XKCD recently published this humorous comic explaining how you should interpret star ratings online. These are the ratings you come across when browsing online stores (e.g. Amazon) and customer review websites — ratings that supposedly provide an accurate glimpse at how consumers feel about the product. Do they, though?
As the comic shows, the answer is: yes and no.
Unlike most photographers, I hate my camera. I have read hundreds of stories on the Internet in which photographers argue about which cameras are the best and why. There are stories trying to prove that Canon is better than Nikon, or that 4×5 film is better than medium format digital. Camera review websites show scientific-style photographs displaying how much detail they have captured in a dollar bill, or pictures of color checkers and skin tones. They will also show “real-world” and studio tests illustrating how camera A is better than camera B and write long narratives about why.
Way back in the day, when the first mirrorless cameras were released, I was on them like white on rice. I desperately wanted to love, well, any of them: the Sigma DP-1, Panasonic G1, Olympus E-P1, Leica X-1, and more all passed through my hands. Many people loved having a small camera that delivered high image quality. I loved that idea, too, but I didn’t love those first cameras because of what they couldn’t do. They couldn’t shoot high ISO. There weren’t many lenses. Autofocus times reminded me of loading pages on dial-up Internet connections. But at the time (way back in 2009) I thought this was the future of consumer imaging. I predicted that by their third generation, mirrorless cameras would eventually take over the intro-level SLR slot.
Camera rating business DxOMark has published its in-depth sensor review for the Canon 5D Mark III. For Canon fans, there’s both good and bad news: while the camera boasts the best sensor seen in a Canon DSLR so far — besting the sensor found in the 1Ds Mark III — its score of 81 is far below the Nikon D800′s 95. DxOMark does, however, point out that the two cameras focus on different strengths:
The duel between the Nikon D800 and the EOS 5D Mark III would most certainly take place except that the different sensors each one has adopted makes it difficult to do a head-to-head comparison. Both sensors offer different advantages —in principle, sensitivity for the Canon and definition for the Nikon. With its 36 megapixels, the Nikon D800 clearly has concentrated its efforts on fine detail reproduction.
For its part, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III chose to make a grand compromise: with its 22 megapixels, it offers both higher definition and in theory, higher sensitivity.
Canon 5D Mark III Review [DxOMark]
Lytro‘s groundbreaking light field camera is finally landing in the hands of customers, and to give people a better idea of how the camera works, the New York Times has published an interesting diagram that shows what makes the camera tick. Here’s what DPreview has to say about the camera:
The Lytro LFC is so unlike any conventional camera that it doesn’t make sense to score it in comparison to them. Ultimately, though, we’re not convinced that the Lytro either solves any existing problem or presents any compelling raison d’etre of its own. If it were higher resolution or allowed greater separation or could produce single lens 3D video it might generate a lot more excitement. As it is, it feels like a product arriving before the underlying technology is really ready.
All of which is a great shame, because Lytro has done a great job of making a credible consumer product out of a piece of fairly abstract scientific research. It’s quite possible that in the hands of the right people it will result in some interesting creations but we just don’t yet see it as a mass-market device.
The New York Times came to the same conclusion — that the technology is revolutionary, but the product isn’t game-changing… yet.
A Review of the Lytro Camera (via Photojojo)
Of all the camera lenses offered on Amazon, the $26,000 35-pound giant green Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 probably has the funniest customer reviews and images.
We all knew it wasn’t a question of if, but of when: a major camera review site (Imaging Resource) has published a review of a cell phone (Apple’s iPhone 4) as a digital camera. The review’s conclusion is positive news for camera-makers though:
If you stack them head-to-head, the iPhone 4 is not going to give a good, entry-level point-and-shoot digital camera a run for its money. The 5MP 1/3.2-inch backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor in Apple’s iPhone 4 may be one of the best on the smart phone market right now but it’s simply too small in size to compete with what’s in a dedicated digital camera. Furthermore, while the iPhone’s miniscule 3.85mm lens produced far sharper results than we expected, it’s rudimentary, at best, when compared to most cameras.
Apple is now listed on the site’s camera manufacturers page.
Apple iPhone 4 (via The Online Photographer)
DxOMark has expanded their website to include lenses in addition to camera bodies. They’ve tested a good number of lenses from quite a few manufacturers, with each lenses tested on a large number of camera bodies. You can then compare how certain camera and lens combinations perform against one another.
Lens rankings with DxOMark Scores (via NikonRumors)