« Sunday Support Group (OT) | Main | Am I Crazy? My Camera-Buying Frenzy »

Monday, 19 February 2018


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

All sensible points Mike. My only qualifier is that I do value video reviews where people focus on manipulating the object, in other words, using it, doing things with it. The author of a text-based review can describe an action (e.g., how a part of a camera moves when you operate it), but a good video focused on that movement can do a much better job.

This is the kind of thing that your 2 minute videos interspersed in a good text review should do. When a still picture can't convey what you're trying to show, include a short video to get the point across.

I do enjoy reading Ming Thein's reviews. Though he might lose points for independence -he's part of Hasselblad's management now, but he mostly reviews such as advanced compacts, where Hassy doesn't compete. Thein's reviews are wordy, but his language is so eloquently written that I don't mind. His concept of a describing a camera's "performance envelope," the range of uses for which is its comfortably sufficient, is very valuable. And somehow, despite a globe-trotting professional schedule, he remains open and responsive to his readers. So you might call him the anti-Ken Rockwell.

Speaking of blowhards and provocateurs, It's interesting to think about one top government official who doesn't read his national security briefing papers, or evidently anything at all.

Video is like a slow, slow drip of information, compared to the written page. It's hard for me to understand who has the patience for this. Perhaps there are folks out there who can't read as fast as they can listen?


For what it's worth, whenever I want to know a camera's specification I go to dpreview. I don't go to the manufacturer's site. I like the format of dpreview - everything I want, neatly broken out into separate pages so I can look at just the bit I want.
That means, however, that every other review in the world doesn't need to quote specs, because dpreview has already done it. That's just how I use the web. You may do it differently.

I miss Michael Reichmann's reviews, precisely for the points you raise ... even though I couldn't afford a Phase One back.

There's nothing better than a test drive. Fun too.

I’ve always enjoyed, appreciated, and generally agreed with Bjørn Rørslett‘s subjective lens evaluations at http://www.naturfotograf.com/lens_surv.html. His collection of reviews of (mostly older or discontinued) Nikkor lenses is a treasure trove of useful information.

These days, he can be found at http://nikongear.net, offering opinions and reviews of more current equipment.

I find video reviews (mostly) excruciating for all the reasons Mike cites. They're like accessing music on an old-fashioned cassette tape player; it's linear, not hierarchical, awkward to skip past the dull parts, and a concealing black box until you open it with some media device.
The only thing a video review can do that text cannot is to vividly demonstrate features of real-world ergonomics that are difficult to describe but obvious once you see 'em. Like how difficult a camera's controls are to operate while wearing gloves.
The closest thing to a good video review I've seen was on photographer/author David DuChemin's 'Craft and Vision' YouTube channel a few months back. He handled a Fujifilm XT-2 and demonstrated his entire 4 lens kit to show how very compact it was, how it didn't get in his way...and resumed talking about the far greater importance of vision, point of view, and crafting a narrative using images.

Yes Mike I fully agree with your actual analyst regarding all the present "professional" reviewers available on the Web. Independence and personal point of view have been evacuated from any discussion but the nature of the people that are consulting these "corporate" product presentations dont really allow to be critical or subjective. And many bloggers are trying to live of the publicist references. Yes there are becoming "marketers" (first line) of the camera manufacturers.
In fact you have to go further (deeper) into the Web planet to find passionate but money uninterested persons in an effort to get more refresh equipment or technical evaluation. And I can tell you that the comments issued from a more original point of view can be very harsh or destructive. This is why you have to stay focus on your passion.
Receive my warmest salutations.
Daniel M

I agree 100% Mike. The best reviews let you know who the reviewer is and what type of photography they prefer. On the other hand, "how to" videos can be invaluable. Once, after flipping around the web trying to find out how to fix a problem with my dishwasher, I started to look at the videos. I think I found a great one on my second try. It showed me how to do exactly what I could not understand from the poorly written "how to" descriptions. I stepped through the video turning it on and off. It was a great help and saved my lots of money that I would have paid to a service company.

I can think of a couple of ways the new generation deals with the low density of video (and audio) content:
1. They play it back at 1.5x or 2x speed.
2. They play the video while also doing something else.

Consumption strategies adjust to the differences in content.

Can I leave an OT comment ? Regarding Terry Letton's comment on the Chevy Vega: I bought one of those bow-wows on the basis of that Motor Trend review. Not only was it the worst car I have ever driven because of dozens of mechanical faults, my Vega had a 6 ounce glass Coke bottle welded into the body compartment by the passenger rocker panel so that ever time I turned a corner it made a horrible noise. It took five trips to the dealer to have them figure this out. There must have been some big union grievance at the factory that week.

I second Rob de Loe's comment about certain advantages of seeing camera controls and operability in action as a supplement to written reviews. Gordon Laing of CameraLabs: https://www.cameralabs.com delivers an impressive combination of written and video reviews with the emphasis on usability and fit to a photographic end-purpose. His written reviews are some of the most comprehensive and practical I've read and his no-nonsense, fact-dense videos are tailored to real-life operability: handling in realistic settings, just how many levels down is that menu, what can you actually use this camera's touch screen for, etc.

He has a similar background to yours Michael - a former film photographer, many years as a writer and editor of technical magazines (PC's and personal electronics), started his CameraLabs blog in 2005, an independent one-man show with, as far as I know, no entangling sponsorships. And like you, a talented writer.

John Merlin Williams

One of the reasons I'm a faithful TOP reader and don't read DPReview anymore is TOP is mostly about photography and DPReview is about equipment. When you get right down to it, virtually all enthusiast-grade or pro-grade cameras by major makers are more than competent. Most of the important differences can't be reviewed because they reside in the user, not in the camera. I can pick up almost any high-end Nikon going back fifty years, and be comfortable in a couple of minutes. I can't with Canon, because I never used Canon. How does a reviewer deal with that, especially if he basically works for a camera company trying to peddle a particular line of gear? The answer is, he can't. I suspect most dedicated Canon users can do what I do with Nikons, and guess what -- the photos shot side-by-side would be indistinguishable.

At one time, a decade ago, and a bit more, DPReview was important because the tech was changing so quickly and so radically, and the cameras were so expensive -- there WERE major differences between digital cameras that resided in the gear. Not so much any more. I mean, my god, we're now down to arguing whether the view screens should flip all over the place, or just up and down. Who could really give a rat's ass?

The late Geoffrey Crawley was an excellent reviewer (ex BJP editor, etc.).

The main problem with videos is that they aren't searchable by google et. al. so if someone says something interesting about flash synch speeds or the like I'll never find it. Also they are almost all too long to watch and the only impression I get is that the presenters are to lazy to write the stuff down. Unless they are funny. Funny works. If Sabine Schmitz did cameras the way she does cars, I'd watch that.

I also like Kirk Tuck’s reviews, because they are only of cameras that he has used for a long time.

As far as video reviews go, I must confess to be a fan of David Thorpe. His calm and knowledgeable narrative is an absolute pleasure to watch. Short, insightful videos made by someone who can tell a story. Look elsewhere for hyperbolic sales talk. Highly recommended!

The difference between text and video is like looking at a score (if you read music) or listening to a performance. The former exists in its entirety continually and can be studied, reviewing passages as desired or skipping over other passages. The performance exists only in time and the sequence of it is entirely under the control of the performer, not the audience.

There are some things I like in a video, such as how-to do XYZ, but for equipment reviews I prefer text. I especially loathe the "unboxing" videos.

Technically speaking, anyone who publishes a video in the UK that isn't supported by a text transcript is breaking the Equality Act. No one seems to mind or do anything about it.


Videos are more palatable at 1.25x speed - it removes most of the excruciating drawn out pauses in speech that make video such a tedious medium.


I seem to remember that early Luminous Landscape contained no advertising and Michael was proud to say that he only reviewed equipment he owned and purchased himself. Difficult to be a long term review site with such a policy but not impossible.

I will add my voice to those who prefer text over video reviews. I wish to point out another quite annoying aspect of some of the video reviews... background music. I find the music too distracting and often it is so loud it competes with the narration. Add to that not all people will like the music or sound effects chosen and some will actually abhor it. When reading text I can chose my own background music or not.

I see what you mean, Mike. And surely, from an editor's point of view, a *review* needs to be fully rounded, and to speak articulately to the specific interest of many reader/viewer. And to capture as many reader/viewers as possible, the full rounding has got to be pretty comprehensive.

But even then, What reader A wants to know may still be quite different from what reader B wants.

What I took away from Palle Schultz's review was 1) it is quite a chunky camera, 2) its body stabilization is so good that you can bounce around in the back seat on an awful road and yet get good video, 3) that the stabilization is therefore very likely to be more than enough for my shaky hands, and 4) its got everything the X-T2 has, and more, except for the relative lightness. Plus there were enough video segments to show that, at least in the hands of someone skilled, the camera could deliver fine results.

Then, given that it otherwise is the X-T2 / X-Pro2 heart in the camera, I had learned all I needed to know.

But of course you're right, if I were someone who did not already have experience of an X-T2 already, then it would have been a sadly deficient review. So I suppose the editor would have rejected it.

But nevertheless I recommend the oeuvre of Palle Schultz on YouTube, even to the most hardened graphocentrics among us.

You write: "The written word is fabulously rich and has given me great pleasure throughout my life, in many, many ways." I agree totally. I grow more annoyed with news stories that are available only through videos that prohibit savoring fine writing. Reporters have to be both writers and simultaneous videographers. I think both media suffer.

An engaging and witty writing style alloyed to an absence of promotional urgency earned Michael Reichman---and you---loyal followers. I would add Gregory Simpson ("egor" at Ultrasomething) to that all too short list. His review of the Leica M 246 stands out for both its bias and honesty.

"I don't actually look at a lot of other peoples' reviews."

Neither to I, because:

"A review should contain judgements and opinions."

I'm not interested in others' judgments and opinions on cameras since rarely do reviewers use them for the type of photography I do.

Discussions of ergonomics are pointless, since one person's feel of the grip is different from another's, as an example. My first Micro Four Thirds camera (note: no abbreviations!) was the Panasonic G3. The first reviewer I read complained about the small form factor of the grip. I found it to be perfect for my hand.

The same with menus and buttons: you either love them or hate them. Who cares what someone else thinks!

I can find the technical description and specifications of a camera from the press release, or manufacturer's web site. If it is a camera I am interested in, I will evaluate it myself. Renting today is quite a wonderful option.

I've always liked Fred Picker's statement, "Careful photographers run their own tests.

Richard Jones

I'm time poor. I can scan/read/post much faster than I can watch someone talk. Which is the point with a video camera review, why use a visual medium if it only conveys words?

Gordon Lewis said it well. The problem with video reviews is that they are usually wordier versions of written reviews with some moving image and possibly still frames thrown in. Still frames! What's the point, it's far easier to look at stills on webpages than as a part of a video. Particularly irksome are stills in video that intend to convey something about image quality; highly compressed video streams do not exactly lend themselves well to illustrate where the image quality in stills lie.

A thing that video can work for is tripods: a video can be a good tool in illustrating how the different mechanical bits work and how the tripod fares in the field. Provided that video is well made that is.

Watching video is passive. Reading is active. The reader is in control of pace, time and focus invested, linearity, and more. The viewer has little choice.

I understand that the explosion of video around the web is in great part driven by advertisers. Makes sense given the balance of power over attention. But how does it help them when as soon as I realize that the link brought me to a video, I leave and search for a text source of the same information?

Video may be worth a thousand words, but often it's the wrong thousand words, or a thousand words you could have read in a fraction of the time. And even when it is useful, it's a lot less convenient to refer back to a segment of video than to a passage of text, and there's no easy way to search video for something specific.

That said, I like reading and I'm good at it. If that weren't the case, I very well might prefer to watch rather than read. So maybe I'm just being old and curmudgeonly.

As I hinted at in a comment a few days ago, I prefer good written reviews, but also appreciate well-done (rare) video reviews.

Written reviews have all the advantages mentioned, especially quick and easy to find information and they waste less time on someone blathering on about the obvious.

However, I often watch video reviews ever for cameras I have no intention of buying, because they can be both informative and entertaining.I used to watch DigiRev's reviews which were quite entertaining, but many complained they they did not have enough technical information. I now watch The Camera Store's Chris Niccolls and Jordan Drake as they do a good job at both, and often review both still and video capabilities separately. Yes, they do sell the cameras reviewed, but I see no evidence that it affects the reviews. They can be extremely critical. (I don't watch TV, so I seek other forms of time-wasting, perhaps.)

I have a few reviewers who are still around that I always check out when buying a camera or lens because I can trust them. One is Thom Hogan. I used to always check out reviews at Luminous Landscape when Michael was still alive.

Another frustration with video reviews (of anything). They're almost always too long. For all the reasons others have already mentioned (information-free intros, etc.) but also because most video reviewers (like most photographers) can't edit.

Just as most photographers find it hard to be brutal self-critics, so the same appears to be true of videographers. As Blaise Pascal said (lets go with Pascal - https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/28/shorter-letter/) If I had more time... Maybe in the rush to be first to monetize the latest content, video reviewers don't have the time to make a shorter video.

Videomaker magazine has excellent reviews of digital "still" cameras being used to shoot video. They are almost 100% focused on the video capabilities of the cameras and almost nil on the still photography aspects of the cameras.

Video has an essential difference from both the printed word and the still photograph, which is that the creator determines the pacing, not the viewer.

Video is intended for, and works for, people and contexts in which ceding that power is the right thing to do, and the most obvious case of that is entertainment. Indeed, even video content which ostensibly provides Information (the evening news, camera reviews) is really more about entertainment than information. It's about something you can use to kill some time, of which there is for each of us, an unending supply, right? The alleged information is just there as a thin justification for checking out and ditching responsibility for a while.

I love movies. I would watch movies all day. But I can't, stuff to do, stuff to do.

Can I add a vote to Mr.Hufford's regarding The Camera Store(Youtube)?
The presentation is leavened with a lot of good natured humour and ribbing while still being informative.
They have no trouble canning a camera if it's a dud.
Watch Chris do his artistic take with a Leica with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

My issue with video reviews and how-to's (unless I absolutely cannot find the information any other way), is that THEY control my pace and my time. Bah!

I like the format of DPR for getting a quick overview of specs. It's "standardized." Manufacturers' specs ain't.

MT Car of the Year can be used as a product warning. Both MT CoY I've purchased were stinkers.

I second your comments re video vs written reviews or whatever, and that from someone who has created over 100 highly technical videos, mostly lectures, that have over 2.5 million views. I have two 30-something techie kids and know othe age groups and I think the deal with video is "CPA"- continuous partial attention. You cannot read an article and do much else, but you can watch a video with some attention and do other things. The bane of our existence is the CPA on phone calls when you can hear the clicking of a keyboard in the background.
But camera reviews, like many other reviews, are often more subjective and if you don't have the same viewpoint, they have little relevance. I quit reading "objective" reviews with lab tests because the data is mostly irrelevant, much like the 0-60mph (0-100kph for non US readers) or cornering Gs on car tests have little or no relevance to real-world usage.
Based on feedback from people I know, it must be like online dating - what. you find online may not suit your taste.....or match reality...

Consider "Twilight of the Books" http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/12/24/twilight-of-the-books if you want more confirmation bias (or as I call it, evidence). This link is of course coming from someone who primarily writes about books ( http://jakeseliger.com ) rather than cameras, photos, or video, so I should lay my own biases out too.

Being in the midst of a rather deep and intense lens purchase research effort right now I’ll have to just say Yes to each of the points you listed here, Mike. This probably would be the most costly lens purchase I’ve ever made so I do feel some pressure to get it right. Unfortunately it’s also out of the boundaries my usual go-to review resources such as DPreview. So I’m having to rely on a combination of some video and some text reviews, none of which are sufficiently specific or experienced to be of much help, frankly. None of the reviews tags all bases for competence and lack of bias. And none of the video reviews have proven to be very worthwhile. (I plan to completely skip this non-nutritive review medium from now on.)

So I’ve thrown my hands in the air and rented the lens for a week and am taking it for a pretty comprehensive test drive. Honestly, whether you’re researching a camera or a lens, renting/test-driving is THE best way to make the best-infomed decision about something costly.

My favorite grumpy professor's revenge to the iPhone absorption is http://www.gocomics.com/doonesbury/2014/06/08 .
There's another one of this ilk that describes the extra difficulties when the unprepared use colleagues on WhatsApp and Google to answer questions. Reaction to both comics was mixed along generation lines, with half (I wonder which?) blaming the professor.

I do think there was someone doing reviews which tick a fair number of your boxes, oddly that was Ming Thein. He’s understandably not everyone’s cup of tea as a photographer but he did write opinion of use based reviews (until hasselblad). Unfortunately his buddy who co-writes the blog now isn’t as good.

Maybe I am too old or just European 😏 but what is: Ferdie: "tl;dr. ROFL!"???

[tl;dr = "too long; didn't read"; ROFL = "rolling on floor laughing." --Ed.]

LOL Ferdie.

The visual arts (video included) can be entertaining and provocative if done well, but as I see it, intelectual progress happens with the written word. It has been so for millennia. Part of the reason might be that reading and writing have less, but better participants.

Still, I can´t help linking to one of the best camera reviews out there (text or video), as pointed out by Daren Miles. Watch iPhonedo https://youtu.be/8WD9C3C2koU bury the Panasonic GH5 in a pile of humor and technical failures.

I was nodding emphatically while reading all the above comments on how text is better than video. But apparently we're the minority here.

But the reason for my comment is related to what Mike wrote:

Another obvious problem with reviews these days is that they are posted immediately, [...] By far the most valuable reviews come from people who have used the product for weeks or months and have gotten thoroughly familiar with it through actual experience

Well that's exactly my feeling. I want long-term reviews, and I guess many other people would benefit from reading long-term reviews especially now that cameras are uniformly good and second-hand gear is so convenient.

Can I link to something I wrote in my obscure corner of the web? It's about my experience with a Fuji X-Pro 1 written in 2017. Yes, 2017! I may have gone off the tangent here and there but I think the underlying message is similar to what Mike writes.

Technical details, we all agree -- check the manufacturer's website or dpreview. Real, articulated comments by normal people using the camera to do what they're supposed to do (taking pics!) it's what I want to read. The "official Fuji X-photographer" praising the jpeg profiles? Enough already!

These days I value more the TOP comments about camera gear than any other site. Among the sponsored photographer the only one I follow and whose advice or comment is truly interesting to read is Patrick Laroque (for example, this one is intriguing because he was able to capture my attention talking about the some Fuji jpeg profiles I've mentioned above).

About professionals, I'd be interested to hear what Alex Majoli thinks about his m4/3 Olympus camera and if there's anything peculiar in this choice.

I have the feeling that the truly good photographers/artist do not talk about gear like it's a dirty subject. But then I remember watching a video with Jay Meisel showing the same passion for gear that I'd have -- he mentioned using a 'lowly' 70-300 Nikon zoom for his street photos. And Galen Rowell in some of his Outdoor Photography columns (or Photographer? the US magazine...) going in depth about his use of low-end Nikon gear which was lighter than the pro cameras and lenses.

I enjoy Thorsten von Overgaard, Mattias Burling and Maarten Heilbron because they seem to know what they're talking about and don't seem to care one whit about trying to be funny or cool or, worst, FIRST. In fact, one of my favorite things about Burling is his reviews of older cameras that are still worth considering for purchase.

I would say that there are good video reviews and bad ones. Sometimes it's good to see in the video how something is done (this is especially true of editing software), or how peripherals and accessories link up to the camera.

As far as text reviews are concerned, again there are good ones and bad ones. Here I also think that there are times when the generally terribly written manuals need amplification. Sometimes it's good to get that in a review! Otherwise I usually buy the book or e-book if available. I wish I had time to write one for the 645Z, because there isn't one.

The good news is that the pace of camera technology innovations is slowing. Perhaps it is ironic that this is "good" news but I consider it to be the case. The technology is maturing. 10 years ago a camera was considered technologically obsolete in 6 months. The pace of innovation and customer upgrade was so fast that reviewers needed to be publishing very quickly so not be be providing information that was considered instantly irrelevant. The reviewer had little time to live with the new camera before his/her opinion held little value.

Today, the technology innovation cycle is much slower. We can expect our cameras to be relevant for 5 to 7 years at least. This makes making the right purchase decision more crucial and thus the quality of the review much more important. It also should give the reviewer more time to develop a well thought out and considered opinion.


Actually the X-H1 has many improvements over the X-T2 that do in fact matter for still shooting. The EVF is completely new and ever more brilliant than the previous one. With burst shooting Fuji has made it almost completely free of black-out. The shutter mechanism and release are remarkably smooth. Oh yeah, IBIS too (you wanted that a few weeks ago). The AF-C tracking algorithms are vastly overhauled making the AF far more accurate and responsive, and more sensitive in low light (down to -1EV now). And even though it's a bit heavier than X-T2, that's because the metal is thicker: it's a tougher machine now.

YouTube is awash with video reviews, but I’m selective in what I watch, I like to be informed & IMHO the best channel for that is The Camera Store


I also like Kai W for his guttural school boyish humour.


For written reviews I recommend Kirk Tuck as have others already & I would also add Dustin Abbot who also does video reviews. Below is his latest review on the Sony A7rIII


I don't know enough about the demographics of this website to be sure, but I imagine that at 31 I may skew to to the younger quintile here.

Yet despite that, I vehemently and wholeheartedly am with the herd here in proclaiming my dislike my video reviews.

To reiterate: low information density, no indexing, no skimmability.

And despite all that, a talking head somehow manages to be even less visually interesting to me than a monitor screen filled with text. At least print reviews occasionally have useful pictures and informational graphs embedded in them from time to time...

My partner (same age) is the same. It's gotten to the point where if I click a news article and it's a video, I will sooner click away (and leave that tempting nugget of information, whatever it was, forever locked in its internet vault) than waste my time trying to extract it from a video.


I read and skim faster than I can listen / view a video.

And that's pretty much why I don't do video. However, I do confirm that this is the direction for a lot of education, especially in technology nowadays.

Cheers, Pak

This is an aside... you mention you get review equipment from &H and lens rentals and thus feel you aren't, as a result, influenced.

As a retired physician I'm reminded of the effects of pharmaceutical marketing to doctors. One study showed that 85% of MDs felt that this marketing didn't effect them but felt that most other docs are influenced.

As you know the drug manufacturers spend a tremendous amount of money on marketing to docs and their management isn't stupid. Giving samples, dinners, trip, works. (from the point of view of the pharmaceutical companies).

So what if B&H had a deal with a manufacturer to promote a given camera, and strongly urged you to review it? (I have nothing against B&H. I'm a very satisfied customer)

The only way to be completely objective would be to buy everything yourself (like Consumer Reports), and I recognize that's not possible. But do recognize we're all subtilely influenced.

By the way, I do agree that video reviews are mostly a waste of time, but do enjoy "The Camera Store" reviews as mentioned earlier. They are entertaining and don't hesitate to pan something they're reviewing.

Yes, the data rate issue is key. Some younger people say they find the video more entertaining, but I find it less engaging, often to the point where it makes it hard to keep my attention focused on it.

Far, far back, in the very early 1980s, I got through an audio training program for work only because I had a cassette player that would play at 2x normal speed (without pitch correction, back then). The combination of cutting the time in half, plus the extra mental challenge of understanding the high squeaky voices, was enough to keep me engaged enough to follow the material. Otherwise, the data rate was too low to hold my interest.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007