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Timings & File Sizes

What can I say other than it's sad that Kodak haven't learnt anything from the poor performing 14n which was a slow camera by anyone's standards. To compound things however the SLR/c is even slower taking an eternal six to seven seconds to start up, another eight seconds if the camera needs to 'Recalibrate' (occassionally and if you change to certain ISO's), then we get on to Auto Review which takes six seconds for a RAW file and an pretty shocking fourteen seconds for a JPEG. This falls well short of even the cheapest digital SLR's, and prosumer digital cameras.

Then we move on to image write performance and continuous shooting. To write a normal full resolution RAW file takes around nine seconds, a JPEG around fifteen (that's no mistake, fifteen seconds!) As you can imagine continuous shooting just gets worse, the delays and waits run into minutes not seconds making that massive 512 MB buffer almost pointless, I can't imagine anyone wanting to fill it and wait around for it to be emptied.

The SLR/c just feels massively underpowered and/or poorly coded, in RAW mode it's just usable but slow, in JPEG mode it's struggling to do all the things it needs to (interpolation, white balance, noise reduction, sharpening, JPEG compression etc.) just to get the image on to the storage card.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 4500 x 3000 Quality III JPEG image (approx. 2,200 KB) or 4500 x 3000 Raw image (approx. 12,500 KB).

Media Notes: The 4 GB Lexar Pro card was tested formatted with a FAT32 default cluster size (4 KB) and also larger 32 KB cluster size, no performance improvement was noted. The Lexar Pro card also supports Lexar's WA (Write Acceleration) technology. The SanDisk Ultra II cards have the same performance as the SanDisk Extreme cards sold in North America.

The media used for these tests were:

  • 2 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I CF card
  • 4 GB Lexar Pro 40x Type II CF card (FAT32, WA)
  • 512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD card
Action Details Time, seconds
(SanDisk CF)
Time, seconds
(Lexar CF)
Time, seconds
(SanDisk SD)
Power: Off to On *1   6.2 7.0 6.8
Power: On to Off *2   1.6 1.6 1.6
Record: Auto review JPEG 14.5 14.5 14.5
Record: Auto review RAW 6.2 6.2 10.9
Record: to Play JPEG 1.4 1.4 1.4
Record: to Play RAW 1.4 1.4 1.4
Play: Image to Image   <0.5 <0.5 <0.5
Play: Change image mode   <0.5 <0.5 <0.5
Play: Magnify image   <0.5 <0.5 <0.5

*1 Although the photographic side of the camera (auto focus, metering, viewfinder display) come on almost instantly you can't take a shot until the digital side of the camera is ready. This timing was taken from the moment the power switch was turned to on to the moment a shot was taken (by holding down the shutter release from power on).
*2 Timer was started when the power switch was turned to the OFF position stopped when all the LCD displays went off (digital status display stays on for a while).
*3 Some of this time appears to be taken up by the actual power up of the LCD / backlight which seem to 'fade in'. The DCS-14n appears to cache image mode thumbnails in its own RAM buffer, thus timing for playback can vary by approximately 0.5 seconds depending on whether the camera has the thumbnail cached or not.


Continuous drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/320s, F3.5), ISO 160. No matter what image output format the shooting rate was always 1.66 fps (+/- 0.05 fps). With this in mind we tested maximum number of frames in a single burst, how long after that burst before you could take one more frame and how long a full write took. Results are divided by the Compact Flash card used.

The media used for these tests were:

  • 2 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I CF card
  • 4 GB Lexar Pro 40x Type II CF card (FAT32, WA)
  • 512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD card

2 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I CF card

Image type Frames in
a burst
Next shot All written
14 MP RAW 19 53 sec 1 min 31 sec later
6 MP RAW 19 58 sec 1 min 47 sec later
14 MP JPEG 19 58 sec 3 min 06 sec later
6 MP JPEG 19 58 sec 3 min 13 sec later

4 GB Lexar Pro 40x Type II CF card

Image type Frames in
a burst
Next shot All written
14 MP RAW 19 54 sec 1 min 34 sec later
6 MP RAW 20 1 min 1 sec 1 min 55 sec later
14 MP JPEG 19 58 sec 3 min 12 sec later
6 MP JPEG 19 59 sec 3 min 14 sec later

512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD card

Image type Frames in
a burst
Next shot All written
14 MP RAW 19 1 min 28 sec 3 min 56 sec later
6 MP RAW 20 2 min 47 sec 2 min 20 sec later
14 MP JPEG 19 3 min 55 sec 52 sec later
6 MP JPEG 19 3 min 56 sec 37 sec later

*1 These timings were made with the Auto Review option set to 3 seconds, with it set to Off times were marginally shorter.

I'm sort of stuck for a way to describe the SLR/c's continuous shooting capability other than pathetic. Firstly it does shoot at a (rounded up) 1.7 fps as quoted in the specifications, but to be frank this falls well short of what most photographers expect of an SLR (3 fps at least). Secondly the extra buffer space (now a full 512 MB) does provide for 19 (occasionally 20) images, however the camera's vastly under-powered CPU and poor throughput make shooting a full burst of shots a camera crippling event.

Take a full burst of shots even with the fastest media and expect to have to wait one whole minute before being able to take another shot and almost two minutes before you could take another full burst of shots. And that's in RAW mode, switch to JPEG and things get much worse, the SLR/c's CPU groaning under the strain of having to do all that interpolation, noise reduction, sharpening and JPEG encoding could leave you standing around for over three minutes while images are written. Unbelievable.


File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage media. The SLR/c continues to process images in the buffer and write data out to the storage media in parallel to you composing (and taking) the next shot. The timings below represent a combination of processing and write speed as the SLR/c appears to do the two in parallel. Each card was Quick Formatted before testing. Timer was started as soon as the storage compartment light came on (the instant the exposure has finished) and stopped when this light went off. Auto Review was set Off.

The media used for these tests were:

  • 2 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I CF card
  • 4 GB Lexar Pro 40x Type II CF card (FAT32, WA)
  • 512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD card
Store Time, secs
(SanDisk CF)
Time, secs
(Lexar CF)
Time, secs
(SanDisk SD)
Approx.
size
Approx.,
2 GB card
4500 x 3000 RAW 9.4 9.0 18.0 12,500 KB 116
3000 x 2000 RAW 11.5 11.7 16.5 7,000 KB 179
4500 x 3000 RAW+ JPEG *1 15.8 16.7 29.3 14,700 KB 92
4500 x 3000 JPEG III 14.8 14.9 16.3 2,200 KB 465
3000 x 2000 JPEG III 14.6 15.1 15.6 1,400 KB 1,006

*1 This is a total for the combination of RAW+JPEG. Size and capacity at ISO 100, higher ISO's would lead to more noise and hence larger image files.

The SLR/c isn't particularly fast, that should be fairly clear by now, and doing individual image write timings just confirms this fact. A typical full resolution RAW file takes just over nine seconds to process and write, switch to JPEG and things get much worse, again the SLR/c's underpowered CPU (or poorly implemented code) struggles to carry out all that work and get the image out to the storage card in the fifteen seconds which feels like a lifetime (these days). It's difficult to distinguish where the bottleneck is as the camera begins blinking the media busy lamp as soon as the exposure has been taken.

Approximate throughput (includes processing)

The table below isn't exact because the time taken includes processing, however it is how long you would have to wait and thus is a better representation of the camera in everyday use.

Card Kodak DCS Pro SLR/c (14 MP RAW files)
2 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I CF

1,329 KB/sec

4 GB Lexar Pro 40x Type II CF 1,388 KB/sec
512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD 694 KB/sec

Slow cards?

Not at all, in fact the SLR/c even supports Lexar's WA (Write Acceleration) technology which should improve matters, to counter that however FAT32 will have a hit on write performance. The SanDisk Ultra II SD card is one of the fastest on the market and as you will see from the results below it performed only marginally slower than the Ultra II CF card in our Firewire reader test.

Card Firewire reader, write speed (RAW files)
2 GB SanDisk Ultra II Type I CF

3,772 KB/sec

4 GB Lexar Pro 40x Type II CF 2,645 KB/sec
512 MB SanDisk Ultra II SD 3,336 KB/sec
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