Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Open Letter To Ken Rockwell

Hey Ken:

In your "review" of the Pentax 645D you come across as a right old sour-puss who can't even get his facts straight. So I'm writing you this open letter in an attempt to penetrate your smug armour.

Several times you mention the "small" sensor as a problem, apparently not aware that the 645D has a similar crop to the other digital 645 bodies out there, 80% as large as film 645.

So why is Pentax worse?

I am not sure why all of a sudden you hate multi-zone metering, since you seem to be happy with it on your digital full-frame cameras. Perhaps if this camera had a Nikon or Canon brand you'd be glad of it.

You do realise you can spot meter, centre meter or do anything else you like, huh? No one is forcing you to use features you don't want to use.

As for them "distracting" the real photographer, are you distracted by your X-Sync outlet when not using flash? Are you distracted by the film rewind when not rewinding film? Do you have some sort of a disorder we should know about?

You also talk rubbish like "amateur 3:2 aspect ratio". I guess no pros use full-frame digital then? I suppose your darling Canon 5D is strictly for the chimps?

Besides, to be truly elitist you should be stating that square frame is the pro format.

You complain about the Live View but nowhere in the specs do I see mention that it even has such a thing. I think you're making that up.

Nowhere do you mention one of the major benefits of the camera, the full weather, dust and cold sealing, also to be found in the companion normal lens. This is going to be a great landscape camera.

As to the lack of direct control over shutter speed and aperture, yes there are no knobs marked as such. But see that front dial? See that back dial? There you go. There is absolutely no need to adjust these in a menu, as you imply.

Really, you couldn't be any more incoherent, inconsistent or misleading if you tried.

The Pentax 645D has benefits and disadvantages like any photographic tool. Your inability to be anything other than bitter is likely tied to your perceived inability to flog any through your website. It seems all about making money for you... most of your articles are excuses for begging from your readers.

Might I suggest you get out there and sell photos instead?

Oh yes, I've written this as if I too do not understand how to use paragraphs. But it's so difficult; sometimes I have even put two sentences together or, God forbid, used a semi-colon.

P.S. I will not link to your site to drive you more traffic.



Anonymous said...

Spot on. In his 'preview' Mister Rockwell comes of as an extremely childish person who also can't separate facts from his own tainted fantasies. Apparently it's a tough pill to swallow when his own brand(s) can't come up with something as great as the Pentax 645D.

He is a textbook example of why readers of web material need to be extremely critical of the source, cautious and wary of connections behind the scenes.

Grow up Ken, I feel sorry for your kids.


pko said...

I for one enjoyed KR's review, but I am puzzled why he did not mention the biggest problem with the 645D: it does not shoot RealRaw (r). As we all know, professionals are leaving digital in droves and returning to film.

PS: from the 'about' page: "In the case of new products, rumors and just plain silly stuff, it's all pretend. If you lack a good BS detector or sense of humor, please treat this entire site as the work of fiction. This site it is the product of my own imagination, not fact."

robin said...

"Sense of humor"? I for one do not find bullies funny. And that's really all Rockwell is, bludgeoning the reader to death with his opinions masquerading as facts.

pko said...

Hey, Ken is a master troll. The thing he probably likes most is that he tells you up front that it is all a big joke and that people still get angry.

Anonymous said...

Rockwell is brilliant in his ability to attract other's comments positive and negative. I find it great that he can actually live of a site which in his own words are: "treat this entire site as the work of fiction. This site it is the product of my own imagination, not fact."
At the end he also say: "When I get over complaining about how Pentax screwed-up the opportunity to make a great camera, I'm sure that I'll love it."

Anonymous said...

Ken is a clown. He crapped all over Leica, but then jumped at the chance to fawn over the M9 and call it the best digital camera ever BEFORE IT EVEN CAME OUT.

KR is an affiliate marketing expert, not a photographer. Oh, he makes great photos of road signs.

Ken Rockwell said...

Hey - obviously you guys spend more time on your computers than shooting, thus you'll LOVE the 645D.

You asked for my opinion, and you got it.

We'll all see when these things hit production.


robin said...


First, thanks for taking the time to read and respond here.

I'm not sure how you can determine that "obviously you guys spend more time on your computers than shooting" just because someone disagrees with you. I shoot more days than not and have a camera with me all the time. But even if I didn't I'd be entitled to an opinion.

robin said...

Please, people, no matter how irate Ken Rockwell makes you, take the time to edit your posts. I have had to refuse some with four-letter words and the like. This is not the place for that.

Anonymous said...

I love when Ken tells the world what professional photographers do even though he's NEVER been a pro.

He writes gear reviews WITHOUT pictures. Oh wait, he does take great shots of brick walls and lawn furniture.

I also love his newfound attitude that he's an artist, even though he doesn't have the nerve to post any real work online. Please Ken, you're fooling no one - not even yourself.

You are an Internet marketing genius, but not the pro photographer and artist you fantasize about being.

And yes, I read Ken's site regularly.


Anonymous said...


Do we need to leave a donation since you graced us with a post? I fail to see how you do 1/25 the shooting you claim given the colossal size of your web presence.


KC said...

eyerobot said...

I love Ken's site. I think people who don't like it are intimidated by the idea of a loose website that contains 100% professional opinion that is naturally going to be opinionist and it's going to be his and only his playground.

I'm relatively new to photography (but started earning money from it faster than I expected) and I can remember dutifully noting all his advice.

Having said that it's not like I took everything he said as gospel. Ken can tell me all day and night to buy a cheap camera and concentrate on buying lenses, and frankly that's the advice I would give to anyone who asked me. But when Ken tells me I'm just as well off with the Nikon D70 as I would be with the D300, well I kinda just ignore that. The basic premise is true: a skilled person doe not need the most expensive equipment and a person without skill can have all the equipment in the world and it won't help.

Still Mario Andretti doesn't drive a Gremlin even if he may be able to drive it better than I can drive a Porche.

Don't take Ken overly seriously and he and his site seem nice, personable, even friendly if not opinionated in that way that naturally comes from anyone who's done 40 years of the same career.

If he wasn't opinionated that would be one of your first clues that he would simply be regurgitating what everyone says rather than saying what he believes. I can get the same 'tutorials' and advice from 12 different sources and they'd all say the same thing. It's refreshing to get someone who's had the experience to get what they really believe rather than what they are expected to say. It's refreshing and useful for noobs to read someone who confidently says "You don't need that $1400 lens, you can do the same with this $700 one", and other such advice you would never get from a salesperson.

I was never fooled. I distilled the useful information and could tell right away he had certain biases (the kind most of us develop) that I knew I should be wary of (for example it seems he prefers Nikon over Canon. Nothing really wrong with that but it's not the right message for a newbie to take with them).

I think if you take Ken too seriously he can be irritating. I think if you are a professional yourself and thusly have gathered your own collection of opinionated rules and directives then Ken will clash with you...but then you would also have little use for his site, non?

If you don't like it then I heartily suggest making your own site to advise newcomers. I don't mean that rhetorically, I'm serious: 12 different 'Ken Rockwell' sites with 12 different 'Kens' who had 12 different opinions on everything would be very helpful to noobs. On the other hand newbies who too readily accept one mentor are doing themselves a great dis-service.

The "Ken Rockwell" is God stuff. What can I say? I've been around a long time and I know professional jealousy when I hear it. People who engage in that kind of stuff are not concerned about Ken 'playing God' but rather p.o.'ed they haven't taken the time to make their own successful site so their own 'God-like' opinions could garner the same attention.

So much easier to dump on someone than do it yourself.

robin said...

Oustlander: Some of what you say has basis in fact but in other cases you are extrapolating wildly. For example, saying that those who disagree with Rockwell are simply jealous is demeaning. If you think Rockwell deserves his opinion then why not grant the same license to those who have a differing view? Anything else is biased and simply, well, wrong.

I am glad that you can filter out the wheat from the chaff when reading Rockwell, but many with less experience could be misled by his oppressive and didactic approach. Yes, a bully can convince many. But that does not make them right.

Me, I can also tell the difference. And to me, Rockwell is all chaff since it lacks the correct perspective and a humanist dimension. Someone who occasionally comes to the correct conclusion for the wrong reasons is still wrong. Because it is not the conclusions but the method that is most important. For otherwise, how can one extrapolate to new constraints and new criteria?

Oh, and just because someone states they are professional does not make their opinion more valid. That is the Appeal To Authority, a well-known logical fallacy. Besides, I have yet to see anything that convinces me that Rockwell can take better pictures than any random selection of photographers on Flickr.

eyerobot said...

Fair enough Robin

robin said...

I should add that anyone reading advice I might give on the Theatre of Noise should apply the same rigorous criteria to examining my claims. My blog will never be as popular as one like Rockwell's, since I am not claiming to be objectively right all the time.

Instead I claim fallibility and subjectivity, even though I might do so definitively. I do nothing more or less with my articles than claim my place in the knowledge ecosystem, one I earn (or not, as judged by you, the reader) by praxis and introspection in equal measure.

OK, time to post some photos!

Anonymous said...

LOL. I wonder if this is about Ken:

robin said...

That was truly one of the oddest experiences of my week. And LOL funny indeed!

Tim Auger (timo at pentaxforums) said...

Just saw this. Surreal. I'm not sure if the pauses are deliberate but they add to the sense of bafflement ...

Anonymous said...

All this coming from a guy who refuses to shoot RAW and scoffs at the merits of it.

robin said...

Good arguments and a wild ass afro -- but could be a lot shorter. The whole series could have been done in 5 minutes.

ordinary joe said...

I went through meny threads about KR. They are all the same. I have not seen so much concentrated hatered in my life. And I believe that a big proportion of it relates to jealousy.

robin said...

You can think that, since it is easy to think, requires no knowledge or evidence and might even make you happy. Or, you can look at the facts.

ordinary joe said...

What a stupid answer....I could not care less abou KR and you. I just expressed my opinion.
on flickr larrygerbrandt writes: Different strokes for different folks. If there was the perfect camera Nikon would make just one model. Galen Rowell, the late legendary landscape photographer, was famous for using the lightest, cheapest Nikon cameras and lenses....especially the all plastic ones. Of course he also did high altitude mountain running and free climbing and shot hanging off cliffs with one hand in a notch and the camera in the other. A sports photographer would likely want a completely different kit, capable of extremely fast speed, with weight a minimal consideration. Ken Rockwell knows he is read by a lot of "ordinary Joes" and he makes recommendations for that audience. And there are a LOT more recent adopters of low end DSLRs than any other category.

robin said...

If you don't care then why do you continue to post, Joe? Obviously you are conflicted on this issue.

As for expressing an opinion, bravo... now develop your opinions into something that are not based on wrong-headed assumptions of other people's intentions. Not all opinions are valid or even worthwhile, something you should have learned by about age 8.

Rockwell is a bully and spouts nonsense. The fact he has the ear of a lot of "ordinary joe's" only means he can mislead those who know no better.

It's a shame you are on the side of the ignorant and the bullies.

Peter Paradise said...

Simon Cowell and Rush Limbaugh are opinionated and they have HUGE audiences, because they can be entertaining. Ken Rockwell can also be entertaining because he doesn't worry about being polite, he just says what he thinks and that can be refreshing when you consider all the tepid mush that's out there. He doesn't take himself too seriously - and you don't need to either.

I strongly disagree with Ken a lot of the time, especially when he gets into one of his right wing rants (I came for photography, not politics), but he often has exactly the information I'm looking for when I'm making a purchasing decision that is laid out in a way I haven't been able to find anywhere else.

The point he makes over and over again is profound, useful and true. Don't get obsessed with gear. Go out and shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more.

Anonymous said...

ordinary joe,

Are you seeing hatred toward him, or are you seeing people responding in kind to him?

It sounds like you are quite familiar with Ken, so let me ask you: How often do you see him display and/or discuss work someone paid him to do? I have read him for several years, and I've never seen any. If you take him at his word, that is because he earns most of his living through affiliate sales, and it seems to most that he drives those sales with a National Enquirer style of media, which drives traffic to his site.

That is all fine, except that Ken loves to talk about all the amateur, non-professional shooters out there, and soapbox about his guidelines for what constitutes a professional. He then reminds us on a regular basis that HE is a professional, even though by his own definition he does not qualify. He loves to go on about how your camera does not matter, and make fun of "measurebators". Look at how much time he spends reviewing, measuring, and comparing gear. Why? So you will buy gear he says you don't need through his affiliate links.

Can you still not see how that comes off to many as condescending, smug, and hypocritical?

Read his 7 Levels of Photographer, and think critically where he most fits in. Of course, he tells us his site is purely a joke, a work of fiction full of intentional gafs, and should not be taken seriously. He can always fall back on that when challenged about anything. But he IS professional as he so often reminds us, so you should listen and trust him.

Mike P said...

I can't see how Kenny manages to shoot with all the cameras that he claims are "the only one I carry." I used to enjoy his site but it seems so ludicrous now that it's hard for me to be other than annoyed when I read it.

I find him to be mostly a talker though I agree with some of what he says. But Galen Rowell had more quality shots in on roll of film than Kenny has yet managed to produce. I love when Kenny describes that a picture..."is not about a curb, it's about the lines of the sidewalk curving toward the green building," or other cr@p like that. If you have to explain WHY someone is supposed to appreciate your pic, that pretty much says that it sucks...

Oh well, it shows that sometimes, success isn't about quality or even making sense.

ordinary joe said...

Hellow boys above...
As far as I am concerned Ken is not professional photographer....Since he does not fit in his own definition of pro...I found nowhere he claimed that.....He is technical freak amateur photographer...nothing else..nothing more. For me, his reviews of lenses in particular are valid..I also go to Thom Hogan site, Bjorn Roslett or for canon to

Anonymous said...

ordinary joe,

I won't search for and list every instance of him saying he is a professional, but here is just one:

quote: "As a professional, I will not load Nikon-brand software on my computer because it does not meet minimum requirements for stability and function. . ."

Where is that? Here ( ), in his review of the D7000. Now, he does not say "professional photographer", but to the that is parsing what would be perceived by someone reading him for the first time, and not very familiar with him.

I will agree with you that he has some useful information in his lens reviews, like his distortion measurements. As for his day to day commentary, I could only read it with one hand on my mouse and the other holding my nose. Now I just don't read it at all anymore.

Anonymous said...

SO... are we talking about the 645d here or just going off on each other???

Anonymous said...

LOL. I am guessing that last "Anonymous said..." was Ken himself. If so:

1. The title of this thread is "OPEN LETTER TO KEN ROCKWELL", not "talking about the 645d"

2. You should not complain, since no press has ever been bad press for you online. It keeps your website making money for you, as opposed to you making a full time living from photography itself.

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys, for the hate you spit on Rockwell, I will take a minute an make an extra donation on its site. In my case the best advise I had on equipment came from him. The advice that i followed blindly without the slightest regrets. My two donations on his site were the best investments in photogaphy I ever made.
Have a nice day.

robin said...

I am glad you found something useful on Rockwell's site; it's not impossible. However any advice you "follow blindly" is bad advice, but then again Rockwell depends on people who think exactly like you.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous [03 September, 2011 05:21]

Your comment is very typical of so many I have read so many times: some person or group of people have some legitmate points of criticism of Ken, and then someone like yourself comes along and cries and claims that "hatred" is being shown toward him. It sounds like you like learning, so how about reading something like this that specifically talks about how on the surface his advice sounds good - until you find out how many important details and lessons he never addresses:

Anonymous said...

Boucicaut, I can't believe that you bring up his kids! Now you are the one who are childish!

You better leave his family out of this discussion!

Anonymous said...

Like him or not, Rockwell is a living legend.

Anonymous said...


April 17th, 2012: He talks about how since he shoots for a living, he spends as little time as possible in front to the computer, and that is why he cannot read email.

April 23rd, 2012: He posts an email sent to him from someone very critical of his photography. Just above that, he talks about spending all day - every day - working in Photoshop CS5.

Anonymous said...


Has had Sports Illustrated Covers (like Joe McNally)? No.

Has had National Geographic Covers (like Steve McCurry)? No.

Has had Arizona Highways Covers (like Jack Dykinga)? No.

Has won a Pulitzer (like Craig F. Walker)? No.

Has written a renowned book (like Vincent Versace)? No.

Is a living legend? No.

Believes he is a living legend in spite of the aforementioned?


robin said...

Hello all... I will now stop moderating comments for this article since it is not in the spirit of this site to kick someone when they're down. Rockwell is not worth the time given over to criticising him. Let's use that energy to shoot and write and think for ourselves... all worthy activities in pursuit of our photographic goals!

RedCosmonaut said...

Ive read a lot of Ken Rockwell's material. As a newcomer, there is a lot of good interesting stuff there, and Ive learnt a lot. Can't say I agree with everything he puts up, and you do need to skip the first and last bits of each post to avoid the blatant requests for "sharing", and "helping" in otherwords plain begging.

Actually, he seems to have a nice house and a nice car - so obviously doing ok. I have neither - and think I should learn a bit more from Ken as to how to get them.

In short, do a DX crop on his pages to just get the good stuff and cut out the special FX crap he litters his site with



Anonymous said...

Ken has a brand hatred of Pentax. He slandered their first full frame offering (K-1) and said only those with autism use Pentax. This went in contrast to many who said the K-1 was a superb camera. In my own personal experience Pentax cameras are brilliant in their own ways. In some ways better than Canikon, but in others ways worse.

robin said...

Wow, a reply eight years later! I had all but forgotten this post.

Chris said...

Hi Robin, I would like to make my own spite donation, but to you and your site. Please reply.

robin said...

Ha! This post just keeps on giving. But no, I don't need a donation. Thanks for the sentiment, however.

Anonymous said...

As for Ken making it with Liveview

maybe other reviewers are hallucinating like Ken

"The 645D is slow, without liveview, but still very capable camera. The rear screen is fixed, too. The crop factor has been mentioned by Uncle Vanya. If you are ready to work without liveview on a slow camera by today's standard, then you should be fine. The 645D was an excellent camera when it was released, so it is able to take fine pictures. It is just that there are more modern cameras now, with new tricks and better performances that may not be of interest to you."

robin said...

This was written 14 years ago, so I no longer have perspective on the issues!

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