Ken Rockwell VS Michael Reichmann

I came across an interesting “debate” between the two. Ken Rockwell wrote an entry stating that “Your Camera Doesn’t Matter” which reads in part:

Your equipment DOES NOT affect the quality of your image. The less time and effort you spend worrying about your equipment the more time and effort you can spend creating great images. The right equipment just makes it easier, faster or more convenient for you to get the results you need.

Michael Reichmann wrote a rebuttal entitled (surprise! surprise!) “Your Camera Does Matter” and his shock quote is:

Let’s get something straight right off. Photography is not possible without a camera and a lens. (Don’t talk to me about the camera obscura and pinhole cameras. The pinhole is in essence a lens, and the room or box is indeed a camera).

There is also the forum discussions on luminous-landscape and on dpreview.

To settle this important dispute once and for all (and since I know better, of course), I put Michael Reichmann vs Ken Rockwell in and here is the result:


Sorry Michael…


35 Responses to Ken Rockwell VS Michael Reichmann

  1. Curtis says:

    Sorry, but what does the Google search prove besides the fact Ken Rockwell is a blow-hard?

  2. smably says:

    Ah, but if you googlefight Ken Rockwell vs. Luminous Landscape, you get the opposite result!

  3. NewMikey says:

    For all of those who think the equipment makes the photo: buy a Nikon D3 and have your 6 year old take it to school for a few weeks.

    For all of those who think the photographer makes the photo: take a Canon Ixus to a rockconcert or to your grandchild’s birthday.

    As usual, the truth lies in the middle but it doesn’t get a chance to stick its head out. A good eye, some technical skills, a camera that matches both eyes and skills and a photo-opportunity that matches all of the above – that is what make a photo.

    I wouldn’t dare take my K100D to snap penguins at the South Pole or Keith Richards in concert. My son would rather take the G5 anywhere and a pro will depend on a full-frame 5000$+ piece of equipment with 3 times that much in lenses. I guess all of us get the shots we want and/or deserve.

    Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not! Probably my shots would not improve if a wizard turned my K100D into a D3/E3/1DS-Mark3 today. A pro would take great shots with my K100D but he would feel slightly confined by the limited scenarios the technical capabilities of my camera dictate.

    You choose or you loose! Select what suits your creativity, experience, time/money available and willingness to get technical.

    Whatever you do, for godssake enjoy photography to the limit!

  4. Jason says:

    I think Rockwell (yes, a blowhard) wasn’t trying to say anyone could do with a Box Brownie that a pro was doing with a D3, 1Ds, etc.

    I think Reichmann (at times, also a blowhard) was taking Rockwell’s argument too literally. What did surprise me about the whole thing was how much crap MR took after his Sony F828 review and how much he used ‘Rockwellian’ methods to defend his favorable opinion of the camera – but now he went in a contrary direction.

    What KR didn’t do hard enough and what MR ignored is that you need to focus on the equipment that delivers your vision. If a Diana with color neg does it for you, then great. If you need ultimate in low-light, then a D3 may be required. If you have to have large prints, then a 1Ds Mk III is probably the answer.

    I liken the argument to race cars: if you want to run at Indy, you need an Indy car – the jalopy ain’t gonna cut it. But if you want to have fun on a Saturday night at the fairgrounds, the ol’ stocker is the ticket. Not that one’s better than the other, they’re just different.

    And I think that what happens far too often, especially since digitals taken over, is that most people want the greatest in equipment without knowing what the hell it is they want to do with it.

  5. jcornuz says:

    Hi there,

    @Mike & Jason: I didn’t think anyone would byte the bullet and you are doing a rather good job at it. Thanks for your comments. I like what you said and I would say that you are right: the truth is somewhere in the middle 🙂

    @smably: so it looks like my way to sort it once and for all doesn’t work. The world is a complicated place.

    Take care


  6. jcornuz says:

    and by the way, there is another thread on dpreview about this debate:

  7. Brian Melancon says:

    “I love a good hoax. Read The Museum of Hoaxes, or see their site. A hoax, like this site, is done as a goof simply for the heck of it by overactive minds as a practical joke.” — Ken Rockwell –

    People, please stop talking about Ken Rockwell as if he provides valuable insights. His site is nothing more than his way of being a troll.

  8. Jason says:

    Brian, frankly I think Ken’s writings stray toward megalomania. That “about” page just almost seems like he printed his own license to be wrong. I think he’s more serious than he lets on, he just is writing that in the way someone tries to flounder their way after making an off-color joke that elicits anger instead of laughter.

    And if he’s trying to be a humorist, he falls flat. He’s not smart enough in his writing to be clever nor witty enough to deliver the joke. Plus, for what it is, his friends must be pretty self-centered if they “get the joke,” because nobody else is laughing. He spends way too much time filling in the details (tests and whatnot) and not enough being wry – a la, The Onion.

    Whatever one thinks about Rockwell, regardless if he is a dope and/or troll, the article does serve a purpose in that it still touches upon the “does your camera matter” debate.

  9. Taylor says:

    This isn’t a fair comparison because Ken Rockwell’s website is his name, and thus people recognize and search for that, whereas Michael Reichmann’s website is “Luminous Landscape”.

    A Google Fight with Luminous Landscape vs. Ken Rockwell yields 2,150,000 vs. 367,000 in favour of LL (Michael Reichmann).

  10. otto uberswengen says:

    When KR says Cameras & MP’s don’t matter he actually means that a good photographer will make a good picture with ANY camera.

    MR respected as he is, has to me, taken this too literally.
    Neither is fool-proof in what they say.
    Certain prophets say different things to get the message through to different minds.
    So the bottom line is, “of course your camera does not matter”
    AND of course,
    “the camera matters” …both are TRUE!

    BUT the REAL message is:
    “what TYPE of camera does not matter” because
    the REAL message is:

    “Knowest what thou doest with thy camera!”
    If you don’t understand this, it does not matter!

  11. otto uberswengen says:

    The Prophet OTTO’s sermon on whatever Mount you are sitting on, is this:

    No camera is more important than knowledge of the principles of photography and just WHAT works according to the Laws of Physics.

    Even if you knew nothing about the Laws of Physics, you can still make a good picture if you knew how to get the best out of your equipment. In other words, know what works and what doesn’t.

    Finally, NO camera is any good, if you do not have Imagination.

  12. Dweezil S. Meniketti says:

    While Ken Rockwell may not be a god, he does have some good insights. Nobody is right 100% of the time. And nobody is wrong 100% of the time. The fact is, I have put to use some of Ken’s advice and it has helped me make better pictures.

    I think Ken gets a lot of flak from other photographers because they’re threatened by anyone who believes that anybody can take good pictures if they try. Professional photographers have invested a lot of time and money in their craft.

    This is the same knee-jerk reaction that you get from any “professional” that places themselves above others simply because they have some knowledge that the rest of us don’t possess. I see a lot of this in the IT industry.

    Bottom line: People are stupid.

  13. Paul C. says:

    Ansel Adams said “The single most important component
    of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

    I wouldn’t want to argue with him! Are you pictures good enough that you would?

    All these anti Ken Rockwell people are the typical type who love to pick holes in anything. They know best about everything too. No one else is allowed an opinion. Opinion being the magic word!

    Next week they are going to be hitting out on Salvador Dhali for using the wrong type of brushes.

  14. David Clark says:

    People that argue over dumb points like this are idiots. Get whichever camera you can afford and go take pictures! Or get some other hobby! You have too much time on your hands.

  15. lao says:

    when Ken Rockwell said that, i think he forgot that the sensors is the body ^^,

    ok, i agree that in great lightning conditions the difference will be less visible, but in general the sensor will play a role as important as the lens.

  16. Lay-Z-Boy says:

    I think that what people fail to realize, is that while it is true that your camera does not matter IF YOU DON’T GET THE BASICS RIGHT, saying that “your camera does not matter” as a blanket statement is actually quite misleading and, frankly, stupid.

    If someone thinks they can handle a professional studio “commercial product shoot”-type photo assignment with a Quicksnap, they are absolutely, resolutely, categorically, WRONG. The reality is that to deliver the look and quality that these clients want and need, you ned professional lighting and camera equipment. Period. End of story. Try and photography birds or wild animals with a Quicksnap. Good luck. See the point?

    Maybe if one’s only photographic endeavour in life is to create abstract art by photographing lego blocks, treas or any abstract pattern such as building windows light by sunset, etc., yeah, I guess the photographic requirements do not necessarily dictate very high-end equipment. But some people, in addition to composing a nice photograph, also require (or simply like!) image quality to go along with hit.

    So, one can certainly create interesting images regardless of what camera he or she is using. However, your camera does matter, insofar as image quality is concerned. To not recognize this fact is to be, simply, ignorant and dumb.

    P.S. While he describes himself as a photographer, I don’t personally consider any of Rockwell’s photos to be that good…

  17. FrankG says:

    Ken Rockwell is my hero.

  18. The Chrome Dragon says:

    It is rather interesting two persons behind the two of my favorite websites dueling it out on a specific subject.

    I enjoy KR’s work for he differs from most photographers by coming from an engineering background instead of art, which gives me a (false) hope of if I work hard and trying hard in learning, may be I can be better. I also enjoy his candid and enthusiastic style of writing, like reading a diary. On the other hand, I also enjoy MR’s work and the contributions of others to his website. I feel that I have been progressing by frequenting their sites and trying to put their theories into practice.

    I feel the title of KR’s article although exaggerating a bit, but is very well intentioned for the effect. After reading the whole article I feel I understand where he is coming from and feel he encourages us to stop waiting for the next better camera over the horizon and go enjoy what we have today, paying more attention to what is in front of us instead of bitching or over indulging what is in our hand.

    As a technical person I also understand where MR is coming from, which is technical correctness, but I do believe many of us understand if “Your camera doesn’t matter” is a true statement, may be the majority us will be using pinhole camera today. I also believe many of us knows about the meaning of “right tool for the task” and “there is no one size fits all”.

    There is an old Chinese saying of “If you blindly believe everything in the book, it is better that there is no book”. So please believe in what you feel is truth and may peace be with all of us.

  19. I love it when people who are new to photography pick up on some of Ken-boy’s writings and profess them to “make sense” or “work for them”. Ken Rockwell has no earthly idea what he’s talking about half the time. I don’t know a single professional shooter or Photoshop expert who has a high opinion of the guy. He’s all about web clicks, not about actually researching and understanding and spreading knowledge. He’s a tool. Follow his simpleton advice at your own risk.

  20. jasmincormier says:

    Ken Rockwell is such an ignorant and obnoxious douche.

  21. Catdude says:

    I used to like Ken’s site and info. Yes, some of it is useful, but lately he does come across as an obnoxious know-it-all, you know, that kind of kid in high school that you all wanted to give a wedgie.

    Noe he bloviates about everything. His stupid piece on “socialism” today was so off-base. Convenient how he forgot Scandinavia. Hey, those Finns make a pretty good phone, for socialists!

    And sorry, Ken, I don’t give a rat’s ass about pics of your kid. Do you want to see pics of my cat? I doubt it. Almost anyone can have a kid. So what?

    I sense a lot of megalomania in his site now. I bet he is pretty obnoxious in real-life, probably even more that me. Ha ha!

    But, again, thanks for the info Ken. Maybe just tone it down a bit..

    A Former Admirer

  22. Bill says:

    I think what Rockwell means when he says your camera doesn’t matter is………. I think everyone is taking Rockwell too literally….
    I am so fed up with everyone trying to tell us what Rockwell really means. Why does this guy need 1,000 interpreters? Is he incapable of saying what he means? There has been so much controversy over his “Camera Doesn’t Matter” article that, if he didn’t mean what he said, he would have changed it by now.

    Rockwell has no credibility. He started out with film, then discovered digital and loved it, and now has switched back to film again and dumps on digital. How can you trust someone like this? His reputation is crap. He attracts juvenile minds who love him for his “tell it like it is” style. But it’s not really “tell it like it is” it’s just the rantings of an angry mind. They defend him fanatically and accuse anyone who disagrees of jealousy.

    And then there is his disclaimer page. This page is only there as a last ditch effort to deter his more determined detractors. If he really wanted this page to be prominant it would be on his home page and not hidden away so you have to go looking for it.
    I scour the web for photography articles. I used to go to his site a lot, years ago. Not very much any more. It’s a chore to read 99 pages of trash to get 1 page worth reading. I’d like to see him split his site into two sections – one for digital and the other for film. Then he can check the number of hits for each. If film wins out then he can stop working on the digital. At least this way we won’t have to look at the garbage along with the digital and if he quits digital we won’t have to come back to his site any more. Let’s face it, lately, there’s nothing there any more for the modern photographer, any way.

  23. Carl says:

    In the essay: Pixels vs Grain ( Michael Reichmann’s figures are incorrect. If a “film grain” is 2 microns wide and a pixel is 6 microns wide (as per argument) then there are 9 possible film grains per digital pixel. If, as Michael argues, that grain is either on or off, (binary) then it is capable of encoding 2 to the power of 9 tones within the same area as the digital pixel: ie. 512 tonal levels.

    But Michael claims you need 30 to 40 grains to equal the tonal range of a pixel. But that number of grains would give a range of at least 2 to the power of 30, ie. 1,073,741,824 possible tones.

    What digital pixel can encode that many tones?

    A single digital pixel typically encodes only 256 tonal levels per pixel.

    In other words, even according to Michaels own figures for grain size and pixel size the film would be better.


  24. Anton Forte says:

    The pixel doesn’t encode, it’s an analogue system. The A/D converter that samples the charge level stored in the pixel site does the encoding. To the limits of electronic system noise the higher the bit width of the sampler the higher the resolution of the result. Other effects such as averaging and oversampling will also have an effect on the final result recorded for a pixel site. In theory there is no limit to the number of tonal levels. However system constraints, available practical technology and physics will place severe limits on any one design. You should have a look at astronomy systems when cost and connivence are not high on the design requirements spec.

    • Carl says:

      “The pixel doesn’t encode, it’s an analogue system.” – Anton

      Ok, yes, to be technical a pixel is a “picture element”, which is information (rather than a device such as an A/D encoder). But in this context a “pixel” is refering to the A/D convertor (a single sensor cell) which should be obvious.

      The point was that the sensor cell (that encodes a pixel) is 6 microns wide, and if there are 9 film grains per sensor cell then there would be 2 to the 9 tonal levels.

      However I was incorrect there. There would only be 9 (3×3) possible levels. I was wrong.

      Film grains (or more correctly – silver particles) are more like 0.6 microns. Only the largest (and rarest) reach 2 microns. So we’re actually talking about 100 grains per sensor cell. Which equates to 100 tonal levels.

      This is is still less than the tonal range of the typical sensor cell.

      So I was wrong there as well.


      Note. Sensor cells can’t (even in theory) record any tonal range because there are physcial limits on the cell – not to mention on the the data they would generate (storage etc). Otherwise we could say the same thing about film – that “in theory” we could manufacture film with infinite tonal range.

  25. Harlan Sanders says:

    What Ken is getting at, and rightfully so, is that any fool can own a D3S or a 5D mk II, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be taking good pictures. In case you guys missed it Ken reviews equipment and talks about equipment a lot on his site. Clearly Ken knows that equipment plays some role, albeit miniscule in comparison to the photographer. Owning a Leica, a 5d, whatever does not make you a good photographer, unless you actually see something interesting it won’t make a lick of difference. If that were the case anyone who could afford a 5d would be a professional photographer, which we all know is just not true.

    He’s trying to tell you that a good photographer will work within the limitations of their camera to make good pictures. He’s also doing so by employing hyperbole and stepping on your toes by criticizing your obsession with equipment. He’s not making a blanket statement, again, he’s employing hyperbole to get the point across that your equipment is less important than you are. He in fact directly explains that he uses hyperbole to make his point on several occasions.

    When I took my geology field class I brought a cheap kodak p&s camera (which was meant to be expendable), I took some of my favorite pictures of all time with it. It was a complete piece of shit camera, I bought it for 100$… The whole point of buying it being that I could lose it, drop it, get it wet, and not care. But yet somehow, magically, without my Canon dSLR I made pictures which I have in turn sold 8×10 prints of.

  26. Sylvia says:

    sour grapes…Ken Rockwell is what he is..he is Ken Rockwell, self taught photographer who as well as taking kiddie pics takes a lot of really great photos. I think a lot of you are snobs who want to read technical manuals. Photography is a wide ranging subject and has wide ranging applications. His articles ARE trying to point the person back to the art rather than the manual..they are more about HIS philosophy rather than about technical execution and if you read all his articles you will find others that do say the camera matters. I think people like to hate Ken because one..he comes across as arrogant with his style of preachy reviews.I am an amateur and i have read his reviews and other technical reviews and taken all of those into account when purchasing cameras.I agree with him that the camera doesn’t make the photo..i made better shots with my point and shoot than i do with my DSLR, but a good camera does improve the technical purity of the shot if you know what you are doing.People..get over it already..he dresses weird..ok..he takes photos of his kids..ok…he acts like a typical American arrogant baptist/born again Ned Flanders..ok… why are people even focusing on all this crap instead of seeing his blog for what it is, a collection of his opinions with some reviews. You don’t like his jokes..thats don’t have to read his site. His about page is a bit of an attempt to stop the hatemail..there are blogs out there that have been runningsince 2006 just as a forum to bash him.That’s just plain ridiculous. Is he that important in your lives that you need to always talk about him? I like some of his advice..some of it i don’t agree with and reject or amend to suit my view. You want technical purity go and read a manual. You want a photographers opinion go to Ken Rockwells site, its that simple..ITS HIS OPINION..stop acting like a bunch of professional snobs, are you even professionals or just a bunch of housewives/old men who post a few photos online?.He does not hide his background or lack of training. He is a self taught photographer who is sharing his thoughts..i don’t blame him for becoming more and more neurotic as time wears on, how many of us would be able to cop the Ken hate mail he cops and still come out happy go lucky? i certainly wouldn’t.GET OVER IT..IF YOU DON’T LIKE HIS ADVICE DON’T TAKE IT. It was certainly obvious to me what he meant when he said the camera doesn’t matter and i am not even that well educated. A case of sour grapes and professional snobbery..that is all it is. He is still a photographer and as a fellow photographer should be respected for that and treated with some respect.He doesn’t force you to pay him or take his advice. He helps amateurs like me in more ways than one, art is art and can’t be defined by a technical manual or a flashy camera. He is a film versus digital snob..i am not clever enough for film but in many ways i feel the same, its like comparing vinyl to a cd..they are two very different medium but for all the purity of a cd how many of us sometimes miss the hiss and crackle of a good vinyl record? Deep Purple certainly sound better on vinyl..i am personally glad for the digital revolution which has made it possible for me to make some enjoyable images. But i find myself turned off by the crystal clear images that glut all the photography websites and find it refreshing to see a photo shot with a lot of grain and heart on a vintage camera. Most people are not that stupid that they would take the opinion of one photographer and use it as gospel..those who would, do so because they agree with those views and this is after all a free socitey is it not? Still a Rockwell his photos, including some of the ones with kids..appreciate his ordinary and plain language reviews.Don’t know the guy personally but would probably not sit down to dinner with him and discuss the stockmarket.

    • + 1 with Sylvia.

      Ken is Ken – he has his own unique style of sharing ideas which some people may not like. He has his own style and I enjoy reading his articles. And every time I want to do some research on say, a camera or lens, I cannot resist to read what he has to say. No one can take away his efforts and contribution to thousands of people interested in photography.
      Thanks Ken for your reviews.

  27. Enrico says:

    Ken is a moron, plain and simple. He evidently ignores how to frame or light whatever he’s shooting. Hell, I’m less than an amateur, but I can take better pictures with my compact camera, and when I use my – far from professional – DSLR, I’m way better than he is.

    Even talking about him is almost a waste of time.

    However, I cannot completely disagree with the idea that no matter how good the equipment, you need the “eye”, and without it you might just pick a different pastime. That’s what Ken should seriously consider. He proved time and agin that he positively does NOT have the aforementioned quality, and that he just points whatever he’s holding in the general direction of his subjects, pulls the trigger and hopes… That’s asshole photography. I just can’t figure how he can afford his equipment.

    Last but not least, he has the somatic traits of a neanderthal, and the witty smile of a dunce. That usually means something.

    Ken, stay away from your camera, and please stay away from the Internet as well.

  28. Ornello says:

    It is difficult to choose between Reichmann and Rockwell, with regard to stupidity. Both qualify easily in the moron hall of fame.

  29. Carl Looper says:

    One can create interesting work irregardless of so called “technical quality”. The first photograph is probably the worst photograph ever made, technically speaking, but we’d never throw it in the bin on that basis, would we? In a sense, all photographs are like the first photograph. It’s their context which makes them more interesting, or less. The technical quality becomes irrelevant.

  30. Mark R. says:

    One thing Rockwell fails to clarify, is the fact that he says you no longer need a tripod, with a “popular” DSLR that he wrote in 2007.

    This is totally false, for anyone shooting a Nikon D50, for example, with older lenses, that do NOT have the VR technology. You absolutely need a tripod with these older lenses, even shooting at 1600. I proved it myself to my own eyes.

  31. Mark R. says:

    Rockwell quote:
    “Many people still cling to the mystique of the tripod, even though tripods went out with film cameras.”

    Just wanted to add context, which speaks for itself from this buffoon, who has never taken the time to do side-by-side comparisons apparently, doing hand-held, vs. tripod shots, as I did last night, and the results with a D50 and older Nikon AF lenses (non-VR), are like night vs. day.

    Only adding this to save people from believing what this clown writes, that you need to get rid of your tripod. Keep your tripod, if you have a Nikon DSLR and older lenses, which are purely sharp, and still excellent. I have a Bogen3221 and it’s produced a lot of great shots, and will continue to do so, regardless of Mr. Rockwell’s “expertise”.

  32. tcbaby says:

    In my opinion, both suck equally hard!

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