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Handled the Kodak 14n

BJNicholls

Salt Lake City, US
10095 posts

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BJNicholls Gold Member Awarded for his contributions to the community and the Resources Charter Member
Fri 21-Mar-03 03:25 AM

I got a chance to handle and take away some image files from a Kodak 14n today. My time with the camera was short, so I my impressions should be taken for what they are. Here's what left an impression on me:

The vertical grip is poorly designed. I mean very poorly. While I understand the desire to keep the camera relatively compact, the vertical grip doesn't allow finger space between the bulge and the camera body. It's wide enough you can hold it reasonably well with your fingers just wrapping over the front of the grip, but it feels odd and not very secure. Kodak discovered that the stupid grip bulge gets in the way of the 80mm PC Nikkor, one of the popular studio lenses that the camera would logically want to support.

The viewfinder looks bigger and brighter than the N80's somewhat dim finder. This could be an impression that comes after dealing with the tiny, cropped N80 display of my Fuji S2, but it sure was nice to see a big, full frame view using a DSLR.

The camera writes files to my 512 Meg compact flash card faster than my S2 does. The S2 has issues with write speed to a lot of media, so the Kodak may not be exceptional. But the Kodak can shoot full frame raw files and write them faster than the S2 can write half the data.

The 4-way rocker switch doesn't default to focus selection when you're in shooting mode. If you touch the shutter release, the camera switches to shooting mode but the LCD menu can remain active. I couldn't figure out in the short time I played with the camera how to switch out of having the rocker work through the menus and get at the focus points. Worse, if I tried to work the rocker while shooting, it would wake up the LCD menus - meaning I could change functions without knowing about it (well, I would see my AF selection was useless and at least have that as a clue).

Pictureline, where I demoed the camera, had a Tamron 20-40mm zoom on the 14n, so I did get to shoot a few shots outside specifically to see what the camera does with full-frame wide angle coverage. I don't know enough about the Tamron lens to know how good it is with chromatic aberration, but color fringing is visible on the images I shot.

The camera had a nice heft to it and the grippy body covering was nice compared to the hard plastic of my Fuji. The top deck and camera controls looked N80 standard, the digital side didn't look overly complex, but it wasn't intuitive enough that I could use the AF selector.

I tried the Adobe Camera Raw plugin to convert the DCF raw files. Although the Adobe app will open and convert the files, it does a terrible job with the colors and I could not adjust them into anything close to accurate with the plugin controls. I couldn't even get the image close using Photoshop curves. I suspect the RGB data is being misinterpreted by the plugin.

I went to the Kodak site and downloaded Photo Desk, which they kindly (and wisely) provide free of charge to anyone. Kodak's approach is refreshing and it facilitates the demo process for people like me. Nikon and Fuji want far too much for inferior software that they should include with every DSLR they sell.

The Kodak application isn't as slick and obvious as Adobe Camera Raw, but it's not hard to figure out. Not all the icons have pop-ups that describe their functions, and the interface assumes you want to choose files by name instead of pick from thumbnails. The Kodak conversion gets the colors right and since they share their specs openly, Adobe should be able to add 14n support without too much trouble.

Aside from the chromatic aberration, the images look very good. I turned off noise reduction and sharpening and find the 14n has less noise than my S2 at low ISO. The images show some odd artifacts that I'm not sure how to interpret. It would be interesting to shoot the with the same lens from a tripod with my S2. I didn't have time so I've just been looking at my 12 Mpix S2 files compared to the Kodak files at identical magnifications. The Kodak at high magnification seems to smudge details, but the S2 images show diagonal artifacts, more shadow noise and track noise that aren't found in the Kodak shots.

The color fringing with the 20mm on the 14n isn't as strong as the fringing using my 18-35 Nikkor with my S2 even with the crop cutting 18mm down to 27mm. I think the CA is primarily in the lenses and that it's just more obvious when film grain doesn't obscure the evidence. I think digital cameras will have owners looking for better lenses no matter what size the sensor is.

I'll do some detail crops and may post them if reviews don't start showing up for the camera. Pictureline is expecting cameras to sell next month, at least that's what Kodak has told them.



BJ

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