Kodak DCS 720x SLR Review
By Movable Type Admin
The Kodak Professional DCS 720x camera stores its raw images in a proprietary, lossless compressed format that averages about 2.5MB depending on the image content. These raw .DCR files contain an embedded JPEG thumbnail image that is displayed on the camera's LCD when reviewing images. Once these raw files have been transferred to the host computer they must be processed with the Photo Desk software. The DCS 720x can also process the image data in-camera and generate finished JPEGs.
Because this image data is raw, you can select and apply many enhancements
or modifications to the images before saving them in a more portable format.
Photo Desk can open a directory folder of images as a
"contact sheet" with each image shown as a large thumbnail. Above the thumbnail
are icons that represent the color balance, white balance, image "look" (product,
portrait, etc) and exposure compensation at the time of capture.
These are the available Image Tools - You click and select a thumbnail image and then apply these options as desired on the image. You then double-click the thumbnail to display a full screen version of the image with the corrections applied. You can change any option desired and it will be re-processed and displayed on the enlarged image.
As mentioned above, the raw image data can be manipulated post-capture with the
Photo Desk software. Never again worry about an entire shoot being ruined
because the white balance was incorrectly set. You can vary
the exposure compensation +/- 2.0EV, select RGB or grayscale mode, rotate portrait
mode shots, pick the desired white balance or use the one-click eyedropper, apply
noise reduction (low, medium or moire) and the amount of sharpening necessary to
overcome the softness caused by the IR or AA filter.
The embedded exposure information can be displayed whenever you want to reference
the original settings used to capture an image.
The histogram can be used to see the overall distribution of luminance, you can
toggle the Red, Green and Blue channels on and off as desired.
When you have modified your image to your satisfaction it can be saved back to the
lossless compressed and proprietary Kodak DCR format or you can use the "Save As" option
and save the image as a TIFF or JPEG format image. Shown above are
the TIFF save options, the JPEG options are below.
DCS Photo DeskAvailable now, the application in its current form is a serviceable first crack at a standalone RAW file browser. It's strengths are in two areas: the speed with which it processes out to JPEG or TIFF the DCS 760's hefty .DCR files, and the simple but effective control it offers over the colour and brightness adjustments made during that processing. In fact, DCS Photo Desk's software exposure compensation function works even better with the DCS 760 than with other Kodak digital SLR's, thanks to some tweaks to the extreme compensation settings. In testing, I was able to fully recover ISO 80 daylight images overexposed 2 stops. The same extreme test with a DCS 520 or 620x at their lowest ISO, for example, results in a strong colour shift in highlights.
In short, Kodak software remains the best I've used at converting RAW data to finished files in an efficient and quality-focused manner. It also includes keyboard shortcuts for numerous functions, and uses a clever scheme of icons across the top of image thumbnails to indicate the processing parameters (white balance, noise reduction, etc.) that have been stored within that file.
But it lacks keyboard shortcuts for image zooming (out of necessity, I added my own using OneClick for Mac), offers no colour management support, file renaming of .DCR files isn't possible without copying them elsewhere and, most egregiously, it offers only minimal integration with Photoshop. And finally, screen real estate would be better managed if the Info palette could be shrunk in a manner similar to the Tools palette.
So, in it's current form it does enable work to get done, and even the beta version used to prep DCS 760 photos for this article has been stable. But it has some distance to go before it surpasses the ease of use of even the v5.9.3 driver, let alone 3rd party applications like Photo Mechanic 2 Pro.
Kodak plans to begin bridging that distance over the course of this year
through "feature creep," the steady addition of new capabilities to DCS
Photo Desk. Improvements are said to include better integration with
Photoshop, enabling photos to be opened directly into Adobe's pro image
editor without having to save them out of DCS Photo Desk first, the
inclusion of a profile picker interface that will enable the selection of
different film emulation types, or Looks in Kodak-speak, as well as the
ability to perform pedestrian tasks like file renaming on a window of
thumbnails. Updates to the program are expected to be free downloads
from Kodak's web site. DCS Photo Desk 1.0 is available on the Web as I
write this; v1.1 will be available for download soon, but the primary change
will be the addition of DCS 760 support, not new features.
DCS Camera ManagerA new application designed to capture or copy images from the DCS 7xx (and other FireWire-capable DCS cameras) and set various camera properties. DCS Camera Manager brings much-needed automatic image transfer from camera to computer, and it does so at just over 5MB/second to my antique Mac G3/400, courtesy of the DCS 7xx's new FireWire controller hardware. It integrates nicely with DCS Photo Desk, which can be set up to automatically monitor a folder for arriving photos and immediately display their thumbnails.
DCS Camera Manager should prove to be a solid, reliable utility for moving photos out of the camera quickly, even while the photographer continues to shoot.
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