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How we test cameras and lenses

To help you make the right choice when it comes to buying new equipment, we use a wide range of tests designed to push photographic equipment to its limits. Our reviews are designed so it's easy to delve straight into the results or skip them entirely if you'd prefer the final verdict. If you belong to the former, here's more technical information on how we do the tests.

All the tests below are carried out with each camera mounted on a Manfrotto tripod with a model 410 geared head for precision adjustments. The shutter is then fired using the self-timer function to eliminate the possibility of camera shake.

Outdoor resolution and real-life noise

Camera Labs' outdoor test shot

Studio-based tests performed with charts at close range under artificial light have their place in all camera and lens reviews, but there's no substitute for comparing shots taken outdoors under natural light with the lens focused to infinity. Outdoor results are crucial for evaluating cameras and lenses but we believe they're of limited use when viewed in isolation. This is why at Cameralabs we always take a number of identical outdoor shots with both the product on test and one or more of its key rivals within moments of each other. This allows us to not only show how the camera or lens on test performs under common conditions, but crucially how it compares to a rival product.

Since outdoor conditions constantly vary, we have to take new rival comparison shots for every new camera or lens we test. Sourcing a relevant rival product and photographing exactly the same outdoor composition for every new camera or lens on test requires considerable effort, but we believe it's essential for a complete and fair evaluation.

In our latest reviews at Cameralabs, we publish results from two main tests performed under real-life conditions. The first tests for resolution and sharpness across the frame, while the second tests for noise levels and detail at different ISO and Noise Reduction settings. Both tests are performed with the camera on review and one or more of its key rivals within moments of each other to give you a unique indication of how they compare in real life.

We additionally include a number of Gallery shots for every product, showcasing its features and revealing any compromised aspects. We always include 100% crops for each sample and describe not just the settings used, but how the camera or lens performed during the shot. We also make an effort to show the products used in a variety of environments as they would in real life. Up until 2012, Gordon's camera reviews featured views around Queenstown, New Zealand, and since then most of his test shots are taken around his new home town of Brighton by the seaside in the UK. Lens tester Thomas uses expansive landscape views for his tests in Southern Germany, while Ken McMahon heads to various fishing towns around Cornwall in the UK's Southwest for his compact reviews.

Thomas additionally uses Focal software for lens calibration. Many thanks to Reikan for their support with our tests.

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2017 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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