As I mentioned in my article about rolling shutter[a], I've been reading internet forums a lot lately. I still feel dirty. I've stopped doing it now that I have an answer to my question, although only after a lot of searching. Besides an answer to my rolling shutter question it has resulted in a couple of anthropological observations that I'd like to share.
First, most people on internet forums don't know what they talk about. The world of internet forums are much like the world of superstition.
Lack of Experts
Second, people who are experts in a field rarely frequent forums. They're too busy being real-world experts.
Third, I'd like to share the forum lifecycle of a camera, as I've been able to piece it together. Anyone who researches a camera online before purchase would be wise to keep the following cycle in mind:
A camera is announced, or there is a rumor about one. Real or imaginary specifications are discussed wildly with little understanding of tradeoffs.
The camera is released. The people who know their stuff either buy it or not, depending on their well-understood individual needs.
Those who know their stuff and bought it go off and produce fantastic results, as they always do. They post some samples in the forum, a couple of "this camera rocks!" and then disappear to create more amazing photos.
Those who don't know their stuff and bought it have been busy shooting test charts, the interior of their kitchen, or any other utterly uninteresting subject. One complains that it is "a bit soft". Why sharpness is such a big deal I'll never know - would that test chart or kitchen be a masterpiece if it were only a bit sharper? Color reproduction, noise levels or just plain ease of use seems to be things that only a minority care about.
The stampede, or "two-minute hate", starts. It's soft! Suddenly, the camera is a giant step backwards. It's a disgrace. It's not even worth throwing away. Test charts are compared - the new camera produces "soft" results compared to another camera. Never mind that most photographic masterpieces are of other subjects than test charts, or that few people actually care about sharpness when looking at photographic art. Dagens Nyheter[b], Sweden's largest morning newspaper has a photo exhibition a couple of months ago. Not only did the photos have high-ISO noise all over them, visible pixels, motion blur, focus blur and all kinds of lens aberrations - they were also absolutely wonderful. Ignore, also, the laws of physics and any mention of depth-of-field or the management thereof. For example, when shooting a target scene with a depth exceeding the DOF of the lens, complain that parts are out of focus. Finally, completely ignore any in-camera sharpening settings and post-processing.
Online petitions and action groups are formed. How dare they release a camera with such obvious defects?
People start making empty threats to leave their current camera brand. After all, haven't their loyal purchases completely failed to make them master photographers, as the ads implied? Obviously the camera manufacturer hasn't upheld their end of the deal.
Meanwhile, the people who know their stuff (mentioned in step 3), keep turning out great shots.
The next camera comes along and we start over at step 1.
It's painful to watch. Pretty much all these people would be much better off if they just took their camera out and tried to be creative instead of spewing bile or pixel-peeping and fretting over insignificant defects in a forum. For some people there is no problem too small to be unsurmountable. I learn more in five seconds out shooting than in an hour wading through a forum. They really do "corrupt the youth".
There are two kinds of photographers: those who make pictures, and those who talk about it.
Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com makes a note of the internet forum approach to quality control:
Roger's Rule of Problem Announcements: Once its announced that 5% of lens X has a certain problem, 50% of the members of any online forum will announce their lens has the problem. Whether they own lens X or not.