Review sites, Forums and the state of the Photographic Internet

What follows is a jaundiced ramble about the state of the photographic internet. It's semi-serious and meant to be fun, but as ever with this kind of post, there are some points to be made in the midst of this self opinionated ranting. 

There are some strange people on the photographic internet. I was watching a video on the new Olympus Pen and up popped this creepy old guy trying to get his gnarled old fingers to actually hold on to it. He contributes to one of the most watched and long standing review sites. You know the one, full of creepy old fat guys, with grey beards. (Now charging a monthly subscription for their 'words of wisdom!!! Good luck with that.) Then we get the 'awesome' brigade, who all talk at 90mph and start off with 'Hi guys ******* here' and they then proceed to talk to the camera in faltering English giving their opinion on some new crappy little camera (Who gives a f....). Then there's the hairy sweaty guy with more hair on his arms than a gorilla. (And people wonder why I don't appear on camera in my videos) We also have preening shop assistants, people who claim to talk to the dead and the most boring man in the whole world, Tony Northrup, who is my cure for insomnia!! There are of course very few non-males in this motley line-up. And somehow from this collection of people who would get banned from most chat rooms and would frighten the life out of all those Ashley Madison customers looking for a little 'extra curricular' activity so much that they all decide to take holy orders, we are supposed to decide on which camera to buy. 

Well we could take them seriously, if they weren't being wined and dined by some multi-national company and get handed a pre-production camera for half an hour under strict instructions not to take any pictures with it, since it isn't actually finished. And slowly but surely more people decide that their smartphone is all they need and the amateur / hobbyist / enthusiast market for 'proper' cameras slides further and further down the slippery slope to oblivion. And there is of course no surprise in this. Because these are people called 'Blunty,' and 'The Big Dog' (who young women apparently let photograph them with hardly any clothes on, for what reason I cannot imagine) and open up their facebook 'movies' with a logo that says "Get your gear out!!!' And for some reason, again that I am unable to fathom, people watch this garbage in droves and make these a*******s lots of money. Is it any wonder the photographic industry is is decline?

Because where is there anything on these junk sites that has anything to do with creating images. It's all about the gear, the whole gear and nothing but the gear. And exactly why are these people foisting this rubbish onto us? They like photography? They must want to take pictures then. WRONG!!! They want to tell us about what the latest gear is and how this new model is better than the last model. Creativity? Nope not interested. Learning your craft? Nope, who needs that. It's about face recognition, 1000's of AF points, function buttons (God I hate those things) and all the unimportant, trivial, gadget head 'fluff' and gimmickry that modern cameras are full of. And the more technology takes over, the lower the standard of photography falls. Not that these lunk heads would know anything about that. Have you seen the images they produce? Strapping a GoPro to my cat would produce better images. 

You may have noticed that I'm posting a lot less lately. And yes I am busy. VERY busy. Busy earning a living as a photographer and selling my pictures, which I'm glad to say people still seem inclined to buy in significant numbers. But I'm also so fed up with what passes for photographic journalism on the internet. It's boring, it's wrong, it's full of lies and corruption and yet what is the alternative? Because, for most of us. the notion of actually going to a camera shop and having a leisurely look at a new camera is a thing of the past. I live a few miles south of England's second biggest city, which has exactly two camera shops in it. One involves me driving some distance and the other is in the middle of the city, which has the most horrendous traffic system ever invented and nowhere to park. When I started in photography I had four camera shops in the small area of London where I lived. I knew the staff and would talk to them about the latest developments and try out stuff to see if I liked it. Those staff were knowledgeable, passionate about photography themselves and didn't try to hustle me or lie to me. (Probably explains why they went out of business!!) So, until we get virtual reality shopping, we are stuck with this crap. 

I'll take time out here to single out the one site that for me actually serves a useful purpose. As you will know I have always championed Mirrorlessons and having met Heather and Mathieu a couple of times, I respect them, trust them and know just how hard they work to come up with balanced, useful content. It is nice to see that everybody doesn't scuffle around in the gutter with tabloid, lowest common denominator opinions and if you are interested in mirrorless then hit this link and stop reading yet another moan from yours truly. Apart from anything else they are young (for the photographic internet) and one of them isn't a man!!

For me I am pretty close to giving up this blog, at least in the form it is now. I do like writing about what I do, but I still want to be a photographer and not a blogger, a reviewer or anything else that means I'm not doing what I love, which is going out the door with a camera and creating photographs. And yes I've bought and sold a lot of gear, but that's what I like to do as well. And the important words here are bought and sold. Whatever you think about what I write, I buy everything I use myself. Nobody sends me some 'been round the world twice' review copy to have for a short time and convince people to buy it. Because I see no point in not saying what I think with any 'constraints'.

And if you believe that all the most popular review sites and blogs are impartial then think again. They are all compromised in some way, because most of them make a living from what they write. And 'Don't bite the hand that feeds' is affecting almost every aspect of what gets written on those sites. (Apart of cause from ken Rockwell, if he is to be believed, as he claims to buy and sell everything he reviews as well.) I still can't get over the fact that mirrorless sites link to Robin Wong on Olympus products, since he actually works for Olympus. But then that is merely one example of how the photographic internet works. I for one never have and never will trust the vast bulk of it. And that's before even mentioning the 'trolls' and 'shills' paid by the manufacturers to either talk up their masters products and rubbish the opposition. So the forums and comments sections are compromised as well and in many cases completely dishonest. 

So why should we put up the second-rate, the ugly and the 'misinformed?' An example. I was looking at a video on the Pen F by Lok (Kai's sidekick on Digital Rev TV) who said in his 'review' that the Olympus E-P1 was the first mirrorless camera. Which of course isn't true. It wasn't even the first m4/3 camera, that was the Pansasonic G1. That's before you even think about the history of Leica rangefinders and all the cameras that preceded it. None of which had mirrors. And hairy, sweaty guy was doing a DSLR / Mirrorless comparison which was also total BS and was in fact a Sony FE series ad. So lies, damn lies and the photographic internet. It's often shoddy, dishonest and it serves nobody apart from the manufacturers, who all have their stooges, their internet marketing campaigns and their pretend 'reviewers' in their pockets, so all their efforts just cancel each other out. So deporting all of them to a remote island in the middle of the Pacific would just return us to square one. Which is exactly where?

Well, there is a notion that on the photographic internet, we get what we deserve. Rubbish in (The garbage that gets written on forums etc.) means Rubbish out. (The blogs and the review sites that peddle brain dead propaganda.) So slowly but surely anyone who isn't susceptible to this nonsense goes off and uses their smartphone instead. And to be honest, I'm seriously thinking of joining them. 

So, is there an answer to this boring 'amateur hour' approach to reviewing cameras? Well no I don't think there is. The You Tube and social media generation are used to this parading of people who have no talent making fools of themselves for our entertainment. And again this explains why I never put myself in front of the camera. I'm just not very good at it and am quite happy for my written words to speak for me. And please don't think that I'm encouraging you all to read this blog. Far from it. I'm prejudiced, subjective and if you want graphs, charts and 'proper' tests you won't get that here. Plus it's a far better idea to go out and take some pictures than read anything I write.

Because in reality, the differences between cameras and lenses are far less than these internet pundits would have us believe. Ultimately our choice probably comes down to the fact that we like the look of it. And there's nothing wrong with that. I've bought many cameras because of aesthetics rather than any significant quality difference. I like what I like, as do we all. But then the manufacturers and those who make a living on the photographic internet want us to be dissatisfied, so we will spend (and spend, and spend, and spend......) And quite frankly if that's all the photographic internet is, just exactly what is the use and point of it?