When I decided to start a satirical blog featuring a fake version of Canon USA’s Chuck Westfall back in September 2008, I never expected that it would have gotten the exposure it eventually did. But a few months later, Canon Inc.’s lawyers tried to shut down the blog and get behind the identity of the author. Then all of a sudden a small blog that hardly anyone knew existed at that time became something much bigger.
It’s almost 6 years ago now since I started the blog on September 13th, 2008 and it’s time for me to move on to other things that I want to concentrate on. I think that it’s best to officially close the blog and move on instead of just letting it sit there without updates. I decided to also come out and reveal who Fake Chuck really is and answer some questions that I know many people will have about the blog so that there can be no confusion or misunderstandings in the future. In case you have additional questions that haven’t been answered here, feel free to post them in the comments below and I’ll answer them for you.
Before I decided to create the FCW blog I had already spent a lot of time here on my own blog discussing a lot of issues I and many others were having with Canon cameras and lenses. Back then there were a lot of issues relating to bad quality control and defective products (50mm f/1.2L, 1D Mark III debacle) and the problem was that Canon simply wasn’t putting out enough information and not doing enough to address the issues people were having. Most of the time they just kept quiet even while they knew about potential weaknesses and defects in their products (like the 5D Mark II mirror falling off). Then there were also the questionable business practices (5D Mark II autofocus lie, 1D Mark III debacle). On top of that there was a period of 3 years where product releases were also mediocre (50D, 5D Mark II, 7D, 60D). So I was blogging about all of those issues here on my personal blog, and spamming Canon executives worldwide with emails containing my feedback. This even got me in trouble with Bryan Carnathan from The Digital Picture (which got sorted out after photographer John Harrington intervened), and Phil Askey from DPReview who thought I “clearly have an axe to grind against Canon” and sent his lawyers from Amazon after me. Askey was correct, of course, and not only did I have an axe to grind against Canon, but it was one made out of Valyrian steel.
I felt that I needed to do more to draw attention to the issues so that Canon would take these matters more seriously, and I got the idea to start a blog similar to the Fake Steve blog, created by Dan Lyons, where he pretended to be Apple’s Steve Jobs. Canon executives were either seriously uninformed or blatantly lying in the few instances where they did answer questions, and I wondered what it would be like if we had a blog by a Canon executive who would just plainly speak the truth about various matters whenever he felt like it. I had to choose which Canon executive I would pretend to be, and the choice fell on Canon USA’s Chuck Westfall, since he was by far the most well known executive on the Internet, at least among photographers. And so I logged on to WordPress.com and the Fake Chuck Westfall blog was born.
From the beginning I kept Fake Chuck’s real identity a secret because I wanted people to concentrate on the content, rather than on the person doing the writing. If people knew from the beginning who I was, the blog would also be less of a mystery and less funny. By keeping Fake Chuck’s true identity a secret, people were free to speculate about it and that was an important part of the fun. Some thought that it was actually the real Chuck Westfall behind the blog, others thought it was photographer Vincent Laforet (he denied in a video interview with Planet5D, around the 7 minute mark), and in the beginning there were wild speculations about Nikon’s marketing department being behind the FCW blog.
I have to admit that I didn’t take great care to conceal Fake Chuck’s real identity. I often wrote in a similar tone and using the same vocabulary as on my personal blog, and there were people who immediately made the connection. I also often updated both blogs in the same period of time and some people also noticed that:
[…] Well, I’m *afraid* I know since nearly a couple of years ago who you really are… but I wouldn’t tell anybody even under torture. Just a suggestion: you should pay attention in the future, when not updating your blog for a long while, to not update your official blog at the same time. And, one more thing… you write very well, maybe too well. Your style is unique, you should differentiate. […]
I even linked back and forth between the FCW blog and my personal blog. So it wasn’t that important to me to keep the true identity of Fake Chuck hidden, and I certainly wasn’t afraid of anyone finding out about it. I just made the minimum amount of effort to keep Fake Chuck’s real identity hidden. I’m grateful to those who found out all by themselves who Fake Chuck really was, and still kept quiet about it. Thank you for not spoiling it.
There were also a few people, about 5, that I personally told myself for various reasons in the course of the past 6 years. I assume they were trustworthy enough to keep it to themselves, but wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. 😛
On February 14th, 2009 I received an email from Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com where the FCW blog is hosted, notifying me of a letter (PDF) they received from Canon’s lawyers (Loeb & Loeb) demanding that the blog be taken down. Their demand was based on 4 issues which were listed in that letter. Automattic gave me 48 hours to change the blog to comply with the 4 issues. That was enough time for me to post about it on the blog and let people know what was happening.
What happened next is known on the Internet as the Streisand Effect. Within a few hours word got out all over the Internet about what Canon was trying to do with the FCW blog. It first got on Northlight Images, and then photographer Thomas Hawk blogged about it (PDF) and soon after that it got on Slashdot (PDF) and then it really spread far and wide. For example, it got on 1001 Noisy Cameras (PDF), the Online Photographer (PDF), Ars Technica (PDF), the Inquirer (PDF), the Register (PDF), the Standard (PDF) and even photographer Chase Jarvis blogged about it (PDF).
I decided to “comply” with two of the issues listed in the letter; I made the Canon logo which was visible on the blog a little smaller so it was barely readable, and changed a comment I had made on the blog as Fake Chuck which contained “threats of physical violence” and seemed to have scared the good lawyers over at Loeb and Loeb. I left the original comment on the blog for comparison. Shortly after that Toni Schneider, Automattic’s (then) CEO, told me the blog would stay online. The issues listed in the letter by Canon’s lawyers were really weak, and it just seemed like a cheap attempt to try and get behind the identity of the author of the FCW blog. I suspect they wanted to find out if it was someone inside Canon. I have to give credit to Toni Schneider who handled this in an intelligent way; he got praised for standing behind the FCW blog on the Internet.
The end result was that the FCW blog received a ton of exposure that drove a good amount of traffic to it for days. I would never have been able to pay for that kind of exposure.
And I didn’t realize it back then, but the timing probably wasn’t a coincidence. The fact that I personally received the letter on February 14th 2009 — Valentine’s Day — gives it a special meaning. It’s almost as if the universe was showing love and appreciation for what I was doing with the FCW blog and decided to help me out. It may sound crazy, but something very similar would happen again 3 years later, when Canon finally included all the feedback I and many others were posting on the FCW blog and announced the EOS 1DX camera on my birthday on October 18th, 2011. I couldn’t have imagined a better sign of appreciation for all the time and effort I put into getting Canon to listen to us. What are the odds of this happening just by chance: the shut down notice on Valentine’s Day, resulting in a ton of free publicity, and after years of effort, the ultimate camera being announced precisely on my birthday? In my thoughts on the 1DX camera I mentioned the following:
And what’s crazy about this is that Canon actually announced the 1DX on my birthday on October 18th, 2011. What a strange coincidence. I mean here I was consistently bashing Canon for more than 4 years, and I mean seriously bashing them, and then they go ahead and announce what I consider a dream camera on my birthday – almost 6 months before it will really be available. Perhaps this is the present they’re giving me after all the effort I put into providing them with all the valuable feedback in the last 4 years. 😛
So, the 1DX came about 3 years (released in March 2012) after the Valentine’s Day love letter, announced about 6 months before availability on the 18th of October. Note the numbers 3, 6 and 18. I discuss them elsewhere on my blog.
These kinds of “coincidences” happen quite often in my life. The EOS 1DX would be the first camera to truly feature most of the feedback we gave Canon especially through the FCW blog, and the camera that would put Canon back into the position of market leader in the industry. Shortly after that the 5D Mark III followed, which included many of the features we requested via the 5D Mark III petition (PDF – Discussion) on the FCW blog, including the AF system from the 1D series — something I personally fought for.
I don’t know what’s keeping Hollywood so long but they haven’t yet showed up. However, I was interviewed a few times, and you can read/listen to the following interviews:
In the beginning some people thought that the blog was making fun of real Chuck Westfall, but that was never really its purpose. In fact, those who actually understood what the blog was about, quickly saw that it was portraying Chuck Westfall as our hero inside Canon, who tirelessly fought for customers’ interests even while often risking his job, physical health and mental stability. I thought the following comments at the Online Photographer really put it well:
“Fake Chuck Westfall is a prince among men–an individual who has the guts to tell the truth in service to photographers everywhere. I consider his blog a must-read.” – Fake Mike Johnson
“Fake Chuck Westfall isn’t about Chuck Westfall. It’s a satire about the inept management at Canon and portrays the real Chuck in a very positive light. You guys really need to read the site before commenting on it.” – John Mikes
“Oh, do give fake Chuck a bit of the same latitude you extend to the real one. Real Chuck does have a hard job, especially because big megacorporations make many compromises where their end users are concerned, and less with their shareholders. Fake Chuck does a commendable job airing the flaws and stupid corporate practices that legitimately peeve real users. I think it is disingenuous to characterize Fake Chuck as making the real one into a straw man. These kind of informal fallacies are rhetorical rather than evidential – ironic because fake chuck is livid about the evidential failings of Canon products. Keep the laughs coming fake chuck. :-)” – Matt
In a Photofocus interview at NAB 2012 with Chuck Westfall, Scott Bourne introduced him as “the legend, the guy who’s so powerful there’s a fake version of him on the Internet too.” So I would say that, if anything, the FCW blog made real Chuck Westfall look good.
I don’t know if real Chuck Westfall ever knew who Fake Chuck was, and if he did, he didn’t get it from me. I do have to say that I’ve often communicated with Chuck Westfall regarding feedback and technical information related to Canon cameras and lenses — before and after I started the FCW blog. He’s always been very polite and helpful to me, often taking the time to send me elaborate responses and information, even while I was sending him criticism. In my 5D Mark III review I wrote the following:
And I think this reveals one of the important reasons why Microsoft is so successful: They know how to take honest criticism and act on it to improve. And I can say the same thing about some executives at Canon, most notably Chuck Westfall from Canon USA. I’ve criticized Chuck personally in the past, sent some angry emails to him and others at Canon, but to this day Chuck still replies to me when I give feedback and helps me if he can. Everything people say about Chuck’s generosity and knowledge on the Internet is true. And I think it’s because of people like Chuck Westfall at Canon that today we’re seeing Canon making a huge comeback in this industry with products such as the 5D Mark III.
It’s going to be a sad day for Canon photographers worldwide when Chuck Westfall retires from his job at Canon USA. It’s probably going to be similar to the way in which Steve Ballmer gave his farewell speech at Microsoft. I can totally see Chuck Westfall running around in tears hi-fiving colleagues at the offices at Canon USA, yelling “I love this company!!”, as he says goodbye to everyone. In fact, I once had Fake Chuck throw a chair during a meeting just like Steve Ballmer did.
The overall response to the FCW blog has been positive. The blog came at a time when Canon photographers all over the world were fed up with the way things were going with Canon, and me discussing all of the issues on the FCW blog, often in a humorous way, was something they welcomed very much. I got positive comments even from photographers in the Canon Explorers of Light program. The blog made Trent Nelson’s top 5 cool things for 2008:
And so we’re fair, Canon also took some hits from the photography community this year. One of the blogs holding Canon’s feet to the fire is Fake Chuck Westfall, which shows us the irreverent thoughts of an alternate (and FAKE) version of Canon’s camera guru, Chuck Westfall. http://fakechuckwestfall.wordpress.com
There goes my chance at becoming a Canon Explorer of Light.
Here’s a selection of comments people left on the blog, starting with what I consider to be the best one I ever got:
Thank you Fake Chuck from Cleveland Ohio! You crack up my whole family! Every day I read your blog after my Bible time with The Lord, I thank him putting funny people like you to get me off!
Oh, and you were so great when you blogged about the coming of the D3x! I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind of you barricading yourself in your office, even while having sexual intercourse with my husband! Right in the middle when I was on the bottom position, taking it fully inside of my vagina, I busted out a laughter, imaging my bald pear-shaped middle aged balding husband in the same situation, but got him so angry that he pulled out and finished his part by playing with himself!
I can’t help it FakeChuck, even when you don’t blog, I come back here every day to re-read your wonderfully expressive notes, that stay with people, even while they are in the middle of an orgasm!
Don’t ever stop what you do best!
thank you very much for this new communication channel with your clients. However, thinking about twice to get a new Canon 5D MkII perhaps it will be better to switch to the (better sealed Sony A900 and getting a pair of good wide angle Zeiss lenses (with better quality). In the meantime I will use my old 5D until it will loose it’s mirror.
And thank you Canon about the whole buzz of this website, otherwise I wouldn’t have found fakechuckwestfall.wordpress.com !!!
I am under the impression that this is, in fact, Chuck Westfall’s blog. Chuck, I’ve have to hand it to you. Risking your job during a recession is not for the weak, and yet you make it seem effortless.
This is such a great thoughtful site. Canon really needs to fix their cameras and start helping their customers much better. They lost me this year.
Fake Chuck, you just gathered a few more readers after this debacle. Continue this blog, satire has a way of pushing companies to admit their mistakes and face up to their bad practices. We support you!
Your blog is an amusing part of my day, and your satire is spot on. Canon should focus on their product, not your blog. Although I was ready to pull the trigger on a 5dmkii, I believe I will wait for Nikon’s product response to it before purchasing my next camera.
Cheers, and thanks for the good times.
Hi Fake Chuck
Thanks for doing this fantastic blog. This is still the most accurate and reliable fake information about Canon SLRs on the web. Don’t let the Canon fanboys put you off – keep up the pressure. It is important that Canon’s shareholders see what is going on. Maybe they will fire Maeda and put you in charge. One can only hope…
Fake Chuck Westfall you are my hero! I tip my hat and say thank you for binging humor to the very sad pile of Canon glass in my studio that could really use a camera body that works… You are brilliant and hope that Canon reads you.
I laugh till cry…almost got fire :):) you’re
Chuck, I am really, really sorry about my comments making you lose 3 days. But you have to understand that we photographers too are very frustrated. Right now there is not a single Canon camera I can buy that does not have focus issues – never mind the 5DMkII that you deliberately crippled.
Just to give you an example. Last week I did some photographs for a large car rental company. I used my 5D and 85mm f/1.2L. After the shoot the customer chose the photo they want. And you guessed it, when I opened it on my PC, it was out of focus. I emailed the client, showing them another photo, and asking if they did not rather want that one, because it is err… so much nicer. They were not falling for that, so I had to admit that the picture they chose was also a bit, err… motion blurred. Well, they were not impressed, just told me that there is no time to re-shoot and they have to have that one and they are printing it 3m wide and putting it up in their new conference room where people will walk right up to it and look at it closely.
So you see Chuck, I am losing customers just as fast as you are. And this week my worst nightmare came true – I found out that my direct competitor just bought a Nikon D700. Do you have any idea how fucked I am now? Sorry, I have to go, I am suddenly not feeling very well…
Hi Fake its me again.
By the way I have another idea about your background: as you are a very very skillful writer beeing up to date all the time and having insight and have a luxuriant imagination too, you must be a marketing person. I guess your from Nikons marketing department or from Nikons competitive intelligence department.
Nevertheless for me it doesn’t matter who you really are. It’s always funny reading your stories.
[…] Fake Chuck Westfall (FCW) is something Nikon’s marketing department came up with. They have paid witty copy writers to dampen the release of the new Canon 5D MKII. […]
LOOOL… you’re the man!
What a blast i have been having with this blog, you are kind of a hero around here.
[…] Seriously we need this kind of blog, and you are excellent at doing it. I love your sarcastic humor!
WTHell??? What took you so long to make this new post???
These posts are the best laughts of my day!! Keep making them … On a more regular basis if possible – i need this to end the day with a smile.
Keep it up.
Fake Chuck, you the man. FUnny stuff, I only wish that you would post more often. 3 days is far too long to wait for your next hilarious outburst. I want daily updates please, comedy genius !! Ever considered stand up ? I’m sure you’d do a roaring trade at some of the larger photography agencies (that still use Canon gear) for christmas parties e.t.c.
I loved your review. I agree with most of things. But I do think at low isos d800 has a very good dynamic range, you can really pull lots noise free shadow details. I wish canon does something in dynamic range front. Btw you should try your luck in stand up comedy
Chuck, you made my days.
I have discovered your blog not long ago, and consumed all past posts in 2 days.
I keep coming back here everyday looking for new stuff… though new issues are coming not that often.
You fully captured my feelings since i entered photo World through Canon. I took on Canon 3 yrs ago simply because my father once mentioned it was the best – 20 yrs ago… so i took it on. Only to keep feeling that… god damn cameras weren’t delivering overall. First rebel T3i ok.. is an entry level camera, so i upgraded to 7D … never really quite happy with it – focus not super good and too much noise (i know cropped sense has more noise).
Anyways, apart from all that silly stuff of nikon vs. canon fanboys (crazy shit) the ‘let down’ feeling of Canon cameras was always present. You have made me feel i was not nuts and there was some sense in this world!
+ i laughed soooo much with your posts…. good thing you are not asking donations else i would feel obliged to contribute for the quality entertainment you provide.
Last: your writing style – tops!!! keep on the language.. the style.. refined! not for all, sure! but who cares ? one needs to chose a market segment for his product.
i LOOOVE IT! keep the god damn reviews …. or what ever conspiration theories you have coming!!! more!!
PS- happy 5diii come out good! and also very happy ML exists to exploit Canon’s hardware real capabilities. Mine is on its way to my home.
thanks for the day, fakechuck started writing this blog. it s fucking hilarious, how nikon-fanboys start to flame and to whine – remember, you re on wrong territory. and i laugh the whole fuckin day – because of your seriousness you argue. in other words: BAAAAHAAAAHAAAAA.
(chuck, thats my kind of humor, go on and be creative)
Some of my favorite posts on the FCW blog are the following:
My personal all time favorite is the press release where Canon USA announced switching to Nikon. That post cracks me up every time.
I mentioned closing the FCW blog, and what I mean by that is that I’m not going to be doing any updates anymore from now on. I will leave the blog online for reference. Anything I want to comment on about photography will happen right here on my own blog from now on when I have the time to do so.
I had a lot of fun doing the FCW blog and spent a great deal of time on it. But it wasn’t always fun; there’s some real frustration behind many of the posts, especially in the beginning. I’m glad that in the end, I can conclude that it wasn’t time that I’ve wasted. As mentioned earlier, we got some real results and I’m very sure the blog contributed to the many improvements at Canon that we saw starting in 2012 up till now. Personally I take the fact that I now have an excellent camera like the 5D Mark III available to me, as my reward for the time I invested in giving feedback to Canon.
The issues we were having with Canon back then, and still right now sometimes, have a much bigger underlying root problem. Recently Nikon has also been in the news for example regarding their D600 and appear to be facing class action lawsuits in the USA. They’ve allocated $17.7 million to replace shutter mechanisms in D600 cameras that caused oil spots on the sensor, and are “taking steps to restore confidence in the Nikon brand.” It took a while before they admitted to the issue and offered to fix it, and seem to have only done that after they started facing legal action. They tried to ignore it in the beginning similar to Canon with the 1D Mark III a few years ago. Consumers are being taken advantage of all the time by these corporations that are more concerned with their bottom lines.
We can sit and take the abuse like sheeple, or we can stand up and fight. Mistakes can be made — products are rarely perfect — but we should be able to expect honesty from these companies and their executives. If a product contains a defect, it’s an issue and we’re not going to like it, but at least own up to it and offer to fix it, instead of ignoring it like there’s nothing wrong. And if you know about the issue, warn customers as soon as you know, before it causes them unnecessary inconvenience. Especially in this case where photography equipment is often used by professionals to do their work in the field. Issue a warning about known problems as soon as possible so that they can look for solutions well in advance, instead of being confronted with them during assignments. We’re often paying a great deal of money for the gear we buy, and there are huge profit margins on those prices. We work hard for our money and when we spend it, we expect the equipment to be worth it especially when they are that expensive. The Korean photographer who spent most of his savings on a defective 1D Mark III comes to mind again:
I’ve purchased an overpriced lemon and am totally wasted physically, emotionally, and financially. It’s such a stress!
[Canon released a model with defects even after the beta testers raised many issues.]
And then the problems indeed did arise, they are pretending they don’t know anything about it and they’re just trying to earn time. This is a very outrageous business mindset. The CEO of Japan Canon headquarter and the CEO of Canon Korea should acknowledge their wrongdoings and apologize to the consumers sincerely.
That is a sad story. When I read that story I felt his pain, because I know what it feels like to spend money on equipment that’s defective in some way. I think most of us have been in that boat with Canon in the past.
The underlying issues causing companies and people to behave this way affect every person and company on this planet in all industries. The societies we live in are seriously flawed and encourage people to be dishonest and to exploit one another. I think my time in the future is better spent on trying to do something about those bigger underlying root problems, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m closing the FCW blog. If you want more details of what I’m talking about, check out my recent posts on this blog, and start reading the following books: Slave Species of the Gods, The Gods of Eden, The Best That Money Can’t Buy (MUST SEE Documentary), Ubuntu: Exposing the global banking fraud (MUST SEE Video), The Sexual Revolution, The Function of the Orgasm. Especially if you’re from Japan, you’ll want to check out the last 2 books by Wilhelm Reich. I’ve made jokes on the FCW blog about the sexual repression symptoms in Japan, and those books will explain in details what the cause and effects are. And trust me on this, you’ll get a rare glimpse behind the scenes of the Matrix of enslavement that we currently live in. Oh, you thought you were free?
We all want to keep ourselves busy with the pleasant things in life — in this case photography. But life is more than that, and we have to stop turning a blind eye to the many issues that surround us that make it difficult for us to enjoy life. Otherwise we’ll wake up one day and we’ll find that we can’t even enjoy photography anymore like we used to. We have to stop being afraid and stop being politically correct, and openly point out and talk about issues that are affecting us and that threaten our future. We have to start being honest to ourselves and to everyone else. Like I wrote in another post:
Is it worth it to be afraid of what you have to lose, give up your personal integrity and stay politically correct in order to protect your interests and to be accepted in a seriously flawed society, while you look on as the world continues to deteriorate? Or would you rather like to be true to yourself, stand behind your beliefs and improve life? We have to take responsibility and clean up as much of this mess as we can right now in order for our children and grandchildren to be able to live in a much better world in the future. If we don’t, they’re going to look back at us one day and see us for the cowards that we were as they struggle to survive in a world that’ll be even more of a mess than it is right now.
Thanks to everyone who supported the FCW blog in the last 6 years.