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What is on topic for gear recommendations?

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Since this site is going to have a Gear Recommendations category, I would like to know what types of questions would be considered on-topic.

These are types I can think of,

  1. Where can I buy this particular camera?
  2. Is this particular model a good camera?
  3. Is this camera at this price a good deal?
  4. Is this camera selling company reputable or am I going to end up being scammed?
  5. Should I buy camera X or camera Y?
  6. These are the features I am looking for and this is my budget, can you recommend a camera for me?
  7. I am selling this type of camera, how much is it worth and where should I sell it?

Those are all types of questions I see on Reddit, SE questions would be more like,

  • What features should I look for in a camera? (With answers of specific cameras to buy and complaints that people shouldn't edit questions to make them on topic before closing them because they might go out of date while simultaneously ensuring that when they do go out of date they can't be updated.)

I think that even if not all of those questions are on topic, there has to be a better way of doing in then how SE did it.

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2 answers

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I'm a moderator for Hardware Recommendations on SE, so I have some experience (and some strong opinions...) on this one. Let's go through your suggestions.

  1. Where can I buy this particular camera?
    Off-topic. The only valid answer to this can be "Google it". It's on sale at X shop or on Y website on one day, but when someone else has the same question a month later, it will have changed; unless we want the same question to be asked again two months later and have a new version of every one of these questions every month or two... this is off-topic.

  2. Is this particular model a good camera?
    Off-topic as stated. The only answer to this as stated is "almost certainly yes". There are lots of good cameras and few bad cameras; what this is really wanting to ask is "is this a good camera for me?", for which we need more information. See 6.

  3. Is this camera at this price a good deal?
    Off-topic. The answer to this is "do your market research". If you can't find it cheaper, it probably is, or it's very new and you should wait a few months for the price to drop. Might be worth having a canonical/FAQ on these lines, though.

  4. Is this camera selling company reputable or am I going to end up being scammed?
    Ambivalent, but maybe a tentative on-topic? This isn't something that'd work on SE, but perhaps sharing personal experience of companies like this could work here.

  5. Should I buy camera X or camera Y?
    Off-topic. See 2; see 6. This is way too subject to fanboyism as-is: we need more information about what you want a camera for, what you're going to do with it, and how much you want to pay.

  6. These are the features I am looking for and this is my budget, can you recommend a camera for me?
    On-topic. These are the unicorn questions that we should be looking for; the more details, the better. When a question is qualified like this, it becomes easy for those acquainted with the world of cameras to look through the catalogues and figure out what matches.

  7. I am selling this type of camera, how much is it worth and where should I sell it?
    Off-topic. See 3: "do your market research". Likewise, probably worth having an FAQ on "how do I sell a camera", though.

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I’m fairly active in the moderation queues at Photo-SE; I also have fairly strong opinions on this topic.

  1. Where can I buy this particular camera?
  2. Is this particular model a good camera?
  3. Is this camera at this price a good deal?

These should absolutely be off-topic. These questions are too specific to time, location, and/or market conditions. These are solid chaff.

Is this camera selling company reputable or am I going to end up being scammed?

This should be off-topic, IMO. Essentially, the answer is “Your mileage may vary”, too subject to anecdote.

Should I buy camera X or camera Y?

Off-topic, but workable into a better question. These questions belie at least a minimal amount of research and/or selection criteria. Usually, the asker hasn’t made their criteria explicit, but sometimes the asker responds to comments requesting more information, in order to make the question better.

These are the features I am looking for and this is my budget, can you recommend a camera for me?

On-topic. Pretty good, although I’m personally inclined to recommend a general class or groups of products rather than a specific product (unless the asker has already pre-decided a specific brand for whatever reason).

I am selling this type of camera, how much is it worth and where should I sell it?

Off-topic. “Worth” is highly variable. Furthermore, this question usually is from people who are either getting out of photography, or from people who inherited/acquired old equipment looking to unload it. In those cases, this question is the opposite of encouraging the practice and community of photography.


What features should I look for in a camera?

This seems like a perfect FAQ question, or set of FAQs (“... for hiking?”, “... for astrophotography?”, etc.)


What are the ideal recommendation questions? I think @mattdm’s answer to this site’s proposal subject in Meta-CD covers it pretty well:

There is no "best", but "What camera is best?" is the default question. We need a way to guide people into asking "What camera is best for me for this particular situation given these constraints?"

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