On the Net, there are various places for finding information about photo gear. If an interested user or a potential buyer wishes to gather some information he wants, there are typically two major types of (commercial) websites and then is the minority of non-commercial personal website which he can visit:-
1. Commercial Websites run by "Experts"
Typically, there are numerous "review" sites and some of these are also come with ("user") forums. These sites are mostly run commercially and attract the public to visit so that they can earn their income indirectly from advertisement paid by the camera manufacturers and purchases from "recommended" (associated) shops by their readers.
On the other hand, the camera manufacturers will (e)specially supply test units to these websites for their "reviewing" and thus actually they rely heavily on the camera makers or sales agents for the availability of their test gear. Just say if the test gear comes late or there is no gear supplied, they will have their review put late or no review to come up at all.
The business rule here is indeed very simple: the more visitors or more traffic at the website, i.e., the more increased popularity, the website will have more value and bargaining power to the manufacturers, the shops or any related commercial parties and that they will become influential.
That's just a simple indirect merchandising rule we all know, but sometimes we might have forgotten, just like those traditional "free" TV stations. However, the analogy between "free" TV stations and these "free" internet photo gear review sites is not totally exact. For example, TV stations are regulated strictly by government authorities locally under specific laws for broadcast and media. However, those internet review websites are mostly autonomous and self-governored for their contents, as long as they don’t break the local laws.
Afterall, running this type of websites is indeed not very easy. As there must be a compromise point to be taken carefully between the readers and the parties who pay directly. Actually, those websites must try to provide some information that *considered* to be "useful" by the readers. Otherwise, the visiting hits to the websites will drop and if this situation continues, they can't survive in the end.
A few typical examples of this type of websites for photo gear are the Dpreview.com (currently the most successful one, I think) and Steve's Digicams.com (one of the oldest but I think they are now declining in popularity when compared with their old days).
2. Commercial Websites for User Reviews
Those websites run commercially and the reviews are written by end-users or the consumers. They earn their incomes by selling the user comments and written reports to internet shops, as some kind of more "trustable" advertisement, and also sell to the manufacturers who are collecting user feedbacks.
In contrast to the "experts" in commercial sites, the authors, who are actually invited end-users, are free to write anything up to their own opinions, without any commercial constraints and concerns of their own.
Whilst the comments and opinions contained in those review articles are mostly trustable primitively in nature, i.e., the users will try to tell the public truly for what they think (just because the only reason for them to write is that they want to share their experience), the problem of these written articles by various different persons is on the (in)consistency of comments amongst them.
It is just because these reporting users vary much in their backgrounds such as user level, technical knowledge about gear, photographic skills, as well as their (again different) requirements and expectations. As such, one user thinks that a piece of superior gear may be regarded as ordinary or even inferior by another user(s) or vice versa.
So, at the end, the readers have not much ideas on how to trace the standards and bases which the authors based on, unless they can give more objective presentation such as scientific evidence, instead of subjective comments by words without more supporting grounds.
It should be noted that the site owners for these websites do encourage speeches of both "positive" and "negative" comments as these are truly valuable to both the manufacturers and the readers and these "negative" comments will have no conflict of any kind for them to earn their income.
A typical successful example of this type of websites is the Epinions.com.
3. Non-commercial Websites or Blogs maintained by Enthusiasts (usually those people are the true "experts")
This type of websites are created and run by enthusiastic people who have a good knowledge about photography and gear. They built their own website upon their own drive without any commercial intention and interest involved, at their own money and time, but just for their own sake of interest and hobby.
A good example of this type of websites is the PhotoZone (http://www.photozone.de/), which in recently two years the site owner, Mr. Klaus Schroiff, conducted his own professional reviews using his own resources and by borrowing gear from the site community or on his own gear. However, owing to the limited resources he has, the progress of his reviews are indeed slow to very slow, honestly speaking. And the number of gear tested is also very limited. And that his site have not ever been increased significantly in scale and popularity like those commercial websites could have been, honestly speaking again.
Actually, Klaus has told previously a few times that he would try his best to keep his site non-commercial as far as possible. I fully agree with and support his belief as independency and creditiability are really very important as practically this is somehow closely related to whether the website is intended to make profits or not.
People like Klaus who has a belief on testing his own or his friends' equipment which are purchased off the street is not alone. Another example of these kind of respectable persons is Mr. Thom Hogan, just see his honest "Disclosure" in the beginning of his latest Nikon D80 Review (by Thom Hogan).
So, Why This Blog?
I have been a Pentax SLR and DSLR user for nearly twenty years and actually my first photo was taken in the 70s with a roll of B&W film. For years, I am truely impressed with the unique optical characteristics, excellent optical performance as well as the build quality of those better Pentax glass and all of their SLR bodies I own.
In the digital era, my experiences with Pentax DSLRs and digital lenses are in a mixed bag. Whilst those Pentax products are still having some of their unique characteristics in design and produced results, I have being encountered various (in)accuracy, performance and quality control issues from time to time over the recent 3 years, since I first got my *ist D, the first Pentax DSLR body marketed in 2003.
Recently, I am quite interested in the Pentax DSLR body K10D which I think is the most important and significant Pentax product of the recent many years for Pentax. I have done quite some researches on the net daily and also posted my findings and comments on different net forums as well, such as the Steve's Pentax/Samsung DSLR Forum.
A few days ago, I have made three posts at the Steve's Forum for three different subjects/topics, just for the first time, about the Pentax K10D, for my latest findings on other website articles or forum discussions. However, the site "administrator" or the owner deleted those messages within two days, including a re-posted one.
One of the site "administrators" called "JimC" was "kind" enough to inform and "warn" me that the reason for the deleting action was because they regarded my posts were too negative to appear in their forums and they thought that I did consistently posted "negative" contents which was not allowed and strictly prohibited. So, I know that they are doing their "moderation" jobs in a strict but very biased way so as to filter out any unwanted messages, which someone do not want to see (as Mr. Jim C also told me that he undoubtedly considered that I was a "trouble maker"). IMHO, this is simply called *censorship*.
Whilst Mr. Jim C did say clearly he (just) wanted to send a warning message to me, someone else of the Steve's Forum banned me shortly so that I could not even to make a reply to his "warning".
Previously, I have very similar experience at the Dpreview forum. So, my these (maybe unpleasant) experience let me clearly learn that if I want to share my findings and express my opinions freely and faithfully, I must set up my own website or blog page.
Actually, I have done this already and my homepage was set up last year (URL: http://www.geocities.com/ricehigh). However, I find that to replace the role of those discussion forums which the more popular ones are mostly run commercially (Type 1 case above), it would be better to set up a blog, as those news and user reports come up daily or weekly which means that timing is critical when those news are happened, especial for nowadays fast changing world of photo gear.
Okay, let's go on with my this blog. In the first three news, I shall publish again the contents of my 3 deleted posts for sharing and open discussions are mostly welcomed.
Whenever I have the spare time in the future, I promise that I shall update my this blog from time to time. However, do note that I shall concentrate mostly on user reported concerns, potential problems etc. which are mainly found around the net. It is because there are actually so many and too many "positive" tones all over the net (by the brand fans) and advertisement (manufacturers' marketing) and it is surely more healthy to make a balance, although I know that my effort to make a balance might be in vain, as I'm just so "little" in the huge net community. The only purpose of reporting and sharing those is just for an aspiration of letting Pentax know which areas/problems they should improve/rectify in the future/current products, including their camera and lenses as well as the firmware used in those hardware.
I think I have been rather late to learn that posting and "contributing" to those *commercial* internet websites is actually a waste of my valuable time as they would let you speak as long as they like what you say and will select what they want to be appeared at *their* own sites. Well, I must send my deep thanks to Mr. Phil Askey and Mr. Jim C (and most probably should be to Steve) for that I *finally* learnt an indeed trivial but actually important thing so that I can now save my valuable time to truly contribute to the gear users. Hence, I think it is totally meaningless for me to use my time to "contribute" to their commercial websites anymore to help them make their own money.
Instead, I hope that I can help directly to all the true users and all the potential buyers of a certain (Pentax) product which must be a wiser act for myself. And I am sure that for the coming days, my efforts must be more contributive than those ever in the past.
>> See also: Updating of Blog Editing Direction
Sunday, November 26, 2006