Digital Camera Shopping? Go to an Expert: Digital Photography Review

For any of us who make it our business to keep up with the constantly changing tsunami of information regarding digital imaging, credible resources on the topic become essential for research and advisement purposes. The question quickly becomes who to trust amongst the din of fact, opinion and rumor. One such trustworthy voice “out there” is one of my favorites, good ol’ DPReview.com. Digital Photography Review has been around for over 13 years becoming an invaluable resource for all things digital photography related. Here’s who they are from their own description:

“Digital Photography Review™ is an independent resource dedicated to the provision of news, reviews and information about Digital Photography and Digital Imaging published at the Internet address www.dpreview.com™. Digital Photography Review was founded in December 1998 by Phil Askey. From simple beginnings grew a large and popular site and as time went on we gradually built the site up to include our vast digital camera database, timeline, forums, galleries a glossary and learn section. Of course, the core of the news updates and regular in-depth digital camera and other product reviews. Digital Photography Review is the most popular digital photograpy and digital imaging internet resource.”

It began as an independently owned and run site, but in 2007 it was acquired by Amazon.com.  They do accept advertising and it is obviously a for-profit venture. However, they are quite transparent with all of their testing and publications. A quick review of their “FAQ” page, and you’ll see that they insist on the highest of ethical behavior from their staff of qualified professional photographers and web specialists. The word “unbiased” means a lot to this company.

In a nutshell, these folks know their stuff and are truly independent. They keep their collective “ear to the ground” for the latest news and updates. They obtain (on loan), test and preview/ review in extreme detail each and every new bit of digital imaging equipment.  Initially they focused on cameras and have since expanded into ever-increasing relevant categories. Unlike certain politicians, their staff are not beholden to any particular “sponsor” or manufacturer who may seek a vested interested in having their product highly regarded. Integrity is of primary importance to their reputation.  I consider them the Consumer Reports of sorts for all things digital photography related.

Let’s say you’re in the market for a brand spanking new digital SLR. Want to know what models are currently available? Learn about what specifications are important. Compare specs side-by-side on each and every one. Want current price ranges for each model over a broad spectrum of online retailers? No problem. This site makes it easy to get the information you need. They aren’t kidding when they refer to a “vast” database. Going back to 1998, they have reviews for every digital camera make and model in existence.

This incredible site has detailed information for every type of digital camera, from point & shoot to professional SLR. For the sake of example, here is step by step how I would use their database if shopping for a DSLR.

1) If I am a novice and know nothing about digital SLR cameras, then I want a quick primer on what aspects or specifications would be important to know about them. The reviews are technical in nature, so I want to know a little about the language the reviewer is using when describing the camera and it’s capability/performance. I would go to the “Learn” tab on the homepage and do my research in the “Glossary” for an understanding of terms used in the reviews. This can be overwhelming at first, so maybe I would go to the extremely helpful link under “Guides“ called “Buying a digital SLR.” Here I get a concise and informative understanding of what a DSLR is, how it works and what’s important to know when shopping for one. Amazing!

2) Determine the category of models I am interested in.This often has to do with my personal budget and price range so first I look at the various categories the cameras themselves are sorted. After determining price ranges, based on my budget and for the sake of example, l choose “Mid-size DSLR.”

DPReview Camera Feature Search Screen Shot

3) Determine specific models to consider. Based on my previous research, the choices for comparison narrow down to two models;  the Nikon D7000 and the Canon EOS 7D. I’ve read the reviews for each and have determined they are comparable in specs and fairly close in price range. I have an understanding that Nikon and Canon have solid reputations and a broad selection of quality lenses for the possibility of adding to my “arsenal” in the future as my photography skills progress. I also understand that each company has a unique lens mount system that will determine my brand loyalty, more than likely, for years to come. I must choose wisely.
*Disclaimer! By no means do I have a bias solely toward these two companies or an anti-bias toward any other of the quality camera manufacturing brands in existence. In my opinion, all brands are comparable with some of the features provided by other brands standing head-and-shoulders above Nikon or Canon in comparable models.

4) Compare specs and options of the individual models. I want a more detailed “view” of the comparable individual specs of the cameras so I do a side-by-side comparison. They’ve made it easy for me to do so by creating the “My Shortlist” option at the left-hand bottom corner of the camera feature search page. When I add models to my shortlist, I can then bring them up all together in side-by-side comparison mode. As you can see, I now have an easy way to compare each model’s features in order to help weigh what is important to me. Brilliant!

DP Review Side by Side Comparison Screen Shot

5) Now, I need more input because I just can’t decide. I now go to the discussion “Forums” tab to look for informed opinions about these choices. DPReview attracts an extremely knowledgeable community and I can (almost) guarantee that the folks contributing opinions have developed them through personal experience. In my case, I would find the discussions for these individual models taking place under “Canon Talk” and “Nikon Talk” respectively. There I will most definitely find thread discussions about each model. Not finding what I’m specifically looking for? Then I’ll post a question myself and hopefully get some informed answers. Ah, the power of community!

DPReview Forums Screen Shot

 

After following these steps, I now know more about my choices than the average sales clerk at Best Buy. The last concrete step I would take would be to go visit a local camera store and put these models in my hands and up to my eyeball. Ergonomics matter to me, so I’m going to choose the best model that fits my needs and my level of comfort when operating it. Obviously, DPReview can’t provide this opportunity, but at least it has taught me a majority of what I need to learn. It may come down to a coin-flip…and so be it…but at least it’s going to be one heck of an informed coin-flip!

In the coming weeks, I’ll talk about other upgraded features on DPReview that make it a critical source of valuable information for any level of “gear head.” Encyclopedic doesn’t begin to describe the scope of what they have to offer.

*Disclaimer! No, neither RMSP nor I are sponsored by, or affiliated with DPReview in any way.  I’m just a huge fan!