|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 DCS Pro SLRn Specs:
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