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First Look: Kodak's DCS 14n
13.7 Megapixel & Full Frame CMOS sensor!

by Vivid Light Staff

This is truly a breakthrough camera from Kodak! 

One of the big knocks against digital cameras has been that the CMOS or CCD chip, no matter who's brand, was smaller than the footprint of 35mm film. 

That meant that your lens didn't deliver it's normal coverage. The effective coverage of the lens was 1.4 to 1.5 times the focal length - again depending on whose digital SLR you were using. That was great if you were shooting wildlife. Your 600mm lens effectively became a 900mm. It was a curse if you were shooting landscapes. Your 20mm became a 30mm. Now folks got all caught up in this. But effectively what you were doing was cropping the image produced by the lens and only using the center portion. 

Now Kodak & Canon have broken the full-frame boundary. All your lenses will work at their normal focal lengths. What about those telephoto shooters? You still have the option of cropping.

Now I can already hear some of you grumbling that 11 Megapixels is great but it's still less than half the resolution of 35mm film. Now depending on whose measurements you want to trust the resolution of 35mm film is around 27 megapixels. But with a package like Genuine Fractals and a starting image size of almost 14 megapixels you'll be able to create some stunning images that even the grumps among you would be hard pressed to pick out from an image scanned from film. 

Since we're getting all the good stuff out of the way up front you're probably wondering what the price. Kodak has not yet announced the list price for this camera but they have said that they will begin shipping units in December. 

The DCS Pro 14n is the latest sixth generation of Kodak Professional Digital SLRs and the first to include a a full-size CMOS image sensor.

The new sensor measures 24 x 36mm and yields and image size of up to 4536 x 3024 pixels. This yields a 13.7 megapixel image from 13.89 megabytes of data. Kodak claims that the CMOS sensor used in the DCS 14n reduces both the component count and power consumption compared to the 6megapixel CCD used in the previous generation DCS 760. Further the DCS 14n does not use (or need according to Kodak) an anti-aliasing filter. Kodak claims that this results in sharper images than other digital SLRs. 

Like Kodak SLRs before it, the DCS Pro 14n is based on Nikon technology. The custom made magnesium alloy body is specially manufactured for Kodak by Nikon, incorporates Nikon autofocus and metering technology, and accepts all current F mount Nikon lenses and selected Nikon accessories. It is compatible with both Nikon D and Nikon G lens technologies. It uses the 10 pin remote cord as the Nikon F5 and F100. Shooting modes include a "basic" program mode advanced shooting modes (shutter priority, aperture priority, and manual).

But make no mistake this is a Kodak camera, not a modified Nikon body. The body itself is a completely new design and will only be sold under the Kodak name. At present there are no plans to offer the DCS Pro 14n in other lens mounts.

The DCS Pro 14n offers ISO settings from 64 to 640 in 1/3rd stop increments at full resolution, and ISO settings of 80 to 800 at resolutions of 6.1 and 3.4 megapixels. The camera includes a D-TTL pop-up flash and a Nikon D-TTL compatible hot shoe. It also has a PC connector for external flash sync.

The camera's 1.7 frames per second continuous shooting rate and 8 image buffer (in full res mode) aren't going to win it any speed demon awards and will make it unsuitable for some types of photography. 

Output files from the DCS Pro 14n are 41 MB full-resolution TIFF files or 15 MB full-res compressed files in raw DCS format. DCS format files are processed using supplied Kodak software. Unlike Canon and Nikon who charge a steep price for their proprietary software for processing raw files, Kodak includes the software with the camera. This allows you to tweak settings such as exposure compensation and white balance. Kodak's Extended Range Imaging Technology (ERI) can give you image files that work as standard JPEGs but include the dynamic range and color gamut of raw, 12-bit, DCR camera files. 

The DCS Pro 14n Digital ships with hand strap, neck strap, body cap, DC Power Module, a proprietary rechargeable Li-Ion battery, and charger/AC Adapter, and Kodak's Photo Desk and Camera Manager software, but no memory card.

The DCS Pro 14n takes standard Compactflash or MultiMedia Cards. It supports a high speed 12 MB-a-second image transfer which is about 3x to 4x faster than the IEEE 1394 interface used on it's competitors. It also offers user selectable NTSC and PAL video formats that are supported by the video connection. In NTSC mode, the color LCD and the video output are enabled simultaneously. In PAL mode, simultaneous operation is not supported.

The ultimate test comes when we get our hands on a DCS Pro 14n to test. We've come to expect great things from high end digital SLRs. Given Kodak's track record it would only be a surprise if this camera didn't provide great images and it will be interesting to see where this camera fits into the emerging crop of digital giants.


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