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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Misinformation: Why They Play The Games

Image quality and overall performance are the true measure of a camera

In the age of the Internet, more and more people are making judgments on products based solely on announced, and occasionally unannounced, specifications.
The point was driven home here at DPP recently, while we were looking over several new high-end models from Canon and Nikon, as well as the new Canon Cinema EOS C300 and the RED SCARLET-X cameras. In each case, public speculation about the specs and features reached a fever pitch prior to the unveilings. Once the cameras were formally announced with official specs, judgments about where each was a success and where each failed reached a near frenzy as new product information went viral throughout cyberspace. What's most remarkable is that at the time, very few of the opinionated actually had used the products being applauded or condemned.
Myth: Specs Tell The Whole Story
Take, for example, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. With 1080p video capabilities, its predecessor, the EOS 5D Mark II, changed two industries in one fell swoop when it was released more than three years ago. There were undeniably a lot of expectations for the Mark III, and when the specs were announced, many blogs and technology experts panned the camera based on the specifications. Hyped expectations and rampant speculation prior to the camera's official announcement predicted a camera with everything from unprecedented resolution to 4K still and motion capture to RAW HD video capabilities and even XLR inputs for pro-audio recording.

These predictions spread through the blogs of the cognoscenti, as well as Twitter and Facebook, building to a fever pitch so that by the time the camera was unveiled, the actual specs looked tepid by comparison. The blogosphere erupted with a collective sigh of disappointment. To be sure, Canon was a victim of its own success in many ways. In the wake of the 5D Mark II, another game-changer certainly was hoped for, if not expected, but what was most striking was that of all the authoritative declarations made upon the 5D Mark III's introduction, none was based upon ever using the camera or seeing one's own images taken with it!
What's most remarkable is that at the time, very few of the opinionated actually had used the products being applauded or condemned.
If one stepped back from the elevated predictions, one would see a number of important refinements in the 5D Mark III, including a much improved 61-point autofocus system over the previous 9-point of the Mark II, a 6 fps burst rather than 3.9 fps, 14-bit A/D conversion and an expandable ISO range of 50-102,400. And now that the camera is starting to ship to buyers and stores, feedback and actual reviews based upon use have been incredibly positive.

In many ways, making a judgment call on specs alone is a lot like deciding who will win the World Series based on team stats of the opening-day rosters. There's a reason they play the games. Specs only ever give part of the story. Meanwhile, thanks to the Internet, consumers' wish lists end up being the anticipated specs, and it's unavoidably disappointing to find that actual features don't live up to these high expectations, especially when people demand revolutionary new capabilities with every new camera cycle. Bloggers and social media are great for spreading awareness, but image quality is what matters most, and you can't compare image quality without having the camera first.


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