How we test and review products
Poke around in shelves and drawers in any PopPhoto staffer’s home or office, and you’ll find lots of gear kicking around. We’re constantly trying out the latest cameras, lenses, and accessories for our reviews program. Sure, we can’t test absolutely every new light or tripod out there (though we wish we could!), but our deep understanding of just about every aspect of the camera space still helps us sort essential pieces of kit from stuff that’s not worth your time or dollars.
Why trust PopPhoto
PopPhoto has a long history of delivering the opinions of some of the sharpest and most prolific camera dorks the world has to offer. Since 1937, we’ve been reviewing cameras, providing wisdom from well-known photographers, and generally just nerding out about all that goes into making great pictures. Our current crop of writers and editors have decades of professional photography and camera writing experience among them. Collectively, we’ve probably shot with just about every camera and lens combo you can imagine—as well as some obscure stuff you may not even know about. Remember the Casio Tryx folding camera? PopPhoto does.
We also get that buying a camera is a big decision, which is why we’re dedicated to helping folks choose the right one (or, in our case “ones”) for their needs. Case in point: Handing over top dollar for an expensive rig may leave you unsatisfied if it doesn’t fit your preferred shooting style. Sure, a $6,000 sports-oriented DSLR can capture landscapes, but do you really need to do it at 30 frames-per-second? No, you don’t.
What we test
When we tell people we review cameras and photo gear for a living, they automatically assume we’re talking about the high-end stuff. We’d be lying if we said we don’t get a kick out of toting around a Hasselblad medium format rig that costs more than some cars, but most people are doing impressive work with Fujifilm X-T4s, Canon R6s, Nikon Z6 IIs, Sony a7 IVs, or any number of other awesomely accessible cameras currently on the market.
Because of that photographic omnivorousness, we evaluate everything from basic 18-55mm kit lenses, to massive 600mm telephoto prime lenses that come with their own armored suitcase for transport. Though you’ll certainly see more that trend towards that first bucket than the second.
Photography also goes well beyond the camera and lens, so we review tripods, monitors, filters, memory cards, and just about every type of camera bag you could imagine. (Seriously, you should see our closets.) The list goes on. If you can use it to make a photo or a video, we want to try it out and let you know if it deserves a spot in your kit.
How we test and review products
PopPhoto once prided itself on some of the most extensive, lab-based camera and lens testing around. Those assessments were invaluable, but the world has changed. Megapixel counts have grown to absurd heights. Lenses now offer borderline ridiculous resolution and sharpness with impressive image stabilization. Just about any camera on the market is capable of pro work, which was not always the case. Lab results can be useful in painting a picture of a piece of kit’s precise performance, it’s far from the whole story.
As a result, our current testing methods focus primarily on the experiential aspects of the image-making process. Our collective decades of camera experience mean we know what makes a good camera. We take each piece of gear out for extended use in its intended environment—and also wildly out of its element to see how it performs.
For cameras, we emphasize shooting experience, build-quality, control layout, speed, and, of course, image quality. For a camera like the Canon R7, which is a sports rig, we took it to several spots to capture fast-action. For a more versatile model like the Sony a7 IV, we took it to a wide variety of spots and scenarios to see how adaptable it is (P.S.,very). We’ll typically hold onto cameras for extended periods of time in order to use them with a variety of lenses and in different situations. That way we can add or augment our reviews down the line.
Our process for testing lenses is similar. We rely on qualitative assessments based on the shooting experience. We see how the lens performs under optimal conditions and then we go hunting for its weaknesses. We test lenses across several different camera bodies whenever possible—and with both stills and motion because lenses aren’t always great at both.
Testing accessories can be trickier, but we have a network of pros and experts who help us with evaluating different types of gear. We also have great relationships with the companies themselves, so if something doesn’t seem right during a review, we can typically reach out and find out what’s up. (PopPhoto has, on more than one occasion, alerted companies to issues that would eventually get their own software fixes.)
When we’re putting together our “best of” roundups, we rely on a mixture of hands-on testing and research to hone lists from dozens of options to a few ideal products. We obviously prefer hands-on testing, but the sheer volume of stuff on the market prevents that. (Also, again, closet space.) For our research, we rely on trusted editorial reviews, user feedback, and spec sheets—something we definitely know our way around after all these years.
Here’s a guarantee: If you see an “Editor’s Choice” badge on any product on the site, it’s something our team has had hands-on experience with.
Affiliate disclosure and other rules of the road
In our coverage, you’ll find links to partners like Amazon, Adorama, Moment, B&H, and more. If you click on those links and buy something, we may earn a commission. These relationships in no way influence our recommendations and evaluations.
Camera companies also sometimes offer media outlets press trips to test out new gear in advance of its release. While the Canons and Sonys of the world may pay for travel and accommodations—which we’ll always be up front about—those trips also do not factor into our opinions and coverage of the gear itself. It has worked this way for decades.
Meet our experts
PopPhoto’s product coverage is led by Executive Gear Editor Stan Horaczek, who’s been working at PopPhoto in some capacity since 2008. He has worked as a professional photographer since 2004, and has written about cameras and consumer electronics for a wide array of national outlets. He has more cameras than he should and a mini fridge full of film in his office.