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Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n Digital SLR

Kodak updates their Pro 14n with a new sensor, improved processing, and greatly reduced image noise.

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SLR/n Sample Images

Review First Posted: 02/12/2004

Digital Cameras - Kodak SLR/n Test Images

 

 

Outdoor Portrait:

Very high resolution and detail, with accurate color.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Kodak SLR/n performed very well.

The shot at right was taken at the default exposure setting, which produced reasonably bright midtones, but at the expense of detail in the highlights. (Of course, Kodak tends to keep a fair bit of extra headroom in their DCR raw-format files, so it's likely that I could bring back a fair bit of the lost highlights here if I tweaked the exposure setting in the Picture Desk software and re-exported from the original DCR file.) I shot with the Auto white balance setting, which produced very nice results, although I confess that I twiddled the white balance slightly in Photo Desk. Skin tones are about right, but the blue flowers in the bouquet are a little darker and slightly more purple than in real life. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, which actually has only a modest amount of purple in it.) Color looks good throughout the rest of the frame however, with good saturation. Resolution is exceptional, with a lot of fine detail visible throughout the frame. Shadow detail is pretty good as well, with moderate noise.

This shot really shows both how far Kodak has come since the Pro 14n in terms of image noise and its impact on resolution, as well as the relatively short ways that they still have to go. If you look carefully at the detail in Marti's hair, you'll see that there is indeed an impressive amount of detail there, but you'll also see that in areas of relatively low contrast (look just left of center, in the slightly shaded areas), the noise-suppression algorithms still "smoosh out" (a technical term) the fine details. Overall though this is an eminently usable camera, a characterization I wouldn't have applied to the original 14n.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.5 to +0.5 EV, see files SLRNOUTAM1.HTM through SLRNOUTAP1.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Closer Portrait:

Again, excellent resolution and detail, with good color.

Resolution and detail are even stronger in this close-up shot, with great definition in the fine details of Marti's face and hair. I again noticed a pixelated effect in the color gradations, but overall, detail is excellent. The shot at right was taken with a -0.5 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which resulted in a slightly underexposed shot. However, the default exposure was much too bright overall.

Given a little more time with the camera, I'll try to come back to this shot to adjust the exposure in Photo Desk. - This is a perfect example where the combination of headroom in the raw files and a fine-grained adjustment capability in the JPEG-extraction software can really make a difference.


 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:

(Test not shot - I'll try to fill-in at some point, after the PMA show.)

 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance w/manual tweak

Excellent color and great exposure. - Minor white balance adjustment in Photo Desk produced great color.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The SLR/n's Auto white balance handled the challenge surprisingly well, such that I had to apply only a relatively slight white balance tweak in Photo Desk to produce the results at right. (I deliberately left a little warmth in the image, to evoke the warmth of the original tungsten lighting.) The main shot was taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which resulted in a nice, even exposure without any loss of detail the highlights.

 

ISO Series:
Image noise on the SLR/n is dramatically lower than on the Pro 14n that came before it. At ISO 160, the noise is quite acceptable (IMHO), but it does rise significantly with increasing ISO settings, becoming objectionable and obscuring detail by the time ISO 800 is reached. Even at ISO 160 though, there's more loss of detail in areas of subtle contrast than I'd like to see.

ISO Series
ISO 160
ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800


 

House Shot:
Click White Balance

Outstanding resolution and detail. (Really hitting the limits of the poster.)

The one-click white balance adjustment in Photo Desk produced excellent results here, with colors that are just spot-on. As you'd expect, resolution is very high, with a lot of fine detail visible in the tree limbs and front shrubbery. (The SLR/n's 13.5 megapixel CCD really pretty well reaches the limits of this poster as a test target. Even though the poster was made from a 500MB scan of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp lens, the SLR/n extracts about all the detail that's to be found here. - I have an updated poster coming later this year that will far outstrip this one (and any conceivable commercial camera/lens system) in terms of resolution...


 

Far-Field Test

High resolution and good detail, with a good dynamic range as well, but also a lot of lost detail in areas of subtle contrast.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the Kodak SLR/n does an excellent job. Details in the bark of the tree limbs over the roof are quite strong, despite the slight pixelated look I mentioned on the Outdoor shot. The fine foliage in front of the house shows strong detail, though the smaller leaf patterns appear blurred slightly. In-camera sharpening is good overall, with the sharpest details in the linear patterns on the house front. The camera picks up pretty good detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, which is a trouble spot for many digicams. Detail is also strong in the shadow area above the front door, further evidence of the camera's excellent dynamic range. Overall color looks good, though exposure is a little bright at the camera's default setting.

While this image shows off the SLR/n's ultimate resolving power, particularly in the pine needles against the sky, it also highlights the problems caused by the noise-suppression algorithms, also in the pine foliage. In clumps of pine needles, the image is reduced to blobs of color, rather than resolved as distinct needles. There's no question that the SLR/n is light years ahead of the Pro 14n in terms of image noise, but it's equally clear that there's yet a ways to go.

 

 

 



 

Lens Zoom Range

Not shot - irrelevant to an SLR with interchangeable lenses.



 

Musicians Poster

Not shot - This test subject is too low-res to show anything of interest with the SLR/n


 

Macro Test

Not shot - irrelevant to an SLR with interchangeable lenses. (Although my 105mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor is an awesome macro performer.)


 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance

Auto white balance produced a very warm-toned image, but click white balance in Photo Desk cleaned things up nicely. Excellent color and low noise.

The Kodak SLR/n's Auto and Daylight settings produced similar images with very warm color balances. The Click white balance option did an excellent job of cleaning things up though, using the medium gray of the MacBeth chart as a neutral reference. The default exposure was a little dim, so I tweaked it upward a couple of tenths of an EV in Photo Desk. Saturation is excellent in the large color blocks, though the large red block is a little hot, and the hues are dead-on. Some detail is missing in the darkest shadows, but noise is lower than I'd expected to see. (Mind you, I'd still like to see it lower in areas where there's subject detail going on, but it's still a decent performance overall.)

ISO Series

ISO Series
ISO 160
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800


Mode Series

Kodak's "Looks"

Event

Portrait

Product

Wedding



 

Low-Light Tests

Not shot yet, stay tuned after PMA



 

Flash Range Test

Not shot - stay tuned after PMA.



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Standard Res Target
2x Res Target
(All res numbers are 2x what's indicated on the chart)
Excellent resolution, ~2,000-2,100 lines of "strong detail."

The Kodak SLR/n performed spectacularly on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. - In fact, it pretty much runs off the edge of the standard ISO-12233 chart. Fortunately, I have a custom-made 2x res chart available, and that shows the resolution of the SLR/n topping out at about 2,100 lines both horizontally and vertically. It does start showing pretty strong artifacts in the horizontal direction around 1,700 lines though. Still, a very impressive performance.

I normally comment here on the optical distortion of the cameras I test, but that obviously has no relevance to SLRs, as distortion will naturally vary as a function of the lens used, rather than the camera itself. Hence, no comments on distortion here.



 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

Excellent accuracy from the camera's digital SLR design.

The Kodak SLR/n's digital SLR viewfinder is very accurate, showing roughly 98 percent frame accuracy. Given that I like SLR viewfinders to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the camera performs very well in that regard.

 



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