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Author Topic: reviewer's obligations  (Read 14453 times)
seany
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« on: November 11, 2006, 04:54:56 PM »
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What is the feeling of forum members regarding the recent Leica M8 review by Michael,is a reviewers main obligation to his audience i.e. those who are interested in buying the product he reviews or should he do as Michael and accede to the manufacturers wishes and not publish any defects.Does it not invalidate a review if one does not publish "warts and all".
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2006, 05:57:38 PM »
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You may not have seen Michael's update on "what's new".   So, what's a defect?  1 in 100 or 1 in 500 or 1 in 1,000?    Obviously if it's easily replicated, but if not?  What's the difference between an anomaly and defect?  Clearly - it's up to the judgement of the reviewer.
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2006, 06:47:54 PM »
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I don't believe Michael has any obligation to any one of us for any of the reviews he does.  I certainly appreciate them and I'm sure many people do, but to have an obligation there must be some prior contract as to expectation of services delivered for a specific value.  IOW, when you pay Michael to review a camera for you, THEN you have the right to feel he is obligated in some fashion to fulfill that contract for you.  Since that contract is neither real nor implied, then you can take his review as his well educated but personal opinion of the equipment he is testing.  If you disagree with his assessment that's also your right but it doesn't invalidate his experiences.

The counterarguement of course, and I'll mention it because someone is bound to, is that there is an implied contract because the video journals are for sale to interested parties.  True, but that's not the same as publishing a review on a website that can be accessed for free by anyone with an internet connection.

My $0.02

Mike.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2006, 06:48:44 PM by wolfnowl » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2006, 08:30:34 PM »
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I have been reading Michael Reichmanns reviews, tutorials and essays for more than a year now, and although I once in a while might disagree, or have other opinions (or no opinion at all), I respect his experience, approach and reflections, the same way as I have learned to respect Sean Reid (mentioned in other threads in this Leica-context) and Mike Johnston, to name a couple of other reviewers and writers who have been associated to LL, and who also share a passion for range finder photography. Or, for that sake, Erwin Puts. They are very different in their ways of thinking about cameras and photography (and very different temperaments!), but they all contribute in ways that I donīt see much of elsewhere.
   
However, of course Michael R. has a contract with his readers! In serveral reviews he has been complaining about people seeing him as biased. In other reviews he has admitted that he is "biased". How are we to deal with this contradiction?
   
If I should guess how he would want his reviews to be read – ok: this is MY interpretation of his ideals; take it or leave it, perhaps I`m wrong, but since someone above talked about "contracts", here`s how I have interpreted the "contract" between MR and me: He wants to be "objective" in the sense that he is trying to inform his audience about important features of the actual camera, lense or software (within some limits, not including some detailed stuff you can read from manufactures and other common sources), but "subjective" in the sense that he knows that every perspective IS subjective (my eyes, my hands, my needs... and my enthusiasm!). But I donīt think he would like to think that his readers suspect him of being "biased" in the sense that he is in the pocket of some company (Leica, Canon, Adobe...).
   And I think it was very unfortunate that he held back information on the M8 issues. Does this mean that he is in the pockets of Leica?
   I donīt think so. (Take a look at his review of Leicas/Panasonics latest DSLR a few weeks ago, and you`ll see that he certainly wasn`t in their pockets at that time!).
   But I also think, as some people have commented on other threads in LL, that the effect of the internet age is that information (and rumors, disinformation, misinterpretation, anger, enthusiasm, bullshit!) spread very fast, and that more transparancy, from companies, as well as reviewers, is needed. I would also suggests that M.R. (and other writers who are reviewing photo equipment, and want to be respected as "unbiased" in the former sense) write a separate article about their "contracts" vis ā vis the companies (and with "contracts", I also think about the un-said or -written parts), from getting a camera for testing, to the final review.
   Everybody would, in the long run, gain from this shared information (except those who are biased in the bad sense of that word).
   
Since there is so much crap floating around on the net with such a speed, I would guess that also the companies would gain something by giving clear and accurate information fast, so that the people that readers listen to might spread it, and stop false rumors. A win win situation.
   
This is one issue. The other big issue is that a lot of people want to see alternatives to the big DSLRs (and the current compact cameras) in the marked. I really hope that Leica adresses the M8 problems in a professional way (from honest information to really solving the problems). If they donīt do that well, the whole camera community, and those who enjoy looking at good pictures, might be loosers in the long run.
   And for narrow minded gear-heads or people who simply enjoy a fight, think a second about this. Wouldn`t the world of photography be less fascinating if Leica didnīt survive the transformation to digital?
« Last Edit: November 12, 2006, 09:38:56 PM by paulnorheim » Logged

paul norheim
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« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2006, 09:07:18 PM »
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A small P.S. to Michael Reichmann:
When someone occationally complained that you were biased towards Canon, and never reviewed Nikon cameras, you replied, if I remember it correctly, that Nikon didnīt send you their cameras, and that you used Canon gear yourselves, etc... But given how important LL has become for DSLR shoothers, what about asking Nikon again?
   Or asking some competent people who you trust, who use Nikon gear, to review Nikon DSLRs that are considered important? I am well aware of the fact that LL is your site, and that you can`t take care of everything (like writing about every camera being released). However, given the increased value of LL for so many photographers, a lot of them using Nikon (I am using Canon, so I`m not complaining on behalf of my own sick mother!), it might be a good idea in the future...
   As a side effect, the "biased"-issue would be a bit relaxed. And when I mention Nikon, this also applies to any DSLR that might be considered as "important" (as when you asked Mike Johnston to review the new entry Pentax DSLR resently).
   Just a suggestion. But, as I said in the comment above, transparency is the most important issue. And kudos to you for clarifying what happend behind the scene when you wrote the Leica M8 review.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2006, 10:53:23 PM by paulnorheim » Logged

paul norheim
michael
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« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2006, 08:03:55 AM »
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I have asked a number of people I know with interest, experience and writing ability, to write reviews of Nikon cameras in particular and any others that they care to. None have taken me up on it to this point.

I would like nothing better than to be able to publish reviews of current Nikon DSLRs similar to the field reports and hands-on type reviews that I write myself.

People have little idea though of how much work it is to do these, and to do them well. That's probably why the writters that I've approach havn't followed through. They'd rather do it for a magazine, where at least they get paid.

I get quite a few  unsolicted submission each month, but regretably either the writing style is really poor or the handling of the review process leaves a lot to be desired. This would mean extensive rewriting on my part, which I don't have the time for, otherwise I'd do the whole thing myself in the first place.

Michael
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pgpgsxr
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« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2006, 08:44:27 AM »
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I feel the reviewer on this site has no obligations with anybody. If one doesnīt like the way the Luminous Landscape works, itīs quite easy go to another website.
As far as Iīm concerned I like the reviews, I like the forum and I feel Michael has managed to keep me up to date on the latest photographic news. I live in a very boring part of the world at least photography-wise, not many people to share landscape ideas with, so thank God for the Luminous Landscape. I still remember the post on the photo.net forum inviting us around here!

Michael Reichmann , jun 14, 1999; 11:12 a.m.
You are invited to visit www.luminous-landscape.com. This site was created by Michael Reichmann, a long-time member of Photo-Net and magazine author on photography and digital imaging. It is devoted to the art and technique of landscape photography. The site is absolutely non-commercial and there are no annoying pop-up ads.

The site features an extensive image gallery, travel and technical articles, and it includes a major section on digital image processing. There is an open discussion board and anyone may submit a portfolio of their landscape images for inclusion on the Guest Gallery.
Come by and visit www.luminous-landscape.com
Michael
 Keep up the good work Michael!!
 Paul
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seany
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« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2006, 10:49:49 AM »
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Many thanks to all who replied to my question re reviewer's obligations,as usual the quality of the replies are balanced and informative.For myself I would like to add that I always look forward to and value Michael's reviews and will continue to do so in the future,however I believe he may have called it wrong this time [none of us is perfect]but all credit to Michael for his honest and detailed explanation of the events.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2006, 04:50:01 PM »
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For what it is worth, my view on this:

- A high visibility reviewer like Michael does have a moral responsability to produce reviews that are fair and honnest, and fully reflect what he saw when testing the product. I feel that michael is fully aware of this and has overall been acting accordingly.

- Checking with a manufacturer first when finding something abnormal when doing testing is the right thing to do,

- Waiting for the feedback of Leica before publishing the article would have been best. Michael should have defined a clear deadline to Leica, and should have mentioned the problem in his article when publishing it in the absence of Leica feedback by the defined deadline,

- We all make mistakes, and what defines us is more the way we deal with those. My feeling is that Michael has clarified the situation and made it clear that publishing the article without mentioning these issues was a mistake. This is good enough for me. Issue closed.

Cheers,
Bernard
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BrianSmith
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« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2006, 08:54:35 AM »
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Obviously the fallout from this bothers Michael and he is honestly seeking direction and I respect that. Submitting a review to a camera manufacturer for accuracy to make certain the reviewer understood all functions of the product. However allowing them to dictate that any damaging information that might hurt their sales be withheld flies in the face of chapter one of "Ethics of Journalism 101."

Should a restaurant critic ever ask the chef if they should leave out the part about getting food poisoning? Should a movie critic ask the studio if they got things all wrong when they panned "Gigli" because it might hurt ticket sales? Should an automotive reviewer ever fail to mention that the wheels fall off over 20 mph, just because the automaker told them to keep that on the QT while they "fixed" the problem?

A review ought to be more than fluffy ad copy. If the manufacturer tells the reviewer "We are aware of the problem and working on a solution," then include that response but don't sweep the problem under the rug.

I don't believe Michael was doing anything malicious, but in the future I'd suggest that any camera manufacturers submitting equipment for review be prepared for an open honest assessment of their product - both the good AND the bad...
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« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2006, 09:55:21 AM »
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Please let's just drop this.  On another thread - if you look around - Michael has apologized for what he regards as a mistake.  I can't imagine anyone disagreeing with his current position.

http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....showtopic=13051

What more can you ask a person to do?  


Kirk
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James Russell
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« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2006, 09:58:19 AM »
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The very thought that a review was submitted to the camera manufacturer for their review and damaging information was withheld at their request flies in the face of chapter one of "Ethics of Journalism 101."

Should a restaurant critic ever ask the chef if they should leave out the part about getting food poisoning? Should a movie critic ask the studio if they got things all wrong when they panned "Gigli" because it might hurt ticket sales? Should an automotive reviewer ever fail to mention that the wheels fall off over 20 mph, just because the automaker told them to keep that on the QT while they "fixed" the problem?

A review ought to be more than fluffy ad copy. If the manufacturer tells the reviewer "We are aware of the problem and working on a solution," then include that response but don't sweep the problem under the rug.

Brian Smith
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Brian,

I couldn't agree more.

I think working "close" with a manufactuerer puts a reviewer in between a rock and a hard place.

We all want quick and early information and we all want an honest appraisal, though in the digital world, those are usually two differeent agendas.  

I've gone through the early adopter stage with two different brands and each time the cameras were not 100% ready for delivery.  All were eventually sorted out, but not without a lot of work, trial and error.

To me, this site has a special responsibility because since the demise of the RG forums it has become the defacto voice for professional equipment.

To buy a camera based on this recent review then use it for commerce not only costs the user the price of a flawed product, but could ruin a relationship with a client and whether it's right or wrong, smart or foolhardy, a lot of people read the reviews on this site, trust the review and buy the product.

It is very difficult to be unbiased when you build a relationship with any company.

I get a fair amount of e-mails from people asking me my experience of the equipment I use and with one manufacturer I have a close relationship.

I always feel torn about mentioning the issuess of the product, knowing anything negative, (even 1 bad frame in 500) will probably give the person asking second thoughts about the purchase.

Still, when I answer I feel obliged to honestly explain my results, because I know that these purchases are not only costly and time consuming on the front end, but can even be more costly if a job is not delivered to the highest standards.  

As Michael mentioned hindsight is 20/20, but then again Michael is an intelligent adult and knows that to many his word is taken as fact.

In this instance I think he should have given all the facts he was allowed to report.

JR

[a href=\"http://russellrutherfordgroup.com/]http://russellrutherfordgroup.com/[/url]
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Chris_T
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« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2006, 09:31:53 AM »
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Quote
But I also think, as some people have commented on other threads in LL, that the effect of the internet age is that information (and rumors, disinformation, misinterpretation, anger, enthusiasm, bullshit!) spread very fast, and that more transparancy, from companies, as well as reviewers, is needed. I would also suggests that M.R. (and other writers who are reviewing photo equipment, and want to be respected as "unbiased" in the former sense) write a separate article about their "contracts" vis ā vis the companies (and with "contracts", I also think about the un-said or -written parts), from getting a camera for testing, to the final review.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=84722\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Before online reviews, the photo magazine (e.g. Popular Photography) reviews are more like product intros. They hardly ever mention shortcomings or make comparisons between models from different manufacturers. The reviews are useless. The publications are definitely in the pockets of the manufacturers.

In that context, the online reviews here and at many other sites are far more useful to the readers. But once the manufacturers become aware of the popular sites, they would jump in to take advantage of them. Some sites would run ads for them, and some reviews would start tip toeing around the shortcomings. That's just how business is conducted. As Michael pointed out, it takes time and effort to write a good review. I therefore would not be surprised or offended if he is in the pocket of the manufacturers in some way.

I fully agree with the suggestion for a reviewer to post a disclaimer that he/she is not in the pocket of anyone. Unfortunately Michael did not respond to this suggestion. But then, I have not come across such a disclaimer anywhere else either.

The bottom line is that the readers should take responsibility to digest and evaluate what they read, especially if the material is unedited and free.
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michael
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« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2006, 09:38:04 AM »
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I therefore would not be surprised or offended if he is in the pocket of the manufacturers in some way.

OK, once more for the record....

I have no advertisers. I have no sponsors. I have no corporate affiliations.

I accept no money from anyone (except my customers). I have been writing product reviews for over 30 years and in all that time have never accepted any product, or payment, or other form of gratuity in return for a review – good, bad or indifferent. To suggest otherwise is to be misinformed, or simply rude, or both.

And as for your assertion... " fully agree with the suggestion for a reviewer to post a disclaimer that he/she is not in the pocket of anyone. Unfortunately Michael did not respond to this suggestion. But then, I have not come across such a disclaimer anywhere else either.

Possibly you have never bothered to read this site's front page where the following statement has appeared continiously for the past 7 years...

This site is completely non-commercial. It currently has more than 3,000 pages containing articles, tutorials, product reviews and photographs — all with no commercial advertisements. The site is not affiliated with or beholden to any company or organization.

It's ad hominem attacks like this that drive people wishing to make a contribution to the web community away from it, sometimes for good!

Michael
« Last Edit: November 14, 2006, 09:50:08 AM by michael » Logged
paulnorheim
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« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2006, 11:08:40 AM »
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This morning I read another thread about this issue on another site, a very long "discussion". Or rather: a criminal trial with accusators and defenders, on and on – mostly attacks, against M.R. and other reviewers, and against Leica. It was a weird experience, and if some of the threads on the net concerning this issue is read by somone, say, 50 years from now, they will probably think that this must have been written in a period of history when not much else of particular interest happend around the world.

The passion, energy, anger and moralism, and the general atmosphere of witch hunt, paranoia and conspiracy, reminded me of the big ideological controverses in history, like when communism was the big subject ("The God that failed") in Europe during the Stalin era, or the McCarthy era in the US, or, for that matter, the recent anger surrounding the danish caricatures portraiting Muhammed, or the current controversies in US politics.
Magenta in some pictures? The torture of TWO WEEKS waiting time for a clarification from Leica? A reviewer explaining, five or six times, that he regrets omitting some issues that wasn`t clear for him when he discovered them, BUT HOW COULD HE! On and on. And on. And on.

Yes, the issues are, to a certain extent, to some people, important. And some of the questions are interesting on a general level, no doubt about that. But I think the way parts of the internet photography community (or "consumers") have been full time occupied with this issue, tells something particular and strange about our times and our society, that goes far beyond photography (or the "stupidity" of certain participants). I also think that some of the participants should be humble, when they are told that people once fought wars over the principle of the divine trinity. Or when they watch the dogmatic passions and political/religious anger among some islamists today. The net is obviously a tool that can help us widen our horizon. But it seems clear, when you see certain people fighting regular guerilla wars on subjects like Leica, Canon/Nikon, Microsoft/Apple, or for that matter a brand new mobile phone, that it is also an excellent tool for narrowing the horizon into a tunnel vision, for fighting, transforming geeky details into colossal mountains. Volcano mountains.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2006, 05:28:09 PM by paulnorheim » Logged

paul norheim
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« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2006, 10:02:53 PM »
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Before online reviews, the photo magazine (e.g. Popular Photography) reviews are more like product intros. They hardly ever mention shortcomings or make comparisons between models from different manufacturers. The reviews are useless. The publications are definitely in the pockets of the manufacturers.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=85143\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Perhaps in your locale, but there are magazines (like Chasseur d'Image in France) that have proven their independance again and again.

Paper magazines at least have some income as a result of the sales of the paper, and that garantees some degree of independance.

Most online sites have to rely on advertizing as their sole source of income, and that alone does threaten their independance. Generally speaking I would trust paper more than web in terms of independance.

How come some sites like DPreview appear to have remained mostly un-influenced by manufacturers? The reason is that they have managed to convince readers and manufacturers that an independant source of information would draw more viewers in that one that is clearly biased. Phil has done a rare thing these days, he has bet on the intelligence of the people. 90% of marketing decisions are based on the assumed stupidity of consumers.

LL has been working on yet a different model. I wouldn't call it transparent, but it does clearly not rely on advertising. Either way, I can imagine various ways that could make this work without Michael having to be on anyone's salary list. Just try to figure out the value for the different players, as long as you have a win win relationship for both Michael and us, there is no reason to reject the proposal that it is done independantly from any influence.

The fundamental issue here has been the lack of serious articles on anything released by Canon and Phase main competitors (Nikon and Leaf). There will always be some latent doubt on the independance of Michael as long as he doesn't spend the time it takes to review himself such products. This might be a problem or not, we all have our own views on this.

Cheers,
Bernard
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michael
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« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2006, 10:33:26 PM »
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Leaf? Do a search. I've done several major articles this year on Leaf backs including field reports. I've been on location shooting with their European sales manager and have written about it. I have written about Imacon backs before the were absorbed by Hasselblad. Given how often you're on this forum I'm surprised that you haven't taken the time to read these articles, assuming that they interest you. They're not exactly hidden.

I've also published two independant reviews of the Mamiya ZD because it interests me, and they are unavailable for me to test in North America. I reviewed the Kodak DCS Pro Back while it was shipping. I have reviewed products from Kodak, Olympus, Panasonic. Leica, Fuji, Mamiya, Sony, and Pentax. Probably a few more that i can't recall at the moment. These are all companies that I requested review samples from, and which sent them.

Nikon? Sorry, I've asked for test samples, No responses. Hasselblad ditto.

Also, as I've pointed out in the past, I tend to review the things that I own and work with. I switched from Nikon to Canon about 6 years ago, and so that's what I own and use. Therefore, I review it more often that products that I don't use.

This is not DPReview. I have no mandate (either self imposed or otherwise) to review any particular product. I review what interests me. I review the products that I either purchse myself or that companies send me for testing.

No mystery to it. No hidden agendas. Personal interest and availability are the sole drivers.

"There will always be some latent doubt on the independance of Michael..."

This is really getting tiresome.

Michael
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« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2006, 10:51:21 PM »
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There will always be some latent doubt on the independance of Michael...[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=85333\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Et tu, Bernard?
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« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2006, 11:42:55 PM »
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Michael,

The fact that you follow this thread is proof to me that you care about how people percieve your reviews. So that alone tells me you want to be honest and fair. Offer manufacturers nothing more than an honest un-biased appraisal. The manufacturers with nothing to hide will realize that's a great deal.
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« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2006, 04:05:24 AM »
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Michael,

There is a major misunderstanding going on here. The rest of my post was clearly saying that I had not doubt whatsoever about your independance. I'll say it again loud and clear I have zero doubt about your independance. Sorry if that wasn't clear enough.

This last sentence was only aimed at saying that some people still doubt because of a certain lack of coverage of some products, Nikon is one of them. I am NOT of one of these persons. Although I would clearly find LL even more interesting if there were more coverage of Nikon, I don't see the lack thereof as a sign of you being paid by Canon. Pointing this out was the whole point of my post.

Quote
Leaf? Do a search. I've done several major articles this year on Leaf backs including field reports. I've been on location shooting with their European sales manager and have written about it. I have written about Imacon backs before the were absorbed by Hasselblad. Given how often you're on this forum I'm surprised that you haven't taken the time to read these articles, assuming that they interest you. They're not exactly hidden.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=85342\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Although I am fully aware that some things have been done on Leaf (I have read these articles), as far as I am aware, there was no full scale review per se of the Leaf backs. That is what I meant by citing Leaf. Granted, there is a lot more coverage of Leaf than there is of Nikon. Mentioning these 2 at the same level was unfair, sorry about that.

Quote
I've also published two independant reviews of the Mamiya ZD because it interests me, and they are unavailable for me to test in North America. I reviewed the Kodak DCS Pro Back while it was shipping. I have reviewed products from Kodak, Olympus, Panasonic. Leica, Fuji, Mamiya, Sony, and Pentax. Probably a few more that i can't recall at the moment. These are all companies that I requested review samples from, and which sent them.

Nikon? Sorry, I've asked for test samples, No responses. Hasselblad ditto.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=85342\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Many niche players, some of their cameras were lent to you by Vistek. You could borrow Nikons from Vistek if you wanted to Michael, you know that very well.

Quote
Also, as I've pointed out in the past, I tend to review the things that I own and work with. I switched from Nikon to Canon about 6 years ago, and so that's what I own and use. Therefore, I review it more often that products that I don't use.

This is not DPReview. I have no mandate (either self imposed or otherwise) to review any particular product. I review what interests me. I review the products that I either purchse myself or that companies send me for testing.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=85342\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

And that fine with me, I don't need you endorsement to use my Nikon or my Mamiya ZD. All I was saying is that as long as you stick to reviewing what you like, and leave aside some main stream high quality products, some folks will be there with conspirations theories. That's the flip side of the coin. I hope that this posts clarify once for all that I am not one of them.

Sorry for any inconvenience caused, there will be no more.

Cheers,
Bernard
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