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Kodak's DCS Pro SLRn vs. 
The Nikon D100

Gary, you're actually going to try to compare a 6.1 mega-pixel camera against a 13.8 mega-pixel camera? 

You bet I am! And do you know why? Because I already own the D100 and the boss sent me the DCS Kodak and said "Compare the two!"

Actually it's because they both come with Nikon mounts, I already have lenses for them, we've already compared the D100 against Fuji's S2 and Sigma's SD9, so it gives us a good reference point. It also makes sense because many of you will be making the same comparison and trying to decide between this camera and it's rivals from Fuji, Nikon, Canon and Olympus. For links to our other digital SLR reviews please see the links at the end of this article.

In fact we've found most of the Digital SLRs on the market now are very good. They are all capable of capturing some incredible images, and if you do your job properly (read the manual and learn the camera), they'll do their job. To me, if there has been a problem testing any of these fine cameras, it has been in getting familiar with their operation. Let me make a point about the individual digital SLRs out there. You rarely are able to just pick one up and start shooting without a little bit of set-up. You have to take the time to set up your digital camera to your particular taste and palette. Don't expect that it will be any different with either a $1000 dollar camera, or a $4000 camera. And it was true with this camera.

Once you've spent a little quality time with your camera things get progressively easier. It helps if you're coming from a late model film camera. Life is easier when you're moving from a current EOS to a 10D or from a current Nikon to a D100.

The Kodak DCS Pro SLRn is a little heftier than the D100 and it has a thicker base. I have the MB-D100 multi-function battery pack on the D100 so the weight was similar. It took me a while to get used to the navigation on the DCS, but once accustomed to the Kodak way of doing things it was pretty straightforward. Much has been said about the noise level of some of the earlier versions of the DCS, but since Kodak designed this camera around a software based system, they have been able to improve its performance drastically with software updates.

I used the standard ISO setting of 160 for most of my shooting and found the noise level to be very low. The camera had a very professional feel to it; good thing too - it says "Kodak Professional" right on the front, just in case you forget. I shot with the camera over the course of three weeks and had it with me during three of my tours and when I was at Portland Headlight with my children. I felt confident with the DCS in my typical shooting situations. I must say, that I was quite impressed with the camera, and got some very nice images with it.

The basic camera layout is very similar to the D100, and it works well in the field. As I said earlier, it did take me a while to learn to navigate the menu items, but again, no big deal. I was able to shoot specific subjects using the same lens (the Nikkor 24-120) on both cameras. With the shot of the Dinghies, I was able to compare the magnification (cropping) factor of my D100, with the full frame image of the Kodak DCS. Then, I enlarged a small area (the Orr Locks) from both images to compare sharpness (Photos 3&4). In that instance I felt the D100 had the edge (you decide!). The Kodak DCS's color interpretation was a little different from the Nikon, rendering the Dinghy behind the powder-blue Dinghy as a blue-gray (it was dark gray), the D100 colors were more neutral.

With this image of my daughter, Johanna, I had to adjust skin tones on the DCS, where the D100 was closer to spot on to my eye. I then magnified the area around the eye and nose to 100% for comparison. They were very close, with a slight edge going to the DCS.

From my deck at home I shot an image of the lobster boats using the 80-400VR (on a tripod with VR off). I then enlarged the image to 100% to see if I could read the lettering on the cabin, no problem! I also was able to capture a very nice image of a field of Lupine while in New Hampshire this spring. The quality was very good, and shadow detail was excellent (Photo 11). I then enlarged an area of flowers to 100% to see if the detail would hold up, and if you've ever shot close-ups of these beautiful flowers you know just how difficult it can be to get great detail out of them. They do not have very sharp defined edges, as say, daisies do. Again the Kodak DCS did very well.

Complaints with this camera were very few. Startup with the CMOS chip takes longer than I like before you shoot your first frame. What's not obvious is you can start shooting even though the screen says "Recalibrating." The camera will make your changes after you've taken the shot. Also, the "Date/Time is incorrect" warning kept coming up during start-up, so I had to press okay before continuing. I reset the clock twice but to no avail. It's probably just the small battery that needed replacing, but I still found it annoying. 

My only real area of grief came when trying to use the Kodak DCS Photo Desk software to edit the images. Even after I got familiar with it, it seemed painfully slow to use. After a conversation with Kodak it turned out the reason it was so slow was because I stared editing using the "Better" setting instead of the "Faster" setting. The better setting renders your changes to the entire 14 mega pixel RAW image, while the faster setting renders only the much smaller viewing resolution to increase processing speed. I would still rather edit my images using PhotoShop CS. I believe it's faster especially when reviewing before and after adjustments.

One thing I should mention; the camera I tested came with a 1 Gig IBM Microdrive card, which was quite slow. The DCS gives you the option of comparing the write speeds of different CF cards, so I could compare the speed of the Micro drive against my Delkin 640 Pro and improve the performance of the camera based on the card that works fastest with the DCS.

If you are considering the purchase of the Kodak DCS and are a Canon shooter, Kodak has just announced their new DCS Pro SLR/c 13.8MP Digital SLR Camera, compatible with the CANON EOS Mount.  

I was more than pleased with the camera's overall performance. It's a well made, rugged camera with a host of features. Whether or not you are willing to shell out the big bucks for it is another matter. List price for the DCS Pro SLRn is $4,995. So your decision will be based on the size of your credit card limit and your need for the Kodak's full frame imaging and it's unique features such as a built in intervalometer. For my style of shooting, landscapes and prints up to 16x20 the D100 is the better value. But if the Kodak is what you crave you will not be disappointed. 

Kodak's Web Site

Other Digital SLR Reviews on Vivid Light

Kodak's DCS Pro SLRn Specs:

Camera Type 

Interchageable Lens SLR (Magnesium-alloy exterior) 

Lens Mount 

Nikon F-Mount 

Focal Length Multiplier 

1.0x (no cropping) 

Imaging Sensor 

Full frame (24 mm x 36 mm) 13.89 Megapixel CMOS sensor with new high-performance pixel design 

Optical Resolution 

13.5 million recorded pixels (4500 x 3000) 

Color Depth 

36-bit color (12 bits per color) original capture 

Sensitivity 

Total selectable ISO range from 6 to 1600 -
Calibrated ISO from 6 to 800 (DCS RAW, JPEG, ERI JPEG files)
Non-calibrated ISO from 1000 to 1600 (DCS RAW files only)

ISO Stops -
Normal exposure mode ISO:160-1600 in 1/3-stop increments
"Longer" exposure mode ISO: 6 - 50 in full stop increments 

White Balance 

TTL Auto white balance, Manual, Preset Modes (Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Click Balance) 

Internal Memory 

None (512MB Buffer) 

Compatible Memory Cards 

CompactFlash (Type I & II)/Microdrive
Secure Digital (SD)/MultiMediaCard (MMC 

Image Modes 

File Formats:

RAW (DCR File Format)
JPEG
ERI-JPEG

Resolution Options:

4500 x 3000 (13.5 million pixels)
3000 x 2000 (6.1 million pixels)
2250 x 1500 (3.4 million pixels)
1125 x 750 (0.8 million pixels)

Image Quality Modes:

RAW
Best
Better
Good

Exif, DCF, & DPOF compliant 

Images with Included Memory 

No Memory Included; Maximum File Size is 15MB for full-res. compressed DCR file (41MB for full-resolution TIFF file) 

Burst Rate 

1.7 frames/second up to 19 frames (full-resolution DCR mode) 

Video Mode 

No 

Audio Annotation 

Yes 

LCD Display 

1.5" Color TFT LCD 

Interface 

IEEE 1394 (FireWire) 

Video Out 

Yes (NTSC & PAL) 

Focus Type 

Nikon AF (Contrast Detect) 

Focus Modes 

Five-area autofocus, Dynamic AF operation, Focus-tracking, LOCK-ON Focus, Manual 

Exposure Metering 

3D Matrix, Average, Spot 

Exposure Modes 

Auto, Aperature Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual  

Exposure Compensation 

+/-3EV in 1/2EV steps 

Auto Bracketing 

Yes (2 or 3 exposures, 1/2 EV steps) 

Shutter Type 

Electronically controlled Mechanical Shutter 

Shutter Speed 

60 sec. - 1/4000 sec., Bulb 

Built-in Flash 

Yes; D-TTL enabled pop-up flash 

External Flash Sync 

DTTL-enabled hotshoe and PC connector for external flash sync 

Viewfinder 

Full image area TTL viewfinder 

Self Timer 

No (timer available with select remote control units) 

Remote Control 

10-pin remote trigger port (compatible with Nikon Remote controllers), Computer based control (when tethered via Firewire) 

Depth-of-Field Preview 

Yes 

Mirror Lock-Up 

No (Mirror Pre-release available - Adds a delay after the mirror goes up before the shutter opens to reduces camera vibration)  

Diopter Correction 

Yes  

LCD Information 

Shutter speed/Exposure Compensation value, Flash Exposure Compensation, Exposure Compensation, Flexible Program, Flash Sync Mode, Bracketing bar graphs, Aperture, Custom Setting, Battery power, Focus area, Auto Exposure bracketing 

Power Source 

Proprietary Rechargeable Litium-Ion Battery
AC Adapter (included) 

Dimensions 

5.2" x 6.2" x 3.5" (131mm x 158mm x 89mm) without lens 

Weight 

2 lb (907g) without battery or lens 

System Requirements 

Windows Systems

  • 266 MHz PENTIUM II processor (equivalent or better)
  • Windows 2000 or XP
  • IEEE 1394 port for tethered camera operation (OHCI compatible adapter)
  • 256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
  • 200 MB free disk space
  • 1024 pixel by 768 pixel display

Macintosh Systems

  • PowerPC G3 processor (G4 recommended)
  • Mac OS X (10.3.2) or higher
  • IEEE 1394 port for tethered camera operation
  • 256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
  • 200 MB free disk space
  • 1024 pixel by 768 pixel display

 

Special Features 

Orientation Sensor:
Detects camera orientation +/- 90 degrees from horizontal and automatically rotates the image.

Vertical Shutter Release:
Use the camera comfortably in both standard (horizontal) or vertical positions

Intervalometer
The Intervalometer automatically captures a sequence of images at specified intervals over a specified time period.  

 
Other Digital SLR Reviews
Canon 10D, First Look Canon 10D
Canon Digital Rebel, First Look Canon Digital Rebel
Canon D60 Canon EOS 1Ds
Fuji S2 Kodak DCS 14n
Nikon D1X Nikon D100
Olympus E-1 Digital SLR A Trio of New Digital SLRs
Sigma SD9 Sigma SD10 First Look

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