Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


The important part of the title is USER, a user review is usually far more informative with its findings than a review because the person is telling you his/her opinion from the coal face, in other words they own the camera they are reviewing.

Alister is a Sony Independent Certified Expert (ICE) and is used by Sony all over the globe to talk about Sony cameras so it’s no surprise that he gets first pickings to look over their camcorders.

You wont find a more technically competent chap than Alister when it comes to cameras in general but my gripe here is with Sony not Alister.

If you choose to make a camcorder like the Sony EA50 then you need to be man enough to have it reviewed warts and all, cameramen and women rely on reviews to make the first step towards buying a product.

Sony have NEVER offered me a camcorder for review yet they have sold plenty NX70s on the back of my user review, why should I go out my way to review a camera that I already own and thanks to my efforts on this web site got Sony to issue a firmware upgrade to improve the zoom control on the NX70 and add 720 50p.

The Sony FS100 is a perfect example, Nigel Cooper slated the camera when he was given one to review and Sony were reeling at his comments, I got one two days before reviewing the NX70 and found it to have a fantastic picture less it’s failings, no ND, plasticky and no HD SDI, Sony changed after Nigel’s findings and not for the better.

DSLRs are sent to various web and magazines for technical review but early information on new camcorders is very tightly controlled by manufacturers like Sony claiming that “we only have one demo model in Europe” bollocks.

It seems to me that Sony don’t want YOU the end user to see anything written or reviewed unless they have some control of the information. Alister is a Sony man and he would be the first to tell you but he is an honest man and that’s more important.

He is honest enough to tell us that the EA50 is not his cup of tea but will be a good camera for the wedding and event market place, honest enough to tell us that it’s not as technically sharp as his FS700 or F3 but that’s only one mans opinion.

So what’s my gripe…Sony need to get more cameras to more reviewers to give the customer a truly informed choice when taking those first steps towards a purchase and stop controlling the press and PR when it comes to new video products in the UK.

Sony are not the only culprits, Canon recently spent a small fortune promoting the new C100 but end users want real life reviews and pictures, how the camera compares to a C300 for example and more importantly will it be good enough to make you money.

If a product is good enough to be submitted for public sale then you should be confident enough to have it stand up to professional critique.

The right of reply…

Alister Chapman “I get paid by Sony to do a lot of things for them. Workshops and training, tutorials and yes, reviews. I don’t hide this, nor do I pretend that I don’t have a close working relationship with Sony or that I like Sony products in general. My relationship with Sony is clearly explained on the Bio and information page of my web site:

At the end of the day I am a freelance DoP. I live and die by my reputation, so I can’t afford to gloss over problems or issues because if I don’t raise them, when others find the issues it would appear that I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t believe that there is any reviewer, whether that be for books, cars, cameras etc that doesn’t have some bias one way or another. For example, if you have had a bad experience with one manufacturers products in the past, then that will likely affect your opinion of other products. If you like the style of one author then your opinion of others will be biased. We all have our favourites in life. Reviews, which are after all opinion pieces, by there very nature will be personally biased, unless done by robots or someone that has absolutely no prior knowledge of the subject, in which case the review may have no real value as it is after all the opinion part that most people want to hear.
To Sony’s credit, they have never asked me to edit my reviews other than corrections to things like specifications or model numbers etc. The EA50 review was something that I decided to write as I had the opportunity to use the camera while shooting some training videos. I was not paid to write the review and Sony did not see it before it was published. I did find issues with the camera and lens and I raised these in the review.
Ultimately I could just write glowing fault free reviews of Sony’s products, but where would that get me or Sony? Eventually no one would trust my reviews or believe what I say, so I would be of no value to Sony and I would not have the reputation for honest reviews that I do currently have.

It is in my best interest to be honest and not to gloss over faults and issues. I’ve openly criticised Sony on many occasions.

Writing reviews for the internet is a difficult situation. It can take hours or even days to put together a review. I don’t make any money from my blog, hell, when I put several gigs of clips online and ask for small donations to cover hosting fees I’m lucky if I get $10, despite hundreds of downloads. So the money has to come from somewhere. Contrary to what many may think I don’t get any special deals or discounts from Sony on the cameras I buy. I have to purchase them from a dealer just the same as anyone else.

Regarding demo gear. Even I struggle to get demo gear from Sony. They rarely have more than 2 demo units to cover the whole of the EU. I have to go well out of my way sometimes to get a camera for review, travelling to where the camera is in many cases.”


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

13 thoughts on ““Reviews and User Reviews…What are they worth ?” Updated

  1. I totally agree. I find this issue very frustrating.
    Panasonic, Sony, Canon and others – they’re all guilty of supplying cameras to reviewers who either generally-
    1. Don’t have a clue.
    2. Are being paid by the manufacturer.
    3. Reviewer’s who simply rewrite or cut and paste the press release and call it a hands on (pre)review.

    Alister’s review thankfully appears to be very balanced but scanned his website and didn’t find his ethic’s statement.

    Between product announcement and shipment, it’s a frustrating wait.
    Eventually after a product ships to the masses, the full and honest truth comes out about a camera’s strengths and weaknesses but cynically, probably after many of the innocent have already made ill-informed purchases.

    Sony and the rest need to realise that honest unpaid critique by someone like Philip Johnston actually helps their R&D department get it right in the future and sales go to informed and happy customers.

  2. Nigel Cooper has previously reviewed many Sony pro cameras and had the first opportunity in the UK to review the FS100. After his honest but scathing review of the FS100, I suspect Sony will never again give him first look at their new cameras.

  3. Personally I would go one step further and demand that if Sony pay people in a regular basis, even in high expenses, then the public should know.

    Also from a legal stand point I’d be interested if someone were to take the matter to a watchdog, would they class any such article as a review or as an advertisement?

    The fact as all manufacturers should get stuff reviewed by independent reviewers. We get it with books, consoles and cars, why not cameras?

  4. Without built-in ND filters, this can’t be “a good camera for the wedding and event market place”. It’s a critical flaw and IMHO, marketing department spin.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. One thing that gets me, is there’s so many “reviews” out there that are just tours of the camera, telling us what buttons and knobs and dials are on it… I’d much rather know how it performs, see proper sample footage, hear how it feels, and any annoyances/gripes etc.

    I know it’s got a gain switch from the specs!

  6. Phillip,

    Your in scotland, I am in Scotland – how about we set up a “TopGear” style of camera reviews – honest no holds barred !!
    Sony, Canon, JVC, Panasonic, DSLRs etc would then make honest cameras for honest people !



  7. Since Alistair doe not shoot Wedding Videos, how would he know which camera is good for weddings..
    The one without ND Filters?

  8. Jiri Nails it.

    The problem I find with so many reviews is that they’re biased towards the type of work the reviewer does.

    So things that those reviewers may consider benefits or flaws for many others are irrelevent, and vice versa.


  9. If I was a PR person at Sony (or Canon/Panasonic) I wouldn’t risk sending kit for review to anyone likely to make me an ex-Sony PR person.

    Self preservation exists in all walks of life.

    Rightly or wrongly there has to be a risk assessment for every kit review. I’m sure there’s a formula in the PR module of a degree course somewhere but in the real world it comes down to trust. How that trust is earned, rewarded or lost has always been up to the vendor and his or her PR machine.

    It would be nice if Sony opened up a bit and at some stage they might do that….but I suspect only on their terms and in their own sweet time.

    I don’t know your traffic figures but since this one post has more comments than my entire blog has had in 12 months I’d say you are established as an authority in your field and therefore HD Warrior is doing its job and is almost certainly paying you dividends. Quantifying the value of that is a job for your own PR department…..and we all know how difficult they can be 😉

  10. It’s even more incidious the more you think about it. These “cameramen” doing reviews and making assertions for which they are unqualified are the ones that Sony goes to for “user input”. So over time models consolidate on features for a narrower and narrower “user”. IMHO, the PMW-200 is a case in point.

  11. I respect Alister’s work tremendously. It’s funny though, if you read is writing long enough, you can almost “sense” when he is being extremely carefull with his criticism of something. He will be strong about certain positive aspects of his reviews and then suddenly be very carefull about pointing out certain camera flaws.

    The PMW100. Alister gave his initial oppinion of a pre production model that he had. He made a comment that he thought the NX30 looked better. (I believe he was right because the NX30 uses a EXMOR-r sensor and the PMW100 does not.) Anyhoo, when I told Joe Schmizi at Sony Infocomm about Alisters review…a few days later Alister blamed the image quality on his pre production model.

    Moire and resolution on the EA50 will also be the stickey wicket on this camera and Alister will need to talk about that carefully, I think.

    The guy does a fantastic job, no one I know will ever doubt that. But, let’s face it, he can’t forcefully say something is terrible about any of these cameras. Sony would pull the rug out from under him if he did.

    Alister, can you post any resolution chart samples of that EA50?

  12. What’s the deal with all these reviews with no video and just stills? This is VERY shady review. How hard is it for you “reviewers” to post sample video????

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