The Fstoppers Perspective on Product Reviews: What to Expect

The Fstoppers Perspective on Product Reviews: What to Expect

Reviews are a tricky subject. On one side, there are a lot of people out there who want to hear as many voices on a product as possible before they make a decision. On the other side, there are skeptics across the internet who assume the worst of people and believe every review to be somehow influenced in a particular direction by unseen greedy fingers. We really want to clear the air on what makes an Fstoppers review, both in the past and in the future.

Before we get into addressing some common concerns, I think it is important to first look at our review process. I’ll walk you through it step by step.

  • Step one can go down one of two ways. The first is we catch wind of a new product coming out on the market and leverage our industry partners to get our hands on one as soon as it becomes available. The second is a company will reach out to us and ask if we will do a review on a particular product, and then ship one off to us. Either way, that’s how we first get the product in our hands.
  • When the product arrives, we spend time with it to really get a handle on how it operates, how it helps or advances our current workflow and how it generally stands up to the daily grind of a creative professional. How long does this take? It really depends. Often we get really backlogged with gear and can only go so fast. It also depends on how many functions a product has, or how complicated it is to use. We really want to be as comprehensive as possible while simultaneously being swift with our conclusions so we aren’t too late to the review. It’s a tightrope walk that takes a lot of mental balance, as you can well imagine.
  • After we feel like we have a good handle on the product, we have a really important decision to make: do we like it? Let’s say we don’t like a product. At that point, we need to decide if we really want to spend the time to just rip it. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we would just prefer to not say anything at all. What do we gain by crushing a product? Get a few laughs in the comments section? More likely we would just really upset the manufacturer, especially if it is a small mom-and-pop style company that's just trying to get a leg up. In these cases, sometimes we choose to thank them and send it back, often with private comments about what needs improvement before we will do a published review. However, if we think they can take it, we will write a truly honest piece expressing our dissatisfaction. If we decide we do like it, we need to make sure we have supporting imagery that backs up whatever we write. Sometimes we make a video, sometimes we just write a long comprehensive piece. In either case (or both), we really try and cover as many things as possible when we come to our conclusion. That gets us to…
  • It’s a rare thing to find a truly perfect product. Often even when we comment on how good a product is, we also point out where the product falters. We are always honest and fair in this regard.

 

How do you know if something is a review? Check the tag. All our reviews are marked "review" at the bottom of each article:


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So now that you understand how it goes down, let me address some of the concerns we have seen:

You guys are paid to write reviews.

There seems to be a disconnect between how much money people perceive we make and how much money we actually make. Let me pull down the walls of reality: none of us is getting rich from Fstoppers. In fact, 95% of us have other jobs. Generally, those are photo jobs. We have these other jobs because that is what makes Fstoppers different: we are all photo professionals writing about using photographic gear. We do not get paid for reviews. In fact, we explicitly state to any advertiser that if they send us a product to review, that is a risk. We may or may not like it. Anything we say is to be separated from any advertising campaign they may or may not do with us. To be paid for a review would make a review biased and also unethical. There is no way around that when money is on the table, and we always want to remain unbiased. We are about ethical journalism, so any opinions you see on this site in reviews are our own.

You’re such a fanboy. All you ever do is comment on how good anything made by this brand is.

You might notice how we never have a review on all products produced by any manufacturer. This is because we don’t like everything made by everyone. When we review, it’s likely because we like it (like mentioned above). When we like something, you’re going to have to expect us to talk about why we like it. Every product review hits on points where we were unhappy with one or a few features. Also, we do comment about products we don't like.

Your reviews are not technical enough.

You can go to any number of websites for MTF charts and ten pages about buttons, but we chose to frame our reviews from a real-world use perspective. In the end, if it works we will like it. It needs to do what real photographers require, and that is the frame of reference we will use to review products.

You are biased towards [insert camera brand].

We all have our preferences. I personally am a Canon shooter, and have been for ten years. Lee and Pat? They shoot Nikon. Some of us shoot Hasselblad or Phase One. When we write reviews, we will focus on the medium on which we are most comfortable. That is the only way we can be truthful about how we feel about a certain product. If I tried to review a lens on a camera body that just seems bizarre and foreign to me, I can't be expected to give that lens a fair shake, right?

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Please air any comments you might have on our review process below, and I will do my best to address them as time goes on. We make reviews for you so that you can make informed buying decisions. It's not our prerogative to do anything else. We have always been about helping other creative professionals and it is our goal that our reviews always do that. We will be linking back to this page in our future reviews to make sure that our process is always clear.

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13 Comments

Tam Nguyen's picture

Would love to see a "will it blend?" video for each reviewed product from you guys kthxbye.

Jaron Schneider's picture

Everything blends :)

First off, i dont think you guys are ever dishonest or biased in your reviews. That being said, don't you think it is beholden upon a journalist who also happens to be a creative professional to review everything that they can whether the results will be positive or negative?

I think that if you were to send back a product and tell the company "No, this isn't great", and then not tell the world, then that is being tad irresponsible. Just because you tell a company that you don't like feature A from product Z doesn't mean that it won't go to market anyway. If you don't like something, that means you have obviously evaluated it. The last component is to tell the world.

The reason I say this is because the only way I know of to be sure about something before purchasing has become almost comical. If I can find reliable, independent sources to tell me it's good, then I buy it. If the only reviews I can find are by "customers" on B&H and Amazin, then I know it's garbage. I feel that negative reviews are just as important to the public as glowing ones.

I very much agree, I completely understand why you would have the mentality "Why would I spend time reviewing something I don't like" (which I actually think I remember you saying exactly that), but the reason is that you are doing a disservice to your readers when you never let us know.

I think you guys are doing a great job writing all the posts you have done so far. A lot of interesting stuff comes by for photographers but also for videographers. I like the diversity and the productivity you put in this site everyday.

Kudos !

Good to hear about your process. It'd be great to see more reviews where you don't like the product, though. I'm sure you're getting sent some of the same things that arrive on all of our doorsteps, the difference is that you get to send it back afterwards.

Right, but you finish that review with "it's not that bad, and here is a link to purchase it!" Also, take a look at your "great product:horrible product" review ratio, and maybe you will see my point.

I just know that it <i>seems</i> as if there is never something bad said about a product in general. Not just here at fstoppers, but in the whole of the photographic community. I just read and trust this site every day, so I feel justified in commenting.

I am not undervaluing the service that you guys provide. I am actually a huge fan of your site and read it at least five times a day, but even great stuff can be improved!

Thanks again for all of the hard work and good information that you put out.

Von Wong's picture

Any website who does reviews provides links towards the product. It's just the way it is.
And yes, those links often happen to be affiliate links. That's also juste hte way it is.

Totally understood. Everybody's gotta eat. But do you agree with me at all? Even a little?

Von Wong's picture

haha yeah i do, but i also understand it from a blogging perspective.

I think that by default you won't hear about projects that are less good and more about a product thats awesome. Part of the responsibility is in the consumer to do the research :)

Agreed on the point of consumer responsibility. BTW - Huge fan of your work.

Von Wong's picture

:D

Awesomesauce!! :)

Rebecca Britt's picture

I typically only cover tutorials and books, but I'll be picking up more gear reviews soon (for video) so thank you for clearing this up for the readers.