Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Ken Doesn't know well? (Ken Rockwell Discussion)

I still get notifications when anyone and everyone puts up a post on any of my videos, and this one really struck my attention.

It goes like this:

The first posts were from Megasromanos and he asked on this video

when i do the same zoom in with a raw foto from my nikon D70s its not so sharp in resolution ?
Is it because i shoot with the 18 - 70 mm 3,5 f ?
Or maybe it's the 7 megapixels instead of the "i dont know how much your camera has" diffrence ?

so its not the megapixels that lacks my nikon d70s too get some good results ?
I did the whole setup like rockwell tells on his website about the D70 menu & settings to boost the camera colours and other things like whitebalans on auto and set to - 2 and so on.
I read many books and tutorials so i'm getting there and the result on my d70s lcd looks great but when i see the pics on my pc ...
it looks like a new compactcamera can give more coulour and sharpness.

Then came the reply from EctoplasmicResidue'

"I did the whole setup like rockwell tells on his website"
You're WAY off, even though Rockwell knows a great deal about testing lenses, everyone knows he knows nothing about practical photography.

Rant continues after the break

First mistake is to boost the camera colors - to get the most out of your pictures, any in camera processing will make the quality deteriorate. This is why you should shoot in RAW since the RAW format adds the most opportunities for any post processing and turn off all in-camera sharpening and the like. The best you can do to get good colors is to understand lighting as well as getting the white balance correct the first time.

Second mistake: auto ISO. ISO boosting is a last resort for exposure (shutter and aperture comes first) - high ISO results in grainy pictures, in digital that means you get noise, which doesn't look good at all, high noise results in reduced sharpness and reduced sharpness results in loss of color. Always shoot at the lowest ISO possible, by that you should keep the ISO down at 100 and only turn it up when absolutely necessary.

Overexposure is slightly better than underexposure - if you shoot in raw, there's a better chance you get to keep the information and high contrast from a slightly overexposed image than an underexposed one (though correct exposure is the best) - do not set anything to -2, though you should try and set your camera to bracket and turn the exposure up or down if you notice the light meter is off.

Your first mistake is listening to Rockwell, the second is not learning about color theory and lighting - something far more important to know than silly photo tutorials (which are mostly just made to promote photoshop or the likes of it, or some excuse for lousy research by journalists who just sit on their asses all day and thus knows nothing about photography, but know rudimentary program skills any child can learn in five minutes)
If you want to read a serious book about photography there's the books by Ansel Adams, another book called "Light, Science and Magic" as well as Scott Kelby has a set of more entertaining ones.
The istockphoto . com site also has a set of tutorials for people who want to know the serious professional criterias of working with digital imagery.

Instead of me replying to each post I thought best to make a blog post.

everyone knows he knows nothing about practical photography.
I have heard that comment before a number of times that Ken rockwell knows how to test lenses but is not a good photographer.  I am not one to judge him on his photography skills… I don't think I have actually seen any of his photos apart from his lens test shots so I cant comment.  But I have heard a number of others totally slate him. Jared Polin did a great bunch of videos slating the guy for his beliefs on raw vs Jpeg and the team at Nikon Help hotline regularly post "slaps forehead with hand" replies when people  mention Ken's results and findings.


First mistake is to boost the camera colors

Totally agree.  A number of professional photographers actively keep all their in camera settings as dull as possible, this helps the dynamic range and also the ability to edit better afterwards.

Second mistake: auto ISO. ISO boosting is a last resort for exposure (shutter and aperture comes first) - 

Totally agree again. auto iso is something I used the first week I got my camera but never again.  

Overexposure is slightly better than underexposure

My advice is to read that and notice the words Slightly, and also the part where he says Correctly exposed is best. same is for noise, if you are shooting and you want to change the exposure it is better to  have a SLIGHTLY over exposed image that you can make darker than a SLIGHTLY underexposed image that you have to artificially brighten up, increasing noise a lot!

Your first mistake is listening to Rockwell

I don't know what Ken really talks about. I have nearly never gone on his site. He has posted up some reviews of lenses which when googled his website has come up and he has had some interesting pictures like from the fish eye close up of his watch.  I also read and go through the lens reviews on but try not to get too hung up on the individual scores as there will alwasy be variences in lens quality within any batch so if one is saying it has a max resolution of 3450 and another says 3290. its not actually a difference.

If any of you have any good websites that you trust please leave your comments below and share your experience and knowledge.


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  1. If there's anything I've learned about the world of photography, is that there is not one "right" answer, there isn't one way, there isn't one opinion.

    To me, that's all what Ken Rockwell is; another opinion.

    I'm disappointed that so many new people who come into photography revere him as the God of photography who has the answers to all. No.

    He's another way of looking at things, that's it.

    His reviews are written according to what 'he' thinks is good and bad, he writes to what 'he' thinks is necessary and unnecessary, etc.

    Different photographers photograph differently. You, Dom, you take serious photos that you have to edit to the best possible quality and sell. I (and Ken) are more recreational photographers.

    Each photographer is going to view photography per his needs. You hurt for RAW, I find JPEG to be perfect for my needs. You find increasing ISO to be an undesirable option, I find that the noise I get from ISO 800 is negligible. I'm not agreeing with Rockwell, I'm finding what best suits my needs and my style.

    That's just my two pence (and I've also been awake for 20 hours so my thoughts aren't exactly well organized)

  2. "That's just my two pence (and I've also been awake for 20 hours so my thoughts aren't exactly well organized)"

    I'd dare to assert that that's when the most interesting rants come up (as well as that's a similar situation as when I posted my own rant) - though even though there are differing opinions, I still don't consider the subjectivity argument as an excuse for absolute nihilism (I'm a Kierkegaard enthusiast, and so I think "subjectivity is truth" though only really true when that truth has some element of being able to be understood as in a way universally applicable).

    Thing is even though people have differing opinions, there still exists a general consensus as to technical quality in the professional environment - as well as the fact that technical details are much easier measured quantitatively as opposed to the supposed relativity of qualitative judgements.

    Anyway, I'd also like to add that my "don't listen to photoshop tutorials" statements was kind of in the heat of the rant, and I was mostly thinking of those horrible photoshop tutorials in bad photoshop magazines crammed with ads for trashy photo gear - and not that rare but great collection of photoshop tutorials on youtube, or those written in serious books - as for that I'd like to add that I don't think anyone should trust a tutorial where the resulting demonstration image looks bad and uninspiring, and that I think it's a good idea to judge who you're taking advice from by seeing both what they produce as well as how sound arguments they make.

  3. I feel that one should not listen to somebody and consider every word as revealed truth.

    Today's camera are actually like a toolbox. Maybe you will never need the wrench, but another one will use it everyday. What is useless for the first is priceless for the second.

    That's it. KR has his own point of view. If you take all it says as truth, chances are at some point his truth will not match your truth...

    For the auto iso matter, I can at least see one case where in my opinion it is a good thing : it's when shooting a concert, or any indoor show, where you can't be sure where the perfect exposition will be since the lighting changes every second, BUT you certainly can choose shutter speed and aperture in advance.
    In this situation, auto iso is very helpful, and will actually help by keeping the lowest possible iso to keep up with your settings. (with ISO values you actually may not be able to set up manually)


  4. "Today's camera are actually like a toolbox. Maybe you will never need the wrench, but another one will use it everyday. What is useless for the first is priceless for the second."

    What I don't like is the first person who says "use the wrench, you absolutely-positively must use the wrench" or "if you grab the hammer, you're completely retarded and might as well throw your camera in a river"

  5. I have been doing photography for the last 15 years and all the cameras I had were cheap bridge cameras as I was a beginner. It was only two years ago I was able to buy a decent camera (Nikon D3). As I wanted the best lenses to use with the D3, I read many read many reviews. Ken Rockwell appeared to know what he was taking about, so visited his website on a regular basis. I thought that his test shots were rubbish and wondered why someone with his knowledge of gear could get such bad results. I have learnt so much over the last two years and took advice from as many pro photographers as possible. Everyone shoot photographs in different ways. I found the best thing to do is experiment with your camera and try all the settings thats available to get the results as best as possible. DONT BE AFRAID OF RAW. You can do so much with the files and invest in good software. I used to use Aperture software for my Mac but have recently bought Lightroom 3 which is a great editing suite.
    Dont just watch Youtube video tutorials, they are ok for giving you basic ideas of what you can do. Get out there with your camera and experiment. There is so much to learn. The Ken Rockwell site has now been deleted from my favourites list.

  6. Interesting post. With regards to Ken Rockwell I've noticed that the more I learn about photography the less I respect his opinion. Reading his site recently I noticed that he recommended shooting on full auto or one of the program modes all the time! Hardly a good approach if you want to have any creative control of the way in which your shots are exposed.