Camera testing is one service that the Technical Image Press Association provides to its member magazines on a regular basis. To further support TIPA members with the testing of digital cameras, on 1 September 2017, TIPA appointed Image Engineering GmbH & Co., located in Cologne, Germany to perform routine digital camera tests based on an independent and objective testing method. These enhanced camera tests, from an independent testing lab with a worldwide reputation will be used by all TIPA member publications to support their reviews of new cameras for their readers. This information will be available to readers of the print magazines and online channels of the various publications.
TIPA's Technical Committee worked closely with Image Engineering to ensure that these tests will provide additional, in-depth metrics and cover four main areas: image quality, camera speed, features, and handling.
Also as a unique service, some camera tests are performed under pre-embargo agreements and provided to our members the same day as the embargo release. This gives our members the opportunity to be some of the first to publish reports on the newest trends in digital photography.
Most TIPA members conduct their own product testing in order to give their readers informed and first-hand product reviews, now by combining their own field tests with the precise lab tests of Image Engineering, members are able to publish comprehensive and authenticated camera reviews that their readers can count on. TIPA sponsored tests range from popular and professional DSLRs and mirrorless and even up to high-tech medium format models. Top compact cameras are also considered.
All of the cameras that are tested are selected and coordinated by the TIPA Technical Committee, who is responsible for preparing and submitting a list of possible product nominees to our members at the annual TIPA Awards Voting Session.
Testing cameras requires rooms where light, temperature and humidity are always optimized in a way that no external factors can influence the results of tests. Every camera provided by manufacturers is checked by Image Engineering before testing begins. If it seems that the hardware or firmware is not representative of the device that is available to consumers, Image Engineering rejects the camera for testing and asks the manufacturer for a new device.
In addition, should our test results indicate any physical damage to the camera (for example, large differences in resolution between the four corners of the image), the device is also rejected and the manufacturer asked to provide a new camera. If the replacement device shows similar results, it is considered as "as is", testing continues and the results are provided to TIPA.
Once a camera had arrived at the Image Engineering lab, all settings are put at "factory default". From this starting point, settings are then set for the test to ensure consistency between tests. From pixel count to compression, from sharpening to colour space or noise reduction and stabilization to cite a few. Each camera is tested using two top lenses of the same brand, a prime to measure the image quality while a second lens, a zoom usually, is used for timing-related measurement.
All these measurements are performed with dedicated software and devices designed by Image Engineering. Image Engineering starts testing a camera taking shots of their multi-functional chart (TE42). This chart is used to objectively measure resolution, texture reproduction, acutance, dynamic range, noise, colour reproduction, distortion, shading, chromatic aberration, and visual analysis. With the camera on a stable mount, four images are captured of the chart at every native ISO speed the camera offers and then the best selected for further analysis. "Best" is defined as highest resolution in the image centre.
A detailed explanation of the how Image Engineering test cameras for TIPA can be found here. You will find a very practical and useful glossary of the technical terms.
Image Engineering is an independent testing lab for digital cameras since 1997. Apart from testing cameras, the company actively designs and develops image quality test equipment and in the past twenty years has grown into the world's leading supplier for such equipment. All of the more than 280 testing products and test methods are based on ISO standards. The company and its staff participate in several organizations devoted to developing and optimizing camera tests and equipment, ensuring that they maintain a leading role and keep pace with the rapid advancement of imaging's technological changes.