Thursday 25 October 2012

Reviving Kodak DCS 420

Have you ever wondered how did the first digital images look like?
Here it goes :)
Some time ago I managed to revive and take pictures with Kodak 520 (Canon body).  The camera story is here and some awesome pictures are here .
Now it was Kodak' DCS 420 turn.

Kodak DCS 420 was announced in 1994 and built around Nikon N90 camera body with 1.5 megapixel (1524 x 1012 pixels, 2.6x crop factor) Kodak sensor. The price tag was around $ 12,000 ( who said that  new Leicas are overpriced??), but by today's standards it is just an 18 years old digital antique.

Couple months ago I acquired DCS 420 body almost in mint condition for $40 at a local pawn shop. It came with Viper 260 MB PCMCIA hard drive, but no battery charger. I thought it will be just a nice exhibit in my collection. A well preserved piece of digital history.
But I was very much surprised to find that brand new chargers and the batteries are still available on the internet and there is a hope to revive it.

I purchased new Elpac charger for $ 29 from Ebay and a new battery for $66 from  Who and why still makes them???? Go figure.

Next step, I replaced the battery followed simple instructions from Kodak. It took about 20 min. Looks scary, but it was very easy, even for me :)

I charged the new battery for about 2 hours and then took some shots with Nikkor AIS 24 mm and 105 mm lenses.
Supplied PCMCIA hard drive works well but required to install an old PCMCIA reader into my PC (never throw old computer parts away!). More modern 2Gb flash card with adapter worked too, but with constant error messages.
Another challenge was to process native Kodak tif files.
Adobe ACR reads them, but hue is way off.

Another option is to use DCS converter from NikonWeb, more accurate, but still off

or just go with plain B&W :)

Some other samples, with my humble attempt to get the best results with the help of CS

So far so good. I got images from an 18 years old camera and they look OK. The camera is not just an exhibit in my collection anymore, but actually it is a working camera, to a certain degree of course.



  1. I remember when they announced this. I had to read about it in a camera magazine ;-) I have the Kodak SLR/n Love that camera. The files out of photoshop are "ok" but they really sing when I use Corel AfterShot which was formerly Bibble Labs. For fall color, I think my SLR/n is still one of the very best cameras out there.

    Look forward to more with the 420.

  2. Hi Libby,

    thank you for your comments. Unfortunately Corel Aftershot doesn't read old DCS 420 files, so my choice is either ACR or Jarle's converter. All the best, vkphoto

  3. I have just taken delivery of a fair condition DCS 420.
    No charger/card etc. Can you send me a link for the charger you purchased?
    Cannot find one on Ebay!
    What do you recommend re. Card?
    Thanks Chris.

    1. Hi Clarkey,
      The charger is called ELPAC MI2815, 15 Volt DC 1.9 Amp AC Power Adapter. I bought it new in box from ebay seller avitarunlimited back in August, not sure if they still have them in stock. I also replaced the battery which was also acquired brand new from
      As for the card, my camera came with original 260 MB Viper PCMCIA hard disk, you will need PCMCIA type 3 reader for it. I am using my old ADTRON 3.5" ATA to IDE PC Card PCMCIA reader. Camera also works with modern 2 GB compact flash card with PCMCIA adapter (see picture above), but it gives errors time to time.

    2. Just wondering, that charger seems to have a 2pin connector, but the camera has a 7pin?

  4. No luck with charger, so have ordered a multi charger/cycler.
    May have to disconnect the battery to charge till i find a 7 pin din adapter.
    I dont foresee any problems connecting a fully charged battery to camera! Or am i missing something?
    Got a Cf card adapter for a couple of pounds off the EvilB.
    Should have some pics in the New Year.
    Merry Xmas.

  5. I am wondering if you have the TWAIN drivers for the Macintosh? Kodak's links are no longer active. I have an old legacy Mac running OS 9 with Photoshop 5.5. It will connect with the SCSI directly if I can locate the drivers.

    1. No, I don't have them, try this:,10474,Kodak_Professional_DCS_Acquire_Module_v5.9.3_&_DCS_File_Format_Module_v1.2.2_Macintosh.html

      According to Kodak ( dd0775.hqx should be the latest one.

      Let me know if you manage to make it work


    2. Got it, see if it works. Been out of the country in the field deep in the Sonora for a month. Mosquito bites on mosquito bites. Thanks!

  6. I've had good luck with a CF adapter in mine (except when the battery started to fail), and I've got three 2GB cards that work. Formatted them in a Nikon; no errors. I like using a hot mirror filter for keeping the color from getting weird, esp in bright sun.

  7. Cor, I had one of these - I remember trying it with an infrared blocking filter to see if that would help the colour, but it seemed not to do anything. The problem was that it was inconsistent across the frame, and of course the huge crop factor was really limiting. And the awkwardness of the batteries and memory cards. I had a DCS 460 as well, which had a six megapixel sensor and cost a fortune when it was new. I have the impression that it was enough for them to produce an image really quickly - making something that looked good was a secondary concern.


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