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White balance

The DCS-14n provides a plethora of white balance options, there is of course automatic white balance and no less than twelve preset color temperatures split between Sunny, Incandescent, Fluorescent and Flash. Each preset category has a selection of slightly different temperatures available for select (a pop-out sub-menu).

In addition the DCS-14n's manual preset white balance (named 'Click balance') allows you to take a reading from a gray area of a RAW image (viewed magnified). This preset is automatically applied to the image (RAW only) and recorded for subsequent shots. You can choose to save click balances and retrieve them later (this can also be done from DCS Photo Desk). Annoyingly if you are shooting JPEG you must take a RAW shot, take a Click balance reading and then switch back to JPEG.

I was disappointed by the 14n's automatic white balance, in good natural light (sunlight) it seemed to be near enough, however in the shade balance was often just slightly 'off'. Auto white balance faired no better under artificial light.

Settings: ISO 80, Nikkor 24-85 mm F3.5 - 4.5G, Normal NR, Low SHP, Product Look, 0.8 MP JPEG

Daylight: Auto Daylight: Sunny Cool Daylight: Click balance
Incandescent: Auto Incandescent: Incan. Warm Incandescent: Click balance
Fluorescent: Auto Fluorescent: Fluor. Office Fluorescent: Click balance

Also available for download


Overall Image Quality / Specifics

There's little doubt that the DCS-14n delivers amazing resolution, on several occasions I found myself 'ooh-ing and ahh-ing' at detail I could see in images which I simply wouldn't expect to see. A combination of Kodak's advanced image processing / sharpening and the lack of an anti-alias filter (and possibly the Microlenses) on the camera's sensor means that detail appears very sharp and well defined. The lack of Microlenses also meant that the 14n performed better with wide angle lenses than the EOS-1Ds (there's a comparison of this later in the review).

Shooting at lower resolutions where the camera is downsampling the 13.4 megapixels to smaller image sizes delivers 'Foveon X3 like' images, indeed for every day casual shooting you can get really amazing sharpness from shooting at the 6.0 megapixel size. Six megapixel images from the 14n put any current six megapixel digital camera to shame (obvious but worth remembering).

Perhaps one area of concern would be color response, Kodak have always taken a cautious and conservative approach to color, however there's cautious and there's dull. Kodak assure me that there will be a new version of DCS Photo Desk which will include new color profiles designed to produce more vivid color. You can also purchase the optional DCS Custom Looks Software (which in my opinion should be included with the camera). It would have been nice to see separate color and tone (contrast) settings for in-camera JPEG's. Many people will want to shoot JPEG and use the images immediately.

The biggest single problem with the 14n is the underlying level of image noise at higher ISO's and the intrusive noise reduction system which too many times comes into effect when it's simply not required (such as at ISO 80) and proceeds to blur areas of detail or surface texture assuming them to be image noise. The 14n offers no way to disable noise reduction, neither does DCS Photo Desk. (Discussed below).

Intrusive noise reduction

One thing that I found annoying was the fact that you can not 'turn off' the DCS-14n's noise reduction, either in-camera for JPEG images or in DCS Photo Desk for RAW images. This means that noise reduction is always active (even when set to 0% in Photo Desk) and always leaving its mark on images. To give Kodak some credit I am very impressed by their sharpening algorithm, however the noise reduction does have a tendency to take effect on areas of detail as well as noise, leaving a 'watercolor painting like' look to images, softening and smoothing out subtle detail and leaving unnaturally smooth patches in the images. Whether or not this would be visible at most print sizes is a matter for conjecture. What's also clear is that the DCS-14n has a requirement for noise reduction at higher sensitivities.

Both of the images below were converted from RAW files by DCS Photo Desk.

ISO 80 (Noise reduction 0%) ISO 320 (Noise reduction Low: 2,50%)

Moiré

The DCS-14n's sensor doesn't have an anti-alias (low pass) filter. The advantage is that it is able to resolve very fine details which would otherwise be 'blurred' out by the filter, the disadvantage is that very high frequency detail can lead to moiré which the camera and/or DCS Photo Desk have to remove in software. Despite its best efforts DCS Photo Desk (nor the camera shooting JPEG) could remove fairly strong moiré artifacts. Both of the images below were converted to JPEG from RAW by DCS Photo Desk 3.0 with 'Advanced with Moiré reduction' Noise Reduction set to 'Medium'.

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