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Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Rashomon Effect


Our perceptions of equipment strongly influence how we feel about it


Photographers love to argue about their gear. Are you a Canon shooter or a Nikon shooter? Maybe you have an affinity for Olympus or Pentax cameras. Or perhaps you love the technology companies and have something from Panasonic, Samsung or Sony.

What about your computer? Mac or PC? Do you love to hate Microsoft? Or maybe you think Steve Jobs is the hypemeister?

No matter what your feelings about gear, you undoubtedly do have some feelings there. This is why doing product reports can be so challenging. Many people aren’t interested in knowing how good or bad a particular piece of gear is. They often want to know if they made the right decision in buying it, if it’s about gear they own, or they want to know how their gear compares to other gear.

And what’s fascinating to me is that this becomes more about human nature than gear. Many people want to argue with product reports if the report doesn’t support their idea about a particular piece of gear. You really see this with computers (which we don’t review here); a reviewer says something negative about a Mac, and let the letters begin! You’d think, sometimes, that the reviewer was talking about religion (and sometimes it seems he or she is).

It‚’s a fundamental truth that we all see things differently. Take these two photographs. On the face of it, these are completely different photographs, but on a certain level they‚’re both images that record a frog. In this single example, you can see the Rashomon effect: the same basic subject interpreted in two completely different ways.

It's a fundamental truth that we all see things differently. Take these two photographs. On the face of it, these are completely different photographs, but on a certain level they're both images that record a frog. In this single example, you can see the Rashomon effect: the same basic subject interpreted in two completely different ways.


I’ve been covering this industry intensely for 12 years, and I’ve been involved in photography and keeping up with technology for much, much longer than that. I’ve seen the evolution of zooms, for example, from poor-quality glass that no pro would ever use into high-quality lenses that are optics of choice for any pro. I’ve witnessed how computer-aided design and manufacturing have allowed superb lenses to be made today at affordable prices. And, of course, I’ve been an active witness to the revolution of digital photography.


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