Sound Advice: General public misled on top quality products
October 20, 2013 4:00 AM
The Olympus CM-D won "Camera of the Year" awards worldwide.
By Don Lindich
Question: Everyone I talk to says to buy an LED/LCD HDTV. You seem to be the only person who says to buy plasma. Why should I believe you over everyone else?
TRACY DENNY West Mifflin
Answer: I am far from the only person recommending plasma. In fact, almost all my product recommendations are quite orthodox as far as industry experts and reviewers are concerned. The experts and hobbyists tend to know what the deal is. Sadly, the general public often does not, through no fault of their own.
If you do some research you will find most reviewers say the same as I do: Plasma has the better picture and the Panasonic ST, VT and ZT series plasmas are the best TVs on the market, with the ST series representing an amazing value. Myself, C/NET, Consumer Reports, hdguru.com, and Sound & Vision magazine agree. In fact, the latest issue of Sound & Vision has the Panasonic ZT plasma on the cover with the tagline, "Simply the best."
The salespeople in the big box stores are the ones recommending LED/LCD. There is more selection, the ultrabright (if unrealistic) picture looks better in a showroom environment, and many salespeople are not fully educated. Word spreads from the people who buy LED/LCD as they relay what they were told, and the result is widespread myth and misconception that is hard to overcome.
Money and marketing also play a part. If you read audio hobby websites, you will find Bose is typically scorned by audio enthusiasts. Advertising and big-budget marketing sway the general public to perceive Bose as a high-end product, so they pay a healthy premium for it when there are better, less expensive alternatives.
Similar phenomena are affecting the adoption of mirrorless cameras in North America. In overseas markets, mirrorless quickly captured a huge slice of the market and last year the Olympus OM-D E-M5 practically ran the table of "Camera of the Year" awards worldwide. Despite this, if you walk into stores, you will find digital SLRs from Canon and Nikon are pushed almost exclusively, though most of the general public would be better served by a mirrorless camera.
I am a serious photographer. I own an extensive SLR system but now use Micro Four Thirds mirrorless more than 95 percent of the time. With the Olympus OM-D E-M5, I have a viewfinder that shows exactly what I get in the picture; the viewfinder works while recording video; the picture proportions are a more natural 4:3 ratio vs. the oblong 3:2 of an SLR; autofocus is lightning fast; and I can touch the rear screen and it will focus on the point and take a picture almost instantaneously.
Extremely effective image stabilization is in the camera, so every lens is stabilized. The cameras and lenses are small, light and beautifully crafted, and pictures look amazing straight from the camera so you don't really need to tweak them in software. There are many art filters and they can be used for stills or making cool-looking videos, with the effect visible in the viewfinder.
It's far and away the best, most satisfying creative tool I have ever used. That's why I prefer it to an SLR and, if you tried it, I think you would, too.