Why were some of Kodak's DCS models so far ahead of other digital cameras at the time?

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SQLGuy
SQLGuy Forum Pro • Posts: 11,295
Re: Why were some of Kodak's DCS models so far ahead of other digital cameras at the time?

Kodak was on the leading edge of digital cameras at that time. They had invented most of the underlying technology, and they were in the market to make digital cameras that could take the place of film cameras.

Yes, the price tag had plenty to do with it. The EOS 1D came out in 2001. Its sensor,even though it's only 4MP, is still pretty good, and, like the Kodaks, it is an APS-H sensor. So, 6 years later, lower resolution, but $6500 instead of the $30000 that the Kodaks were going for in 1995. The 1D was also designed from the start as a digital camera. The DCS460c (also 6MP from 1995) didn't even have an LCD to review images. It had a fixed battery pack, was very picky about storage media, and was mainly meant to be used with Type III PCMCIA hard drives. The 460c also didn't have a hot mirror over the sensor, so, for good color quality you needed to add an IR blocking filter on the lens. A lot of photojournalists apparently didn't know this, and instead complained of the bad color they got from the digital cameras they were "forced" to use instead of their beloved film cameras.

So, part of this was that Kodak was at the forefront to deliver the technology to people who needed it right then - basically photojournalists and NASA, plus a few other niche applications. While Canon and Nikon waited for their own cameras to be able to deliver something that their film shooters would find a natural transition (and a natural price). A 1D is actually a really nice camera to shoot with, while the 460C is rather more of a chore. Write times, battery life, and just general ergonomics of the 460C (and even of the later DCSs) clearly show their custom, low production, bleeding edge efforts to deliver the newest sensor technology, at the expense of many other refinements.

Overall, that 1995 6MP sensor that Kodak had was pretty amazing, and Kodak did have good success with it over about six years. What you're seeing there is kind of the DCS sweet spot, when they had no competition. Note also that less than a year after the release of that original EOS 1D, Canon released the 1Ds - full frame, and 11MP. Really, once the big camera companies launched their own pro digital cameras, Kodak could no-longer compete as a camera "maker", and didn't seem to have invested enough in sensor design and manufacturing to dominate that segment either (the last DCS models actually used a non-Kodak sensor from FillFactory). On the other hand, ironically, Kodak did end up developing the full frame CCD sensor for the Leica M9.

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A7R2 with SEL2470Z and a number of adapted lenses (Canon FD, Minolta AF, Canon EF, Leica, Nikon...); A7R converted to IR.

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