Honest Or Sponsored Gear Reviews for Photographers. Which Is Which?


So How Do You Tell The Difference?

Want some photography equipment reviews for some new gear you're thinking of buying? First stop = the internet.

The internet's amazing for easy-to-find reviews, demos, YouTube videos and forums for trying to find out whether or not you should buy that faster lens or save your money and think some more…

I do wonder if anyone goes into a photography store these days because although they sell well-inspected second hand gear (and new), and offer some amazing advice (you just find hard to get any place else), people generally still flock to eBay or other similar sites for their gear i.e. online. Kinda sad but true.

Back to reviews then – whether for new or used, you want some hard facts and not necessarily sponsored and biased opinions just because they're from someplace you've heard of.

photography equipment reviews
Image by Jakob Owens

Where Do Photographers Begin?

No matter how much experience one photographer has in the field, or whether he is just starting out, before buying new gear we all tend to read up some reviews on the internet.

All that is good, of course – everyone should do some homework. Plus, it's good to be well-informed about the thing that will likely cost you good deal of money, because let’s face it, photography is far from cheap. No news flash there.

However, not many people know that reviews are part of many marketing strategies nowadays and they are often quite biased towards a brand, mainly because the reviewer loves that brand more than any other, or has even been paid for the review.

My point? You should be very cautious when trusting reviewers – sometimes you need your head AND heart in on this decision, folks!

https://www.lightstalking.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/3516347852_094c409f7d_b.jpg Photo by Claudio Matsuoka

The Reliability Of Reviews And Reality Of Reviewers

Now how hard is it to differentiate between a reliable and an unreliable review? Firstly, you need to check your sources.

For example, I don't trust large companies that sell gear. I will not name them, but the point here is that their sole aim is this, to sell gear. They will tell you everything you want to hear in order for you to purchase the piece of gear.

Now, I'm certainly not suggesting that it's a scam just waiting, it is simply a marketing strategy. What you really need is an honest opinion about the piece of gear you want to purchase, that you'll probably get from someone who is already using it and paid for it.

Which Way Do I Turn?

I am following quite a few photographers on YouTube. Vlogs are more convenient for me because I can do other things while I listen to what the person has to say (even better as I don't always need the video) – multitasking at it's finest!

Many of them are biased too, but you generally know towards which side they are biased.

If you do some research (i.e. open a few videos/articles) you'll see which gear they actually use for their work. That way you'll know that they will be biased towards that brand, and everything they say and praise that brand you can take with reserve.

Remember, at least they're being honest by showing the viewer what gear they use and are likely to recommend? The wise thing to do is to get a few reviews and see the matching points.

The Pros and Cons

You don't really want the pros about the gear piece (even though it is good to write them down as well, you'll see why later), since you know that from the brochure.

You want the cons. Really?

Yes, really. Even though the reviewer might be biased, they will need to point out a bad side in order for it to be legit. If they don't point some bad sides, then it's almost certainly an advertisement, not a review. There's a big difference, you'll agree with me there!

When you see or read a few reviews you'll get a list of pros and cons. You’ll also notice that a few of these pros and cons will appear more than others and those which appear more than usual have higher odds of being true.

However, if you see one or two good sides which appear in every review, have in mind that it can be exaggerated way more than reality presents.

https://farm7.staticflickr.com/6201/6089633293_b53127d63e_b.jpg Photo by 55Laney69

You Shouldn't Just Take Someone's Word For It

Another thing you should be looking for is samples and real world reviews. That means if you are interested in a certain lens and or camera body, then search the web for image samples.

It is quite easy for lenses since there are few services that do that fairly early on, even pre-release. For the camera body, however, you need to look for the RAW files.

That way you'll know the right settings which were used, the lens that was paired with that body, and you will be sure that the images aren't “cooked”.

The so-called “real world” reviews are actually pretty important (I strongly consider these when researching new gear) since you can see the gear in action. You get some insight on how the gear performs in real world scenarios which can't be set up for regular vlogs.

All in all, after you are satisfied with everything you see on the web, it would be wise (if possible), to go and test the gear yourself. Most of the larger stores for camera equipment allow you to give the gear a test run in the store.

This should be enough to give you the insight you need for that particular gear piece like

  • Sharpness,
  • Build Quality,
  • Handling,
  • Focus speed (for bodies and lenses), and
  • Power (e.g. if's a flash) and so on.

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8525/8530237709_949baabff3_b.jpgPhoto by 拜小樂


After you purchase a piece of gear, if you have the time, write a review on your blog. Why not right? My view is that if you're searching for an unbiased or “real” and “honest” review, then provide one yourself for others to stumble across!

Every review helps another photographer. Just as you found the review helpful, someone else will find your review helpful. Returning the favor is good. Sharing is caring, they say – and this certainly holds true in the photography community.

Photography Equipment Reviews (and where to find reliable ones) – Top Takeaways

  • Do some homework on where you're finding reviews for your gear – kind of reviewing your reviewers…does that make sense?
  • Reliability of reviews. Try to avoid manufacturer's reviews and test shot videos etc and find someone far more independent. Steering farther away from bias is always a better bet.
  • Don't just take someone's word for it – try and locate some “real world” usage samples by checking out some vlogs with real people actually using real gear – whether it be lenses, bodies or light stands…it doesn't matter.
  • Perhaps visit your local large photography store and test the equipment yourself?

Further Resources

Further Learning

Using Lightroom? Photoshop? Photoshop Elements?
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This amazing eBook guide will help you discover what you can do to make your photos shine!
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Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and loves sharing his knowledge about it.

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