Sunday, October 04, 2009

Camera Website Homage

Backyard Sunset (anatomy of an old Geek)Ever since I bulked up with the Olympus E-3 Christmas 2008 (and actually, even before then) I've been hunting down and reading many an on-line photography blog and review site in an effort to gather as much useful intelligence as possible about the pros and cons of the current state-of-the-art in camera gear.

And make no mistake; I'm more the gearhead than the photographer. And why not? A camera is the ultimate convergence of optics, mechanics, material science, electronics, and cybernetics into one convenient awe-inspiring hand-holdable device. The only other device with nearly that much 'pull' in its construction is the smartphone, and it doesn't take nearly as good a photo, in spite of what may be written.

To scratch both the gear as well as the artistic itch of photography, and to make sure I know how much it's going to really cost me, I've developed a list of sites over the last 10 months where I go and seek the wisdom of the oracles. So here, in no particular order, are the sites I frequent on a simi-regular basis so I don't miss out on anything.

1001 Noisy Cameras It wasn't the first one I found, but it comes pretty close. The proprietor (or proprietors, I can't determine which) work to aggregate news from other enthusiast sites of interest from around the web. They're good about giving proper attribution to sources, and they have a number of sub-sites devoted to rumors, news, reviews, and special camera deals. Noisy claims no favorite brand; as a consequence their coverage is both broad and deep. A nice touch is to tell you about a review but not spoil the conclusions of the review. They will provide a link to the conclusion if (like me) you just want to cut to the chase for the executive summary and then read the details at your leisure. You need to go there on a fairly regular basis, since the news flows fast and furious and you may miss something if it slips off the front page before you get there. If you've got a Twitter account you can follow them @1001noisycamera.

Photo Tidbits and Biofos These sites are included together because they are devoted to Olympus DSLRs and equipment. The Biofos site goes further in talking about Olympus film equipment as well. I heavily depended upon both those sites before making my purchase, as both sites go into great detail about the features and operational characteristics of all the current Olympus bodies and lenses, as well as a few non-Olympus lenses. Photo Tidbits is more approachable in its layout, but both will reward the reader with critical information about Olympus equipment.

dpreview Everybody knows about, or should know about, dpreview. They have extensive reviews of nearly every brand and model of camera gear. Their reviews are long (20 or more pages) and extensive, with enough detailed gear shots to sate anyone's lust. They also devote quite a bit of pages to sensor performance, as well as comparing test images with what they consider equivalent cameras. It's that part of the review you can take with some grains of salt. They redeem that part of the review with an extensive collection of test images at the end of the review, and it's there that you can really see if the camera produces the kind of output you're looking for. If there's a part of the site to stay away from, it has to be the discussion forums. It doesn't take very long before you find flamers and trolls in abundance who make Linux and Windows flamers and trolls look like rank amateurs. It might be flawed (and critically so in some areas), but it is an important and reasonably authoritative site.

The Visual Science Lab This site is run by a highly talented professional photographer named Kirk Tuck. Kirk lives and works out of Austin, Texas, and has so for decades. Kirk has worked with multiple camera brands over the years, but recently he sold his Nikon gear (including a D700) and settled back to using Olympus (two E-1's, an E-30, an E-520, and two E-300s). Kirk brings a lot of talent and a no-nonsense point of view to digital photography. He stresses repeatedly what's important about photography, which is the photograph, and backs this up with his own work as well as the work of others who are like-minded. To me he's a breath of fresh air in a crowded and pretentious nation of digital photographers. It should be noted that Kirk writes as well as he shoots, and he shoots extremely well. Kirk has published three books, two of which I own, and which can be found on Amazon.

ThewsReviews I first ran across this site around January while looking for reviews of the Olympus 7-14mm UWA zoom. I didn't buy the zoom because of the cost (deciding to purchase the 9-18mm for roughly 1/3 the price of the 7-14mm). I stayed to read Matthew Robertson's other reviews on Olympus gear and third-party gear that worked (or didn't) with Olympus. His style is fresh and funny, as exemplified by his story of autofocus woes with the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro and his E-3. Matthew is another practical no-nonsense working pro, and it shows in his wide-ranging reviews. He's since added a Nikon D700 to his camera arsenal, and his reasons for doing so are reasonable and logical.

Torontowide I found this blog while looking for substantial information on the 9-18mm (see above). The author of this site works at TorontoWide, a news site dedicated to promoting Toronto's arts community. The blog (and its author) are interesting because he's a photojournalist who shoots Olympus. He's written about his working experiences with the 9-18mm, 35-100mm f/2, as well as the E-3 and E-30. Read the fine print at the bottom of all the postings and he'll tell you what equipment he used. If there's a problem with reading the blog (and the site) it's that I'm in Orlando and not Toronto; it hurts to read about such good (some might say stellar) productions and not be able to go see them.

There are certainly a lot more sites to read about, but these are the ones I visit on a regular basis (read: about once a week on average), and that's about all I can handle with everything else I need to do to make a living. I'm unabashedly pro-Olympus and will remain so, unless, of course, Olympus does something drastic like drop out of the DSLR market. And even then I'd keep what I have and buy up off the used market. Using Olympus (or any brand) should never be about any particular item; it should be about the overall system and how it helps you take photographs. In the end it's all about the photograph, not the camera.

2 comments:

  1. Its great to see you back Bill,
    I'm glad you've ditched twitter - its to blogs what email has been to letter-writing IMHO
    Hope the family are all well.

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  2. Well, to be honest, I resurrected the Twitter account. I 'had' to to track another blogger. I was off for 30 days. What's interesting is that I have no desire to 'tweet', only to log in about every other day to see what I (might) have missed.

    But it is good to be back blogging.

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