Interview with Fake Chuck Westfall

This week’s interview is a fresh dose of humor – something often lacking in photography. If you follow Canon, then you’ve probably heard of Chuck Westfall – Technical Advisor at Canon USA, often quoted by media. If you appreciate a good laugh, then head over to Fake Chuck Westfall. Yep, a blog that parodies the real Chuck and everything about Canon. If extreme language is not your thing, you might want to steer clear. But a lot of his opinions are on point, he seems to be technically informed, does some good analysis, and keeps me laughing at every post. The site actually received a shut down notice from Canon, but survived. Read on for some insight into the mind of Fake Chuck Westfall…

Who is Fake Chuck Westfall and why should we trust what you say?

Why should you trust what I say?? Why do you think that NASA has their own direct private line to my office at Canon USA? Why do you think that I have an Above Top Secret security clearance at Area 51? I’m not called the “Canon Camera Guru” on the Internet for nothing. There’s a reason for that. And I don’t think I have to explain that to you. You seem like a smart guy, or else you wouldn’t be doing this interview with me. So I’m sure you can figure it out.

You seem to be pretty excited about the 5D3. But many Canon users are disappointed in the pricing, especially when you can get the D800 with more resolution for $500 cheaper. What’s your comment on that?

I’m frickin psyched about the 5D3. It’s the best DSLR we have ever released to date, apart from the 1DX of course. And the pricing reflects this. I know it’s expensive, but this camera is worth every penny. Trust me on this. People who would prefer Nikon’s latest hunk of garbage, the D800, know absolutely jack shit about photography. Just look around the Internet.  Even 60% of the Nikon user base wants a smaller sensor in the D800. Let’s be honest here, who wants to really deal with the bloated 36MP files? Do you realize what this will do to your workflow? Jesus Christ. Not only are you slowing down on assignment, because of the 4fps frame rate, but you’re going to be using a lot more storage cards and transfer times are going to be fucking insane. Not to mention the storage capacity you’ll need, which for the average photographer will quickly rival small data centers. Plus, in all likelihood you’ll need to upgrade your computer as well to be able to work with these files at an acceptable speed. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say you can easily add 60% more time to your workflow when switching to the D800. And for what? I’ve seen the comparisons and upsampled 22MP files from the 5D Mark III come pretty close to the 36MP files from the D800. Plus the 5D Mark III gives you better results at all ISO values.

Why are the 5D3 samples on the Canon website so bad? Especially in sharpness…

First of all Japan needs to hire better photographers to show off our new products. This is something I’ve been telling them for years now. The pictures look like my mother in law took them for Christ’s sake. With the 5D Mark II we had the same crap. Even in the UK, Canon hired some guy named Lovegrove back then to shoot pictures that were out of focus. Fortunately, Nikon had the same issue with the D800 samples, and those were a lot more terrible. So we’re working on this.

You once claimed that the 50D had noise improvement over the 40D thanks to its new “gapless microlens” sensor design. However the 50D proved to have more noise than the 40D. What gives?

Yeah that was me giving the official Canon Inc. approved PR answer to the press. That was before I got fed up with everything and started my blog to tell people what I REALLY think. I apologize for that, I know I should have known better than to just trust Canon Inc. at the time. I don’t know what the fuck happened to the 50D sensor to be honest with you. Technically it should have performed better. But I think the Japanese probably fucked up somewhere and corrected it later with the 7D.

What can we expect from Canon in the future as far as crop bodies go? Will the 7D be updated, or only the 60D?

We’ll have an updated 7D shortly. Mostly what we’re worried about right now is getting our lenses updated to be able to take advantage of the higher resolution sensors we’re going to bring out in the future.

What makes you think you can sell a non-L f/2.8 prime lens (24 and 28mm) for nearly a grand?

Me? I’m not selling those lenses, Canon Inc. is. And I agree with you about the pricing. There’s a good chance that they’re smoking something highly illegal in Tokyo these days.

What’s the fundamental differences in the outlook and philosophy on camera and lens development between Canon USA and Canon Japan?

The problem is that the Japanese like to kiss too much ass in the company. So it takes a while before they admit any mistakes, as they also like to support each other. And obviously at Canon USA, certainly in my case, I like to just get things fixed and tell it like it is. So it can get frustrating at times when the Japanese just won’t listen and act fast enough. Discussions between Canon USA and Canon Inc. in Tokyo can get very heated at times. You can find a conference call between me and Masaya Maeda on Youtube to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

What inspired this blog? You seem to put a lot of time/effort into each post.

I and many others in this industry got frustrated with Canon more than 3 years ago around the time of the great 1D Mark III debacle. Many ancient civilizations had foretold a time of great upheaval at Canon which would occur in our lifetime during the coming of the new age of Aquarius. And I think that’s what we started experiencing back then. It was a major change in our collective consciousness at Canon. Everyone got fed up with the way Canon Inc. were handling a number of issues, and I took it upon myself to start my blog and let the world know what was going on at Canon. You’ve just witnessed EOS making a serious comeback in this industry, and so far you’ve just seen the beginning. Do you think it’s a coincidence that this is happening in the year 2012?

Currently you have no ads, but your website seems rather popular. Do you have any plans to monetize the site with affiliate links or ads?

Not at the moment. I’ve gotten some offers from Adorama and B&H and I think Manfrotto sent me something a while back. But the thing is, the blog is hosted on WordPress so there’s no possibility for advertising. I’d have to get my own hosting to do that, and obviously I’d have to reveal who I really am to certain people. So it’s not a priority for me right now. To be honest, I never started doing this for the money and money isn’t that important to me. Neither is fame. Although I must admit that at one point when the blog was receiving a lot of publicity, I was expecting to score a few book deals and possibly also an offer for a motion picture. But Hollywood hasn’t contacted me yet so far.

Have you ever met Chuck Westfall before? Did he say anything about the blog?

Let me just say that I communicate with myself from time to time. However, I’ve never asked myself about the blog. I’m afraid it might give me an idea of who I really am. If you know what I mean. However, I always encourage people to ask me what I think about my blog. I myself would love to know. Perhaps this is something you can try to find out.

Has Canon tried to intervene or shut down your blog since the initial notice 3 years ago?

Not that I know of. I think they quickly realized it could easily blow up to become a PR nightmare for them. It was also during the time of the great upheaval at Canon Inc. so things were already pretty unstable as it was. I think they made a wise decision to instead focus on getting their act together and giving us what we were asking for. And after 3 years, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that they’ve done incredible work and have managed to make a serious comeback with EOS. On a number of points they’ve managed to even surprise me. Let’s hope that it will continue to get better in the future. By fixing the issues they’ve taken the wind from my sails on the blog. The last few posts have been very positive for Canon. I think this is a much better way to silence me compared to taking legal action.

What is your day job? Tell us a bit about yourself…

Obviously I can’t tell you much. Let me just say that I also keep myself busy with photography among other things. I may or may not actually be working at Canon USA. I may or may not actually be living in the USA. However, I think we can assume with reasonable certainty that I must be living somewhere on Earth.

Which cameras/lenses do you actually shoot with?

Only Canon bodies and lenses. 

Care to share a couple of your favorite shots with us?

Nice try. But no, otherwise you’ll know who I am. And just in case you were thinking this, no it’s not because I suck at photography. And I’m not saying that I don’t suck either. Okay you want the real reason? It’s because I don’t want to upset people like Vincent Laforet, Chase Jarvis and Joe McNally by posting too much of my work online. People will probably lose interest in their work once they see mine, and this is something I would like to avoid. Their work may not be as good as mine, but I like these guys and respect the work they’re doing and don’t want to interfere with it too much.

A few of Fake Chuck’s posts, click for more info…

Introducing the Canon EOS 5D Mark III © Fake Chuck Westfall


Is Nikon the new Canon? © Fake Chuck Westfall

The Apollo XI One Light Photography Workshop © Fake Chuck Westfall

Lighting, Flashes, Flash Busses © Fake Chuck Westfall

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