Some quick but relevant notes regarding reviews posted on this site:
A sample size of one
Everything is manufactured to tolerances, and products at one end of the tolerance range may behave differently to products at the other. In addition, quality control varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer some manufacturers will check critical measurements on every single item, others will only check tolerances on a statistically relevant sized sample of each batch. Some manufacturers work to tighter tolerances than others. This has several implications:
- Our reviews are typically based on a single product (as opposed to multiple versions of the same product). So if we say the fit and finish or action on an item is perfect, another copy of the same product may have some slack or marring. If we have a lens that front focuses, you may buy a copy that doesn't (and again, it may behave differently on different cameras).
- As a general rule, the higher end (more reputable, more expensive) manufacturers build to tighter tolerances and maintain superior quality control standards, but there are exceptions. This is especially true with a number of the cheaper "knock-off" brands found on ebay and elsewhere, where you'll often find many highly satisfied customers mixed with a few less than happy ones. This is often due to poorer tolerances and slacker quality control letting a small number of bad units through.
Because of the above, we always recommend you read as many reviews as you can for a particular product (but please feel free to come back and use our affiliate links when making your purchase online!). If possible, handle the product yourself before committing to buy (or at least buy from a reputable dealer with a good return policy just in case).
Just because it doesn't work for us, doesn't mean it won't work for you.
After decades of photography experience, you develop a certain style and certain habits. We also shoot predominantly nature (landscape, wildlife, macro) and in the studio (products and people), so your needs may be vastly different from ours. If a piece of gear doesn't fit for us, that doesn't mean it isn't the perfect product for you. While we try to look at all products we review from as wide a perspective as possible, our specific experience will inevitably impact the opinions we form about any given item.
There are two areas here where biases could creep in:
- I've always shot Nikon, and my familiarity with their products undoubtedly colors my opinion at some level, whether I realize it or not. Why did I choose Nikon? That was more luck than judgment, based on a used kit containing a Nikon F that I bought from a friend of a friend. If I'd have found a Canon kit first, chances are I'd be using Canon today. Does that mean I think Nikon are better than any other manufacturer? Absolutely not, in fact often Canon has had technically superior products (they pushed ahead with technologies including Autofocus, Image Stabilization, Sensor design and Video arguably more aggressively than Nikon, before settling into a pattern where the two brands tend to leapfrog each other with each new generation of product). Familiarity with a brand over time does set expectations for any new product we review, and this is the primary reason we prefer to do long term reviews instead of short term. Long term reviews allow us find out what the product is like to live with day in, day out, once the honeymoon period is over.
- We get our gear from multiple sources we have to in order to make this site as useful and comprehensive as we can. Some items we buy retail, others are supplied directly by manufacturers (sometimes at our request, sometimes at theirs). Other items are borrowed (from friends, manufacturers or retailers), bought used, or purchased at a discount. We treat gear the same, regardless of the source. We try to focus on reviewing gear that we have the ability to test long term (so primarily products that we would use for nature or studio type work), and that we think our readers would be interested in. We do not allow manufacturers to see our reviews before we publish them (the one exception we may make here is for technical accuracy if there is something we aren't clear on about the construction or usage of the product). We make no assurances or guarantees in any way to any manufacturer that we will like their products or give them a positive review, period. If a review features a product that was obtained from a source other than at market rates from a normal retail outlet, we clearly state this in the review.
We go to great lengths to treat every manufacturer exactly the same and give all products a fair shot.
Long Term Reviews vs. Short Term Reviews
As stated above, we prefer longer-term reviews. Some sites out there do "hands on reviews" of products they've handled for a few minutes at a trade show, and while these do offer some limited value, it's less than ideal to make a purchasing decision on.
We do occasionally do short term reviews (typically based on loaner equipment, usually on loan for about 30 days). In these short-term reviews you can actually get a reasonable feel for the product, and you'll usually find the short-term reviews more positive, since you are still in the honeymoon period with a new toy.
The long-term reviews are where we see the real value of this site we typically do 4-6 big photographic trips per year, and go back and update our reviews accordingly. If a ballhead locks up with sand blowing in a desert, salt water destroys the finish on a tripod, a screw vibrates loose driving off-road, a certain component breaks or stops working after 2 years, or the performance of a product deteriorates as it wears out, that's what we want to report back on. Is the control layout of the product still functional in the dark at sub-zero temperatures with the wind howling halfway up a mountain? Is the gear impossible to clean and maintain in the field? How fast does it wear out? Is that exposed thread going to get clogged up and render the unit useless? These are the things we want to know.
We do the best that we can with limited resources to thoroughly field test a wide range of gear. We strive to be as neutral and honest as we possibly can in our reviews. If we have any relationship at all with a manufacturer or retailer, we will clearly state so in either the introduction or conclusion of the review, plus we make no assurances of any kind regarding the contents of our reviews to anyone. We do like to focus on long-term reviews, and get past the "shiny new" stage with any piece of gear, because we believe this kind of review offers significantly more value.
That all said, we are still dealing with a sample size of one, and we strongly recommend reading as many reviews as possible before making any big purchasing decision to get different perspectives. Just because a piece of gear works perfectly for us, doesn't mean it will fit your needs so well. Our reviews are based on our experience your mileage may vary.