Continued from part one.
Are you paid by the camera companies to write good things?
No. I wish, because it would reduce the amount of hostile email and messages I get. If anything, my relationships with most camera companies are quite strained because it seems that they expect you to write good things about their cameras if you’re given the ‘privilege’ of a loaner. This is one of the reasons I prefer to buy my own equipment as I can remain as objective as possible; regardless, I’ll do so anyway, even though it means that there are probably marketing/ sales people at every camera company here who don’t like me. What they don’t seem realize is that in the long run, a lack of objectivity means that nobody will believe what you say anyway. Since writing the last article on this subject, it seems general degradation in the business side of things has meant increased sales aggression, and frankly, a degree of hostility towards objective reviews at a time when perhaps the companies need it most; this is incredibly shortsighted on their part (and perhaps indicative of a fear that your product is really crap), but then again, if you can’t see past your next year end bonus anyway, who cares?
I read your review of XYZ, but would like to get some more thoughts. What do you think of XYZ?
This is perhaps the most stupid and annoying question that I get asked on a regular basis. I’m not going to have anything more to say than I’ve already written in the review, which was a carefully written, considered and very time consuming exercise. Perhaps attending some English language classes might help: re-read the question you just asked me…
And of course the usual…”Should I buy X or Y?”
First, read my article on sufficiency. Then play with the choices in person, and buy whichever one you like the best. It isn’t the camera that’s going to make any difference to your images. This isn’t to say that you might produce better images with a given camera because you like it better and thus shoot with it more, get more practice and subsequently improve, it’s that there’s not so much difference in ultimate best-case image quality that most people will be able to tell the difference, let alone consistently extract it.
What’s the difference between my reviews and others?
Firstly, experience. Between my current career as a working professional commercial photographer, and my previous career as a editor of a photography magazine, I’ve used a lot of gear. That means I’ve got a large basis for comparison. My primary objective is to produce great images, keep clients coming back and attract new ones, which means that output quality and consistency are paramount; everything else is secondary. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: look at the quality of the sample images as a litmus test to the validity of the statements of the reviewer. I’m not inclined to trust somebody who shows crap samples, clearly has no pride in their own work then makes pronouncements one way or another. It speaks of a lack of quality control and discipline. Secondly, objectivity: I’m not paid by the camera companies (and some actually don’t like me), so I’ll say the truth: if it’s great, I’ll say it’s great. If it’s crap, I’ll say it’s crap. If it’s really crap, I probably won’t even review it in the first place.*
*Case in point: I recently had a Panasonic GH3 on loan. There were enough operational/ usability issues with it that I actively disliked using it to the point that I didn’t want to review it. Image quality is great – it has the same sensor as the OM-D – but if you care about the viewfinder, UI, or the way your camera feels in the hand, then I really don’t have anything good to say about it – especially not at the price they’re asking.
Next, I’m a physicist by training: this means I’m schooled in the scientific method and do testing in a repeatable, objective way. If there are results that are unexpected, I’ll repeat the tests to make sure it’s not an error I caused. If there’s really a problem, I’ll try to get hold of other samples to test for the same behaviour. I don’t make conclusions based on a single observation, unlike other reviewers**. Sample variation happens, and quality control in these days of consumer disposables seems to be optional, and it’s quite possible that what was observed was not typical behaviour of the group as a whole.
**Thom Hogan implied I was jumping to conclusions with the D800’s AF issues and that everything was fine – even though I documented testing half a dozen bodies and about twenty lenses, and finding problems in almost all combinations therof, before subsequently coming to the same conclusion himself. This is a good example of both lack of objectivity and eating one’s own shoe.
Finally, I do this – the site, the articles, the reviews – because I want to, not because I’m paid to. If anything, quite the opposite: I have no interest in doing any of this work other than personal satisfaction; time spent writing and testing cameras is time I can’t bill clients for. Please keep that in mind before writing me a demanding email; I doubt very much you’d entertain similar requests of your own time.
Why do I only review certain cameras?
See my answer to the very first question.
In the unlikely event I’m given or loaned a piece of equipment to review, then what?
This has happened a few times in the past. The same conditions apply: I will only write the review if I can be objective about it and have full editorial control over the content; I will disclose that I’ve been given or loaned the equipment, and finally, I’ve also declined many of these requests simply because whatever was offered wasn’t interesting – either to me, and probably not to you, either.
Ultimately, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of review sites out there. Most are are a regurgitation of the spec sheet in the press kit. Some are template copy-paste with a few formulaic lines inserted here and there (this is how some people manage to have a ‘review’ of everything even before it’s commercially available). Yet others are test charts and step wedges and studio scenes and high-ISO series and A-B comparisons. Few claim to be ‘real world’ reviews, but lack objectivity and the quality of output. Fewer are reviews written by people whose cameras are critical for making a living, and small differences matter. Finally, the number that are practical, comprehensive and objective tests by working pros with a good variety of images of sufficient quality to support the conclusions can be counted on the fingers of one hand… MT
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