One of the reasons the DSLR community grew so fast was because there were no rules. There were no instructions in the manual on how to do it all so the community stepped in, the pioneers shared what they learned and quickly a guide for best practice was established. Now there are lots of guides on what to do and what not to do. I really hate that. I try and follow as much best practice as I can but I keep coming across work by people that looks good and they didn’t give a monkeys about the rules. So, really, while it certainly helps bloggers drive traffic and keep advertisers happy, the whole prescriptive DSLR cookbook thing runs a little bit against the spirit of the whole thing. While many bloggers certainly have a huge amount of credibility there’s a bunch of misinformation out there and I think it’s vitally important to take what you read with a pinch of salt. I hope that people understand what I write comes under the heading ‘in my experience…’ but people often want black and white answers and with this technology that simply isn’t possible. Everyone has their own preferred method of operating and what I like is unlikely to be the same as you. When given equipment to try out (I don’t really do reviews or tests as such, I’m just not qualified) I try and live with the gear for as long as possible and it can take me a long time to really feel like I know the stuff well enough to write about it. I know that’s not the case for everyone. With editing I’ve been doing it a really really really long time and I am pretty sure that the way I do things is going to be about as efficient and practical as it’s possible to be. And I’m happy to put my name to that!

So, here are my top 5 DSLR no-no’s to be aware of.

1. The best.

There’s no such thing. I prefer the 5D to the 7D, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. Zacuto make the most expensive DSLR rigs, does that mean they’re the best? Again, no such thing. I will say that they’re are the most solid, and most reassuring pieces of kit I’ve ever used, but they’re not the best. As always, the best is the one you can afford and make work for you. Any blog claiming to be the best on the web is probably not. You see how it goes.

2. The answer.

The Z-Finder was the ‘answer’ to critical focus on DSLRs. No, it wasn’t. It was an answer. Using a monitor is a better answer. Is it the answer. No. Again, Jared’s preference is for viewfinders, mine is for monitors. Who’s right? If someone has to tell you a product is the answer then it’s not.

3. The strong recommendation

Any site running ads has a responsibility to its advertisers. I’m beholden to that when writing about equipment on this site and it doesn’t require a great leap of faith to understand that there’s a scratch my back relationship going on with these things. Recommendations are a lot easier to make when you’ve not had to pay for something yourself. I think this is very very important to remember when weighing up opinions about what you buy. Whenever possible try before you buy. This business can get very expensive very quickly and it’s not the reason we were all attracted to DSLRs in the first place. Make sure there isn’t simply a ‘duty to the sponsor’ arrangement going on.

4. Sight unseen opinions

‘This looks great’, ‘should be fantastic’ – I call this magpie syndrome. All bloggers are guilty of this, getting all gaga about stuff because it’s new and shiny! Hands on is the only way to know if anything’s any good or not. I have occasionally laid into products without trying them but only because they were so clearly flawed or pointless or both! Oh wait… In those instances my opinions aren’t worth much and I accept that.

5. Blogger not actually working

Opinions matter and the integrity of those opinions matters greatly. Professional production is a whole different beast to weekend fun shooting. I could shoot all day at my own speed and in my own time and learn nothing about kit. I truly believe it’s only when you’re under pressure that you actually learn anything. That doesn’t need to be a professional environment – short film production is insanely pressured. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of useful resources hosted by passionate individuals exploring an aspect of the cameras. Andrew Reid at EosHD is all over anamorphic lenses, more than anyone else I know and is an incredible useful resource. I just see a lot of fluffy opinions expressed these days on Twitter and blogs that tally so badly with my own I’m left wondering how they’ve been arrived at. I have no problem with bloggers spreading the word, talking about products, if they’re not really shooting, I just won’t read those sites.

This may all sound incredibly cynical and counter-community, but actually it’s the opposite. You’re the judge, and I’m asking you to judge me and this site in the same way. We know what we’re talking about because we earn a living day in day out working with DSLRs. We share what we learn and hopefully our opinions carry some weight. But if we chat crap, then I hope you’ll be wise to it! At NAB this year there will be a plethora of bloggers, all hoping for a scoop and  posting vigorously. We feel it’s important that we be more than just a factual presentation, telling you what’s new, posting a video, yawn. We know what we’re doing and we’ve seen a lot of technology now over the last 2 years. So the WOC manifesto for NAB is this:

We will only give a manufacturer a minute to explain their product on camera. If they can’t manage that we move on.

We will always give an opinion, we will tell you if something’s a heap of junk or if it might just be the next greatest purchase you could ever make.

We will not recommend anything.

We will post a furious deluge of videos. (hah, like that’s ever going to happen!)

We won’t waste your time with crap products.

We won’t take ourselves too seriously.

Jared Abrams
Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
  • http://YourWebsite Oli Kember

    Sounds good, bring it!