Interview with Dannee Saylor of Steve’s Digicams

Our second interview is with Dannee Saylor of Steve’s Digicams. Steve’s Digicams is one of the oldest camera review sites and we are proud to hear their voice in this interview.

When Steve’s Digicams started out how big were the ambitions that Steve had for his site?

In the beginning Steve bought the cameras to review with his own money so their cost was a challenge. Steve actually started the website as a side project to his Hamm radio site. He was just sharing info with his radio buddies, it was just a hobby that took on its own life.

What was the first product he reviewed?

The first camera review he posted on the site was the Agfa 1280.  I believe before that he did a white paper that was posted on the hamm site about a Ricoh, he cannot remember the model.

Have the manufacturers changed their view of how to communicate and interact with review sites such as Steve’s Digicams during the years, and if so how?

As I mentioned above in the early days we bought the cameras. I contacted all the manufacturers and convinced them to loan us the units for our review.  A few of the manufacturers gave us the cameras to keep so we gave them away for our Digital Photo of the Day contest, the first of it’s kind.  We started the photo contest it in July of 98.
As far as communication it did not take long for the manufacturers to recognize that we could publish more information about their cameras than anyone else, especially compared to print. Our sample images could not be reproduced in print pubs because the image quality exceeded printing press capability. This is still true today.  We enjoy a great relationship with all the major manufacturers today and with the economy the way it is. I think they appreciate all the work we do to get the word out to prospective camera buyers, at no cost to them.

Can you describe what makes your review process unique and why it’s worth reading before buying.

Steve has a great love for photography and has always written the reviews in a style that was easy for anyone to understand. He wanted to have folks read his review and be inspired to take photos, not intimidated by the technology.
Each of our reviews includes a 360 virtual image of the camera, sample screens and menus, our sample images, and Steve’s Overall conclusion.

Most reviews are about 8 pages long requiring about 65 man hours to prepare, the dSLR’s are about 10 pages and 100 man hours. Our reviews are prepared once we have camera in hand, they are not rewrites of press releases nor work ups from manufacturer’s fact sheets. Some of the other sites blur the line so a reader may think the comments on the site are based on first hand use, but this is not so.

What do you think are important factors for a good reviewer?

It is most important the reviewer has a photographic background. We have had reviewers that were techno nerds or product writers and they just could not report on the nuisances of photography or relate the story between film and digital.

Who do you write for when you do the reviews?

Our target audience has changed over the years. In the beginning a lot of buyers were looking at digital cameras as a computer peripheral they were not photographers at all. Then the tide changed and first time buyers were folks with some film experience so our reviews were written with that in mind. Of course “Soccer Moms” changed everything and we found  ourselves reviewing cameras from yet another perspective. Today we review about 115 cameras a year geared toward readers who are buying their second or third camera so we try to focus on the new innovations which make image capture so much easier. The dSLR market is heating up and that brings on more challenges in the preparation of a review.

How do you select what products to review?

We would love to have the resources to review every camera that hits the market, since we can not, we select a good cross section from each major manufacturer.

What is your policy in regards to receive free product for reviewing purpose?

As stated above for the most part we are loaned cameras for 30 days and return them. There are a couple of companies that allow us to keep various models and we give them away for our Photo of the Day contest. We are not paid for our reviews and generally do not accept their advertising. We do have  a third party ad server company we work with so at times, usually during the holidays,  one may see a manufacturers banner on our site.
Our writers and staff do not attend trade shows, press gatherings, dinners, or so forth. We also do not allow the manufacturer to see our reviews before they are published. The only person from Steve’s Digicams that attends any gatherings is myself. 

So how involved is Steve with the Steve’s Digicams these days?

He is still very involved in the process. Steve goes over each review and enjoys seeing the new products as they arrive. From time to time you will find him on our Discussion Forums.

Can you pick one or two products that you have reviewed that really stod out in terms of innovation and performance and that wasn’t just an incremental update from some previous generation?

The Nikon Coolpix 900 in 1998. The camera came complete with viewfinder and swivel body. Then I think Sony has shook up the dSLR movement by thinking outside the box and bringing innovations into that market.

What would be your best suggestions for someone who wants to take better pictures. 

Use a tripod and familiarize yourself with all the features and  functions of  the camera.

For more information please visit Steve’s Digicams