Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where I Spend my Time on the Web

My web traffic stats tells tells me that the majority of the readers of this blog come by way of DPReview. No big surprise, since that's the only other place where I do a significant amount of posting. DPR has its pluses and minuses, but the best thing about it is that its where a lot of the world's photography traffic congregates. This is both good and bad, as you have to put up with a lot of questionable posts and flame wars to get to the really good posters. This is DPR's greatest strength and probably one of its worst shortcomings. Because the staff is no longer the quickest with their equipment tests, DPR has become the de facto gear forum of the photography world of sorts. Heavy emphasis on gear... sometimes you wonder why nobody is talking about photography. DPR's camera test remain some of the best on the web. Though there is probably some site out there that does some aspect of testing better than DPR, its strength lies in the fact that the basic testing format hasn't changed much in almost a decade. Because the setups are so consistent from camera to camera and year to year, it is one of the best resources for camera shopping... if they get around to testing your camera that is.

Take DPReview's consistent testing format, change the writing to a more concise user friendly format and remove the forum bullshit... and you basically have DCResource. It's obviously a smaller operation, but it's very good for what it does, and probably a better place to start shopping for a camera if you aren't looking for an SLR or high end enthusiast compact.

Like DCResource, but with slightly more comprehensive testing procedures. A small and plucky website that could really do with more frequent testing.

The anti-DPR...a very sedate place. A bit off the beaten path, but a good place to be introduced to things that aren't Nikon or Canon or SLR's. Topics covered include Leica, medium format and video.

Take DPR's consistent testing format, add in a better section about optics in the review and add in a a compare-o-meter for the pixel peepers and you basically have Imaging-Resource. It's very good for what it does, but I just don't find that it has 'soul'. If anything the flow of events goes like this....Imaging Resource posts sample images of a new camera, then the forum members on DPR pixel peep it to death. Just as the flame wars are dying, DPR comes out with their review that confirms what everybody had been discussing up to then, except that the review will have one controversial section that will fuel the forums until the next camera launches.

IR's companion SLR lens testing site. A key draw is the site's proprietary widget that lets you adjust sliders to see how the image quality of a lens varies according to focal length and aperture. As far as interactive widgets goes, it's one of the simplest, which makes it one of the best. However, the site is not completely clear on what constitutes a 'blur unit' when optical sharpest is being described. It's hard to tell if they are talking about a drop-off in absolute resolution or if they are describing field curvature at times, but to be honest, I find this to be a weakness with most lens reviewing sites.

Another excellent lens testing site. It doesn't have an interactive java applet, but the format of the tests results is very readable, and they've accumulated a fairly large database of tested lenses.

Experienced, intelligent, articulate, provocative. All words that you could use to describe Thom Hogan. The site is cleanly laid out and offers a pretty realistic view of the Nikon camera world. Hogan doesn't review equipment so much as he assesses it... posts don't just describe what's good or bad, but also what the implications are for each positive or shortcoming. Bythom's PDF guide's to the various Nikon bodies are well worth the money, as they don't just tell you what the manual should have told (but in a more clear manner), they also go into the implications and practicalities of each area of the camera. The Nikon manual may tell you how to set up autofocus on your camera, but Hogan will also tell you which modes work best for which situation and how well each does it.

Articulate is not a word I would use to describe KR. Yet I end up visiting his site on a regular basis, this despite the violence that he does to the English language. Why? Because if you read him long enough, you find that he clearly is a bright fellow, and to be honest, he does seem like he would be a big happy goof in real life. KR's testing methods are dubious and his recommendations ought to be taken with tablespoons of salt. However, his "The Camera Doesn't Matter" ethos is very admirable... unfortunately he spoils it by all the hyperbole he lavishes on Leica equipment. About this apparent contradiction, I can only quote the Simpsons episode where homer goes on tour with Lollapalooza...
Q: Dude, are you being sarcastic? 
A:(Sigh) I don't know anymore.

In a similar manner, KR will tell you to skip RAW because life is too short to mesh with post processing, only to wax lyrical about film the next day, glossing over the obvious time and cost of processing negatives. What Rockwell does do well is document older Nikon lenses and equipment. He writes about them in a way that is only his, but the posts are usual a good starting point for researching older lenses and bodies.

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