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Compared to the Canon EOS-1Ds (part one)

The EOS-1Ds is currently the only other digital SLR which has has similar resolution to the DCS-14n. Despite this it still comes up with 2,510,944 pixels less than the DCS-14n in its output file so we can expect. Important technological differences are that the 14n doesn't have an anti-alias filter (should be sharper but with increased moiré) and doesn't utilize Microlenses (less distortion effects, sharper at edges but slightly baseline lower sensitivity).

This comparison is really more to do with using the resolution of the EOS-1Ds to compare with the DCS-14n's rather than coming to a conclusion about which of these two cameras to choose. The EOS-1Ds is a very different beast to the DCS-14n, it's stronger, faster, better built and just about $3000 more expensive.

Outdoor scene comparison

This comparison was shot in RAW mode, I used Canon's File Viewer Utility 1.2 to convert the EOS-1Ds images and Kodak DCS Photo Desk 3.0 to convert the DCS-14n images. Both output as 8-bit sRGB TIFF files, these were used for the crops seen below (magnified 200%). You can download JPEG (quality 11 from Photoshop) files for your own comparison, we can't afford the bandwidth (or CPU cycles) to make 40 MB TIFF files available, sorry.

As you can see from the settings used and explanations below I have gone to great lengths to make this as fair a comparison as possible. Unfortunately when reviewing such complex cameras with so many options it's always difficult to be absolutely 100% certain of giving each camera total equality, I've done as much as I feel I could to reach that point.

Camera / conversion settings

  • Kodak DCS-14n: Nikkor 50 mm F1.4, Aper. Priority (F9.5), ISO 80, RAW, Mirror Lock-up
    5000 K WB, Advanced with Moiré reduction NR (2/10%), Low SHP, Product Look, sRGB
     
  • Canon EOS-1Ds: Canon 50 mm F1.4, Aper. Priority (F9.5), ISO 100, RAW, Mirror Lock-up
    5000 K WB, Standard / 2 sharpening, +0.2 EV digital exp. compen., sRGB

Why different settings?

  • Kodak DCS-14n: Advanced with Moiré reduction NR - To give the DCS-14n the best possible opportunity to reign in some of the potential for moiré, and also to limit the level of noise reduction applied (at ISO 80 it shouldn't need any).
     
  • Kodak DCS-14n: 5000 K white balance - To ensure both cameras have exactly the same white balance setting, as things turned out they both delivered completely different looking color from the same Kelvin temperature, who knows who was right.
     
  • Canon EOS-1Ds: ISO 100 - Although the Canon's ISO 50 would have in theory provided (very) slightly cleaner images it is not a recommended Canon setting and does lead to lower dynamic range (clipping of highlights earlier). Also ISO 100 would be closer to the 14n's ISO 80. Below this comparison I have also made available a DCS-14n ISO 100 image for those curious among you.
     
  • Canon EOS-1Ds: 5000 K white balance - Same reason as DCS-14n, see above. As noted above even though I used the same white balance settings the final color balance of both cameras was different.
     
  • Canon EOS-1Ds: Standard / 2 sharpening - The 1Ds standard sharpening is very soft, this setting brings it somewhere close to the 14n's Low sharpening setting.
     
  • Canon EOS-1Ds: +0.2 EV digital exp. compen. - To bring the image brightness to the same level as the DCS-14n. This compensates for the difference between ISO 100 and ISO 80, has no negative effect on image quality.
Kodak DCS-14n Canon EOS-1Ds
ISO 80, 1/500 sec, F9.5 ISO 100, 1/500 sec, F9.5 (+0.2)
4,295 KB JPEG (4500 x 3000) from RAW 4,039 KB JPEG (4064 x 2704) from RAW

So the immediate question is does the DCS-14n gain a huge amount from its additional 2.5 million pixels? And the answer would appear to be "not in this comparison", indeed the EOS-1Ds has better resolution and a more natural representation of the finer details of the image. Look closer and you can see that once again Kodak's intrusive noise reduction softens and smoothes areas of the image which probably did contain detail in the original RAW file but which can't be accessed because we can't disable noise reduction.

The DCS-14n also exhibits moiré in areas the EOS-1Ds either manages to render or simply aliases. Overall conclusion for this kind of image at this sensitivity must be that the EOS-1Ds produces a more natural image with more detail but that the DCS-14n really isn't that far behind (bear in mind the price difference and the 14n actually looks quite good).

Also available:

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