Kodak Pro DCS620 Review
The F5 is well known as being up there at the top of the 35mm league, and as with the EOS-1 in the 520 the F5 brings features, functions and flexibility to the 620 which no other digital camera can even come near to. Not only do we have (probably) the best 35mm body in the world we also have (probably) the best digital technology and colour matching (in the Kodak back).
Again, you can use the 620 to just point and shoot and 95% of the time it'll take great shots, once you get used to the controls and the fact that everything can be locked (and most controls have to be unlocked to use them) it's truely the pro photographers camera.
The 620 features five focus points which can be selected by half pressing the shutter release and moving the cursor control, through the viewfinder each focus point becomes darker and this is the point which the camera will use for focusing.
Dynamic AF mode is similar in that you still choose the a focus area however movement of the subject within the focus points will enable that focus sensor as the designated sensor for focusing.
Three different drive modes of focus are offered: Single Servo AF (single focus), Continuous Servo AF (camera continuously focuses if the shutter release is half pressed, Manual focus (in manual focus mode the viewfinder focus meter will indicate accurate focusing).
Taking and timing
Taking photographs is just like any other SLR, half pressing the shutter release sets the aperture and auto-focuses (assuming you're not in manual focus mode), fully pressing the shutter release takes a photograph. With the 620 you've got a huge internal RAM buffer (about 24MB) which means in all reality you can take and take without ever having to wait for the camera. In servo mode you can take photographs up to 3.5fps for around 12 frames, keeping your finger down the camera will take subsequent frames 2 seconds apart (defining that it only takes 2 seconds for this camera to write its 2MB TIFF file out to the PCMCIA card - 1MB/s).
The 620 only takes images in Kodak's own hybrid TIFF format which creates image files of 1.9MB each - similar to Canon's CCD RAW format. These images can only be opened using Kodak's supplied (excellent) TWAIN driver.
Pre-focus and lag times are hardly worth measuring, using Digital Eyes Camera Timer I could easily take a photograph before ".01s" was displayed, without pre-focusing the camera averaged between 0.2s and 0.4s (depending on how out-of-focus the camera was before I started the test). Obviously these times would be affected by the use of other lenses.
Flexible Program (in P mode)
Flexible Program mode allows you to scroll through the possible "equivalent" exposure settings (different shutter speed / aperture combinations) which would produce the same exposure result. This is very useful in that it allows the camera to calculate the exposure but for you to quickly override either the shutter speed or aperture to your preference (for a fast shot or different depth of field) without having to switch over to aperture or shutter priority modes.
Aperture Priority (A mode)
Aperture priority mode allows you to set the aperture and the camera will attempt to match the best shutter speed to that aperture. If you've picked an aperture which causes the shutter to be out of it's operational range "F--" will blink in the viewfinder and on the top LCD display.
Aperture priority gives the photographer greater control over depth of field.
Apertures can be set in 1/3-stop increments between the lens' maximum and minimum apertures.
Shutter Priority (S mode)
Shutter priority mode allows you to set the shutter speed and the camera will attempt to match the best aperture to ensure proper exposure. If you've picked an shutter speed which would require an aperture outside operational range of the lens or camera the aperture will blink in the viewfinder and on the top LCD display.
Shutter priority is useful for a situation where you may require a long exposure (to create a blurred effect - waterfall) or a very fast exposure (sports environment).
Shutter speed can be set in 1/3-stop increments from 1/8000 second to 30 seconds.
Full manual exposure mode (M mode)
In full manual mode you can set both the shutter speed and aperture which can be useful if you are an expert photographer for creative effects or when using a hand-held exposure meter.
Bulb Exposure (buLb mode)
The shutter stays open as long as you press the Shutter release button, using a remote shutter release this feature is very useful for capturing night shots or fireworks displays.
The camera can electronically alter the sensitivty of the CCD to reflect various ISO levels from 200 - 1600 (by amplifiying the signal from the CCD). At the higher levels however there can be noticeable noise.
White Balance and Custom White Balance mode
There are four preset white balance modes: Daylight, Tungsten, Flourescent and Flash. Placing the camera in AUTO mode leaves the decision for which white balance mode to use to the system software (not always accurate). Each white balance mode can only go some of the way to getting a perfect white balance and that's where Custom White Balance mode comes in.
Using this feature you simply take a photograph of a gray card or white wall (anything that fills the frame with whiteness - but NOT overexposed) then go into the main menu and select White Balance / Custom and the camera will confirm that you want to use the current image for white balance, subsequent images will use the "best white balance" of that image, rather than just talk about it, here's an example:
Unfortunately because of the type of bulb used in this tungsten lamp there is a fairly noticeable red / yellow cast, the wall and rabbit's head which should be perfectly white are cast with this light.
After taking a shot of the white wall, setting the camera to custom white balance based on that image and taking the scene again the white balance is perfect.
Colour rendition here is spot on, white is white and the colour levels of the red bow, yellow tie and the metal base of the lamp are exactly right.