Setting the Digital Standard
BY RICHARD LEWIN
The heart of this amazing product is the "KAF-16801CE CCD Image Sensor," which, according to Chris McNiffe, vice president of sales and marketing for Kodak's Digital and Applied Imaging Division, stands for "Kodak Area Full Frame Area Array 16,800,000 Color CCD with Blue Plus Technology."
In its effort to create the Holy Grail for studio and location pros, Kodak has chosen Hasselblad as its first manufacturing partner (Mamiya is its second, with the RZ67 Pro II). At a price of about $20,000 (the CCD chip alone costs approximately $4,000), the Pro Back is currently compatible only with Hasselblad's Model 555ELD ("Electronic Digital"), with more to follow.
DCS PRO BACK
- ISO 100
- Bit depth: 36-bit color (12 bits per color) original capture
- Burst rate: 1 frame every 2 sec; up to 6 images buffered before CompactFlash card write or during tethered download of continuous images
- Storage: Up to 100 images with 1 GB IBM MicroDrives
- Power: (Tethered) AC; (Portable) Quantum Battery 2 Pack
- S-Video review: NTSC or PAL
- Size: 3.5 in. (90mm) tall, 3.5 in. (90mm) wide, 3.9 in. (100mm) deep
- Weight: 3.5 lbs (1.58 kg) with two cards and lens shutter sync cord
- Conforms to FCC Class A, CE Mark
- Class A Declaration, VsCCI Class A Certified
With its standard snap-on Hasselblad mount, the Pro Back features an "Image LCD" color screen for image review and menu selection. The review feature has a "Region of Interest" magnifier that's moveable over the captured image area for 1:1 close-up examination, invaluable for focus and composition review. The camera can be used portably with a Quantum 2 Battery Pack, or tethered via IEEE 1394 FireWire to a Power Mac G4, System 9.0 minimum. (Sorry, PC users will have to wait a bit.)
In portable use, the images may be written to a CompactFlash card or IBM
MicroDrive. In tethered mode, images go to the computer's hard drive. S- video output is also provided for TV image review. In an effort to make the photographer's work more efficient, the simplified menu system on the Image LCD never requires more than three button presses to make any selection.
As soon as the camera's shutter button is pressed, a 16MB file is created in the following sequence: 1) the Pro Back's CCD charges, 2) the shutter fires, 3) the shutter tells the Back there's an exposure, 4) the image is "wiped" to the CCD, 5) the image is sent to RAM. The file created is in Kodak's DCR ("Digital Camera Raw") format, and is usually converted to allow for editing with Adobe Photoshop or other imaging software.
SOFTWARE THAT'S HARD TO BEAT
Along with the DCS Pro Back, Kodak provides image viewing and editing software called Kodak Professional DCS Capture Studio. Besides the usual features of this type of application—contact sheet mode, exposure control, file conversion, color balance, etc.—it has some unique capabilities.
First, the "Close-up" mode. Since the DCS Pro Back is used to control extreme detail, Capture Studio provides an on-screen "Close-up Marquee," a small "box" that's moved with the mouse, for super-close-up pixel examination. Next is the custom-input profile function, which calibrates the Back in the photographer's shooting environment. The photographer can specify "Looks" profiles and output files that are already available in the software.
A Macbeth Digital Color Chart is photographed in the studio, under existing
lighting conditions, and the color and focus information are retained in the software as a custom-input profile. Since communication between the photographer's eye and the printer or publisher is one of the most important factors in the production of the final image, this is an extremely valuable tool because it helps assure that what the photographer sees is what appears in print.
LARGER THAN LIFE
Commercial shooter Akos Simon (www.akosphotography.com) works in the real world of high-profile, demanding clients like Maybelline, Lubriderm, and L'Oreal. Every pixel he shoots is critical to both his reputation and his income. What attracted him to the DCS Pro Back is its incredibly high 48MB file output size and image quality. Since many of his images are published as billboards, full-page glossy magazine pages, and two-page spread ads, featuring brutally close facial shots—see his three images on this page—he really needs the detail and control the Back provides. The tremendous file size allows Akos to give his clients "flesh," or extra image "air space" around the critical picture area, allowing him to crop later to his customer's taste.
He also appreciates the Pro Back's relatively rapid shooting rate of one image per every two seconds, since fast-moving fashion is his specialty, and he never wants to lose the mood once he starts shooting. His favorite Capture Studio Software feature is the exposure compensation control. Even though he takes pride in his ability to get the correct exposure himself, he admits the software does an incredible job of evenly tweaking the exposure, simply and much more quickly than he could do it manually. According to Akos, the huge 48MB RGB TIFF file size gives a substantial image foundation to the professional retoucher, minimizing any distortion that might be produced by retouching.
Like every modern-day photographer, Akos always wants more from his equipment. Although satisfied with this brilliant new Kodak product, he has a wish list. Kodak, are you listening? A 70MB file output size to allow for even more cropping and detail.
• A larger CCD in a rectangular format, since most images published are not square like the Pro Back's CCD Sensor.