Kodak adds high-end camera to DCS 500 Series

Eastman Kodak Co. recently introduced a new high-end digital camera to its DCS 500 Series that provides several features designed to help military and other government photographers manage the images they shoot more easily.

The DCS 520 resembles the digital cameras already used by the Defense Department to record battlefield activity and by other photographers who work for government publications. However, according to Kodak, the new camera represents a big leap in functionality.

"It's the first digital camera to be built from the ground up to maximize the digital capabilities," said Karen Sweet, Kodak Professional's segment manager for DOD. "It's the first on the professional side where we didn't take a film camera and make modifications."

The camera features a color liquid crystal display (LCD) diagram on its back side for instant review of pictures. One, four or nine exposures can be displayed at one time, and it automatically highlights under- and overexposed pictures, helping photographers decide which pictures to delete.

The back panel also includes a patented histogram to verify the accuracy of an image.

This is the new camera's most exciting innovation because it tells the photographer whether he has captured good or bad data, said Ron Tussy, digital camera and scanner programs manager at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.

Photographers would normally delete images that captured bad glare, for example. And such a flow would be too small to appear in the LCD display of the image, Tussy said. "This is an invaluable tool, an absolute must-have, and I think it sets the state of the art," he said.

Kodak also has shortened the time it takes to download the digital images from the camera to a desktop PC by adding an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 1394 interface, the latest industry standard for digital output. This software will allow users to plug the camera into a PC and transfer images without rebooting.

The new camera has a "burst depth" of 12, meaning the camera can take that many exposures in succession before writing them to the PC Card. The ''burst rate" of 3.5 frames per second means only a fraction of a second passes between each image, Sweet said.

The camera's storage capacity depends on the size of the PC Card, but the commonly used 340M card holds 199 exposures. Its battery, which has been made removable in the DCS 520, requires charging after 300 pictures.

Kodak sells the camera on its General Services Administration schedule. Also, the company is working with Tracor Inc. to add the camera to the Defense Intelligence Agency's Systems Acquisition and Support Services II pact and the Air Force's Integration for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence contract.

A previous version of the camera was fitted with a special cover and was used by U.S. military photographers in the Persian Gulf War, according to Tussy. The camera is well-suited for military uses because its digital features eliminate time-consuming film processing and printing, Tussy said.

"These cameras work very well in critical situations," Tussy said. "I think you're going to see a lot of applications for law enforcement."

Its only weakness is resistance to extreme heat and cold, Tussy added. Kodak says the camera can withstand temperatures from 17 degrees to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sweet said that because the $14,995 camera was jointly developed with Canon Inc., its new form is fully compatible with lenses and accessories made by Canon, the brand commonly used by Marine and Navy photographers.

Kodak also expects the camera's ISO range of 200 to 1,600 to be a big selling point, Sweet said. The wide-range ISO, a measurement set by the International Standards Organization, allows for picture taking in bright light as well as very low-light situations.

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