3 different Kodaks and their unique color rendition
I put together 3 Kodak DCS cameras in here, DCS 460, DCS 560 and SLR/n and describe their impressions which acquired many years using. I avoid the term ‘test’ and use ‘impression’ instead of. It is because I don’t do scientific test like sensor sensitivity, ISO comparison, and side by side noise review ….etc.
Kodak digital cameras, especially older DSLRs has unique characteristics and color renditions. Kodak color is far superior and not surpassed yet, to my personal opinion, no matter how new DSLRs’ good in noise, dynamic range, pixels density. Spec data does not tell the true story, how good their color is.
I use Leaf Valeo digital back almost exclusively to Black and White. Even though Leaf color is also excellent and accurate if processed carefully, I rely more on Leaf’s dynamic range to bring BW photo into vivid tonal separation. Meanwhile I took color pictures with Kodaks, again almost exclusively, due to their unique and extremely pleasing color reproduction.
But if I pack both, Leaf and Kodak, the weight and volume go extreme side, where not manageable for backpacking long duration. This is one reason I acquired 4th Kodak, DCS 645M. Unlike 3 other Kodaks which is 35mm camera with APS-H and Full frame size sensor, 645M is medium format digital back customized with Mamiya AFD. I have hope to replace all others with 645M but at first I need to go through extensive photo test, again not scientific which does not tell anything about photo.
Kodak DCS 460
This is really dinosaur age DSLR. You’ll be surprised if you are looking for LCD screen at the back side of the camera. Don’t try to find it in front side or bottom. Simply it does not exist! DCS 460 is the simple configuration at the extension of film camera. It is compatible with film as well as digital. At the back side of Nikon N90 (or F90), you can remove film back cover. And you install digital sensor unit into the camera. It is then DCS 460. Of course, you can detach digital sensor unit anytime and put the camera back to film one as soon as installing film back cover.
Color: It produces most film like images, especially mimic of negative films rather than slides. Overall it shows pale magenta or very slight pink base-color, and strong and vivid red color. This is very unique color template of DCS-460 and quite pleasing for portraits, landscape in autumn. On the other hand, it is not exact color reproduction which required by process lab, or commercial photographer.
DCS-460 file is not supported by Kodak’s masterpiece, Photo Desk. It is so early to be a part of Photo Desk. There is couple of excellent program to develop the file. Raw Therapy is the best among them, but I usually process with Lightroom Version 4 due to its versatility.
By looking at DCS 460, people can recognize immediately it is not the camera in our days. Without LCD screen which is common to all other DSLRs, it looks more like film camera. But with tiny screen which tells how many shots remains, and big interface port occupied backside, it looks more like something in between or somewhere else stuff.
No IR or AA filter: When DCS-460 show up in the market, sensors did not have IR or AA filter. This technology become available somewhat later. Kodak assumes individual photographer take care Infrared issue for themselves or simply do not know what impact will be. Lack of IR filter induced inconsistent color reproduction which is a potential problem for professionals, but it add DCS-460’s uniqueness as well. There’ll be opportunity for B&W photographers, since its lack of IR filter, 460 can reproduce semi-infrared B&W photo easily.
[BW w R25 filter, Grey card balanced color look, BW conversion]
[Landscape BW shot]
Kodak DCS 560
As getting older, my wife becomes tougher to give photo permission, especially for the camera not reproduce pleasing picture for her. DCS 560 was the most favorite and still is since I abandon film entirely. Unlike DCS 460 which has slight pale-pink base color, DCS 560 has pure neutral color tone, feeling sometimes too cool. DCS 560 has distinctively unique look, de-saturated water color like gamut, directly out of Photo Desk. This excellent output for someone but strange result for others depends on their taste. But Raw file of DCS 560 has wide range of color information waiting for post processing. Once click to balance color temperature with grey area, colors become vividly accentuated and elegantly rich which cannot be simulated by other camera, even other Kodak DCS series. This is way there are many enthusiastic followers of this camera even it is so old in these days standard. I personally rank DCS-560 in the top of top of digital camera ever manufactured.
[Body shot, IR filter shot]
Unlike previous version, DCS 560 has IR or AA filter. But it is not attached to sensor itself still. Those filters are located in front of camera, right behind lens mount. You can choose either IR or AA filter but not both.
AA filter, by nature of its design, makes image slightly blur, thus reduce (or remove) moire pattern which is the cumbersome problem for fashion photographer. Most of DCS 560 users I know removed this filter. IR filter does not degrade image quality, actually it supposed to enhance image qualify, because it blocks the interference from IR radiation to sensor / pixels, with clearer color rendition. I used to use DCS 560 without any filter, but not recognize real difference in between IR filtering and no-IR filtering. But I recognize AA filter reduces sharpness in many cases.
Kodak DCS SLR/n
SLR/n is the last generation of Kodak DCS series, so it is advanced platform with full frame CMOS sensor (DCS-460 & DCS-560 have APS-H size CCD sensor). By this time, Kodak went through most of technical huddles and issues to perfect their digital camera productions. SLR/n is easy to use and produce top quality result without too much hassle. But in my personal opinion, it does not have personality and uniqueness like other 2 DSC cameras. It may be because everything optimized thoroughly, therefore no room to eccentric.
In this camera, finally AA and IR combined filter installed in front of sensor, therefore users not bothered any longer. For AA filter, I am not sure it is good decision. Recently there are cameras which removed AA filter intentionally to drive image quality to up front. Moire pattern is cumbersome but for most of users, it really does not matter. Nevertheless, SLR/n is really capable camera without unwieldy.
Extreme long exposure: When DSLR equipped with CCD sensor, long exposure was not the choice because CCD goes wild in long exposure with its high noise and rapid temperature build up characteristics. From 14N and followed by SLR/n, Kodak DCS equipped with CMOS which has more freedom in noise, temperature… etc. SLR/n has unique ‘ISO 6’ setting for extreme long exposure.
SLR/n was second full frame Nikon mount DSLR (first was Kodak 14N) which flanked with 14M CMOS sensor. They were only available full frame Nikon for a long time, because Nikon claimed full frame camera in digital era is nonsense and focus on crop body until long after Canon makes huge success with full frame, 1Ds and 5D. No matter what Nikon said, they turned over what they said when Sony finally was able to supply full frame sensor to them.