Kodak camera sets new standard – Kodak Professional DCS 520 Digital Camera – Hardware Review

Kodak camera sets new standard – Kodak Professional DCS 520 Digital Camera – Hardware Review – Evaluation

Rick Oldano

With the release of the Kodak Professional DCS 520 Digital Camera, Eastman Kodak Co., in partnership with Canon U.S.A. Inc., offers imaging pros the first camera that combines exceptional image quality with a broad 200-to-1600 ISO range, a fast 3.5-frames-per-second capture rate and powerful in-camera software tools.

Incorporating a new CCD developed by Kodak that captures a 1,168-by-1,728-pixel image, the $14,995 DCS 520 (also sold by Canon as the EOS-D2000) is based on Canon’s EOS1-N body and is able to use all EOS-compatible Canon lenses. It captures 32-bit images (12 bits per color), buffering a maximum of 12 images before writing them to its PC Card-based storage system. Although no PC Card ships with the DCS 520, a standard 340-Mbyte Type III card can hold up to 199 1.7-Mbyte compressed images, which decompress to 6 Mbytes each when downloaded.

LCD powerful

The most visible difference between the DCS 520 and previous professional-class Kodak cameras is its LCD. Although precapture image framing is best done through the DCS 520’s WYSIWYG single-lens reflex system, two powerful software features make the LCD a valuable postcapture image-analysis tool. First is the Highlight option. When a captured image is displayed on the LCD, choosing the Highlight option will flash the pixels in image areas that are either under- or overexposed (similar to an out-of-gamut alarm), thus alerting you to areas in which details may have been lost due to poor exposure.

The second option, Histogram, displays a histogram similar to that produced by Adobe Photoshop. If the histogram shows an insufficient level of detail in highlights, midtones or shadows, you can make appropriate changes to lighting or exposure and reshoot – all without downloading the image to your computer and analyzing it in Photoshop.

Convenience is further enhanced by the DCS 520’s built-in microphone, which lets you annotate each image with a sound file that can be played back after you download the files to your computer – useful for dictating aspects of the image or scene, such as exposure information, location or image-manipulation suggestions.

Images from the DCS 520 show an uncommon lack of noise, as well as exhibiting sharp edges and a clarity of shadow and highlight detail previously seen only in more expensive cameras. This is not to say that the DCS 520’s images are perfect. They still require some cleanup in Photoshop, such as minor Gaussian blur and unsharp-masking adjustments.

Although the DCS 520 is equipped with two PC Card slots, only one of the slots is available, with Kodak reserving the second slot for later upgrades. The existing slot, however, can read Type I, II or III cards. Being Type III-capable, it can accommodate either PC Card-based hard disk drives or the new Type III flash memory cards, such as SanDisk Corp.’s FlashDisk card. Although the FlashDisk cards are far more durable than hard disk cards, and thus better suited to field use, our tests showed them to be about half as fast as hard disk cards when writing files from the DCS 520’s image buffer.

After images have been written to a PC Card of any type, the DCS 520 can transfer the images to your computer in two ways: You can either remove the PC Card from the camera and read it from a PC Card reader attached to your computer, or you can attach the DCS 520 directly by using the camera’s built-in IEEE 1394 (FireWire) interface – a much faster process if your computer is equipped with an IEEE 1394 PCI card.

Although a two-battery charging station is included (batteries cannot be charged while in the camera, although an AC adapter can be used instead of batteries), no battery ships with the DCS 520 due to constraints on nickel-cadmium batteries in international recycling law. Our tests using a $110 (street price) NiCad battery found it capable of capturing and downloading nearly 150 images to a 340-Mbyte Type III hard disk card before needing to be recharged – a vast improvement over the batteries in previous professional-level Kodak cameras.

Conclusions

The Kodak Professional DCS 520 Digital Camera is the ideal camera – film or digital – for the professional photographer who needs to work fast, shoot faster and make on-the-spot image-management decisions. Its image quality is excellent, its feature set exceptional, and its broad ISO range makes it useful both indoors and out. The DCS 520 is an important step in the evolution of digital imaging.

Eastman Kodak Co. of Rochester, N.Y., can be reached at (716) 724-4000 or (800) 235-6325; http://www.kodak.com/go/dcs520.

Kodak Professional DCS 520 Digital Camera

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