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.
#1. "RE: Handled the Kodak 14n" | In response to Reply # 0
#3. "RE: Handled the Kodak 14n" | In response to Reply # 2Fri 21-Mar-03 03:29 PM
I know this is very subjective, but... . When the first and second set of test images were put on Kodak's site people seemed a little disappointed by their quality. Do you think the picture possibility is better then these initial test pics?
#4. "RE: Handled the Kodak 14n" | In response to Reply # 3Fri 21-Mar-03 07:08 PM
I've seen good and bad images from the 14n. Kodak's first set they posted at their site were pretty bad. The fine details of the images were overprocessed into something that resembled a fine art paint filter from Photoshop. I've seen other images from sources other than Kodak that look very good. The new Kodak samples are better than the first, but still aren't as good as the independent images.
My "test" shots were hardly a good workout for the camera and were done at ISO 80 only. I'll find or make a comparable S2 shot and post some magnified details. Meanwhile, here's a downsampled full 14n/Tamron 20-40mm image and some 100% jpeg details from it:
Full frame shot above, conversion to tif with noise reduction and sharpening turned off. Handheld, 20mm, f/11, 1/90 sec. ISO 80
Actual size crops follow:
#11. "RE: Handled the Kodak 14n" | In response to Reply # 4mythrenegade Basic MemberMon 24-Mar-03 03:33 AM
I feel odd asking this, but does anyone else notice that these images have a "somebody sat on dinner" look to them? The silver VW looks clearly disproportioned, among other things. I noticed the same thing with the images from Kodak a few months ago. Is it just me? Or am I simply seeing the effects of a really wide lens not perfectly level with the ground?
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#12. "RE: Handled the Kodak 14n" | In response to Reply # 11Mon 24-Mar-03 03:48 PM
It sounds like you haven't used a superwide lens. The distortion at the extreme corners is quite typical of superwide focal lengths. Having the lens level or not wouldn't change the stretched look that you'll see toward the edges of the frame. This is one of the tradoffs you face when using a superwide lens, no matter how high the quality.
#6. "Details at 400%" | In response to Reply # 0
These details are from unsharpened, no noise reduction (in processing) raw conversions to tiff. The Fuji images are done via the Fuji EX converter to 12 megapixels, the Kodak image if from Photo Desk 3.0 at 14 megapixels. The Fuji had the 18-35 Nikkor at 18mm, the Kodak used the Tamron 20-40mm at 20mm, so some of the differences are lens related. Different times of day, handheld, not a controlled shoot at all. But I think these do show something of how the image files look at high magnifications.
Note the colors that get into the white areas around the 14n letters. Note the softness of the S2 enlargement.
Chromatic aberration. The 14n with the Tamron zoom gives red/green fringing. The Fuji S2 with the Nikkor provides yellow/violet. Note that the Fuji image is providing CA despite the 1.5x crop. Lens or sensor? I vote lens in both cases.
More of the 14n's colors bleeding into white. Both enlargments are lumpy.
The 14n shows stairstepping in the brick pattern, but it also shows more detail.
#9. "RE: Details at 400%" | In response to Reply # 6AlanC Basic MemberSat 22-Mar-03 05:01 PM
Many thanks for posting those.
The one thing I don't notice in your shots are the strange "speckled colour" artefacts that appeared in the Kodak samples and also in Michael Reichman's (of Luminous Landscapes - see this thread) test shots. I'm guessing the fact that you were shooting at ISO 80 helped matters (as did the subjects) but it's curious nonetheless since that effect is something that's tended to leap out at me in every other full resolution 14n sample I've seen.
Incidentally, the Luminous Landscapes preview mentions that the first cameras will be limited to a maximum 1/2 second exposure and a highest possible ISO of 400, issues which will be addressed in future firmware releases. I'm afraid that, and the resolution loss in the higher ISO samples (which looks just like what happens when you turn the noise reduction in Nikon Capture up too high), says to me they're having some serious problems with noise levels from the sensor....
#10. "RE: Details at 400%" | In response to Reply # 9Sun 23-Mar-03 03:26 AM
I agree. I think they've tried some unusual in-camera noise reduction processing that causes the smudginess. The tendency to put inappropriate colors in some image areas must also be related to this noise reduction approach. I think, for example, the colorful hair artifacts I've seen are manifestations of this tendency Kodak has given the camera rather than a straighforward moire effect.
I don't think Kodak can "firmware" around the core issue - the noise inherent to the FillFactory sensor at the heart of the camera. Canon clearly has CMOS working far better than this competition. I think the softness of the 14n images in the Luminous Landscape article is also related to in-camera noise reduction.
The question is, can Kodak make the 14n perform well enough to justify the asking price? The 14n obviously has more resolution than the S2 even if the lenses do play a role, but the noise at ISO 400 is just not acceptable at the price. Is the 14n a $5000 camera? Not now and I'd be surprised if much more can be wrung out of the hardware. Is it a $4000 camera? It can deliver more resolution than my S2 and offers the full-frame capability I desire, but I'm not looking at the 14n seriously in its current state. Although I shoot primarily at low ISO, the noise at 400 would be just too limiting. I don't really expect a $4000 camera to deliver image quality to match the $8000 competitor, but...
#14. "k14n beta" | In response to Reply # 10pmirror Registered since 24th Nov 2002Fri 28-Mar-03 09:17 AM
My curiousity is The K14N you've tried is the full version or beta version?
As I have tried that one too, but the demo person told me is still the beta version.
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