A new way of looking at reviews

I’ve done quite a few of these things now – both in the course of the site, and in my previous capacity as editor of a photo magazine – and each time I do one, it gets just a bit more refined and hopefully, a bit more useful. But there are some practical and creative constraints to take into account, too. Let me be very straightforward upfront: I am a commercial photographer, not a career reviewer or blogger. Which means that if I review something, it takes time out of my commercial schedule, which is unbillable. It takes two to three (sometimes more, if the product is complex) days to review something properly; anything less and you’ve probably not done it justice. And in the current economics of photography, if you’re going to trade something billable for something that isn’t, you’d better really like it or use it in the course of your normal work – because it’s not as though this is a lucrative industry to begin with. Forget referral fees and free cameras – they don’t exist, or they’re so small as to be negligible. The referral fees for this site just about covers hosting, and that’s about it. It certainly doesn’t cover the average of 6-7 hours a day, every day, I spend making content or replying email. Yes, that’s on top of my normal work, and no, I don’t sleep very much.

But, I think I have a solution that will work for everybody.

There are actually a few obvious ways around this, most of which are already being employed by various other parties:

  1. Lower the quality of your reviews, therefore taking less time.
  2. Recommend everything, therefore increasing your referral fees and  click throughs.
  3. Ally yourself with a brand, and either be paid or sponsored or get free gear.
  4. Charge for access.
  5. Any or all of the above in combination.

The problem with 1-3 is that you land up with a review that is nigh on useless. The problem with 4 is that it doesn’t really work if the majority if your content isn’t reviews, and it of course limits your potential audience, which doubly doesn’t work if you’re a professional and trying to increase the visibility of your work.

I’m proposing a hybrid of #4 and something else. Here’s how it would work:

  • I will review whatever people want me to review, in addition to the cameras I would normally review. The reviews would be my usual comprehensive 4-5,000 word dissertations on practical use; I’m not going to shoot test charts, because nobody buys a camera to shoot test charts in reality.
  • For cameras that are requested, I’d need to find say 100 people willing to pay for the review: it would cover the cost of the camera plus something for my time.
  • Here’s the good part: if you were interested in the camera, you might well win it for very little money. After the review, I’m going to draw a random name from the 100 subscribers, and send the camera to them. This way, every purchaser has a chance to win and gets the information they need.
  • I would imagine the cost would be a little more than a cup of decent coffee, a cake and a magazine – in other words, disposable. I’m certain though I can offer you a more useful opinion than your average magazine, which depends on keeping advertisers (i.e. camera companies) happy, and is never objective.
  • For example, let’s take the Panasonic LX100: sticker price plus shipping to me and shipping to the end owner would be around $1,000, perhaps less. Add on $800 for my time, and that’s $18 per person. Any camera would be fair game, though it probably wouldn’t make sense for compacts or system cameras where I’d need to acquire lenses to do proper testing, for instance.
  • It’s not a lot of money to spend to get some sort of confirmation or comfort around potentially a very large purchase.
  • We could always increase the number of people, too – 200 people at $8 or $10 would work, too, and work a bit better for me.

I think the only way to get an accurate gauge of whether this is workable or not would be a poll. Please only answer if you’d seriously commit to the proposed scheme.

 

__________________

Limited edition Ultraprints of these images and others are available from mingthein.gallery

__________________

Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the 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. david mantripp says:

    If you want to make direct revenue from this site, then introduce a blanket 2-tier access level, with some limited free content and more in depth paid for. That would alter the character of the site, and would mean that, unlike today, you’d be taking on an obligation to your readers.

    As for gear reviews, the part I like best is the product photography. It’s usually sumptuous. In fact so good, so enticing, one could almost imagine you’re being sponsorec to publish it. But your opinions are not terribly interesting to me, as I don’t have the same objectives or requirements as you. And you have a regretable tendency to descend to a level that could reasonably be called trolling at times. There’s two examples in this thread alone, your derogatory put down of Fujinon lenses, and of the Olympus E-M1, both of which are being used every day by professional and amateur photographers with talent and vision easily on a par with your own to create great photography. You’re a gear geek, and that gets old after a while. Remember Ansell Adams’ point about sharp images of fuzzy concepts? But I do enjoy and value your writing and have bought some videos in part as a way to pay my dues.

    I’ve been a subscriber both to Lloyd Chambers and Sean Reid. Chambers’ writing is terse and dull, and his photography is stunnigly uninteresting. Reid seems to excell in using mind-blowingly expensive gear to take barely competent family snapshots – and is never shys from using 5 paragraphs where 1 word would do. PLEASE don’t go down that route. Straight camera reviewing is totally pointless. The audience either already knows what they want (like me), has no clue what they want and won’t understand the review anyway, or are just looking to start a fight or be entertained by one.

    To conclude and repeat – if you want to monetize your 6-7 hours, either (a) introduce overall subscription-based access, or (b) redeploy them to billable work. If you chose (a), I’ll subscribe, if you keep the cost reasonable. But I’ll speed read the gear reviews…

    • Jorge Balarin says:

      David, how could you know what you want if you don’t have information about ? I know I want a Nikon D750 just because I did read many positive reviews about it, and I get information that match my desires. Greetings.

  2. I don’t know. The new gear cycle is so fast now reviews really don’t mean much.

  3. With the internet, the ways to generate revenue is either through ads or subscription. With your writing and vast experience, either will work for you. I would hate to see you stop doing review. My question is, what is wrong with ads on your site? You get many clicks and those will bring revenues, and it sure adds up. Having ads on your site does not degrade the value of your content, it just frees you from worry about revenue and perhaps using more of your free time to review products that interested you.

    In this internet age, viewers are so used to see ads that we kind of just ignore it, as long as it is not obnoxious ones. Link to amazon, B&H and other stores will be a good thing, too. Once you have it set, it does not take much to maintain. You can pay someone to set the site up, cheap, too. Heck, you can even outsource and let someone manage your site.
    Your site is unique NOT because it does not have ads, but because it has YOU.

  4. Bad idea, I wouldn’t mind yearly fee of 10$…but that’s all.

  5. I thought I posted a comment earlier, but now I can’t find it… A couple of days ago I said I was in favour of this idea, but checking back now and reading the comments, I changed my mind – I think it would waste time, effort, and just get you bogged down in a series of arguments with readers who disagree with your opinion. I’d love to read your opinion on the Samsung NX1, for example, but I doubt you’d enjoy using it, it would be unlikely to raise much money via people paying for the review, and your final opinion would be unlikely to sway my prejudices anyway!

    The only thing I’d add is that I’m curious whether reviews constitute a major part of your website traffic? If (say) you get a significant number of new visitors to your site because of google searches for reviews, and a significant number of those visitors go on to purchase prints, workshop videos, and so on, then can you come up with a quantifiable return for reviews? At that point it just becomes a question of whether the return is higher than the cost to you of the time you put in.

    I actually can’t remember how I found your site, but I’m fairly sure it was via a google search – though whether for a review or not, I have no idea. I guess you have the website traffic stats, so can you see a clear case for reviews one way or the other in terms of revenue generation? If there’s no money in it, my suggestion is to scrap them – you won’t enjoy them, and your loyal readers will get more benefit from reading your photoessays instead….

    • Yes. It seems reviews drive most traffic. There’s no way to track who came because of a review and then went on to be a customer; most people who come for reviews don’t return except for another review, and I tend to notice the comments are also full of new names. In short: after a while, you realise there is ‘good’ traffic and ‘bad’ traffic – the latter only takes up time in replying etc. but with zero return…

  6. This is not the first time you’ve publicly struggled with making money from this site, while saying you’re a professional photographer first and foremost. If you are, you don’t need this site. You just need an agent.

    Unless you want to use this site to promote yourself. If so, why would anybody pay you to promote yourself?

    Besides, I don’t see any reason to pay for reviews in this day and age. Yes, you’re independent (although you have used loaner equipment and had/have relationships with manufacturers), but it’s not that your findings are much different from others who you say are not independent.

    Finally, your reviews generally don’t include portraits or people shots, other than people as part of a street scene, a major weakness if you need to cover all elements of a piece of gear. So, you’d have to change your ways if you really want to provide all-encompassing reviews.

    • You’re missing the point entirely. I’ve struggled with the ever increasing amount of time this site consumes, especially reviews, which are both time consuming to do and even more time consuming to address the fallout which seems to be nothing but trolls and people expecting personal consultations on what they should buy. I suppose you’d expect people to do that for you for free, too; would you give your time and expertise away for nothing? Perhaps it’s me who’s making the mistake of being considerate and asking readers for an opinion instead of just doing whatever I want – this post is a good example. 185 comments and just as many emails/messages; at an average of 3-4 minutes each to digest and reply, there’s a good 10 hours wasted there already.

      I’m not a portrait photographer and won’t provide an opinion on something I don’t do; that’s not useful anyway. Would you ask a chef to test drive a car? Anyway, I think I’m wasting yet more time here. There is no point in trying to convince the entitled.

      • No, Ming, you’re missing the point. You started this site for a reason and it wasn’t to help the photographic community. It was to promote yourself.

        Now the site has taken on its own life and you want to monetize it more than you already do. Fine, but if you do so and expect us to pay, then your reviews need to incorporate more information. Most people take pictures of other people, so how skin tones are rendered is important. If you write this to promote yourself, we can’t demand how you actually use the gear you’re reviewing, but if we pay you, we can expect you to serve our needs first.

        Finally, you complain about a sense of entitlement among people who come for gear reviews. Might be, but I can’t escape the notion that you yourself have a pretty strong sense of entitlement as if we owe you. We don’t. The reviews build your audience, which in return allow you to sell more prints, workshops and courses. Accept that.

        I found this site because of gear reviews and I appreciate them. You’re a good reviewer. But, again, in the end your conclusions aren’t unique. This site has more than its fair share of fanboys, and while you’re much more professional than Steve Huff, he too thrives on the fanboys. Be happy with that, but don’t complain or be condescending when confronted with a regular reader who thinks you’re a good reviewer, a fine – but limited – photographer and a writer who’s way too wordy.

        • Simple question: do you spend 50% of your time working for free? 5% on promotion is a different animal. I don’t need to answer ‘what should I buy’ questions or photograph skin tones for you to do that.

          • Yes, actually, I do, because I’m working on something where I need an audience before I can introduce a product to that audience. It’s part of my plan. I hate it, but I have to accept it.

            And, no, you don’t have to answer all these questions. Free goes both ways. We don’t owe you and you don’t owe us. If you don’t want to spend your time dealing with these comments, then turn them off. Problem solved.

        • Hi Jeff,

          I do think that you mix things here, which can not be concluded this way.

          First, every kind of website is “promoting” the site owner. This can be your Flickr account, your facebook page or your own internet site. It does not matter, whether it is static site with an image on it and nothing else or whether you put more information on it. There is also nothing bad with this. You sound to me more that you are jealous that MT achieved this kind of audience in a relative short time frame without beeing a review only or news only site. MAybe you are afraid that the reviews will not be availbale in the future like in the past. I do not know. I just have the feeling, that you arguments sound “strange”.

          After this kind of success of this site, it is normal that MT is checking all alternatives where to go from here for the future. Reduce it? Expand it? Go new ways? Hire help to cut workload?

          At the point where this site is now, every site owner would start thinking how he wants to continue with this and how to balance the workload, operational costs and above all opportunity costs in a meaningful way. There is nothing bad with it. And nobody should be angry just beacuse MT is considering all available options. EVERYBODY would do this if he wer in his shoes, so stay fair 😉

          Quote: “….but if we pay you, we can expect you to serve our needs first….”

          Deadly wrong part 1:

          The purpose of this topic is not, that MT is changing his way of doing reviews. The purpose is to find out, whether readers are interested in more reviews, but of course always “the Ming Thein way”. For other kind of reviews there are enough review sites out there. Just pick yor choice and try not to make every review site the same.

          Deadly wrong part 2:

          Noone “pays” MT to make a review. You do not get the point. If you would “pay” him, you would need to pay his rates for commercial jobs. I don’t think that you or anybody else wants to pay this rate 😉

          Let’s face it. The amount MT mentioned as an example for his review work is more or less just a sign for having respect for his work. And from MT’s view, it is a “good will” action. Others would say it is like a tip in a restaurant. If you do not realize this, I do not understand why you are here and not over there at dpreview, or Steve Huff or…. you name it…

          I do not say that MT is Jesus Christ. I just say that we should honour a little bit more, that MT is first and foremost a good photographer and secondly is able to write reviews that are meaningful different from what you find elsewhere. This is the reason why I am here. This is the reason why it makes sense for me to be able to read even more reviews written from him. I do not care whether he uses the products later on himself as long as he sticks to his style of reviewing gear. In short: I want the quality control and opinion of MT about as many products as possible.

          If we all do not agree on this, I really do not understand why you or someone else is here.

          P.S.: IMHO it is a great idea and benefit, if we even have the chance to get our investment partially back. Whether I want to keep the gear I win or sell it again immediatley, I do not care. I just do not understand how this can be negative.

  7. Dear Ming Thein,

    I value your reviews because, as I have commented in the past, they are peerless. Part of what makes them great though is that we get an inside view of how you relate to and use the gear you value most. I would be dissapointed if you stopped reviewing the gear that interests you and that you choose to use in your work. Simultaneously, I have little interest in trying to motivate you to review gear that will never be a part of your work flow.

    Now, if there is gear that you are curious about yourself but can’t justify taking the time to investigate any other way then it interests me to help subsidize your reviews. However, I’d prefer that you sell the gear you don’t keep as I find the idea of paying extra to gamble that I might win a raffle somewhat repugnant.

    A number of other sites I go to hand pick the advertisers that show up on their sites such as strobist dot com. I don’t think it would hurt you at all to have advertisments. I personally would never question your integrity or the quality of what you write if you allowed advertising on your site. I can see how aesthetically, you might prefer to be ad free but if you can make money with ads, I think you should consider it.

    I am a person of very modest means. However, if the day comes that I am able to buy the D810 or any other camera where your review was a valuable part of my decision making process, I will certainly make a donation to your site.

    I value your reviews above all the other camera blogs I read. This is because I see you as a highly intelligent, uncompromising perfectionist, THE uber geek of the camera blogosphere. Equipment does matter and I like to be as informed as I can. It would be a loss to all of us if you gave up reviewing entirely. Given that I’m not the only one who feels this way, there MUST be a way to profit from your reviews. There are lesser reviewers who, while they also have total intergrity in their reviews, are able to make money through advertising, donations and purchase links.

    In closing, don’t let the trolls get you down. Trolls at your gate are a tragic sign of success in this internet age and for every troll there must be at least ten times as many who value what you are doing.

    • Thank you. Of late I’m pretty sure the troll/ person who wants to score a point/ measurebator ratio for reviews is more like 10:1 instead of 1:10 though; maybe keeping it to the philosophy will solve that problem.

      • If I understand you correctly, trolls are ten times as vocal as everyone else. Accepting that as true, I doubt very much that that accurately represents your readership. Trolls are desperate sad creatures with nothing else to do but look for people to fight with online. Is there not a silent majority that are appreciative but simply have nothing to say?

        I hesitated to do it at first because I see it as making a commitment, but I voted that I would pay five dollars for a review. I hesitated because I’m not personally interested in any of the cameras you listed.

        Here’s a short story that may turn out to be true. Once there was a company (Samsung) that thought they had the technological prowess to enter the camera market. They worked hard to distinquish their cameras with cutting edge connectivity and control features only to see their efforts largely ignored. Having invested too much money to be willing to back out and seeing the market for cameras perilously shrinking all the while, they got SERIOUS.

        They put the focused technological might of the whole company behind a camera so powerful and carefully concieved that they would surely catch their competitors by surprise leaving them all humiliated and stunned.

        I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see if that camera, the NX-1 can live up to the promise of it’s lofty specifications. I know Andrew Reid of eoshd will cover that cameras video capabilities in great detail. But I trust only you to give the real lowdown on it’s usefulness as a stills camera.

        I hearby pledge $15 towards a review of the NX-1. I don’t need a raffle or any other incentive.

        If you do decide to follow through on your scheme to do a crowd funded camera review, why not use kickstarter? With kickstarter, you can’t lose for trying. And I’ve seen it work over and over again. I read a number of web comics and I’ve several of them raise tens of thousands of dollars for projects ranging from publishing hard copies to website updates to starting new comics. If you can’t raise the money for a camera review, then I would have to start wondering if maybe you are right, that camera reviews attract mainly psychos.

        • Well, one only has to look at the comments between reviews and philosophical essays to see the difference in audience.

          As for the NX1, it’d take quite a lot of readers at $15 because I’d need a reasonable system to actually evaluate it – since it is a system camera. I suspect the reason it isn’t getting any attention is because it still doesn’t fill any niche/need that’s currently not addressed, and incremental improvements aren’t enough to jump the fence. There are also of course questions over support and long term roadmap…

    • Jorge Balarin. says:

      I don’ find bad to offer a raffle as a mean of giving something extra to the readers. There is nothing inmoral or “repugnant” about it. Personally I used to do raffles between the assistants of some seminars that I organized. The people didn’t come looking for the raffles, but the raffles make them happier and I liked that.

  8. Edward Pentney says:

    I haven’t read all of the above comments above, so it may well be that this has already been suggested….
    Now I personally would be willing to pay for the review / lottery ticket idea but I also think that you should consider the following as a point….
    I originally stumbled across your site when searching for reviews on the D800. Stumbling upon your site, has led me to bookmarking it as one of my ‘go to’ sites.
    On the back of that initial equipment review and a few others, I have purchased a number of items, all of which I have been more than happy with (the reviews are accurate, and certainly not written by a fan-boy)
    Now the main point I was wanting to make was that I have also purchased a number of your video tutorials, something I would not have been aware of was it not for that initial D800 review.

    In summary, Your reviews demonstrated to me that you have a passion and knowledge that is up there, this has made your site and blogs a source of daily reading, subsequently I have purchased videos from you with more to follow. That D800 review has indirectly led to financial recompense.

    I bet I am not the only one thats followed this path !

  9. The pay per review coupled with a lottery ticket with a chance to win the tested gear is an excellent idea. I am in.

  10. Vonmanstein says:

    Some random thoughts.

    Digital has devalued almost everything. When writing was “analogue”, i.e., books and magazines…people had no problem paying for it. I paid $30/year for many magazine subscriptions. Much more for books. With digital writing, no one wants to pay. The same with photography. Digital photography has driven photographer salaries down relentlessly.

    You want to get money for your writing but you dont want to make this a pay site. That’s just crazy. I’d pay $30/year easy to read your writing. I have said this for years to you. It is absolutely INSANE to give away your writing day after day. You devalue your own work. How do you feel about photographers who give away their work?

    You say that reviews drive traffic but you only want to review things that interest you. Does this site exist for you as a business or not? We ALL do things during our daily work life that disinterest us. Why are YOU any different? Suck it up man and stop whining.
    If there is a financial pay off, then do the work required. Whining never pays the bills.

    Put up a pay wall. Get rid of the freeloaders. Or Kickstart your site. Announce that you’ll keep up MT.com if your readership can raise $20,000 or $40,000 or whatever. Hand out names and passwords if the amount is reached to each backer. Who cares if they share it and more people read than backed….you got your money and you’re good to go for 1 year. Then, next year, repeat. If you get your finances, you keep it going.

    Stop devaluing your work by giving it away for free!

    • It feels like I’m holding everybody ransom except if only be doing it to myself.

      • Vonmanstein says:

        This makes no sense. Am I held ransom when I spend money on products that I like?

        Also, giving away your work for free makes no sense. You are not on a sustainable path and it is clear as day to us on the outside.

        • You’re always welcome to donate 🙂

          • Vonmanstein says:

            I donate to NON profit enterprises. You are a FOR profit business. Charge for your product for god’s sake!

            • There is nothing wrong with Ming’s business model – he creates free content that attract visitors who are then potential customers of his paid content I.e. Videos and workshops. He just needs to decide on what not to do.
              I am actually quite surprised people are willing to pay for camera reviews. I believe Lloyd or Reid reviews work behind a paywall because they have built a vast technical database of reviews of all kinds of very specialized or niche equipment. Not just what is popular. I almost subscribed to one of them because I found no where extensive reviews of M-mount lenses. Everyone has reviewed the usual suspects, but there are lesser known gems that no one has reviewed. I doubt people are subscribing to those sites to read reviews of the latest m4/3 and als-c cameras.
              I visit this site to get a daily dose of inspiration. But this isn’t the only blog I visit. However it is Ming’s consistency that has convinced me to buy his videos eventually and I hope to attend his workshops in the future when finances allow.
              I want to know how Trey Ratcliffe seems to be doing so well (seemingly) – he is of course a vastly different type of photographer and blogger, but his review philosophy is same as Ming’s and I don’t see any ads on his site, now Steve Huff’s site…too many ads. Anyways too many random thoughts after reading all the posts.

              • Vonmanstein says:

                If you read Ming’s comments, he is clearly NOT happy with his business model.

                • The core principles of this business model has been implemented in all kinds of industries. Core principle being, offer free service/content , attract people, charge for supplemental content once the people are hooked. It’s like a free downloadable app in the appstore where you have to pay for additional items to play the game further.
                  Ming’s problem seems to be that he is not getting the return on his time invested. He needs to find a way to spend less time on the site while still maintaining quality.
                  Since we are brainstorming ideas here, I would suggest Ming to evaluate each piece before he publishes on the blog on whether it merits a small fee to read – based on quantity, quality and time invested. Prices can vary from post to post or he can have a fixed monthly pricing structure. A stock investment ideas website Seeking Alpha adapted this structure. They used to have all the ideas published for free, now these “Alpha-rich” ideas are behind a pay wall to subscribers only.

                  • Vonmanstein says:

                    The core action Ming has to take is to make most of his writing for paying people only. Yes, a small amount can be free, to show what you get if you put down some money. But the real “meat” of this site has to be for paying subscribers only.

  11. Ming: Bin future product reviews, keep your Camerapedia going (concise=good!), continue to blog about the art of photography (share your photos), focus on honing your craft (and making Ultraprints), and keep teaching (videos and classes). As I told you at the Masterclass: anything beyond “Thank you!” and educated conversation in your comments section is bordering on absurd. I paid for your time, and will do it again. Photography isn’t about the camera, certainly as you have demonstrated to me. We have PLENTY of people on the internet (and street corner) eager to offer their opinion. I don’t want another opinion, I want INFORMATION, and I want outcomes.

  12. madmurphy says:

    Subscription based content is a great thing if it allows the author to take additional time to create I sightful and beneficial material. I’m a big fan of Lloyd Chambers site and a subscriber to his mirrorless guide. Well worth it as it allows him to show things that standard reviewers don’t. For example the x-trans flaws or quality coverage of niche products like the Merrills and Quattro. Worth every penny to anyone considering either system and the subscription could well pay for itself 10x over on savings on buying the wrong gear. Your writing is certainly of the standard that would be worth paying for. I would personally pay similar amounts for your reviews as to what Lloyd charges for his.

    • That’s the only logical conclusion: if there’s no time to create, then there’s no creation done. Sadly we all have to pay bills. But, since it’s becoming increasingly clear the majority of this audience expects such work for free, I think the simple solution is not to do reviews at all and spend my time elsewhere on something that does actually pay bills.

      • Vonmanstein says:

        Exactly!

      • “since it’s becoming increasingly clear the majority of this audience expects such work for free” – is the poll wrong then? According to it there are more people willing to pay for a review than those who are not. Not everybody will have left a comment to accompany their vote.

      • Hi Ming,

        there are always two sides on a coin…

        I know that my last few comments sounded sometimes harsh. The reason is, that I went to a similar process years ago with my own websites. So I know what kind of arguments will come by readers and how this will influence your motivation to go on with this site.

        At a first look, the response of these (currently) 42% of readers, who want to have everything for free is depressing. But see it this way: There are still 58% who ar willing to pay. These 58% can make the idea work, if these are enough people in absolute numbers. At least for the beginning. Noone knows, whether the no-sayers will not change their mind over time and noone knows how many new visitors will join in the future as paying members 😉

        Take at least 10 USD. Maybe better 15 USD for it. Those are the numbers which will work on the whole the best according to your poll (by calculating the maximum amount of money achievable, depending on the price point)

        As long as the basic costs calculated by you are covered, you can start from there and see whether it can grow over the next 2-3 years meaningful to more people and income. But you need the reviews to attract new visitors, get more traffic and get indexed ongoing in Google by important search terms and in the long run to be able to sell more videos and workshops.

        Best wishes

        • We have a problem with the math, because ignoring the vast numbers of people who read/ commented/ visited but didn’t vote, even if there are 58% saying yes to one camera (unlikely) at the average amount they’re willing to pay, it wouldn’t even be enough to cover half the cost of the camera, meaning I’d have to subsidize the raffle AND do the work. Clearly that does not make any sense! I suspect the answer is going to be a) not charge, b) change the review format to something manageable, and c) severely limit what I review, if at all.

          • Depends on the camera you have to purchase. 800.- USD for your work plus around 1000.- USD for the camera (i.e. LX100, X-T1) would work. If it is a camera which costs 3000.- USD (i.e. A7s) and not enough people who pay for it, than the review will just not happen.

            If you make the payment with PayPal, it is easier manageble and easier to send money back if the threshold is not met. Taxes, paypal fees etc. have to be considered, because it might count as taxable income for you.

            • System cameras would need lenses too. And yes, it’s taxable income. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced the demand is not there. Especially since pill behavior tends to result in lots of people saying yes, but few people actually committing when it comes down to it.

  13. Interesting conundrum. I wouldn’t pay for reviews. I have zero interest in purchasing most the cameras and lens you review–your reviews are spectacular, they just don’t fit my needs/budget. I do read far and wide into the camera world, so I read your reviews out of interest, but would not be willing to pay for products I don’t buy. There is so much content on the web, so while you’re reviews are quite excellent, I would just go alternatives. So while it’s not fair necessarily, it’s there.

    Having said that, I am appreciate of all the material you’ve provided thus far, and if this model isn’t sustainable or in your best interest, I would cut it.

    Of all your posts, I value product reviews the least. Your actual work and thoughts on photography are far more distinctive and profound than your reviews (to me). These also seem to take lots of your time. Not sure what your finances are, but what about scrap reviews entirely and go with the reflective stuff?

  14. I’m surprised at the number of people asking for an X-T1 review. They must not have been paying attention:

    “the X-T1’s ergonomics are superb, barring flat buttons – the lenses are merely good, and they still haven’t really addressed the workflow problem. ACR still does a terrible job with the files, and Silkypix is still unusable for a professional workflow and large quantity of images”

    You’ve made your feelings regarding the X-Trans files very clear over the past couple of years. The X-T1 is still generating those same X-Trans files and with lenses that you describe as “merely good” the results of a review would seem to be a foregone conclusion–especially when tested using your current workflow.

    I like your idea regarding reviews. I understand that it is extremely difficult to go through the effort of doing a detailed review without some kind of compensation, and reviewing cameras without relying on a manufacturer to provide the samples frees you up to speak openly without fear of having your access to new gear cut off. At the same time you’re going to run headlong into the “everything should be free” internet crowd who complain when anything is done to monetize a site–even if it’s simply to help cover hosting fees.

    Good luck!

  15. What ever happen to the idea to make a negative or slide scanning rig using DSLRs?

    If you start charging for website/review access you can count me out as part of your customer base. I remember reading some of the reviews in the early days of your website. I’d always suspected that it’d end up like this after you had enough eyeballs.

    • It was not economically feasible to make precision small production runs. I’d rather not offer a product at all than a compromised one.

      You’re not a ‘customer’ if you only take things that are free.

    • Now this is funny. Does this mean MT should be glad that you are reading his articles? Maybe MT should pay YOU, that you spend some of your precious time while sitting in your office, payed by your boss to do actually something else then reading here 😉

      @ all:

      Sorry for my humour. I just find it crazy how some arguments are written, just to excuse yourself. I am sure if MT checks his log files, he can see that the most clicks among all articles on this site are the product reviews. My guess out of experience with websites is by a factor of at least 10-20, maybe 100x. But nobody aknowledges that this is the majour reason why they are reading here or at least started here reading. Must be all only search engines which are reading here 🙂

      So why playing this down? Because this would mean, that you have a kind of moral duty to agree to pay either directly for the reviews or just as a donation without an obligation of new reviews. When have you ldonated here last time – if at all?

      You can read any kind of information everywhere on the net. But not articles of MT. You can read MT articles only here. So you have to drop your pants and say clear, that MT reviews are not better than other reviews. If so, why are you still here? You contradict yourself or you love wasting your timeon the net or you do neither have friends nor families… you name it…

      It is strange how eager many readers do not want to accept, if someone else wants to bill the work he is doing for our benefit, but at the same time the same people are not willing to work for free for others.

  16. Great stuff Ming Thien. Can’t wait for your next review. And yes, it’s been awhile! 🙂 Free to catch up over coffee sometime soon?

  17. Ming, I have to agree with Guy Incognito. This post suggests to me that you are at a choice point in your journey and need to move in a different direction. That direction will require you to travel much lighter, and with more focused purpose.

    The reviews on your site are, as is everything else on your site, things of beauty. But your blog is essentially advertising for the meat of your product offerings, which are classes and videos for your followers, and professional photo job leads for the commercial customers that might happen by the site. Reviews are effective devices for attracting site visitors given the inner gearhead in even the most ardent photographic artiste. I have to admit that your u4/3 reviews drew me in, but it was the pictures you took with them and your thoughtful and balanced teaching as to how you realized the images that kept me coming back…and convinced me to buy some of your video products.

    I have a rather painful suggestion that will, if followed, certainly make for a change in my mornings, but would grant you more restful nights:
    it might be time to mothball the website, or at least greatly back off on the throttle.
    You’ve been working at a breakneck pace to keep the website going and the conversations at a high level. You’ve been basically conducting photoclub meetings on top of running your imaging and tutelage businesses. In the process, you’ve created a corpus of work and pedagogy that does not need to be constantly restated. That work will stand for years.

    From an advertising standpoint, however, throttling back the website is a bad idea. Websites must be constantly refreshed to retain eyeballs and potential clients. So I’m not quite sure what that implies for your curation of mingthein.com. I tend to wander the back catalog of your posts more and more now, not because your new posts are boring, but because there is so much treasure there. A slower rate of refresh would be more than acceptable to me, particularly if it meant that you could pursue your muse more effectively.

    Certainly for me it’s become evident that just about any camera you pick up these days will deliver fabulous pictures. Gear reviews therefore have become nearly pointless for anything but definitive gear, and especially for gear that you don’t have a personal need for. I for one wouldn’t want to hire you to review an LX100 or whatever knowing that what your greatest value to the community is in your teaching and the example of your images. Doing so would scratch a gearhead itch, but would not address what should be my ultimate purpose…speaking in my own photographic voice.

    • I somewhat agree with this Ming. I was bought ito your site by obsessing over reviews. The quality of your writing eventually convinced me to buy compact camera master class and fundamentals recently (and the fact you write back which is nice and also helped my decision). I plan on buying more in the future. Perhaps I’m wrong but I wouldn’t think my journey is that unusual.

    • Actually, it’s pretty poor from an advertising standpoint. Most people seem to have this illusion that if you put up a website and offer something for sale, it’ll sell – it’s not that simple. Most business comes from word of mouth referrals. Throttling back isn’t a painful suggestion, it’s something I’ve been considering for quite some time.

      • David Goure says:

        I only voted for camera-review payments and which camera because I’m interested in new gear that changes or improves the way I can get the shot. I honestly would be very interested in highlighting your own journey, if that makes any sense. For instance: I didn’t realize you had fallen so out of love with the E-M1 (other than I know how much you like the GR!), and would have liked an update with examples of shutter shock, for instance. I know Ultraprinting is driving your current equipment, so focus on your journey. After all, it’s your website! If people just want lots of shouting and milquetoast reviews, they can go to dpreview. For an in-depth photographic journey which covers incredibly wide ranges of environments and targets and really makes the reader question just what he/she is shooting FOR, they can come here.

        • Well, aside from insufficient resolution on the E-M1, I don’t frankly have the time to go make a test series or articles panning equipment – that gets you NO referrals, no click throughs, and no support from anybody. Not to mention people not paying for that kind of thing…and we haven’t even started on the kind of trolls it brings and the stress it generates. No thanks, I’d rather concentrate on making prints!

  18. Guy Incognito says:

    Interestingly your problem is not unique to individual ventures.

    Newspapers around the world (at least in my part of the world) have been losing revenue for years. As the internet grew into common usage, newspapers were slow to perceive it as a threat. They jumped on the bandwagon and offered substantial content for free. Perhaps they thought it would be brand building? Meanwhile advertising companies started exploiting the potential of the internet. Online ventures started offering real-estate listings, classifieds and job-searches – traditional sources of revenue for newspapers. Circulation fell as people accessed these new services and gathered their news from free online sources. The income newspapers derived from selling advertising space in their print media dropped like a stone. Staff were cut. Budgets shrank. Quality declined. Some closed.

    You can’t make a living producing content for free. Eventually many newspapers cottoned on and started charging for their online content. How else can you afford to employ investigative journalists, foreign correspondents and large newsrooms? Quality costs!

    There is a point in there somewhere. Perhaps in your writing you have answered your own questions: “I am a commercial photographer, not a career reviewer or blogger”. Why start? Although I am sure it pleases you to please us, this is your site. You can run it how you like. Why do things you are not interested in for a loss or small gain? Stick to reviews on gear you use out of personal
    interest or professional need…. Or give them the boot and leave more time for your livelihood and passions.

    Personally? While your camera reviews are thorough and a compelling read, they are not the reason I come to this site (indeed I skip most). I visit your site due to your interesting, educational, philosophical and humorous articles. Your photos are compelling and an inspiration. These are unique qualities.

    Be well and just for fun… do you even print bro?

  19. Doug Howk says:

    I come to this site for photographic content, not reviews. But I’m biased – spent almost 20 years looking at a computer screen (programmer), and therefore not interested in digital. I’m only interested in film-related gear which, due to the market, is primarily used (probably not a good topic for reviews;-)

  20. The discussion here is rich on suggestions and I hope you will sort out the whole matter to your satisfaction Ming. No matter how this site will change being with or without reviews, paid for or not, I have felt for a long time I’ve come here first and foremost to learn how to become a better photographer. I have learned, I have harvested and my only wish is it may continue this way.

    The very fact that I have learned a lot, became inspired a lot and certainly still is, is much more worth to me than the sums of money I have ever spent on camera systems my intire life, even my benefits cannot be directly translated into a capitalized value. In fact I regard your teachings on this blog, viewing your videos and furthermore attending your e-mail school and taken your WS course(s) as a pure gold mine from where I get my photographic process charged, challenged and developed.

    So on the buttom line I can count up so many values to me that I find it apropriate to start to donate. Ming…touché 🙂

    • I meant to subscribe … which I just did 😉

    • Thank you, Gerner! Participation in email school and workshops aside, it’s responses like these which recognise the knowledge shared that make me feel like I am reaching the original objective of the site, and that any sort of paywall would really defeat that.

    • Once again, I find myself agreeing with Gerner.
      I come to this site to learn about technique, vision, and fundamentals of photography. Not reviews.
      I enjoy reading reviews of equipment that you own, or buy for your own use, and I enjoy seeing the products thereof, but I’m not keen on “forcing” you to review stuff, especially since I have what I need (and your sufficiency articles helped me settle from GAS to personal contentment with what I own) and value the ways to make those work for me in better ways so much more than reading about “random” new gear. So, so many websites for gear heads already, and I avoid reading those.
      When finances permit (I don’t earn ex-pat wages in KL, I earn blue-collar wages, so it is taking some time to save for my goal of email instructionals) I will be happy to pay for expertise, but not for reviews.
      Just MHO.
      I value your work highly, I value your blog highly, I’m not an advocate of more gear reviews for the sake of it.

  21. A great idea Ming, i enjoy your reviews. Count me in.

  22. Filipe Brandão says:

    I’ve been following your blog for about a year, ever since Zeiss blog wrote about your work. It has quickly became my main source of trustworthy first hand experience, quality information (forget about DPR) about equipment and insight about photography. The fact that you update your site regularly also helped building a habit of checking daily for reading bits. I’m also a subscriber of Sean Reid site, and despite the flash nuisance, I think it’s a very valuable reviews site. He focuses on the rangefinder gestalt and is quite interesting to learn about his particular way of seeing, yet despite having been a subscriber for over 2 years, I don’t have a DRF nor any similar camera, I’m a Nikon/zeiss user. I share the same manual focusing irritations and many other concerns and interests, so I would happily pay for reviews of equipment in which I’m interested.

  23. Hi Ming,

    I would personally amputate the reviews as from now (1 November)….its definetely the best and easiest solution….you have already reviewed enough, spent time for free and getting no monetary revenue for this…

    Focus on your other stuff; educational videos, workshops, commercial, gallery, projects verticallity etc.

    And just do a review in the future if you have lust again on doing one and having enough free time…or if you think this has to be said within a review : e.g. what is the fuzz about fuji?, Fujis Iso cheating etc., D820 best camera alltime of the century due to….”

    I think also the revenue that you would gain/get back from a lottery or subsription model is not as high as the time spending on its administration and costs as well….

    My thoughts!
    Steven

  24. If the time has come to bid farewell to the reviews, then please do so ASAP!! Anymore it seems that reviews are a means to justify a purchase, or to ease doubts about something that you should not be getting. “If Ming has/uses it, then I need/want it as well.” I should know, as I emailed you about getting a Titan F2…

    I admit that this is how I first became acquainted with your website, but what has held my attention long after that review was ‘The Four Things’ article, and your posted pictures; articles and pictures that made me think about what I am shooting, not what I am shooting with.

    I re-read various articles on this site daily, and I for one would gladly pay for more articles like this that will help me become better at taking pictures!! As you are teaching, sharing the information, I feel that you should take the site in the direction that YOU would like it to go in, and if that ruffles a few feathers along the way, so be it.

    Thank you for all that you have shared, and I am looking forward to see how this site progresses!

  25. I’ve been a paid subscriber to this site for over one year. Can’t spare much, but at $20.00/month and I feel good knowing I support an artistic and technical genius. I’ve gotten so much from the philosophical, experiential and technical articles that I know this is great and unique stuff. The gear reviews are always fun to read, but I am not in the market for new equipment, unless it has something to do with breathing underwater. My contribution has been bothering me of late, so I asked Ming to put up a $30.00/month button so I could pay a little more… Pay this guy. His time, energy and insights – his interest in seeing others succeed – his passion for the craft – is invaluable. Click Subscribe.

  26. In days of yore, there was a publication called GunTests magazine. While the subject matter may be offensive to some individuals, the format used by the publication made it one of the most useful/reliable sources of unbiased information available. Generally, they would take three or four examples of a class of gun, or gun related product, and perform a battery of tests with each. Additionally, there would be a narrative on the general feel and performance in use, i.e. “haptics,” of the products. The end of each article would give a real, no holds barred, opinion on which proved to be the best value for the intended use.

    I think your proposal is very sound. The beauty of it is that you would not have to restrict yourself to cameras: you could include lenses, printers, or virtually any photography related product. I believe, with your ability to use, evaluate, and report on cameras and equipment, you have the capacity to become a standard for the photography equipment buying community.

    One thing that was written in stone with GunTests: they did not accept samples from maufacturers; all tested items were purchased from retailers.

    I would certainly subscribe to such a service/publication from you.

  27. Can’t you team up with Lloyd and Reid, maybe even Steve Huff and Kai of Digitalrev?! It’ not that there are hundreds of excellent reviewers out there. You only have to form a team of 6 or 8 to empty the market of quality stuff. Then talk to infrequent contributors. Pay them for publishing their content with you guys instead of publishing it for free. With your content combined even I would have no choice but to pay a monthly suscription fee. Hell, back in the 90s everyone bought two or three photography magazines at the newsstand every month – for 7 Euros / US$ each. And they were utter advertiser infested crap. You could start a real photography media empire together.

    • I doubt Lloyd and Reid would share their pies…they’re not exactly enormous to begin with, as this thread has shown…

    • In my humble opinion, Steve Huff doesn’t inhabit the same universe as Ming. Google what Chris Weeks said about him, it was very cruel but somewhat accurate. 😉
      Kai is great fun, but it’s infotainment. Not serious reviewing.
      Ming Thein is a recognised professional, why dilute his opinions with people who cater to very basic GAS instincts, and who can’t provide good photography to back up subjective claims. (Huff, Rockwell, and many more..)
      I was going to mention the “pie” that professional reviewers such as Lloyd and Reid, but Ming has already made that point. And I don’t think the pie can grow any bigger.

  28. Dear Ming,
    In a previous essay you wrote about the future of photography. It’s all about education. And I agree. I really enjoyed your teaching video’s. I find them a lot more usefull than the product reviews. I wish you will explore further possibilies in teaching. That is where you stand out. May be you’ll find a way to build the “Ming Thein Academy of Photography”. And in earning money from teaching in stead of writing reviews! I would like to join one of you masterclasses. But may be there are more possibilities in teaching and reaching students all over the world. May be you can offer one day courses side by side to your masterclasses. And make your teaching experience more affordable.
    Personally I think nowadays there are lots of good choices in equipement. I don’t think adding lots of reviews will help me to become a better photographer. I already made my choices in equipement: Leica lenses with the very compact Ricoh GXR M Mount body and the and Leica M240. However, I am searching for new ways to express myself through photography.
    I wish you all the success in your carreer!

    • Actually, I’ve got courses all the way from $50 to $2,500. There are video workshops that cover most things, and the Email School, and the Masterclasses. However, teaching is not scalable: the experience depends on the teacher and the teacher (i.e. me) can only be in one place at one time. It costs a lot of money to get from A to B and stay there for a week while running a class; those are the realities of economics.

      Here’s a good example, though: an M240 body and lenses is going to run somewhere in the US$10,000 region. How is a $2,500 masterclass to actually learn how to use that equipment and develop your creativity worse value than buying another lens?

  29. It is sad to see, that on the internet people spend more time to argue why they do not want to pay for content they love to read than simply pay 10 bucks and go on reading. Just bear in mind that all these arguments are nothing else than cheap excuses. Start beeing honest.

    Either you enjoy reading the words and views of MT or you don’t. If you read them, then there should not exist any kind of excuse, not to pay for it. If you do not want to pay, because it is not enough “value” for you, why are you here then?

    It does not matter what kind of reviews you can read elsewhere. If you want to have the view of MT about a product, just pay for it or go to dpreview, look at test charts and stop arguing here.

    How much do you spent per your for your hobby photography? 200 USD? 2000 USD? 5000 USD? And you spent hours to argue here because of a few bucks per year? How do you feel by this? And how does Ming Thein feels while reading your “I want to have all free” arguments?

    We are all here, because we rate the reviews of MT higher than other reviews. I do think that we should support MT to develop a model for his site, to earn money with it to continue and expand his review spectrum. I do not care whether he makes 800.- USD or 1 Mio USD with it. We will all benefit from this. Just by paying a few bucks.

    The tricky part is, that the reviews needs to be visible for all users, not ony for paying members. I know more or less all photo related internet sites and their income models and belive me, the way how Reid or Diggloye are doing it is not a good longterm model.

    Income by selling coffe cups or T-Shirts with a logo or Google adsense banners is generating only a few cents per month. It is not worth the effort. Other kind of banner ads only works if you are a lot bigger than the current sites of MT.

    So it all ends up that the people who benefit the most of it have to pay the costs. That is us.

    So if you want t have a review of the Panasonic LX100, simply pay a few bucks until a deadline. Before the end of the deadline no results are displayed about how many payed already to avoid that everyone waits in the hope that someone else bears the costs. The chance to win gear is a good benefit in recovering the investment of a few bucks. If you do not liek the camera you won, simply sell it.

    And MT can add one free video of choice with the camera to the winner.

    • I don’t know if that was directed to me, but I will answer anyway. I do love the content from MT, I had spent more than $200 in videos and stuff but I dont think that I would pay for reviews, because there are too many free stuff on the web, and quality stuff. I’m not rich and I earn my money in a currency that is way too low when compared to USD, so I can’t “just pay” for every single thing that I like on the internet. I’m not trying to convince MT to give away all of his stuff, or to not charge for reviews, I was just showing my opinion and exposing the reasons why I wouldn’t pay for reviews.

    • Thank you, that is the problem in a nutshell: ‘I value your work, but won’t pay for it and I can spend thousands on gear’. Hmmm. It’s easy: I’ll probably stop catering to those people by cutting the reviews.

      I keep the site ad-free because it affects objectivity and perceived objectivity. I’ve turned down quite a lot of advertising offers, some of which were pretty lucrative – because it just would look wrong. Google never approved my Adsense application, by the way. Ah well…

      • I do not see advertisement as bad “per se”. It does not look wrong. The way the reviews are written will be the benchmark to judge whether it is advertisement influenced or not. And as you can see, Everyone is screaming for objective reviews until they have to pay with their own money for it 😉

        I would definitely add banners here, No matter what the outcome of this poll is. But then you need direct contracts with the companies. Google ads will often be blocked by adblockers within browsers. Also Google might pay you only 5 cent for a click on a Nikon ad and takes on the other side of the table for the same click 1 USD i.e. from Nikon.

        And last but not least, vivitors remember ads, but often do not click immediately on it. So you make ads for someone, but do not benefit of if because the visitor will search the company/product days later over google because he remembers the banner he saw on your site but is too lazy to go there again. So it is better to make direct contracts without click through rates or PI and not to go via intermediaries.

        But this is time consuming to negotiate. Since this is an English site with worldwide coverage, The companies will have inhouse battles on who is charged internally for the bills. I.E. Nikon Malaysia will say: Most of the online users of that site are US based, So Nikon USA shall pay the bill or most part of it etc, pp. A nightmare to negotiate….

        If you meet with decison makers within the photoindustry, you will soon realize, that this is neither the industry with the brightest people, nor with people who actually understand what their customers really want 😉

  30. I wouldn’t pay for reviews, only because there are a lot of good places to get it for free. Don’t get me wrong, I really like your gear reviews, but there are people like Nassim that do some incredible complete reviews, with a lot of quality sample images and even using IMATEST system (that should cost more than 10k USD). I see your point when you say that you don’t get money for reviews, actually you loose because you are not doing something productive, but there are a lot people that offer great reviews for free, they should make money doing so.

    • Look carefully again: all of those people have advertising and/or heavy sponsorship. Nothing is ‘free’, even though it appears to be. Objective? I’m not so sure. When did you last see an ad on this site? Never.

  31. Have you considered a system like patreon? Where people can pledge monthly support in exchange for different goals like more reviews per month, early or exclusive access to reviews, etc

  32. Reblogged this on Bild & Pinal.

  33. Jorge Balarin says:

    Dear Ming,

    For me it would work when I have the remote hope of winning the camera or lens that really I want to have, and of course, if you didn’t take the “anti-shock” or water test too seriously : )

    As you know the most of the people is attached to only one system (I’m include in that group), because that is what they could afford. I like to read reviews of Canon, Leica, Olympus, Zeiss and other equipment, burt really I’m only buying Nikon. If I win a Canon DSRL or lens, I would sell it second hand and that’s all. Greetings.

  34. Bryan Gonzalvo says:

    Ming, you’re challenge of monetizing is a common one and I’m glad you are taking the time to determine how to make it more worthwhile. I enjoy all of your essays and reviews. I am thinking of the iTunes model as another monetizing option for your reviews. For TV shows on iTunes, you can buy the season (Ming’s yearly subscription $59) or buy individual episodes (Ming’s individual camera reviews $1.99). You could share your general summary which hopefully gives enough to your readers to determine if they want to buy it or not. I would suggest, however, that you maintain free status on the equipment you actually use. So someone who is in the market for a new DSLR could then pay for your DSLR reviews to help him make a decision; the same goes for a compact or smaller system camera. I read all your postings. If I had to pay for your LX100 review, I probably would not cause that’s not of interest. If you review the Olympus 40-150mm 2.8, that I probably would pay $1.99 for your opinion on a lens I would consider. You are doing a great service for the photographic community with your site, as well as building a great marketing tool. This might be a great option for the those cameras that you wouldn’t use, but 1,000’s of others might.

    • Apple takes a hefty 30-40% cut of everything. Add that to the production agreements, and I’d have to pay 20% to every single subscriber.

  35. Ming, count me in. I already subscribe to a couple of other photography blogs for their premium review content, so I’m happy with the subscription model. However, I’ve sometimes found with these that I sign up to read the existing content that interests me, but for some reason the future articles for the remaining year don’t! For me your audience directed reviews would be the best of both worlds.

  36. I suppose you experience a plentiful number of requests for reviews of various gear and it’s intriguing to consider ways you could meet the perceived need in a business-like way.

    But I wonder if you’ll get much long-term benefit from offering a “review vending machine” service? I can’t imagine whether this would or would not help develop customer loyalty, help build the site content (whilst getting compensated at the same time), or what other benefits would actually accrue.

    I’d say the opportunity-cost needs to be considered: if you already have enough commercial assignments to fill your calendar, why substitute writing a review of gear you’re not interested in for the commercial assignment? Will it fit with a deliberate approach to diversification; will it pay better than a commercial assignment in terms of immediate cash; will it help drive demand in the long term? Or does it dilute your effort with only marginal benefits of substituting one kind of income for another?

    • Reviews drive both people who might find you for hardware then stay for serious content, and a whole bunch of forum trolls – there’s no way to filter this. But they provide another visibility for things people search for. ‘LX100 review’ is going to get far more hits than ‘psychology of colour’.

      • So, if I follow your reply, I hear you saying there are already benefits to the reviews other than cash compensation, i.e. driving traffic. (There are costs, too, e.g. writing in lieu of commercial clients, and trolls). Perhaps reviews of strictly the gear you’re either personally interested in or that is of commercial interest is the “sweet spot” that leverages interest in and experience with the gear to drive traffic whilst avoiding too much opportunity cost in terms of commercial assignments.
        It seems plausible that subsidies of more reviews (those of less immediate interest to you) might work, to an extent, if there’s an adequate base of support for it: this model might drive more traffic while minimizing the investment required through reader subsidies. If the reviews fit with and advance the overall goals of mingthein.com then it’s much easier to see them making sense; whilst again, if they develop into a stand-alone as a kind of “review vending machine” then I’d be very skeptical that the undertaking would fit with you.
        By the way I believe at least one reader suggested that you mine your existing content and I believe you replied to the effect that the effort required would exceed the value of the opportunity. I wonder if you could locate a reliable partner to curate and format content on your behalf — without compromising your standards or diminishing your brand equity — who could do so efficiently enough that it could become a worthwhile undertaking?

        • There were, in the early days – people search for reviews, and a small portion stay for something else. Now, I just get trolls – which is not something I want or have time to deal with. Even reviewing non-mainstream gear seems to do this, which is surprising. Becoming a review machine was never the point; it’s more a question of whether I should do it at all. I have what I need, and I certainly don’t need to spend time buying and testing gear that’s of marginal utility. There’s no benefit to having a partner here as I’d still have to personally do the testing and writing. Formatting is the least time consuming part.

          • Very sorry, I think there was a miscommunication: when I wrote about re-publishing content it was intended as a shift away from the subject of reviews and away from questions about future content. Rather I had meant to refer to your overall pre-existing content, the body of more than 900 excellent articles already published here (which i believe was the context of Mario’s comment). Which is to say that where earlier you had written that “The curation, editing and layout would be extremely time consuming.” I had meant to suggest offloading of that work to another responsible, reliable person or entity capable to do the work semi-independently subject to your review and approval.

            • I could, but they’d have to be paid too, and you know how that goes in an industry (publishing) with already really thin margins…

              • Yes, you’d presumably need to find someone capable of making hay with a portion of the thin margins. Thin-margin work isn’t my forte, I tend to be far more comfortable functioning in high value, high margin spaces. Supposing that your situation might have some remote similarities motivated me to envision engaging someone else who can make that type of business work. (Incidentally, I’m acquainted with one or two people who greatly improved their results since shifting from paper books to digital content, but my mention of it is merely anecdotal.) Best wishes to you!

                • Aren’t we all in that boat? Thin margins either implies a poor/limited job, which conflicts with the underlying content, or that the person doing it is going to take a hit – and that person right now is me.

  37. I have your Amazon referral link as a bookmark, because I’ve learned so much from your reviews. It’s free to me, and hopefully of some value to you.

    One thing I did not see mentioned in the comments – I would pay per question in an emailed “what do you think I should buy” comparison. For example, I’m considering the Zeiss 85 vs 100 with my D810 in x,y,z scenario, which do you recommend… That might be a compelling idea, don’t you think?

    • Thank you – yes, every bit is useful. The site goes through an enormous amount of bandwidth, and the total referrals just about cover it (and usually not).

      Honestly – I don’t have the patience for ‘what should I buy’ questions…there is a recommended list for a reason 🙂

  38. That’s a thoughtful and interesting proposal. Would only the 100 people who paid for the review be able to access it? Otherwise there would be an incentive to be a free rider. But perhaps that doesn’t matter to you as long as the cost of the equipment and the value of your time is compensated for?

  39. Hi Ming,

    I am not sure if something similar has been proposed to you in the past, but in either case I can’t remember the answer: Would it be profitable for you to sell the content you have already generated, such as your articles on food and watch photography or your philosophical insights as a book? I have already bought a few books from artists who draw webcomics. These are basically compilations of their freely available work, spiced up with a few extras. The foreword of one of them actually says something along the line of “thank you for purchasing something you could have gotten for free on the web”.

  40. This is a great idea, probably one you had in the shower. It’s especially relevant when a new camera just comes out that many people are interested in, but have a lot of doubt about. As more and more people become satisfied with the gear that they have and can get a grip on GAS, then the demand for this would go down. But you’ve set it up so that demand wouldn’t matter and can be measured before doing any work at all. If demand disappears, then it won’t affect your professional life or blog at all. Complete flexibility. There’s only one, rather humorous “negative” possible outcome: Who wants a camera that you find seriously lacking?! Okay, they could sell it for less than the new price, but now that I think about it, why not also build in an easy way for the 100 plus who pay up and read the review to bid any camera that the lottery winner really does not want . . . too much. Just saying.

    • Simple answer to that: just because it doesn’t work for my intended output doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for everybody, and vice versa: e.g. the 645Z is great, but probably not for a mountaineer who only wants to do images for social media. Different objectives, different tools…

  41. If time is a problem what about the general blog frequency? How long does a non-review article/essay take to put up? Are you better off reducing the frequency of those posts to one a week instead of 3 in exchange for a review of a loaner every so often? do you want to reduce the amount of time you spend on the blog overall, or just the reviews? Surely you can get loaners to review, it’s not like you’re some kind of unknown is it?
    Anyhow, to answer your question, your proposed prices would be too much for me assuming your dollar prices equate to pounds. If the cost is small enough to ‘not matter’ then more people will go for it. Think about the cost of a track on itunes, what is it, 75p? That’s small enough to not worry about for any viewer. £18 is a lot (coffee,cake & magazine is <£10, normally £6-8) I think that if you go with your original model then you need to give the punters more than a lottery chance – exclusive viewing for a month or something. If not then people will simply wait for the freebie. According to your poll you've had 350 votes so far – so assume 1/5 of those will be for the camera they want to read – how does that work for the review cost choices?
    Thanks for airing your thoughts on the matter – I trust your reviews, and you give us something different to a lot of other reviewers – the full gamut from macro through street to landscape. Most other viewers only tick one box.

    • It takes far more time to write a review than write an essay, because I need to extensively test the camera and shoot with it under a variety of conditions to produce anything meaningful.

      As for loaners – I get some from B&H, but they can’t ship all things (actually most interesting things) outside of the US because of their distributorship agreements. Local principals aren’t interested – I’ve tried; or they want a perfect glowing review (i.e. free advertising).

  42. I would pay for a yearly subscription especially for your site. I find your site as the most useful website so as to improve upon my skills and wouldn’t mind paying. Your videos are quality products and it just reinforces the fact that you are good at this. I have not subscribed to other sites because their free content just didn’t impress upon me. In some cases they do not have any free content for me to evaluate on how I would benefit from their writings. A hybrid model of paid + free content may be the way to start things?

    I did like the lottery part but I guess in the long run year subscriptions might just be the answer. Raffles for paying users might be nice but not expected. I do agree with most things nickwalt said.

    • Subscriptions bring quite a messy administrative overhead that I honestly feel may not be worth it given how few people would actually pay for it; especially if I’ve got to maintain two sites anyway to draw potential subscribers. In short – it’s probably going to have a much higher opportunity cost than revenue back, and it certainly defeats the point of trying to cultivate the creative/artistic/aesthetic aspects of photography in a wider audience…

      • This has always been my view on the subscription model and I think the same would apply to this reviews idea.

        Out of the reviews you have done, the best are the ones of equipment you personally bought and found an application for in your work or for personal use. I know you would do a damn good job with any review, but it’s not really as interesting as you don’t have to justify how it fits into your current set up! The 645Z review was outstanding as you were wrestling over price/qualty/usage vs say the D800 and that is good reading 🙂

        I think you should continue this site because you want to and of its aims to disseminate and prompt discussions on topics to a wider audience. Your set up of the site plus offering prints, videos and workshops is probably as good as you get, especially because you want to produce the best quality as possible (and I can testify first hand that any content I’ve got from Ming is absolute top notch). If it’s too difficult balancing with the day job then put bluntly the site has to go…..

        You can always rely on your readers giving you tough love Ming 😉

  43. John Weeks says:

    Hi Ming,
    You have reviewed the products and cameras which are important to you, and for which you see a potential purpose in your particular work. I don’t plan on you becoming a review junky no matter if I may like a camera or not. One reason I enjoy the site is because I enjoy see what you choose. I used a fuji for a long time, could cared less if you reviewed it or not. I know someone already mentioned Lloyd Chambers, don;t belong to that site. I do however, subscribe to Reid Reviews as he did very technical reviews of cameras, lenses…cost was $30 annually. Frankly I don’t go to it that much anymore, and the alim chance of winning a camera does not really call out to me. I choose and will continue to purchase you instruction videos I find help me become a better photog. Now if you want to raffle off a video…I’m all in.

    • I think this is probably the most succinct logic I’ve heard yet – thank you. I can assure you that no matter what happens, I have no intention of being review junky!

  44. It was a lens review that first got me to your site some while ago, but it was the content and pearls of wisdom that made me stay. Your approach to photography I admire and the quantity of fine images and articles you produce astounds me (I hope you don’t burn yourself out). I love to read all the reviews going even the more comprehensive technical ones but would never pay for them. Perhaps five or ten years ago but now my spend has slowed considerably. There are no camera shops within hours of me anymore, all the good ones have gone so now I buy online and return if I’m not satisfied, which happens a lot these days. I sent back the Fuji system the other day should have taken you advice! It’s dead easy to test a lens at home now if you know what your doing and cameras well they’re all pretty good now so long as they feel right and do what they’re supposed to.

  45. Certainly an interesting idea.

  46. Michael Matthews says:

    Clever, but probably unworkable. You may find there’s a significant difference between the number of people who say they would pay for your review of the LX100 and the number who will actually fork over the cash. If one has to pay in advance to have his vote counted, then you’re stuck with the administrative nightmare and added cost of refunding payments to those whose votes/payments were received but did not achieve critical mass.

    Plus, in the U.S. it probably qualifies as an illegal lottery. Take this with more than a grain of salt as the law may have changed in recent years. But, basically, the standard has been if the offer involves all three factors — prize, consideration, and chance — it’s a lottery. The realities of enforcement may make it unlikely that any action would be taken, but there’s always the chance some off-balance bureaucrat might decide to take a run at it. Or that a particularly nasty competitor or hate mail writer might raise a stink just to be destructive.

    I’ll just continue to hit that “donate” button once or twice a year and urge everyone who benefits from your effort to do likewise.

    • Hmm, good point on the legal issue. Thanks.

    • But the ‘lottery’ wouldn’t be run from the US therefore it doesn’t matter? US citizens can buy lottery tickets elsewhere in the world can’t they? However, Ming may have to satisfy the gambling laws of his country, so it was worth mentioning 🙂

    • MM your comment raised some curiosity: what’s the difference between a lottery and a raffle? I recall small-town raffles are conducted all round the US all the time and I haven’t ever had the slightest of impressions that there were laws restricting those in the US?

    • Perhaps you could administer the funding aspect through a crowdsourcing site?

  47. Reviews are something I have a bit of an intellectual problem with on my site as well and I can see where you are coming from. I don’t have the answer yet but I’d be interested to see what you come up with.

    1) Manufacturers always want to send me details about new products to get the word out. Had 2 last week.
    2) No use reviewing something without actually using it properly.
    3) I can’t afford to buy every ‘thing’
    4) Visitors are also interested in new, fresh reviews and ask for more reviews.
    5) A long review takes time to do and test, back to #1, why should I do their marketing for them?
    6) Back to #5 and #1, if I do write something up but ask for payment or to keep the eq, this could be seen as sponsored reviewing.

    • I don’t have the answer either, which is why I’m putting this idea out. I dislike the idea of advertising or sponsorship because of the associated obligations and connotations on objectivity, but at the same time, I can’t keep doing this for nothing.

      • Pentaxforums has a donation model that might be worth looking at – a compromise. That said, hosting and bandwidth cost peanuts (I have unlimited for £15 a months) but it’s your time doing this. If it means you lose other appointments then it’s a choice you need to make, whether to keep doing it or not.

        • No, they don’t ‘cost peanuts’ if you have serious traffic and need serious bandwidth with multiple international backups and low latency.

  48. Definitely think this is a good idea and a clever solution (no surprise) for several reasons.
    A.) While I am not buying much gear anymore, I still like reading your stuff, well thought out.
    B.) It keeps this good info free to the starving newbs.
    C.) It gives the folks that are genuinely considering that piece of equipment a chance to win. “Shares” of the initial investment should be kept small in $ amount.
    D.) It gives those that would like to support you, the ability to do so in many small ways rather than classes etc that may be more expensive. Like small “limited edition” patrons of the (gear) arts.
    E.) It keeps your reviews ethical, you don’t loose money on buying gear for reviews, and you don’t get payola from camera companies either. Your support comes from other users. Would a company be able to buy “shares” to have their equipment reviewed?
    F.) It lets the community drive what needs to be reviewed. How will unreleased NDA type cameras be dealt with? “Review for experimental large sensor camera?”

  49. The raffle aspect of your idea would not entice me to pay for a review. I know myself, and I know that I would simply assume that I would not win the gear, which would typically be true. So that leaves me with the question as to whether I would pay to read a review? My general answer is no, I don’t think so, though I might pay to read an occasional review of something that I was seriously considering purchasing. Personally, I don’t buy much gear at this point. I enjoy reading about it, but I’ve reached the conclusion that you often preach … i.e. it is my knowledge and experience that most limits my photographs, not my gear. I do agree with you that it would be a waste of your time to review products in which you have no genuine interest. I’d go further and say that the quality of your reviews would be impacted if you started to review such products.

    In the long run, I don’t think this new idea would be good for you. Most people would read much less of your blog. Also, in general, it might be a mistake to evaluate every endeavor as a short term, dollars and cents issue. Your free blog helps to build your brand, name recognition, reputation and credibility. It also gives you a platform to sell videos, workshops, ultra-prints, commercial work, etc. If you want to save time, maybe the simplest way would be to reduce the number of blog articles that you produce? Regardless of your decision, I wish you well.

  50. François Arbour says:

    I think it’s a great idea. I would willing to pay for the camera I am interested in.

  51. While I did vote yes for purely pragmatic reasons (I’d have a small chance of winning an interesting camera, assuming I have any money at the time anyway), I’d say if writing reviews is tiresome for you, other than reviews of things you normally use anyway, then why increase your workload on ’em?
    I mean sure, people will always be asking for ’em (even when you start actually doing it, people will be asking for more and more and so on), but I find your most interesting content has to do with general photography and philosophies and thoughts behind it and things of that nature (which is not to say your reviews aren’t well done – they are, it’s just that I find less value in ’em, because I already use what I like [Leica M2 and a 40mm Summicron] and I have no current need for anything else, but I read ’em anyway just to keep up to date on the newest cameras and what *might* fill some niche for me either now or in the future, and just because you find out other interesting stuff by reading well-written reviews as well).

  52. I enjoy reading your reviews. They’re very interesting and well thought out. But I’m not generally a gear buyer, so the reviews have no particular monetary value for me. I realize that the internet of photographic things is made up of people discussing the parts that are easy to change and improve…gear, tech, technique, but somewhere along the line I realized that the hard part is learning how to use all that gear and technique to make Art. If someone can actually tell me how to do that, I’d be willing to pay.

    I enjoy your reviews, but a review-free site wouldn’t stop me from coming. The rest of your content is at least as interesting.

  53. EvanCohen says:

    I’d prefer the yearly subscription.

  54. Tom Hudgins says:

    I voted NO. Not that I dislike your reviews or that I don’t value what you do. On the contrary, I find all of your posts to be entertaining and thought provoking. Whether or not I agree with your viewpoints, you always present arguments with clarity and reason — from haptic feedback to pursuit of perfection. My needs are different so I’m generally less interested in what you review but you do offer broad insight into equipment use and technique which I value. In other words, learning about the way you work is of more interest to me that what you work with. In the end, you do offer something of value — for me it just doesn’t qualify as pay-for-view content.

    • So you value learning about the way I work and what I do and what I use, but expect me to give that knowledge and experience away for free even though it’s cost me quite a bit to acquire it? Hmm.

      • Tom Hudgins says:

        I appreciate that you have a time allocation problem that you need to resolve. I understand this all too well having been a self-employed designer/photographer for over forty years. At this point in my life though, my energy, my time and now my finances are carefully allocated. While I do enjoy reading your blog, it’s not a priority for me. If you decide at some point that you need to make your site self-supporting through subscription or other method(s) I will certainly understand and I hope you appreciate my position as well. Thank you.

  55. I would appreciate your idea. I would be happy to pay. But I am afraid that the majority of internet users still think that they have to have everything for free, except if is related to their own workload and time 😉

    Internet is like the story below:
    ——
    OBITUARY OF SOMEONE ELSE

    I know that all of you were saddened to learn this week of the death of one of our church’s most valuable members — Someone Else.

    Someone’s passing created a vacancy that will be difficult to fill. Else has been with us for many years, and for every one of those years, Someone did far more than the normal person’s share of the work. Whenever leadership was mentioned, this wonderful person was looked to for inspiration as well as results. Someone Else can work with that group. Whenever there was a job to do, a class to teach, or a meeting to attend, one name was on everyone’s lips, “Let Someone Else do it.” It was common knowledge that Someone Else was among the largest givers in the church. Whenever there was a financial need, everyone just assumed that Someone Else would make up the difference.

    Someone Else was a wonderful person, sometimes appearing super-human, but a person can only do so much. Were the truth known, everyone expected too much of Someone Else. Now Someone Else is gone. We wonder what we are going to do. Someone Else left a wonderful example to follow, but who is going to follow it? Who is going to do the things Someone Else did? Remember, we can’t depend on Someone Else anymore.

    –Author Unknown–

  56. Ming, while the quality of your work is of the highest caliber, the nature of the internet is all about getting something for nothing. Charging for a review even with the prospect of winning some under a $1000.00 dollar valued camera is not going to fly. There is just so much free review info out there (quality or not [think Ken Rockwell]) that no one is going to pay for anything no mater what the above average quality is provided. I hate to be the only negative guy in the room here but this is what think – take it or leave it.

  57. Hi Ming, I’m in for the occasional paid review (especially the LX100)! I truly love your site and I hope you keep your more introspective philosophy and tradecraft related posts free. One other potential idea to fuse with you #4 hybrid, might be to include a special edition Ming Thein print taken with the camera reviewed. It wouldn’t have to be an image you need for your select professional catalog, nor would it have to be a large print (even 4 x 6 would be acceptable…though 8 x 10 would be better). I just think it would be cool to not only win the camera reviewed, but also get an original Ming as well 😉 Of course, the one potential hiccup with your idea is what happens when you give something a poor review? I guess the winner could always resell the item if they felt the same as you.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about your post on education and I am contemplating which tutorial package to start with (either the D + F or the A + M series). I’m torn as I know any course on improving how I see and capture images is worthwhile because this is a lifelong journey. But I’ve also got a backlog of images I need to review and select favorites for post processing, so I know the A + M courses would also be quite valuable at this stage in my development. As you may remember from some of my previous comments over the years, I started as an Olympus m4/3 user and have shifted over into the Panasonic camp with the GX7 and a future GH4 once I’ve saved appropriately and the body starts to see its first subtle discounts.

    I’d have held off on the GX7 in favor of an LX100 if it had a touchscreen. The GX and GH line “offset focus” capability allowing the touchscreen to serve as a focus point mouse even when it is blacked out and you are composing in the EVF has become a must have setting for me. Also, I’ve gotten more into video work and shot my first mini documentary over the summer. But I know your tutorials will benefit both my still and video imaging skills! Thanks again for your awesome site!

  58. Risto Vainio says:

    This blog is head above anything else in photography for me, has been for some time. If making it worthwhile for the author to keep it going, I’m willing to support, whether it’s paying for reviews or something else.
    Personally I value essays on photography even more than those great reviews and therefore the preferable model for me would be subscribing to “Ming Thein channel”. The absolute best for me would be a stepped model, where I could choose between the “Baseline content” (articles and reviews) as a regular subscription and “Premium” which would include the instructional videos.
    I’ve been holding back to buy videos so far, as compared to other content of similar production effort & length (like specialty movies in Vimeo) these are way costly. I’m not saying they’re not worth it – they’ve simply too expensive for me to even start experimenting. I’ve read thru descriptions and there’s potentially five to six episodes I’m interested in right away, which means investing hundreds of dollars within few weeks. I could afford one, but then which one would it be? Being an amateur and a family man I can’t justify the big lump sum – but I could easily buy into a subscription model, say 5$ a month for “Baseline” and 10-15$ for “Premium”.

    • Thank you, Risto. However, the essays are what I’d want to leave as free. To implement that many levels of subscription probably wouldn’t make sense – I doubt the demand/revenue would be enough to justify the admin overhead.

      Videos are expensive because they’re a niche product and cost a lot to make – there’s no getting around that. I’m not making content for free; I wish I could, but I still have to pay the rent…

  59. Dwaine Dibbly says:

    Unfortunately, there are simply too many free reviews out there and not all of them are worthless. Subscriptions haven’t worked for the newspapers and I’m not sure that the sweepstakes aspect can make enough of a difference. I love what you’re doing, Ming, but I want to be honest. Good luck! If you decide to give it a go, I hope I’m wrong.

  60. You make it sound like you are forced to review or blog. As far as I know you do it voluntarily, in part to create a social media presence I assume. So, if reviewing takes up too much time, reduce it.
    I don’t remember what your intention was back then when you created this blog, but maybe you can go back to those roots.

    • Well, the purpose for the site ands the site itself have evolved. If there is a means to meet a clear demand and make it work as a business, why not?

  61. This might well be my first comment (maybe, I don’t remember) but…it’s about time to support your great Idea! I wonder why this is not more widespread among the media sector.
    A subscription might really alienate a good portion of potential recipient of your knowledge and insight, and for me, that i find this gold mine invaluable, would be a pity, for the greater good of a more informed photographic community.
    On the other hand, as you rightly note, information and time do have a value; and like evenrything (sigh!) else there can be a price. A target specific toll might be the right tool (pun intended) to make the best of individual marginal propensity of accessing the information that otherwise wouldn’t be available – there is no real comparison for your reviews, Ming – while minimizing “societal loss” leaving the review open to read to everyone.
    In this way everyone can get interest in participate to the next pool for the subsequent review and the 1% chance of winning € 1000 worth of gear is equivalent to more than 50% discount on the participating fee (assuming rational neutrality to risk propension/aversion).
    Free riding will be kept at bay too: it ought be clear to everyone that i nobody participate, nobody reads anything.
    Enough jabbering, I’m (eventually) in for your #4-and-something-else solution, and closing, what about your other good idea i read about some time ago: “producing and selling consumer insights research on the camera industry”? It would be of a great help too and i would be more than willing to participate, of course! (cfr. https://blog.mingthein.com/2013/04/28/an-idea-and-some-help-requested/)

    Thank you,
    F

  62. stratiformus says:

    Sounds like “kickstarter” for reviews…

  63. This might even be one of my first (if not the fist) post here, but I think it might be worth supporting your clever idea! I wonder why it isn’t more widespread even to other forms of media!
    It has the clear advantage of not resticting too much the number of potential recipients of this enourmous gold mine of information and knowledge that I find invaluable. Of course, information can have a cost but a target specific toll can be right tool (pun not intended) to make the best of marginal user’s utility and minimize “societal loss”.
    On the other hand, as Tarmo was saying, the 1% chance of winning a € 1000 worth of goods, it’s the equivalent of more than 50% of the cost (assuming rational neutrality to risk propensity).
    And it is a good solution to free riding too: is to be made clear that if nobody participate nobody reads anything.
    Enough jabbering, I’m (eventually) in for the hybrid-#4-and-something-else solution.
    F

  64. What I think I value most about reading what you write is that it’s what you write – your perspective in words and images, that’s what’s important. As for reviews of cameras – based in part on your words, I’ve got an EM-1 and won’t be in the market for another camera for probably 3-5 years, ideally longer (I’m a slow learner…). Reviews of lenses have some appeal but again, I know what I want and only buy a few.

    So I fall into the subscription camp. I’d pay $99 a year to read what you write (perhaps a discount on videos/workshops to sweeten the deal?). What I’ve enjoyed on your site, and what I’ve learned/remembered from what you write is that gear is in service to a vision and without the vision, doesn’t matter how cool your camera is! That’s what I think you should be selling. Camera reviews and tips/tricks are probably more popular but what sets you apart is your way of seeing and shooting…

    • I don’t mind spreading the vision for free, because I enjoy doing it. But I do mind wasting time on reviews because it’s become tiresome and repetitive…ah well. Economically, how much discount on a workshop would you expect for a $99 subscription though?

  65. Although I find the idea of drawing a lottery for the camera review quite interesting, I don’t think I would ever pay for any review. Your reviews are good and I enjoy to read. But then, there are a trunkload of websites that spread their reviews freely, let alone all the youtube videos for a specific item. The older a camera gets, the more user-based reviews are available also (e.g. on amazon or other forum sites). For example, I don’t think you’ll get anyone pay for a review of the Fuji XT-1, it’s already 10 months on sale … especially when you have a quick look on the publications and articles already available.

    Personally, I do not understand why you try to make mo’ money from the website. As you wrote, you are a pro photographer. Do your business there and use this website as a marketing instrument. Lower your effort on doing free work.

    S.

    • Quantity is not quality. There are a lot of ‘reviews’ that are spec sheets by people who do not know how to take a h

    • I disagree – as Ming said, quantity is not quality. Please show me a free review for the E-M1 (for example) that would present such a photographer-oriented text, written by a photographer of the calibre of Ming. Basically what we would be getting here is a showcase of what the camera is capable of in very good hands – a very different approach from the vast majority of free review websites, where often you feel they are trying on purpose to be neutral and show the results obtainable under ‘normal’ conditions (which seem to include a mediocre photographer behind the camera :-\ )

  66. What happens to these reviews afterwards? Do they become free to view (possibly after a short time)? If it is pay to view, how much? Given the world we live in, how would you deal with piracy?

    My thought is that the initial fee is to make it happen/enter the raffle for the item. Thereafter perhaps the review could be early access pay to view (say $2-$5) for 6-12 months and then become free for all.

    • They’re free to view. Readers may well raise valid questions nobody else thought of. But only the subscribers would be able to win the camera.

  67. I totally understand your idea but like others already said, if you have to pay to much for a review of a product, that is not in your focus in the first place, you wouldn’t read the review at all.

    What, if you are interested in a product and the review is not brand new, thus the raffle has already taken place? The review would be less interesting if the price is too high. I would prefer a low review price and you buy and sell the products independently.

  68. I like your suggested idea because it’s new and the game element is always fun. It also let’s you choose to opt in for the kind of cameras that interest you.

    But what about the cameras that you buy for work, will you only review them if there is interest or keep om providing those reviews free as “teasers” for your paid reviews ?

    • I’d probably still review them since I’ll be using an shooting with them anyway – I’m just trying to justify spending 3-4 days on cameras that are popular but I know are ultimately no more than distractions for me personally…

  69. Hi Ming,

    maybe an option for you…..but think carefully about it if its really worth the time and money as a “fourth part of your business” beside mainly commercial/product stuff (e.g. watches etc.), galleryprojects /ultraprints on request and your educational part with producing teaching stuff /workshops and your email school on subsription/request”

    I think its already enough to do…the day has only 24 hours…you could see this sadly or luckily. it depends…;)…
    I am speaking now for our body/health ….it would love getting a tiny bit of more sleep and maybe having more free time for recreation and other hobbies, meeting freinds, family whatever….Health comes first, then later other stuff (family, money, success….
    Prevention is better than maintenance…it is as with the environment I dont say this easily believe me i am an environmental planner writing environmental imapct statements/reviews, survey reports, planning forestation and renewal sites etc.

    China (also Bangladesh) is for us the next paradise from an business perspective (environmental planner/engineers “the doctors of the environment”)….air pollution, abondoned polluted areas, waste management, landfills, recycling, contaminated seepage waters and rivers from heavy, textile industry etc…
    They are still focused mainly on shortterm economical growth/success…it would be better growing with a little slower speed with longterm benefits than fast and then have to repair destroyed things later which is often irreparable! Fortunately, their thinking is changing slowly after seeing the (midterm) effects of their thinking and actions…
    Sorry for going off topic ! But I think healt and enviroment have several connections/similarities…

    Just wanna say “Dont forget your work-life balance or how they gonna call it in modern language and times 😉 Dont ruin your health for may some shortterm benefits!!!

    I am just guessing and thinking this due to the fact what i already see youre doing and or have to do with regard to quantity and especially to your quality you achieving / aiming to!

    Dont be angry!
    2cents!
    Pepe

  70. I am one of the for now 3 votes for a 50 buck note. But that would be frank to say the list of cameras suggested has no interest.
    There has been several of your reviews Ming that turned me on or away from a camera aquisition. I rely very much on your opinion if you have a such on some product.
    The first was the EM1. Bought. The lenses for it. Bought.
    The second was the GR. Bought.
    The Third D750. Bought.
    Then there was the Leica X. Didn’t buy, but had interest.
    The 645Z. Didn’t buy, but had interest.

    I would vote for a paywall where you buy a review of an interesting camera, lens or any other reviewed item. A pool for which items should be reviewed could be refreshed every now and then.

    • This list is a sample rather than an exhaustive one; I’d of course have to take everybody into account before settling on the next ‘target’.

  71. Vonmanstein says:

    A shame. Sleep is such an enormous part of good health. I hope the trade off is worth it to you and your family.

  72. Hmm, I like the idea, but it would be a bit more complicated with more expensive stuff. Try finding 100 people willing to pay 60.- each for a 1dx review…
    maybe renting them would be an option, but that would scrap the fun raffle at the end 😦

    • No rentals in my part of the world, and yes, it might be tough. But then again, reviews for that kind of thing generate the most traffic (and presumably interest), so it might not be that difficult.

  73. It is an interesting idea. I am not sure however I understand if I would be in for paying $18 dollars for every review or if I in advance can choose which camera reviews I will pay for? I am asking because there are so many cameras I don’t want to read a review about and even less would I like to win a camera of no interest for me :-).

    If you are suggesting that I can choose which camera reviews to pay for I am definitely in for some reviews.

    I have previously been a yearly subscriber for reviews but found that to many of the reviews was outside my sphere of interest.

    • I would assume that there’d be a poll to select which cameras or lenses or whatever beforehand. This way it is not so hefty for people who are not interested in everything.

  74. I’m personally happy with minimal reviews, there are so few cameras/lenses nowadays that I really want a review of. I generally come to the site for the technical discussions and the other commentaries you do Ming 😉

  75. I’d prefer the yearly subscription.

  76. Interesting idea – hopefully everyone realises that this would mainly add reviews that you otherwise wouldn’t write. Sometimes people react badly to something free taken away – which is not really the entire case here. Also 1% chance to win a $1000 camera roughly equals $10 cashback (+added fun). Ideally you would also answer questions from paid readers (as long as they’re reasonable).

    The long term reviews and thoughts on using various systems (MF, high-resolution cameras, rangefinders, etc.) are interesting and useful for other reasons than considering the purchase of a specific camera. I would hope that they remain part of the main content.

  77. There’s something really appealing about not only winning a camera but also having a convenient collection of photos taken with it in a pro’s hands.
    You will have to deal with the issue that most people who would be paying for the review are everyday readers while a huge portion of the people reading it would be new readers who were looking specifically for reviews of that camera. Are there a lot of us who read reviews of cameras we aren’t especially interested in just because you wrote it?

  78. Nolan Haynes says:

    A very interesting way of going about it. Raffling off a camera that you would be reviewing. Perhaps, if you linked to the pages that have more information on the cameras, it may help with acquiring subscribers to the future review.

    • Nolan Haynes says:

      I am most definitely in on this.

    • I don’t have any pages with information on them, which is precisely the point. The choices aren’t arbitrary, they’re what I’ve received the most requests for – so clearly there’s already some demand…

  79. I’d like to think that the contributions are like magazine subscription fees, ala Reader’s Digest where once in a while we get a gift for subscribing; in this case, a camera which is even better 😉

  80. I wouldn’t stick to cameras. Are lenses not the more frequently pondered purchases for serious amateurs? The appeal in Lloyd Chambers’ site is the combination of very technical review information, and real life examples – tee, portraits and so on showing centre, edge performance, etc, etc. I subscribe to him… but when I look at what I have actually purchased, most of the cameras and lenses have been heavily influenced by your opinions (and indeed cameras / lenses I have ended up avoiding too).

    I woud certainly value your opinions enough to pay for them. Psychologically though, I wonder if the subscription model might not be more effective. Say, $99 a year (to begin with) for all review material behind a paywall. You can then buy.. and sell.. the gear.

    Your suggestion has some novelty, and some focus, but I wonder if it would drive the right revenue level to work. What if you only get 70 people to say yes, and you then have to tell them it isn’t going to happen? One of the positives of a general subscription is that you simply get to read reviews, without having to decide first if you are seriously interested. I have ended up buying things you have really championed – like the GR – and I would not have paid for a review of that up front because it wouldn’t have been on my radar.

    My 2c

    • Hmm, valid points. I think we will have to discuss this more over dinner tonight…

      • Nikolay Karev says:

        Totally agree to Linden. The first thought for me was – well, I vote with my whatever bucks for camera X, and there are only 2 other people who want the same review. So – no way? May be you want to consider a two-step process – free voting to evaluate the overall interest, then “voting with your bucks” to gather real money. Taking in account the conversion rate between these two, of course.

      • I think the open opt-in pay-per-view type approach would be an interesting experiment. This could also be combined with the subscription model that Lloyd Chambers uses – they aren’t mutually exclusive.

        However, Ming, unlike Lloyd, I feel that a lot of material that you have could remain freely available. The kind of content that provides view, orientation, inspiration, discussion and involvement. Carefully defining the types of content in each category could give rise to a very balanced experience for visitors and followers.

        Yearly subscriptions are going to be easier to manage and for some this may also be more desirable. Those people would commit to a subscription because the value proposition is great enough. The pay-per-view with a reward is an excellent idea, I think.

        Keeping a lot of interesting content free may be the grass roots of the site and could go a long way in maintaining the open feel and tone of the site. My guess is that a lot of valuable information could still be created that doesn’t take a lot of time and effort and could remain free. The specialised time-consuming content could probably be moved into the other two payment models without negatively affecting the perceptions of most visitors and followers.

        If review products will be raffled then even subscribers may need to pay to support the initial purchase. However, this might lead towards another variation of the blogger reviewer model. I guess that would depend on frequency and product, etc.

        Lots of possible variations in this direction. Interesting indeed.

        • Content of quality takes time to produce – free or not. But I do agree that most of it doesn’t fit a paid model, and that was never the intention of the site. But it could certainly move to a paid model for the more time consuming and less fun bits…

Trackbacks

  1. […] basically writes in his post, A new way to look at reviews, that he is thinking of a palatable way to monetize his camera reviews and by extension his entire […]

%d bloggers like this: