The camera maker's lament: Is it reviewers who don't know what the F#$K they're doing or bloggers just deflating corporate hyperbole?

One of the reasons bloggers need to be careful and always be truthful about their affiliations with manufacturers of products about which they write is that those big companies are very, very good about trying to "bend" or delay a blogger's representation of their product. The marketing teams at major camera makers are good at identifying long term influencers in their niche. They understand the value of a great review and the costs of a "so-so" review. It's always in their best interest to control as much of the "presentation" about their product as they can. I get that.

But an honest opinion should not be for sale. If you are from "the company" and you think we've misunderstood how to best use the equipment it's up to you to tell me what the owner's manual doesn't. To clarify. To put me in touch with your technical staff in order to clear up any oversights I may have made in using the product. After all, we've generally had the cameras we test in our hands for a short amount of time compared to the engineers who actually designed the gear.....

I had a recent phone call in which the representative of a camera maker, unhappy with my observations about video files, asked me if I was using their brand of lenses in my tests.

A hint to everyone making a camera they want to aim at film makers, cinematographers, hybrid photographers, video bloggers, etc. :  People will put all kinds of lenses on the front of the camera. Some  lenses will have been made by Zeiss, some will have been made by Nikon and some will have been made by companies we've never heard from. That's part of the style, the business and the willful customization of video tools that goes along with this particular revolution. Telling people your product is only useful when using your lenses goes a long way to killing your own product from active consideration by a whole community of avid users.

When we buy product we are generally doing so because we hope that it will fill a need or offer a feature that we don't already have. Early adopters have no choice but to dive in and try the gear. To some degree we depend on the makers to be somewhat honest about their gear. For example, Olympus has introduced a "hi-res" mode to their new OMD EM-5.2 camera but they've been very, very good from the beginning about downplaying the feature for day-to-day, casual photography. They caution in their advertising and in the manual that it's a mode only to be used when on a tripod and shooting objects that don't move. They were good at managing expectations and I'm happy they did so.

Other makers tout focusing speeds that only really deliver in zero gravity environments or with non-moving targets that have optimum contrast profiles. Samsung touts their new 4K codec, h.265, as an advantage but anyone trying to transcode the codec to use with Final Cut ProX or Premier would beg to differ....

So, I offer my condolences in advance to the manufacturers but we'll keep calling them as we see them while trying to figure out work arounds to make the products work as they should out of the box. But redefining the parameters necessary for success after the product has left the showroom floor isn't helpful.


Omer said...

I don't understand. Are you saying that Samsung, Sony, Olympus etc., are responsible for the optical anomalies that occur when a user mounts an old Leica wide angle lens (via adapter,) on a modern digital camera? Are those companies responsible for clarifying specific problems with the myriad of available lenses? What digital camera works perfectly with every off-brand lens ever made? Marketing has been around a long time, however as you suggest, bloggers have become influential but objective, no. And no, I am not referring to you.

Kirk Tuck said...

I am suggesting that software correction instead of making good, clean imaging pipelines is bogus, not that camera makers need to optimize for older glass. But try this on for size. The m4:3 is a consortium of companies who all agreed to follow a semi-open standard, right? If you are a signatory you make product that works across the platform, right? So a current Panasonic lens should work on an Olympus camera and vice versa, right? Is that too much to ask?

One of the benefits that draws users to mirrorless cameras is the ability to use a wide range of lenses. Modern and past. To say that your video will only work well with your specific brand is a huge marketing demerit.

"Clarifying specific problems with..." What about lenses that don't have problems? Can't we expect them to work well with a good sensor?

And----if there is an issue with using lenses within your consortium but not of your brand don't you think there is an obligation to point this out to customers as I have? After all, the Panasonic lenses I used on the EM5.2 are perfectly functional and look great for still photography why is it suspect to assume they will also be competent performers with video?

Finally, "objective"? No one is objective. Honest in their observations? That's a whole different parameter.

Anonymous said...

Nice photo of you with an older camera at the beginning.

As no M43 maker has bothered to make a prime lens longer than 75mm, I've taken Roger Cicala's advice and started using a 1970s Olympus Pen-F 100mm prime and a 135mm 1990s Leitz on my E-M5 II and older E-P5 and E-M5 cameras when I need tack-sharp images in f/8 light.

Son of a gun, both lenses are tack sharp corner-to-corner on all three cameras. Of course, these lenses would have been even easier to use on the older models if Olympus had implemented focus-peaking on the E-M5 through a firmware upgrade like everyone else.

Now, if I can only figure out what works better than the consumer-grade default profiles. Your information about changing the video profile is most welcome in that regard.

Anonymous said...

If you have a chance to shoot video with an Oly 12-40 I would like to know if it makes much of a difference.

Kirk Tuck said...

Sorry, since I own the very capable Panasonic 12-35mm I really have no intention of also acquiring the Olympus 12-40mm. If they send one along to me for testing I'll be happy to test them and write about any differences I find.