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My personal thoughts about Robin Wong's blog (comments welcome)

Discussion in 'Back Room' started by Swandy, Feb 16, 2014.

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  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I don't see anything wrong with paid advertisement reviews when they are disclosed as such. No one has to read them. On the other hand, I agree it's probably for the best that he stop doing comparisons of Olympus and Panasonic gear. His testing methods are not rigorous enough, and it happens that several of his choices worked out in favor of the Olympus lens.

    Take for example the first f/1.4 vs f/1.8 DOF sample of the man in the yellow shirt, arms crossed. We know from a few paragraphs higher that Robin found the Olympus lens to be slightly wider, meaning that if he were to use a tripod and keep the subject distance fixed, the Oly would have wider framing, and the background would be considerably less blurred than shown. He clearly moved forward for the Olympus shot to approximate the same composition for the two lenses, but he moved in until the background composition was matched instead of moving in until the subject size was matched. Of course getting very close to the subject for the Oly shot is going to blur the background more. The same choices were made for the other DOF comparisons - note the larger subject size in each of the Oly shots with respect to the Panasonic. When I do such comparisons, I try to move in whatever distance is needed for a matched subject size within the composition, which I think is the practical consideration when thinking about how much background blur one will get in a certain application.

    The corner sharpness test was particularly poor. One cannot conclude anything based on his methodology and presented data. Maybe the Olympus has better corner sharpness, or maybe it has more field curvature, bringing the foreground within the DOF. With only one corner shown, is decentering at play? Is the focus point the same in each crop? Making the RAW files downloadable, something I try to do in all my comparative reviews, goes a long way towards answering these questions for the curious.

    Lastly, let's consider his comments about color fringing:

    First of all, yes the Panasonic bodies do better color correction with Panasonic lenses than what he has shown. They have done so since the G1. Second, this is not what Olympus shooters are necessarily going to get with both lenses unless they use one of the most recent Olympus bodies, because unlike Panasonic, Olympus only recently started doing color fringing correction at all in their bodies.

    I've been doing reviews for quite a while, and I know it's hard. I also know that people will always nitpick and criticize, so I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and show appreciation for what they do. However, when a prominent blogger with a lot of traffic sets out to compare a lens made by his employer to a lens made by another company while stating that his purpose is to "highlight my observations as honestly as I can", he ought to expect that his tests are going to undergo close scrutiny. In this case, I think the criticism is justified.
    • Like Like x 9
  2. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    I am not sure I agree with this. I mean a modicum of investigation will show that Robin Wong is an employee of Olympus. I dont believe that the internet should be pitched at the 'first time reader'. If that was the case I would expect Steve Huff to state at the beginning of every review 'I refer to just about every new camera as 'amazing' 'brilliant' 'fantastic and 'the bestest ever' - this is only my opinion for the 90 minutes spent writing the review and is very likely to refer to the next camera I review.'

    On the other hand, I am not wild about Guilo Sciorio's approach (taken from Mu-43 on November 20th last year....')

    'I don't work for Panasonic
    I don't work for Olympus
    I'm a full time photographer. That's how I make my living so if I'm not Johnny on the spot for posts its because my photography business is my #1 priority.'

    Somewhere along the way I suspect this is being fairly economical with the truth. I think it is pretty clear that he has a relationship with Panasonic and while he may not 'work for them' I am pretty certain his not 'working' for Panasonic is not the same as his not 'working' for Olympus.
  3. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Hold on guys, hasn't he only been working for Oly for about a year and a half? Isn't he still under "probation"? If you look back at his reviews prior to being employed by Oly they're pretty much the same, with the same descriptive design and same quality to demonstrate his thoughts.

    Also, he shoots entirely in RAW, doesn't he? My wife shoots in RAW on her G2 and often gives me the files to play with. They're not that well colour corrected when comparing them to the JPEGS from in-camera processing. Lots of people outside of the m43 world felt the G1 and G2 series had a strange JPEG colour palette. They just chalked it up to Panasonic's "secret sauce" of colour design being a bit different.

    You could look at it this way: That comparison seemed rushed. He's obviously reading the forums and getting bent out of shape over it. So hopefully that means he'll spend more time taking photos and less time trying to satisfy the measurebators and DxO fanatics which does very little for the benefit of "photography".

  4. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    This is a very good point. To me, it is the ultimate cop out of a blogger to claim as the op puts it....'What a lot of readers don't realize is that Robin had never claimed that his "reviews" were in anyway meant to be a TECHNICAL review.' And then to make all sorts of 'technical' claims.

    I havent read the review but this is what 43rumors says it says...,
    1) The Olympus lens is slightly wider in field of view than the Panasonic lens
    2) The Olympus lens is *possibly 1/3 EV brighter than Panasonic lens (not conclusive, based on just quick observation on EXIF data)
    3) There is not much difference in shallow depth of field rendering between F1.8 and F1.4 lenses (if point number 2 is true, the gap is bridged due to either the Olympus lens being 1/3 EV brighter than F1.8 or the Panasonic lens being 1/3 EV darker than F1.4. This is just my observation, not a conclusive statement)
    4) Although Olympus magnification factor is 0.12x and Panasonic magnification factor is 0.11x, I find the close up shooting capability of Olympus lens to be significantly better than the Panasonic lens.
    5) Panasonic lens has poorer CA control (especially shooting wide open) and corner sharpness than Olympus lens.
    6) General sharpness between both lenses are almost identical

    Now that is an awful lot of technical analysis for someone doing a non-technical review. Of course, we could ignore all the technical opinions he gives on the basis he admits he does know what he is talking about - the photos are usually great.
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  5. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    I agree, especially in light of the fact that he does have affiliate links on his blog, and he does state that he has had over 7M page views. I think Robin posts great images, and truly likes his gear, but my personal advice would be to lose the term "review", as it is too loaded, and to avoid any direct comparisons with competing Panasonic gear while he is an Olympus employee. If I do read his posts, I mostly consider them impression or opinion pieces, not unlike what I read from many other popular bloggers. I may find value in what he highlights in his posts, but, like when I used to read audio equipment reviews, I am always concerned about what is not mentioned. As a child, I was often told that if I could not say anything nice, then I should not say anything at all. I certainly would not go so far as to believe in conspiracy theories, but I just cannot imagine Robin publishing any serious issues he uncovered in his shooting. Unless that is your business and/or your personality, you would probably have an off the record conversation so as to avoid any embarrassment.

    There is plenty of room on the internet for all kinds of articles about equipment, but it would be nice if there were descriptive terms that adhered to more defined boundaries with regards to disclosure and conflicts of interest. Right now, the term "review" can mean almost anything, so it is buyer beware. I suspect that is how many marketing folks would like things to be, and while it may serve some well, it leads to situations like this for folks like Robin. Yes, the outcry on the internet did put a check on Robin's latest post, but it seems like such a blunt method of addressing the situation. Then again, I am concerned about the circulation of good information for readers, and many of these people tend to be more concerned about exposure and site traffic. Not really much different than magazines from days gone by, I guess.

  6. wanderenvy

    wanderenvy Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2012

    Amin - Not debating what you are saying, just want to add another perspective.

    Robin is an excellent street/macro photographer and he was presumably hired by Olympus to highlight the capabilities of their gear in the best possible way. He is doing that very well and also bringing attention to MFT as a whole, which is entirely good. But surely, there must be limitations, contractual or mental, as to what he can say about Olympus gear. I would not expect him to say anything negative, unless it was a blatant issue where denying it would call his credibility into question. As readers, we need to filter through this intentional or unintentional selective reporting. In the panasonic/olympus comparison, he is clearly showing selective examples to favor one lens, or at least show its not worse than the more acclaimed lens, and perhaps we should NOT expect him to do anything different given the intent behind his "reviews". He puts honest effort in them and provides data to highlight his perspective.

    Another example is the high ISO performance review of the E-M10 where he claims that the performance has improved even though it has the same sensor as the E-M5. I kept wondering about two discrepancies. The first is that he claims the benefits may be "theoretically" due to Truepic 7 processor also found in the E-M1, but then a paragraph later, he says all tests were performed with Noise Filter = OFF. So unless the RAW files are getting cooked for noise reduction, the processor should not be in the picture. There is some evidence that this happens, so there might be a benefit to having a newer processor. But then you look at the shutter speed for the high ISO and low light samples and there are only 4 out of 18 pictures (not counting the body cap fisheye pics) where the shutter is slower than 1/100s. In most cases it is 1/200 or faster. In my book, if you have the pleasure of increasing the shutter to this range (presumably to avoid motion blur), then it calls into question if this is a low light scenario. It's also a myth that all concerts suffer from low light, clearly doesn't seem to be the case here especially if you can spot meter. Noise is a function of ISO and exposure time and an exposure of 1/200 with an ISO of 6400 could be considered equivalent to 1/50 and ISO 1600 from a noise perspective. (I know this is a simplification, noise is not linear) Do any of us think this is breaking new ground over the E-M5?

    So the only conclusion is that the "review" presents what can be achieved with the gear if you do everything right. We are not seeing the shots where things didn't work out. This is selective reporting but it has it's value as long as we readers remain cognizant of the intent behind the review.

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  7. Fri13

    Fri13 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 30, 2014

    Criticism is not finding or pointing out flaws or any negative sides of the subject. Criticism is finding and pointing good sides and give credit where it applies.

    People has hard time to understand the critics existing as it is not easy to be respectful, fair, understanding and give credit without being a negative one.
  8. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Wouldn't that be praise, as opposed to criticism?

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  9. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    Criticism is the activity of judging the the merits and faults of something or some one.


    Edited to add: Thats what I was taught as a child. The meaning may have changed in the intervening 40 years.
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  10. woof

    woof Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 18, 2011
    The present.
    Those who do, do.

    Those who can't, judge.

    It will always be so.

    Robin's definitely a "doer."


    [Edit: funny, Fred added his comment above while I was typing... never even saw it until after I posted. Well said sir, that was what i was taught as well.)
    • Like Like x 6
  11. Lindsay D

    Lindsay D Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 2, 2013
    West Sussex, England
    Unlike many of the armchair critiquers around the web, Robin backs up his opinions with photos - lots of them, in different conditions, and often with 100% crops. In other words, he supplies 'evidence' to back up his opinions. For me that would minimize his affiliation with Olympus, since he's still allowing me to make up my own mind. In terms of reporting the things he doesn't like, that's tough because let's face it, there's not a lot that u4/3 gets wrong. And no, I am not paid by Olympus, I just enjoy taking about interesting, good quality kit.

    It's a shame that prominent equipment commentators get so much flack - after all, they expend a lot of effort shooting, processing, and blogging in order to provide free information (or entertainment) to those who are interested. On our own overhead and time of course.

    I know how Robin must feel at times - I get sick of the lynch mobs I encounter around the internet and I get sick of the demands that I compare something with X, Y, or Z in order to 'validate' my views.

    My advice is that if one is concerned about a lack of objectivity, then that's understandable - don't read Robin's words - just enjoy the pictures instead. But I will say this - strangely enough Robin is one of the most honest and restrained commentators I've encountered. I've read some 'equipment raves' by other recognizable names and some of it is so inflated it's laughable.
    • Like Like x 10
  12. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Well he is certainly earning his money because his most recent 8 or 10 blog entries have all been reviews.

    I'm sorry but when I read comments like "he doesn't hide his affiliation, so we just have to bear it in mind because he is such a great street-shooter blogger", I am more tempted to look elsewhere. There are plenty more places to find good street-shooting blogs, without having to clench my teeth at all the bias (and worse) in his equipment commentaries.

    Super nice guy, but he is hurting his own brand with this stuff.
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  13. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I doubt very much that he's hurting 'his own brand' with his reviews, he may be hurting some people's feelings, but so does DP Review, Luminous Landscape, sans Mirror and every other camera/lens reviewer on the internet, in a magazine, newspaper etc.
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  14. I think the simplest way to treat Robin's blog is to not go there under false pretences, and the vast majority of the mess that has been created from this comparison is avoided if that had been the case.
  15. lightmonkey

    lightmonkey Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 22, 2013
    What's stopping you?
    • Like Like x 3
  16. madmaxmedia

    madmaxmedia Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 20, 2010
    I honestly don't have any complaints with his web site.

    But as a general statement, having a disclaimer at the top of the page does not give you a free pass to say whatever you want. Anyone's review is open to discussion (hopefully reasonably civil and well-reasoned), including his. The reality is that it's hard to walk the line Robin is walking, he's not the first sponsored blogger to get some scrutiny.
  17. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2013
    Constructive criticism is about giving positive feedback to help improve the person's review method or shooting method and grow. It's how we improve by inspiration and how growth is achieved. All photographers who want to improve will all in one point in time have been criticized by clients or peers alike. This is good. We in society are taught to always say nice things or keep our mouth shut if we have nothing nice to say. But how can saying nice things help improve and encourage people to grow?

    Destructive criticism is about belittling and bulling others because the views and opinions do not coincide with their point of view and this is always triggered somewhat by fear and anger. I do see that there are a certain number of destructive criticisms made towards Robin. That's very nasty and uncalled for and that's not right and that's not conducive to growth because there's a huge amount of fear and anger.

    But that, we know Robin's did some destructive criticism of his own on DPReview and its loyal fans. So what are we saying here is this.

    Robin has the absolute right to pounce and invalidate DPReview lab tests as being inaccurate and untrustworthy during the E-PL1 vs E5 review and yet we can not invalidate his tests? Tell me, how is this fair? How does he know those lab tests were wrong and untrustworthy? Has he examined them, or simply because their tests do not agree with him so he belittle them through destructive criticism.

    It's all a fair game. When someone points fingers at others, someday those fingers always come back to you in some ways.

    Some of us had provided some constructive criticism by suggesting him to shore up his testing methods to be more rigorous. You can't hide behind the veil of "Observational Review" while providing some technical analysis. Some of us have the right to question the validity of his tests. But some of us are made to be like wolves who are out to bring him down? Is it a crime to ask questions and challenge the validity of anything nowadays?
    • Like Like x 2
  18. tosvus

    tosvus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 4, 2014
    If Robin stuck to posting his (excellent) pictures, and note what he likes about theOly 25mm, I would have no problem with it what so ever. However, I don't think an employee of Olympus should be reviewing Panasonic products. That is just stupid, and the arguments he make do not hold water either.

    To me, this is like a Ford Employee putting a Mustang and a Camaro head to head, and claiming victory for Mustang (or a Chevy employee doing the same for Camaro). Now, I know he doesn't announce a winner, but he is giving an awful lot of points to the Olympus, and with the price being a good bit lower, that is in essence what people take away from it.

    I will say in his defense, he did post a good follow-up, that answers some questions I had, and makes it clear (at least in my eyes) that the comparison was not particularly fair (due to lack of testing on Pana bodies).

    I do enjoy looking at his pictures, and some of what he writes is really good too - so I hope in the future he can just stay clear of comparing to Panasonic products.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. bikerhiker

    bikerhiker Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2013
    Personally though, I'm more curious if this is a new lens design from Olympus that matches the E-M10, whereas the Panny Leica may have a slight disadvantage, or is it a distinct trait of this lens applied globally. That is if it's bright when it's mounted on ALL Olympus, BlackMagic Pocket Camera as well as all Panasonic models. It's only fair for some of us to obtain this validation.

    I was hoping his testing method was more rigorous. If he wasn't sure of this, perhaps it's wise not to make a general claim that it's true. Which I think may be part of why he's now in this position.
  20. Itchybiscuit

    Itchybiscuit Photon Mangler

    Dec 10, 2013
    Glasgow, Scotland
    *Disclaimer* I'm weird.

    Ok with that out of the way I can offer my opinion. I read one review and think 'that's interesting'. I read 5 reviews which agree and think 'that's VERY interesting'. If I read 10 reviews which agree I will remember the product and when/if I can ever afford to buy it, I will. However, I'm not an early or first adopter so for me they're simply entertainment.

    WARNING: this is merely an opinion and like the author, should not be taken seriously! :wink:
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