Review or User Experience?


Top Veteran
How do you decide whether or not to buy a new camera? Lets assume you're interested in a particular model, and you would like to find out more about it. Lets also assume you don't know anybody who has one and will let you do a fairly extensive test with it.

There are review sites everywhere and lots of user experiences out there. Which one do you give more credibility to? Or neither or both? In the light of a rather forthright discussion on DxO in another forum, do results like that have an effect on your decision? I was interested in this, when after writing a piece about it on my blog, a photographer said that he was getting comments from his friends about his GH2's DxO "score". He said that this sites conclusions, made him feel that he could be using "something better". So are peer group pressures or lab tests a factor in your choices?

In the days before the internet, I used magazines, opinions from friends and colleagues and whatever I could persuade my local store to let me shoot. But now its more difficult. My local stores, those that still remain, seem to be carrying an ever decreasing choice. There are also cameras that are quite difficult to find. I bought my first Leica for example, an M8, without ever having handled one.

Fortunately I loved it. But I've had the opposite experience. I've looked at samples, read all the reviews, checked out everything I can and still been completely underwhelmed when the camera arrived and I actually used it.

People often complain about the lack of the local photo store and the ability to strike up a relationship which can be helpful in these situations. But if we all buy our cameras from discount box-shifters its not surprising there are less and less of those about.

If I'm honest, I most trust the user experience of those who I think are similar in terms of camera use to me. For me Michael Reichmann at Luminous Landscape shoots pretty much what I shoot and I respect both his photography and his opinions. Whereas other similar reviewers have the opposite effect on my choices. Basically if they like it, I'm not going near it with a bargepole!!

So, who do you trust? Who do you regard as the most reliable? What finally makes up your mind to part with that hard-earned cash?


Ontario, Canada

I start at the end - what is it I need or am looking for. In reality, ever since having a 20D, the things I felt I needed were certainly important but never crucial. I am as susceptible as the next to letting my geek overcome my artist.

But I read a range of reviews from sites that are actual 'review sites', and feel I know the strengths and weaknesses of each. In most I only gain a small nugget of information to add to my thinking. Rarely will I base any major decision on what I read in them. But they do have some value, if little for me. The classic example is dpreview.

I read in detail reports from Reichmann and a few other photographers. I also read field reports like this from photographers who shoot different subjects than I do, with different gear. I just find it very useful to see what they find effective, and what they find negative, in their gear. This helps inform what I look for. Some of the forums I read also have members who can inform or challenge my thinking.

I am happy to be challenged and consider doing things in new ways, but basically I know what I need for where I am on my photographic journey.

The DXO tests: I do read them, but really, they form a very small part of my decision making.

I try to keep things in perspective. I rarely shoot for a living now, and know my outputs. It's hard to find an enthusiast camera that would not, in terms of output, be able to meet my needs. So it comes down to the finer points of user interface and quality of output. So that leaves me with two resources I trust: real users (people like Reichmann and forum 'friends') and my own visit with a prospective camera.

My experience with the G3 is a case in point. I am disappointed at some of the interface changes, but when met in person the camera made a solid impression. I will follow the same process with the EP3 etc.


Twitter: <a href="!/ZDP189">@Z
How do you decide whether or not to buy a new camera?

The last two cameras that I bought new were based on discussion and info on Why? I buy new cameras to review based on pre-launch noise. I have plenty of good cameras, so if I don't have to write it up I can afford to wait till it's discontinued. All the cameras that I buy to play with I buy second hand or heavily discounted. I buy these on forum feedback. Typically that means here, Ricohforum or other brand dedicated forums. These people have direct experience of the camera and other comparable models and will be corrected by other members if they're wrong.

I depend less and less on reviews these days. Review sites and magazines are not as good as they were. One problem is writers only have time for a few days at most with a camera and the other problem is they depend on advertising. Therefore cameras get reviewed predominently on the specsheet. They rarely highlight drawbacks and flaws.

User reviews are more useful. You may not agree with the review; you may not even respect the reviewer and his views, but all the data is relevant. I then reconfirm the user's findings in-store. Sometimes I will borrow a camera. If buying second hand, I can always resell for ten to fifty bucks loss (about 10%-15% of what I paid).


Bring Jack back!
Houston, Texas
I am a gear head. So I get stuff just because ... DXO doesn't affect my decision. When I look at the score for the M9, my reaction is "c'mon!". The M9 gives me awesome results but somehow, if I made a decision based on DXO, I would have never gotten to enjoy the M9.

More thoughts later ...


Top Veteran
Cheshire UK
I tend to buy what I like the look of as soon as it appears and then read the reviews later.
In the case of the X100 only a lack of supply stopped me.

Generally I find user reviews a mixed bag but these are the sites I've found to be accurate and factual:

Other sources like SteveHuff and luminous-landscape are more like users reviews and I treat their findings as I would any amateur user having disagreed so often with their conclusions.

Anyway in the last 5 years I've only bought one rubbish camera - Fuji Z10
and one dubious lens - Lumix 45-200mm
and I ddn't agree with the reviews of either:smile:


Top Veteran
DXO doesn't affect my decision. When I look at the score for the M9, my reaction is "c'mon!". The M9 gives me awesome results but somehow, if I made a decision based on DXO, I would have never gotten to enjoy the M9.

Indeed, to quote DxO - "In comparison with the sensors used by other full-frame main manufacturers, the pixel quality of the Leica M9 sensor remains low."

Though many can see results like this for what they are, and what they omit, I wonder how many take them seriously, and indeed take other reviews seriously. I've lost count of how many posts I've seen that include "well Dpreview say........"


Central Texas
I read depreview religiously, and used to trust them completely but started taking them with a grain of salt after their NEX-5 review, which caused me to delay buying it for nearly a year. User reviews here are the reason I finally bought it, and I love the camera and will continue to read user reviews here. I do trust Thom Hogan when it comes to Nikon. That said, he and dpreview love the Nikon D7000 and I didn't like it at all. I may have had a lemon but I returned it and won't buy another one. I would love to be able to handle cameras before buying, but the closest camera store with a wide selection is 100 miles away. I don't trust magazine reviews in general, but I do read the ones in Pop Photo with interest. I pay no attention to DxO, but that's just me.


I'm wanting to say something witty to express my disbelief, but my jaw dropped open so far it's got stuck ...

Well, as far as I'm concerned you did good.

I have a splendidly bi-polar relationship with DxO . . . if they agree with me (K5 sensor) I think they're great, if they don't (M9) I ignore them. There have been so many crap reviews of splendid stuff: The Olympus E10, E1 . . The Kodak SLR/n . . . Layla . . . the list goes on and on.

Lots of use of the Pentax 18-135 zoom, (which has been almost universally hammered by lens review sites) has proved what a good lens it is in the real world (for me).

If I fancy a camera, then I buy it and try it (in the last year that includes the A55, K7, K5, X100). If I don't like it, then it goes - quickly before it's too expensive (K7, X100).

If I think it's good, but my copy ain't, then I'll try again (I've had 5 copies of the Pentax DA 16-50 in the last year, and they've all gone back).

Reviews are clearly useful, but in the final analysis, a good review is usually good - a bad review needs to be treated with care.


Hall of Famer
Brisbane, Australia
The problem with "official" reviews is that they are just as prone to personal bias as any other opinion you'll read. The only difference is that the official reviewer was paid to give their personal opinion.

Test charts for interchangable lens cameras are hard to compare as well. For example on dpreview, if an Olympus 50/2 macro is sharper than a Canon 50/1.4, then a 12MP Micro 4/3 camera might show up as resolving more detail than a 7D. If I choose not to own either lens, the test is useless.


betwixt and between
I am with you, David, where you wrote
If I'm honest, I most trust the user experience of those who I think are similar in terms of camera use to me.
Of course, I may be flattering myself in comparing myself to some others... Let's put it this way. I am not a professional photographer. When I was studying photography as an student thinking I would be a professional, I was influenced by two things - wanting smallness and trusting the advice of a more experienced photographer/friend... I bought an Olympus OM-1. That was my only SLR after having inherited two previous ones from my older brother.

Fast forward many my year and a half or so of digital, and initially I read, read, read...but I've always preferred the more anecdotal style of "review" such as yours, and some I've read on The Online Photographer, as well as Kirk Tuck's... Then, as I got to know some of the folks on Amin's two forums, I definitely began to rely much more on impressions by photographers who I felt I had more in common with and whose photographs reminded me of more of my own style/interests, and whose experience I felt I could relate to.


Hall of Famer
My local camera store is run by a grumpy gus, and when I've asked him technical questions, I've found him giving me dis-information. So, while I strive to "buy local" and have often paid a premium to keep local businesses running, I won't with this guy. (But on the other side of the coin, I don't feel comfortable going to his place to play with his cameras, but then buying somewhere else).

For me, there are two options:
1) buy it myself online and resell if it's not for me. The loss I write off as a "rental" feel.
2) depend on a "gestalt" sort of approach by reading all the various sites. DCResource, DPR for testing and studio shot comparisons (mostly for noise in the blacks), LuminousLandscape for in depth reviews on handling, etc. Here and mu-43 for user input (or POTN for Canon cameras).

I'm not a fan of any site like "trustedreviews" -- any site that tells me they are trusted, I don't trust. Also, I don't like the personality site/blogs like Thom and Steve (or Kirk Tuck). I'll read them, but they tend to have their way of shooting, which is not my way, so their opinions I don't find wholly relevant to my situation. Finally, I don't find DxO useful.

Mainly, though, I use some sites to narrow a piece down to a possibility for me, but I'm going to have to buy it to really understand it, and take the resale loss if it's not for me.


Top Veteran
I may be flattering myself in comparing myself to some others... Let's put it this way. I am not a professional photographer.

The standard of photography on this site tends to make the distinctions a bit meaningless. Yours included. I often write about things that are related to making a living with a camera, but I always carefully avoid any suggestion that there is any difference between the quality of work produced.

The attributes of creativity, imagination and knowledge of the craft are by no means the preserve of the "professional" photographer. We have more incentive to get the job done obviously, but any of us who think we can assume an air of superiority just because we get paid for it are walking on very thin ice indeed!!


betwixt and between
wt21, too bad about "grumpy gus" as it sounds like he's going to be his own undoing. I would feel and do just as you do.
Mainly, though, I use some sites to narrow a piece down to a possibility for me, but I'm going to have to buy it to really understand it, and take the resale loss if it's not for me.
That is the bottom line, isn't it? It really is only from having the camera in question and getting to know it, that one can really find out. I also like your #1 about writing off the loss in resale as a "rental fee". That is a good way of looking at it. I used to feel badly about my sell offs...and have never added it all up, but really this is a point well taken for me. If I am not going to use a camera, I would rather sell it than have it sitting around.

David, thank you for your post. I have always known that you don't assume an air of superiority, etc. My main reason for pointing out that I am not a professional was to let it be known that one of the reasons I only tend to have one camera at a time is due to my own personal situation. Nevertheless, I am with you 100%!


Derby, UK
There were three cameras on my shortlist before buying the LX5. That list was created by reading every review I could get my hands on, I expect all three would have been capable of producing similar results with minor pros and cons to each. The only factor not covered was the personal stuff, how it felt in my hands, I can't get that from the internet, so it's a play at the camera shops for the final decision. I'm happy to pay a slight premium for that service, though when I don't need it for spare battery or SD card I do use the internet.
But then I'm not the biggest of consumers, three cameras in ten years, only being replaced when they go wrong. Maybe this forum is dangerous in that way, I'm already beginning to ponder if a G3 would suite me better... must resist...


Hall of Famer
Dallas, TX
I read reviews, forum, posts and look at sample images.
Finally however, I go to brick and mortar store, if possible, to handle the camera.
If it passes that test then I buy from them.


Roma, Italy
I read reviews to learn what a camera does and what doesn't, how interface is and other mere facts. After that I read users reviews, then I read forums. I think forums are a very good source of information. I always read manuals before buying. Then, I go and see. Finally, I look at real world samples, not just quality tests, but real pictures that get me inspired.then I go and see. Then I buy.

I don't trust anything, but I think everything is a good source of information.
I tend to distrust reviews and review sites, because regardless of anything else, its either personal opinion, which we all have a lot of, or its paid opinion in which case you can't trust it.

I also don't (any longer) pay much attention to the sample shots provided on many of the review sites, because they rarely show what any given camera can really do.

I do pay attention to the opinions of people who own and use a particular camera regularly. For example, it was Lili's use of the XZ-1 which got me interested initially, and continuing on with her posting of consistently great IQ shots of Trippy. I was swayed for a while with the coming of the X10 but in the end I went with what I knew would be a good camera and I have not regretted it one bit. I've had to learn to listen to users more and longer before purchasing. I also bought the GRD3 on impulse (good price at local camera store) and have not regretted that, either. The X100 I bought because I still remember how wonderful the rangefinder-esque style was in film days, and I would have bought an M9 if I could have afforded it, but I cant.

In short... I may read reviews, but I take them as they are, with a grain of salt, and pay much more attention to the users.