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Old 16th February 2011
Kiwi Paul
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Equipment reviews, Oly and other brands

All the fuss about the recent DPR E5 review has prompted me to post my views on the subject and also general comparisons to other brands.
There seems to be a real mindset with some Oly users that magazines and review sites etc have a real bias against Olympus (well 4/3 anyway) and any reviews that don't sing the praises of 4/3 gear are met with disdain and how biased the reviewer is etc. I find that a bit unfair to be honest. I think one of the issues is reviewers are generally most comfortable with what they are familiar with and that is often Canikon equipment, they know how to use it, know the menus, lenses etc and how to get the best out of the kit, where Olympus is just that bit unfamiliar and invariably that may have an influence.
They are obliged to report their findings and air their opinions and if the Oly kit is behind in some areas then of course they are going to comment.
It seems the Pentax K5 is receiving glowing reviews yet Pentax surely has no more influence with reviewers than Olympus so the Canikon bias doesn't appear to be influential there.
What reviews don't really cover is the how a bit of post processing can narrow the gap, lets say an Oly RAW file is a bit noisier than a brand X RAW file. Moving the Lightroom NR slider from 25 to 40 is often all that may be required (well for ISO's up to about 3200 anyway, after that 4/3 does get irrecoverably noisier I imagine). My point been with a bit of PP 4/3 can match the quality of other brands no question but reviewers don't have the time or inclination to prove that so generally comment on unprocessed or quickly processed photos and don't realize the full potential of the 4/3 gear particularly when shooting RAW.
It's unfortunate but it's just the way it is.
I'm not suggesting the large advertising budget of Canikon don't have any influence on reviews but I think often we 4/3 users can get just a bit too paranoid.



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Old 17th February 2011
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Re: Equipment reviews, Oly and other brands

I think we have to accept that as Olympus users we are, by nature, also biased. However, there is often a subtlety of wording in reviews that tends to talk up the likes of Nikon or Canon and talk down Olympus.

For instance, I find that the perception they create regarding noise is that Olympus cameras are worse compared to the competition than they really are. Here's an example, from the recent Digital SLR Photography review of the Canon EOS 60D. "Image noise is very well controlled, you can set ISO 1000 without any major concerns."

We all know that if it was an Olympus camera that sentence would have read something like, Image noise is well controlled up to ISO 1000 but starts to become a problem at higher settings." It's a subtle difference and is basically saying the same thing but actually giving a much different perception.

"A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity." ~ Robert Doisneau
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Old 17th February 2011
PaulE PaulE is offline
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Re: Equipment reviews, Oly and other brands

Originally Posted by Woofmix View Post
My point been with a bit of PP 4/3 can match the quality of other brands no question but reviewers don't have the time or inclination to prove that so generally comment on unprocessed or quickly processed photos and don't realize the full potential of the 4/3 gear particularly when shooting RAW.

Worse than that - I believe I've read that many of the review sites are using their own brand of RAW software to create the jpgs used for the testing / reviewing - my guess is this software is nearly always optimised for Canon (or Nikon) depending on the site and or what the guy who writes the software uses himself. We all know that all RAW converters produce different results and generally the resulting image quality has a positive correlation with how much time the software developers put into the product, especially when it comes to camera specific bits.

Of course you can argue that if all the brands use the same jpeg engine with the same settings then you'll have a level playing field from which camera performance can be assessed but this isn't true - every choice the developer has made about what default algorithms and profiles to use in the software will influence output IQ and each algorithm out there will very likely favour one particular brand of RAW over another. I've not bothered reading any camera reviews for a long time but when I did it was the sample images that I think were the only bit of the review worth looking at - despite some very odd colours in some and seemingly high levels of noise at high ISOs the images are almost always sharper and contained more detail than the cameras they have pitted it against (directly attributable to the lenses used I would imagine) Colours and nose can be dealt with to a degree soft images cannot (which at web resolutions to me speaks volumes) to my mind not enough is made of this point by reviewers or if it is it comes with a note recommending a lens upgrade before the camera is even purchased. The fact remains that you have to spend a great deal more money with Canikon to get equal IQ and I've still yet to come across evidence to show otherwise.

That said, I'm not sure there is a totally fool proof way of comparing many different brands of cameras so closely other than to actually try them for yourself alongside your chosen software relying on a reviewer to do it for you is lazy and IMO pretty pointless but if you must base your decisions on reviews then pay far more attention to the photos rather than the words...
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