tweaks to your ideal camera, and use this crowd sourced spec to [fingers crossed] convince investors to drop some heavy money on it [you’d have a guaranteed lump of early adopters in us too; I’m sure that wouldn’t be the number you’d need for a minimum lot, min. batch, of sensors, bodies, etc., but that’s the wonderful world of sales—got to throw a Hail Mary to make a touchdown.]

    I’d pre-order your ideal camera.
    The “MT-1D”? :)
    And what a story for when anyone asks, “hey, what camera is that?”

    You could blog the production process, start — the very very start — to finish on here. It’d build followers [because it’s news: photoblogger has gone it alone and designed camera, with his readers, catch up with results on mingthein.com…] and it’d build interest in the camera; probably add plenty of orders. This’d still be a number too small to turn the eye of most investors, I imagine, so the rest would be up to you MT. Could you leverage your network to make something happen [as regards distribution]?

    You don’t have to have the answer to these problems right now, but you could certainly keep this option open while continuing on with the above plan?
    [Assuming you could build this degree of freedom in to the T&Cs / release forms we’d fill in pre-survey.]

    &

    THE CAMPAIGN FOR “AUTO” BELOW 100 ON ALL ISO COMMAND DIALS STARTS HERE!

    • WOW, speechless and what a great thinking. This could be a game changer alltogether. Only thing here is, what might be the ideal camera for you, might not be for me. I am married to my Leica LX2 after decades of Nikon SLR’s & DSLR’S

      • Tom Liles says:

        Hi Frans. Very true. But think again… rather than the red dot, it’s something about that LX2 that you like: the haptics, the IQ, its size, and so on. This is where the crossover is. I have a DP1M and a DMC-L1, they couldn’t be more different [in every way, literally]; but I love them both. Something is the same there… Generally speaking, I’m sure we’d surprise ourselves how similar all our equipment wants are, if we just had a public, open poll on it. Your line: what might be the ideal camera for you, might not be for me gives the game away—look at the “mights” in there. We’re isolated, just guessing about each other. I think this is how the big manufacturers like it; it means you’re blind to what industry leading consensus opinion is, and they can market to you specifically, which pitches a corporation against an individual. If they say it’s good, you’re likely to believe it’s good [and say to your friends “what might be good for you, might be not be good for me]. I suppose it’s what they call “wedging” in politics. I think I’m getting a little over the top here though :), so I’ll reign it back a bit and say: I don’t know of any open source of data where what photographers — all-in: the snappers, the hobbyists, the artists, the pros — have voted on what they want; isn’t that strange?

        If Ming could categorize these “what matters to us” things in a useful way [the big manufacturers are doing this business of categorizing wrong, as they bungle it too often to be just chance; it’s obviously done on the ideas of salesmen from the MD department] and have us vote on it, we’ll have taken a step toward. And wouldn’t it be nice to see what the consensus opinion, if there is one, really is!

        • Hi Tom, funny that you mention this. I am a marketeer by profession and a photograhper by heart. It is difficult to nail my X2 relation. But the red dot is made black and with the hood of the 75 mm lens, it does not look like a X2 anymore. Mr. Show Off never got a handle no me. But it is the emotional side in me that loves the X2. I started 50 years ago taking pictures and came back to that time, after going through the whole whoolahoop of zooms and funny filters and stuff. Pure basics and loving it. I was never a tele guy, but always 50mm or wider. The X2 brings me back to the essence of taking pictures. Obviously I could have done that with another camera, but it is the X2 personality that does it for me. For pure technical stuff, I still have my Nikon gear if I need to.
          So, to sum it up in one word: Passion.
          Cheers,
          F

          • Tom Liles says:

            Hi again Frans. Yeah, you know I’ve just been having a ponder about this while I watch the football… I don’t know the answer either, but I think I want to do a bit of having my cake and eating it too:

            1) I think there are many qualities in a camera that we’d all be surprised to find we are all the same, or very similar, on. It’d be really interesting to see this hypothesis proved or disproved by a poll…
            [as noted above, framing the question correctly is the hardest part there]

            2) I mentioned I have a Sigma DP1M and a Panasonic DMC-L1, and they are completely different [save the fact they are both digital cameras], but, and this was the point, I love them both. I said something must be the same there. But all I can think of is that it’s me. You mentioned that you love the LX2; and actually you’ve been through just about all the equipment there is, but here you are back to a simple, stripped down picture making machine… same you, but many different cameras [again]. So I think there actually is something that’s impossible to cater for in a camera—human caprice.

            Somedays I pick up the DP1M. Somedays the DMC-L1. Somedays the D7000 I got recently [loving it!]. Other days my Epson R-D1s. And yet other days, my DP2M [yes, I really own all these cameras. They’re wasted on me; my wife does not approve. But I’m like a pig in sh-t! :)]. I’d love to say, I choose the tool for job, etc., but I can’t. I don’t. I just pick up the one that looks nice to me, on the day.

            So this is the rub: even a camera that I liked enough to purchase, even a camera that I say I love, even a camera like that, depending on the way the wind’s blowing gets left at home. I don’t know how you could answer that in a single product, or with a single brand.

            But, at the same time, I think every single one of us here would say: NO THANK YOU TO PET BEAUTY SMILE ENHANCEMENT MODE. :D

            Nice talking to you Frans. Envious of your little LX2!

          • Tom Liles says:

            Ah, Frans. Brilliant site by the way; just spent 20mins flicking through your pictures. Thanks!

            Cheers :)
            Tom

    • I did look into this again, but I have issues with finding a suitable tech partner. If I can put the right team together, it’s still possible – though the advantage the original design would have had is somewhat less amongst the current competition.

      • Tom Liles says:

        Different beats better every time Ming. A quick example from my kids’ playroom: the Nintendo Wii. When it came out Nintendo was on the ropes, its competitors had really quite impressive equipment out — remember around this time the North Koreans were buying up PS2 machines for the advanced chipsets inside, which were so well spec’d the N.Koreans could use them in for ballistic missile guidance systems! — it was an all out MHz and graphics card race, and into this Nintendo dropped the Wii. Most people’s reaction was “wuh?” “Are they STUPID?” The Wii lost in EVERY technical department to its competitors. But you know how the story ends. Why did it win? Software, yes, but what about that software? DIFFERENCE. The gesture/movement games [dancing, fitness, what not] were different.

        I could give you a gazillion examples of this working. There are examples where a better spec wins too. But more and more quality examples of being different and being successful. One then the other. So I’ll save the examples, but keyword: different. You know this better than me, I’m sure, but just to remind you—different.

        I’ll wager you, the D800E has sold more units than the D800. Guess why :)

  31. Hi Ming, out of the box thinking with an common sense idea that so many manufacturers forgot about; ask the customer.
    Count me in, I’ll be happy to furnish you with my input. Twice a year is a not enough I would say. Even every month would be no problem for me. You can go deep with this. After all, you have an unprecedented pool of educated readers in every level and part of the world. This is your greatest asset, as I see it. And if you explore this with the purpose of keeping your blog running, I am with you all the way.
    Best wishes,
    Frans

    • Thinking about it, in order to have the manufacturer’s on board, you have to offer them something substantial. Therefore I suggest you make an “inventory” of your reader pool, and start with a short survey about level and years of experience, speciality in photography, and equipment in use and used. oh and let us not forget an geographic picture as well.

    • Thanks for the support, Frans. I think monthly is too frequent because there isn’t that much change in such a short period of time, and I also don’t have the free time to administer and run it that frequently – I doubt there’s demand, either. I could be wrong – if that’s the case, time to reshuffle the business model…

  32. Personally I feel the your very ‘lateral’ funding concept may work if you have sufficient pull with the manufactures. God knows they really need some well conceived advice when considering some of the recent bloated feature offerings. Case in point Panasonic G6 the camera looks like it has a middle age spread compared to the retro (old in this instance) but svelte OMD. The main players Canon and Nikon aren’t much better I have no objection to micro subscriptions and would gladly pay for material I know I would enjoy. Sean Reid’s test subscription costs USD 35 per annum and is worth every cent-riedreviews. He has a very good product. Likewise Michael Reichmann -luminouslandscape sells very good video tutorials. Michael Johnson -the online photographer sells prints and carries a few un-invasive ads which quite honestly I don’t object to indeed I have clicked on his links and bought stuff several times. However all of the above are North American and Americans in particular tend to be good patrons of their own. I only know of David Valentine in the UK – chromeasia who continually keeps going with courses and books. But of the latter, printed books although wonderfully thought of seldom pay well. I think David du Chemin has a winner with his lateral concept So as far as I can see in the photo world at least what you are proposing looks unique I really hope it works for you.

    • Thanks – I hope it works too. There’s almost no support for this kind of thing in Asia; people here tend to expect everything free or cheap and would rather acquire equipment and status symbols than knowledge – so no choice but to go international.

  33. I’ve voted yes as I am happy to support this site to continue.
    However, I believe this could work, if the survey is syndicated with other “like minded” photo blog owners. Honestly, I do not believe the readership of this site has enough buying power to influence the major players – you will need the pull of sites like DPR to change a manufacturer, and even those boys find it hard to get things changed.

    Let’s see how many people vote on this and we can glean whether we have a readership with near critical mass.

  34. Anything is better than having advertising on the site, so I will vote yes.
    Advertising banners or links of any kind should be an absolute last resort.
    I don’t have an issue with subscriptions either…
    And I voted with my wallet by becoming a student…

  35. Well I voted “yes” of course – but the problem with surveys is that often the questions are too predetermined. Like: “Would you prefer the VF-1, the VF-2, or the VF-3″, when the real thing would be an integrated and still tiltable (maybe even in two axis) one… you could throw away any display for that. ;-)

    • Oh no, I agree surveys like that are useless: the value lies in both what questions are asked, as well as how the answers are interpreted. And there’ll be plenty of opportunity for you to give freeform comment.

  36. I am another long time reader and first time commenter – and I think this is a great idea. I will be even willing to fill a survey (even more frequently that every six months), for the opportunity to send my comments and pet peeves to manufacturers through someone whom they trust and listen…

  37. Well, you know your stuff, you have the industry connections, and you have some very well- informed and savvy readers.
    As you yourself state, the issue is getting manufacturers interested. Do you (and we, collectively ) have enough “clout” to make any of them, especially the big boys take notice? Don’t want to pour cold water on the idea,but you know how unmovable some of these industry giants are (Hello Nikon ;) ) but I still think its worth a shot.
    I also agree that quarterly might be the way to go, to get into the mindset of the companies before changes are irreversible.
    All power to you!

  38. No probs here, quite a smart idea actually, to monetize our knowledge :) Together we should have quite much of it, I reckon.

  39. Long time reader, first time commenter. I very much appreciate your blog especially the non-gear aspects (even if I spend more time thinking about gear and window shopping than actually photographing myself). I hope this idea works out for you.

  40. How many is “statistically significant”?

    • That would depend on what I’m trying to draw a conclusion on – mass segments and niches are obviously very different. But if say 10% of my visitors would take the survey, that would be a fantastic start – and easily in the high thousands.

  41. Do it every month I say and make some spend money off it. for 6 months you dont even have to ask.

  42. An other suggestion : what about to sell your detailed camera’s review (on Amazon for instance, 1 or 2 $). With a light and free version on your web ?

  43. It’s allways the same story. Bloggers need money to reward the value the y create. It’s normal. But i really think this value should be paid by readers. Again : let’s create a spécial fan club on Facebook, for your sponsors (x $ / year). And i would be one of them. The stronger the link between revenue and value, the better.

    • Hmm…you don’t think this would be a good idea? Paid content on the internet doesn’t appear to be sustainable…

      • There is an other point of view : unpaid (good) content isn’t sustainable…
        You’re blog is probably one of the 5 or 10 most interesting photo blog on the world : you are a member of those who can change the system.
        You’re idea is interesting of course ; but perhaps a bit “arrogant” and unfair towards market research… My conviction is that the link should be stronger. Your value (with your blog) is to give information, analyses and passion to your readers. So they should pay for that. Those who want. You “just” have to give them sponsor’s status. But it just my point view…

        • Not sure about 5-10, but I’m flattered :) As for subscriptions, it would work if the numbers are high enough – don’t forget that by making it paid, I’d probably lose about 3/4 or more of my current readers. The actual cutoff point probably depends on the fee. But I think in doing so, I’d also lose the reach and influence I’ve got because it closes off the ecosystem from potential new entrants – and the curious. Tough balance, this one.

          • I think there is a misunderstood, my words weren’t clear. In my idea, your blog can stay in free access. But you just have to promote and to give an visible sponsor’s status to your donors (and why not specific contents for them).

            • Ah, that would be different…it would be along the lines of the patronage for prints idea I proposed a little while back – there were a moderate number of takers; still, enough that I’ll be offering a print run in the near future.

        • i am in agreement with thierry and neil hoyt…

  44. xtianyves says:

    Ming, as a long time reader I would be more than happy to do whatever I can to support your web site and keep it running. Please count me in!

  45. Of Course I will. I agree it should be quarterly at least.

    • dan thompson says:

      Yes, definitely. Agree quarterly approach, and honestly if it took half an hour would be my way of working you. In addition to quarterly, you may consider an agile approach to for ‘real time’ issues or opportunities. Imagine a manufacturer want feedback on feature prioritization. Happy to help brainstorm with you!

      • Neil Hoyte says:

        I’d be delighted to help,but my preference would be to pay an annual subscription ,say 20€, leave the site advert free and in a state of indisputable independence .

        • I think you may be in the minority on subscriptions, unfortunately. Here’s the question, though: why would running a comprehensive survey of all brands affect independence? Every brand would get the same data.

      • Taslim Razin says:

        this.

      • I had that (and a whole load of other possibilities) sitting on the backburner – the first hurdle is to get the manufacturers to bite :)

  46. Only once every 6 months?

    • Given product cycles are typically annual or every two (or more, for pro grade gear) years, why would doing it any more often be better? I don’t think sentiment is going to change that much between major buying impulses (summer, Christmas). I could be wrong, of course…happy to hear your thoughts!

      • I understand once every six months for any given product line, but you’ll be doing this for a number of product lines? Some readers might be able to respond meaningfully to several polls in a year.

        • Oh, it’s not product-line specific: industry and niche, but not down to individual camera models. That’s best left to market research focus groups. I don’t have the time, it’d likely compromise objectivity, and I don’t see that adding much value in the grand scheme of things – I’m one man with a limited amount of time; I have to pick the low hanging fruit first.

  47. 69 votes. still 100% yes..

  48. Paul Stokes says:

    Happy to support this venture, just don’t lose sight of all the other great things that make your site what it is.

    • Thank you. Well, in order to sustain the other great things, I need to spend a lot of time doing it – and since this is not revenue generating or billable, I’ve got to find ways to justify it especially if there’s other (paying) work on the table…I can’t give up any more sleep, I’m operating on a small handful of hours a day and lots of coffee as it is.

  49. Roger Wojahn says:

    Here, here!

Thoughts? Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29,114 other followers

%d bloggers like this: