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Kodak DCS 460c / Nikon N90s

by Gisle Hannemyr

DCS 460c

The Kodak DCS 460c, introduced in 1995, uses Kodak's «M6» CCD sensor which measures 28 x 19 mm. This means that it has a «crop factor» compared to 35 mm film of only 1.3x. There is only one sensor speed: ISO 80. The sensor provides 3060 x 2036 pixels (6.2 Mpx). In 1995, the DCS 460 was the highest resolution digital camera available.

It is based upon a Nikon N90s (F90x in Europe) body, but the detachable Nikon film back is replaced by a special digital back from Kodak. It meters with all Nikon F-mount lenes from the introduction of AI in 1977. Pre-AI lenses need a small modification to work with this camera.

When it appeared in 1995 the DCS 460c cost US$ 35 600 (NOK 222 000). When it closed out in november 2000, the price had dropped to US$ 2 500. I bought mine (used) in mint condition off eBay in 2003 for a bit less.

Kodak also made a monochrome (DCS 460m) and infrared (DCS 460ir) version of this camera. Both are more rare than the colour version.

Review

The Kodak DCS 460c is frequently put up on auction at eBay and can be bought at a fairly reasonable price. I hesitate to call it a bargain, because brand new entry level DSLRs such as the Nikon D3100 and Canon 1100D are better in every respect and they are also very quite cheap.

But these cameras are available second hand for considerable less than the better point & shoot compacts. They are built to last, and their image quality is superior. If you don't mind the size and bulk, these cameras will get you better images for your dollars than a new point & shoot.

Below is an image I took with the camera in august 2005:

T˚sen
Senter, Oslo

The image on left below is a 100 % crop from the image above taken with Kodak DCS 460c at ISO 80. The lens is a consumer grade Tamron SP AF 24-135 mm macro f/3.5-5.6 at f=24 mm (FOV ~31 mm), f/5.6, with a Tiffen hot mirror filter. The image on the right is a 100 % crop of an image taken at the same time with Canon's highly regarded Powershot G5. Settings: ISO 100, f=7.2 mm (FOV ~34 mm), f/5.6. Both images captured RAW and processed with Adobe Photoshop ACR with identical settings. No further post-processing or sharpening. Notice the higher noise levels and general softer look of the G5 shot.

Kodak DCS
460c vs Canon Powershot G5

If you have a special interest in this beast, here is my two cents worth:

The good: A body in good condition is probably the cheapest 6 Mpx DSLR you can get. Other nice features includes a low crop factor (1.3x), that it meters with most older Nikkors, that it is ready the instant you switch it on and there is no shutter delay (it operates just like a film SLR) and that it has retained most of the features of the great Nikon N90s/F90x - including a fast and precise autofocus, and a very well designed light metering system.

The bad: The biggest drawbacks of the DCS 460c is the very low fixed sensitivity of the sensor (ISO 80), that you must use a hot mirror filter all the time to get consistent colour, that there is no rear LCD display for histograms or reviews, that the buffer only holds two images (and writing to the disk drive is very slow), and that you need to dismantle the camera to replace the batteries.

The ugly: Some may dislike its bulk, and that it uses an expensive and fragile PCMCIA type III disk drive for storage. (Some owners have reported that they use CF-cards with a PCMCIA-adapter. This does not work with my camera.). Some users think that its ancient SCSI interface is an issue, but you can ignore the SCSI (just plug the PCMCIA disk drive into a PCMCIA port on your computer, and it appears as a regular disk). The original Kodak software that came with the camera doesn't run on Windows/XP, but ACR (Photoshop) and dcraw has no problem in converting the RAW files from this camera.

I said that it retained most of the Nikon N90s/F90x features, but some is missing, i.e.:

In my opinion, this is a capable camera. You just need to work at a slower pace and be more careful with your settings than you would with a more modern camera. However, with the low prices that entry level DSLRs sell for brand new, I'd be careful about my bidding if I wanted to buy one of these beasts on eBay today.

Another image taken with the camera, this one is from april 2005:

Portrait: Eline Vedel

See also:
Gres: Graham Rose, repairs Kodak, Nikon and Sigma.
Liang-Wu Cai: Nikon N90s Page.
Leo Foo: Brief info on Kodak DCS-Series.
Pierre J.: Kodak DCS cameras based on Nikon.
John Henshall: Kodak DCS 460 Digital Camera.
Thom Hogan: Nikon N90s Review.
Kodak: Kodak Professional DCS 460 Digital Camera.

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