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Design

Click for larger image

As you can see the DCS 520 is no small camera, with the digital back, battery compartment, processing unit and extra controls the camera weighs in at a hefty 1.7Kg and stands 180mm (7") high. It does have the look of an SLR with a motor wind unit (one comment passed). The camera's dimensions make it almost square from the front.

Despite it's large proportions and weight this is an impressively comfortable camera to use, the hand strap is strong and the body has been carefully molded to fit your hand exactly. You certainly feel as though you are using a quality piece of equipment with a completely metal case and rubberised coating on various strategic areas of the body the camera feels robust enough to be used in just about any situation (if you can forget for a moment how much it's worth).

One cunning and unique feature is the second "portrait orientation" hand grip (which can be seen running along the bottom of the body), when holding the camera rotated 90 degress (for portrait type shots) you have a shutter release button (which has to be enabled with a small switch) and exposure lock (on the back), the vertical grip feels as comfortable as the normal hand grip and I found myself using it on many occasions.

LCDs

Top LCD (click for larger image)

On the top right hand side of the body is an LCD display which displays: AF mode, film wind mode, metering mode, shutter speed, aperture value, ISO and exposure compenstation.

(some of this information is repeated through the viewfinder - see below)

Rear LCD screens (click for larger image)

The first rear LCD displays: main image reviews, thumbnails and menu system navigation.

The second displays: current frame number, frames remaining, battery status, white balance mode and sound recording information.

Viewfinder

Viewfinder (click for larger image)The viewfinder is as to be expected, clear sharp and very easy to read. Through the viewfinder you have five squares indicating focus points, displayed along the bottom are indicators for manual mode, exposure lock, shutter speed, aperture, focus light indicator and a flash indicator. Vertically on the right hand side is the exposure compensation indicator (-3 to +3 EV in 1/3 EV steps). The rubber grommit around the back fits snuggly over the eye and keeps out any stray rays.

It offers 93% vertical and 97% horizontal coverage of the picture area, the focusing screen can be changed (9 types) and dioptric adjustment can be made from -1 to +3 dpt.

Depth of field can also be previewed through the viewfinder by pressing the the depth-of-field preview button located on the right hand side of the lens mount.

Connectors and Compartments

Firewire and AC connectors (click for larger image) PCMCIA slots & battery (click for larger image)
On the right hand side of the camera, tucked behind the hand strap and under a rubber cover is a IEEE 1394 (firewire) connector and AC adapter power input. On the left is the battery and PCMCIA compartment which can take two Type I / Type II or one Type III cards (shown is a 340MB Type III hard disk).

Top-of-camera controls

Top left mode controls (click for larger image)Major mode change controls are situated on the top left of the camera, holding mode and using the top thumbwheel switches between the eight shooting modes (Tv: shutter priority, Av: aperture priority, DEP: depth of field AE, P: program AE, A-TTL program flash AE, TTL program flash AE, M: full manual exposure and Bulb)

Holding the AF button and using the top thumbwheel switches between one shot and AI servo (predictive focusing: the camera tracks a moving subject until immediately prior to the exposure and the progressively modifies the focus during shooting).

Holding the light metering mode button and using the top thumbwheel switches between the four light metering modes (evaluative, partial metering 23% of picture area, fine spot metering 6% of picture area and center-weighted average metering).

Holding the AF and light metering buttons together and using the top thumbwheel allows you to select the ISO level (200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250 and 1600).

Top right hand side controls (click for larger image)On the top right of the camera are controls for illumination of LCD screens, +/- exposure compensation, * AE lock, focal point selection, a control thumbwheel and of course the shutter release button.

The most interesting control here being the focal point selection button, when held the thumbwheel allows you to select any (or all) of the five focus points indiciated through the viewfinder.

The +/- exposure compensation can also be set using the main dial on the back of the camera once the camera is in "shoot" mode and the Quick Control Dial is set to "1" (see rear-of-camera controls below).

Note: the * AE lock button is repeated on the back of the camera but only enabled when the camera is switched to portrait orientation (for us in conjunction with the "portrait orientation" hand grip and shutter release")

Rear-of-camera controls

Rear controls (click for larger image)On the rear are the following controls:

TAG - allows you to mark / unmark images, selection can then be used for image deletion or movement to other folders (image marks are carried through to TWAIN driver). Holding the button for more than two seconds with an image displayed on the LCD allows you to record a voice annotation.

DISP/MENU - Switches the LCD display on and off, when held and used with the main thumbwheel it selects between the six main system software modes (image review, 4 thumbnails, 9 thumbnails, folder selection, menu and contrast setting).

SELECT - just pressing this button when reviewing an image will display the image histogram, holding the button and using the thumbwheel will switch between each image (in image review or thumbnail mode), it is also used to navigate the menu system.

W.BAL - allows for selection between the five white balance modes (AUTO, daylight, tungsten, flourescent, flash).

The round switch to the top right of the LCD is the Quick Control dial, when set to position "1" you can make exposure compenstation adjustments by just rotating the rear thumbwheel, normally this would be set to "0" to avoid accidental exposure changes. Below this is the main thumbwheel used for image and menu navigation.

The A/L switch is the main power on/off switch A for On and L for Off (Lock).

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