Beta Testing New Gear In The Field
Don't try this at home. Or maybe you should!
By Tony Donaldson | November 20, 2010
I often beta test new gear. Most of it will make it to market, some won't or will have to be massively tweaked first. And I often use that gear on assignment, not just in more controlled test environments. Scary as that sounds, it's better to do it that way.
I'm currently testing a new product. I can't say what it is, but it's known throughout the industry. I've been asked to put it through it's paces and test it under varying conditions. And I have. The manufacturer recommends NOT using the product on actual shoots. I ignored that recommendation for two very good reasons.
First, I don't have a lot of time these days to test. I know my own gear, always have spares of whatever I need or enough extra gear to cover most possible scenarios on a shoot. That means I don't rely on any one piece of equipment. I studied Murphy's Law in college. Or something like that. When I take along test gear on a shoot, I may have hooked it up to whatever it works with or on whatever camera it works with, etc. to fire a frame or two and make sure I know how to make it work in the field. Then I take it with me and use it, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. I'm a pretty technical shooter, so I love working with technical stuff that makes my job easier.
The second reason I take test gear out with me is that it gives a truly honest test. There's no way to take extra time to learn something if the interface is confusing or the buttons don't seem to do what they need to do, so I can honestly report that back. And stuff locks up or works in a way unintended or fails in a real-world situation, so when the final product is released, it's been made to work in the real world, not on a test bench.
This new gear I'm currently testing has had a couple of really minor hiccups, all have been fixed with firmware updates, and even from the start it performs unbelievably well. Does what you ask it to do, exactly how you think it should. It surprised me at just how well. Obviously, I'm under an NDA, but soon that will be lifted and I can talk more about it.
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