What's this site about? Well, it's about photography, often related to the Canon EOS system (since it's what I use myself), but not to the exclusion of equipment from other manufacturers. I also shoot with an Olympus PEN system and own or have owned cameras and/or lenses made by Canon, Olympus, Nikon, Sony, Yashica, Konica, Samsung, HP and probably other's I've forgotten about! The site has been in existence since around 1994 (I think), first as a page hosted on pages provided by an ISP, then on the servers at photo.net (where I'm now the Technical Editor) and since around 2000 on this domain (BobAtkins.com) which is currently hosted on servers at HOSTMONSTER.com BTW if you are looking for a website host, Hostmonster have been pretty good and pretty reliable. They also have good customer support based in Utah, not outsourced to some overseas operation. They even answer the phone when you call!
My background is in science. My degrees are in Chemistry but most of my work was done in the areas of laser spectroscopy and optical fiber development with Bell Labs and that involved the use of a lot of optics and imaging technology. I've been involved with Photography for maybe 40 years in both professional and amateur roles. I'm currently Technical Editor at Photo.net and I'm also a contributing Editor the the Adorama Educational website (but I'm not employed or sponsored by Adorama and they don't give me any free stuff!).
Lens and camera testing is done on a 50:50 basis with regard to scientific testing and my own personal evaluation. By now I can look at a few test shots and get a pretty good feeling as to where a camera/lens is on the "excellent" to "poor" spectrum. However I also do some testing based on resolution test targets like the one above. They are qualitatively analyzed by me looking at them in detail and comparing them to known standards or previous test on similar lenses. Also, like most of the "quantitative" test sites I use the Imatest software to give numerical results for MTF, CA, distortion, vignetting etc. However I rarely publish those numbers because I KNOW the tests are rather sensitive to conditions. ISO, Exposure, target orientation, focus, contrast, which camera is used for lens tests (or which lens for camera tests) etc. can all affect the numbers. I just use the numbers I get as one more factor in overall evaluation. I think quoting one lens as a "9.3" and another as a "9.2" can be rather misleading at times.
This is a one person website, which is getting rarer in the photo community these days. I write all the content, take all the pictures, do all the behind the scenes programming (there are a couple of databases running), do the site design and maintenance, make the coffee, wash the dishes and test the cameras and lenses. So if anything is wrong, blame me since nobody else is responsible. I'm not owned by Amazon.com (one of the major photo sites is) or by NameMedia (who own another one of the biggies) or by any other corporation [Note to Google, if you want to buy me out, please get in touch!] I have no bean-counters to answer to. The site generates some revenue from advertising and sales commission. That allows me to spend the time writing, researching and testing rather than working at McDonalds for spare change, so if you click on the ads here and buy from the advertisers, I thank you! It does help to keep the site going and me from going crazy...
I don't write "puff pieces" to entice anyone in to buying equipment. I don't praise things I don't like in order to make commission on a sale. I try to write honest, straightforward reports on equipment I actually use or I have on loan. Nobody pays me to review anything. Sometimes I will get a loan from one of the major manufacturers such as Tamron or Canon, but all loaned equipment gets sent back (usually at my expense). If I buy equipment I get the same deal from Adorama, B&H and Amazon that you do (those are my "go to" vendors). Much of the gear I've reviewed I've actually purchased myself. I don't report rumors in order to draw in an audience. I probably should since it would attract people to the site, but that's not what this site is about. I don't write sensational and controversial articles simply to attract attention. Again I probably should to get more traffic, but it's not my style. I'm not yet that desperate for traffic (though one day I might be...).
There's a lot wrong with the site, mainly the indexing of older content. There's stuff in here that I don't even remember writing, never mind finding which corner of the site it's hiding in. That's why I recommend you use the search engine if you're looking for something in particular. Google know what's here much better than I do and the search boxes you'll find here use the Google search engine and database. Google has over 6000 pages indexed for this website. I didn't know I'd written all that, but apparantly I have. I do try to keep indexes and menus up to date, but it's a loosing battle (and it's boring...). I'd rather be writing articles and testing lenses. Some of the pages definitely have an "old school" look which doesn't reflect state of the art graphic design for the web. That's because I'm not a graphic designer and I'd rather spend my time developing new content than making the old content look prettier. That may be a mistake in an environment where "look and feel" is all important but I just don't have the time to spend keeping up with the latest design trends.
Advertising pays the bills. Some of it's even quite useful. I try to keep some control over what appears on these pages. I run ads linked to Amazon, Adorama and B&H because they are reliable, honest vendors of photographic equipment (and other things), with good prices and good customer service. I buy from all three of them myself. There are also ads from J&R, eBay and a couple of other companies that I've done business with and that I've been happy with. The ads from Google are supposed to be targeted at the subject of the page they appear on. Sometimes they miss. So if you see an ad for toilet paper or mortgage insurance or deodorant, blame Google for their faulty targeting algorithms. I try to block any ads from Google that come from less than reputable stores, but I can only do that after the fact and if I see them myself. I don't get to pre-approve what they serve. I can only hope that that ads that appear on these pages are more often useful and of interest than not.
Here's an example of the Google Ads. I've have no idea what they will put here. I can only hope that they're smart enough to figure out that this page is about photography. Caveat Emptor applies to all Google advertising of course. Check out the company before you buy, whatever it is you are buying.
If you'd like to be added to my mailing list please enter your email address. This list remains private. Your email will not be given (or sold!) to anyone. What you will get is an occasional email from me (probably once every few years!) when any major changes are made to this website. To be honest I don't even remember the last time I sent out email. Probably at least 5 years ago. So if you sign up, don't expect much email from me and expect NONE from anyone else via the mailing list here, and I mean NONE.
You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, but I get a lot of email (the vast majority of which is Spam and Junk) so I'm not able to respond to every inquiry and som inquiries may even be thrown out by my spam filters. Actually, if you have a question you will get a better and faster answer by asking it in the forums which are currently running on this website:
By posting a question in a forum you'll also get answers from people who may know more than I do!
Yes, if you pay for a license! The only "free" use I allow is for purely personal use (i.e. on your own computer for your own enjoyment) or for use personal individual by students in a school project (which isn't sold or published). I do not give rights away to use my images otherwise. For example I get requests from organizations (sometimes non-profit organizations) who want to use images a brochure which they will give away. However I'm sure they pay the printer for printing the brochures and they probably pay the salary of the employee who designs the brochures, so there's no reason they shouldn't pay the photographer too. Artists who want to use an image to base artwork on will be creating what's known as a "derivative image", and that requires a license from the copyright holder of the image (i.e. me in this case!). Photography is my business and businesses don't survive by giving things away! I don't trade my images for links or credits. A single image may cost me many hours of work (not to mention travel expenses) and involve the use of equipment which I had to pay thousands of dollars for. I don't get images for "free" and so I'm reluctant to give them away for free. I'm sure you understand.
For some reason I get quite a few email requests asking how to start a career as a nature photographer. This is a tough question. I don't know because I'm not a professional nature photographer myself. Most of the well known pros started out with other careers. Galen Rowell was a climber, John Shaw was an english teacher, Boyd Norton was a physicist and so on. Maybe the best advice is to get a degree in something that is nature related - e.g. biology, ecology, geology - and work on your photography as a hobby for a while. To be successful you need business skills as strong as your photographic skill, so even a business degree might be useful!
I suppose my basic advice on how to become a professional photographer of any type would be to keep practicing and Read a book from someone who's done it!
Well, yes - and no. I actually have a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Bristol in the UK and I worked for about 25 years as a chemist/physicist at Yale University in CT and Bell Laboratories in NJ. Currently I am working full time at photography though it's debatable whether I can actually be said to be making a "living" from photography and photography related writing!
I am available for jobs ranging from photography through technical writing and editing to consulting in fiber optics technology. I hold 20 patents and have 50+ peer reviewed publications (mostly in optical fiber technology and related fields), so I do have a resume!
This website is currently hosted on servers administered by HOSTMONSTER. Despite the name(!) they've been very good indeed with respect to service and support.