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A brief look at the new Kodak Professional SLR/n
written by JonCanfield


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 mode.

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

All 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.


ISO 6 | 30sec | f32

 

 


ISO 6 | 15sec | f32

 

 


ISO 1600 | 1/15| f22

 

 


ISO 1250| 1/15| f22

 

 


ISO 800| 1/8| f22

 

 

 


ISO 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 can be seen from the sample on my website, ISO 6 at 30 seconds delivers exceptionally clean files.
Kodak has added a new Expert noise reduction mode to PhotoDesk, the included processing application. This 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 and has 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.