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As a buyer, I am often looking for a real life user’s opinion that is not necessarily a glowing recommendation and not a rant
There is often a division between those of us who like to talk about “gear” and those who would prefer to talk about more pure photography. I tend to lean in the gear direction sometimes, and created this “category” to talk about gear. I won’t address it from a technical review point of view. There are already some very good resources out there like dpreview.com, Vincent Oliver’s Photo-i, for inkjet printers, Wilhelm Imaging Research.com for prints and print longevity, and Consumer Reports.org. There are also some good discussions and recommendations to be found on various forums, such as Nature Photographers Network (NPN), and Fred Miranda‘s venerable site.
As a buyer, I am often looking for a real life user’s opinion that is not necessarily a glowing recommendation and not a rant. Surprisingly, that is often difficult to find, even on the vast worldwide web! I review products I either own or have used, from the standpoint of a non-professional user and hoping to answer the ultimate questions, would I buy this product and does this product do for me what I need, want or hope it will do?
I won’t address it from a technical review point of view
When I purchase a new product, I use tools freely available on the internet to collect information about the product and its pros and cons. When it comes to things photographic, my first thought usually turns to dpreview.com. For Nikon users (and for “small camera” users), I also strongly recommend the writings and analysis of Thom Hogan for in-depth and (in my view) less biased information. I know that sites like these are often given review models from the manufacturer and there is a perception that their reviews are therefore biased. I don’t see that. In my experience, dpreview acknowledges that they are given review copies. I fear that the cost of purchasing the thousands of products they review would mean the simply couldn’t exist. So I appreciate the factual information they provide, and use that information in the “mix” of my decision-making. Consumer Reports is one place I often go first and they do purchase products for review and are therefore theoretically unbiased (this is a subscription service and in order to get into the real information on the site, you need to be a member). A significant downside to the Consumer Reports approach is that (presumably because of resources and the sheer number of products) they must be selective in their reviews–which often means they have not (and probably will not) review the specific model and item I am looking at. Another place I look is at seller’s sites where you can find customer comments. I generally find a mix of customers who have had good experiences and those who have had bad. The former will usually give a glowing report — the latter a scathing “thumbs down.” For me it identifies known problems and I will often do the math and determine if the vast majority of comments are negative or positive. This doesn’t govern my decision, but it does influence it. My “reality” is that there is no such thing as truly totally unbiased views and one must weigh a number of different information sources to come to an informed decision.
Unlike sites like dpreview, it is unlikely that I will be given products to use and review (although I am certainly open to that possibility — Sony? You listening? 🙂 ). So my reviews will be necessarily limited to those items I buy, own, or have the good fortune to use. This means my reviews will be limited in number. Hopefully, they will be helpful to those who are considering the acquisition of any of these items.
I read. A lot. I have often referenced and recommended books about photography, and have also noted that I have several feet of bookshelf space crammed full of photography and digital imaging books. Like the equipment above, I will review books from time to time that I have purchased and read. Books I “Recommend” are books that I believe every photographer should have a copy of on their bookshelf (or hard drive). Books that are “Suggested” are books that I own or have owned. They have portions that are good or are special-purpose books, which means they may be useful for some and a waste of time and $ for others. Books that are “Not Recommended” does not mean that they are “bad” books. It means that in my view, there is a better alternative out there, or they are such limited purpose that they may only be useful to limited audiences. Occasionally I may rate a book “Don’t Buy.” In that case I do not think it is worth the time, effort or cost.
Like all of my Blog entries, I welcome comments.