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Friday, 07 May 2010


Your points are perfectly obvious, relevant and necessary. The web is awash in tech articles, camera reviews and nattering about specs. TOP is such a beacon of informational civility that it is always my first daily stop on the web. PLEASE don't change what you do. We get it.


It's the conversations about life, with a photographic flavor, that lead me to TOP every morning. I enjoy the often oblique references and the satirical, the off topic conversations. You recent car purchase garnered significant comments I recall. And even though you bought a Benz (I was just going to send you an email about a 2004 VW RS3.2 with 6k miles for cheap!) I still enjoyed the read. Just as I did when you searched for book cases and so forth.

Good to see the words flow again. Hope the hand is healing well.


For newsweek, it is obvious.

It is linked to your last posts on "Time"...
It's the reader's role to make links. It's not necessary to infantilize the public.

Best regards,


You'd think stuff like that (no video) would be obvious. I've seen two threads over on dpr forums recently from people who bought micro 4/3 kits and were getting rid of them. One because it didn't have a VF and one because the lens selection isn't very good. Things you'd think would have been obvious up front. (And yes, I know there are VF options - it wasn't my thread).


It's your blog and I say you can bury what ever you like as deep as you like. I enjoy your site and have never felt you have wandered too far from the "main" theme. On the contrary,I believe the majority of your readers also have eclectic interests beyond simply photography.



I think your readers should realize by now that your blog is about photography people, warts included, as much as it's about photography.

Courage, mon brave! I don't think you need to do any better. Personally, I come here, and have done for years, to read articles by someone I know is involved with photography. That's more important to me than it is to have every article directly concerned with photography. Sure, photography's good, but there are other things in life, and I like to come here to read because you have a 'voice' of your own; it's that voice I like, regardless of what it's talking about. Oh, and I've been a professional photographer since 1968, although I'd call myself semi-retired now if I were being kind :-) Just in case I need credentials, you understand …

My goodness, Mike: I am reading TOP *because* of it being off-topic for some sometimes. Photography is a much wider field than many photography websites cover. If I would want that, I'd go there anyhow. It's just the same as with the A850's video mode.

Well you have already conceded to the need for a 'Satire Alert' so why not have an 'Engage Brain Before Responding' alert?

If everyone got the point of a satire (or got them too easily) then it is not likely very good satire. Leave the anvil dropping to ACME.

Keep on wandering Mike!

I wouldn't have brought it up, but since you did......
Without making any judgements regarding your abilities as a writer (I think you're a great writer) or my shortcomings as a reader (I am sometimes too impatient), I will simply state what happens on occasion when visiting TOP. If the first few lines mention dogs, parrots, bushes or cars (especially cars) I will immediately search elsewhere. Perhaps the connection to photography (if there is one) comes not too deep, but too late.
For what its worth......

Yes, that's another thing I've consistently been accused of, at least since college...lead-ins that are too drawn out, and sometimes too tangential. I guess I should promise to try to better on that score too, but I'm a little dubious that I'll be able to...it might be just "Mike-nature."


Don't change your unintentional obfuscations of the 'point'.

Many of us get it, and that's what makes this site so compelling.

Also, Mark me as one of the people who really likes your off-topic jaunts into obsessive audio, German cars, and shrubbery. They happen to be my hobbies as well, so it's always interesting.

Hi Mike,

Don't change a thing! IMHO, photography is about seeing, not just gear, and being able to see from more than one perspective greatly improves our photography (and our lives).

Reviews targeted for the consumer market do seem to over-emphasize features; more == better in that realm. Heck, the first thing most people ask me about my camera is "how many megapixels does it have." Like that's what matters. *sigh*

So, please keep doing what you're doing the way you're doing it!


Mike, I'm one who's been following your writing since early days at LL. I think you are reacting to a very small minority of people, I beleive the vast majority likes the direction you go. Sounds like a poll is in order.

TOP is intelligent writing for intelligent people. (Hope I'm not burying the meaning to deeply.)


Life matters so a little bit of the real world does have a place in your blog. I think you handle it well. My taste in satire runs to the Monty Python end of the spectrum but that's just me. I would appreciate a Ministry of Funny Pictures.
I don't understand readers getting worked up about having to skip a post they're not intertested in. Sort of like not using a camera feature. Skip it, ignore it and get on with life.

"It's not necessary to infantilize the public."

Fire up printer; choose text mode (or not; hey, it's your printer, your taste; mileage may vary); print in 48 point bold (you know, or not); hang in place easily visible while you write.

I typically 'get it,' but i think the "video" feature was a bad example. At this point, any dSLR that doesn't have video is the outlier. It's like a P&S that doesn't have a built-in flash. At some point, you're going to have to assume a dSLR has video. Docking points for not having it will be the same as making an assessment of resolution. Sure, you know going in that a camera 'only' has 6MP. But, won't that still be used against it when discussing and rating it?

Why WOULD the bar be completely filled in for a feature that is not present? That would be the same as suggesting that particular feature has no value, and that all cameras that DO have it have it at the same level.

That said, TOP remains in my Safari 'daily AM' tabs. And, i try to always shop with Amazon through your link. Keep going, son. Keep going.

Ignore the pond life. It's your blog so you can say what you wish.
Satire & subtlety work for me.
Have fun.

Perhaps TOP needs a blog classification...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog

I view this as your personal blog, not just a photography site. Folks come here to read what you (who happens to be a photographer) have to say to us on a regular basis. And, I'm quite happy when you have more on your mind than photography. The writing is far superior to most blogs, which are rarely even grammatically correct, let alone thought provoking. No need to fret over your writing style.

I notice however, that the TOP tag line says 'edited' by Mike J, not 'written' by Mike J. Perhaps this refers to the fact that there are often other contributors, or maybe you have another distinction in mind that I haven't considered.

In any event, keep up the good work.

By my book and by so many positive comments from many thoughtful readers of yours of many nations and photographic tenures/backgrounds... (was this too drawn out?)... you are doing superbly in your TOP choices and writing and editing. In part because you keep to your own personal well-honed style. In art is that not of great importance?

So I'm with the others: don't change. And we'll continue to engage our little brains a little when reading here... 'is why we do.

"...and the bar should be entirely filled in instead of entirely blank."

If the bar were entirely filled in, that would indicate the best possible video mode, which cannot be. To me, it's clear that a blank bar means the feature is not available. If the rating were terrible, it would probably have at least a sliver of yellow in the bar. I suspect the various rating categories are standard for all cameras. The clearest option would be to leave the bar blank, and have the caption "Movie / Video mode" grayed out to indicate that the feature is not available.

Somewhere -- site blog, or maybe in comments -- dpreview staff have indicated that an in-development feature will allow users to design their own weightings for features (perhaps putting video at "0") and then view review scores through that lens. Solves this problem and more.

Sure, photography is the main topic that brought me here, but it's the author's perspective/approach/style that made me come back.

After all, there are tons of blogs that are strictly related to photography that I *don't* read.

Mike, I enjoy all of the content of the site, whether I would seek out articles on these particular subjects or not. You - and the other contributors here - make things that I wouldn't otherwise be interested in seem interesting. (Except for when you mention that Favre guy; I don't really follow Volleyball.)

But when it comes to being more obvious about your connections, I do think it's worth a try. Thinking back to your 'Analytics' post, remember just how popular in Finland and elsewhere in the world. A huge number of your readers don't share our North American cultural experience and references, and many will be reading via automatic translations.

I used to write with a lot of colloquialisms and idioms. I once wrote a review of a lens that included the phrase "[It] goes from party to business faster than a speeding mullet." Shifting that into Spanish and back again gives me "[It] goes of celebration in businesses faster than a red mullet excess of speed." So not only does the automatic translation drop the superman allusion, if someone doesn't know about hairstyles it still won't make any sense. I may think it's funny, but it's not successful in getting my point across to a broader audience. Not that I particularly have an audience, but if I did, I'd want them to understand what I mean and know why I'm thinking it.

I'm just sayin'...


I like your approach and writing style. I don't want you to make things more obvious. You can't please everyone all the time. Do what got you here. I have other resources, such as imaging-resource, or dpreview to go to if I just ant straight photography. I come here because it actual makes me think. Your approach has been successful* thus far, don't change it now.

*commentor note: Success is subjective. This commentors opinion assumes success can be defined as 1) TOP has a respectable international following 2) bills are met (this is another assumption based on evidence such as a new used Mercedes vehicle in the driveway)

Thanks again Mike, Don't change


Let me add the sound of my voice to the chorus of the masses who have responded so far: don't change a thing.

My own preferences with respect to the blogs that I read is for the human element. There are very few blogs that I read and they are all related to photography, and by a long shot yours and Gordon Lewis' are the ones I enjoy most. I enjoy that you do discuss photography; I enjoy that you come at the topic from many directions; I enjoy that you talk about what is immediate and relevant and interesting to you.

One thing that keeps TOP as consistently good as it is, in my opinion, is the culmination of what I've pointed out here. If you were to try to be more concisely on-topic, with a clear photography tie-in at the beginning of each post I imagine that the subtleties of your personal style would recede and the impact of TOP's posts would wane. I have never had a problem with the relevancy here. I'd like to reiterate - every blog I read is photography-related, and TOP remains relevant to me with that specific interest/demand in mind.

Don't change a thing.

quite honestly i like to think of TOP as a site that discusses photography in general, whereas most other websites are about particular aspects of photography.

Wait a minute, you mean this isn't a blog about dogs and cars? ... and all this time I thought I finally found the right place....BTW, what is the photography thing everyone keeps mentioning anyway? ;-)

"Heck, the first thing most people ask me about my camera is 'how many megapixels does it have.'"

You should answer "A hundred and eighty; it's an extremely advanced camera."


You know, I enjoy this site for reasons similar to the reason I enjoy Top Gear. It isn't necessarily because of the photography (or cars), although that I why I first came to visit.

It is as much because of the people who write, as what they write.

Of the photography sites I check everyday, TOP is the last on my list. Not because it is my least favourite, but because it is the one I want to savour.

Hope I made my point :)

A dog drove my car into a bush and a parrot flew out... but I took a picture of it, with good bokeh, so it's okay.

Sometimes you veer into subjects that don't interest me. Sometimes you get so deep into photography that it doesn't interest me. I know where X button is to close the page and move on, but I enjoy 95% of what you AND your readers have to say.

Just FYI: I have AdblockPlus turned on for all sites but yours.

TOP is great as it is, just no more cars or birds, please.

Dear Joe,

Mike occasionally rewrites my headlines, because I have a tendency to title articles in a way that amuses me. He correctly points out that what amuses me is not likely to be properly indexed by search engines.

Just between you and me, I skip the ones that start off talking about sports or dogs and I've recently added cars to the list. Don't tell Mike; wouldn't want to hurt his feelings. (OK, now I can turn the microphone back on... where's that on switch...?)

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

At some point I will do an entire week of posts about sports, dogs, and cars. Just not now....



Dear Mike,

I can't recall; do you find video in a still camera to be pretty irrelevant? I do. But from the previous conversations on the subject, a very substantial fraction of camera buyers consider it useful, even vital. In which case, yes, I would include the presence or absence of it in an overall score for a camera. Just as I would over whether the camera offered manual exposure control or RAW capability.

I'm certain this can get carried to absurdity ("The lack of autofocus in this 8 x 10 view camera caused us to knock two points off its score..."), as your satire pointed out. I'd need convincing that this is an example of that.

Possibly my casual attitude towards this is colored by the fact that I think that anybody who buys a product based primarily on its "overall score" deserves exactly whatever happens to them.

'Cause I'm a sucker for statistics and numbers, I had to go check out that commentor's claim that 10 of the 16 previous articles that reader mentioned had been nonphotographic. Even by a generous allowance, it was only five of 16... and two of those had to do with the fact you had been bitten by a dog! For which, I think, one should be allowed a little slack. Rather than 10/16, it was 5/16... or 3/14 if you want to discount those two exceptional ones.

Not that we don't want to try to keep the readers happy, because happy comments are more fun to read than unhappy ones, but even when specificity is invoked, let us not forget there's a human predilection for exaggeration.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Gotta feel for Sony! If it makes them feel any better, Car and Driver gave the Lotus Elise a few years ago a drubbing as it wasn't very practical. Not bought the magazine since.

You might try Car & Driver again. I don't know the story at all, but all the old names are gone. Evidently there's been some sort of ownership change or wholesale putsch. I'd be curious to know what happened. I'd stopped reading it because it had a acquired an ugly right-wing slant to its commentary (especially old Patrick Bedard, whom I'd been contentedly reading since high school--he morphed into a very angry old white man, which was a shame), but that appears to be gone now too. At least one recent issue struck me as very well judged.


P.S. to Ctein,
You forgot stereos and jazz.


P.P.S. to Ctein,
...And I didn't even do a post on the Kentucky Derby this year!

(BTW the horse that really impressed me was Ice Box. Give him a little more track and he'd have taken the roses.)


Dear Mike,

But I LIKE stereos and jazz.

Tell you what, you do a whole week of nothing but music columns and I'll do the OT one I've been threatening to about transcribing my old vinyl and videotapes to digital.

That'll bring'em in in droves, right?

pax / Ctein

How is Gruesome?

Mike, I'll just add to the rest of the praises. Keep up the good work.

I like this site mainly because it's not only about technology. You give me insight to many thoughts and ideas I'd never even consider otherwise.


Thanks to everyone for the nice comments. And to those who complain on occasion, thanks to you too, for your feedback--feedback is necessary and useful even when it isn't pleasant. Every now and then I get a private message that really takes me to task (a nice way of saying "reams me out"), often, I think, from people who are not going to read any more no matter what I do. But still, those comments are useful too--I do try to consider what they're saying.


Six mornings a week I fire up TOP's homepage, hoping against hope this will be the day for the Ultimate Kit Lens Smackdown; but six days a week, rien.

(bad) satire alert

This subject seems to crop up from time time, but as Nicolas said "For newsweek, it is obvious." If some other readers don't understand, it's their problem (or maybe they should ditch their collection of brick wall images and get on with their lives).

Photography is filtered by our life experiences and I see nothing wrong with you writing about yours in your own blog, in fact I believe it's absolutely appropriate.

So give us more about Favre, news magazines, and 'Da Benz (I'm really looking forward to your first visit to the service department). Keep doing what you're doing.

Surely a reviewer has to mark it down for features missing in comparison to direct competitors in the marketplace?

The reviewer doesn't know which features which buyer wants. The buyer has to decide how to weight the reviewer's comments.

Otherwise the reviewers would have to rate every camera 100%. "If you want a camera that has ... (list all features the review unit has)... and don't care about ... (list all missing features)... and is good at ... (another list)... and is terrible at ... (yep, you got it, another list), then the A850 is perfect. 100%!"

"How is Gruesome?"

What, are you trying to tell me even Gruesome is off-topic too?


Dear Mike,

A friend has suggested a 'modest solution' (my words, not hers)

Just change the name to The Online Parrot!

You even get to keep using the old acronym.

I can see a lot of merit to the proposal: No one will be able to complain that my pcittacine columns are inappropriate for this venue. And 90% of the readers will be totally thrilled when any of the writers go "off topic."

Everybody wins.

pax / ever-helpful Ctein

(PS-- took me a good minute to even remember 'who' Gruesome was. Another topic I skip. Ya gotta lotta noive daring to write stuff I'm not interested in, ya lousy scrivener.)

"The Online Parrot"

I don't often toot my own horn, but if there's one thing I don't often do, it's parrot.

In fact, I'm starting to get a little sensitive to the fact that mainstream media articles on blogging always say that bloggers do nothing but appropriate and repeat content from mainstream media sources. Sure, we link to mainstream press articles all the time, but I (and you, and others here--even commenters!) write a whole lot of good original material too. I wish they'd stop saying we're just...well, parroting.


Consider this...

For his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, under "Author's Note", Robert M Pirsig wrote: "What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles, either."

The book sold over 4 million copies!

I like your style, Mike. And this site.

Keep up the great work.

~ Pritam

"What, are you trying to tell me even Gruesome is off-topic too?"

Of course not! Though I was wondering if Gruesome has been neglected due to arrival of the new wheels. I thoroughly enjoy the wide range of topics here, and the comments from the audience.

"Though I was wondering if Gruesome has been neglected due to arrival of the new wheels."

I have to admit that's the case. Although the injury to my hand has also affected my ability to ride the big G. I hope to get back on course soon.


hey, sorry I'm late, I don't read on the weekends... but I wanted you to know your content is certainly fine and most times I "get it".. please don't bow down to the lowest common denominator.

r y

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