Original Source Press Release:
Kodak announces DCS Pro 14n successor (UPDATED)|
(Thursday, February 12, 2004 - 08:16 EST)
Kodak's has today announced the new DCS Pro SLR/n digital SLR - a strong update to their previous Pro 14n model with very similar specifications, but greatly improved performance in several key areas.
The enhancement that will undoubtedly be the most welcome for prospective users is its greatly improved noise performance, thanks to a redesigned CMOS sensor chip, a change in fabrication provider, and a redesigned analog electronics board. At the same time, Kodak has improved the SLR/n's image processing, revamped the calibration algorithms to improve responsiveness, and improved its power management. Other SLR/n enhancements include a unique long-exposure/ultra-low ISO mode that lets you capture up to 60-second exposures at ISO 6 for exceptionally low image noise and unique time-exposure creative effects.
The net result of all these enhancements is a markedly more usable camera than the 14n, with most of that prior model's most serious limitations successfully addressed. Kodak still faces stiff competition in the full-frame d-SLR market from Canon's EOS-1Ds, but at least now they have a product that actually can compete, based on its not-insignificant merits. (And Kodak's proven track record of delivering continual enhancements and upgrades for its cameras through ongoing firmware releases holds the promise of future improvements and feature enhancements.)
But the very best news for current Pro 14n owners is that Kodak is offering an upgrade program, by which existing 14n models can be upgraded to nearly full SLR/n functionality and image quality, by swapping out the sensor and analog electronics board. Referred to as "14nx" models, the upgraded cameras will lack only the SLR/n's power management, and the slight processing speed improvement resulting from the new model's higher processor bus speed. All other features and functions of an upgraded 14n will be identical to those of a new SLR/n. This is unprecedented in the digital SLR world, and should give great comfort to current and future Kodak pro SLR owners. While not cheap, at a projected price of $1,495, the upgrade program is certainly a better deal than simply scrapping a current camera and buying a whole new one - and given what we've seen of the SLR/n's improved performance, we'd say that the 14n upgrade constitutes a very worthwhile investment.
Following is a list of key differences between the Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n and its predecessor, along with a detailed spec sheet and numerous photos of the new camera.
- New Sensor and IR filter: This is clearly the most significant change since the 14n. Here's a summary of differences between the 14n's sensor and the new chip in the SLR/n:
- Design Rules: The SLR/n's sensor was designed with a new set of design rules, and fabrication was also moved to a different silicon foundry. The net result is what appears to be a very significant reduction in image noise levels.
- Pixel Layout: The SLR/n's sensor has a different pixel layout, with symmetric photodiodes. This reduces the effect of greatly varying angles of light incidence on the sensor's color calibration. The 14n's sensor (and apparently most large image sensor chips) showed color shifts across the focal plane, particularly with very wide angle lenses operating at minimum aperture. The 14n dealt with the problem by carrying different "calibrations" for different focal length lenses, but an imperfect match could produce odd position-dependent color shifts. The new sensor in the SLR/n largely eliminates the problem, greatly reducing the need for custom lens calibrations.
- New IR filter: In something of a departure, the SLR/n uses a dye-based IR filter, rather than the dichroic type used by the 14n and most other digital cameras. The dye-based approach sacrifices about a half-stop in light sensitivity, but reduces optical artifacts caused by internal reflection with the dichroic filter. (The problem being most apparent with lenses with elements that projected back into the camera body. The 60mm Micro-Nikkor was apparently particularly prone to producing a bright glint in the center of the frame when stopped down, the result of internal reflections in the near-IR range of wavelengths.) The long pass-band (e.g., visible light) "tail" of the dye-based filter's spectral response also apparently helps offset the higher red-sensitivity of the sensor itself, producing more balanced output levels between the red, green, and blue sensors. In the raw silicon, there's about a two-stop difference in sensitivity between the red and blue channels. When you combine this with the heavy color cast of incandescent light sources, the total variation in response can reach four or even five f-stops. You'd thus expect the dye-based IR filter to be particularly helpful when shooting under incandescent light sources, and the SLR/n does indeed appear to do a better than average job with such lighting.
- New Analog Board: Also likely a key contributor to the reduced image noise. Both the improved sensor assembly and analog board are available to current 14n owners as a $1495 upgrade.
- Higher ISO Capability: This is the result of the new sensor and analog electronics, but deserves mention in its own bullet point. The 14n had an ISO range of 80-640, and ISOs above 400 were only available at lower resolution settings. The SLR/n as an ISO range of 160 - 800 for JPEG, extending to 1600 for RAW only. The SLR/n's high-ISO capability is still markedly inferior to many D-SLRs, but it's a long ways ahead of that of the 14n.
- Faster Digital Processing: While both the 14n and SLR/n use the same TI DSP chip for their image processing, the bus speed between the processor and memory has been increased for the SLR/n, which should provide a modest increase in cycle times and buffer-clearing performance. (The processing speed boost and the improved power management mentioned below are the only two features of the SLR/n that aren't available to 14n owners under the for-pay hardware upgrade program.)
- Greatly improved power management: In the 14n, the power-hungry DSP chip was cranking away at full throttle whenever the camera's power switch was turned on. This led to very short battery life, even if you weren't actively shooting pictures - and turning the camera off to conserve power was often a difficult decision, because it took so long for it to wake up when it was powered on again. In the SLR/n, Kodak has figured out how to truly put the processor to sleep when it isn't being used, and to wake it up very quickly when the shutter button is half-pressed again. The net result is dramatically improved battery life over that of the 14n. (As mentioned above, this is one of the only two SLR/n enhancements that isn't available to current 14n owners as part of the hardware upgrade program.)
- Improved calibration management: One of the complaints about the 14n is that it seemed to be perpetually wanting to take a time out to recalibrate itself, and startup in particular was a very slow process. In the latest firmware though, Kodak has made the camera much more intelligent about it chooses to recalibrate itself, and how much calibration data it attempts to generate on startup. Specifically:
- At startup, the camera only builds dark frame calibration data for "normal length" exposures. (Exposure times of a half-second or less.)
- For shots longer than 1/2 second, the camera now captures an adaptive dark frame on the fly.
- The camera is now more conservative about when it decides to recalibrate. Now, the camera will only run a calibration sequence if the ISO is changed, if there's been more than a five degree temperature shift, or if the camera sits for more than 12 hours in sleep mode.
- "Longer Exposure" mode: This feature has already been in the 14n firmware since about September of 2003, but deserves separate mention here, as it's such a significant extension of the camera's capabilities. In a special mode, with very specific longer exposure times, the SLR/n averages together multiple shorter exposures to result in very long overall exposure times, with very low effective ISOs, and very low image noise. Effective ISO can range as low as 6 (!), and exposure times as long as 60 seconds in this mode, with amazingly low image noise.
- Improved Firewire transfer rate: The SLR/n's Firewire subsystem has been enhanced, with the result that it can now do sustained transfers as fast as 12 MB/second. Kodak claims that this is as much as 8-10x faster than other D-SLRs, although we haven't independently verified this fact. (In point of fact, we don't think there are any memory cards on the market yet that can transfer data this fast themselves, so the issue may be largely moot.) Although Kodak didn't mention it in our briefing on the camera, we'd have to think that this is a third feature that wouldn't be included in the paid hardware update program for the 14n, since it involves the digital circuitry.
- Greater burst lengths: The SLR/n now offers burst lengths of 18 frames in 13.5 MP RAW mode, and 16 frames in 13.5 MP JPEG. (The version of the 14n we tested had a maximum burst length of only 6-7 frames in RAW mode.) RAW + JPEG mode unfortunately isn't improved as much, still being limited to 5 frames per burst, up from the 4 frames offered by the 14n. It's not clear whether the improved burst length performance is a function of increased buffer memory size, improved buffer management, or both.
- Digital and Camera setups can be saved for rapid recall. The SLR/n lets you record up to 10 camera setups for later recall, said setups including not only digital parameters (white balance, image sizes, etc), but camera settings as well. (This is another item that we're unsure whether it applies to 14n models with firmware upgrades.)
- New "Expert" noise-reduction mode: This is properly a function of the Picture Desk software, not the camera itself, but it deserves mention. The new "Expert" noise-reduction mode in Photo Desk more aggressively desaturates the chroma component of noise, while still preserving luminance data. The net result is that there's much less "flattening" of fine subject detail, even though noise levels are still significantly reduced. Since this is an enhancement to Photo Desk, rather than a camera attribute, it should apply to 14n images as well. Don't expect your 14n images to look like those from the SLR/n though, as there's still a lot more noise coming off of the 14n's sensor in the first place.
- Exposure tweak in 0.1 EV increments: In our review, Dave was pretty critical of Kodak over the 14n's limitation of 0.5 EV steps for exposure adjustment. Even given the better than average headroom in Kodak's DCR RAW-format files, he really felt that 0.5 EV increments of exposure adjustment were way too coarse. While it doesn't fully address the problem (because requires you to delve into the LCD menu system), Kodak has added an option to the Image menu that lets you tweak the exposure +/- 0.5 EV independent of the camera's exposure system, in 0.1EV increments. We don't know if this is a true shift in the exposure itself, or if it's just a tweaking of the parameters in the RAW files (we suspect the latter), but it's welcome nonetheless. - But as noted, we'd still much prefer to see finer gradations of exposure adjustment available directly via the camera's exposure-adjustment control.
- Port for LED in memory compartment cover door: This is pretty insignificant, but it's there, so we felt obligated to mention it. A small plastic light pipe now allows you to see the card-activity LED from the camera's rear panel, even when the memory compartment door is closed. Handy and welcome as a way to know whether the camera is done processing an image or series of images, but obviously not a critical feature.
UPDATED 2003-02-12 08:20ET For the benefit of those of you who are reading our PMA Report pages rather than the news page, we're updating this item to note that we've just posted a preliminary review for the Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n! For the full story, click here and check it out!
|Kodak Professional DCS Pro SLR/n |
|Dimensions || |
|Height: 131 mm (5.16 in.) |
|Width: 158 mm (6.22 in.) |
|Depth: 89 mm (3.50 in.) |
|Weight (without batteries or memory cards) ||907 g (2 lbs) without memory card and battery |
|Image sensor || |
|36 x 24 mm, 12 bit, RGB CMOS Imager |
|Total pixels: 13.85 million |
|Effective pixels: 13.7 million |
|ISO range ||Manually selectable - 160 - 1600 (Raw) in 1/3 EV increments or 160 - 800 (JPEG or Raw + JPEG) in 1/3 EV increments |
|Lens mount ||NIKON F-Mount |
|Auto-focus system ||TTL phase detection system, detection range: EV -1 to EV 19 (ISO 100 at normal temperature) |
|Number of focus points ||5 |
|Auto-focus sensitivity (ISO 100 with f/1.4) ||-1 to 19 EV |
|Auto-focus assist ||Integrated white light |
|AF Area mode ||Single Area AF, Dynamic AF (Dynamic AF with Closest Subject Priority is available) |
|Focus lock ||Available |
|Shutter ||Electronically controlled, vertical travel focal-plane shutter |
|Shutter speeds ||2 sec. to 1/4000 sec. (constrained in Shutter Priority and Manual Exposure modes), Bulb mode |
|Maximum flash synchronization speed ||1/125 second |
|Capture modes ||Single frame, continuous |
|Metering system ||TTL full aperture exposure metering, three Metering systems available: 3D Matrix Metering, Center-Weighted Metering, Spot Metering |
|Metering modes ||3D Matrix, Center-Weighted, Spot |
|Metering sensitivity (ISO 100 equivalent with f/1.4) ||EV 0-21 |
|Exposure Compensation ||±3EV in 1/2 EV steps |
|Flash Exposure Compensation ||±3EV in 1/2 EV steps |
|AE Lock ||Yes |
|Exposure modes ||Programmed Auto, Shutter-Priority Auto, Aperture-Priority Auto, Manual |
|Viewfinder ||Fixed eye-level pentaprism |
|Viewfinder magnification (50 mm lens @ infinity) ||0.75X |
|Diopter adjustment ||+0.8 to -1.8 DP |
|Viewfinder eyepoint ||17 mm |
|Viewfinder coverage ||Approximately 92% horizontal and vertical |
|Viewfinder information ||Focus indication, Focus Area, Metering System, AE Lock indicator, Shutter speed, aperture, Exposure mode, Electronic Analog Exposure display / Exposure Compensation display, Exposure Compensation / Flash Exposure Compensation value, Flash Exposure Compensation indicator, Exposure Compensation indicator, Flash Ready indicator, Focus brackets/Spot Metering area, Reference Circle for Center-Weighted metering, On-demand grid lines |
|Top Status LCD (backlit) ||Shutter speed / Exposure Compensation value, Flash Exposure Compensation indicator, Exposure Compensation indicator, Flexible Program indicator, Flash Sync mode, Auto Exposure Bracketing, Focus Area, Battery power, Custom Setting, Aperture, Bracketing Bar graph |
|Digital LCD (backlit) || |
|Capture information (interactive): White Balance, ISO, CF and SD Cards, JPEG quality, Raw and JPEG resolution, Crop aspect ratio, Microspect ratio |
|Review information (read only): Current image number, current folder number, Crop aspect ratio, White Balance, Resolution, ISO |
|Tool tips |
|Image LCD ||2.0", 130,000-dot, low temperature polysilicon TFT LCD |
|Focus Screen ||NIKON Clear Matte Screen 2 with focus brackets and on-demand grid lines |
|Custom Settings || |
|Mirror Prerelease |
|Bracket Order |
|Grid Lines |
|Focus Area Light |
|Focus Area Wrap |
|Focus Area Lock |
|Soft Press AE-L |
|Single Servo AF |
|Continuous Servo AF |
|AE/AF Lock |
|Command Dial |
|Meter Off Time |
|Self Timer Time |
|Top LCD Light |
|AF Assist illuminator |
|AE Bracketing ||2 or 3 exposures, 1/2 EV steps |
|Depth-of-Field Preview ||Yes |
|Remote Control ||Mechanical remote release or NIKON compatible remote releases |
|Self timer ||Yes (Time set by Custom Setting) |
|Electronic Strobe ||NIKON Speedlight accessory shoe, standard ISO-type compatible, D-TTL compatible with supporting Speedlights |
|ERI-JPEG image resolution ||13.5 MP: 4500 x 3000, 6 MP: 3000 x 2000, 3.4 MP: 2250 x 1500, .8 MP: 1125 x 750 |
|Raw resolution ||13.5 MP: 4500 x 3000, 6 MP: 3000 x 2000, 3.4 MP: 2250 x 1500 |
|Image file formats ||DCR (Raw archive file), user-selectable compression level (ERI-JPEG) |
|White Balance ||Automatic, Daylight, Fluorescent, Tungsten, Flash, Custom, Kelvin |
|Video output ||NTSC or PAL selectable |
|Host interface ||IEEE 1394 (single 400 MB/s port, 1394a-2000 small form factor interconnect) |
|Accessory interface ||NIKON 10-pin compatible accessory interface |
|Removable storage ||1 Type II CF+ compatible CF card, 1 SD / MMC card |
|Orientation sensor ||Detects ±90° rotation about optical axis |
|Host software ||KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Photo Desk, KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Camera Manager, KODAK PROFESSIONAL Extended Range Imaging File Format Module |
|Lens aperture ||Instant-return type with Depth-of-Field Preview button |
|Built-in Speedlight ||Activated by pressing the Speedlight Lock-Release button, guide number 17 (at ISO 200), flash coverage 28 mm or longer lens, ISO range 160 - 1600 |
|Flash control ||Controlled by 5-segment TTL Multi Sensor |
|Flash Sync mode ||Front-Curtain Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync, Slow Sync, Rear-Curtain Sync |
|Red-eye reduction ||Yes (AF assist lamp) |
|Ready light ||Lights up when flash is fully charged with built-in Speedlight |
|PC Sync Terminal ||For attaching optional Speedlight |
|Drive mode ||Single frame or Continuous shooting |
|Date and time ||Date and time is associated with each image file. Can be reset. |
|Power source ||KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Pro Battery or KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Pro Charger / AC Adapter |
|Power switch ||Power On and Off positions |
|Exposure meter ||Shuts off automatically after 8 seconds if no operations are performed. Activated by lightly pressing the Shutter Release button. |
|Battery power confirmation ||In Top Status LCD when Exposure meter is on |
|Tripod socket ||1/4 inch (.635 cm) JIS standard |
|Two-Button reset ||Reset to factory settings |
|More Photos |
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|New Kodak Professional Digital SLR Camera Delivers High Resolution, Broad ISO Performance; Extended Burst Depth|
Next-Generation Camera Offers Medium-Format Image Quality, 35 mm Flexibility
LAS VEGAS, Feb. 12 -- Strengthening its commitment to push the boundaries of high-end digital camera technology while delivering outstanding image quality and ease of use, Eastman Kodak Company unveiled the new KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Pro SLR/n digital camera.
The latest addition to Kodak's venerable professional camera portfolio, the DCS Pro SLR/n digital camera contains a new high performance imaging system with an entirely new 35 mm size CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) sensor, which delivers 14 million pixels with a total available ISO range of 6 to 1600.
Built on an F-mount compatible body, the DCS Pro SLR/n is ideally suited for wedding photographers and uniquely addresses the needs of event, portrait, commercial and advanced amateur photographers as well.
"The DCS Pro SLR/n combines the best of medium format image quality with the convenience and flexibility of 35 mm photography. Its high ISO provides excellent performance in low-light settings and captures images with stunning detail that wedding and event photographers expect. It also creates amazing images at low ISOs using long exposures," said Madhav Mehra, General Manager, Professional Digital Capture. "We've accelerated the evolution of the digital SLR with this camera. The DCS Pro SLR/n is able to merge high-resolution and the best image detail with a broad ISO range."
Image Quality and Key Features
The camera contains a new 4536 x 3024 pixel (effective), 12-bit CMOS imager that covers the full 24 mm-by-36 mm image area of 35mm film. With a full-size sensor, photographers regain the benefits of true wide-angle lenses and can use their F-mount SLR lenses the same way they used them with 35 mm film. This new sensor incorporates advanced High Performance-Low Noise (HPLN) technology, incorporating a unique new pixel design and an optimized device manufacturing process that enables increased sensitivity and reduced noise levels that result in broader ISO performance.
When combined with the new "Expert-Level" noise reduction tools in the latest release of KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Photo Desk software, the camera delivers the highest resolution of any digital SLR with an ISO range that meets the needs of a wide variety of professional photographers. The new sensor also incorporates an enhanced optical transmission system that further increases image quality particularly with tungsten light sources and is supported by new digital and analogue electronics. Consistent with the recent generation of DCS Professional cameras from Kodak, photographers can select the appropriate image size full 14MP, 6MP, and 3MP that suits the shooting environment.
Photographers will have the benefit of a fully calibrated ISO range of 6 to 800, while those that utilize DCS raw files can also access a non-calibrated ISO range that extends from 1000 to 1600. Aside from a broad ISO range, the camera's feature set includes long-exposure capabilities, enabling exposures up to 60 seconds at lower ISO settings, a full resolution raw image burst depth of ~19 frames from the cameras integrated 512 MB RAM buffer and a hardware "sleep mode" that conserves battery life when the camera is not in use.
The camera captures images at about 1.7 frames per second. Images can be saved as DCR raw files, normal JPEG files or ERI JPEG files. The ERI-JPEG files serve as another form of picture protection for photographers, especially in situations where re-shooting is inconvenient. They provide two stops of exposure latitude and extended color space within a JPEG workflow a benefit no competitor offers.
Images are stored via COMPACTFLASH memory card and/or MMC/SD memory card interfaces. The camera can write to both types of storage media, and the image can be sent to each card simultaneously in any combination of the three available formats. In addition, FIREWIRE connectivity - at a transfer rate of up to 12MB per second adds speed to the photographers' workflow.
Designed with a durable magnesium body, the DCS Pro SLR/n includes a vertical trigger that works in conjunction with the camera's auto orientation sensor. The sensor detects the camera's orientation +/- 90 degrees from the horizontal position. This enables automatic rotation of the image as it moves to a computer for manipulation, saving photographers time and improving workflow hallmarks of Kodak's efforts to make digital easier for customers.
Simplifying Digital, Free Firmware Upgrades
The DCS Pro SLR/n camera includes features for new and more advanced digital shooters. The camera operates in two user modes: Basic and advanced. It defaults to the basic setting and offers a very intuitive, simple interface. In the advanced mode, the user can access and adjust a host of capture, resolution, storage and other settings.
Many key features of the DCS Pro SLR/n camera are based on KODAK PROFESSIONAL firmware and are not hard-wired within the camera, so they can be enhanced and easily upgraded with free firmware downloads from Kodak. Free firmware upgrades essentially give photographers a "new" camera, whereas most other manufacturers require the purchase of an entirely new camera system to receive the latest enhancements.
Kodak leverages Nikon's Digital Through The Lens (DTTL™ ) flash metering in the DCS Pro SLR/n digital camera. Photographers can expect near-perfect flash exposures with the camera, an improvement over many existing professional digital cameras.
The DCS Pro SLR/n has a camera interface localized in nine languages. It works with the latest versions of the following software:
Availability of the KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Pro SLR/n digital camera begins in early March through authorized dealers of KODAK PROFESSIONAL digital imaging solutions.
- KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Photo Desk including new Expert level noise processing tools
- KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Camera Manager
- KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS File Format Module
- KODAK PROFESSIONAL Extended Range Imaging Technology File Format Module
About Eastman Kodak Company and infoimaging
Kodak is the leader in helping people take, share, print and view images for memories, for information, for entertainment. The company is a major participant in infoimaging, a $385 billion industry composed of devices (digital cameras and flat-panel displays), infrastructure (online networks and delivery systems for images) and services & media (software, film and paper enabling people to access, analyze and print images). With sales of $13.3 billion in 2003, the company comprises several businesses: Health, supplying the healthcare industry with traditional and digital image capture and output products and services; Commercial Printing, offering on-demand color printing and networking publishing systems; Commercial Imaging, offering image capture, output and storage products and services to businesses and government; Display & Components, which designs and manufactures state-of-the-art organic light-emitting diode displays as well as other specialty materials, and delivers optics and imaging sensors to original equipment manufacturers; and Digital & Film Imaging Systems, providing consumers, professionals and cinematographers with digital and traditional products and services.
For information about Kodak's professional products, customers may call 1-800-235-6325, or visit http://www.kodak.com/go/professional.
Kodak and Kodak Professional are trademarks of Eastman Kodak Company. Eastman Kodak Company is an authorized licensee of the CompactFlash trademark.