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Author Topic: "Sommelier or snob"  (Read 21560 times)

hjulenissen

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"Sommelier or snob"
« on: March 09, 2015, 05:25:15 AM »

This is an analogy that is brought into discussions occasionally, so I am happy that Michael has brought it up.

"So to argue whether a wine or a lens is worth a certain price requires that one understand the background of the person making the argument. If they have the credentials, and make an observation or judgment on something within their field of expertise, then maybe one should listen-up. If they’re a neophyte with an opinion, and not much else, then maybe just nod, smile, and have another sip of wine."

This is certainly one side of the story. Someone who has dedicated large amount of time and resources on a subject might be expected to have more knowledge than the average person. There is, however, another side. Are anyone spending 4 or 12 hours a day on any subject automatically world-authorities on that subject? Throw in any controversial subject you like (homeopathy, global warming, etc).

Clearly, being very interested in something, living and breathing that subject and spending all of your money on something does not necessarily make your opinions "right". This is the reason that appeal to authority is a bad concept, authority so often have proven to be wrong. Good, thought-out arguments, supported by transparent chain of evidence and a convincing genuine interest in understanding the position of those participating in the discussion seems to be a much better path towards progress*). This is hard because it takes more time and more people-skills than simply calling people "neophytes" (I had to look that one up).


Interestingly, (at least some) sommeliers actually expose their supposed abilities to blind testing. While some fail, some seem to consistently be able to classify wines that I will never be able to do. This makes me respect their abilities and trade as something more substantial than snobbery, even though I (like Michael) may never be able to reach their levels personally.

Once a person (with some confidence) can reliably pick out (and prefer) the $200 wine from the $20 wine (or a $20000 camera from a $2000 one), the matter of if it is "worth it" is quite subjective and a matter of disposable income. Both are quite hard to argue. I do believe that the analogy has only limited value here, as reliable scientific (or science-inspired) tests for wine are reasonable to design, while similar tests for cameras are difficult and will typically only test one of several relevant aspects.

-h
*)progress as in "humanity improving their collective understanding of a subject"
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 05:41:53 AM by hjulenissen »
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ivanljb

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2015, 06:01:57 AM »

Hi Mr Reichmann,

May I know the purpose of the 2 photos posted in "Sommelier or snob"?
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michael

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2015, 08:31:20 AM »

Hi Mr Reichmann,

May I know the purpose of the 2 photos posted in "Sommelier or snob"?

Their purpose is to provide visual interest on a page that would otherwise be just text. This is a site about photography, after all, and so it seems appropriate to "decorate" it with such, even if there isn't a direct contextual link between them.

Michael
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Alain Cornet

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2015, 09:04:59 AM »

Now LL should organize photographic blind tests !
A kind of contest to designate the photographic Sommelier de l'année ...
Could be fun
cheers,
Alain



ps: I like the new LL website and the rantatorials
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ivanljb

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2015, 09:28:10 AM »

The colored photo seemed to be taken by a camera with greater contrast, dynamic range and detail than the black and white one. So I thought that was a point of comparison for your article. :D
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PeterAit

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2015, 09:59:17 AM »

I do believe that the analogy has only limited value here, as reliable scientific (or science-inspired) tests for wine are reasonable to design, while similar tests for cameras are difficult and will typically only test one of several relevant aspects.


I think you have this backwards.
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Peter
"Photographic technique should always be a means to an end and never the end itself."

hjulenissen

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2015, 10:13:20 AM »

I think you have this backwards.
Would you care to elaborate?

-h
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telyt

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2015, 10:26:30 AM »

I think you have this backwards.

How does anyone measure confidence that the equipment will perform as expected in adverse field conditions?  How do we quantify balance in the hand, or frustration with menus or controls?  How can any of this be shown in a photograph?
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Paulo Bizarro

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2015, 10:56:59 AM »

Just my thoughts:

1. To be able to tell the difference between the "20,000 USD camera shot" and the "2,000 USD camera shot", the print, or the reproducible medium, needs to be quite large. If print is small, not possible to compare.

2. The analogy with wine is valid to a certain point, in as much as it takes a lot of training, practice, and personal aptitude or inclination, to develop a high degree of skill.

3. However, the mentioned by another poster of the crucial blind test is very important. To consistently and repeatedly be able to get the correct answer is the only scientifically approved methodology.

4. The corollary is: if you are not able to tell the difference, do not spend your money in expensive stuff, be it camera gear or wines...

telyt

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2015, 01:30:55 PM »

4. The corollary is: if you are not able to tell the difference, do not spend your money in expensive stuff, be it camera gear or wines...

Or, if your audience can't tell the difference ...
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amolitor

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2015, 02:23:52 PM »

The analogy is perfect. It is being used to carry a false conclusion, unharmed, from one domain, to another!

The inability of even the most expert tasters to distinguish wines to the degree they think they can, in truly blind tests, is well documented. They can detect some things, to be sure. But not nearly as much as they think they can, not nearly as much as the mythology suggests. Lord Peter Wimsey remains fictional. Likewise, it is certainly possible with certain photographs under certain circumstances to tell whether it was shot with one thing or another, but most of the time under most circumstances, it's not.

Much of the pleasure taken in expensive wines is subjective, and directly tied to knowing that it's an expensive "superb" wine. This does not mean that the pleasure is unreal, of course it's real.

Similarly, much of the pleasure taken in shooting high end cameras, and in having photos made by high end cameras, is subjective, and tied directly to knowing that it's a Leica or whatever. And of course, the pleasure is completely real. It's the objective criteria that are largely absent.

« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 02:58:09 PM by amolitor »
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NancyP

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2015, 03:46:49 PM »

I like handling well-made equipment. The overall quality of DSLRs is pretty good, with the "pro" models feeling (and being) sturdier. I have the "prosumer" grade cameras, Canon 6D and 60D - they feel good in the hand, and the lightness is a plus for me. The "best" camera is the one that makes it easiest for a particular photographer to shoot the subject (whatever it is) under expected conditions (whatever they are) for the desired result (desired size and degree of detail). I think the concept of "Good Enough" should apply here.
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Telecaster

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2015, 05:41:47 PM »

When it comes to photography I'm less interested in how capable cameras are in any objective sense than in how much I enjoy using them. Less about the results and more about the process. I enjoy taking photos most of all, less so processing & printing 'em, even less so looking at 'em for any extended period (which is why I ultimately end up either giving away or tossing my prints, and wiping processed TIFFs & JPEGs off my drives & devices). Above a fairly low price level I don't find much if any correlation between camera cost and enjoyable user experience.

When it comes to red wine I lean towards crisp, bold & fruity.  :)  Lots of Argentinian & Chilean Malbecs, Carménères and similar. The subtle complexities of well-aged wines are mostly lost on me.

-Dave-
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Michael LS

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2015, 06:03:01 PM »

It's good to be reminded that not being a cognoscenti of all things can be a blessing in disguise.
I spend enough $$ on cameras and a few other areas, that I'm thrilled to remain uneducated
and quite plebeian on Vino. I can therefore enjoy a glass of $10 wine at dinner, in blissful
ignorance, with the occasional $20 bottle being a wild foray into remote vineyards of Napa.
In fact, I actively discourage my wife from reading wine magazines!

Mike Raub

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2015, 06:05:36 PM »

Before you give too much credit to the wine connoisseur, you might want to consider the following:

http://www.popeconomics.com/2010/04/27/how-the-placebo-effect-goes-beyond-medicine

This basic experiment has been repeated many times and every time I have heard of the so-called wine experts have been fooled.

Transferring this concept to photography, if you were handed 3 prints of the same subject, processed to look as identical as possible and they were labeled only "1-2-3", could you reliably chose the quality of camera and lens used by examining the print? I have tried enlarging photos taken with an iPhone, and though they look fine small, they deteriorate quickly when blown up to 8X10 or 11X14. On the other hand, at most sizes I'm guessing most people couldn't tell the difference between an image shot on a m4/3 camera from one taken with a full frame DSLR. I don't have a wide enough variety of camera gear to do this experiment, but it would be easy enough to do.

Of course, very high quality, expensive gear is often a pleasure to use, even if the cost can't be objectively justified.  
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 06:07:29 PM by Mike Raub »
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PeterAit

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2015, 06:22:18 PM »

Would you care to elaborate?

-h

The performance of photo equipment can be quantified in many ways - sharpness, dynamic range, color fidelity, and so on. The taste of wine cannot, it is purely subjective.
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Peter
"Photographic technique should always be a means to an end and never the end itself."

michael

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2015, 06:55:00 PM »

The performance of photo equipment can be quantified in many ways - sharpness, dynamic range, color fidelity, and so on. The taste of wine cannot, it is purely subjective.

You mean that I shouldn't do a chemical assay or spectroscopic analysis on that new Malbec I was thinking of trying?

Michael
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hjulenissen

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2015, 07:48:43 PM »

The performance of photo equipment can be quantified in many ways - sharpness, dynamic range, color fidelity, and so on. The taste of wine cannot, it is purely subjective.
While wine may be "purely subjective", that does not make subjective testing impossible. If people can agree on sensible temperature, serving glasses etc, one can serve two glasses of wine using actual blindfolds or blue light that hides color differences. In such a setting you can "objectively test the subjective". I have done such tests (for fun), and I learned something about myself and my friends.

For cameras, such testing is harder. While it is possible to do a side-by-side of two "fair" or "relevant" camera images, the camera is actually a tool used by the photographer. It is hard to test how well a gui or focus system affects your ability to take good images without revealing to the photographer what kind of camera she is using.

-h
« Last Edit: March 09, 2015, 07:53:40 PM by hjulenissen »
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2015, 08:16:08 PM »

My own wine purchases are generally in the under-ten-dollars category, so I don't consider myself a wine snob at all. But I'll have to admit that when I saw a post on LuLa titled "Shiraz RIP," my first thought was that an entire species of wine grape had died!   :(
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-Eric Myrvaagnes    (A sampler of my new book is on my website.)
http://myrvaagnes.com  Visit my photo website. New images each season. Also visit my new website: http://ericneedsakidney.org

dreed

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Re: "Sommelier or snob"
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2015, 08:43:24 PM »

It is interesting to note that our senses are personal and subjective, not objective.

We don't all respond to tastes in the same way so what one person may like, another may hate. I've seen that in informal wine tasting groups - some people may like a wine that others don't. Usually there's general agreement on whether a wine is good or bad but it is not guaranteed. The best wine to buy is one that you like drinking and that you can afford. My experience is that there's a greater difference in quality between wines costing $10 and $40 than there is between wines costing $40 and $160 but price is no guarantee of my enjoyment in drinking a wine. Nor the number of gold/silver labels on it.

Just as with taste, sight is also subjective. We all see and respond to colour in a slightly different way - especially those that have some sort of colour blindness. Even more so when it comes to the content of an image - sometimes we respond the same as others, others not.

Same again with sound.

So whilst it is possible to objectively measure wine, images, music, etc, a measure of a specific quantity is no guarantee of it being liked by any given individual.
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