Articles, Insights, and Tutorials
Kodak DCS 315 Digital SLR Camera
The Kodak DCS 315 will appeal to very serious digital camera hobbyists, semiprofessional or professional photographers, and 35mm SLR camera owners who want to apply their existing camera familiarity to advanced digital photography.
- Interchangeable full-sized Nikon camera lenses capture a film-like depth and feel. With its "lens multiplier effect", the DCS 315 is unrivaled as the most capable telephoto digital camera made.
- Huge image capacity using CompactFlash memory cards (up to 128 mb), Type II Flash memory cards (up to 320 mb), IBM Microdrives (up to 340 mb), or Type III removable hard drives (up to 520 mb).
- 1520X1008 maximum actual resolution.
- Easily select TIFF or JPEG formats.
- Outstanding battery life using rechargeable AA size NiMH batteries.
- Fast boot up, fast processing.
- ISO ranges of 100, 200, or 400.
- Rugged, well-built, solid construction.
Sample Pictures -
"There's something different here... They look like 'real' camera pictures."
Click on any thumbnail below for a larger view
(Resized to 1018x675 pixel jpegs from the original 1520x1008 resolution tiffs for faster loading to your screen)
Mallards in the Park
Czech Training Jet
Danny Glover Look-Alike
Dallas at Dawn
A walk on the spillway
Here comes the pitch
At the Stock Show
South African Boer Goat
Feel the Speed
DCS 315 photos have a distinct edge over those from fixed lens digitals with regards to depth and dimension. Compare any similar picture from the "regular" type digital camera reviews in the site - you'll see the difference between ordinary depth and the three dimensional depth of an interchangeable lens SLR digital like the DCS 315. It caught my eye right away.
The Camera -
The Kodak DCS 315 will challenge and test your skills and creative abilities far, far beyond any other digital on the consumer market today. "You won't get bored with this camera..."
With Features, Features...
... and More Features
I always keep a keen eye out for unique digital camera features - lenses, options, image storage capacity, battery life, "switches and buttons" to mess with. (I like that kind of equipment.)
Sure, I was pretty happy with the image qualities of my other digitals, but I also longed to do things beyond their limits.
I was especially looking for the ability to take powerful telephoto shots with full sized picture quality. (Add-on lenses with fixed lens cameras are fun, but image quality often suffers to varying degrees.)
The DCS 315 "pulled my trigger" here... With the ability to use the full range of Nikon compatible 35mm camera lenses, I was very excited.
- Programmed Automatic Exposure, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, or full Manual Exposure controls with a built in exposure meter in the viewfinder.
- Very fast shutter speeds for high speed action photography, up to 1/4000 of a second.
- Long shutter speeds for special low light photography situations, as long as 30 seconds.
- Very large, and very small aperture settings for special effects, limited only to the range of the lens in use. For example, as large as f2.8, and as small as f32 on the lenses I typically use.
- Adjustable ISO (film speed equivalents) to stretch the ranges of shutter and aperture settings: 100, 200, or 400.
- Manual or Autofocus - flip the lever next to the lens to choose.
- Flash pictures with extended range capabilities using the "hot shoe" mount. (Or use the quick, easy built in pop-up flash.)
Fit, Finish, and Feel -
The 315 is built as a professional class camera. Quality construction and long term durability was clearly in mind when the 315 was designed. A precise, machined fit to all the components. Smooth and solid. Elegantly finished. First class all the way.
It has a good, natural feel when you pick it up and slip your hand through the grip strap. (The wide, padded, glove-smooth leather adjustable strap fits snugly over the top of your hand.) Sure, steady, and solid. Just right for positioning your index finger on the shutter button, with a relaxed (but firm) one-handed hold on the camera... Very, very comfortable. Pulling it up to your eye to take a picture, your left hand has a natural feel too, as you steady and frame your subject with both hands.
Not as heavy feeling or bulky as I feared it might be when I first picked it up, it's actually very close to the weight and feel of a 35mm Nikon F5, or the popular Nikon N90s with the optional vertical grip attached. (ok - maybe it's a "little" bigger... but I've actually gotten quite comfortable with it.)
Certainly not a "point & shoot" camera to slip into my pocket... Heck, I can't even fit a 315's lens into my pocket!
And it does draw attention: "That's quite a camera you've got there ... " said the CEO of an SEO New York company whose wife was also a photographer.
Quality lenses -
Like a high quality 35mm camera, you pick (buy) your own lens preferences... the DCS 315 doesn't come with any prepackaged lenses at all. Try to think of this as an "opportunity" rather than a disappointment... The range and style of available lenses is huge.
The camera will accept both Nikon "IX" series lenses (made especially for the APS format Pronea 6i camera), and "AF" series lenses (Nikon 35mm camera format). Camera stores and catalogs are filled with choices. I strongly recommend the "fastest" and the highest quality Nikon 35mm lenses you can afford. These "fast" (f2.8 or larger base aperture) 35mm format professional quality lenses make a big difference in picture quality.
In my experience, the "IX" (APS format) lenses have had disappointing performance on the DCS 315. So have "average quality" 35mm format lenses. Pictures with these lenses tend to be somewhat dull & muddy.
- Sigma's EX f2.8-f4 17-35mm zoom lens.
- Sigma's EX f2.8 28-70mm zoom lens.
- Sigma's EX f2.8 70-200mm zoom lens.
- Nikon's f2.8 20-35mm zoom lens.
- Nikon's f2.8 80-200mm zoom lens.
(Pictured at right.)
* Other "fast", professional quality lenses
should work as well as those listed.
Take notice - "Any" lens mounted on the DCS 315 will have the printed focal length multiplied (magnified) 2.6 times in reference to a comparable 35mm camera field of view.
The 2.6 multiplier isn't necessarily bad. You just have to understand what you're dealing with. And "multipliers" with digital camera lenses are routine and common, anyway.
For example, the immensely popular Nikon CoolPix 900 zoom lens has an actual focal length of 5.8mm to 17.4mm (you'll find these numbers printed on the lens), with a "35mm equivalent" value of 38mm to 115mm. That makes the Nikon 900 have a lens multiplier of 6.55 (!) . Other digitals have similar multipliers. They all say "35mm equivalent" when they talk about their lenses.
The "35mm camera factor" is important, because it is the standard by which we have become accustomed, and the standard with which we reference recognizable lens magnification values and corresponding fields of view.
How is the focal length magnified?
The CCD sensor takes the place of APS film in the camera body. And because the CCD sensor is physically smaller than a frame of APS film (which, by the way, is smaller than a frame of 35mm film), it extends (magnifies) the actual "working" focal length of the camera lens considerably. It's a matter of angles and the resulting math.
The 2.6 "multiplier" and the resulting telephoto opportunities -
Using an 80-200mm Nikon f2.8 autofocus zoom telephoto lens, I have an effective 35mm focal length range of 208mm to 520mm. (Multiply the printed lens values by 2.6 throughout.)
By adding a 1.5 X autofocus tele-extender, this same lens will reach out to 780mm and still retain excellent full sized image quality.
Click on the picture above for a 1018 x 675 pixel view
of this 780mm telephoto shot of a vintage B17 Bomber.
Wide angle challenge -
Though the telephoto opportunities are tremendous, wide angle options become a challenge.
For example, a nice "wide angle" 35mm lens becomes an effective 91mm lens on the DCS 315 when multiplied by 2.6 (instantly becoming a nearly 2X mild telephoto). Even a "very wide angle" 20mm lens becomes an effective 52mm lens on the DCS 315. (50mm is considered to be the standard for a so-called "normal" 35mm camera lens.) And the resulting fields of view will feel too confined for most close range pictures.
So how can true "wide angle" be achieved on the DCS 315?
- Back up far enough to see.
- Buy an extreme wide angle lens -
Sigma refers to the one shown below as "the widest angle non fisheye lens in the world".
Here's their 14mm f2.8 EX aspherical lens.
With an equivalent 35mm camera focal length of 36.4mm, this one works very well as an very nice fixed focal length wide angle lens. It's called a "rectilinear" lens (distortion free). And it has proven to be such.
The removable hood has 72mm threads to add a "hot mirror filter" (as shown).
I've had some trouble with this lens excessively "hunting" for distant focus, occasionally failing to lock in properly. (But little or no problem on close range wide angles or portraits.)
I personally like Sigma's 17-35mm f2.8-4 EX aspherical zoom lens (shown at right) a little better than their 14mm. It has an equivalent focal length range of 44-91mm.
It exhibits no focal "hunting" problems at all, and I consistently get sharp, bright, and clear results with the added framing flexibility of a zoom lens.
And the 17mm position (44mm effective) works very nicely for most wide angle needs.
This lens comes with a removable lens hood (included), and has built-in standard 82mm threads for a hot mirror filter.
Good news -
The focal length multiplier doesn't affect the "speed" of the lenses. (The f-stop values are not affected.) A 2.8 lens remains 2.8, a 3.5 remains 3.5, and so on.
The Viewfinder -
More of the "multiplier factor"
The final 2.6 multiplier factor of the lens on the CCD doesn't show up in the viewfinder without some additional help from Kodak. Through-the-lens viewing is still configured for a Pronea APS film camera. Therefore, the view through the viewfinder area is larger than what the CCD sensor actually "sees".
Rather than re-engineer the viewfinder mechanism completely (because of costs and the resulting selling price factors), Kodak has simply "marked" the area that will be captured by the CCD in the field of view. And with very little practice, it's easy to get used to the modified setup.
Here's what you see through the viewfinder -
Flash Options ... Built-in or "Hot Shoe"
The DCS 315's built-in popup flash is simple to use, and ready at the push of a button. It has several features accessible through the camera's flash menu, such as "redeye" reduction, slow sync, and rear curtain sync. But with a Guide number of only 45.9 @ ISO 100, it's limited in effective range to around 12 feet at a typical f4 aperture setting. And, you can't do a "bounce" flash with the built-in unit.
Options? Use a more powerful "hot shoe" flash instead, such as the zoom head Sunpak 4000AF (pictured at right), one example of a relatively low priced all-around hot shoe flash unit for the DCS 315.
This particular flash unit features a dedicated shoe mounted flash with a motor driven zoom head that can adjust to closely match the focal lengths of lenses being used, with preset ranges of 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 80mm. An illuminated LCD panel shows TTL dedicated flash mode, minimum/maximum flash ranges, manual mode, 1/16 power ratio setting for fill flash, flash ready indicator, exposure confirmation, zoom/focal length lens setting and where applicable, and rear curtain synch. A Guide number range from 80-132 at ISO 100 provides ample power up to 30 feet or more @ f4. And bounce capability allows for increased lighting control and creative effects.
Similar attributes are found in Nikon's SB-26 and SB-28 flash units, but you'll pay quite a bit more.
Opinion: In my experience, the DCS 315 doesn't do very good flash exposure calculations with "any" flash. It usually requires a lot of manual compensation + or - to get an acceptable exposure. Plan on a lot of practice, and a lot of "bracketing" in order to get a keeper with your flash pictures. (It can be done, it's just not very automatic by nature.)
What comes with the DCS 315?
- The camera body, with a leather padded hand strap.
- Separate manuals for the Nikon Pronea 6i camera and the Kodak DCS 315. The DCS 315 manual tells you basic features and operation, including what features of the "film" Pronea camera don't apply with the digital conversion.
- Quick reference fold-up users card.
- Two CD-ROM's - One with Kodak's Twain acquire software to be used with your own imaging software, the other a thorough "online" manual for camera and software operations.
- Two battery trays - each hold 6 AA batteries. The camera uses only one tray, so you can have another tray loaded with batteries and ready to swap. (No batteries are included.)
- AC Adapter - Newer production cameras only... not included with early production cameras.
- A small plastic eyepiece cover for the Pronea, recommended while using the self-timer, to block light from entering the camera through the viewfinder.
- One 52mm "hot mirror" filter *. (52mm is the standard filter size for all three IX series Nikkor lenses that commonly outfit the Nikon Pronea 6i camera.)
* Kodak strongly recommends the use of a "hot mirror filter" on the DCS 315. The hot mirror filter blocks infrared rays from the camera, which can cause a magenta cast or bluish haze in images captured by the 315's CCD sensor. If you select additional (or other) lenses that have a different filter size than 52mm, you'll need to fit them with the appropriate hot mirror filter, too.
What doesn't come with the DCS 315?
- Battery charger.
- Camera case.
- Neck strap
- Memory cards.
- Imaging software. (PhotoShop, ThumbsPlus, or the like.)