Today if you want to buy a digital camera, and especially if you’re new to photography, it can be quite difficult to choose a camera from all the many different brands and models out there. The market is saturated with all kinds of cameras with various capabilities at price ranges from $200 to $8000 and more. In addition there are many websites on the Internet where you can find reviews for cameras which can often be many pages long containing all kinds of technical information which may or may not mean something to you. Making things even more difficult is the fact that on these review sites the reviewers often give a very subjective rating to the cameras. For example, if you compare the Nikon D7000 with the Canon EOS 60D on Dpreview, the Nikon D7000 has a score of 80% while the Canon EOS 60D has a score of 79% making it seem like these cameras are practically similar and that it almost wouldn’t matter which one you choose. But this is very far from the truth. Dpreview used to be a lot worse in the past, where almost all cameras got a simple “Highly Recommended” rating in the end, making you wonder why you’re spending time reading 20-page reviews if every camera is highly recommended anyway. Many other review sites have similar issues.
Enter Snapsort, a refreshingly simple and easy to navigate website that helps you to quickly and easily go through a whole database of currently available cameras to find exactly what you’re looking for.
The Snapsort website has a very simple and clean layout making it very fast and easy to navigate. At any given time only the information you need is being displayed, which is a big difference compared to other sites that surround the content with all kinds of unnecessary information. When I saw Snapsort initially, the thought that came to my mind immediately is that this is the Google of the camera review websites. And this for many more reasons than just the website layout.
Snapsort cares about what the user wants and gives the user all the tools he needs to help him make a choice. As soon as you’re on the site, you get presented with 4 options right at the top: Explore, Compare, Learn and Just tell me! You can choose an option under Explore if you want to start looking at cameras based on a combination of criteria which you can define yourself out of a list of possible options. Snapsort even provides you with simple explanations for all of the available criteria options. Are you looking for an entry-level DSLR costing around $700? No problem, just select those options and do a search. But what if you also want just the cameras in that price range that can record HD quality movies? Simply add the Movie Format criteria to your criteria list and search again. All kinds if combinations are possible. I’m not kidding when I say that in just a few seconds you can have a pretty good recommendation on what camera to buy.
If you click on one of the cameras in the search results, Snapsort gives you detailed information about its capabilities with pictures of the camera. What I find important here is that you can easily see how it ranks compared to other similar cameras and other cameras in the same price range.
If you want to have detailed information of how it compares to its competitors, you just have to click on the “Competitors” link at the top. You then get a list of other cameras that your currently selected camera can be compared to. Not only that, but Snapsort even tells you in a nutshell what the differences between the cameras are and lists the important advantages and disadvantages of each model so that you can choose more easily. And all of this on a single page in just a few lines.
If you want a more detailed comparison, you can click on a “Compare” link provided below each competing camera which will take you to another page with a more detailed comparison. Snapsort then provides all the relevant information you need in order to make a decision that will best suit your needs.
But what I really like about this is that Snapsort also gives you a clear recommendation on which camera you should buy. This is a huge plus compared to other review websites and very helpful to users who can’t make a decision based on camera specifications alone (for example those who don’t know very much about photography or are new to photography). You’ve got to have huge balls to be able to specifically recommend a camera to the user above another model, and Snapsort does this. Remember the example I gave at the beginning of this post of the scores of the Nikon D7000 (80%) and the Canon EOS 60D (79%) on Dpreview? How difficult wouldn’t it have been for you to make a decision based on that? Instead, Snapsort clearly tells you what you should buy: The Nikon D7000. Also notice that the scores of these cameras on Snapsort differ a LOT more from each other compared to Dpreview, and this is very consistent with reality (check my review of the Canon EOS 60D for more on this).
I’ve tried a number of different possibilities and comparisons, and so far I found myself agreeing with all of the recommendations that Snapsort made. This will save many users a huge amount of time and will help them spend their money wisely. And speaking of spending your money wisely, a killer feature on Snapsort is the “Just tell me!” option, where you can simply enter the amount of money you want to spend on a camera and let Snapsort give you a number of possibilities to choose from. Depending on your needs (do you want an ultra-compact camera or, for example, a waterproof camera?) you can start to look at the possibilities in a category that makes sense to you.
It may not be apparent to many people, but these days it is very difficult to find objective information on the Internet on camera review sites. Most of the popular sites such as Dpreview accept money or favors from camera manufacturers in various ways (mostly through advertising and sponsorships) and can be biased as a result. Many people have had negative comments made on Dpreview forums deleted and got banned there for expressing criticism. As far as I can tell, right now all the information Snapsort provides to users is very objective and transparent. Even their scoring system is very transparent and shows you exactly how they calculate the scores of all the cameras. And I love their no-nonsense approach. Most important here is that Snapsort uses data from DXOMark for DSLR cameras to rate the image quality and low light sensitivity among other things. And this data is highly objective and highly reliable. One thing I can guarantee you is that if you’re looking for cameras with the best image quality, you can blindly trust the recommendations on Snapsort. As far as I know, Snapsort is one of the first websites to rate cameras based on a high importance of image quality and is the first to use this to directly influence buying decisions. Users are being educated on the fact that higher megapixel numbers on cameras don’t necessarily mean that the camera is better compared to others with less megapixels. So when you compare cameras on Snapsort for the best image quality, you can rest assured that Snapsort will always show you which one has the best image quality.
Room for Improvement
I’m sure the guys at Snapsort have a big list of features they want to add to the website. There’s always room for improvement but there’s not a lot you can tackle at the same time. One of the things that is missing right now on Snapsort and that I hope will get on there in the future is the ability to also compare cameras based on build quality and the level of weather sealing. Another option, which in my opinion is just as important as image quality on a camera, is the ability to compare cameras based on the accuracy, speed and level of sophistication of their autofocus systems. I know that to objectively gather this data for many camera models is not an easy task, but it would totally rock if this could be taken along with image quality and other criteria to help users make a better buying decision. In my opinion the most important features on any camera are the image quality and the autofocus capabilities, because if one of those has a problem, the quality of your images will surely suffer.
What about Lenses?
So now you have a camera recommendation from Snapsort, but in the case of a DSLR, which lenses should you buy? Well, the choice for lenses is almost as difficult to make as cameras these days. There are many options out there from various manufacturers and for various purposes. Some lenses may or may not (completely) work on your camera. So what to do? Fortunately you can get help with this on Lenshero.
Lenshero has the same simplicity and user centric approach as Snapsort. If you open the Lenshero website, the first thing you get asked is the type of camera you own (this is important since each camera model uses specific lenses) and what your budget is. Then you can also choose what style of photography you want to use the lens for. No technical stuff whatsoever, just plain and simple questions complete with examples so that any user can understand.
Once you’ve specified what you’re looking for and click on the big “GO” button, Lenshero gives you a list of possibilities in the lens explorer. There you can view all lenses and compare their features. Similar to Snapsort you can choose from a list of criteria to refine your search. You have the ability to make your own combinations of these criteria to find exactly what you’re looking for.
If you click on a lens in the explorer, you can view details for that lens such as compatibility information, pros and cons and lens specifications.
While Lenshero is already very good right now to help you go through the large amount of lenses that are available and help you to make a choice, what I’m missing is the ability to compare lenses similar to how you can compare cameras on Snapsort. Most importantly, the ability to see and compare the performance of these lenses, the build quality and the level of weather sealing. It would be very helpful to compare the sharpness (or resolution) of all these lenses as this is very important to image quality. DXOMark already has this capability, though their database currently only has the performance data for a relatively small amount of lenses. Perhaps this is also one of the reasons why it’s not yet integrated into Lenshero. It may also be a feature that is on the to-do list of the developers at Lenshero. But I hope that in the future the lens performance data will also be available on Lenshero and that there will also be an objective rating system similar to the one on Snapsort that will help users choose the best lens for their camera. The lens performance data is important because, for example, a more expensive lens doesn’t neccessarily have to be a better performing lens. On DXOMark I found out that the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens was a lot better than the more expensive Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM lens when you consider the image quality you can get from it. Ofcourse the 50mm f/1.2 lens has a better build quality (more metal, weather sealing etc.) than the 50mm f/1.4 lens, but if image quality is important to you instead of build quality, then you could choose the cheaper lens in this case and have more money left to buy an additional lens.
I think that Snapsort and Lenshero together form an excellent combination of tools to help people make a decision on what camera and lenses they should buy. For a while now I’ve been sending everyone who asks me about cameras and lenses to these two websites. Snapsort alone has the potential to become the Google of the digital camera industry. Together with Lenshero it could become THE destination on the Internet for quick and objective camera buying advice in the future.