Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Photography tips: Lens and camera reviews

When you are going to buy a camera or a lens, and once you more or less figured out what type your after, the search for the best one begins. ‘Best’ obviously depends on your personal preferences as well, but you will need information. Review pages can give you this information, but there are so many different review pages. Some of them seem to be purely commercial, some are very technical and others consist of user reviews. How to find your way in this ocean of information? Let me tell you how I gather my information. I am not saying it is the best way per se, but it might be a good starting point to develop your own.

Once you know what you want, check three review sites. FredMiranda (FM) has a large number of user reviews. User reviews have the obvious advantage that they tell you how the lens behaves in day-to-day use. They have the disadvantage that a user may judge the lens wrong. The advantage of FM is that the number of reviews is quite large, so that a single misjudgment is not likely to have a huge impact. The overall score for any lens will give you a fairly good first indication, but you should read a couple of those reviews as well. Especially focus on reading the cons of the lenses and check whether they matter to you. If a lens is voted down for its noisy AF motor but is optically sound, you may not care as much as in the case of a lens that is voted down for lack of contrast.

A second site to check is Photozone.de. They have extensive technical reviews. You may either be interested in reading the entire thing, or just the verdict, that’s up to you. Note that Photozone lists all lenses by mount. That is no problem if you are a Canon owner looking for a Canon lens, but when you are looking for a third party lens (e.g. Sigma, Tamron, Tokina etc), you may miss out on the lens you were looking for. If you are for instance looking for the Tokina 10-17 for your Canon, go check the Nikon section. Photozone tested this lens on a Nikon body, so they listed it under Nikon. If it performs well on a Nikon body, it will probably perform well on a Canon body too.

DPReview mainly tests cameras, but they do have some lens reviews as well. For cameras, you can do a feature search as well as a side-by side comparison. They also keep track of lens and camera releases, which is also nice to know.

Apart from reviews, you may also want to check some pictures taken with the specific cameras. There are many sites to do this. I would like to mention the two sites that I check out for this purpose, but others are good as well. DPChallenge has a section called equipment, where you can look for the camera or lens you are looking for. On Flickr, go to the ‘groups’ section and type the brand and focal length (brand and type for cameras) in the search box.

If you still have questions, turn to a photography related forum. Members of those froum are often very willing to help and share their knowledge and experiences. All the sites listed above have such forums, and google is your friend in finding other forums as well, or forums in your own language.

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