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When you get a new camera-- how do YOU test it?

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Isoterica, Apr 25, 2013.

  1. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    This post is for the gear lovers, those who welcome GAS undaunted along with their newest camera.

    When you purchase a new camera, of course after you've read all the site reviews and sometimes even customer reviews, what do you do to test it. There it is.. in your hands.. do you read the manual first to see where everything is or are you compelled to just turn it on and start shooting no matter what happens? Because you are in 'test mode' do you leave all the accessories short of the battery charger in plastic wrap or do you open it all up, spread it all out and make it your own not worrying whether you want to keep it or not. You can always resell if you don't return it, right? Are you scientific about testing the camera, setting up lab simulations and shoot on manual at each ISO or would you rather pick through the cameras processing options, special effects, panorama, HDR, etc.. Just curious as there seems to be a lot of cameras on the way to new homes, GR and otherwise-- what will you do to test yours and decide if it is a keeper?

    A few years ago when I bought my little DSLR I never thought of testing, I was lucky I could operate it! I didn't know about exposure triangles or the rule of thirds though I've always had a good eye-- or that highter ISO, I came from simple film cameras, might actually fail me. I bought, I worked with it, I learned it and worked within it's capabilities and that was that. Now armed with knowledge I know it's weaknesses and I can read reviews to learn the weaknesses of the newest tech and it doesn't seem so simple. So.. how do you do it and why do you do it that way? Several of the camera reviews on this site, by members, piqued my curiosity :)
     
  2. john m flores

    john m flores SC All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    Napping cats in low light.
     
  3. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    ^ same. Sometimes for variety, I'll shoot napping dogs in low light.
     
  4. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    And that tells you if you like, for instance, your new X100 or LX7?
     
  5. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    I take test photos of my right toe in low light at different distances and lighting conditions using aperture priority. I never read manuals (although I probably should).
     
  6. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    it will tell me how quickly it grabs focus in low light. I can look at the files and see how it renders....what the noise looks like. I don't get overly anxious about testing the camera to see that it performs well. If it doesn't under normal use, it will go back. So to more directly answer your question without trying to be cute :rolleyes:, I just take it out and shoot what I normally might. Usually just for a day to pick up the basics and see how I get along with the basic controls.

    Then, the battery goes on the charger and I read the manual from cover to cover while my wife watches Gray's Anatomy or some other unbearable TV show. Then the next morning, pop the battery back in, set-up the camera the way I think I'll want it, double check a few things in the manual with the camera on and figure out anything that seemed confusing while reading a poorly written manual with the camera in another room.

    Then I go back to shooting sleeping cats and dogs. Then I smile the smile of a satisfied gear hunter, knowing full well that my new purchase is infinitely better than all my previous cameras:cloud-9-039: (despite the fact that the output is nearly identical in every meaningful way:eek:).

    Then the next day, I wonder what camera is coming out next week (or next month) that will totally obsolete my new love and I go back to being miserable.:sad010:
     
  7. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011

    Even being serious your response was cute Luke :D But thanks. I've seen both ends of the spectrum here I guess.
     
  8. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    well, for me, honestly it's mostly about feel. Feel of the camera and where the buttons fall. Is it too big or too small? Is it functionally slow? Is there a fatal flaw? If not, I'm cool with it. I fully understand the old chestnut that every camera is a compromise. So, I don't sweat the small stuff.....I know I won't be 100% satisfied. If I can make it to what I want with a minimum of fuss, I'm cool.

    Occasionally, I'll get hung up on one little aspect of a camera because no one discussed it, and I will thoroughly hate the camera for it and get rid of it. But if I know most of the flaws going in (which I usually do), I usually decide ahead of time if I can live with the flaws. Obviously my initial hunches are not always correct.

    Are you getting the GR? I don't think there's much to test performace-wise. And it's so user programmable that it will just take you awhile to figure out how YOU want to set it up to do what you want. Then, once you have it set, you need to see if it brings you joy. Is it intuitive once you get going? If it passes that test, you're good to go.
     
  9. Yeats

    Yeats SC All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Chris
    Not just napping...


    Abigail IMGP0280 by Yeatsy, on Flickr

    In my case, it was also a learning experience - learning a "new-to-me" lens (Jupiter-9 85/2), learning to use focus peaking, learning to see how much contrast the AF requires to lock focus, learning that my cats prefer smaller cameras which leave my face visible instead of obscured by a DSLR.
     
  10. Yeats

    Yeats SC All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Chris
    This is important to me, too. In fact, I've recently dumped a camera that delivered slightly superior images (Canon SX50) for one that delivers a superior user experience (Fuji HS50). Field testing and a smidgen of pixel-peeping tell me just about all I need to know.
     
  11. john m flores

    john m flores SC All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    It tells me a lot

    if the cat wakes up, the shutter's too loud.
    If the camera hunts for focus, the low-light AF is ho hum
    If the focus assist light wakes the cat up, then test AF with the light off

    I can also get a sense as to how effect the camera's image stabilization is, along with how high I can turn up the ISO before it gets all smudgy, and how much fur and shadow detail I can pull out of it. One of the cat's is mostly white, so I can get a sense of how the camera meters and handles highlights. And if the cat wakes up, I can test AF.C, FPS, etc...

    The best thing, the cats are brand agnostic.
     
  12. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    I ordered one but I am still on the fence. Mostly because of the expense. I have a lot of expenses lately and trimming down unnecessary ones is key. The GR seems to have everything I want but zoom, which I can reason because my film cameras don't so that isn't a heavy arguing point and I will have a second camera that can zoom.. and I do think lacking IS is a bit weird but if one can't support that small of a camera without hand shake there is more going on than what image stabilization can correct. DSLR with macro lens, whole different story.

    I was just curious seeing all the reviews on here how everyone judges if their cameras are keepers or not, some of you guys :D are like professional swap artists but with that comes the knowledge of experience too. I see technical field tests to cat shots. You touch something and know it's all off.. and while I do read reviews too, extensively before I drop a lot of money, I don't have a great turnaround-- I don't have any really. So.. it doesn't hurt to ask those in the know. I know that other people, even new members will benefit from this kind of post as people are always posting "this or that camera-- should I or shouldn't I"-- questions. My question was partially due to my own purchasing but also a response to my observances regarding how cameras really move when people get twitchy, sometimes for new ones and sometimes because they can't tolerate something in what they bought.
     
  13. BruPri

    BruPri SC Top Veteran

    699
    May 11, 2011
    Seattle, Washington USA
    Bruce J. Pritchard
    I put the camera on my nightstand, if I wake up at 2AM, flip on the light and smile... it's a keeper.


    Seriously though, I shoot my kids, in a dimly lit living room, backlit in the sun, running etc. THEN I put my camera on my nightstand
     
  14. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    For my testing, if the face detection locks AF on my toe, then I know that the face detection is not fool proof.
     
  15. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Test it?
    You mean you can use them for something else apart from looking at, fiddling with the menus and talking endlessly about their specifications?
     
  16. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    Haha yesssss... oh guru of film ;)
     
  17. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    I'm not someone who buys lots of cameras and I've never sold one, so I'm in a different situation from most of you. When I buy an expensive camera that I'll rely on for high quality images (so far that's my Samsung EX1 and Fuji X100), I'll happily spend half a year reading reviews, comparing to other cameras, weighing pros and cons, looking at images from others on SC.com or flickr (making sure I've seen both OOC jpegs and well-developed raws), fondling the camera(s) I'm considering in stores, etc. So when I make a purchase, I pretty much know what I'm getting. I spend about 2 hours looking at it, getting used to the way it operates a bit, and then put it away until I want to use it for something.

    If I buy a cheaper camera that I don't have such high expectations of (so far only my Samsung WB750, and probably some waterproof little thing in the near future) I don't do as much preparation work. The part once I made the purchase will be pretty much the same, although I might find some things during actual use that surprise me, simply because the research wasn't as thorough.
     
  18. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011

    Same here... i researched online, read reviews, went to stores a few times over about 7 months or so right past my birthday [dslr was a bday gift] until I decided and still have the camera. :) Same with the less expensive stuff, a little research.. no worries.
     
  19. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I don't "test" them, but I try a lot of them and I get to know them pretty fast. I pretty much charge up the battery, turn on the camera, and start going through the menus for obvious set-up stuff. I usually stumble on a few things in the menus that pique my interest and I'll check on them in the manual. Once I've done the basic setup, I start playing with all of the external controls so I know what everything does. Then I take it for a walk and start shooting. Little of this, little of that, some fake street shots (not really fake, but just to check reactions, not really going for much in the way of shots). This first walk will generally get me mostly comfortable with working the camera and will also raise another question or two, which I'll check in the manual when I get back. Then I think about anything I wanted it to do that it didn't seem to do easily and I'lll try to figure out if there's a good way to do it. And, finally I'll figure out if there's anything I want to automate and try to figure out how to put those things on the custom setting slots on the mode dial (or in the menus if that's where they live). By this point I know the camera pretty well (this has all generally happened within the first day or two) and then I just shoot with it for a while and get comfortable with it, or find out that I can't. And in the process of this shooting I get to know the files too and how good they are at various ISOs, how receptive they are to normal processing manipulations, etc. Usually within a few days I have a really good feel for a camera. No technical tests, but usually a very good idea of how well it would work for me, what its pros and cons are (again, just based on my own preferences). And within a week or two I'm either a little sick of it or its really growing on me, and that's a big part of whether I'm gonna have any interest in keeping it or not.

    -Ray
     
  20. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants SC All-Pro

    Mar 3, 2013
    John Griggs
    I just go shoot it, lol.