Kodak Prism XLC Electronic Previewing System

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by jonathon_shaw, May 21, 2001.

  1. -Please go to the asterisk (*) if you want to avoid all of the background babble and get the actual question-
    I am an amateur "photographer" and despite my best efforts, I keep striving to make better photographs. This has dragged me through dozens of books and web pages on the subject and has seduced me into spending more money on photography equipment. Foolishly not investing my life savings in the Yahoo IPO and not smart enough to be able to apply to ArsDigita, I have only a small budget that I can spend on light capturing devices and education.
    Recently, a friend's single mother asked me to make a family portrait of her and her grown children (one refuses to go to a commercial photographer). I've prepared the best studio I can afford and plan to shoot mutiple shots of the clan using my Nikon SLR system and a TLR 6x6. However, studying studio technique has begun to impair my judgement and I am now researching the costs, knowledge, and skill that would be required to start a small professional studio.
    I am 22, have attended college (not a graduate), live with my grandparents, and work in a part-time labor position that is paid hourly. Too introverted to become a beatnik and too full of childhood delirium to graduate from college and wisely do something for a living that I hate, I am stuck considering going into business as a studio photographer.
    * In researching equipment, I have found that an electronic previewing system would make a good investment and is almost necessary to compete in a society that increasingly demands immediate satisfaction (or as immediate as possible with studio photography). And, after scouring the Web (including Kodak's website) it seems that any descriptive and pricing information about the Kodak Prism XLC Electronic Previewing System is nearly non-existent. Even photo.net's extensive discussion forums have no information about it (that I've been able to find). So, if any kind souls could provide me with information concerning this elusive piece of equipment (espcially vendor information with pricing and contact info), it would be greatly appreciated.
    Feel free to add any advice and words of discouragement concerning studio photography entrepreneurialism.
  2. Jon, if you're not finding any info on the Kodak website regarding the Prism system, more than likely they're not handling it anymore. I'm not certain on this, but I think that Kodak only leased those systems out; meaning that there probably are none to buy on the used market. There used to be at least one semi-competing system, called the Denny Electravision (ie, from Denny Manufacturing, the background people). Here's a web site:

  3. I work for Kodak in the professional digital imaging. I'm afraid the XLC systems are dead. Kodak is no longer handling or supporting them. They were introduced in 1988, and were out of favor by 1994. You might find some used ones around, there is no one at Kodak to help with it and no parts available.
  4. Jon

    I have both the Kodak XLC and Denny EV2000 systems in my amateur home studio. The Denny unit is the one that uses video floppy disks, not a PC to store the images. I bought both used for prices in the hundreds of US dollars -not the thousands or tens of thousands that they went for originally. They come up for auction on eBay from time to time. Buying this way is of course potentially risky, although some sellers will guarantee that the system is working properly - the prices in this situation seem to be in the US $1000 to $2000 range. When deciding how much to pay, take into account that manufacturer support on obsolete products may be limited and probably non-existent on the Kodak system. Which is a fair trade-off for the low price if you're a low volume hobbyist but perhaps an unacceptable exposure for a professional operation.

    I prefer the Kodak unit and can talk with some authority about how it works in practice, but I haven't used the Denny that much. The 45 degree semi silvered mirror on the Kodak XLC means that the unit sees the same image as the camera whereas my Denny unit has the video camera offset from the camera so you'd need to consider parallax adjustments if you move the camera back and forth from the subject significantly. With the Denny, the beam splitter unit was an optional extra.

    It's very easy to line up the Kodak and, once set, it doesn't need to be adjusted again. I tend to shoot in the studio exclusively with 150mm on my GS1 - so the fact that changing lenses etc in the middle of a shoot with these systems becomes more difficult isn't a major problem for me.

    The Kodak unit is really nicely integrated as a system with a very comprehensive set of automatic checks that ensure that you almost certainly did get an image on film. I've yet to encounter a problem with the firmware. It also uses the actual studio strobe flash to expose the video image - other systems may rely on the modeling lights which is less desirable in my view. So goodbye to Polaroids for checking the lighting levels and ratios.

    The recording in both cases is done on special video floppy disks, which seem readily available from old new stock via eBay. Additional playback machines are also available used. Most seem to have S-Video output as well as composite video, so you could use this with a PC video capture device to write the proof images to a floppy disk or to a web page, although this would be a manual process.

    When buying a used Kodak system, note that it needs to be able to trip the camera shutter and Kodak originally sold a variety of cables/actuators for the different types of medium format cameras. So you might have to make up a release cable for your brand of camera. If the camera uses some proprietary socket for this then you may have to convert a manufacturer's remote release cable. Not difficult to do if you have the ability to solder a 5 pin DIN plug (pins 1 and 5) across the appropriate pair of wires. In the case of Bronica it's easy as they use a generic 2.5mm plug arrangement.

    Also if you decide to buy, bear in mind that these are bulky systems and a substantial roll-around studio stand or tripod will probably be needed. You'll also be tethered to the main recorder by a hefty umbilical cable so you lose mobility with this method of working.

    In use, the Kodak system is great. It does all the things you expect and is really well designed and thought out. You can probably justify much of the cost by the reduction in the use of Polaroid film alone. It's also great for you and your subject (or their parents - in particular) to see how things are going with the session - and you can give the model instant visual feedback on their posing. Once you've calibrated everything you can operate safely knowing that 'what you see on the monitor screen is what you've got on film'. You save money and time on proofing as you can tell the lab just to print up the shots you want. For me this also potentially halves the number of journeys to the lab - a big time saving.

    Hope this helps - email me directly if you need more information

    By the way, I'm looking for a backup Kodak XLC main recorder unit. If anyone is interested in selling one, please email me.


  5. I have several of these that I will sell at a very fair price;. Make me an offer at 775-883-9392 or Grams31@aol.com.
  6. I used this equipment from 1991 to 1996 in a studio environment and was very pleased with its operation.
    I have an operating manual for the
    Kodak Prism XLC Electronic Previewing System

    and boxes of brand new unused/unopened SONY Mavipak still video disks. If you would like to purchase them, send me an e-mail at c81818@hotmail.com.

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