Reviews vs "Reviews"

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CharlesB58 Veteran Member • Posts: 9,125
Reviews vs "Reviews"
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In a couple of other threads, some points were raised, mainly by Ricardo, regarding the bias inherent in equipment "reviews" by Olympus Visionaries (or any "ambassador" for that matter. There was a bit of miscommunication, but the main point being addressed was that there are people who assume that a "review" by an Olympus Visionary is going to have similar objectivity to one done by a group such as DP Review or Cameralabs.

While some of us would think that it's obvious someone with promotional ties to a company is going to present a biased viewpoint, statements by people on this forum, and in one of the threads in question (the "Why I sold my PEN F" thread, in which the author of the linked article said he believed the hype by Olympus Visionaries) indicates that there are those who may not understand how a "review" by a Visionary differs from an independent review.

First off, as simple as this difference may seem, apparently some don't grasp it. An Olympus Visionary is a pro photographer who has been using Olympus gear successfully. They get certain considerations for being a Visionary (discounts, preview gear, invitations to events and other perks) in exchange for openly promoting Olympus equipment and being willing to conduct workshops or appear at trade shows.

This should make it apparent that they are going to be very Pro-Olympus in their view, and their "reviews" reflect that. It should be noted that they are required, both legally and as part of their agreement with Olympus, to state in any video, audio or written review that they are an Olympus Visionary. This full disclosure should let people understand that they are going to be seeing or reading what is essentially a promotional review of the gear, not any sort of objective test.

By contrast, independent reviewers may get sample gear to test and review, but that's about it. The review gear must be returned to the manufacturer within a certain period of time. Some independent reviewers buy the gear they test, to avoid the appearance of favoritism/conflict of interest (this is one reason why some reviews take longer to publish than others).

This is a lot of words to say what should be easily understood: a "review" by an Olympus Visionary is not an objective review. Period.  That's not what Olympus expects in exchange for the perks Olympus Visionaries receive.

Yet there's another side to this situation that I want to address, which is the idea some have that "reviews" by Visionaries are meant to mislead people (only those who don't pay attention to the disclaimer) or gloss over flaws in the camera (a promotional review isn't supposed to point out flaws, DUH). Some people apparently misunderstand what it takes to become an Olympus Visionary.

It essentially happens in one of two ways. First and foremost is when a photographer has been using Olympus gear in a successful, professional capacity, with an established reputation. The person fills out the application to become a Visionary, and if accepted, signs a legal agreement to represent Olympus products in exchange for certain consideration. Not that in this case, these pros had purchased their Olympus gear, had been using it to produce results of note, and took the steps to approach Olympus about becoming a Visionary.

In certain other cases, Olympus will approach a pro offering to provide gear on loan, with the proviso that if they decide to start using Olympus gear as their sole (or at least primary) working gear, they would be made an Olympus Visionary. If the pro ends up liking the gear enough to buy it, they get it at a discount. After that, things run the same as with the previous type of Visionary.

Here's my point: none of these men and women are hawking Olympus just because they get free, or even discounted gear. Their livelihood depends on the gear they use. They were either making a living using Olympus gear beforehand, or liked it enough to switch. In either case, when they say they really like a new camera or lens, it's not because they "have to give it a good review". They have to be willing to use it in their business, and they have tested it as such before they make any public comments.

In short, Olympus Visionaries like Olympus gear before becoming Visionaries, not the other way around.

True, they may "gild the lily" a bit, and forego mentioning any negatives they encountered. But they are not putting lipstick on the pig, as the saying goes. If the gear wasn't up to their standards as pros-meaning their livelihood depends on it-they wouldn't be Olympus Visionaries anyway.

Bottom line: Don't  consider product spots by Olympus Visionaries (or any other manufacturers "ambassador") as anything more than a pro telling people why they like gear that they would probably like anyway. Conversely, don't think they are being dishonest about a product because they don't offer the negative comments that supposedly "objective" reviewers do. They aren't offering what is normally understood as a "review" anyway.

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Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed. Quote by Garry Winogrand
http://ikkensimages.com

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