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Kodak Professional DCS 620

The Kodak DCS 620 would forever ruin me from ever owning or using another consumer-priced digital camera if it wasn't for two things. They are (1) Price, ~$10-11K - ouch! and (2) Size - this thing is huge and heavy, it's not going in your pocket or fit in any regular size camera case either.

The DCS 620 is based on the Nikon Professional F5 35mm camera and offers the same camera features -- Programmed Automatic mode, shutter and aperture priority modes, 3D Color Matrix metering and selectable autofocus and spot metering to name just a few.

Instead of exposing a 35mm film frame the DCS 620's focal point is a 2 megapixel CCD imager that produces 1728 x 1152 pixel, 36-bit color, uncompressed TIF images. With its powerful onboard image processing and RAM buffer the DCS 620 can capture up to 12 images at a rate of 3.5 fps before it begins writing to the hard drive.

One of the advantages of using a CCD imager instead of film is that you can vary the ISO sensitivity without having to change film. The DCS 620 covers the range of ISO 200 - 1600 at the flip of a dial. Of course at ISO speeds above 200 you are prone to electronic "noise" that becomes more of a problem the faster you push it.

My DCS 620 came with a Viper 340MB Type III hard drive and it only took about 2 seconds to write a 2MB TIF file to the speedy little drive. It also came with a 28mm lens which I swapped for a 28-85mm f/3.5 Nikkor AF lens. The focal multiplier for the DCS 620 is 1.5x so the 28-85 zoom is effectively a 42-127.5mm lens. This is because the area of the CCD imager is smaller than a 35mm film frame.


Kodak Professional DCS 620

I told you it was big! Here's the DCS 620 dwarfing the Nikon Coolpix 950. You can build some serious muscles toting this camera around all day. The specs say it's 3.9 pounds but that's before the battery pack, the hard drive and the lens are added in.

Because of its size the Kodak folks engineered in a special vertical shutter release which can be seen on the lower left side of the front of the camera. On the back is a vertical start button for the autofocus system and the bottom has been "bulged out" to form a finger grip area for greater stability.


Kodak Professional DCS 620

The nerve center of the DCS 620's digital side. Color TFT LCD for reviewing captured pictures and setting menu options and even more importantly, to see a histogram of any picture you have shot. Below the color LCD is a monochrome data LCD where you keep track of the ISO, battery level, white balance setting and picture numbers.


Kodak Professional DCS 620

The images displayed on the LCD are not very impressive, in fact the first few I looked at made me wonder if the camera was working right or not as they very dark and dull looking. The pictures displayed on the LCD come from low-res, preview thumbnails in the 1.9MB TIF images stored on the camera's hard drive.

Those 2MB TIF files are not directly readable, you use the DCS TWAIN Acquire module and it expands them to 6MB TIF files for further manipulation. Image size is 1728 x 1152 pixels which is not much bigger than the Coolpix 950's 1600 x 1200 pixel resolution but the DCS 620 is gathering data in 12-bits per pixel. There's also a very special and expensive anti-aliasing filter mounted behind the lens to improve the image quality.


Kodak Professional DCS 620

The view from the top makes it look just like an ordinary Nikon F5 film camera, it has all the same dials, knobs and buttons.  If you like shooting with the Nikon F5 -- you'll feel right at home with the DCS 620 !


Kodak Professional DCS 620

On the bottom is the digital unit and here is where a hefty 7.2v NiCd rechargeable battery pack (the size that you normally find in a laptop computer) and dual PCMCIA slots are located. At this time only one of the slots is active but Kodak has some new firmware due in September that will activate both slots.

Sitting next to the camera in this picture is a Viper 340MB Type III hard drive which gives the DCS 620 enough storage for about 145 pictures.

Be sure to check out my IBM 340MB Microdrive user review as we put it to test in the DCS 620 too!


Kodak Professional DCS 620

On the other side of the bottom unit is the AC power input connector and an IEEE-1394 "FireWire" data port. The DCS 620 can be run from a FireWire-equipped PC as a tethered camera (with extremely fast image acquisition speed) in a studio environment.


Kodak Professional DCS 620

This is the heart of the Nikon F5 camera controls. Main power switch (with safety button) and shutter release, EV override, camera operating mode (Program, Aperture, Shutter) and focus mode. And a monochrome data LCD that displays the current setting for all of these options.

The Nikon folks designed all the major camera controls to be fairly easy to get at without moving your hand or fingers around a lot. This lets you focus on taking pictures instead of fumbling with camera ergonomics.


Kodak Professional DCS 620

The prism finder is interchangeable and has a diopter correction knob on the side. The view inside of the SLR viewfinder is impressively bright, even with an f/3.5 lens on it. Over to the right is the Auto Exposure Lock (AE-L) / Auto Focus Lock (AF-L) and the AF-ON button. The dial (Main-Command) allows you to select the camera's operating mode if turned when the "Mode" button is held depressed.


Kodak Professional DCS 620

Inside the viewfinder is an array of LEDs to indicate exposure and focusing, a data readout below the subject area shows shutter speed, f/stop, metering mode and camera mode. With just a glance you know the current settings of all major camera functions without taking your eye away from the viewfinder.


Kodak Professional DCS 620

On the front, below the shutter button is the sub-command dial, this allows you to adjust the f/stop values, shutter speeds and etc. depending on what mode of operation the camera is in. On the side of the prism finder is the metering mode selector switch to choose between 3D Color Matrix, Center-Weighted and Spot modes.





Steve's Conclusion

I'm not sure how to rate this camera as I have little to compare it to except for vastly inferior consumer-priced digital cameras. The only negatives I see are the price and size of the DCS 620. Other than that it is a photographer's dream -- you have an almost unlimited variety of Nikkor lenses to extend your picture taking capabilities to the infinite.

Kodak has already reduced the price of the DCS 620 down to the $10-11K range and is currently offering a $3400 bundle of accessories to new buyers. It's still expensive but it's one helluva camera!

The DCS 620 is a favorite of today's professional photo journalists, many of the pictures in the newspaper are the product of this fine, high performance digital camera. Follow the link at the end of this review and visit Rob Galbraith's web site devoted to Photo Journalists using professional digital cameras.





DCS 620 Specifications
  • ISO Range: 200 to 1600
  • Battery life of up to 300 shots or unlimited number with AC adapter
  • Bit depth: 36-bit color (12 bits per color) original capture
  • Burst rate: 3.5 f/sec, min. 12 frames buffered before PC Card write
  • CCD size: 1728 x 1152 pixels
  • Size: 7.6 in. (194 mm) tall, 6.2 in.
    (158 mm) wide, 3.4 in. (88 mm) deep
  • Weight: 3.49 lbs. (1.58 kg) without lens
  • Conforms to FCC Class B, CE Mark
  • Class B Declaration, VCCI Class 2 Certified

Specifications are subject to change without notice.

Hardware Requirements

PC

  • WINDOWS 95 or WINDOWS NT 4.0 System
  • 133 MHz PENTIUM Processor or greater
  • 32 MB RAM minimum, 64 MB RAM recommended
  • IEEE 1394 PCI connector and/or adapter cards and/or PC Card peripheral device

MACINTOSH

  • MACINTOSH OS 7.6.1 or greater
  • 100 MHz Power PC Processor
  • 32 MB RAM minimum, 64 MB RAM recommended
  • 100 MB hard drive minimum, 200 MB or more recommended
  • IEEE 1394 interface and/or adapter cards and/or PC Card peripheral device
Software Requirements

PC

  • KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS TWAIN Module v5.6 or greater, for ADOBE PHOTOSHOP v4.0 or greater
  • Other TWAIN compatible applications

MACINTOSH

  • KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS Acquire Module v5.6 or greater, for ADOBE PHOTOSHOP v4.0 or greater
  • ADOBE PHOTOSHOP v4.0 or greater, compatible import plug-in









Steve's DCS 620 Sample Pics



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