Kodak debuts Nikon-friendly digital camera

Eastman Kodak Co. has introduced a high-performance digital camera aimed at professional photographers who have been waiting for a way to begin using a digital camera without having to retire all their expensive Nikon lenses.

Kodak collaborated with Nikon on the body design of the DCS 315 camera, integrating the functions of a standard Nikon 35mm single-lens reflex camera and Kodak digital technology available on its other high-end cameras. Unlike common automatic cameras in which the viewfinder is offset from the lens, SLR cameras show an exact image of what will be exposed on the film.

Military and law enforcement photographers are among the first groups Kodak plans to target with its DCS 315 camera, said Karen Sweet, Kodak Professional's segment manager for the Defense Department.

Thousands of Nikon cameras are used by the military, and the opportunity to continue using Nikon lenses on an SLR camera that has automatic functions is what military users have been asking for, Sweet said. "It's the latest and greatest in digital on a Nikon."

The DCS 315 will have a list price of $5,995 and will be available on the General Services Administration schedules of Kodak's dealers after it ships in July. Sweet said Tracor Enterprise Solutions Inc. probably will include the camera on the Defense Intelligence Agency's Systems Acquisition and Support Services II contract.

Digital cameras using the latest technology to process and store images have been on the market for several years, but the trade-off has been lower-quality pictures. To overcome this, a digital camera's resolution has to be high enough to produce pictures that cannot be distinguished from ones made by a 35mm camera using standard film.

The DCS 315's resolution of 1,524 pixels by 1,012 pixels for a total of 1.5 megapixels per image is good enough to produce prints that are the same quality as standard film prints up to a size of 5 inches by 7 inches, said Derek Doeffinger, marketing communications manager for Kodak.

The camera's automatic features make it less intimidating in the hands of inexperienced users, but photographers familiar with a 35mm camera will have the option to set it on manual, focus the camera and set the aperture and exposure settings themselves.

Kevin Kane, a digital camera analyst at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., said the automatic functions will be interesting to corporations and government agencies that have held back plans to test digital photography because digital cameras are often too advanced for people who do not use cameras regularly. "With SLR you can either choose automatic, where you can just point and shoot all the time, to the other end, which makes it a manual," Kane said.

The user sets the camera to write the digital information in Tagged Image File format or Joint Photographic Experts Group format for storage on a PC Card, direct downloading to a PC, transmission over the Internet or posting on a World Wide Web site, Doeffinger said. A JPEG file can be compressed to as little as 200K for fast transmission, but quality is sacrificed at that size.

The data is stored on PC Cards, which can be slipped into a computer's PC Card slot, or data can be downloaded to the PC over an IEEE 1394-compliant cable. The PC Cards have a capacity up to 520M, which equals about 340 images.

The camera has a liquid crystal display panel to help the photographer manage images, and it includes basic data such as space available, battery power and whether the PC Card has been inserted.

The LCD panel allows the photographer to store images in folders, view one, four or nine images and select other functions from a menu. The LCD also displays Kodak's patented histogram, which helps the photographer sort out duds, Doeffinger said.

Kodak plans to make savings potential a selling point. According to the company's calculation, a photographer who shoots four rolls of standard film per job and does 10 jobs a month would spend about $10,000 a year.

Taking into account the price of a DCS 315, the PC Cards and batteries— but not the cost of a computer or software— a digital photographer would spend about $8,600 a year, including the cost of a DCS 315 camera in the first year, Kodak said.

Photographers who shoot a high volume of film— about 40 rolls a month— could justify converting to digital, Doeffinger said.

New Printer

Kodak said it will ship a new thermal printer this month, the 8670 PS, which produces laminated photos that are all but indistinguishable from standard film prints up to 8 inches by 12 inches.

The 8670 PS, which has a list price of $7,995, features a faster processor and more memory than the previous printer in the line, Sweet said. It also can automatically detect whether a job is written in Adobe Systems Inc. PostScript or raster and processes it accordingly.

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