Good Enough in a Bad Way

It’s really hard to tell the difference between the two.”

Uh, no. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this statement now on the Web, and the most recent time by someone doing an exhaustive preview between an older and newer model of a camera. This particular statement was demonstrated with image samples from an X-rite ColorChecker. 

Let’s just look at a couple of values that were in those examples, shall we? 

Top of the checker border: 40,40,68 versus 37,38,54
Bottom of the checker border: 21,17,34 versus 17,17,27
Red: 233,26,32 versus 212,21,29
Green: 17,133,36 versus 0,130,20
Blue: 1,29,217 versus 1,21,201

First we have a top to bottom differential of lighting, second we have a very distinct camera difference, one that I immediately recognized when I saw the “it’s really hard to tell the difference between the two” samples. 

No, I’m not going to publicly shame the reviewer by naming them. I don’t think that serves any purpose. However, when I see a statement that indicates someone doesn’t see something I clearly see, I immediately have to suspect everything else they write. What else are they overlooking?

Unfortunately, we’re back in the late days of High Fidelity once again: well-trained ears (eyes) detect things that untrained or less trained ears (eyes) don’t. 

I’ve long pondered what to do about this. How do we go about “training eyes” to see differences that cameras and lenses are producing? This is complicated by the fact that, on the Web, I can’t guarantee that your monitor is calibrated or even showing the same Color Space as mine, plus JPEG compression can and will introduce artifacts that compound the issue. (That doesn’t pardon the example I just denounced, by the way: they merged the two camera results into one image; in other words, on any monitor you should see that the one sample had different coloration than the other. You might not have seen an accurate rendering of that coloration differential, but the differential was still readily apparent.)

Sometimes I think that Iliah Borg, Ctein, me, and a few others who’ve actually had our eyes trained to see should form a new licensing bureau: People (who) Understand Pixel Integrity (and) Luminance, or PUPIL. Stop by, take a test, see if your pupils are up to PUPIL standards. They aren’t? Enroll in our four-week training program and become a PUPIL master. Or flunk out ;~). 

Seriously, we need to be very careful about the messenger as well as the message, it seems. This is one of the very big issues that the rise of the Internet has introduced: since everyone can communicate freely to everyone else, there’s a lot of chaff in with the wheat, it seems. You’ve heard of “fake news,” but there are also “fake views,” too. 

I try very hard to be consistent and correct about what I see and report. In those few times when I’ve been proven wrong, I’ve taken the time to figure out why that happened, and correct any article that might assert the falsehood I discovered. 

In my 900-1000 page books I typically eventually find about 200-300 problems. Some are grammar, some are genuine typos, some are just confusing language, and a few may just be something outright wrong. That’s why I do updates to my books. I just don’t like imperfections left in my work, and especially incorrect assertions. 

For those of you who purchased the D7200, D500, D750, or D810 guide from this site, check your email in the coming weeks: I’ve got free errata updates in the works for all of those; and remember, the update email I send might end up in your Spam/Junk folder since it comes from an automated server. 

Meanwhile, I suggest that we all start being a little more careful about what we believe based upon posts from quick reviews of products (and often from people with vested interests, to boot). As the headline suggests, we’re getting a lot of “good enough” type observations in reviews these days when the reality is that there are clear differences and those differences might be important to you. 

Or maybe not. Maybe those RGB values I noted up at the top of the article do look the same to you. If so, you’re not what I’d call a discerning observer, but that’s fine as long as you’re comfortable with that. 

I would assert, however, that the great photographers didn’t get to where they got by being undiscerning. So if you aspire to greatness, please don’t make statements like “it’s really hard to tell the difference between them” when even the simplest of tools will tell you there’s a clear difference.

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