Off topic: credibility

I’ve recently been accused by several people of ‘not being objective’ and ‘losing credibility’ since representing a brand, and I’d like to address those critics today. Firstly, I don’t get paid for doing so. I enjoy a somewhat higher level of support and some loan equipment, but I still have to buy a good proportion of my own hardware. Secondly, the whole of photography is subjective in itself – equipment is only fit for purpose or not, there is no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ since no two people shoot the same way or same subjects. Sure, we can do quantitative measurement – but as most people (correctly) point out, there’s more to it than numbers. Thirdly, if the only thing you associate me with is equipment reviews, then I breathe a sigh of relief: you might be missing out on 90% of my site, but the gear-related questions and emails I don’t have to answer leave me time to focus on making pictures and the philosophy of photography. Lastly, the philosophy of photography and image-making and human psychological response has nothing whatsoever to do with hardware beyond its necessity as a tool for achieving a certain expression – you cannot have a compressed perspective with a wide angle, but two 500mm lenses are going to give you the same perspective regardless of pedigree.

Clarification number one: hardware is nothing more than a tool. I might write about it, I might review it, but it makes no difference to me what the letters on the front of the camera say so long as the thing does the job. Cameras are not religions, though on some fora you might be hard pressed to tell the difference. You need a camera to make a photograph. That is all.

From a business standpoint, we should choose the tools that give the best return on investment and that deliver the highest productivity. Note that productivity is both quantity and quality, and the highest value combination thereof. Anybody doing anything else is either not in this for a living, or is not optimising their business. Optimisation of return on investment does not mean buying the most expensive equipment: it’s investing the least that lets you get the job done to an acceptable level. I use Hasselblad because it gets the job done to the satisfaction of myself and my clients, and because it gives me a tangible difference in image quality that we can both see – forget web size images, because that’s not what I deliver. I am an ambassador because it makes financial sense and because I use the product already anyway – people seem to forget that I’ve owned a V system and digital back since 2013, far earlier than I had an official relationship with the company.

If this post comes across as an irate rant, that’s probably at least somewhat true: it really does bother me that I’m frequently accused of a) not being objective when I buy equipment with my own money to assess whether it works for my photographic objectives and report my own findings, b) losing credibility by working with a brand whose equipment I already bought and owned beforehand, c) being gear-obsessed. The irony, of course, is that accusers of c) do not read any of the other articles or posts I write, which are 90% photographs and philosophy and have no mention of gear anywhere, and when I stop writing about gear, most of the audience leaves.

Clarification number two: yes, hardware is a tool, but choose the right tool. The tools are complicated. The process of choosing them is necessarily going to be complicated too, compounded by the complexity of one’s own changing creative objectives. All you can do is be as clear about the desired outcomes as possible, and in turn be true to oneself. Long term, there’s no point in doing otherwise: you’re just deceiving yourself and inevitably wasting time and money.

There are no absolutes. I don’t claim that X is the ultimate over Y, unless there is some valid quantitative way of proving it (i.e. an Otus 28 is heavier than Nikon 28/1.8G). You can’t even say lens X renders better than lens Y, because the whole concept of ‘rendition’ is a subjective one: it may render better to your eyes, tastes and preferences, but not necessarily to somebody else. Therefore every review or assessment is subjective. The difference is whether the objectives are clearly defined or not: a generic review probably tries to cover all bases, but in the end isn’t really useful to anybody. If I write a review, it’s probably only useful to a small proportion of the total audience who shoots the same way and subjects I do, but at least a) I make that clear upfront and b) it’s conclusive and consistent with every other review I write.

What few reviews I do write have always meant to be taken from the point of view of assessment of fitness of purpose (or not). I cannot do anything if the reader chooses to interpret it otherwise – if you think my dislike of your camera is an affront to your masculinity, that in itself probably says far more about your own psyche than anything else. I am merely saying that I dislike it for my own photographic objectives. I’ve even said many times here and elsewhere that I would not recommend a Hasselblad for everybody – it is a specific tool to a specific purpose, and 99% of the time, you’re probably better served by M4/3. I’ve also gone on record saying that diminishing returns diminishes vanishingly quickly at the high end: yes, the H6 is better than the H5, but we’re now talking about the 1% of the 1% – if I were to buy something with my own money, I pick the H5 – it’s a simple question of business economics and ROI. But if you’re Annie Leibowitz or Platon, and in the 1% of the 1%, then you already know what kind of tool you need.

During my own journey of evaluation of tools and searching for information online, I found that there was a remarkable lack of coverage of medium format compared to 35mm; whilst this was somewhat expected due to the much smaller market, it was still surprising given the internet’s need to live vicariously. What few assessments did exist were either clearly not evaluated from the point of view of an actual user, or failed entirely on objectivity or coverage or comprehensiveness – or multiples of those. I sought to fill that hole by documenting my own journey through several medium format options – early readers will recall that I really didn’t like the H4D much for reasons of responsiveness and UI, and found the CFV-39/V system great, but very limited in shooting envelope. I didn’t see much of a tangible difference between the S2 and D800E, though. However, there was something undeniably different in the rendition the larger sensor – and couple with the jump in image quality from the current generation of CMOS sensors, the difference became too large to ignore.

I now know why there’s a relative drought of information. It’s not because nobody wants to know, it’s not because the gear isn’t accessible – the credible reviewers can easily get hold of this stuff to test if they want – it’s much simpler than that. It’s because either it works for you, and you’re done with the search and can finally focus on making images, or you lost your way somewhere along the road and have gone back to searching for the face tracking and auto-smile shutter setting. I got into photography to make images. I had to master my tools to be able to control them to make the images I want – like learning a language before you can write a book. I’m sure there’ll be some loudmouth who uses this article as a springboard to criticise my approach, say I’m blatantly wrong, or just do their derisive trolling: it’s only further proof that the author really lacks the wisdom to differentiate between excreta and chocolate. Personally, I’m pretty much done with the hardware bandwagon. I need to even better understand the relationship between audience, idea and creator – and the subtitles of human psychology underpinning it all to create an even better image: but in the meantime, I’m going to say it again: photographers make pictures – and there are many levels to this statement. That is all. MT

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Comments

  1. I know this is an older post but I came across this and from a business perspective this is spot on! I am not a photographer but the mere fact that you addressed the points on what works for you made me giggle. This gave you more credibility in my eyes….Happy Shooting!

  2. Dear Ming,
    don’t let yourself gt distracted by the trolls. This is probably a majority of people today as we also can see in the general society – at least in the western realm.

    I highly estimate your reviews already because they base on practical experience. And I’m still free to grasp described facts and then decide how important is which for my photography. The ongoing search for the latest gear has 2 decisive disadvantages: it costs a lot of time and then we have to realize that makers in general do have a different view on the products. The time, they do what is doable is long ago and basically all products are solely driven by commercial aspects. Thus we never get the optimum anyway!
    E.g. I can’t imagine that it is overly difficult or expensive to build in “HDMI-In” into high resolution tablets, which I’d consider as a very fine help for manual focus, but no, it’s not available (to my knowledge).

    Opinions on gear are certainly a difficult matter, which we can already see in Nikon’s permanent compromise Bokeh over sharpness.
    Best example may be me owning a good smartphone. I despise social media and consequently don’t use my smartphone (and any camera Wi-Fi) for it. As the majority of Apps claim the right to download and abuse my data there are only the Apps on my smartphone it came with and even no contacts. Because of my restrictive side conditions my smartphone is pretty much senseless. Most young people call me paranoid because they don’t care, which data are abused from them.

    Photography is not my basic income, therefor invested time and money plays a big role in my decisions. Limitations must bear down in decisions. Thus I decided to stay with 35mm and e.g. though accepting how outstanding they are, to me Otusses are out of the equation because manual focus only (costs too much time to make sure to have a sharp shot besides they are pretty heavy especially concerning flight hand-luggage).
    And yes, I’m a bit sad not to be able, to read about your 35mm DSLR experiences any longer since you switched formats. But again this is my problem and no reason or right to criticize you!

    You are a photographer and consequently you have to decide for the gear you need for your assignments, no matter what others think or say.
    If I cannot and want not to join in your way to Hasselblad or middle format for that matter it is my problem, but at the same time, I still can gain some education, reading about your experience.

    But the main thing, your critic’s very obviously ignore is your absolutely outstanding art of seeing. This is priceless and goes far beyond any gear decision. Especially as you have proven that you can do it with all sorts of cameras.

    Manfred

    • Thank you, Manfred. I agree on the data privacy invasion, but I still have to be visible on social media. I also think we have reached the point where the technical evaluations are somewhat meaningless because everything is already at such a high level; the nuances will only matter to a few, and you’ll know if you are in that group – and what you needs are – and you won’t need me for that anyway 🙂

      People seem to forget I also post a lot of images from my iPhone…

  3. Freaking mentally deranged fanboys ruining everything for the rest of us. Are you happy now ? Huh ? Idiots.

    Ming, very sad to read you won’t post hardware commentaries anymore. Thanks for your previous work on the matter, it was really precious to have your opinion.

    • They’ll either only be happy when everybody agrees to their greatness, or when there is nothing left but entropic mush. Or when John Galt takes over.

      There are two reasons I probably won’t be doing any more testing: I haven’t seen anything that interests me enough to open my wallet, and barring the 100MP H6D, which I’ll be getting in a couple of months anyway, there isn’t anything beyond what I’ve currently got that will increase my image quality or shooting envelope – it seems silly to buy and spend time reviewing stuff for the sake of it.

  4. I also want to second the gratitude for your excellent blog. I appreciate your philosophical and art-related articles and there is no other site, I know, which offers that in this, as you call it, “pathological” density.

    I also think you are a very good gear-reviewer. And you are right in one point: gear-reviews have a large, large subjective element; even, the good-ones have to have it. So for my own acquisition decisions they only serve as warm-up or appetizers. There is no way to evaluate gear (and I learned that the hard way) without using it within your own universe and usage scenarios. This holds not only for cameras but also for lenses with their hardly to describe characteristics (and I am not talking about MTF). So I think you’re totally right to phase-out your gear reviews, even if this will cost you some clicks, it should improve the quality of your audience.

    • Thanks Norbert. I’ve actually come to realise that if one’s objectives are very, very specific, and deviate too much from what most people tend to do with it – it makes no sense at all to write a review. Firstly, it’ll only be applicable to an extremely small audience, and secondly, it’s encouraging shortsighted and unsavoury elements – so, best to maintain silence. There’s no question the audience has continued to improve since cutting the gear reviews though. 🙂

  5. I am glad to see the outpouring of support for your site. I second the positive comments. I have appreciated your reviews. I find them honest and well-reasoned. Moreover, they address the issue of the equipment’s value proposition. That you might be “compromised” by your relationship with Hasselblad is sheer nonsense.

    I appreciate even more your tips on photography, and I learned a lot from the B&W Masterclass that I purchased. Furthermore, your philosophical outlook fits my own.

    But, the thing I like the most are your images, and the stories about them. Just the other day, I moved my bookmark to your site from my “Bloggers” folder to my “Photographers” folder, where I keep links to pages on the likes of Adams, Maisel, Fan Ho, Stettner, Eggleston, just to name some of my favorites.

    To quote my grandfather, “Be honest, do the best you know how, and if they don’t like what you say or do, let ’em holler.”

    • Thanks Jamie. I was careful to make sure that my agreement with Hasselblad did not demand exclusivity, and one of the pre-conditions was that I actually already use/own some of their equipment so the relationship is really mutually beneficial. That wasn’t hard as I’ve owned four V-system cameras, pretty much every lens and two digital backs. I’m free to use a Phase One if I choose (and did try one recently, but wasn’t happy with ergonomics though their 100MP electronic shutter is wonderful). They have no issues with me working with Zeiss or using a Nikon or Canon if the occasion demands – and I do; however, I’ve never seen why I can’t choose to use what I prefer.

      Photographer v. Blogger: I’m glad. I’ve always thought of myself as a photographer who writes, not a writer who photographs. 🙂

  6. Even though you are mostly done with hardware, I still found your reviews to be far more credible than on some other sites. And you also had carefully curated sample images from each product, instead of just “snapshots”.

    • I don’t think snapshots are meaningful because they don’t represent the way you’d actually use the product – and as a result you don’t really gain any insight into whether the product is useful or not under practical application. But it’s also what makes up the hugely subjective component of the review, and what takes a lot of time…

  7. Without question MT, the world is a better place for us photographers with you in it and writing about whatever takes your fancy. A balanced, thoughtful and articulate approach beyond compare. I say THANKS!

  8. The simple fact that you are answering these comments shows respect, humility, love, patience, and thoughtfulness. Hmmmm, arent these things that also create wonderful photographs?

  9. Please don’t stop doing your equipment reviews just because some trolls vomit their usual word salad. Your posts on equipment are my best guide to help decide which way to jump. The technical details on the regular sites are useful, but your honest, comprehensive commentary is invaluable to help avoid costly, frustrating mistakes.

    Thanks for all your great work on this site.

    • Thanks Ernie, but they don’t make any financial sense to do, either. Five days of unpaid and unbillable work, me often having to buy the camera and then deal with trolls for…the pleasure of a few is really, really bad return. Especially if I have no intention or need to use the hardware afterwards; nobody in their right mind pays to work and be abused.

  10. You have told us how you evolve into Hassy system. Testing the equipment, evaluation of support etc. I think your decision is sensible. With due consieration of all matters your subsequent reports are objective enough and not otherwise. I am envious of your toys though. Thanks for your hard works.

    • Thanks, I thought it made sense too. But it also has to make sense from an economic standpoint, which is important to those pros who want to stay in business – toys aren’t toys for us, they’re tools. If there’s no ROI, then no matter how cheap or good – they don’t make the cut.

  11. Off-topic, I wouldn’t say that. Credibility is what makes or breaks this part of your business. It seems that nowadays 5 pct of the US population is trying to make some extra bucks in online reviewing. Standards are going down and swimming in more or less the same pond, you will get some flak.
    To give these critics some credit, you now seem to be really plugging your own products. I follow you for quite some time, but lately I land here through Facebook. The last five posts there are simply a repeat of this photo bag you (co-)created. That’s apparently your focus on that media channel. I didn’t know you posted some other material in the mean time. I don’t care, I like your work. But if you do something like that, you shouldn’t be too surprised that some people start putting you in the “Ken Rockwell Category”. Credibility is a tricky thing.
    I think people who put in the 10.000 hours themselves have no problems at all with your gear articles.

    • “To give these critics some credit, you now seem to be really plugging your own products. I follow you for quite some time, but lately I land here through Facebook. The last five posts there are simply a repeat of this photo bag you (co-)created. “

      No, they’re not – FB is just picking up a random image in the post, and for an post with no images, is the one in the sidebar.

      And how is designing and making your own equipment plugging? ONE product. I’ve never reviewed a bag or panned the competition. I’d say putting the time and financial investment into something like this is the opposite: I’ve got real skin in the game, more so than somebody who just says everything is great for his 3% referral. Should I be promoting the competition instead? Is it unfair for me to attempt to run a business now?

      • No need to explain. I have a closet full of bags, most of which I can’t or won’t use. My response to your announcement was to purchase a bag, because I trust you to have done your homework and research. I need just the kind of bag you created. Thanks!

    • Hans, I think your comments on Ming’s attempts to market his bag make absolutely no sense. How does one person spending their resources, both in terms of time and I’m sure, actual capital, to design a product and then make a reasonable effort to market it hurt their credibility?

      If anything, this entire bag exercise should help his credibility. He’s been very clear about his involvement with it and that if successful, he stands to profit from it, or lose, if not. Also, I’ve been following Ming’s blog for years now and to the best of my knowledge, while he does offer several products/services periodically, he is, by today’s standards, very un-intrusive with his marketing.

      He has gone to great lengths to maintain his credibility, even refusing to setup adspace on his blog even when some of us readers told him we didn’t care. So I find the whole idea of a marketing effort for his own product affecting his credibility confusing at the least. I hope people aren’t that short sighted.

      • I totally agree. Sites full of ads and calls to support their owners’ families by donating or buying from affiliated sites is not what Ming’s site is about. Many seem to forget that it takes time and effort, and expense, and Ming does it for free for anyone interested in his blog.

        Ming has put his experience of owning various bags to good use and designed one that is different and many will find more practical. The fact that he has a natural avenue to bring his design to the attention of his readers is irrelevant. How does this affect his credibility?

        Has the fact that Eisenstaedt, Feininger, HCB, et al, all published books affected their credibility? No. So it is sad that someone should find Ming’s thoughtful design of his bag has.

    • Hans if someone were to give you an enema you could be buried in a match box. Ming’s credibility rests securely on the depth, breadth and quality of his work which, in an act of generosity bordering on self destructive, he shares with us for free. If you require proof of his integrity beyond that provided in this blog you are either insentient or projecting your own personality defects on others.

  12. It’s unfortunate that some people seem to be more interested in gear reviews than actual photographic articles on what makes a good photograph. I notice that you get lots of comments when you do gear reviews and I’ve also seen this on other photo blogs. People are gear fanatics. To me, gear reviews are not what I enjoy about your website but the articles and beautiful photographs which you produce. I never look at your photographs wondering what type of camera you used because to me it’s not important.

    • You’re right – it isn’t that important, since it doesn’t affect composition and only really affects large output these days (which isn’t the internet). I’m pretty sure the skew is because buying something and pressing buttons is perceived as a much easier/cheaper way to ‘improvement’ than any sort of self-introspection. 🙂

  13. I would just like to reiterate what so many have have already written. Your website and your blog are gifts to those of us who strive to better understand the craft of photography, and who strive to always improve our photographic skills. I have some idea of the amount of time and energy you devote to your public writing. That’s why I call it a gift. As others have noted, the miracle that allows you to communicate with others all over he world, that allows me to benefit from your skills and experience, that miracle also allows a certain number of people to vent their spleen, to do harm through their words and the unbalanced emotions that drive their words. I know the harm. I want you to know, I hope that you will remember, that the vast majority of us who benefit from your work support you. If this electronic medium can convey positive energy, I will it to do so with this comment. Many thanks!

    • Thanks David – it’s certainly a gift to those willing to give it a few moments of consideration with an open mind; for me it’s almost pathological instead 😛

  14. Ming, I cannot say for others, but I find your blog THE most interesting ongoing photographic resource out there. And it is not because of the gear reviews, but because of your writing on photography in general and pictures that you post that make me want to go out and shoot more.

    As for your points about the reviews and your objectivity. I think that people who are not photo professionals such as you are, are in a sense out of balance. You buy your gear and the gear pays for itself. You’re famous and thus you get to review gear of many manufacturers. And of course your requirements for your gear are significantly different than those of most photo hobbyists out there. Not saying that hobbyists are necessarily less demanding or anything of this kind. Simply, as you point out yourself, each person has their own requirements, tastes, etc, yet you WORK in the realm of photography.

    However as a hobbyist, I think that once one settles on a specific gear (system, lenses, workflow – all being tools), one would be all the wiser not to look out for the grass of the neighbor that always be greener as the proverb has it. If new requirement comes up or if the said hobbyist realizes that they want to explore something new or something different, then they would be welcome to dwell into what internet has to offer. I mean – you got your gear, go take pictures, not spend endless time on the internet discussing but not practicing.

    Personally, I’ve had my share of fora experience and all other silly stuff. Your blog and your pictures are really a breath of fresh air and I so much thank you for that.

    • Thanks Boris. And I’m even more glad it’s not the reviews that are interesting – because they’re only useful for so long.

      Two clarifications, though:
      “You buy your gear and the gear pays for itself.”
      We buy gear IF it pays for itself – not if it doesn’t. That’s probably the most fundamental thing about staying in business in this industry.

      “You’re famous and thus you get to review gear of many manufacturers.”
      Not always: they still expect you to toe the company line and say everything is awesome. There’s a reason why I don’t review a lot of stuff, even if it’s interesting to me: I’d have to buy it to remain objective, or be subject to some subtle smearing (it’s happened to me before with a couple of the more popular brands in the domestic market here.) Hell, Canon told me that they expected to review and veto my 5DSR review before I published – this being after I mentioned to one of their execs at a trade show that I’d bought one at retail! What right do they have?

      In fact, very few companies are confident enough of their product that they do not put restrictions on what you publish, and it’s these companies I choose to work with now (Zeiss and Hasselblad).

      “However as a hobbyist, I think that once one settles on a specific gear (system, lenses, workflow – all being tools), one would be all the wiser not to look out for the grass of the neighbor that always be greener as the proverb has it. “
      I can’t say this enough, and it would save the hobbyist not just a huge pile of cash, but a huge pile of anxiety, too. And in the end does you no good because you are not shooting.

  15. One of my personal mottos is that “It goes without saying or you can say it again.” Every once in a while we have to say it again and, as you point out, repetition in some areas is necessary and beneficial.

    I had email in 1979 and have run major large forums for companies like CompuServe and Microsoft, over 100 of them, so I have seen just about every kind of troll and ne’er-do-well that Internet history offers.

    And forums and blogs are at a low point just now, at least as I see it. Professional photographers are shrinking, as the iPhone and similar cell phones proliferate and today everyone is a photographer. Many photographers who are hurting are not above eating their own kind. I find myself standing up for folks like you and Lloyd Chambers (and others) quite often, and more-so lately.

    Many photography forums have sunk to a shadow of what they once were and are obstructed, even dominated, by embedded trolls who are not challenged by either the official forum moderators or the members themselves. This is either due IMO to cronyism, indulgence, or sheer cowardice.

    As someone who also blogs almost every day to thousands of readers, personally I find that blogging (and its comments) for me is an excellent discipline, a way to take my own emotional temperature, and a great instructor. However, it does, like life itself, have its ups and downs.

    If you can credit my opinion, please know that your blog is excellent!!! Don’t change a thing. I have followed you through your Nikon equipment, and am now about to continue with the Hasselblad X1D, and you are responsible for my ordering one. You are fair, accurate, and totally helpful IMO.

    Please just shake off and ignore these sad parasites that have embedded themselves in the fabric of our online communities and have nothing good to say about anything or anyone, except perhaps themselves. Know that you are on-track!

    • All of us in the industry are hurting compared to even just a few years ago – I still think there’s no excuse to be hostile, though. I’m fine competing on merit rather than politics – but I’m not sure everybody else is.

      “Many photography forums have sunk to a shadow of what they once were and are obstructed, even dominated, by embedded trolls who are not challenged by either the official forum moderators or the members themselves. This is either due IMO to cronyism, indulgence, or sheer cowardice.”
      I actually suspect the truth may be a bit sadder than that: people are just not as interested in photography as they used to be; the low hanging fruit are picked and it’s a lot more effort to progress further, so less time and energy is expended because the passion for many has moved to other things. That’s fair enough, I think – not easy to get rewards beyond instant gratification in the long run.

      No plans to change a thing for now, thank you! 🙂 But as you say: sometimes we have to say it again.

  16. “When someone seeks, then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”
    ~ Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

    Dear Fellow Readers,
    It seems that this website’s photography hardware reviews are more insightful and valuable precisely for the very reason Ming is being criticized. On the one hand hardware reviews gain from evaluations of performance merits without emotion or a slant created by a hidden economic incentive. On the other hand a photographer with vision benefits in knowing how specific hardware could be applied to achieve their artistic goal – which is what makes this site such a treasure trove. To the astute reader, the philosophical articles provide insight into the way Ming uses his hardware to achieve a specific compositional style, color/tonal quality or narrative. The chronicles of both his artistic and commercial photography journey add gravitas to the few equipment reviews that he does. Ultimately this informed approach bears the greater fruit by giving us readers a deeper well of perspective into those reviews. Even for the casual photographer, a curious and balanced approach to researching equipment should find enormous value to be gleaned here.

    On the point of author integrity – the more one reads through this site the more obvious it becomes that evaluations on hardware are neither informed nor skewed by brand loyalty. That he is now a Hasselblad ambassador seems a positive development for us all – it means a talented photographer who openly shares his thoughts and experiences has even greater resources to draw on. Ming’s recent efforts to combine Zeiss Otus lenses with his Hasselblad body is just one of many examples of proof of integrity for anyone with eyes wide open to see. The setup and content on this website also speaks loudly to a heavily tilted emphasis on education over monetary gain. What is not to like, appreciate and support here?

    Ming your dedication to the path you have chosen is worthy of all of our respect. Thank you for what you do. May an open and civilized discourse on the art and craft of photography continue to bloom here.

    Del

  17. Ignore the critics- remember its the Man in the Arena that counts- see quote by Theodore Roosevelt. Keep doing what you are doing.

  18. Robert E Good says:

    Just keep up the good work both verbal and visual. You have a unique site and for me your integrity shines through.

  19. I am a newcomer to your site but love it already. Your photos are what counts and they are great.
    If someone loaned me good quality equipment I would surely use it. Good for you if you benefit from H.
    How many of us can afford H equipment? Not many, that’s for sure. Certainly not me.
    But………. if I came on a shoot with you I would prefer you to be using similar equipment to mine, or I would feel as though we are not approaching the end result from a similar start position.
    Having said that, are you ever going back to Prague?

    • Fair enough, James. However, if you were on a shoot as a client – then I would assume you wouldn’t also be shooting since you’ve hired me to do the best job possible; which is the premise of commercial work. Workshops are and always have been secondary for me. And I have to balance the desire for people to see what life is like ‘working at the other end’ vs what’s achievable. I can certainly use similar equipment, but it wouldn’t make any sense to acquire it for that sole purpose since it wouldn’t be used afterwards; the past has proven a demonstration with something very basic – like a phone camera – also does the trick of decoupling composition and seeing from hardware 🙂

      Prague – and workshops in general – unlikely in the near future. This year was very tough because of family commitments; I just can’t be away from home for extended periods anymore, so something has to give. I plan to try to maintain one or two workshops next year, but I don’t know how likely this will be at this point.

  20. You must be doing something very well and very right to generate overly harsh criticism! Personally, I prefer to get advice and knowledge from those who wear their biases, financial investments, etc. openly because 1) I know where they are coming from and 2) they are enthusiastic enough to offer tips and work arounds for any limitations they come up against. Beyond that, a person’s individual integrity is proven over time and you’ve paid your dues in spades. So most of us who have followed you for any length of time know we are getting well thought out and thoroughly explored experience with technique, subject matter, and gear. Great article, once again.

  21. Ming,

    You do an excelent job!
    With fame comes some drawbacks… not all persons are gracious nor thoughtful. No worrries.
    If you want some constructive feedback, you can be verbose and a bit sensitive to comments and unpleasant people.
    Otherwise, your writing is clear, photo style your own, you share a lot and I look forward to your blog almost daily. Appreciate the X1d analysis I am waiting for my order to be delivered.

    Your fan,
    Chris Golson

    • Thanks Chris. I don’t think you can do a good job without caring, and if you care – eventually, the sheer volume of crap received does start to wear. Developing a thick skin may well mean losing touch with the audience or even your own motivations, which is entirely counterproductive to producing art – which has to be an insightful reflection of self and surroundings. 🙂

      • I can’t imagine how difficult and draining it is to ignore the delinquents and sociopaths, especially when they’ve learnt to hide their bile till some way into a “post”, but please keep on keeping on, knowing that sane people appreciate your work and generosity.

  22. You are very good at what you do and very generous with your time and talents. If others can’t understand this then they probably can’t help it and certainly aren’t worth worrying about. Just do what you do best. The internet can be a snakepit, alas, and full of experts who may not have been near a camera in years. Best seen as an episode in the great comedie humaine.

  23. Some people can’t help being petty and stupid. Those that are vocal about it are largely just compensating for acute insecurities or shortcomings.

    Your photos are the only proof anyone needs that you’re legit. Period.

  24. I am an amateur photographer of many years with a limited budget for equipment, it bothers me not as what I have is adequate for my usage and that is all that matters.
    Todays blogs in many fields where tools/machines/equipment are reviewed have become a battleground for fanboys to slag one another off in endless drivel about items that have little or no bearing on their actual photography or anyone else’s, if they ever do any that is ?
    Which is why I don’t visit those anymore and your site is one of the few I come back to simply to read and see the thoughts and work of someone I consider to be an exceptional photographer who always has something interesting to say about his work and a bit about that image was achieved, long may your work and blog continue, ignore the “brave new world” a large part of it has lost the plot completely.

  25. Hi Ming. I think any criticism probably comes from envy of some kind. They can’t fault your pictures so indulge in ad hominem attack. I love your pictures and always find them interesting and with a wonderful feeling for detail. Maybe some folks think you wouldn’t get the same results wthout that Hasselblad but it’s nonsense. I would like a Hasselblad for certain things but I don’t envy professionals who have to carry heavy gear and lenses around. It’s an honour for Hasselblad to have chosen you as one of their ambassadors and I will keep on enjoying your work regardless of which camera you have used. Myself, I am happy to wander around a city with my Ricoh GR, Olympus E-P5 or Olympus Mjuii, looking for the unusual or bizarre and happy if I can get a photo to put on my Flickr page that others might find interesting.

    Ignore the naysayers and carry on as you are.

    • They do their best to fault the pictures too, which I actually don’t mind: photography is art, which is subjective, and entirely down to personal bias and preferences – so that’s fine. If anything, I believe creatives and artists need critics (well, constructive ones, at least).

      Many seem to ignore that I still post and shoot from my iPhone. Doesn’t change the composition one bit. Not sure how much further one could get from the ‘Blad 🙂

  26. Bill Walter says:

    Ming, I wouldn’t pay attention to your critics. If your credible and successful, you’ll have those who oppose you, that’s just the way it is. I have found your reviews to be very helpful. When considering the purchase of equipment I check out the comments and reviews of 3 or 4 people on the internet whose viewpoints I respect. You happen to be one of these. I will also read a smattering of user reviews. Then I will have enough info to make my decision. A good example is the Zeiss 28mm f2 lens which I recently purchased. More that any other reviewer, you pointed out the drawbacks and “warts” of this lens so I could understand what I would be dealing with if I purchased it. That’s what I call a balanced review. Your comparison reviews are also very helpful (like your comparison between the Nikon Coolpix A and the Ricoh GR). I would suggest you ignore the naysayers and keep moving forward. I personally look forward to upcoming reviews.

  27. “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”
    – Benjamin Franklin

  28. Don’t let ’em grind you down, Ming. Both the writing and the photography are excellent. I don’t *always* agree with your writing and I don’t always find your take on a subject compelling (either would be odd; both would be downright weird) but so much of what you write and shoot resonates with me. You do what you do very well and the explanation of the thought process is very interesting. It’s a bonus to see the odd place with which I’m tangentially familiar (Hong Kong, Lisbon) through your eye.

    • I couldn’t agree more.
      However I would say that everyone is subjective. Everyone sees with their own eyes and hears with their own ears.
      I think I can only say the critique or comments of someone make sense to me, or they do not.
      And Ming’s comments or critique on photographic material is the best I have come across. Period.

      Felix

      • …and I’ll be the first person to admit that no critique or opinion on anything subjective is absolute or authoritative; you can only weight it according to the importance you accord the giver of the opinion. And with that, I think I’ve really answered my own post 🙂

    • Thanks Bahi.

  29. Ming, you have a loyal fan base and it is for these that your site appeals. You provide more depth to your images than the mere images themselves would. You reach out to many who appreciate all that you do. Long may you continue to so do.

    Difficult as it must be, and not easy to ignore, I am sure you will be able to ride above all the negativity directed at you. Best wishes, Terry.

  30. John Cleaver says:

    Ming,

    Try to ignore the ignorant and the prejudiced – they’re not worth dealing with.

    This is a very interesting site with a great breadth of material, and the content that is not related to specific equipment is fascinating – although clearly pieces which point out equipment trends are often helpful, as are considerations of equipment-handling in the field. I look elsewhere to find out, for instance, about the surface profile of best focus of a specific lens or about its focus-shift issues. And I would never waste time looking at web sites that exist to provide uncritical fealty to particular manufacturers or systems; technology is continually developing, and every engineering design requires trade-offs. The best horse for a particular course necessarily will change as time progresses – even though one has to place one’s bet and maintain it for a considerable period!

    Even though I do not make money from photography, much of my work is applied: to support my book-authoring, publication-editing, and related activities. So I seldom get round to the more purely artistic. And I seldom follow recommended procedures in detail, in part because I don’t have large batches – rather, I have to deal with specific issues for a few frames (having been photographing ‘seriously’ for five decades, I still have a film-user’s approach to the number of frames taken!). But your material – both on the web and in the videos – so often provides suggestions that can be incorporated with good effect to enhance my rather variable work-flows.

    Above all, I suppose that I find most fascinating the approach to particular types of subject – particularly interesting in recent times has been the work on large constructional projects. And the more abstract-architectural and the ‘ways of seeing’ topics are refreshing, and the professional and ethical points are thoroughly worthwhile.

    So keep at it, and follow Mark’s final recommendation!

    John

    • Actually, your comment makes me remember something: the equipment posts are temporal, and only useful for a limited time. The rest – lasts forever. One more reason not to worry about it too much…

      It’s not just the horse or conditions that change, but the entire field. The best results will always be obtained by the most balanced combination of field, horse and rider; I just wish there was some way I could push this ‘obvious’ statement further.

      I too believe less is more – in the final curation. But up to that point, more is required to experiment and fully explore all possibilities; practice, practice, practice! Is there more I could do with the civil engineering projects? Almost certainly. Am I doing it? Working on it 🙂

      • Some equipment posts may have a longer life than you realize. Despite the fact that the Olympus M4/3 cameras have been bypassed by advances in sensor technology, your lens reviews done when the 60mm macro and the 12-42mm f/2.8 zoom were new are of real value to one who is just now able to afford a used EM5 II. The sample images posted during your earlier engagement with the format have made it abundantly clear that those lenses (and the 75mm and 45mm) feeding a 16MP sensor are capable of far more than I will ever achieve. As a result, I can ignore all the fervor and hype surrounding new gear and be more than happy picking up used and discounted lenses as they appear. Thanks for not flushing those older equipment reviews and images.

        • True – lenses I think do last a long time; both for production cycles and because of the ability to adapt older glass to newer mirrorless. Some of my regularly used lenses are 40+ years old.

          Bodies though…not so sure anybody cares about a D700! 🙂

  31. Honestly this is like deja vu. Again!
    How many times do you need to explain yourself, on your website, about your gear choices for your photography?
    On second thoughts please don’t answer that question, the numbers are probably depressingly high.

    It is actually very sad that some people may be able to afford some of the more expensive kit you occasionally review and yet have so little intelligence/ manners/ and or social skill. The trouble is that on-line it can be hard to tell the difference between a very lost and lonely sole desperate for any human interaction that they will even seek arguments or a complete psychopathy baiting you for sport.

    Best regards and thanks for all the effort and considered thought you put into your site, I really appreciate it.

    • It IS depressingly high. Yes, deja vu, but you’d be surprised how many times a really simple concept must be repeated: gear is a tool, and subservient to your creative intentions. Not the other way around. And of course, the sharper the tool, the more expensive it is, and the easier it is to injure yourself…

      I think there are more baiters than lonely souls – the latter will be civil if you are civil. The former…well, I believe that’s why they make those extra heavy tripods…

  32. “… and when I stop writing about gear, most of the audience leaves.”

    Ming, you only need to care about the ones that stay, and continue to read. Those others are not your ‘tribe’ (as Seth Godin would put it), not the niche that appreciates your profound and entertaining words – and generosity of spirit. But, most importantly, adore your photos.

    Thank you.

  33. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I am highly offended at the suggestion that you lack objectivity or have impaired credibility.

    I was brought up on the basis that if we don’t have anything nice to say, we shouldn’t say anything. It seems some people are incapable of being nice to anyone else, so I shall skip past that and hit the next point.

    In my entire life, I have found “critics” bust their boilers, trying to live by the mantra that “those who can, do – those who can’t, criticise”. Tell someone he is a “critic” – sure as God made little apples, he will NOT refer to a dictionary to discover what that means and, instead, he will assume that his role is to “criticise” and “belittle” other people and their work. WRONG – WRONG – WRONG.

    As a consequence, I have spent a lifetime deliberating going to all the places, shows, etc that the “critics” have attacked – and almost 100% success rate, the place or show or whatever has been wonderful – inspiring – entertaining – and practically the exactly opposite of what the waspish comments from the critics would have led anyone to expect.

    Turning that line of thought specifically to you, Ming:

    1 – As I have mentioned earlier, I only recently committed to scrapping all my analogue gear and spending what is left of my life focused on what I can achieve with digital. I have a great deal to learn, a great deal of “catch up” to do. I cannot put into words how much I have appreciated all the articles you have published, all the hours you have spent acquiring the knowledge and skills to produce those articles, all the hours and care you have put into writing and publishing those articles – all without asking for any thanks, even – let alone payment. I am pathetically grateful to you for this. I have toyed with the idea of making those statements to you before, but cringed at the thought it may be an embarrassment. It would be a greater embarrassment, to me at least, if I remain silent while people are throwing such vituperative nonsense at you.

    2 – Never once have I felt you were “pushing product”. In all cases where it might be relevant, you made full and frank disclosure of the involvement of the relevant party (eg Hasselblad). “Sunlight is disinfectant”, and disclosure cures all possible “ills” in that context. That much I know – my professional life was spent totally immersed in regulation of corporations, commerce generally, fund raising by companies, takeovers & mergers and the like. The question of integrity in disclosure was fundamental and paramount. At least in that context, I am qualified to express an expert opinion – no you have NOT impaired your credibility by your other commercial associations – quite the contrary, through your repeated disclosures, you have ENHANCED it. I found that suggestion extremely offensive, as you, no doubt, have, too.

    3 – Another paragraph on “objectivity”? I could, but I shan’t bother – I’d rather walk my Dobermann, she’s been patiently waiting for me to take her to the park. There’s no point in discussing this issue. It obviously originates from a similar source as the other remarks, and is equally lacking in credibility. I have been so impressed, in fact, by how thorough and impartial your writings are that I’ve been combing through articles you have published in the several years before I was introduced to your blog.

    Ming – take a piece of advice from an Englishman who wrote “Ignore your enemies – nothing infuriates them more!” Treat those critics in the same manner. And enjoy your day – knowing that will screw their chances of enjoying theirs 🙂

    • I don’t blame you. I ignored it for a while, but am now cumulatively offended enough that I have to say – something.

      The thing is, I believe we need critics, but objective, constructive ones. We need the feedback, the reality check, and the alternate viewpoints to spur further creativity. It’s a symbiotic relationship that can work very well, but can also land up a bit of a disaster if not carefully managed.

      To your points:

      1. Thanks. I’ve found creating them useful in organising my own thoughts and serving as motivation to push my own understanding further, and I don’t want to think about the number of hours either. But, it’s done, and it’ll probably be archived online somewhere forever.

      2. We are in agreement here. I went to quite some lengths to ensure that my agreement with Hasselblad was both non-exclusive and contingent on me being able to continue being objective. I was told that this was what they wanted: brand shilling does nobody any good. It only reinforces my belief that this partnership is a good one for both sides. But I suppose the automatic assumption is that once you ‘join a camp’ – you sell out for huge piles of money and glory, when the reality is that it’s more of a symbiotic cooperation with no financial compensation at all…if anything, this makes it all the more important that the relationship works, because if it doesn’t: you really get very little out of it.

      3. Please do: we do what we do – be it me writing this blog or you walking your doberman – because we have freedom of choice, and we want to. Especially when there are no obligations to other parties; the minute this desire is extinguished, it ends. 🙂

      I am going back to making pictures!

      • I would very much regret if your desire to write came to an end.
        Felix

        • So would I, Felix 🙂

          But the good news, for now, is that I’m working on a book…

          • Where can I place the order?

            • Not yet! 🙂 Estimating completion somewhere around Q2 next year. Signifiant rewriting is required…

              • Ming, will it be made available in the UK, or can it be sent?

                • I’m thinking there will be an e-book, and possibly also a hardback in a presentation box – preliminary editing makes it three volumes and about 800 pages…availability will be international as usual, but postage has to vary.

                  • Looks promising. Great.

                    • Don’t give me too much credit. It might be as dry and vast as the Sahara!

                    • Ming, don’t put yourself down. Just going by the effort you put into this blog (how many others fill theirs with so much information as you do, and reply to virtually all comments, and back it up with your superb images?) you’ve shown you have the stamina to succeed. But it is a different path you are treading and there will undoubtedly be ebbs and flows as you walk it. It will be lonely as there will be no immediate interaction with your readers; you will have only yourself to push.

                      Determine your chapter headings and then as the ideas flow, slot them in where appropriate as they come to you, and you will see your book take on life.

                    • Thanks – I know exactly where I’m going, but sometimes one has to restate the destination in case some passengers feel that they’re entitled to navigate 🙂

                      As for the book – it’s a massive exercise in curation. The material is all there, but it needs to be sequenced and massaged to flow.

                    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

                      As a late convert to digital, Ming, my unbridled ignorance needs all the help I can find, if I am to catch up the lost ground. In so many areas, I am depending on your expertise and advice – freely given (except for the book :)) and gratefully received. If the Sahara has any relevance, I expect it will be as a further series of shots, illustrating something more for me to learn from you.

                    • Well, the book isn’t done yet, and I (and my editor’s) early estimates put it at perhaps two solid months of rewriting. So…let’s just say it’s an enormous undertaking.

                      As for the Sahara: I’d like to go shoot the dunes at some point!

  34. I just wanted to make a comment about equipment reviews in general. It’s a sad fact – but just reality when you think about it – that there really is no such thing as a bad review. No-one in the industry wants bad reviews, they don’t sell gear, they don’t sell magazines or generate website following or sustainable click-throughs. If a reviewer says bad things about something, he/she is highly unlikely to be given early access again by that manufacturer or by any other. Bad reviews close doors. Getting early access and free equipment loans is what reviewers needs in order to have a presence and compete.

    I have some acquaintances who are professional equipment reviewers across the photography, video and music equipment industries. Here is a quote from someone who said it to me in complete confidence: “If we think that we’d end up being too critical of a new piece of kit then we simply don’t review it. Better to say nothing than say something bad.”

    With this background in mind it is not surprising that there is so much suspicion on the internet of reviewers and their reviews. The best reviewers in most people’s eyes are the independent ones, so an affiliation with one particular brand is of course going to open you up more to all those doubters and haters, of which there is an infinite supply on the internet! The fact is that the best regarded independent reviewers tend to not remain independent for very long because manufacturers of course want to be associated with them.

    Being a reviewer is a total minefield. You’re a brave man, Ming, please keep it up!

    • I’ve closed many doors with my reviews, trust me. To the point that I have to buy stuff to test it – and I will only do this if it might be useful for my own work, otherwise where’s the commercial sense?

      The reality is favourable reviews do nobody any favours: reviewers have no credibility. Manufacturers have no credibility. And buyers have no real information. If everything is good…nothing can stand out.

      I see review this way:
      1. Useful if the reviewer uses the product – whatever it might be – in the way you intend to.
      2. Useful if the reviewer is of a similar or higher skill level.
      3. Useful if there is no obligation to withhold warts and all – and objectivity / non exclusivity was one of the key ‘must haves’ for my own association with Hasselblad, to which they agreed.
      4. Given the nature of manufacturers these days – an objective review is therefore only producible under very exceptional circumstances (or non repeatable), or the reviewer has to buy the product. Since we are running our own businesses, and every time has an associated cost or opportunity cost – there’s no point doing this unless the product or information gleaned from it has some sort of return. Certainly not for the joy of receiving dissenting fanboys…

      It’s a minefield that’s under bombardment and covered by enemy snipers. 😛

  35. Hi!
    This comment is probably like a single tree in the middle of the forest… but I’ll write it anyway.
    I’m a recent reader of your blog, and I can tell from my readings you wrote on several systems, several brand lenses and always (as far as my English skills allow me to understand) talking about the weak and the strong bits of the equipment all in the context of the final product – and the most important part – the final resultant the image/picture/photograph!
    So does a pastry chef loses his credibility just because he /she have a special knife or even a special care for one pudding?

    I don’t agree with you in everything, but I can say Thank You Very Much for your blog posts/videos/photos/opinions/teachings/work/etc.

  36. I have sensed your articulate professional skills and more importantly your personal integrity…and appreciate your generous spirit.

  37. Richard P. says:

    Hi Ming, I have been following your site since it’s debut and find the images and writing equally enjoyable, and as one other reader noted your photographic journey is/has been fascinating.
    Although I value your opinion on gear, I personally don’t have much interest in gear reviews about gear that I am not planning to buy (other than to live vicariously through you). Never occurred to me to question your credibility as you are offering your site for free.
    Maybe next April 1st post a gear review called [insert your camera here] that will rave and gush about their [camera]. You can then refer all fanboys to this (literally) dummy posting next time you get complaints or criticism.
    But in all seriousness, please know your efforts, work and generosity are very much appreciated.
    Cheers Richard P.

    • Thanks Richard. I’m planning to save the digital Holga for April 1.

      In the meantime, if I find a serious use for it – that review might be pushed to a different date… 😉

      In all seriousness, the never-ending equipment carousel is really tiring and frankly, disruptive to the creative process. But still necessary to figure out what the ‘right tool’ is for your own intentions – then, get off it as soon as you can (if you still can, of course).

  38. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Ming,
    It’s sad that some reactions make you feel the need to restate this.
    It is quite obvious if one _really_ reads your reviews!
    – – –

    “.. it’s conclusive and consistent with every other review I write.”
    Most important!
    And :
    All your reviews and technical articles combine a deep technical knowledge with a thorough understanding of how technology influences the photographic outcome, and you do push the equipment to its limits.
    And that is a rare quality.

    Over time you have covered a wide range of camera types.
    So reading – even a selection of – your articles gives one a deeper understanding of what _kind_ of equipment will suit one’s photogaphic needs!
    Which is invaluable.
    – – –

    Not to mention all the other much more interesting articles you write!

    • It is, but then again, I think a lot of people read reviews for self-validation rather than information 😉

      The other much more interesting stuff I write is why I still do it. As for the reviews: I expect that I will be writing my final camera review sometime early next year, if and when my custom body is complete. As far as I’m concerned – the gear quest is then completely over. In fact, it’s already 99% there, I think.

  39. Alex Carnes says:

    I think you just have to let some things wash over you; whatever you do, someone won’t like it and will start moaning!

    Just out of idle curiosity, can you say what exactly Hasselblad expect of you as an ambassador? If you have to buy your own gear and don’t get paid by them then the arrangement seems rather one-sided…!

    • Yes indeed. But still: it gets tiring to repeat it, so it’s easier to say it once and either link or just internally feel better because you’ve let it out. 🙂

      The H agreement differs from ambassador to ambassador. The essence of my agreement is that I have some equipment on long term loan, and am expected to H gear where it makes sense, and in turn license some images to them every quarter for their promotional use in kind. My personal conditions were a) non-brand-exclusivity, and b) I can say what I want with the proviso that if there’s something very wrong, they get a chance to fix it first – fair, I think. They will not take ambassadors who are not already H users/ owners (I’ve owned a V system and two digital backs for several years now) – this weeds out the brand shills; we aren’t paid – which would be nice, but again has the same effect. There’s a degree of mutual agreement/vetting for new ambassadors that takes place, which I’m now involved in. And I can say that the half a dozen or so of the current ambassadors I know personally – none of us uses only H, because there are times when we need other tools. And they’re more than fine with that 🙂

  40. Frederick Greeff says:

    I am a serious enthusiast hoping to improve to the extend that I can deliver a marketable product soon. There is just no other site like your’s to find inspiration, motivation and excellent practical knowledge – all in one!! I did get to a point where I almost lost interest in this passion of mine – the reason being that when I started my research on the net, it soon became clear that in this discipline the ratio of true and capable professionals to loud-mouth wannabees with “tools” issues are extremely low. Luckily I got to know your site (and a very small number of others’) and realized that this discipline is not different from other disciplines, industries and art forms – excellence, by definition, will always be a scarcity. Few will appreciate it – many will be jealous and “break down” what they themselves cannot achieve – whether through talent or professionalism.

    Please know that “the few” appreciate, learn and find inspiration in true excellence and distinguished talent – PLEASE KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!

    • You’re right – it’s probably the same in every discipline, but we feel it more acutely in the ones we are involved in.

      I’ve always thought it’s a thin line between understanding your tools and mastering them, and letting them get the better of you…and honestly, even for those of us who are objective: it’s not an easy balance to get right.

  41. For what it’s worth, Ming, I’ve thought that you Hasselblad material has been the most level-headed and independent of any brand ambassador I have yet seen presenting.
    Other than the fact you enjoyed early access to some equipment, I have not noted any hyperbole in your videos or comments.
    So congratulations for that much, because it would be far too easy to just become a simple sales rep.
    If there are people who consider your credibility to be affected by that relationship, then they ought to be welcome to listen to any other view they think is more credible. They will only be doing themselves a disservice in the end.
    Please continue doing what you do!
    And good on Hasselblad for establishing a relationship with you that seems to get you very wide latitude in your comments. They must be pretty confident in their products to allow that sort of relationship.

    • One of my immovable conditions for working with Hasselblad was firstly maintenance of objectivity, and the ability to call things as I see them; and secondly, non exclusivity, i.e. recognition of the most suitable tool for the creative intent and the freedom to use it. Simple example: I wouldn’t go birding with a ‘Blad, but probably something M4/3 and a long lens – yet almost every other brand I’ve worked with has demanded this. Not only can you not meaningfully say X is a better tool than Y if you’re not allowed to use Y, but you may well be limiting your own work in not trying all alternatives. The mind boggles.

  42. Hi Ming, thanks for this article. The internet being what it is you undoubtedly receive more than your fair share of quite negative comments and emails about your website.

    I have been reading your site for at least three years, and just in the interest of honest disclosure for those reading this comment – I am also a happy customer, having brought some of your tutorials off you.

    The thing I have noted with this site, over and above any discussion on a particular piece of gear, is that you are on a journey of learning and discovery with your photography. You are gracious enough to share your observations, experiences, and thoughts about this journey with us who choose to visit here. But it is your journey.

    I have learnt heaps from reading about your journey – about what works, and what doesn’t; about observing light and angles; about shooting envelopes; about strengths of different systems and sensors; lighting; about how you observe and what you see – which naturally is quite different from me.

    Funnily enough the lessons I have learnt from reading about your journey, that have made the deepest impression and stuck the most with me, have nothing to do with any particular piece of gear.

    My observation and opinion – you are growing in credibility as you continue in this journey. Your observations and the work you share are authentic and real. This is increasingly rare on the internet, and I value it. You are also honest about your commercial relationships, which is fair, and doesn’t affect your credibility.

    I am looking forward to walking along some more with you on this journey, if you choose to keep sharing it with us.

    Thanks.

    Ross

    • I think every one of us who’s a serious creator of any sort is on a journey that doesn’t end: we change, our objectives change, and our vision changes. And in the process of this change, the toolkit and methodology must also change. In asking ourselves why, we both better understand our own motivations and ideas, and thus hopefully express ourselves better – nothing more, nothing less. The journey is both my own and one that every serious photographer will land up going through in some form. I can only hope that discussing it has at least provided some guidance or alternate point of view…

      • It is an interesting discussion that has developed over time. For me personally yes to guidance and yes to alternate point of view.

        Historically one would have had to travel to, or live in one of the great urban cities of the world to have far reaching discussions and debate alternate points of view. Think London, Paris, New York, Berlin, Vienna or Rome a century ago.

        Now this communications revolution called the internet is enabling those sorts of discussions in virtual space in forums such as this. Where like minded individuals gather to share, encourage, challenge and debate. I am not sure we have even started to grasp the implications of this for the progression of human knowledge.

        For the past few months I have been using this quote as a guide – “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning” – Albert Einstein. For me it seems to sum things up well.

        Ross

        • I actually think the progression may have been too fast: we have instant access to the same knowledge that would have taken time to acquire and fully understand. This inevitably results in a loss of context, which creates confusion at best and ignorant propagation of incorrect facts at worst – when the seeker of that knowledge isn’t diligent enough to verify it. Without this fact checking, the landscape of fact gets even more convoluted because the nature of the internet is propagation of the loudest/most repeated/most sensational, not the most correct (which may well be complex and not so easy to understand, making it even less attractive to today’s instant-gratification driven society).

          The further down the rabbit hole you go in any pursuit, the more any piece of knowledge becomes relative – whether it’s the subjectivity of what ‘works’ or not to convey a message or aesthetic value, or the merits of a particular bit of hardware for a given task.

          • You are basically describing the pathways to wisdom. That hasn’t changed for a very long time. Everyone if they are inclined has access to basically the same information set. As you note, the internet makes that access to information much faster and more comprehensive.

            Yet, as you also note – ask any expert in any field their opinion, and the more they know, the more they will condition their answer, simply because the more they know, the more they know what they don’t know.

            So, just restricting ourselves to the field of photography – on the internet and on fora we get those who shout, yell, scream and throw temper tantrums, all the while displaying for anyone who can bear to watch or read it their ignorance and foolishness.

            At the same time, with basically the same data set available there are those with considerably more expertise who take much more subtle and nuanced positions, as they know the subject is vast, gear a small part of the tool set, and the choices include sensor or film size and type, lens selection, shooting parameters, lighting, angle of view, distance from subject, aspect ratio, developing software, post processing, image compression (for internet) or print size, print media, ink selection, display venue, display lighting and the list goes on – all of which can affect our perception of what we see – the image presented.

            In society for millennia, there have always been distinctions between fools and the wise, although I don’t dispute at times foolishness can be very loud, seeking and attracting a lot of temporary attention.

            By definition though, it cannot last, whereas wisdom is sought and treasured in most cultures.

            • Spot on, Ross. The more you research and understand and know – the less you realise you know for sure.

              Nuances and perspectives are good and all, but only useful if one is able to deploy the difference. I think this is critical, especially in a creative pursuit: the software (or sack of meat) has to match the hardware. Put another way: the hardware is only as good as the operator, and it can’t think for you.

              We speculated on the net effect of the information age and the internet earlier: I strongly suspect that what we’re going to see is a general devaluation of wisdom over sensationalism, quantity over quality…let us hope it doesn’t get lost forever.

              • I am sure we will see all of that, sensationalism and quantity, in many fields of endeavour. At one level it will seem that approach has won, as that will be all the noise and attention seeking.

                At another level, those with expertise will continue to develop techniques, try out ideas and observations, document, retry and generally push forward the boundaries of knowledge and information. There will be those in society that will understand and appreciate this path of wisdom and development. Just generally not the crowd.

                As you note, with photography the expertise and artistic skill of the operator of the equipment still has a major impact on the result. Everything could be technically perfect with the best equipment, and still lack the vision to tell the story, or engage the viewer.

                My observation though is that it is in practice and pushing the boundaries of skill and ideas, that understanding and vision develop.

                Is that worthwhile, I think we find our answers in the masters of ancient art forms like Chinese and Japanese calligraphy. At one level the skills are highly treasured and passed through the generations, at another level much of what was previously treasured is being lost. Such is the paradox of technology and art.

                We could observe the same with skilled film emulsion developing in photography.

                Where does it end – unless we have a cataclysm then the march of technology will be relentless, and will drive new levels of tool development and associated skills.

                How does the skilled artist and the explorer of wisdom fit in this world…well that is the question of time. I think uneasily is the truthful answer.

                • The difference will only widen as the tools – and the potential of those tools – increases. Yes, the average level gets higher as things get easier, but the forefront moves on.

                  Uneasily is right indeed: anybody who’s different either falls of the wagon permanently, or somehow manages to become a rockstar if they can hit that one note or produce that one thing that everybody wants and aspires to. Reality is society needs the misfits – think Steve Jobs – but until they ‘make it’, a pile of bricks is the reward. And the journey is doubly hard because of it, I think.

                  • I agree entirely, and from my own experience the journey is extremely hard. Even if you have expertise, clients and vision it is still extremely hard, because those advantages are only providing a small platform for the next experiment, or the next push of the boundaries of knowledge.

                    Extremely hard because those who you need to convince to give you the space and/or funding to make the next push are operating within a set of rules or paradigms that do not compute, and cannot understand the questions you are asking and the road you are taking.

                    Why don’t you just stay safe they ask, put your profits into property, we have rules for that, we understand and can fund that. We don’t understand why you would want to take these risks, and where the return might be. We have no calculator for that.

                    Yet the vision you pursue, and the path to wisdom will push you to take roads that few understand, and not many can walk with you. Will it be profitable in a monetary sense – the ‘pile of brick’s’ is an apt metaphor for so many. Will it be profitable in your development to become the person your vision leads you to be – only you or I in our individual circumstances can answer that question.

                    And perhaps we are unable to clearly answer that question until the journey has ended.

                    • This is touching on the perennial cycle of maturity of art: none of it is appreciated until the world has caught up, and anything that ‘sticks’ now may not last because there is no reward for further contemplation or examination. Catch 22 for those of us having to live off producing such work 🙂

                      The creative journey never ends – it’s probably one of the few real quests or pursuits left, now that most of the world has been explored and we can get anything we want at any time of the day. The real satisfaction must be internally driven, and therefore not fully social or sharable – which is perhaps why so few people choose to pursue it. There’s nothing to post on Facebook when you get there 🙂

  43. Evan McKnight says:

    This is hands down the most complete photography site I have been able to find. I find the reviews very honest and unbiased and greatly enjoy the pictures that go along with your writing. I’m amazed some people are taking shots at this sight. I think it may come out of jealousy. Not many people could produce anything near this quality. Keep up the outstanding work!

    • You should see some of the emails I get 🙂

      At times, the paradox is one of self-reinforcement: I need to do what I do to do more of what I do and people unconsciously want and appreciate what I do, but don’t like the approach required to get there…

  44. John Andrew Lee says:

    Ming,

    I have been visiting your site for probable three years now. I do not want to go overboard here, but it has been an inspiration. Many times you will encapsulate an issue, described a problem and “your’ solution very eloquently and in a open manner. Most of the time “your” solution will resonate with me. So please keep it up.

    Of all the positives of social media, what your bringing to the fore is the negative. The magnification of the ability for individuals to state opinions with no fear of being corrected or stating something that they would never do in someone’s face. As I am sure that you know, JCH introduced or (reintroduced a new film). Bellamy was pretty viciously attacked (in my opinion). Many people on the site found the comments way out of line. They stood up for him.

    It doesn’t feel great, but these snarky comments on the web actually make you look better.

    Sorry I guess I went on a little rant there.

    John

    • “It doesn’t feel great, but these snarky comments on the web actually make you look better.

      That’s actually a very, very positive way of looking at it. Thank you for that. 🙂

      The rest of it is ignoring the noise and just getting on with it, I guess. Personally – I feel like I’m producing some of the best work of my career with the current set of tools. And that’s really the only reason I’m going down this path…

  45. Co-incidental timing with your post. I was just reading George Daniels’ ‘Watchmaking’ which I’m sure you’re familiar with given your extensive horological interests. But I see a lot of parallels here and in his book where he sets aside a good chunk of the book to talk about having the right tools for the trade.

    The way I see it is that your continued tryst with MF is simply you using the right tool for your trade and I think we’ll benefitted from it in some way. Trickle down economics may be a faulty idea for the economy but it applies quite well here.

    • That is one of the watchmaking classics – a must read for anybody wanting to get a deeper understanding of the fundamentals.

      You can’t cut meat without a knife, and whilst you can make a roast without an oven – it’s much easier to do a better one with. I don’t see anything wrong with that…

  46. Ming,

    Thanks for everything you do. Many folks would be better off with a P&S camera and your training videos than a camera upgrade. I have read and enjoyed every post on your sight.

    Best Wishes – Eric

    • I’ve actually been rather enjoying a ‘new’ (to me) point and shoot of late…the humble Canon 100D and that plastic fantastic Nifty Fifty.

      • I noticed you use that combination, along with a 24mm f/2.8, in your recent weekly workflow to produce beautiful documentary images again demonstrating that I will benefit more from thoughtful practice than new gear. 🙂

        • Well, to be honest, sometimes I feel like using something else – and sometimes the primary purpose isn’t photography, but you still want to have the option of making some nice images…so we compromise. 🙂

  47. Ming, though I’m sure you’ve no need to explain yourself, to address these issues the way you have has probably been the right thing to do. It highlights a trend and one I see as more than a little duplicitous. I am sure that a large percentage of of those at issue with your direction(s) are largely attracted to brands. We all are, let’s face it. Maybe it’s just different brands. Still, I’ve been reading your site for years as the one place I can come to for no end of information and enjoyment on ALL things photographic. Not just gear. (I notice a spike in my stats if I mention a “popular” camera brand not that I’m whoring, it’s just an observation) so there are I believe a majority in brand seekers, gear-heads, GAS sufferers, and so on.. I would hope that such commenters who have brought about this post are in the absolute minority. And the rest of us can continue to enjoy your work, your ideas, your talents and takes on the art and the processes and, the gear too. Keep up your excellent work and writings.. and thank you. R

    • You’re right – there’s no need, since this remains 100% my site and unaccountable to anybody. But as you can already see from one comment in this thread: we expect you to remain independent, continue to provide a huge amount of time and content for free, for our pleasure…but – how is it to be sustained? Hmm…

      I actually write only about what I use, and even then, very little. It makes almost no sense to do anything else simply because such an opinion wouldn’t be meaningful to the readership anyway. You can’t win: don’t write about gear, and a lot of people leave. Write and people accuse you of bias. So, I’ll do what I think is best, but at least leave an explanation. It’s up to the audience if they agree or not.

      • I always believed that to write or blog was the writers choice. It’s the reader’s choice whether to read or not, follow your work or not. You can only continue pleasing yourself Ming. Or your work would no longer be a pleasure, but a chore to please the masses. That’s way too much responsibility. For my part, I’ve never used a lot of the gear you review or write about from time to time. But I enjoy the reads. As for the rest of your work.. I don’t require or expect you to be one thing or another. That’s not my right. Keep doing what you do. You’ll keep far more than you’ll ever lose.

  48. Je n’ai pas lu les réactions déplaisantes d’autres lecteurs, et je n’ai pas à juger des vôtres. Chacun fait ses choix de vie selon sa philosophie. Votre site avait quelque chose de plus que bien d’autres sites prescripteurs: son indépendance financière totale vis-à-vis de toute marque.
    Ce n’est plus le cas. Les espaces non-marchands dans un monde marchand deviennent de plus en plus rares. C’est bien dommage.
    Je me désabonne et regarderai vos travaux uniquement sur Flickr.
    Bonne continuation.

    Google: translation

    “I have not read the unpleasant reactions of other players, and I do not have to judge of you. Everyone makes choices in life according to his philosophy. Your site was something more than many other prescribers websites: its total financial independence vis-à-vis any brand.
    This is no longer the case. Non-market space in a commercial world are becoming increasingly rare. It’s too bad.
    I unsubscribe and your work will look only on Flickr.
    Good continuation.”

    • I provided something unique, for free, paid for with my own time and money, to which people have clearly now felt entitled to. Now here’s my question to you: if you were given something for free which you would have bought anyway, with a clear agreement that objectivity would be maintained, and expected as part of the deal, would you refuse? It is hardly possible to stay in business without some degree of common sense, and without a going concern, it ALL comes to an end.

  49. richard majchrzak says:

    there is so much to read about photography in the net. i don’t care to read most of i, but a like to read what a good photographer says about equipment whichever he uses , about light about composition about color and lenses. I like to read Ming’s blog everytime daily weekly. i might even buy his bag.thanx Mr Ming for your site and work.

  50. It’s not nice to read someone of your intelligence and talent getting discouraged.

    Have you ever heard the story of the cicada and the peng? Old Chinese legend. The Peng was a huge bird which flew huge distances, but was laughed at by the cicada which was content to jump from one branch to another, saying “what is the use of flying so far?” The moral is, you are who you are. And you are, I think it’s fair to say, somebody in the world of photography. The peng, if you like, to the cicadas whose ultimate ambition is getting tons of followers on social media.

    I’ve followed your site / blog for a few years, three or four at a guess, and I’ve never once thought that you have shown a bias towards any system. I would say that I read three quarters of the blog posts you make, if not more, and I’ve read you say positive things about every company, and negative things about every company.

    If you’re good at what you do, and you have an internet presence, you’re going to get comments from what I call “small people” who can’t stand the idea that someone can make a living doing what he likes and also attract the attention of one of the major players in the medium format game. That’s their problem, not yours.

    If Hasselblad (wisely) see fit to name you as a representative, if your clients are happy with your work, and if you’re happy (but never fully satisfied, as you alluded to in a previous post) with your work…then the rest is just noise. Tuning out noise is a required skill in this day and age.

    I took Latin at school, and there’s a great fake Latin phrase (as in, it’s not really very accurate, but we loved using it) : “ne te confundant illegtimi”, or “don’t let the ba****ds bring you down”.

  51. Not sure why you feel you have to justify anything ive always been under the impression that what we get from you is your unique perspective on equipment and photography in general and for me thats what i enjoy about your blog.In the real world we are free to make choices and like anyone i would not follow your ramblings if they were not interesting and individual and passion although many may not recognize it

    • I agree, though I’ve received quite a number of very rude emails recently – not to mention the presence of another site whose sole purpose appears to discredit contradict me in every possible way…

      • Id be interested in a peak at this other site to get a perspective on how other minds work is that possible.Keep up the good work Ming i really enjoy the intelligence you are bringing to world of photography

  52. +1 sifu, photographer = pictures, the heart of the matter. ken

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  1. […] traditional ‘review’ as series of thoughts on the camera (hereby abbreviated to EM1.2); I’ve previously made my current position on hardware and reviews clear and will again state upfront that this evaluation is performed in the context of the images I […]

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