Kodak DCS420 review
I owned one of these for a month or two towards the end of 2009. I paid £25 for it, and bought it to compare with my six megapixel DCS 460, which was the high-resolution twin of the DCS 420. I managed to wrestle some good images out of the DCS 460, but the DCS 420 was clearly not ready for prime time for reasons I will explain in the next section.
Kodak also released a press model, the N2000, which had a more normal cropping factor (1.5x rather than the whopping 2.6x of the DCS 420), a slightly lower resolution (1.3mp to 1.5mp), and an expanded ISO range (200-1600 rather than 100-400). There's a lengthy article about this on the internet by Eamon Hickey, and judging by his comments the N2000 was a better deal at the time.
As an antique is has a certain underdog status. It feels bad to criticise a camera that is so old. I am tempted to emphasise the positives and pooh-pooh the negatives. But I will resist that temptation. The race will not prosper if it is built on lies.
The lack of an anti-aliasing filter made things sharp, but whereas the DCS 460 tended not to produce moire the DCS 420 suffered badly from it.
As with the DCS 460 the fundamental problem with the DCS 420 was colour response, which was poor and washed-out and wrong, to a degree that defeated me. I even tried using Kodak's own DCS Acquire software in an old Macintosh but to no avail; the DCS 420's files suffered from infrared contamination and wrong-looking colour, and also a graduated colour cast along the bottom of the image. Even with a stack of two Tiffen hot mirror filters I could never be confident that the colour when shot outdoors in sunshine would be any good.
The 2.6x cropping factor complicates things greatly, because it is hard to find cheap hot mirror filters for ultrawide lenses. The best results I could produce outdoors were vivid but looked wrong. When shooting indoors with a 28mm and an IR blocking filter the results looked decent but washed-out, and what was the point of it all? Any modern digital SLR could have produced superior results with less fuss, and every time I reached for the DCS 420 I felt that I was just wasting my life when I could have been (a) using a better camera instead or (b) making love to a beautiful woman on a yacht moored off Monaco.
As a camera to use from day-to-day the DCS 420 is a terrible choice. It is however an interesting historical curiosity. It's not quite the first digital SLR - it's the earliest one listed at DPReview, but Kodak also made a DCS 200 and DCS beforehand, and the DCS 410, which I think was a budget version of the DCS 420 with a fixed ISO and smaller buffer. I have seen the DCS 200 a few times on the second-hand market; as far as I can tell it is similar to the DCS 420 but only captures 8 bits per channel rather than 10.
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