Kodak surprised quite a few people at PMA with a new
version of their 35mm based full frame digital camera.
The original Pro 14n had a love/hate relationship with
most users and seldom generated mixed feelings. For studio
or controlled lighting situations, the Pro 14n was hard
to beat in image quality.
The drawbacks were the need to keep the ISO settings
low to avoid noise problems, and a sometimes inaccurate
lens optimization system. ISO settings above 200 were
generally considered too noisy and the
problem with lenses ranged from hue shift with some zooms
and primes, and the much noted red spot that showed up
in lenses such as the 85mm.
The new camera is essentially the same system with a
replacement for the sensor. While still using a third
party CMOS 14MP sensor, virtually everything outside
of form factor and resolution has changed. The new sensor
uses High Performance-Low Noise (HPLN) technology. This,
along with improvements to the manufacturing process,
a new symmetric pixel design, and analog sensor architecture
have resulted in a imager with greatly improved image
quality, especially at higher ISO settings.
There is also a new IR absorption filter to replace
the dichroic one used in the original 14n. This has virtually
eliminated the magenta flare typical at the edges of
bright subjects. The other advantage to the new filter
is improved performance under tungsten lighting conditions.
The symmetric pixel layout has eliminated the hue shift
seen with the original 14n, and has also removed the
need to have lens optimization tables.
Finally, Kodak has improved the power management and
battery life with the SLR/n. Now, the camera has a sleep
mode which greatly reduces power consumption over the
original 14n, and has reduced the time to go into ready
Changes in ISO settings
The SLR/n now uses ISO 6 to 1600. The base setting is
ISO 160. In my work with a pre-release version of the
14nx, I found that this new base setting provided exceptionally
clean files, certainly on par with the earlier model
at ISO 80. I have very good results with all exposure
settings up to 1250. ISO 1600 is certainly usable,
but will require a fairly high level of noise reduction.
Check the sample below:
All photos are taken with a pre-release version of
the new Kodak 14nx. This is the upgraded sensor version
for existing owners of the 14n
photos were shot as DCR. In Photodesk, I converted
to Product Look for a more neutral balance. Files were
then opened in Photoshop CS as 16bit TIFF, cropped
and converted to 8-bit. Files were then saved as
JPEG level 10 with sRGB color space.
6 | 30sec | f32
6 | 15sec | f32
1600 | 1/15| f22
1250| 1/15| f22
800| 1/8| f22
400| 1/4| f22
For ISO setting from 6 through
50, you’ll need
to go into the camera’s “Longer” mode.
In this mode, you set the exposure time through
menu options, up to a maximum of 60 seconds. As
seen from the sample on my website, ISO 6 at 30
exceptionally clean files.
Kodak has added a new Expert noise reduction mode
to PhotoDesk, the included processing application.
mode is automatically enabled at ISO 400 and higher,
and does a very nice – comparable to Noise Ninja – job.
In addition, Adobe has recently released an update
to Adobe Capture Raw that works in Photoshop CS
full support for the new Kodak files.
Kodak is offering
an upgrade path for original 14n owners as well. In
a first for the camera industry, you can
send your 14n to Kodak, along with $1,495. Kodak will
return your body to you reincarnated as a 14nx. The only
differences between the SLR/n and the 14nx are a flash
card door – the new camera has a led light on the
door to enable you to see if the card is being written
to, and the power management features. If you need to
upgrade your memory buffer at the same time, Kodak will
charge $300 to bring you up to 512MB. This will increase
your buffer to about 19 shots, up from less than 10 with
the original 256MB.
With the changes
made in the new SLR/n, Kodak has taken a large step
back towards credibility and is now offering
a camera that meets the needs of most users. It’s
not a sports/high action camera, but if optimum image
quality are the key criteria, you’ll be very happy
with this body. Personally? My 14n is already on the
way back to Kodak for an upgrade.
The SLR/n retails for $4995 and is shipping now. Upgrades
from the 14n are $1495 and will be available mid March.