There's an old saying among lawyers, in many variations, but all are similar to this:
"If you have the facts, pound home the facts. If you have the law, pound home the law. If you have neither, pound on the table."
For photography, I would assume it would go something like this:
"If you have the technology, pound home the technology. If you have better images, pound home the images. If you have neither, blow smoke up their . . . . "
Because most companies apparently use the third option for most of their marketing, I am left to assume none of them are comfortable that their technology or images are significantly better than the competition's.
You may wonder why I care. There's a pretty simple reason: I'm a gear head. I want facts. Marketing drivel makes it even harder to find the little bit of factual information that the manufacturers grudgingly release. It gets lost in all the meaningless marketing noise.
I spent as much time as I could stand wandering through the various advertisements and web pages of a few camera companies, finding some gems to nominate for "awfulness" awards.
I planned on calling them The Innovative, Groundbreaking, World-Class, Next-Generation, State-of-the-Art, Fastest, Revolutionary, Feature-Rich, Bad Photography Marketing Awards, since those seem to be the most overused catch phrases.
Unfortunately that already wouldn't fit on our blog page. I thought of calling them The Rogers, kind of like the Oscars, but then found out I was nominated for one. If I won, it would seem kind of fixed with Roger winning a Roger. So Bad Marketing Awards it is.
Voting is simple: just go to this Survey Monkey, place your vote for each nominee, and we'll tally them up after a couple of weeks and announce the winners.
Why just a couple of weeks? Because I'll bet right now that half these award nominees quietly disappear from those websites pretty soon. If they do, I will rest easy knowing I've finally made a real contribution to photography.
This is by no means a complete list. But after a few hours of reading what passes for copy at most photography websites, I felt my IQ dropping, and I was starting to talk in worn-out catch phrases.
When I told my wife her new dress was feature-rich yet had an intuitive, easy-to-use interface, my internet connection got unplugged. So please feel free to add your own nominee as a comment. (If this gets anything like the Hammerforum.com post, the comments will be far more entertaining than the blog post.)
The Category Nominees
1) The Count von Count Award
The nominees are:
Nikon for the D800: "36.3 MP means true 1080p HD cinematic quality video." Let's see, HD video is 1920 X 1080 pixels which equals 2.1 megapixels. I'm thinking pretty much everybody has 2.1 megapixels.
Olympus for the OM-D E-M5: "The E-M5 is equipped with the world's first 5-axis image stabilization system, and can compensate for vertical, horizontal, and rotational camera shake." OK, vertical is one . . .
Olympus for the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f4.8-6.7: "[It] is the world's smallest and lightest 600mm super telephoto lens." Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm really pretty insulted you thought I needed you to point that out to me. Not to mention it's always been my dream to handhold 600mm at f/6.7.
2) The Doublespeak Award (AKA the "It's a Feature" Award)
To qualify as doublespeak, the phrase must "deliberately disguise, distort, or reverse the meaning in order to deceive."
The number of nominees in this category was simply staggering. This, of course, is the equivalent to "Best Actor" and "Best Director" wrapped up in one for marketing copywriters. I did my best to pick a true winner, but my brain became numb.
First up is Canon for the EF-S 17-85mm: "The EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM is a perfect example of this technology." I've shot extensively with that lens. It's a perfect example of no technology, unless you consider compromised quality to be a technology.
Second nominee is again Canon for the PowerShot s100: "[...] high-sensitivity 12.1 Megapixel 1/1.7-type CMOS sensor." It may be highly sensitive to something but obviously not pixels. Unless they wrote this back in 2007 for some other camera and just copy-pasted it.
Third we have Panasonic for the G5:
"The LUMIX G5 offers users simple operation controls with minimal stress, so users can concentrate on shooting. A newly added function lever conveniently located near the shutter release allows for direct adjustment of zoom, exposure or aperture control and can be used to magnify images in playback mode and page flip in menu mode."
Yes, I want a lever capable of changing exposure and aperture control right under my shutter-button finger. How convenient is that??
3) The "Just Zip It" Award
These aren't quite doublespeak because they don't disguise or distort. They don't make the "Say Whhaaat?" category because you can understand what they're trying to say--you just can't believe they tried to say it.
Olympus for the OM-D E-M5: "6:6 [aspect ratio] that emulates the medium format look." We probably have a clear winner here--because we all get micro 4/3 cameras so we can emulate that medium format look.
Olympus for the M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f2.0: "It is great for tracking a moving child or pet." I'd use a GPS device myself. Even then I'm not sure why 12mm would be particularly good for photographing a moving child or pet.
Nikon for the D800: "DX crop mode to maximize [...] angle of view[...]" You forgot "and nuke image quality" or "if you don't have Photoshop." Or lots of things like that.
Lensrentals.com for the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 G: "They say the main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. I’m so jolly because I know where all the good lenses live." What can I say? It's a gift. And no, I didn't nominate myself for my own award. The staff insisted via early write-in ballots.
Sigma for the 300-800mm lens: "A perfect lens for surveillance use, its stealth black finish is unobtrusive and easily concealed." OK, exactly how do I easily conceal this 3-foot long, 13-pound lens? Or is unobtrusive the same as incredibly huge?
4) The Daytime Drama Dialogue Award
To be nominated in this category, the copy had to 1) make me distinctly nauseous and 2) make me think "you have absolutely no facts worth using, do you?"
The first nomination goes to Nikon (or maybe Ashton) for the J1: "Your zest for life is fueled by a desire to communicate all that you experience. Share the very incredible world that is yours with Nikon 1." I almost hurled again just pasting it in here. I apologize to myself for putting this on my own blog page. I think the complete text should read "share the very incredible world that is yours with both of your Facebook friends."
The second nomination is Olympus for the OM-D E-M5: "When shooting, the photographer can instantly 'create' a truly unique world and preserve it in exceptional quality. The 'world' will be transformed from something you see to something you 'take part' in." This one also receives a special nomination for most use of quotation marks in a single sentence.
And back to Nikon for the V1: "Nikon 1 V1 for your pursuit to express every moment of life. Your photography sparks conversations—the Nikon 1 V1 helps you interpret all. Set your creative freedom free with an imaging system designed for today and tomorrow." You think there's any chance the same person wrote copy for both the J1 and V1? Just maybe?
Finally, with all due modesty, I must nominate Lensrentals.com for the Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II: "When the lens mount hits your camera and you raise the two in unison to your face, sparks will fly and the stars will align. You’ll find yourself in the land of Phototopia, full of razor-sharp images." It may not have the widespread exposure of the other nominees, but like an Indie film nominated for an Oscar, the critics will all love this one.
5) The "Say Whhaaat?" Award
These were, I think, attempts to get into the doublespeak category but were so bizarre I'm not even certain what they meant to say.
Canon for the G12: "[...] 720p HD Video with stereo sound to get crystal clear footage." The last time I heard footage was . . . well, it was a really long time ago and some magic mushrooms were involved. Thinking back though, maybe I saw music. I'm not sure. Looks like some Canon copywriters are expanding their consciousness.
Sigma for the 150-500mm: "[...] allows photographers to freely explore the flexibility of a telephoto zoom lens." This almost made the Daytime Drama awards and probably would have if they'd gone on just a bit longer. But I remain rather puzzled about the concept of freely exploring lenses. If I want to explore a lens, I take it apart. Otherwise I take pictures with it.
"Touch screen operation on the LCD screen allows for simple shooting or playback of images and the new Touch Pad function enables the use of both LVF and LCD simultaneously, which encourages more intuitive shooting."
I'm truly, truly trying to understand what this means. Especially how using both LVF and LCD simultaneously can encourage me to be intuitive. This was a near nominee in the Grammar Checker category also.
6) The "You're Letting the Intern Write Copy, Aren't You?" Award
The first nominee is Panasonic for this doozy of a sentence:
"When used with the LUMIX G5, the full line of high-grade lens combines with its precision AF (Auto Focus) to achieve high resolutions, with an optimal balance of resolution and noise reduction to produce lifelike image rendering and high precision auto exposure and white balance for faithful color reproduction."
By the way, Panasonic, does that mean that the full line of high-grade lenses doesn't do any of that stuff on my GH-2? And also, by the way, where do we divide the high-grade lenses from the low-grade lenses? I mean, if you've got some high-grade ones, you must have some low-grade ones, right?
The second nominee is Fuji for the X100: "23mm F2 Single Focal Lens (Equivalent to 35mm/135 Format)." I'm not familiar with the 35mm/135 format.
Author's note: Obviously I screwed up on this one. Having begun photography with digital (Apple Quick Take in 1994 and digital microscopy processed through NIH Image) to an EOS D30 I don't know my film terms, obviously. So on this one you can laugh at me rather than Fuji.
Third, and nearly sweeping the nominations, is Panasonic for the G5:
"Featuring a compact, lightweight body with built-in flash, the LUMIX G5 boasts ultra-high mobility while offering users a powerful camera performance which achieves spectacular image quality, realizing true-to-life photo details through excellent resolution, image rendering and color production."
7) Worst Graphic or Chart
For this category, we have Canon for the indecipherable icon feature charts. Decide which of these, for example, is the $6,000 camera and which is the $800 camera.
Canon for their "Creativity in Motion" graph.
I guess the units for the X-axis are numbers. Maybe you count up the number of icons each camera gets from the nominee above. But what are the units for creativity? Minutes of footage?
Assuming it's a linear graph, then is it accurate to say the EOS C300 is 2.85 times as creative as a Powershot S100? Or is it logarithmic and the C300 is actually 2,850 times as creative as the S100? I'm confused.
Sony for the NEX Lens Roadmap graphic. Could it possibly be any more vague?
Compare it to the Fuji X roadmap or the micro 4/3 roadmap. No, really it's better if you don't. They actually have radical things like telling you the focal length and aperture of the upcoming lenses.
And Finally, A Winner by Default
Worst Website Makeover Award
This one is not even close: Nikon wins by a landslide.
I just don't see how anyone can compete in this category. This could be a Lifetime Achievement Award kind of thing. Never have so few web designers done so much, in so short a time, to ruin a good website.
It's sad, really. Nikon for years has had perhaps the easiest-to-navigate, cleanly-information-packed website of all the camera makers. I guess they thought cleanly presented factual information just went out of style.
It starts on the main page where the head banner rotates through various products, including your usual tattooed girl with bizarre hair and a snake.
Below that, of course, things get really bizarre. We get introduced to the current Holy Trinity of Nikon: the V1/J1 camera, the 18-300 lens, and . . . Ashton. If I'm going to Nikon's page, those are the three things I want to see first. (Not!!)
"Small is now Huge." What does that mean, really? Are we talking about cameras still, or are we talking about Ashton? Now we can go directly from the front page of Nikon USA to the "Ashton Website" and see such photographically important things as Ashton getting covered with aluminum tinsel and shot out of a cannon.
I guess Nikon missed that cannon-Canon reference. It is sort of a good start, though, because they need to blow this stuff up quickly.
Can we please, please go back to the Nikon USA website pre-Ashton?
Not to Mention Nikon Starts a New Lens Grouping Standard
I still expected that once I got past the front-page fluff I'd be back in logical Nikon land.
Not so much. If you click on the lenses section, you enter a reality distortion field. I expected an overview page where I could select wide-angle, standard or telephoto. Maybe they would also be separated into zooms and primes. We all know the drill.
But Nnnnoooooo! I get to choose from the following categories:
- Travel and Landscape Lenses
- People and Event Lenses
- Sports and Action Lenses
- Macro Lenses
OK, I know what's behind curtain No. 4. But what the hell are those other things? I want to look into some wide aperture lenses. Where do I go? Travel and Landscape maybe. I'll try that.
Travel and Landscape does, indeed, have the Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 and the 16-35mm f/4 VR. But it doesn't have the 14-24mm f/2.8 or 12-24mm f/4 DX. So I guess I shouldn't use those two for landscape work. Or maybe I'm not supposed to travel with them.
I'm really, really trying to figure out why the landscape and travel category contains those first two but not the second two. I'm also wondering where the 14-24mm f/2.8 could be.
Ah! I found the 14-24mm f/2.8. It's a Sports and Action lens! Of course! You see it on the sidelines at all those sporting events, right?
But wait! The Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 is also a sports and action lens. So it's twice as useful. Uh-oh. Wait. I got that wrong. It's three times as useful. Because it appears the 10-24mm is also a People and Events lens.
I knew that. Well, actually, no I didn't.
The 300mm f/4 is also a People and Events lens. But it's not a Sports and Action Lens. The 80-400 is a Sports and Action Lens, though. (It says "freeze the excitement" at the top of the Sports and Action page-- that's what I reach for to freeze the action: an f/5.6 zoom with nearly adequate image quality.)
I did find one way to navigate Nikon's lens pages without going insane. Use the Wayback Machine to look at versions a few months old. Things actually made sense then.
I will give an honorable mention award to Panasonic for their camera informational pages that run 10 to 12 screens long. I thought I was going to get carpal tunnel from spinning the scroll wheel while reading about a camera.
Hyperlinks, Panasonic. It's a new concept but I think it's going to catch on.
I know this isn't nearly all of them.
So leave a comment with your own nominee if you like. Otherwise, you can place your votes at this Survey Monkey.
Just for voting you can download this macro shot of a shorted-out PCB to use as a screen saver or background.
(This image is particularly useful when your computer-illiterate friend asks you to look at his laptop because it's running slow: you just download it, make it the background, tell him you've programmed the webcam to reverse itself and take a picture of the circuit board of the computer, showing him the problem. Then tell him it's not fixable so he should just give you the laptop before that burn spreads further.)
We'll tally things up and see if we can't send the winners something appropriate--like maybe a Thesaurus or something.