Two Kinds Of Camera Tests

In this issue we offer a host of camera reports covering a wide variety of models and camera types, and this gives me a good opportunity to discuss the forms our camera tests take—lab tests and what I call “anecdotal” reports. In most cases we limit a model to one type of test, except when we feel that it rates a second look and that there’s more to add by using both approaches. We also make a decision about lab or field tests when we feel overwhelmed by new cameras coming our way, and simply don’t have the space each month to cover every one of them. Plus, we offer tests that never see the pages of the magazine that can be found under the Image Tech section of our website at

Lab tests are performed by BetterNet, a lab that is made available to us through our affiliation with TIPA, the Technical Image Press Association, and edited by me to organize the information into a consistent form. These lab reports appear in the magazine and also on the web under the “Image Tech” section.

TIPA is a worldwide group of photo magazines, of which we are the sole US member, and the organization has pooled its resources to offer this service to us and our readers. We have found BetterNet’s tests to be precise, comprehensive, reliable, and very helpful for readers to aid them in their critical buying decisions. These tests pull no punches as they rely solely on data collected in the BetterNet testing facilities. They can be relied on for true measurements of resolution, color repro, noise levels, and more. We are also exploring other testing facilities to add to this information.

Our “anecdotal” tests are similar to our tests we publish on lighting gear, lenses, software, printers, scanners, etc., and these involve putting the gear into the hands of people who work in photography every day and have them tell us what they think. These are seasoned writers and reporters and they know how to weave product testing with legacy information (what came before and how the new unit might have changed the game), hands-on field testing (usually a minimum of two weeks shooting time), and a good sense of what they like, and don’t like, or just what needs improvement, about the camera. They check out things like noise at different ISOs by shooting in low-light scenes and enlarging sections of the image; they test color response by working with white balance in various lighting conditions, and so on.

To me, field testing and bench testing strike a good balance, and we will continue to offer both approaches here in Shutterbug. I think testing is important because there are so many products bidding for your attention these days and you need information that applies to how you work and what you expect from your gear. In that, we hope to be a resource, and an important one, to help make buying decisions.

And even if you’re not in a buying mood, I think it’s fun to read what the new gear is capable of and how it performs. And, we also make sure that our field tests have a good seasoning of “how-to” thrown into the mix, so you can learn about tech and technique as you read about the latest gear. Finally, our website contains all the tests we have run in the last 10 years. If you want to do some exploring, or need more info on an older model you’re thinking of buying, or using again, just type the model name into the Search box on the homepage at And that goes for user collectibles, too.

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