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Sunday, 02 January 2011


Trying to choose a smartphone is a perfect example of the data-suck illusion. More is less; arrrrgggghhhhh.



Just go ahead and buy (enter data-suck-inducing item here) and enjoy it.

I think there are two other causes:

1) Lack of real differentiation within the market. Most of the compacts within a segment share a common sensor, and DSLR sensors within a common size range have generally similar performance. That means there's not a lot to choose between in image quality, and people are stuck looking at minor, subjective points. It's much easier to make a confident choice when there's a clear winner.

2) Lack of general subject matter expertise. Most of the people suffering from analysis paralysis are asking newbie questions. What they really need is a newbie buyer's guide, not detailed reviews that answer specific questions for experts.

Gordon, To borrow from Pogo; the enemy is us. We all like a bargin, but in shopping for the best (read cheapest) deals we have under-cut our local brick and mortar stores, and the helpful people who worked there. I'm as guilty as the next person and now I'm just as sorry. Just like with government; we get the service we deserve.

I have been there too often! One of my tricks is to find some objective measure and use that to reduce the number of options.

For example, I had learned that shadow noise drives me crazy. So I looked at the identical still life sample pictures from Imaging Resources' comparometer, cut out 4x6 sized pieces from the samples, and printed them at different "relative" sizes.* Two hours** work, and about $1.75 in cheap prints. I discovered that while there was a tangible difference between what I had and what I wanted, it wasn't big. I still haven't 'upgraded' (horrible word!) because the improvement wasn't worth the price yet.

But understanding the true nature of the technical problem I'm trying to solve - no review will reveal that to me.


*4x6 pieces of different enlargements: 8x10, 16x20, 24x36.
**real life intervenes, waiting for prints, etc.

I don't understand why the word "suck" has such a negative connotation.

Market has its "wisdom". Of course, one does not blindly follow without reflecting on one's own need. Also the background of the evaluator is important (e.g. Michael's need is very different). I think these normally have good pointers.

Got a Canon S95 for my wife as Xmas as she likes to walk around the hills. Need a light weight one, good quality, ... and most photograph sites (including these one) point to this.

I have touched only a S90 for 3 minutes 6 months ago. But I know you cannot have enough time to evaluate it properly, unless I borrow it. Instead, I just go to the shop, ask for it and pay for it. (Otherwise, I might have got a Nex5, G11, ... and it would be too random a process once you are in the shop, with so many actual things to touch/choose.)

In fact, it is common now to have even the shop lady / man to let you hold one and ask you to surf the net for more info, as they do not know much in general. In a busy shop both sides have problem on how to deal with customers who like to touch.

That would not be for a D700 or 8x10 camera purchase. But for many photographic items, I think those data is important.

DD-B has hit the nail right on the head! The first time you buy something in a 'new-to-you' category, you really don't know what you need or how you are going to use it.

My solution has been to buy the cheapest I can get, knowing it will be replaced within a fairly short time. That time may vary - depending how much I use an item and how long it takes me to figure out how *I* will be using it.

Like your using a Leica for a year, you can generally sell it for close to what you paid for it, meaning the slight loss is the cost of education. The second hand market is wonderful for this.

Possibly one of the worst types of data suck is at brick and mortar retail shops. Companies, persuaded by the big box retailers, to put too much information on their packaging.

I'm not talking about specs, those are usually sequester to the bottom corner of the back panel. But, the rest of the packaging is a mish-mash of lifestyle photos, tech drawings and fonts of various sizes (hoping to impart some extra clarification, of all things).

My brain hurts when I visit the MP3 or gaming aisles.

I'm guilty of data-suck more often than I would like to admit.

The answer is simple enough, as Nike would say: Just do it.

Analysis paralysis doesn't involve only products, but almost all the choices that smart people make in their lives. Who should I date? [Answer: whoever's available. You don't have to marry him/her.] What should I study? [Make a list of what appeals to you, flip a coin. It's more important to choose, than what you choose, especially when you're younger. My wife got a BA in art. Thirty years later, she got her PhD in immunology. You can't know everything when you're making a choice: just choose. You can change later.] Is Canon better than Nikon is better than Pentax? [Who knows? Pick one, it'll be okay.]

That's not to say that doing some analysis isn't interesting, or that you might not learn something. Just don't get hung up on it.


Or perhaps it is that in these times of plenty we suffer the paradox of choice.

In my younger days when I was looking for something to buy, I would imagine I had only half of what I actually had available to spend. Then I would make a decision based on that - and then I would revel in the actual choices I had....

If I went on the basis of what I read on the Internet, I'd never buy anything ever again. Especially not digital cameras or lenses!

An interesting observation but not accurate or applicable to everyone. I am looking to upgrade on a camera body. So I have been looking at the Canon full frame sensors versus the Pentax 645D. A lot of information was looked at for the 645D due to it being new. There were positive signs from Luminous-Landscape but negatives pointed out elsewhere. The hesitation is not from reading the material but the fact that so far the only decent shots are from the L-L test shootout. Everything else I have seen is either boring or uninspiring. for all of the megapixels it has I was expecting some pretty sharp photos. Has anyone seen any good shots on the weg that are not L-L generated tests?


I'm gonna make a resolution to stop shooting with so many different cameras. There's nothing worse than picking a camera/lens/format combination (which is hard enough by itself) and then wonder if you made the right choice? Someone stop the madness!! Hello auctions. LOL

Too many choices, to many option per choice. From health insurance via telco, internet provider, ,energy company, pension fund, mortgage lender, jadajadajadajada.....life gets clutered up with all sorts of choices and no one ever has full knowledge of the consequences of these choices. In the nineteeneighties in Holland phones came via the PTT (Postal Service) and I had one choice telephone or no telephone. Then under pressure from the IMF and the Worldbank (read the US of A and Thatchers England) and the free market adagio phones were privatised and now I have 15 telco's and per telco a clutter of different options, pay per minute, pay more per month and have a flatrate etc. etc. you all know the drill. With camera's the same. More and more options, more and more brands, more and more types of camera to choose from and added to that endless product cycles due to the fenomenon of repackaged technology. I say one thing.......buy a Graflex 4 x 5 and stick to it. Quote (In 2004, Burnett also used his Speed Graphic with a 178mm f/2.5 Aero-Ektar lens removed from a K-24 aerial camera to cover the Presidential campaign of John Kerry) Unquote.

The fact of the matter is that nowadays consumerism seems to create a deluge of choices and accompanying insecurities and Ed to marketeers loud and clear "THAT SUCKS BIG TIME". Therefore I can only advise the antidote to all this (apart from a Graflex) and that is read this book:


Greetings, Ed

My answer is to find reviews/reviewers I trust and go from there. I do this with books (Difficult to get a feel for a book from the Amazon site alone) and of course T.O.P is generally my touchstone for things photographic as I've discovered that the site's chief bottle washer's taste and mine coincide most of the time

Mike, I wholeheartedly agree...

I am trying advise a friends 25 year old daughter what SLR to get as a present from her mum for Christmas. Her budget was £550 or as close as. Her requirements were simple. Friends, holidays and events. She also wanted decent video performance.

I shortlisted the Nikon D3100 and Pentax Kr, both available as a 2 lens kit for just over her price range (the Canon t2i is about £100 more in the UK).

We visited a large store where she could try every camera available in her price range, including compact system cameras.

She found all the conventional SLR options clunky and hard to use. Not a single one impressed her at all.

The cameras she liked were the Samsung NX10 because of the nice screen and controls, Sony NEX5 because it was funky and Sony A33 because it looked serious.

I found myself unable to recommend either of the compact cameras for one reason or another (kit lens on Samsung, tele lens on NEX, flash on Sony, high ISO IQ on Samsung, video on Samsung, controls on Sony). My recommendation, the Panasonic G2, she hated.

Which left us with the A33, not an option I had shortlisted initially but on reflection the best solution to her requirements. Now she just has to find one for £600.

But in the end, I also came away more aware of how hard it is to offer or seek advice in a vacuum, and how much harder it us getting to articulate the benefits of the conventional SLR to a non-expert.

This is why I now dread the friend/aquiantence coming up to me and starting the conversation with 'John, you know about cameras....' Now my stock answer is 'not any more'. Unless it's an old film camera, I'm lost.

Photographers still get joy from a 55 year old M3, I can visualize no future where a 55 year old M9 will be anything more than a non functioning lump.

I confess to being a data junkie at times. If data suck leads to analysis paralysis, that’s not all that bad in my case. 9.5 out of 10 times my data research results in me not buying a new product and forcing me to be (almost) happy with what I’ve got. This could be considered a favorable outcome - one out of ten times I do buy something new and about half the time I end up liking it and the other half not (which is how I came up with the 9.5). The only digital photography equipment I have owned to date are the Olympus e520, two kit lenses, and the ZD 50mm Macro. I like the portability and JPEG results but have been doing consumer research for a new tool and my list of criteria includes better low-light/high-ISO performance. On this metric, the data at either DP Review or DxOMark may, in fact, suck (or perhaps it’s my understanding of it that does?). For example, a bar graph comparison on DP Review shows that the Olympus EP2 has better low-light/high-ISO performance than the Panasonic GH1 but DxOMark shows that the Panasonic GH1 ranks #35 on this metric while the EP2 is back at #95 (772 ISO vs. 505 ISO respectively). I’d rather not do my own test on this as that would mean buying several cameras and lenses and returning a lot of it with some risk of not being able to return them in mint condition. In the meantime, I am saving money and remaining (almost) happy.

In my younger days when I was looking for something to buy, I would imagine I had only half of what I actually had available to spend.

Unfortunately, half of what I have available to spend is still the same amount!

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