Other people’s reviews can assist you when making a purchase decision. But once you have your gear, you need to do your own testing.
Reading the manuals is only the first step of getting the most from your camera gear, you have to become familiar with how it actual works in practice. This means playing with it every chance you get. That’s right, play. Life should be enjoyable and photography in particular. Here, the value of play is getting to know your gear and making your interactions with it and its controls automatic.
You must test your gear for yourself so that you get to know all its idiosyncratic aspects. Make sure you test the following aspects:
- What ISO setting becomes too noisy for your general shooting?
- What ISO setting can you accept in a pinch?
- At what shutter speed does the mirror slap produce the worse vibration?
- For each lens, which apertures are most and least sharp?
- For each lens, which focal lengths produce the most distortion?
- What coverage does each of your flash units have and how do these correspond with your lenses?
The other thing to remember is that all equipment is subject to manufacturing tolerances. That means that your particular lens can vary significantly in performance from whatever lens a reviewer tested. This is also true of other gear than lenses.
Real familiarity with your own gear lets you fully exploit what it can do. Know yourself an know your gear.