The Gear Head Pixel Peeper Quiz

Published December 10, 2011

I admit it. I am a card-carrying gear-head pixel-peeper. But I have an excuse (well, at least now I do): gear is my business. There was a time, before I got honest with myself, when I thought I was a just a photographer who was really interested in the tools of my craft. Eventually, I came to admit that I’m more interested in how the tools create the image than the image the tools create. In other words I’d rather be chief mechanic than drive the race car. That’s OK, the photography world needs some good mechanics.

But there are still a lot of you out there who haven’t gotten honest yet. Overcoming your denial and admitting you have a problem is the first step. So I’ve developed this little quiz to help you decide if you’re a photographer or a gear-head.

Photographer or Gearhead?

1. When you evaluate a photograph, the first thing you look at is the:

  1. Composition
  2. Lighting
  3. EXIF data

2. When considering a new lens purchase, you check online for

  1. Best price
  2. Images other photographers shot with that Lens
  3. MTF charts and lens element diagrams

3. The next camera you plan on buying

  1. Has been around long enough that the price has dropped significantly. It’s a bargain now.
  2. Is pricey, but you have to pay to get the latest technology.
  3. Hasn’t been released yet, but the word from Rumors.com is it will be awesome.

4. When you wake up and see bright sunshine your first thought is

  1. Oh, no! I missed the Golden Hour
  2. Maybe it will be overcast later and I can get some good shots
  3. Wonderful! I’ve been wanting to test my lenses for flare and ghosting

5. When your new lens arrives the first thing you do is

  1. Take some pictures and see if you like the images
  2. Take 3 shots of each of 4 test charts, repeating at several focal lengths
  3. Same as #2, but also compare it to the other 3 copies of that lens you ordered so you can keep the sharpest one.

6. After a day taking pictures you first

  1. Go through the images to see which you want to print
  2. Ask other photographers to critique your work and make suggestions for improving your technique
  3. View the images at 100% on your monitor to see how much detail your lens resolved.

7. The most common place you post your photographs online is

  1. Flickr, Photobucket or pBase
  2. Your own website
  3. A forum under the heading “Is my lens sharp?”

8. When you notice dust in your most expensive lens you think

  1. OMG is that going to show up in my pictures??
  2. Not surprising, as much as I use that thing
  3. I need to get a dust-free, climate controlled enclosure to store my collection

9. Coma is

  1. A state of unconsciousness
  2. A common misspelling of a punctuation mark
  3. One of the 5 third-order lens aberrations

10. Your favorite lens

  1. Is never in your camera bag because it’s always mounted to your camera
  2. Is always in your camera bag in case you need it for that special shot
  3. Is on your desk near the computer where you can look at it while thrashing those who make negative comments about it in the forums

12. Your favorite photographic subjects are (in order)

  1. Your children, pets, and beautiful scenery
  2. Landscapes, architecture, and sunsets
  3. ISO-12233, AF1951, and LensAlign

13. A 50mm prime lens is

  1. An indispensable tool every photographer should own
  2. No longer necessary since excellent zooms cover that range
  3. A double-gauss design that is likely to have spherical aberration and astigmatism

14. When taking a group portrait you mentally calculate

  1. How to pose the subjects to form a pleasing geometry
  2. The angle of primary lighting to avoid a low-contrast image
  3. The depth of field of your 50mm lens at f/1.4 and a distance of 12 feet.

15. Photographing the stars at night

  1. Not something I do, I’m not spending that much for a tripod and cable release
  2. A marvelous way to create romantic, different images
  3. A great way to evaluate coma and astigmatism


1 point for every time you chose Answer #3

5 points if you chose answer #3 to question 5

Bonus points:

+ 1 if you own your own ISO-12233 test chart

+ 2 if you’ve ever taken a picture OF your new lens before you’ve taken a picture WITH your new lens

If  you scored 0 to 5, you have limited gear-head potential

6 to 9 points, you may just be a gear-head

10-to 14 points, you definitely are a gear-head pixel-peeper

15 points or more: please send your resume and salary requirements to Lensrentals.com We need people like you.

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Lensrentals.com. Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Other
  • Agent K

    The correct answer to question 5 should have been: “take a test shot of my cat and post it on one of the forums”


  • Hmm. I’m not sure exactly what I scored. I’m in between on too many items. Do I get multiple +2’s of I’ve taken pictures of multiple lenses before song them? One of those was your fault Roger when I got my 10-22 from you guys. 🙂
    I’m definitely a gear head though I definitely do a bit of everything but I’m sad I didn’t score 15.

  • I would fault only your conclusion. I have fabulous gearhead *potential*, I just don’t succumb to it. I’m proud to have scored a perfect zero. 🙂

    Though slightly less proud of blowing coffee out my nose at question 9. 😉

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  • I scored 7…which is…shockingly low given the amount of flak i receive sometimes for the large number of lenses I’ve owned (Needs/wants change….So do lenses, Thankfully they hold their value well!)

    That said, I also enjoy sharing my experience with people and trying to help out on forums when people ask “Should I buy x or y” and I’ve even written up a few real-world types of reviews and that to help folks out (i think the most famous is my review of the Canon 15-85 because I think i was one of the very first folks to own one…)

  • Carl

    I scored a 4, and only Roger or some millionaire could answer #3 on question 5…And yea it’s odd that question 11 is missing…it must be some inside joke.

    I consider myself a pixel peeper, but also a good photographer (maybe I’m not world class, but so what? Annie Liebowitz supposedly is, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to do what she does). So I guess like most tests, I score somewhere off of them…I had more than one answer for several of the questions…and I would have probably asked different questions to begin with.

    Regarding dust…well…I have seen dust in my photographs, from the lens’ internal elements…even on one I rented from LR…my FAVORITE…the Canon 200 f/2. I saw it when photographing a mountain that had sky in the image…the de-focused spots were clearly visible (especially after some extreme exposure/contrast tweaking in ACR with its grad-filter).

    Of course, this was with the lens closed down to the extreme, to f/29 if I remember correctly (I wanted to include some foreground wildflowers). It looks like that lens was only purchased by Roger about a month before I rented it, and I know I didn’t expose it to any excessive dust environment…My theory is some dust gets in there during the manufacturing process. Given it was relatively new and “weather sealed”, I can’t conclude much else. I doubt this is something Roger looks for, though. It certainly doesn’t show in normal conditions / shots.

    I first saw similar dust spots via one of my own lenses…then when I installed a 2x teleconverter, on it and took shoots of sky while closed down to f/64, the dust showed up very sharply focused. Now I’m beginning to realize MOST lenses have such dust internally…so I guess if you want to avoid seeing it, don’t shoot sky (or other brightly diffuse backgrounds) while fully closed down on a telephoto lens…

    I am fairly meticulous about dust, and also it’s not like I live in a desert. So I really don’t think the dust was my own fault.

    Regarding 200 f/2’s…even though I don’t have test equipment, I can definitely attest to the sharpness very slowly falling off somewhere above f/4, although I was surprised that even at f/29, everything still looked fairly sharp and contrasty, much more than my own smaller L series telephoto appears when closed down that far.

    For a shot at f/2, taken at infinity focus, I could turn the sharpness slider up fairly high at .5 radius in ACR, and turn the detail slider up as well…and the detail just kept coming, with no apparent artifacts. So I saved as a TIFF, scaled the image up to like 10,000 x 6500, and only then did I find the limitation of the image. Of course it was more a limitation of Photoshop’s ability to scale an image that started out with all the quirks digital sensors have (aliasing, etc), than it was a lack of resolution from that super AWESOME Canon lens!

    Santa, I want a 200 f/2 for Christmas!!

  • Todd

    Any bonus points for noticing question 11 is missing? If not – only one point.

    Love the blog!


  • Ken Owen

    “Bonus points: + 1 if you own your own ISO-12233 test chart” LOL!!!
    I’m definitely a gearhead because I follow LensRentals’ blog – I mean that in a good way, of course.

  • Roger Cicala

    Thank you, Zig. You’ve exposed the shortcomings of my little quize quite effectively. Obviously it’s too blunt a tool. But I’ll be waiting for your resume. Or at least for you to guest blog a post or two 🙂

  • Siegfried

    Excellent quiz, thanks a lot. Please advise whether I get any extra points if I’ve dismantled 25 lenses (13 of which were surgeried for 98% curiosity just to see what they’re made of; and I was lucky to put 24 of those 25 back on) If not then I’m 2.5 only, since moire interference technique doesn’t count here then I kinda need to get some Lensalign – gonna try my luck on fleebay.
    Lemme know if overseas applicants are permitted to challenge for that position


  • Roger Cicala

    Samuel, I should have put bonus points for having your own lens review site. I’ll be waiting for your resume. 🙂


  • this is not well designed

    I have tested all my lenses for sharpness and bokeh, and uploaded the results to my own web:

    and still I only scored 5??? not fair, dude, not fair… 🙂

    (yes, I get the message: go out and shoot… but it’s cold outside…)

  • Patrick Manning

    I scored a three as well, but consider myself to be kind of a gear head since I want one of everything (ok, really two, in case I break one) to have the right tool for everything and anything…. Well, the high end-stuff, anyway. (And you guys have helped in that, to the detriment of my credit card.)

  • Anthony

    For me, the answer to #15 is 4) a easier way to test a lens’ focal length when focused to infinity than taking it into a dark room and measuring the projection of a square from your phone screen. Seriously, that stuff is a pain to do in the dark!

    Final score: 17 — I’m gonna start ordering multiple copies of my lenses because of question 5.

  • Hi Roger,

    Cool quiz. I scored 3, which is interesting considering how much gear I have gone through.

    Thanks, Jim, jcolwell@fm

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