I See No Difference

Hmm. “Unscientific test, I see no difference.” 

I encounter this illogic all the time. Some form of casual testing takes place, almost always without tight and well-considered controls, and then an incorrect conclusion that is essentially confirmation bias ensues. 

I’m a bit stunned at how often in society—not just in camera discussions—I see this same pattern repeating over and over these days. As a society we seem to be mistrusting facts, science, and statistical analysis more and more, and just making a lame effort that wouldn’t pass peer review in order to support a position we want to believe. And when peers do complain about our lax efforts/conclusions, then those peers are attacked as “not getting it.” 

We have autos, planes, phones, homes, computers, grocery stores, cameras, and pretty much everything else you see around you because someone did pay attention to facts, science, and analysis. To some degree, the casual hunch/observation that's a relative to uncontrolled testing is a negative response to the rapid pace of change caused by those who are following facts, science and analysis. But let me point out that if a lion were charging you, you wouldn’t want to be casual about anything: you’d want to know what your best option for survival was and why, and you would have wanted to learn that from those around you that know. Worldwide, we have a lot of lions charging us, including a virus pandemic. 

Now whether image A from camera A looks slightly better (or slightly worse) to you than image B from camera B definitely isn’t a charging lion (well, it might be to a pro trying to make a living against other pros who know what they’re doing and who are constantly improving their output). The fact that we aren’t talking about a charging lion with most camera and lens reviews wouldn’t change the fact that one of those images is probably better than the other. It’s just that the casual evaluator says the do but really doesn’t care about that. But again, for most readers it’s not a charging lion, so who cares?

One problem with this “I did an unscientific test and didn’t see any difference” attitude is that it starts to be repeated for everything by the practitioner, even for things where the correct and more considered approach might reveal a real difference. 

This gets me back to one of my long-time points: you have wants versus needs. Don’t get them confused. A need has to be evaluated with facts, science, and analysis to get to the best (right) answer. If sharpness is a necessity to your imaging, you do need a scientific, controlled tests to know which lens produces more MTF (and where it does that, and whether that triggers other optical issues you might need to know about). You also need to know how post processing sharpening is different than capture optimization (e.g. what the lens/sensor do). 

Much of what drives the camera market however is not need, but want. And specifically “I want my images to look better.” I’ll remind everyone that you can get that result not just by buying new/different equipment, but by learning and getting better at technique, and yes, by post processing. I did an unscientific test on that, and it proved I'm right ;~).

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