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Wednesday, 05 June 2013


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Love you Mike, and also love my OM-D that you don't love ... but that I bought (like much else) by clicking through TOP. Your writing is brilliant. As my high school Latin teacher (of all people) said: Keep on keepin' on!

Ah, Mike,

The really ugly truth is that there are no really bad camera's anymore. Even the iPhone can do a great job in the right hands (as was proven here). So how are you to badmouth a camera. Slow autofocus? Still lightning fast compared to manual. Bad high ISO behaviour? Try using Tri-X pushed. The only thing is ergonomics that seperates a GH3 from an OM-D. Or a Sony RX1 from a D600. Testing camera's is a dying art Mike. Of course there's still good and better, but at a level that is completely irrelevant to the most of us. Image quality wise for the A4 to A2 prints we usually make, come on if Mike can find a camera lens combination that is in a store today and that is not capable of doing that (and is a serious camera/lens and not a SLR Magic toylens, pinhole or something like a lensbaby), with some serious PS work, well he would be a magician.

So Mike can only tell what he likes or dislikes about camera and Mike's dislikes can be my likes. And so you have to check a reviewer that sort of uses your style of camera these days, his likes will be your likes. Steve, Thom, and Ken have there respective preferences as well.

My only gripe is I can't buy at BHPhoto....wouldn't make sence due to import taxes and posting and handling charges.

Greets, Ed.

And then of course there is the fact that there aren't really any BAD cameras out there. The technology today is uniformly good to excellent so what ever negative things one can say about a new camera are basically a matter of personal preference ("I would have included..." or "I wish they had done..."). Maybe some of these complainers aren't old enough to remember some of the junk that was sold as cameras in the '50s,'60s and '70s. OTOH Some people actually think the Holga is wonderful. There's just no explaining human nature.

I'm sure only a very, very, very small percentage of your readers question your integrity. Anyone that makes the rounds of photo blog/sites knows TOP is one of the more considerate soft sell sites.

It's really a shame that you have to expend so much energy essentially defending your integrity. I for one realize how much time and effort a site like this takes and am grateful people like you actually do it and (unlike some others) don't charge dime. I'm happy for whatever money you get and hope you'll keep providing the great content I've come to rely almost daily for many years.

Negative and controversial?

I could write you a review of the little darling of the hour, the Fuji X100S—I bought it and was thoroughly, irredeemably disappointed. I would have so many points to raise, though, that I fear it would become a long and arduous read!

Bravo - I'm glad you're able to run TOP sustainably via affiliate links, and I don't think there's anything about the model that strains credibility or integrity. I do have a question, though: I'm in the market for an X20, and when I decide to buy it, I'd like the purchase to benefit TOP. Do I have to hunt down a link to the X20 product page somewhere on the site, or will any Amazon link do the trick if I then navigate from its target to my desired item?

Is that a Speed Graphic the girl on the cover of Joyland is holding. Another photo book. and you said you would not link to things like this.

Only just noticed that the Book Depository is one of your affiliates. I buy the odd photobook from them from time to time. Next time I'll try to link through TOP.

You may have screwed yourself on the rangefinder sales by saying that they are illegal. In fact, they are legal if the local (golf club) committee says they're permitted, and most clubs have done that. My club actually has laser reflectors on top of the pins so you can use a laser rangefinder and get distances down to a couple of inches. The devices are only allowed to provide you with the distance, and not other information such as wind speed or uphill slope angle.

The reason for this exception is simple -- to speed play. Instead of having golfers trying to locate distance makers and then pacing it off, you get the distance with a quick click of a button. And pro golfers, of course, employ caddies who measure the courses, and can tell a player right down to the yard how far away the pin is, so allowing amateurs to use rangefinders hardly violates even the concept of "outside aids." It's possible that the local committee outlaws rangefinders on the week that a pro tournament is being played, which is why you don't see them during tournaments.

there's golfers on the forums. Have you got a guilty secret? Hmmm, been golfing in your seconds away from the TOP desk? Anyway, if I win the the Lotto today the new TOP HQ will be yours

Sorry, Mike, you'll never talk me out of Black & Decker drills...;)

Let us also contemplate the positive selling value of the negative review. (Really.)
I look at reviews of things (on amazon, etc.) this way:
1. Look at the broad statistics (400 reviews and average rating is 0.3 stars? Bad sign.)
2. Read the 1 star and 2 star reviews, filtering out the unreasonable, irrelevent, or irrelevent to me.
a. This leaves reviews like: "The X feature doesn't work with Y attachment because of specific problem Z". Those are killer if I care about attaching Y to X.
b. Also, *patterns* of "I've had 3 break in 2 days" - anybody can get a bad unit, and any one person can kill lots of one thing. But if they often fail for several people, that's a warning.

And so, "negative" reviews are important for reporting the "found limits" - what does not work, what breaks, what seems cool but is in practice useless. Until they are written, you don't know where the limits of the device are.

By the way - I really appreciate it when any entity on the Web explains their business model. I often don't care what it is, so long as I understand it. Because that model reveals the biases and limits, and warns of possible future abuses.

So, is Mike going to feature posts/articles about really boring things that you need tensor calculus to understand? No. Bad for readership. Articles about why people should abandon photography and take up meditation? Not likely.

Is Mike going to post lots of links to really crappy stuff, on purpose? No. Because if too many of us decide "that was a crappy link, don't follow any more" well the game is up.

Mike, in the fewest words I can muster: your integrity is above reproach.

Actually, if you're serious you want something more like this. The higher battery voltage makes it more "manly", you see, and hammer mode makes masonry drilling go much faster.

(Hope I got the TOP affiliate tag right!)

I have another question about how the links operate. It's likely I'm going to go to Amazon a number of times before I buy a big item or even little items. I frequently add items to my Wish List and will go directly to Amazon when I'm ready to buy. I think you know where this is going. If I create a Wish List item after clicking on your buy link, do you make anything when I eventually buy it? What if I go to Amazon from your site and buy it from the Wish List? Does it matter if I'm already logged into Amazon?

I also use a macro program to search on Amazon, can I make the search macro credit you? The macro creates the URL. I just tried adding "?tag=theonlinephot-20" to the string that I had and it still took me to the site. What should the URL ideally look like?

[Greg, we only get credit for things you select AND buy when you go to Amazon from TOP. Nothing in your Wish List, even if you came from TOP when you added it to your Wish List.

However, we get credit for everything you select and buy, even if it has nothing to do with our link or with photography. --Mike]

It's sad you should feel the need to apologize for or justify making money. I think your business plan is fairly transparent. Anyone who thinks your site's business is some sort of conspiracy, might also be surprised to learn that Budweiser may have other motives for playing those funny 30 second films during the superbowl.

Regular visitors enjoy your site for your biases and your opinions. Thank you for not publishing the bitter and cynical complaint, because it is insulting to your regular readers.

The complaint seems rather preposterous to me, because you make absolutely no claim of covering the camera space thoroughly. It would be one thing if you published a review of every camera that hit the market and all the reviews were positive. That's not the case. TOP features very few camera reviews (relative to most sites), and I'd wager that most of those reviews are written by folks other than you. It seems pretty logical to me that the bulk of the reviews, then, are written by contributors that have encountered something they really like, and they feel compelled to share their enthusiasm. Reading Ken's columns, for example, it has come up that he's bought numerous cameras that he's never written much about (he mentions them in passing while discussing another topic). He's also written some very enthusiastic pieces about other cameras he's bought. It's not hard to figure out that the ones he's writing about are pretty special, to him at least. None of that makes him, or you for that matter, a shill. It just means that some people prefer to share something worth someone else's time rather than those things that aren't worth getting excited about.

Too many plugs can make a blog seem like an infomercial or a begging letter, however yours is far, far away from that sad situation. Also:

1)You're providing a service by pointing out deals.
2) Your blog is a pure free market (people visit and click by choice rather than compulsion), so if you make bad recommendations or false reviews the word will get around, people will vote with their mouse, and you'll realise that you've shot yourself in the foot. In other words, in a free market the behaviour of sellers and service providers is regulated by the effect that reputation has on profit, so there's no need to fear shyster bloggers (you are a service provider).
3)I view clicking on a link so that you get a slice (at no cost to myself, moreover) as a simple case of quid pro quo.


Like Greg, I'd be curious to know how the "rules" work for B&H.

I'm interested in reading anything any professional or pro-sumer user has to say about any camera, good or bad. It helps me make up my mind about the thing and see if it's applicable for my uses...and many times, a user/reviewer says "I loved this", and when they describe it, I know I'd hate it! The opposite happens too...

Now, many times, I can't trust the users/reviewers experience, because, lets face it, they're not a professional and don't have professional uses, but I'm wearing big-boy pants now, and I can figure it out...there's almost something of value in every review / homage / slam...

Mike, integrity wins in the long run. German Computer magazine C'T has a very strict separation between editing staff and their advertisement section and they would not hesitate to burn a product down to the ground in a review.

Not surprisingly, the magazine price was higher than average because the number of ads was lower.

And not surprisingly, sales soared and brought them to be one of the best selling magazines in Europe, and the advertisements followed.

And now they have a photography magazine that is equally good. The classic American magazines, on the other hand, I do not want them even for the $5 per year subscription they go for; there's just too much ad-driven drivel in them.

In the end, the readers will decide, and I'm sure TOP will thrive because of that.

I have bookmarked the links to Amazon from TOP (which reads http://www.amazon.com/?tag=theonlinephot-20) and the one to B&H (which reads simply http://www.bhphotovideo.com/). Have I made a mistake with B&H? Will they work for you? These are the links I always use to go these sites both for browsing and buying.

Just to restore balance to the obvious hate campaign derived from cleverly manipulated comments of a mastermind who plans to undermine Fuji fixed lens cameras : I love mine, man - there go ahead and show this if you are truly integretious..integretyable..full of integrity.
Yours, in anticipation,
Name witheld.
Oh, alright, Mark Walker, but you'll never find me !

Your reviews have nothing to do with items I buy at Amazon since I use your affiliate link as my Favorite Bar link for Amazon so you get something from all of my purchases. It's my small way of helping keep TOP in business. I do the same with BH but I don't make many purchases from them.

Mike replies: That's another misconception, actually. Camera manufacturers generally don't even make any attempt to influence reviewers, except by being friendly. The majority of them wouldn't punish you for writing an unfavorable review.

Although I have known exceptions to that. Hasselblad was by far the worst in my personal experience.

Remember the monograph: "32 ways to jam a Hasselblad." I can't remember for sure, but probably by David Vestal.

I don't think I've ever bought anything from Amazon that's photography-related, and nothing from B&H in the last eight years (I live in Australia).

But when I buy something random from Amazon I make sure I click through from here, and -- like adamct -- I make sure I 'start from scratch' because I know that you'll only get paid for items added in that session. If I valued my time more I'd probably be better off just making another direct donation, but I like to entertain the possibility that this time my purchase might just be the one that tips you over into the next commission bracket at the end of the month.

Hey Mike sorry I didn't mean to sound bitter and cynical about you, Jim, or TOP... I'm just overloaded with reverse FujiDenfreude.... overloaded with all these blogs going on and on over the Fuji X- series....

I'm amazed that people can have any issue with your affiliate links because you are always so upfront and honest about them. I'm also amazed that I am such a dipshit that I didn't realise I could buy -anything- off amazon.uk using your generic affiliate link :( I won't make that mistake again :)

Now, if you want to start a rant on those people whose blog's sole purpose is to get viewers in order to make money from any old advertiser on their site, and who attracts viewers by posting other people's photographs (especially when they don't properly credit or link those photos) .... please go ahead ;-o

I am a grateful subscriber, and also an active user of Amazon. So my bookmark for visiting Amazon is labeled Amazon-TOP, and goes through TOP's link, whether of not I am reading TOp at the moment. Thus, everything I buy at Amazon is generating a bit of revenue for your web site. I'd do it for BHPhotovideo, except that I rarely visit there, trying to keep my hobby expenses down, and don't use a bookmark for it.

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