c't Digital Photography: A personal review

scottburgess

Canonical Canon
Jun 20, 2013
228
19
I had the good fortune of getting a couple copies of an uncommon (and relatively young) quarterly magazine for photographers. After looking the issues over, I thought some folks here might like to know a bit about the magazine. I expect other readers would have very different opinions about the publications mentioned, so do take this with a grain of salt. I'm merely offering my impressions and my experience as a writer, editor, and educator for those who want to know what this magazine is all about. (And no, unfortunately I'm not getting paid for writing this drek. But I will graciously accept goodies from my Amazon wishlists from those desperate to reward me! lol)

c't Digital Photography is produced by Heise Zeitschriften in cooperation with Rocky Nook, so it has both German and American roots--it appears much of the production is done in Germany, and the photographs themselves are frequently from Germany and California. The first thing that struck me, as an American, was the slightly bigger size and heft of an A4 thick paper format compared with American publications. The samples I had were 138 glossy color pages each with noticeably less advertising per issue than, say, Popular Photography or Outdoor Photographer. The magazine is a full 0.25 inches thick, about twice as thick as Popular Photography's typical 100 pages. Since the target audience of these three publications is amateurs at a similar range of levels, and many of you are probably familiar with one or both of these American counterparts, I'll confine my comparisons to these three publications.

What does c't offer that the others don't? A few things:

1) Longer, in-depth articles on particular topics, sometimes with detailed analysis. I just spent some time over breakfast finishing a semi-technical comparison of smart phone cameras with compacts and dslrs replete with extensive data tables. The article did a respectable job illustrating the strides in SNR that have been made, as well as connecting the dots well enough between SNR and low light performance that an amateur could understand what some of the issues are. From the article, once can conclude that smart phone performance is close to compact camera performance, and that further improvements in sensor technology may push even a few pros into eventually dumping dslr gear. The authors offered good tips for smart phone users who want to get the best images from their hardware.

2) Free software. Yeah, you read that right. Every issue comes with a disc packed with image processing tools, photo tools, sample images from comparison articles, video tools, video tutorials, and even the occasional free ebook. This is not just junk! Many of them are quite good. Many of the applications are available free on the Internet, but you'd spend days digging them out. The good folks at c't have done that work for you and saved you the download time to boot. I looked carefully and saw almost no overlap in the listed offerings between the issues: GIMP and Grey's Magic Image Converter appeared in both lists only because of version upgrades.

3) Unique content: big how-to articles, including do-it-yourself projects; and topics uncommonly covered by other magazines. One issue had a long three-part article on building your own tilt-shift lens, converting your camera into a telescope or microscope, and doing high-speed photography. The second copy had big articles on underwater photography and 32-bit image processing. Another issue carried an article on graphics cards. While few may build their own tilt-shift lens, it was refreshing to see that there is now a magazine which supports that part of our community.

My overall impression of the magazine is that it is still a work in progress. The writing is a little uneven, like Outdoor Photographer, and at times both the magazine as a whole as well as authors of individual articles don't seem to have a clear idea who their audience is. An article on nature photography, for example, has a section on photographing trees which expends its text on finding a tree to photograph, but says little about what to do afterward. Perhaps this is partially due to articles being translated from German: it appears that most of the authors were from Germany. Likewise, some articles are written for the complete newbie, others for the advanced amateur. These inconsistencies generate excitement for me about an article when I read the cover followed by a big let-down when I find that it has nothing interesting to say. It's one reason my wife and I dumped Outdoor Photographer.

I expect this problem comes in part from having few professional photo educators on the editorial staffs. A professional educator gets a lot of feedback about what is unclear and not working, then has to adjust audience focus, progression of the topic, and so forth when teaching the topic again to correctly carry an audience at one general level to a particular conclusion. Popular Photography exhibits greater consistency, in my view, but is geared to an amateur level that I've gone beyond.

One would think that less advertising would be grand, but it's not all roses. Fewer advertisers means fewer opportunities to run across new products, too, and that is one thing that I find acceptable about the American counterparts: I'm always seeing a new gadget that gets me thinking. Frequently I don't end up buying the product but do initiate a photo project related to what the gadget was for. Some of the gadgets end up on my Amazon wishlist where a thoughtful relative can scratch my photo itch come Christmas. Fewer advertisers and an expensive format also means that this magazine will set you back a bit compared to the more generic counterparts. Still, it was really nice to open up c't and see long pages of explanatory text and clear photos in some of the how-to articles. The extra space created opportunities for the authors to give ample details, side notes, and illustrative photographs. I bet at least some folks here will think this is a good trade-off.

One small thing going against this publication is the name... What the heck does "c't" mean, and why would the editors think that this name connects to an American audience? I haven't a clue. It appears to be a carry-over from Heise's similarly-named computer technical magazine, but I had to look that up. If I were editor, I'd consider rebranding the English language version. I would probably also add 5-10 pages of ads at the end, and contact big outlets like B&H or Adorama to help fill them.

So none of these publications are really what I personally want, which is a true advanced-amateur-only publication that always assumes many years of experience with photography and a high level of technical sophistication, has good advertiser support, but also allows for deep, involved articles. I'm not as interested in do-it-yourself articles, but would like more post-processing articles. I don't expect to get all of that because the audience is much smaller and harder to reach.

But some of you may be interested in what this magazine offers. The big project and how-to articles are an attraction, as are the software/tutorial discs. I certainly would like this to remain part of the photography magazine ecosystem and perhaps develop into something really special. So far, I would call it "quite promising." And I would like to encourage American photojournalists to consider submissions to this publication for the same reasons (I didn't investigate what this would entail). If this review has piqued your interest, I encourage you to give it a try. You can read a couple sample articles at their website.
 

scottburgess

Canonical Canon
Jun 20, 2013
228
19
There have been a couple hundred views of this now... If you've checked out their web site, I would be curious if you would or wouldn't subscribe and why.
 

Forceflow

EOS 90D
May 23, 2011
130
0
Germany
galerie.web-cm.de
I had a (German) subscription for it. All in all I have 6 magazines now. I cancelled my subscription mostly because it really did seem all over the place. Some articles are super in-depth tech talk and some barely scratch the surface of a topic. Their test setups are good, but for my taste too limited. I regularly check their newest magazines to see if an article might be interesting, but I don't think I'll subscribe again.
 
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