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DCS Photo Desk v1.2.0b

With the introduction of the DCS Pro Back Kodak also released a new standalone application for processing, viewing and converting their proprietary RAW files. This is essentially an improved version of the TWAIN acquire module moulded into a standalone application.

The DCS 760 uses the new .DCR losslessly compressed RAW format for image storage (which weigh in at approximately 6.5 - 8 MB per file depending on scene complexity). New camera firmware is supposed to be on the way (end of Summer 2001) which will allow JPEG creation in-camera but at the time of writing this review it wasn't available.

Main Window

Upon starting Photo Desk the first task is to select a folder full of images, doing so will give you the contact sheet (thumbnails) view seen above. Thumbnails can be displayed as three different sizes (50%, 100% or 200%), at 100% on the above capture. Above each thumbnail are icons which indicate: White Balance mode, White Balance at time of recording, Picture 'Look', Noise Reduction, Sharpening and Exposure Compensation.

Down the left hand side is are the Image Controls, from here you can adjust Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Colour Mode, Rotation, Lighting (white balance preset), Look (contrast), Noise Reduction and Sharpening. Each one of these settings are applied to the currently selected image or images (very useful, you can adjust more than one image at a time). Changes to Image Controls are immediately reflected in the image thumbnail and can be saved back into the image.

This is one area where Nikon Capture (for the D1/D1x/D1h) loses out badly to Kodak's Photo Desk, you can't browse a page of thumbnails let alone manipulate more than one image at a time or selectively batch process images.

Review

Pressing CTRL+H (or View -> Review Selection) with one or more images selected will display this fast review window. With Quality set to Faster image display takes approximately one second, though is obviously created from a JPEG thumbnail embedded in the RAW file as it's slightly more blocky than with Quality set to Better (which can take between 6 and 15 seconds per image).

The Review window gives you a way to quickly browse through the images and Tag the images you wish to work with. It would have been nice to have a Delete button on this Window.

Single Image View

Double-click on a single image in the thumbnail list (or select 'File Open' and choose a single image) and the image is displayed in its entirety, any changes to Image Controls (the left hand vertical toolbar) are applied to the image immediately (depending on the change of setting this can take between 4 and 20 seconds).

The View menu allows you to choose from a range of preset zooms (Fit, 25%, 50%, 100%, 200%) or any numeric zoom. In the capture above zoom was set to 100% (as can be seen in the bottom status bar of the window).

There are two other windows which can be left floating beside the main window or can be 'docked' (attached) to the side. These are Image Info and Histogram (or Histogram!):

Image Info contains detailed image and exposure information, the Histogram can be set to show just luminance (light) or also red, green or blue channels (as indicated by the animation).

Making changes

Changes can be made to settings at any time; in contact sheet view mode with one or more images selected, or in single view mode (as above). Changing a setting such as white balance, exposure compensation, sharpening etc. causes Photo Desk to 'render' the image, that is regenerate (and redisplay) the full image based on the RAW data. This can take up to 20 seconds for extreme settings (Moiré reduction enabled). In the example below we've simply pushed the exposure compensation up from 0.0 EV (above) to 1.0 EV.

Save as...

For a single image (or multiple selected images in contact sheet mode) you can choose to save as either TIFF or JPEG.

TIFF images can be saved as either 8-bit or 16-bit (with additional data from the 12-bits recorded in the RAW file), in the 'Standard' or 'Pro Photo RGB' colour spaces (or Linear). JPEG images can be saved at three different sizes and three different JPEG compression ratios.

Performance

To test Photo Desk's performance we used a single (fairly detailed) image and ran it through different noise reduction and sharpening settings, these are the two settings which have the largest effect on image processing performance. Timings reported were carried out on a dual processor 933 Mhz Pentium III workstation with 1 GB of RAM and SCSI disk subsystem. Photo Desk only used one thread to process an image and thus there's no advantage having a dual processor PC.

  Sharpening: None Sharpening: Low
Render Save TIFF Save JPEG Render Save TIFF Save JPEG
NR: None 4.8 s 6.2 s 5.4 s 5.0 s 6.2 s 6.6 s
NR: Low 6.3 s 6.8 s 7.2 s 6.4 s 8.1 s 8.1 s
NR: Moiré 20.9 s 24.1 s 24.7 s 21.5 s 25.9 s 26.4 s

Render Time taken to render (redisplay) the image on-screen after setting was changed
Save TIFF Time taken to save image as TIFF (8-bit, Standard)
Save JPEG Time taken to save image as JPEG (100%, Best)
NR Noise Reduction

Clearly using Photo Desk's Moiré removal has the biggest impact in the amount of time it takes to process an image (3.5 times longer), the changing sharpening from None to Low had a nominal effect on time to process.

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