Do you ever read reviews before making a purchase? Or maybe think about checking out reviews just to see if a purchase you made stacks up? Have you ever wondered what credibility a particular reviewer has that makes anything they say useful? Aren't reviews supposed to be objective? Not skewed, just facts as demonstrated? How do a reviewers results in using a product or a site's results for said product relate to you and your use? Admittedly, the rest of this post is going to be looking at the camera industry. Some does spill over to other industries though. Bail now if it is of no interest.
I do wonder about why a reviewer of products is one in the first place. This semi skepticism is spawned by reading some reviews, and finding my experiences are very different from theirs. Now I do realize each of us has preferences but stripping away those things still leaves some objective observances and I STILL find fault with those versus my experiences in too many cases.
First off, I don't see a lot of objective reviews where the same set of tasks, tests, or instructions are applied across the board. I will see some of this where the reviewer extrapolates information (which is always skewed) if its absent such as a certain camera doesn't have this feature but if it did it would work like "this". I actually see that a lot in camera equipment reviews because the interfaces for the equipment are designed by different engineers and the products built to that spec. So you always get how compared to "...", the "Nikon/Canon/Fuji/Sony/..." wasn't able to do "..." and often there is a dig shaded one way or another. I would like to see reviews just state what something does, and maybe a chart of comparisons of those features to see if one manufacturer has indeed more stuff than another. I can determine whether it means anything to me. I take this attitude because I have found most reviewers don't work in the industry other than writing reviews. They have little practical business experience or use of a product under the pressure of revenue earning situations. At least in the camera world, I find this to be the case. Some camera reviews are done using only consumer based use cases! And then applied to why professionals would find this good or bad. I NEVER see review info supply stats on repair history, or rate of failure, although some do mention customer service experiences.
One very popular photo equipment review site is actually owned by a major online retailer. This site produces lots of reviews and there are patterns to what gets a gold star or silver star and of course products can be read about and then purchased with a link to the retailer. This site happens to LOVE a particular manufacturer of cameras, and it shows. Nothing from this manufacturer is EVER rated poorly. Nothing. Yet this manufacturer enjoys very little success among working photographers. It is very popular with consumers and spec sheet junkies and their reviews cater to that crowd. And I'm sure it spurs a lot of sales for the parent company. The reviewers don't seem to be working pros. They have ties to the industry but as retailers, company spokespersons, and writers but no actual work using a camera in the industry. They have always loved cameras though, a common theme among their bio's.
Another popular camera review site provides reviews based on lab and bench testing using electronic equipment. No field or use trials. They feed a charge of a known quantity into the boards and sensors and chart the results. Or run standardized software/firmware under lab conditions and plot the results. This tells them that one sensor and processor combo from a manufacturer does this and another that and they then use this to promote one sensor and camera over another. But they don't test all cameras. Only certain cameras. They also compare results across different sensor sizes when it fits their needs. Again, their results differ from what those working the industry use, but admittedly, their reviews are closer to reality when it comes to use. This company has a marketing and information sharing agreement with the one I mentioned above.
Forums are even worse. Never ever read forums people. Its troll city. No matter what anyone says, some will counter with what a moron you are. I see a lot of how a Rebel T3i stacks up very favorably to a Canon 1DX or Nikon D5. I actually see posts form time to the where a poster asks the forum which camera or lens should they buy? Those responses are very entertaining, and not worth anything.
I write this blog and it does have my opinions and occasionally I'm taken with a product and write a review of sorts but anything I write is based on my experiences and its real. YMMV and all that but I tend to shy from specs and write about using something where possible. The stuff is used for my work. I will tell you if it works or doesn't. Sure, I do have opinions. I am not a Sony fan for instance. I think Sony is a great company but I do not care for their engineering, or the results from their cameras. I'm not a Nikon user anymore for some of the same reasons. I have never warmed to Canon ergonomics and I am a rare person because I do not like Canon colors. I have used all those cameras mentioned, and more, and trust me, if it came down to working with any of them I could do it. No problem. I would need to spend more time in post processing to get what I want but ANY camera equal to any other thats at the same performance level, is going to work. I just prefer to work with Fujifilm currently but that could change in a few years. Who knows?
I'd be interested in hearing thoughts about reviews, reviewers and whether anyone actually uses the information presented. There are many blogs out too that offer reviews, many answering questions no one asked. I wonder about that too. And some of the bloggers are sponsored or brand ambassadors so do your homework before you take anything said as more than a grain of salt.
I have a very small list of people whose knowledge on equipment I trust. Most online sources are for lighting which is easy to review generically. Its easy to know if someone knows what they are talking about there. With cameras and lenses, its another matter. What about you?