A Site for Photographers by Photographers

Home > Equipment > Nikon > Nikon D70 Review

Featured Equipment Deals

Basic Photo Tips: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO Read More

Basic Photo Tips: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO

Just as it was 100 years ago and just as it is today, every camera—be it film or digital—is nothing more than a lightproof box with a lens at one end and light sensitive film or a digital...

Latest Equipment Articles

Triggertrap Mobile Review Read More

Triggertrap Mobile Review

Triggertrap is a great alternative to a camera remote that will turn your smartphone into a sophisticated shutter release. Read more about its many triggering modes!

Latest Learning Articles

Portrait Photography: Fixes and Tips in Lightroom (Video Tutorial) Read More

Portrait Photography: Fixes and Tips in Lightroom (Video Tutorial)

This video tutorial teaches you how to use the tools in Lightroom to enhance a portrait while also ensuring your subject still looks natural.


Nikon D70 Review

by Yatish Kumar, 2004 (updated March 2011)


The Nikon D70 is aimed squarely at the "prosumer" digital SLR market, or in other words the same individuals that the F70 and F90 were aimed at with film cameras. In film cameras the F4 and F5 series distinguished themselves from their F70 and F90 counterparts in having the rugged construction and quality to stand up to rugged and reliable pro use, and similarly the D2h and D1x cameras continue to distinguish themselves in the pro segment.

Many extensive reviews of the D70 have already been written and posted on the web by sites exclusively devoted to the purpose. In fact they formed the basis for my decision to purchase a D70, even before any units were available to be seen or handled. Instead of replicating these reviews, hopefully this review will capture some of the thoughts of a typical consumer targeted by Nikon, and will serve to stimulate discussion and capture information typically not addressed in those "other" reviews.

Where to Buy

You may be able to find a used Nikon D70 in Photo.net's Classified Ads Section. Otherwise, check out Nikon's newer small-frame sensor cameras from our partners. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

Nikon D70 Specifications

  • 6.31 Megapixel CCD giving 3008 x 2000 pixel images (6.1 MPixel images)
  • Nikon F-mount supports AF, AF-D/G, AFS, AI-P, and non-cpu lenses.
  • 1/8,000 maximum shutter speed. Flash sync at up to 1/500
  • Auto white balance, with TTL colour matrix metering using 1,005 pixel sensor
  • Five area AF with predictive tracking
  • ISO sensitivity from 200 to 1600, including auto ISO selection
  • 3D TTL flash with built in speedlight or SB600/SB800 flashes
  • Compact Flash type I and II cards, including microdrives

The 6.31 Megapixel sensor is reputed to be an improved version of the same sensor used in the D100. If this is the case the difference should be noticeable in terms of lower noise in shadow details. The 1/8,000 maximum shutter speed and fast flash sync help contribute to more creative freedom by allowing the use of larger apertures, and balanced fill flash in bright sunlight. However it should be noted that this is offset by the minimum ISO setting of 200. In these situations a film camera with ISO 100 film, paired with 1/4000 maximum shutter speed, or 1/250 flash sync would yield the same results. So in a sense these groundbreaking features are required to compensate for the sensor speed. Nevertheless the faster shutter speeds and flash sync do help in situations where one would like to freeze motion.

The Sensor

Prior to the arrival of digital SLRs, the camera body had been described as a "light box", thus minimizing it's contribution to the quality of the final image, and attributing the contribution to the selection of lens and film. In a digital body however the sensor is the single most important contributor to image quality. Nikon has announced it's own custom sensor development, which are being used in the D1 series of pro-DSLRs. However it is widely rumored that the D70 sensor is the same as the D100 sensor and that it is manufactured for Nikon by Sony. 6.1 Megapixels provides adequate resolution for high quality prints, the dynamic range of 12 bits is excellent, and very low noise images at ISO 200 to ISO 1600 provide excellent exposure flexibility.

The D70 can be set to generate images in the following sizes:

Image Size Image Quality File Size Images/256Meg Buffer Capacity
3008 x 2000 pixels NEF-Lossless 12bits 5 MB 23 4
JPEG-Fine 2.9 MB 73 9
JPEG-Normal 1.5 MB 144 12
JPEG-Basic 0.8 MB 279 19
NEF+Basic 5.8 MB 21 4
2240 x 1488 pixels JPEG-Fine 1.5 MB 130 7
JPEG-Normal 0.8 MB 253 7
JPEG-Basic 0.4 MB 481 7
1504 x 1000 pixels JPEG-Fine 0.8 MB 279 19
JPEG-Normal 0.4 MB 528 27
JPEG-Basic 0.2 MB 950 49

The F-Mount and Lens Compatibility

One of the central elements of the "Nikon System" is the forward and backward compatibility between lenses and bodies supported by the F-Mount. The D70 continues the tradition, by allowing the use of almost every Nikon SLR lens designed. The D70 also comes with some of the constraints users of newer 35mm bodies will have run into. Matrix, center weighted, and spot metering are available with all CPU based AF lenses. In the D70 NO METERING, is possible with non-CPU lenses. This is a little different from some nikon bodies that only remove matrix metering, while still allowing center weighted and spot metering in manual mode. However it is possible to work around this limitation by using the preview feature on the camera to quickly narrow down the exposure by trial and error. As long as the lighting doesn't change significantly from shot to shot, the exposure can be set once by this procedure.

Pre AI lenses cannot be used since they bump into the little tab near the depth of field preview button. The tab will flex a little in case you make the error of forcing such a lens on, however repeated use would probably cause some distress. A good source of information for all the gory details on the F-mount can be found at the following links.

http://www.aiconversions.com/compatibilitytable.htm,
http://www.zi.ku.dk/personal/lhhansen/photo/indexing.htm,
http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/hardwares/nikonfmount/lens1.htm

Oh! did I mention the depth of field preview button! A welcome feature, which has been consistently missing from a number of Nikon autofocus bodies.

ISO settings

The D70 supports ISO settings from ISO 200 to ISO 1600 in either 1/2 or 1/3 steps. An auto ISO mode can be selected to operate in conjunction with various exposure modes, to increase creative flexibility without fumbling with buttons to change ISO settings from shot to shot. Image quality is excellent at all ISO settings, with some caveats described in the image quality section.

Exposure Modes

The D70 supports a number of exposure modes. These being:

  • Manual
  • Aperture Priority
  • Shutter Priority
  • Flexible Program
  • Seven different Digi-Vari Programs

These modes provide a user interface consistent with previous Nikon autofocus bodies. In manual mode, use of the dials to adjust aperture and shutter speed should feel very familiar to users of the Nikon F601/N6006 style of body. In fact the D70 allows the option to assign either shutter speed or aperture adjustment to the rear dial. Things get interesting in manual mode however due to the extra flexibility provided by auto ISO selection. If auto ISO is enabled, in manual mode both shutter speed, and aperture can be set independently for complete control over motion blur/camera shake as well as depth of field, without having to live with over or underexposure for that combination. As long as there is an ISO value between 200 and 1600 for correct exposure, the D70 will select it. The con of this behaviour is that if over or underexposure is the purpose of engaging manual mode, then the camera will conspire against you. Unfortunately switching between auto ISO and fixed ISO requires entering the menus, which will cause users to pick one mode or the other, and stick with it.

Aperture priority works as one would expect. The user chooses the aperture and the camera picks the shutter speed. Once again auto ISO adds a new dimension to this operation. It appears that as long as there is enough light the camera will adjust the shutter speed, however as the shutter speed gets low enough to cause camera shake, the D70 will start to increase the ISO instead. Once the ISO range is exhausted, the camera shake guideline will start to be violated and the shutter speed will once again start to decrease.

Shutter priority interacts with auto ISO in a similar manner. However this time there is no camera shake judgment the camera can make, so it simply adjusts the aperture, and once it runs out of range on the aperture setting it starts to adjust the ISO. One of the good features in both shutter and aperture priority mode is that once the auto ISO has run out of range as well, the D70 starts to display over and under exposure on the metering gauge built into the viewfinder.

But wait there's more... it is also possible to assign exposure compensation to the front dial, when using Aperture and Shutter priority modes. Adding this extra level of complexity pretty much blows my mind, however for those with a stronger ability to keep things sorted it puts them in the driver's seat with respect to creative control. Now it becomes possible to simultaneously think about composition, depth of field, motion blur, focus, and exposure compensation, in the instant before you press the shutter release. Perhaps it's really all a ploy to make you wish there was a program mode, so that the camera could be operated with point and shoot simplicity.

The D70 has more program modes that you can shake a stick at. There are seven Digital vari-Programs. With the following characteristics identified by the D70 user manual

Auto Use for snapshots. Vivid, smooth images with balanced saturation, colour and sharpness
Portrait Use for portraits. Main subject stands out, while background details are softened.
Landscape Use for vivid landscape shots. Enhances outlines, colours and contrast.
Close Up Use for close up shots of flowers and insects. Reds and greens are captured particularly vividly.
Sports High shutter speeds freeze motion for dynamic sports shots
Night Landscape Slow shutter speeds produce stunning night landscapes while minimizing mottling and discoloration often seen in low-light photographs.
Night Portrait Provides natural balance between subject and background in portraits taken under low light. Lighting for portrait subject will seem natural even when flash is used.

Subscribing to the value of these programs, versus sticking with manual and pseudo manual modes like A, S and P is very much a personal choice. But once again digital SLRs bring a new twist over film cameras that begin to change the equation. With film cameras, the equivalent modes were limited to helping with selection of aperture and shutter speed, and balanced fill flash.

However with the D70 Digi vari-programs also bring in the correct settings for switching between vivid and normal colour saturation, degree of sharpening, and use of extra noise reduction algorithms. Manually walking though the menus and picking and choosing these options depending on the nature of the photograph is an exercise in frustration. It is very appealing to have saturated colours for a quick close up of a flower, and for the next shot to be able to take a portrait without having your subject look like a lobster.

My only reservation in subscribing to these features, is the inability to opt out of automatic control of major feature groups. I think of these as being, autofocus, exposure/development, and flash. On the D70 most of these modes place the camera in autofocus with nearest subject priority. This can be very error prone, in many situations, leading to well exposed, and balanced portraits of a twig, rather than your favourite nephew. Similarly in automatic flash mode, the built in speedlight will wait quietly until the shutter release is depressed, at which point it will pop open and release a burst if necessary. This is startling to say the least, and annoying if fill flash isn't desired. To be fair Nikon has provided the ability to override the autofocus mode, and flash automation in each of the digi vari-program modes. However after going through and setting these overrides, they are forgotten by the D70 as soon as the vari program dial is changed, or the camera power is cycled. After doing this a couple of times, it is easy to give up and stop using the vari programs at all.

White balance

The D70 produces excellent white balance in auto mode. Various conditions covering a mix of incandescent tungsten, fluorescent and even candle lights were tested. In most cases a natural white was produced, without giving up all the warmth inherent in tungsten lighting. Occasionally a strong yellow cast would appear under low light conditions, however it is difficult to fault the D70 in these situations. Manually setting the white balance to tungsten helped clear up the white balance in these situations. Furthermore it is possible to shoot in raw mode, allowing the white balance to be corrected during post processing.

Colour temperature can be fine tuned for each of the white balance modes. For example shooting in tungsten mode, it is possible to vary the nominal colour temperature assumption of 3000K , to values between 2700K and 3300K.

In addition the D70 supports a measurement mode, where the white balance can be calibrated for a shooting session, without having it change from shot to shot. Another really interesting capability is to use a reference photo for extracting the white balance. This allows shot to shot consistency for colour balance in a sequence of pictures.

Preset temperatures and correction are available for the following conditions, with six steps for each range:

  • Incandescent 2,700K to 3,300K
  • Fluorescent 2,700K to 7,200K
  • Direct Sunlight 4,800K to 5,600K
  • Flash 4,800K to 6,000K
  • Cloudy (daylight) 5,400K to 6,600K
  • Shade (daylight) 6,700K to 9,200K

Autofocus Modes

The D70 provides 5 zone autofocus, with support for AF lenses and newer AFS lenses with a built in motor. Performance was tested with an 80-200 F2.8 AFD lens, as well as numerous other smaller and lighter lenses including the 16 F2.8 AFD, 20 F2.8 AFD, and 37-70 F2.8 AFD. All the lenses, including the big zoom were powered and focused quickly by the D70 body. Testing with a 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G AFS lens demonstrated that the AFS lens was much quicker to focus and quieter than the AF lenses.

The rapid 3 fps burst shooting capability of the D70 is an excellent feature at the present time, when most digital cameras still suffer from slow cycle times and shutter lag. Furthermore, as a "prosumer" I had never really let loose with a similar continuous shooting capability on the F601. The cost of film for burning through a roll of 36 exposures was enough of a deterrent.

Giddy with enthusiasm for the speed of the D70, and freed from the cost of film, it was very tempting to exercise this new found power. Unfortunately it led to a large number of decisive shots, where nothing in the frame was in focus. The reason for this is that in AF continuous servo mode (AF-C) the D70 fires the shutter as fast as possible, without synchronizing with the AF sensor. If the subject is moving slow enough, the AF system will track and crisp images will appear, if not, well... the solution lies in (AF-S) mode. With AF-S the system will not release the shutter unless the focus is locked.

All of which is to say that the D70 leaves a number of options open for how the photographer would like to set up a dynamic subject. These are as follows:

Focus Mode Shutter Mode

Possible dynamic shooting methodology

AF-S Continuous Maximum frame rate shooting is possible, every shot is guaranteed to be in focus, even at the expense of slowing the frame rate till the AF module catches up.
AF-C Continuous Maximum frame rate shooting is guaranteed. Focus is best effort, however this might not be a problem if the subject is tracking slow enough, if there is enough depth of field to clear up small focusing errors, of if the occasional lost frame due to bad focus is not a problem.
AF-S Single Pre focus at a known shooting location and ensure that the single shot taken is the decisive moment.
AF-C Single Acquire and track an object. This gives enough time to ensure that focus tracking is locked, before releasing the shutter.

None of this is unique to the D70, but is rather a characteristic of the Nikon system. What changes with the D70 is that a large number of "prosumers" will now be motivated to try these and other techniques, given that they have a tool that can perform like a Nikon film camera, without the cost of film. It should also be interesting to see if more and more people start to demand full 8 frames per second performance in future DSLRs, in order to properly shoot pictures of their kids running around.

In addition to focus tracking, the D70 also provides a number of options for selecting how the 5 AF area sensors are used. Once again it was only after making some focusing errors did the full impact of some of the warnings in the user manual sink in.

Sensor Option

Description

Single Area Single area, should not be confused with using just the central sensor. The user can select any one of the 5 AF areas manually, however what this mode ensures is that the camera will not use any information from any of the remaining 4 sensors.
Dynamic Area Dynamic area is just like single area, except the camera will monitor the input from the 4 other sensors, and if it detects a subject that was targeted by the selected sensor temporarily moves to another sensor, it will automatically use the input from that sensor.
Closest Subject The system will automatically select the sensor covering the closest subject. In AF-S this decision is only made once, in AF-C mode it is continuously evaluated.

Until I sat down to write this review, and carefully read the manual to make sure any of my complaints were well founded, it had been puzzling why a number of my low light photos were coming out soft. The results seemed inconsistent, and two identical pictures taken one after another seemed to vary greatly in quality of focus. The clue might lie in the following quote from the user manual, "Single area is also recommended with telephoto lenses or when the subject is poorly lit". Aha. Without that distinction, it is easy to assume that Dynamic Area is just like Single Area only better. There are many variables in trying to get to the bottom of why focus is soft, particularly in low light conditions. I still need to take a lot of pictures in Single Area mode, in order to confirm if this is the root cause of the problem I observed. It would be interesting to hear a number of opinions and experiences with the D70 in order for us to all be able to get to the bottom of our own observed issues.

When all else fails, of course the D70 supports manual focus, with focus assist using the built in rangefinder. If the lens is focused a green dot will light up in the bottom left corner of the viewfinder. This is consistent with all Nikon AF cameras. This is an essential feature for being able to use non CPU lens from the AI and AIS series.

Metering Modes

The D70 has been given the best metering module Nikon has produced to date. The legendary 1005 pixel RGB sensor first introduced in the Pro F5 body. The complete or partial involvement of the colour sensitive metering sensor in white balance control is not obvious. However the D70 maintains the Nikon features of combining TTL metering, with distance information from the D type AF lenses, and communication with the speedlights to provide excellent autoexposure in difficult lighting conditions with and without fill flash.

Five segment matrix metering, center weighted metering and spot metering are all available on the D70. These are all Nikon staples and not unique to the D70. For further creative control it is possible to select the size of the center weighted metering from 6mm to 12mm. Spot metering tracks the AF area segment selected. If the AF mode selected is "closest subject", the metering is tied to the central focusing zone.

Viewfinder

The viewfinder on the D70 is perfectly adequate. It seems a little cramped and dim compared to other Nikons, but whether this is a problem or not is a very subjective matter. Diopter adjustment is available. The only complaint with the adjustment is that if it accidentally gets moved, it is hard to find the 0 correction position. A mark or detent would be useful.

The information displayed in the viewfinder is very complete, and familiar to users of other Nikon cameras. The only room for improvement would be for the camera to display the auto ISO value, rather than simply flashing the words "ISO AUTO"

The included rubber surround is a simple but excellent idea for those who use glasses. My glasses cost me as much as a good Nikkor lens, and I need to wear them every waking moment. It is nice that the D70 does not scratch them.

LCD screen

The LCD screen is a 1.8" 130,000 pixel display. Which is meaningless. However to put things in perspective the new SONY CLIE handheld has a resolution of 102,000 pixels. The screen is perfectly adequate to preview a complete image. The D70 comes with an extremely well designed user interface for navigating the preview image, and zooming into a section to check for details like focus and depth of field. The zoom navigation is a difficult thing to explain in writing, but is definitely worth trying to see how it works.

Data Display

The data display for camera mode settings is relatively simple, grouped into four menus. There isn't much hierarchy in the menus, so it is easy to navigate, and hard to get lost in. One of the best functions in the user interface is a built in help function. A dedicated key on the back of the camera labeled with a "?" can be pressed at any time, while navigating the menus, and context sensitive help pops up to provide a clue about the camera function being modified.

The image preview can be overlaid with lots of relevant shooting information, as well as a histogram, and blown highlights can be highlighted. It would be handy to get an 8bit and 12bit indication, so users can be more aware of what they are missing if they compress the dynamic range of their .NEF files.

Accessories

The Nikon D70 draws on practically every accessory designed for SLR cameras in the Nikon system. This is one of the principal reasons for buying one, if you are invested in the Nikon system. It is also a good reason to use the D70 as an entry vehicle into the Nikon system of accessories, which have all been forward and backward compatible for decades. Not withstanding some exceptions with respect to speedlights, pre AI lenses, and some Nikonisms around metering modes.

Flash

The D70 shows incredible promise in the flexibility it has for controlling flashes. Unfortunately as a reviewer I am unable to do this topic justice, as I could not justify the purchase of an SB800 to replace the old SB24 I have been using occasionally.

Timing Issues

One of the biggest issues with digital cameras has been the various delays and lags the camera imposes on a photographer, resulting more often than not in the loss of a fleeting photo opportunity. The D70 poses no such limitations. It handles as fast as any nikon 35mm SLR camera, in terms of autofocus performance, shutter lag, and cycle time. It's incredibly deep buffer and fast write time to flash results in a virtually unlimited number of continuous bursts at a nominal rate of 1.5 to 2 frames per second. It can burst up to 3 frames at 3 frames per second in raw mode before it needs to slow down to write the data to flash. Some camera reviews claim 3 frames per second for up to 14 shots in JPEG Large+Normal mode, however in practice, even with fresh batteries, I was unable to see that speed in any mode other than raw.

Batteries

The D70 is supplied with an EN-EL3 1400 mAH rechargeable lithium battery, which is good for up to 2000 images on a single charge. In addition a holder is supplied to allow the use of 3 CR2 batteries. Considering the amount of signal processing and automation the D70 runs, it is amazing how long the battery lasts.

Software

[Editor's note: The reviewer is in Canada, and it seems that the software included with the camera depends on where it is purchased. In the US, PhotoShop Elements II is NOT included with the camera. Instead Nikon include their PictureProject 1.0 software, a significantly less powerful image editor, but with NEF conversion included]

The D70 comes bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2. This is extremely good value, and virtually indispensable for "prosumers", unless they already have a full version of Photoshop at the price of a good Nikkor lens. In addition Nikon View and Nikon Edit can be used to quickly pull up images, and to download them from the camera. Nikon Capture is not bundled with the camera and needs to be purchased separately. The D70 senses and registers the camera orientation. The nikon software works well with this function to present all the images right side up. The convenience of this feature cannot be overstated.

A special raw (NEF) file driver gets installed with Photoshop. This driver also performs the required post processing of the NEF file, resulting in 16 bit photoshop images with the anti-aliasing filter applied to the NEF file for a smooth and noise free result. ( The need for the filter is explained below in the image quality section )

Other features

The camera does not allow the use of a cable release, however an optional remote control can be purchased. The built in speedlight supports an RF control mode for communicating with other nikon speedlights, for sophisticated multiflash control.

Image Quality

Image quality on the D70 is excellent. Of particular note are the very low noise shadow details. In addition at higher ISO settings, while the noise starts to become observable, it is still not objectionable. Unlike many digital cameras, the Nikon D70 allows independent selection of image size, and quality in JPEG mode. With 3 image sizes, and 3 quality levels, there are a total of 9 possible JPEG settings.

Of particular interest is an understanding of image quality when using RAW NEF files. In order to enter a discussion on this subject, it is important to understand that Nikon chose to implement the anti-aliasing function partially in the softening filter in front of the sensor, and partly using image processing algorithms after the picture has been taken. A complete explanation of this can be found at the following link:. http://www.nikon.co.jp/main/eng/portfolio/technology_e/image_processing_e/index.htm .

What this implies is that the NEF file contains a partially antialiased image. This is illustrated by studying a NEF file directly without the antialiasing step using the Nikon Viewer (below, left), and the same file by simply opening it in Photoshop (below, right). The RAW file driver installed in photoshop performs the antialiasing function automatically, as the file is imported.

sidebyside2.jpg (63601 bytes)

Within a week of having the D70, and after a successful evening of nocturnal photography at ISO 1600, with very low noise images, it came as a surprise to hear in some online forums, that the D70 produced noisy shadows, and oversharpened images. After quickly pulling up a random image in Nikon View to check the results, I was amazed to find the image on the left. How disappointing. Needless to say it took a while to find the link to the Nikon technical report that explained what was going on.

Having understood this, there are some important conclusions that come out of the way the D70 supports RAW output.

  • Some users have reverse engineered the .NEF format and produced open source implementations of .NEF readers, particularly under Linux. Unfortunately these readers will open the image without performing anti-aliasing. This places the burden on the user to complete the processing in GIMP or some other imaging application. Without a lot of care, it is quite likely a generic despeckle function will produce an images as soft as, if not softer than the JPEG+Fine image produced by the D70 directly in the camera.
  • The amount of anti-aliasing provides a direct trade off between sharpness and noise. By leaving this choice as a post processing step, the D70 makes it possible for people who like to fiddle, endless room to optimize each image to their desired satisfaction. If the softness had all been built into the optical anti-aliasing filter, there would be no recourse. While this fiddling is not something that would appeal to 99% of the user community, there are likely "prosumers" out there who continue to work with difficult films, and ultra fine grain developers in order to enjoy the ultimate in sharpness. Perhaps some will appreciate the hooks left by Nikon in the digital domain.

This discussion also helps to frame the question of image quality when comparing JPEG and RAW files. So far it has been shown that the RAW file needs to be softened to some extent, in order to remove aliased noise, and spatial artifacts. This is done automatically by the Photoshop NEF input module. If the imported NEF image was compared with a camera created JPEG, would the results be the same ?

Both of the images above were taken with a tripod mount, and computer triggered release to eliminate camera shake. The only difference in camera settings was to switch from RAW capture mode to JPEG FINE+Large. The RAW image was directly opened in photoshop and went through the automatic anti-aliasing filter. It can be seen that the RAW path does preserve some image sharpness, over the JPEG image.

Sample Images

Sample images taken with a D70 can be found on the nikon website at: www.nikonusa.com.

Nocturnal and Low Light Photography

As an avid "prosumer" and target of Nikon's D70 design, it is a pleasure to report that the D70 goes a long way towards improving the ability to work in these situations. Excellent auto white balance, and low noise performance at ISO settings as high as 1600 are key to enabling one to become untethered from a tripod.

Church1.jpg (32207 bytes)

All of these factors are embodied in the picture above. Yes it could have been taken with Fuji Provia rated at ISO1600, but what about the tungsten balance ? Yes it could have been taken with slower tungsten film and a tripod, but what are the odds I would have lugged all the paraphernalia around ? Yes it could have been taken by any other digital camera that had an ISO 1600 sensitivity, but would it also have the low noise performance of the D70 under those conditions ? Thinking about these questions leads me to be satisfied that the D70 significantly improves the imaging options for creative nocturnal photography, like no other film camera, and better than most digital cameras.

Macro Photography


Macro photography takes a degree of patience and fiddling, in order to archive predictable results. The unique features of digital SLR photography with the D70 helps improve the workflow somewhat. Getting precise focus with a very shallow depth of field is one of the challenges inherent in setting up a macro shot.

macrosetup1.jpg (20805 bytes)

The instant preview capability of a digital camera is an excellent way to check the results and fine tune the setup, as opposed to looking at a roll of film after it has been developed. The setup shown in the image above works well with the D70. The laptop is connected via the USB cable to the computer. The body is mounted on a PB 4 bellows with a 135 F4 bellows nikkor. Another tribute to the D70's compatibility with older accessories from the Nikon system.

Use of the PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol) computer controlled transfer mode makes it easy to look at full screen previews of the macro shot as each picture is taken. Furthermore the use of the computer controlled shutter release provides a solution for camera shake, in the absence of a mechanical cable release. Colour saturation can be viewed in the sRGB space on the laptop or using Photoshop directly in the Adobe colour space. Fine adjustments to colour temperature for redoing the shots is then a snap.

flowerf4.jpg (22975 bytes)

Exposure: 1sec, F4. 135mm Bellows Nikkor, ISO 200.
Lighting: mixed tungsten and daylight. Tungsten WB
Fixed pattern noise reduction for long exposures.

flowerf11.jpg (26082 bytes)

Exposure: 30sec, F11. 135mm Bellows Nikkor, ISO 200
Lighting: mixed tungsten and daylight. Tungsten WB

.Fixed pattern noise reduction for long exposures.

PTP control of the camera has a long way to go, but it looks like the D70 has provided the hooks necessary to get there. It is encouraging that the open source community has started to embrace the idea. It is only a matter of time before decent control packages for all manner of functions and camera types become available, as alternatives to the expensive Nikon Capture option. The setup show above was operated using the built in PTP support in Windows XP, which allows the shutter to be fired directly, without requiring Nikon Capture.

What's good, what's not so good?

The Nikon D70 is an excellent camera, built on their experience with the D100. It appears that many of the suggestions for improvement around the software, features and user interface with the D100 have been incorporated into the D70. Leaving a relatively short wish list of remaining improvements. These being:

  • ISO can be quickly changed by pressing the ISO key, and rotating the rear dial. Why not use the front dial to also quickly switch between auto ISO on/off ?
  • Instead of flashing ISO Auto, it would be more useful to see the setting chosen.
  • When the camera is tripod mounted at eye level, it is hard to rise above the camera to look down on the LCD, as settings are changed. It would be very convenient to echo the LCD display, on the large display on the back for such situations. The display is turned off when the quick keys are used for camera settings anyway, so there is no cross purpose limiting it's use.
  • Digital cameras are both an imaging platform, and an embedded computing platform. Allow the open source community access to the embedded computing platform, with a well designed SDK. Proprietary Nikon algorithms can still be protected through binary distributions. The imagination and energy of motivated users will likely turn the camera into a cult classic and secure it's success.
  • PTP is an excellent start at controlling the camera functions. Nikon Capture should be made available with the camera, not as an additional piece of software. Alternatively a "prosumer" version should be released, in the same manner that Photoshop Elements is bundled for "prosumers", and Photoshop CS charges for real productivity and extended features that are useful to "pros" who use it every day.
  • Better autofocus performance, and continuous frame rates would always be appreciated.
  • Incorporation of a mirror lock up function for picture taking is very important
  • Metering and support for all Nikon lenses including pre-AI lenses. Users will buy AFS and DX nikkor lenses for their performance, making their lives inconvenient to drive them away from their previous investment in the Nikon system is a slippery slope to dissatisfaction.
  • The serial number is very hard to read on the base of the camera as it is brown lettering on black plastic. This number is called for when installing the Nikon software on a PC.
  • And of course Kudos to Nikon on the following fronts:

  • Excellent imaging and noise performance at all ISO levels
  • Amazing battery life for such a high performance and complicated beast
  • Very good compromise between build quality and price point
  • Including the depth of field preview is a very useful and pleasant surprise, after missing it on many AF film bodies
  • Very good job on the user interface, notwithstanding the suggestions above

Conclusion

In 1999 I promised myself I would switch to digital photography once a reasonable 4 Megapixel camera was available. Well the time has come, and Nikon has provided the answer in the form of the D70 Digital SLR. The fact that it is F mount compatible (mostly), produces excellent images, and is affordable have left me with no excuse for not jumping in at this point. The ultimate validation of this is the fact that my wife (who has always maintained a healthy dose of skepticism of my various equipment purchases) can't wait to get her hands on it, finally relinquishing her 20 year old Minolta SLR as the only tool a photographer needs.

Where to Buy

You may be able to find a used Nikon D70 in Photo.net's Classified Ads Section. Otherwise, check out Nikon's newer small-frame sensor cameras from our partners. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

All text and images are © Copyright 2004 Yatish Kumar

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Yaron Kidron , April 12, 2004; 03:01 A.M.

Great camera, Nikon. Now add a real AF system, a full size viewfinder, and (nearly)full F-mount compatibility (Yes, I don't care much for DX lenses, I want my 35/1.4 to run on this camera), and I'll take it. You may call it the D2X, or D700.

Jean-Baptiste Queru , April 12, 2004; 11:11 A.M.

It's possible that the resolution comparion with the Clie is flawed. Typically camera products follow the TV convention, where each or R,G and B is counted as a seprate pixel, whereas PDAs follow the computer convention where each pixel contains all three of R,G and B. Thus the Clie has 307200 "camera" pixels (and that's only for the middle-end models, my wife's high-end one has 460800 "camera" pixels).

(It's surprisingly similar to the situation that exists between digital cameras and scanners, where a picture from a camera only has one sample per pixel, and had to go through some interpolation to reconstruct the two others, whereas a picture from a scanner comes directly from three sample per pixel).

Alex Petit-Bianco , April 12, 2004; 02:25 P.M.

Thank you Yatish for the Open Source plug. I'm resisting buying this camera because of the lack of open source support for NEF file reading -- well, they can be read but within the limitation you exposed.

As you pointed out, it's not a problem with the Open Source developers, but rather a lack of openness from the camera manufacturers. I hope Nikon can set the trend of better collaboration with the Open Source community.

Chris Combs , April 12, 2004; 02:54 P.M.

My one complaint after ten days of D70 ownage is that the DoF preview button does NOT work with non-CPU lenses! Argh. Maybe a firmware update?

Oskar Ojala , April 12, 2004; 03:22 P.M.

The note about the software antialiasing was interesting, glad that you did some digging and shared it with us rather than having labeled this behaviour as an error. I read the linked Nikon article and believe this could be a good idea: less money on expensive AA filters and instead a focus on software tools, which can be upgraded afterwards.

Tim Chakravorty , April 12, 2004; 06:35 P.M.

..In 1999 I promised myself I would switch to digital photography..

Why do people (including the author) always talk about "switching". Sure digital is convenient, why not enjoy both ?

Yatish Kumar , April 12, 2004; 11:47 P.M.

Use of the term switching is somewhat a Freudian slip. I absolutely continue to enjoy shooting with my $20 folding 6x9 Baldina to my 4x5 Linhof and everything in between. But I will likely take most pictures of my kids in digital because of the convenience factor, so that would constitute switching in a sense. -- The Author

Yatish Kumar , April 13, 2004; 12:59 A.M.

The review identifies difficulty with getting 3 frames per second in jpeg mode. The root cause of this is explained in the following post: http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=007ud1 The solution is to turn off long exposure noise reduction, even if the exposure times are short enough not to trigger the action.

It should be the kind of thing fixable with a firmware patch.

CD Thacker , April 13, 2004; 04:09 A.M.

Yatish, could you take a look at this photo, and similar samples in the same folder, and tell me whether it is consistent with your experience of D70 made pictures? In particular I'm concerned about the grid pattern clearly evident in this image and others like it. Can you shed any light on that?

By the way, I think you succeeded in writing a helpful, comprehensive review that is unlike the others I've read.

Yatish Kumar , April 13, 2004; 10:56 A.M.

C D. I had a look at the picture you requested. Short answer is that there isn't enough information to comment. That particular picture is a highly compressed JPEG. Any sharpness/moire concerns cannot be addressed by looking at it.

Other pictures in the folder are a mix of D70 and some other camera. I have followed the discussion around the air hostess picture, and agree that the lines are not moire, they are some sort of lighting effect.

I have also followed discussions around "rainbow roofing tile" and colour shift from left to right across the frame, when shooting at ISO2000 and higher. Again with most of these, not enough information was available to get to the bottom of the matter. I could not reproduce these errors with my unit, and chose not get into it in the review for those reasons.

Feel free to contact me via email (yatish at moodcomputer.com) and I will be happy to have a more interactive discussion with you vis. the concerns you have.

Matteo Del Grosso , April 13, 2004; 11:10 A.M.

Nice review. However, I disagree with what you say about the viewfinder:

"The viewfinder on the D70 is perfectly adequate. It seems a little cramped and dim compared to other Nikons, but whether this is a problem or not is a very subjective matter."

The D70 viewfinder is certainly the worst Nikon ever built, at least in the last 20 years. Compared to F90's and F100's (and others) bright and large viewfinders, the D70 looks like a toy P&S viewfinder! It's even smaller than the D100's which is already small and dark. I consider the viewfinder a very important part of a camera, it's where you compose and focus the final image. If you take a look inside the D70's body, you'll see how small the mirror and screen have become. Looks real cheap! It's hard to imagine using my F100 and the D70 at the same time. Looks like I have to wait for D2X. Too bad.

Bob Atkins , April 13, 2004; 09:36 P.M.

As Yatish said, whether or not the viewfinder image size matters is subjective. Some people don't care, other's see a large viewfinder image as an absolute requirement. I'm not quite sure why, since for me, it's just an aiming device. Bigger and brighter is better, but hardly a deal breaker.

The viewfinder on the Canon Digital Rebel sufferes from the same size affliction (though not quite so badly, it's .8x vs. .75x for the D70). In the case of the Canon it's because a pentamirror is used rather than a pentaprism (to save weight and cost). I don't know if the D70 uses a pentamirror or true pentaprism.

Rob Tomlin , April 13, 2004; 09:39 P.M.

I have to strongly agree with the above comment regarding the viewfinder.

Definitely one of the worst from Nikon I have seen.

I saw the D70 at a shop today, ready to make a purchase. When I looked through the viewfinder, my heart sank. It was that bad.

I am really surprised at the comment that the viewfinder is perfectly adequate, especially coming from someone who uses glasses (as I do).

This camera would simply be very difficult to shoot with for any extended period of time with this viewfinder. Ergonomics are pretty poor overall. Too bad....I wanted to like this camera!

Rob Tomlin , April 13, 2004; 09:42 P.M.

"...other's see a large viewfinder image as an absolute requirement. I'm not quite sure why, since for me, it's just an aiming device."

You have to be kidding! Just an aiming device?! Is precise composition not one of the most important aspects of photography (never mind making sure the image is actually in focus)!?

Bob Atkins , April 13, 2004; 09:50 P.M.

Sure, but I can compose quite well with a small screen and the vast majority of users will be using autofocus. It's not meant to be a manual focus camera, even though (I presume) you can mount manual focus lenses on it.

I guess it's not perfect, but then I'm more interested in the images equipment can make than the equipment itself. I'm a Canon user anyway, so what do I know.

Maybe it does have a tiny, dim, pokey, useless viewfinder. Since I've never looked through one I wouldn't know. In that case you should probably buy a Digital Rebel. I've shot with one and had no problems...

Stanley Rogouski , April 13, 2004; 10:57 P.M.

The viewfinder on the Canon Digital Rebel sufferes from the same size affliction (though not quite so badly, it's .8x vs. .75x for the D70).

Are you actually saying the D70's viewfinder is worse than the 300D? Yikes. I love the 300D but the other day I looked through the viewfinder of a Contax Aria and I was stunned at how much different they are.

Yatish Kumar , April 14, 2004; 12:18 A.M.

One of the quirks of the D70 viewfinder design is that it gets really dim if the battery is removed. My guess would be around 2 or 3 stops. I hope that there isn't a difference of opinion on the viewfinder due to the fact that some camera stores might be showing the D70 without a charged battery installed.

Given the amount of discussion, I just did a quick comparison between my Nikkormat FTN and D70. They really appear to be the same in brightness. Of course the FTN has greater coverage so it seems really wide and open, and yes my F601 is brighter.

I agree that Nikon should improve the finder, but I think it would be a shame to reject the camera for that reason only. I thought "adequate" nicely summed up the situation. I do wear glasses, and do enjoy nocturnal photography, and it works for me. Focusing is best done with the rangefinder assist anyhow.

One other factor in the mix is the speed of lens one typically uses. For low light photography, when brightness is an issue, I typically have F2.8 or faster lenses on the body. In full daylight I really don't think there is any brightness issue with the viewfinder.

Stanley Rogouski , April 14, 2004; 12:37 A.M.

"One of the quirks of the D70 viewfinder design is that it gets really dim if the battery is removed."

Just like the n80. If people are judging the D70 by the viewfinder without the battery, then they have to realize that it's a partly electronic viewfinder. If it's like the n80, it's not so bad (especially if it has those nifty n80 gridlines).

William Nicholls , April 14, 2004; 12:45 A.M.

"Oh! did I mention the depth of field preview button! A welcome feature, which has been consistently missing from a number of Nikon autofocus bodies."

In what decade? The last couple of generations of Nikon film bodies (including entry level cameras) and all Nikon DSLRs have DOF preview.

Bob Atkins , April 14, 2004; 01:12 A.M.

Any idea how battery power affects viewfinder brightness? In most cameras the viewfinder is a purely optical device. The SLR mirror reflects the image onto the screen and the eyepiece and pentaprism are used to view it. No electronics involved. None of the Canon viewfinders are affected by battery charge level.

Does the lens stop down when battery power is removed from Nikon SLRs? That's the only way I could imagine that the viewfinder image could dim, but that would mean the lens is constantly drawing power, which doesn't seem reasonable either.

Umit D , April 14, 2004; 01:34 A.M.

I've heard the LCD over the focusing screen of F80 (its there for on demand grid lines) gets a bit dark when there is no battery. Probably same is true for D70.

Amir Mohebi , April 14, 2004; 03:40 A.M.

Maybe it's an issue of mirror, that has not returned completely with no power, the problem I have experienced with some minolta SLR's with problems in AF system, or anything related to mirrors. so when I see a dim view finder on such a camera, I check immediately for a wrong position of mirror, and after reseting the camera (if not a permanent problem) and positioning the mirror to the right place, the viewfinder gets back its brightness.

I don't agree with the comments indicating that viewfinder is of minor issue. once upon a time I was agree with that, but once I switch from Minolta MD cameras and their dim viewfinders to an Minolta AF camera body, the whole world absolotuely changed. I felt like a person that suffered from eye weakness for years and now he offered with a proper glass. I don't imagine that I compoe my picture once again with such a viewfinder, and left my old minolta in the closet.

Matteo Del Grosso , April 14, 2004; 05:16 A.M.

Just to clarify:

I tried out the D70 with charged batteries and the mirror was working fine as well. I used a 2.8 lens and had my F100 to have side by side comparison of the viewfinders. And the result is as I said: the D70 has a P&S viewfinder, it's dim, ugly and tiny! A good viewfinder, the photographer's canvas, is one major advantage of a (D)SLR over a P&S. Unfortunately not in this case!

Stanley Rogouski , April 14, 2004; 02:08 P.M.

"And the result is as I said: the D70 has a P&S viewfinder, it's dim, ugly and tiny! A good viewfinder, the photographer's canvas, is one major advantage of a (D)SLR over a P&S. Unfortunately not in this case!"

What I find myself doing with the 300D (as opposed to my old FM2n) is using a lot of trial and error. The viewfinder and the LCD screen go together. I pretty much shoot the photo, check the histogram and the LCD, shoot again.

Where I have to grab a shot quickly, the viewfinder isn't that great, but there's a dramatic difference between an autofocus SLR even with a tiny viewfinder and a point and shoot.

Ilkka Nissila , April 15, 2004; 01:12 A.M.

The reason the D70 viewfinder is such a hot topic is that people often choose to use Nikon because of their very nice high-eyepoint viewfinders, e.g. those in F3 HP, F4, F5, F100, F-801s, etc. It has been a primary reason for me to use their cameras, later of course my existing lenses. I wouldn't do photography at all if I had to use those cramped viewfinders in many other maker's cameras - just too uncomfortable, makes the whole process a negative experience. I also feel that Nikon putting these viewfinders into their newer lower end cameras is just one of the many ways they're trying to get rid of people using Ai-S lenses.

Loren Eidahl , April 15, 2004; 04:10 A.M.

The assumption that the D70 is designed to use AF lenses so therefore manual focusing is not needed ergo a decent viewfinder is a non issue is... how shall i say this the PC way ... not intelligent.

The statement assumes that the camera/lens combination will always choose the right portion of the subject to focus on in all situations with no user intervention required.

Matteo Del Grosso , April 15, 2004; 10:00 A.M.

To say the least: An AF is no good excuse for a crappy viewfinder!

Stanley Rogouski , April 15, 2004; 04:35 P.M.

No it's not but isn't the format size an issue here. The 1.5/1.6 crop DSLR has a smaller image circle than a 35mm camera so manufacturing a viewfinder as bright as an EOS 3's would be prohibitively expensive.

Loren Eidahl , April 15, 2004; 06:58 P.M.

Too expensive to create a good viewfinder? HA! Even the D100 has a better viewfinder than the D70 and that is a $1500 retail camera.

People who dismiss the value of a good viewfinder on a digital and make blanket statements to the effect that "its designed to use auto focus lenses... so why do you need a good viewfinder" apparently have not seen the value in the use of a bright viewfinder in lowlight, action situations. Shooting flowers and tress outside in full sunlight - you can probably get buy using the monitor to compose your image.

If I cant see the image, and properly focus and compose the image - It really dosent matter if I have the best 20mp camera with the best image sensor know to man, because the image will never get created!

Bob Atkins , April 15, 2004; 09:43 P.M.

Since I don't shoot Nikon, I can't really comment except to say that after hearing about the pokey, dim, tiny viewfinder and the apparant need to use manual focus in dim light, I'm just glad I bought a 10D which has a nice viewfinder and focuses in dim light better than I can. In fact even the Digital Rebel didn't need manual focus in dim light, nor was the viewfinder so small and dim that it was unusable after sunset.

Poor Nikon users. Their expectations are so high and Nikon seem to disappoint them so often...

Chao Feng , April 16, 2004; 04:09 A.M.

I'm really puzzled by Yatish's comment on the D70's bundled software. It was stated that "The D70 comes bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2". I can't find such software in my package (I'm in US). The review also states that "A special raw (NEF) file driver gets installed with Photoshop". Actually it does more than that. It replaces my D100 RAW driver from Adobe. I lost the ability to adjust the temperature continusly. I have to select one of a few preset color temperatures. All the other tunable variables are no longer there unless you pay to buy the Nikon Capture. Before Adobe releases the new RAW driver to support D70, I have to live with this very low powered RAW driver in the Photoshop. The information about the automatic anti-aliasing filter in the RAW driver is very insightful. For now I just can't wait to restore the full RAW driver capability in photoshop.

Matteo Del Grosso , April 16, 2004; 06:01 A.M.

Bob,

Seems you're trying hard to misunderstand. I was NOT comparing D70 to any Canon. I was comparing D70 to other Nikons. I don't know much about Canon but I know that Canon users never had the luxury of using beautiful bright and large viewfinders Nikon build. Have you ever looked through a F90, F100 or F5 viewfinder? I doubt that either the autofocus or the viewfinder of the Digital Rebel (300D) is any better than the D70's. Yes, the D70 viewfinder is a disappointment to Nikon users that are used to Nikon's film cameras, but that doesn't make the Canon viewfinders any better.

Antonio C. , April 16, 2004; 07:35 A.M.

"Since I don't shoot Nikon, I can't really comment except to say that after hearing about the pokey, dim, tiny viewfinder and the apparant need to use manual focus in dim light".

Since you don't shoot Nikon, it would be wiser to avoid reporting such BS. (Yes, I shoot Nikon, and yes, I've used a D70)

Yatish Kumar , April 16, 2004; 10:34 A.M.

Chao. I apologize for any misleading info vis. Photoshop 2. I had not realized that Nikon would offer it in Canada but not in the US. In fact I am sure that on a global basis, the software bundle probably has more variations. Perhaps someone else from the US can post a note to confirm that Photoshop Elements 2.0 is not bundled with the D70 ?

As for the RAW driver, I think the problem is that they can only have one driver associated with all raw files, no matter where they come from. I had also been wondering what they would do with the anti-aliasing algorithm, if it changed depending on the camera model. It's a shame if the D70 version of the driver took away features that were useful in the D100 version.

An alternate way to proceed, (given that we have what we have from Nikon, and any changes will come in due course) would be to put the D100 driver back, and use Nikon View as a file browser to click on a thumbnail and have it edited in Photoshop. In this case it will do the conversion to TIFF and I believe the RAW driver for Photoshop will not be invoked. I don't have experience with a D100, but it might also be that the D100 photoshop driver is compatible with D70 RAW files.

Yatish Kumar , April 16, 2004; 11:06 A.M.

folks, I think the discussion so far on the viewfinder has been pretty good. I am sure it will cause everyone who reads it, to carefully evaluate the situation for themselves hopefully before they choose to buy a D70, or D100, or Dxxx, or a Canon xxx.

I suspect some of the disappointment comes from a straight forward 1.5x scaling of existing viewfinders. This makes it cramped and probably less bright. So in my mind the interesting input to hear is if there are examples of 1.5x scaled cameras (D1x, D100, Various Canon models), perhaps even APS SLRs, where the viewfinder is considered great and worth emulating going forward.

Eric Carter , April 16, 2004; 11:55 A.M.

That's a relief - as a US customer with the D70 kit, Nikon is *NOT* including Photoshop Elements with the D70 in the USA. I wish they had - I think I'd like that a lot better than PictureProject which they did include. But no, I have a US release of the D70 and it does not come with Photoshop Elements.

As far as the viewfinder is concerned - is it a little tight? Yes. Could I wish for a brighter viewfinder? Yes. Do I prefer the viewfinder on my old OM-2s (still one of the best I've ever looked through)? Certainly.

All that being said, it's not bad - and I do like the "HUD" - optional alignment grid and more informative display. As an eyeglasses wearer, the relief is still adequate and I can certainly use it with no problems - and I also appreciate the rubber "bumper" on the finder. If the viewfinder were unusable or could not be viewed in its entirety by me, that would be a deal breaker - but with what it has? It's a minor concern in what's otherwise an excellent camera.

Also adding this note - I have shot with the Fuji S2 - I think the finder on that camera is a hair more informative, but to me it isn't as comfortable to view. I don't know if it has anything to do with the "crop" factor - probably it does, but I've seen finders on film cameras which were pretty much the same in feel as this one.

Jeroen Wenting , April 18, 2004; 11:59 A.M.

Relating to viewfinders, I had the pleasure of comparing a D100 to an F80 viewfinder. While being the exact same size (92%) the D100 viewfinder seems cramped because of the cropfactor imposed on it by the DX sensor size. The same is without doubt true of the D70 viewfinder as well which is also 92%.

In comparison: the 300D has an 86% viewfinder...

As to brightness, the viewfinders of the D100, F80, D70 and F75 are dim when the power is turned off because of their construction. The viewfinder is overlaid with a transparent CCD display unit which projects the information on it (as well as the on-demand gridlines in the D100 and F80, not sure if the D70 and F75 have that feature). These components have a tendency to be slightly grey in tone and not fully transparent unless a current is trickling through them (which does not happen if the power is turned off). When powered they are (almost) as bright as any other Nikon viewfinder (though a tad smaller than the large viewfinders of the professional cameras for which you pay a lot more of course).

Steve Daniels , April 19, 2004; 11:42 A.M.

The viewfinder will be small as long as the imaging chip is small. The cost of magnifying the viewfinder to a larger viewing size would make the camera larger, more expensive, and provide an even dimmer viewfinder. The other factor in viewfinder brightness is the maximum aperature of the lens used. f2.8 work very well, but are more expensive. It's all about how much you want to spend.

35mm viewfinders are approximately the size of a 35mm film frame. Medium format SLR viewfinders are the same size as the film frame. So 1.5 factor, being much smaller than a 35mm frame, results in a smaller viewfinder. Why the D70 viewfinder is smaller than the D100 viewfinder is probably a factor in why Nikon can sell the camera for $999 instead of $1200.

NOW - a topic that I can't figure out. Why do Canon users feel they are superior to Nikon owners? Most Nikon snobs figured it out in the 80's and don't worry about other brand owners any more. They are both good cameras with similar features, and it is all a matter of personal choice. I don's see much difference in the D70 and the Digital Rebel viewfinders. They are made for a similar market, and that is entry level digital photography. They are both excellent cameras. I prefer the D100 basically for its larger viewfinder. Eyepoint has nothing at all to do with brightness or size, but how far your eye can be away from the eyepiece and still see the whole image area. The D100 has a 24mm eyepoint, and the D70 has an 18mm eyepoint, and I wear glasses. Obviously, viewfinder size aside, I can see the D100 finder better with my glasses on (which I need).

I can get relief from this discussion by going back to my 4x5 camera, where all focusing screens are the same size, and camera owners judge each other on what results they obtain with whatever camera they happen to own.

Ilkka Nissila , April 22, 2004; 05:03 P.M.

Jim, it's nice that you can focus it fine, that doesn't really give you the right to question whether other people reporting on the VF are actual users or not. It wouldn't have come up if it weren't an issue. I'm using my D70 and get a lot of eye fatigue/pain when trying to use it in low light. I also get an unholy percentage of misses because of the VF. You can see the image just fine, enjoy the camera, but please don't assume that others reporting on their different experiences (using their eyes, not yours) are "spreading internet crap". We're not.

Dennis Moyes , April 23, 2004; 09:04 P.M.

I received my D70 this afternoon and must return it with deep regret tomorrow. The CF card would not format. I tried several different types with no luck. Nikon tech support worked hard with me to resolve the issue but alas, they said the camera was a clunker. I hope the exchange gets me a working model. Has anyone here experienced any similar problems with this camera?

Thanks.

Victor Panlilio , May 05, 2004; 04:29 A.M.

I've had my D70 for a little over a month now. Not much I can add to the praise heaped on the camera. With a SanDisk Extreme 1GB I'm very impressed with its shooting speed and responsiveness -- I'm using it more than I ever did my D100. The viewfinder has not been an issue for me, even though I wear glasses. All in all, a very good entry-level DSLR: very compact, lightweight, responsive, and capable of excellent image quality. The one gripe I have involves a tendency to underexpose flash photos, I usually have to dial in up to 1 stop over to get a pleasing image; of course, shooting NEF+JPEG Basic solves this issue, but I lose buffer depth and card capacity. Oh well.

T T , May 05, 2004; 02:01 P.M.

folks, the viewfinder is really a non issue. i'm a Leica rangefinder user and frankly didn't even notice that the viewfinder on the D70 is small until I read it here. i had (and have) no complaints about the viewfinder. it is no harder to look into than a Leica M camera. it's not as large as the viewfinder on the F100 but it also isn't so small that you can't effectively use it. nor should this be a deciding factor and stop you from getting a D70.

none of the digital cameras in this price range have super-excellent viewfinders so trying to compare these viewfinders to higher end cameras is a lost cause. in this low price range, there will be compromises any way you look at it.

the D70 shutter/mirror is silky smooth. interestingly, i can handhold all the way down to 1/8 of a second with no noticeable blurr. note that non full frame digital cameras have a smaller mirror than a film or full frame digital camera. also, to me the D70 feels smoother and less vibration prone than the Canon shutter.

compared to the Canon Digital Rebel, the Nikon D70 is so much better. The D70 feels sturdier and better built. and the lens the Canon comes with is really a much worse lens. the kit lens that comes with the D70 is way better and actually quite usable rather than just something you might take because it comes with it and then never use. have a look at Bob Atkins' review of the Canon 18-55 lens-purple fringing and distortion in the corners-eek! and you can't use it on another Canon body anyway. Nikon's is 18-70mm (not just up to 55mm like Canon's) and it's faster (Nikon=f4.5 Canon=f5.6 zoomed in), you can use the Nikon on another Nikon body with no problem. the whole Nikon kit just feels to be of much higher quality and a better buy.

the difference is that the Canon feels like a camera that is cheaper than what it actually costs whereas the Nikon feels more expensive than it actually is.

Regas Chefas , May 17, 2004; 04:21 P.M.

I had a problem with CF cards as well. It seemed to gradually stop being able to store images or reformat card. I was using Sandisk 256MB (two different cards). Because of the way it failed, I think it is a problem with the camera and not the media. The retailer is replacing, but is out of stock :(

For what it's worth, I liked the camera for the 5 or so pictures that it worked for :)

Regas

Ahmad Faizal Yahya , May 26, 2004; 03:48 A.M.

Newbie to DSLR but have been shooting pics for the past few years. started off from a Canon, Fuji and finally Nikon. Received my D70 two months ago and took abt 7500 plus of images already. depending on the operator and the lenses, the images are tack sharp. with the kit lens, it focuses fast.

For those who are still in doubt of the D70, just get one and experience it yourself. it is one heck of the camera in its class.

john rogers , June 01, 2004; 03:11 P.M.

I have beenshooting with the D70 since i got almost the first one off the assembly line. Overall, I really like the camera, but my biggest issue is with getting so many out of focus shots. I do wish the VF was really bright and sharp with the kit lens, which is so usefull of a focal range. I had to put menu to sharper setting and that made a major improvement with the kit lens. have yet to try my 2.8 glass becasue i am paranoid about getting dust on the sensor so i keep kit lens on there to avoid dust during lens changes. I am sure VF and focusing will be much improved with 2.8 glasss. I am not sure why i get so many out of focus shots using AF. I put the selector on one of the tiny red nubs, get my focus with shutter release held 1/2 way down, re-compose and shoot. why do i get so many out of focus shots? I tried manual focus with kit lens and that was a disaster. only really closeup shots can i focus manually with any success. another revelation- manual white balance when shooting people. the skin tones on auto white suck, and are pretty good on custom white. My fuji S1 has the absolute best skin tones of any DSLR, period, but the nikon s are useable but only with manual white balance.

Yatish Kumar , June 07, 2004; 12:38 A.M.

Hi John, are you shooting in AF-S or AF-C mode ? Also I trust you don't have the camera in "closest subject" AF mode. I was getting a lot of out of focus shots in the first week I had the camera as well, some of it was due to the use of AF-C.

Yatish

Matthias Heiler , June 25, 2004; 03:49 A.M.

Nice review. However, at one point it is technically inprecise probably due to the (marketing-driven?) descriptions on the Nikon webpage:

"[... It] is important to understand that Nikon chose to implement the anti-aliasing function partially in the softening filter in front of the sensor, and partly using image processing algorithms after the picture has been taken. [...] What this implies is that the NEF file contains a partially antialiased [sic] image."

This sounds as if it wouldn't matter when there is aliasing in a recorded image as image processing can remove it later. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

There is a mathematical result called the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem which tells us, loosely speaking, how fine image details any given sensor can record. Details too fine for the sensor need to be optically removed from the image (by blurring them away). Otherwise, the sensor will get confused and record very fine details as relatively large-scale distortions. Once these distortions are in your recorded image there is no principled way to remove them. It is true that improved software may be able to reduce or remove artifacts in many or most cases, but mathematics tells us that it won't always work.

Ronald Hogenboom , June 25, 2004; 02:54 P.M.

I'm an experienced amateur concert photographer and I really have pushed the D70 to its limits the few weeks that I've got it.

The viewfinder is smaller and dimmer than my excellent Minolta Dynax-7 but actually still pretty good. DEFINITIVELY not a PS viewfinder. There is no distortion and even in very low light it remains usable. Without a split image rangefinder it is as impossible to focus correctly at large apertures as it is on the Dynax-7. So big deal.

I think speed an handling are excellent and metering and AF are perfectly adequate for the kind of work I do. Some minor gripes (like that WB and ISO settings cannot be changed in play mode and that AF sensors can only be selected when the meter is on) but overal the camera is easy to use. Setting up all preferences for AE and AF for example took me more time than I had hoped for though.

AF performance as in correct AF is comparable to my Dynax 7 I think, I mostly use one sensor and need a lot of shots anyway with usual very dim lighting (large apertures, limited DOF) and moving subjects. Also did some max aperture close up tests and this seemed fine too.

Actually I'm quite impressed with the D-70 and my results with it really allow me to make a quantum leap in ok shots per assignment. I'm only afraid that I'll work it to death, even as an amateur I make so many pictures with it that I can't imagine it lasting more than two years.

jeremy jones , July 02, 2004; 11:01 A.M.

To compare the D70 to the Digital Rebel is like comparing a Lamborghini to a Dodge Viper. To do so is a joke. The image quality difference is enough to silence anyone with doubts. I had the digital rebel and sold it to buy my D70. I am so much happier with this camera than I was with the Drebel. The pictures that I got with the DR were grainy and blocky like any digital camera that you can get for 300 or less. The pics from the D70 are much smoother and have very low noise just as the author of this article states. I have owned both as most people responding here havn't. As far as features and control is concerned, the D70 leaves the DR behind.

As far as complaining about the viewfinder, read the response a few lines up that explains the smaller CCD. This explains the viewfinder, hence lower cost smaller viewfinder. What it lacks in that area it more than makes up in features and control. The DR looks like a cheap piece of junk side by side to this camera. And one more thing, if I were going to pick between the Lamboghini and the Viper, i wouldnt pick the Viper becuase it has a bigger windshield to look through. It is the total package you should be concerend with. Which is why the D70 takes this one hands down

Ilkka Nissila , July 02, 2004; 05:17 P.M.

Matthias, no actual low-pass filter is able to filter only frequencies above the Nyquist frequency perfectly, and leave the lower frequencies intact. The D100 has a low-pass filter which reduces the amplitudes of frequencies below the Nyquist frequency a lot. Result: no artifacts, soft images.

In the D70, the filter has been moved towards higher frequencies, and as a result it produces strikingly sharp images with very rare artifacts. In fact, I've only seen one image in the 2000+ I've taken with the D70 which had noticeable moire, and even then it didn't show up in an A4 print.

The imaging engine of this camera is amazing.

Fabian Gonzales , July 05, 2004; 04:29 P.M.

I have owned Canon camera equipment for more than a decade, and despite my extensive collection of Canon lenses I ordered and just received the D70. I am very impressed by this camera. It's solidly built, with a very broad set of features (but unfortunately without mirror lockup). By comparison, the digital Rebel and it's kit lens is a joke. And I am even more impressed by the 18-70 lens. It's much better built than any consumer lens from Canon, and it's tack sharp. What's more, it came with a lens hood included (when does that ever happen when you buy a Canon consumer lens), which also has a very nice locking feature. I don't know how many photos I have ruined due to the flimsy Canon lens hoods turning on the lens and causing vignetting. Nice to know that my new Nikon won't have that problem.

It is my opinion that Canon is neglecting the serious amateur market, with their shoddy lower-end bodies and (especially) their consumer lenses. Unless you intend to buy a 1 or 3 body, and expensive L lenses, I recommend you to skip Canon and go with Nikon instead. Especially when shooting digital. I did!

jake richardson , July 05, 2004; 09:42 P.M.

'The DR looks like a cheap piece of junk side by side to this camera. '

your comment seems to be more about bashing the digital rebel which has been reviewed many times as a very good affordable digital slr.

comparing it to 300 dollar digicams is laughable.

jake richardson , July 05, 2004; 09:50 P.M.

'By comparison, the digital Rebel and it's kit lens is a joke. '

again, more canon bashing. i don't see how it is constructive.

the lens that comes with the rebel is adequate for snapshots. put a decent lens on the digital rebel, and it does a very good job.

Johannes S. , July 17, 2004; 09:10 A.M.

Viewfinder:

Me too I was quite disappointed with the viewfinder being so small. Even when compared with the F75. One must admit that if Nikon (or any other brand) had made such a size of viewfinder on a classic SLR, the reviews would all be screaming unacceptable. Now that we know that the viewfinders in DSLR's in general aren't so great, it suddenly becomes acceptable. On the other hand, with the CCD being APS size, what can one expect. So or you pay for a professional DSLR, or you learn to live with it, or you wait another 5 years.

You may also look for things that can help; like the DG-2 eyepiece magnifier (which provides 2x magnification of the central portion of the finder image), or the DK16 circular eyecup.

Johannes S. , July 17, 2004; 09:26 A.M.

Canon or Nikon ?

Answer: Grow up.

Those who prefer Canon, that they chose Canon. They have every reason; fast autofocus, exellent image quality, 100 ISO, great number of IS lenses, etc.

Those who prefer Nikon, that they chose Nikon. They have every reason; autofocus and image quality 99% as good as Canon (who cares about the 1% difference), 12-24 wide-angle zoom, great ergonomics, extensive accessories, etc.

By the way, my father shoots Canon, my uncle too. Me I prefer Nikon. Should I start a fight ?

Charles Mackay , July 23, 2004; 08:42 A.M.

Re flash: There is NO TTL CONTROL AT ALL (not just loss of "matrix" metering) with any Nikon flash other than the new SB-600/800. If you set the flash to TTL on any other Nikon flash the shutter will not fire - you must use manual or non-TTL auto.

So you get to buy a new light for $300. This is annoying if you bought a "digitally compatible" SB-80DX a year ago as I did.

Beyond that I find the camera awkward to hold and sort of goofy ergonomically, but as it is the only digital offering from Nikon other than the D2H, and the FujiS series are more expensive (at least until you buy new lights for the D70)it is probably an OK choice. Nikon made a bunch of trade-offs, producing a very capable camera at a reasonable price.

Michael Draper , August 01, 2004; 12:17 P.M.

I am getting the D70 and the reports looks good. Can any one tell me if they are having problems in delivery in uk I have been told by jessops that I could wait for 5 weeks?

Dmitriy Belenko , August 02, 2004; 11:20 P.M.

2 Johannes S.: You're so obviously a Canon fanboi, it's not even funny. D70 (which I now own) blows away 10D (which I used to own) both in terms of focusing AND image quality. I don't care much about ISO 100, or tiny bit of noise in the sky that I'll never see in the print. I do care about sharpness (D70 with kit lens blows away 10D with 24-70 f/2.8L here), speed (just the other day I saw a funny colored car coming my way from the intersection - with 10D this frame would be lost, with D70 I took 3 frames before the car passed me), and color rendition (try to take pictures of small children with your Canon camera, and make their hands and feet look good - impossible, the damn thing gives them "frost bite" look).

roumen dimitrov , August 05, 2004; 03:23 P.M.

very honest and detailed report! I've read it in three turns.

But I disagree, D70 is a prosumer camera. Just because, if it was prosumer camera, which one is a consumer camera? I think, both D70 and 300D are rather consumer cameras. E-1, *ist D, S2, D100, SD-10, and 10D tend to be prosumer cameras, but they are rather semi-pro. Which are therefore prosumer cameras? For me, these are D2H and 1D (Mk II), together with DCS Pro, they are typical prosumer cameras, whilst the only pro camera remains 1Ds.

But if we recall what prosumer exactly means, it becomes hard to state that D70 is not for prosumers. A prosumer is one buying some expensive stuff, that can more than (s)he can actually manage. While expensive is, of course, a relative category, it means here something you don't actualy need, although you can afford it, that's all. Usually it is an offended category, aimed someone believing the better technique can compensate his/her inabilities.

I am not sure, D70 deserves such a definition... I would use more neutral and adequate attribute like entry-level digital SLR.

Andy Dierker , August 09, 2004; 06:53 P.M.

I'd just like to add that I bought my D70 a month or so ago and ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. My biggest complaints are:

1. Crappy crappy auto white balance. Manually, it does quite well! but the auto sensor is a joke. You MUST set it manually.

2. The viewfinder is particularly bad when compared to a regular SLR. My Nikon N80's viewfinder in infinitely brighter and much larger. This needs work.

But other than that, my camera takes great pictures, even in very low light. The 18-70mm range is perfect for most applications! The increased grip size is comfortable and a welcome addition. The 3D flash system is as good as all other Nikon's I've used. A great buy for $2000, an absolute STEAL for $1300.

David Burckhard , August 11, 2004; 07:50 P.M.

It's a bit amusing to read about concerns about the relatively small size of the D70 viewfinder in comparison to those typical on a 35mm SLR. Just imagine Ansel Adam's concern when after wielding 8X10 and larger view cameras when he first picked up an SLR and looked at the viewfinder. Yikes!

Having looked at the D70 and seeing its viewfinder, I can say I'd rather see a larger and brighter image. But I can say this with my 35mm SLRs as well. Heck, I'd love to see a 4X5 image through my 35mm viewfinder. But understanding the physics and mechanics of an SLR, the D70's viewfinder seems appropriate for the APS-sized sensor and associated light path. The brightness given up by the use of a penta-mirror rather than a penta-prism is offset by the camera's light weight. I believe this is Nikon's first SLR design using a penta-mirror and I'd appreciate a response if it is not. Even with my failing eye sight, I find the viewfinder image adequate. The advantage is a smaller reflex mirror which seems to have less "clunk" than most 35mm SLRs which is welcome for a camera with no mirror lock up.

As far as Canon competition, I'm a long-time Nikon user who is thankful for Canon's innovations and competition. It keeps Nikon on its toes and assures a steady stream of increasingly better equipment at reasonable prices. Those who scoff at users of competing models simply don't understand the realities of the marketplace.

Yatish Kumar has written a very valuable article.

Dave

Jason Simon , August 12, 2004; 11:38 A.M.

Great image quality and fast for $1300. I agree 100% with the review. The camera offers lots of flexibility, but with many options comes some confusion. This should not distract people from buying this camera. The image quality is exceptional for the price. This is after all what we buy a camera for. At $1300, it is clear that any manufacturer has to cut some corners to keep the camera economic. If you want a larger viewfinder, pay +$5,000 for a different camera. I am not totally happy with the ruggedness of the camera, but its more than adequate for a DSLR in its price range. If you want rugged with similar image quality, buy the Canon 10D. But you're getting slower response time and paying more for the lenses. It's all about what you want in a camera. For me, its all about image quality, flexibility, speed, and form factor. In my opinion, the D70 gives me all of these things, for a nice price. I shoot a Rollei SL66, Toya 45a, and Rollei 35 and still love film photography. The D70 has given me an excellent introduction into the world of digital photography. I recommend it for anybody that is doing the same and doesn't want to break the bank. Good luck with your decision.

Jason Simon , August 12, 2004; 11:52 A.M.

One additional note to individuals that are considering entering the DSLR market. My suspicion is, from reading a large number of reviews and using the D70, is that hardware and software technology in this market is still evolving. That said, my recommendation would be to buy the best camera you can for the lowest available price, because you will most likely be making a new camera purchase in the next couple of years. I believe D70 is a good camera to consider, because of Nikon's backward compatibility with its lenses. Good luck with your decision.

Chris Min , August 13, 2004; 05:01 P.M.

Thanks for the thoughtful review. I am an amateur who had been shooting on an F5 for a number of years, and had been wanting to go digital, but couldn't afford to at the performance level offered until the D70. I actually got convinced to jump to digital with the D70 due to the review on Ken Rockwell's site. I haven't done as extensive a test as presented in the review, but agree that even with the consumer kit lens and smaller viewfinder, the D70 is an amazingly responsive tool that is a joy with which to work. Unfortunately for my F5, it is spending most of its time sitting in the camera bag neglected...

Chris Melnik , August 26, 2004; 03:59 P.M.

At the risk of being lynched by this community.. I find the viewfinder excellent! Being a photographer for more than 20 yrs, using Pentax, Nikon and Mamiya (6x4.5), and wearing glasses all the time, with most SLR camera's I have the problem that I cannot see the whole picture at once in my viewfinder because my eye is too far away (with the rubber surround and my glasses). To see the corners, I have to move my eye a bit. Sure, the viewfinder of my F5 is bigger and brighter, and I do miss the Fresnel optics to assist, but I never had any problems with focusing or making a good composition (Using a D70 daily for 4 months now). For it's price, it's an excellent camera. Digital cameras cannot compete with traditional ones, and from my point of view it will take a long time before they do. But if you want to learn how things work without wasting lots of pellicule, or just want to make some photos for personal use, it's an fine piece of equipment. I recommend it to all students... From what I see and read, much F5 technology is included in the D70, so this can't be wrong. Remember it is only a tool. After all, YOU are in charge.

BTW: Photoshop is not included in Europe either.

Alexander McMillan , August 29, 2004; 05:52 P.M.

A lot of good tecnical points many very important, but as I have not used the D70 it would be interesting, if there was more info about the reason we use camera's--the pictures (images produced). Are they any good through the ISOs? Colour saturation? Could I take a better image with a cheap throw away camera?

Yatish Kumar , August 30, 2004; 12:14 A.M.

Alexander, I would recommend looking at:

http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D70/D70A.HTM

They not only post images for all combinations of ISO and Quality etc.. but they post the same images for dozens of other cameras, so that comparison between models is possible. So for example it is possible to say, "I wonder what happens in shadow detail between a D70 and a Coolpix 3200", and find an appropriate test subject shot by both, posted with full resolution. It would be impossible for an isolated review to be as thorough as the combined database of knowledge they present.

Hope this helps.

Joseph Albert , August 31, 2004; 09:49 P.M.

The above discussion about the D70 viewfinder is a bit silly. As far as composition is concerned, anyone who has used large format or medium format with a wasit-level finder appreciates the benefit of assessing the effectiveness of an image while looking at it with both eyes-- you don't want to squint into a viewfinder when you have an LCD on teh back of the camera.

The relevant question is: do you need to manually focus the camera when the camera is on a tripod? This is something you may need to do when doing, say, macro shots. If you need to focus off-center it is inconvenient to take the camera off-tripod to focus-lock with autofocus, and moreover, and high magnifications, this isn't even possible as moving the camera changes the subject distance enough to throw off focus. Thus, it is easier to focus with the camera in proper position using the helicoid, or using a focusing rail that slides the camera position for final fine-tuning of focus at high magnifications. These techniques really do require manual focus where you can look at the area of the ground glass you want in sharp focus.

So, as I see it, what matters about the D70 viewfinder is whether it is adequate to manually focus on ground glass with accuracy? If the answer is no, then don't buy this camera for this type of work, eg for macro work at high magnifications. On the other hand the above review has a nice macro shot posted that seems to indicate the viewfinder is more than adequate for sharp focus manually.

If so, this would be an improvement on the N80 which I find difficult to focus manually.

Cheers,

Joseph Albert

James Philp , September 06, 2004; 02:40 A.M.

I bought the D70 in Sweden while on holiday, and got a good deal compared with the guide price for the camera in the UK (?7 off amazon price, and no 4-6 week delivery!). As my first SLR, i suppose I cant really comment other than saying that after some investigation I went out for an EOS 300D (Or as you folk seem to say 'Digital Rebel' - though i wonder why so rebellious!?) and ended up getting this.

It seems that at the moment these are the only two cameras in the "sub-?1000 DSLR" braket, and that price is most definately my range. For the money, this camera just felt the more valuable. Build quality and depth of features seemed both to excel over the 300D and the couple of hundred extra seemed more than worth it.

To clarify for europe- the kit i bought only came with pictureproject (only saved by it's NEF functionality over iPhoto, but I have yet to take a 'serious' non-jpeg picture), some kind of sharing software (again, I will probably never use) and a 30 day trial demo of Nikon Capture 4, which I am seriously considering buying as you can set up some great shots and play with all the settings, leaving the camera undisturbed. You can also shoot in .NEF and truly get an idea of the potantial of post-shooting production, even at a simple level (changing the white balance and so forth), by using the editor included with Capture 4. As I already own Photoshop (7.0) and Elements the exclusion of these was not an issue, BUT, Elements would be a very handy addition to the package (a full version that is!!).

The only bad thing - a manual in Swedish! But Nikon are winging me a nice english one free of charge since I sent the foreign one back (I hope!).

So far, results from this camera have been very good. After Sweden, I visited about half of Europe, and with some fiddling, have got some great shots. Even on auto I am very impressed. Shooting in JPEG, at full resolution, using the 'Normal', 600 shots or so later I am happy. Battery life is EXCELLENT; I forgot to charge it 2 days in a row and it never ran out, a good few hundred shots later (many with flash). Superfast - instant - startup, and witha Lexar 1GB Professional (40x Write Accel) just amazing write speeds - blows any non-(D)SLR out of the water. The kit lens has been robust for my purposes, but a mid-level telezoom shall be my next purchase. I find the VIEWFINDER perfecty good, with the ability to add 'gridlines' to aid composition and orientation, and have had no issues with eye strain, despite being half-blind with my shooting eye!

The whole issue of the viewfinder is an interesting one, as now every shot no longer requires development or incurs cost, the idea of perfect composition within the viewfinder seems to be less prevalent to manufacturers. To me, I can manually focus fine with the D70, and 9 times from 10 I don't need to, with the Kit lens supplied (I can't wait to try/buy more lenses for it and really check out what results I can achieve!), due to all the types of focussing modes compatible with the kit lens.

If you are like me, and considering an SLR purchase, I would heavily recommend this camera over a film equivalent. You can find out what every knob and button does, see the effects for yourself, and snap away towards good SLR understanding before paying a penny for development (and then trying to remember what settings you had for what picture!) - As has been said before, a GREAT learning camera.

I would love to say "Get It!" But I'm sure with further testing I shall find some limitations (auto white balance already is starting to annoy at times), so I shall say that if you want an SLR, have the money to go digital, and want to 'get into' (digital) photography more, go for this, at the moment, for the price, I believe it's the best out there.

Aplogies for my over-use of punctuation (it's just the way I "do" things?!) or any spelling errors (not my strongest suit being an Engineering student for so many years!)

Many Thanks

Rahul Sathe , September 07, 2004; 08:32 A.M.

Just got my new D70, surprised to see "Mirror Lock Up" in settings menu. I have not used this yet (no remote). However selecting the menu does lock the mirror, the shutter becomes non responsive till the time i switch off/on the camera.

Matt Shacklady , September 07, 2004; 03:44 P.M.

I believe the mirror lock up is to enable you to clean the inside bits of the camera, it is not for taking steady shots on a tripod. That is why the shutter doesn't work, once it's locked up.

Someone please correct me if I am wrong.

Victor Panlilio , September 10, 2004; 04:56 A.M.

Lately I've been using my D70 much more than my D100, even though the D70 lacks an accessory grip with a vertical shutter release. Especially on a StroboFrame QuickFlip, I've found that it nicely controls an SB-800 in wireless mode. Overall, the camera feels just so much more responsive than the D100, and the daylight flash sync of 1/500 is sooo useful. In the studio, I can shoot 3 fps (my Dynalite Uni400 can keep up when set to 1/8 power) and get wonderful, fleeting expressions... write speed to a SanDisk Extreme 1GB is terrific, the card fills up in minutes with 400+ images in JPEG Large Fine mode. The D70 is such a joy to shoot with, and in P/S mode even my 4-1/2 year old son can use it.

Image Attachment: Jessica.jpg

Pete Su , September 14, 2004; 05:00 P.M.

My D70 just got here.

The viewfinder is about the same as the D100, which means it will do the job.

It's not as nice as an FM3a or F100 or 8008s, but that's life.

I like the body mostly for all the handling mistakes that it fixes compared to the D100.

Oasis Bear aka Bart Aldrich , September 23, 2004; 10:48 P.M.

Go to: http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/

Stefan Kordos , September 28, 2004; 04:02 A.M.

I do not like moire on picture from this camera and purple up-left corner in long exposure nightshots taken with this camera

Mike Johnston , October 05, 2004; 02:59 P.M.

There's confusion about the D70 viewfinder for very good reason. Obviously, as you change focal length on any camera, the magnification changes--you get low magnification with a 20mm lens and high magnification with a 300mm lens; you can see that clearly and it makes intuitive sense, right? Well, 35mm film cameras have always had their viewfinder magnfication specified with a "normal" lens, which for 35mm cameras is 50mm. Unfortunately, because of the smaller "recording area" (18x24mm sensor on Nikon DSLRs, 24x36mm film gate on 35mm SLRs), 50mm is NOT a normal lens on a DSLR. Despite this, the manufacturers are STILL USING 50mm lenses to specify the magnification on DSLRs!

This is a source of a lot of confusion. What you have to do to get the "real" magnification for a DSLR viewfinder is take the stated magnification and divide it by 1.5 (or whatever the "crop factor" for that camera is). So if the stated viewfinder magnification is .9X on a Nikon DSLR, it is the same as .6X finder on a 35mm film camera. Which ain't so good.

The manufacturers will get around to fixing this, but only if people demand it. So keep talking!

Tim Chakravorty , October 25, 2004; 12:02 A.M.

The 'Jessica' image above is in Adobe RGB which the browser cannot interpret properly, hence the muted colors. Here it is in sRGB.

Image Attachment: Jessica_sRGB.jpg

miles mute , November 18, 2004; 11:48 A.M.

I came here looking for reviews of the D70 as I am considering whether it's worth buying a 300d or paying the 15-20% more for the d70, or even waiting a little and buying the 20d. My preference is for canon since I am vested with canon lenses and adaptors but I am seriously considering a switch to Nikon if I feel the 20d is out of reach for now and the kit lense is ok.

The one thing I am surprised to see here is the constant sniping about canon and nikon. It's like listening to a couple of 12 years olds debating britney vs christina.

It seems obvious the D70 is a better camera than the 300d, that's why it's more expensive, and beyond that the 20d takes over. There really isn't anything but minor distinctions in image quality on any of these cameras, the biggest difference in any of them is the build of the 300d. Right now it strikes me that there really isn't a lot of competition for any of these cameras, you figure out how much money you can spend and buy the best one you can, the decision is made even easier if you have been using one brand or the other in the past and have glass.

D Syd , December 06, 2004; 08:51 P.M.

Thanks for the nice and informative review. I am in Canada and recently purchased my D70 kit from London Drugs. I did not get, to my knowledge, Photoshop Elements other than some tryouts versions of software- including elements, ACDsee, Nikon Capture etc on the 123 of Digital Imaging Essential Edition CD, which are only samplers. Have I been shortchanged or are the previous comments regarding the elements program included with the d70 kit in Canada only describing trial versions?

Yatish Kumar , December 08, 2004; 01:05 A.M.

I did receive the full verison of PS Elements, not a trial version. However it has been a while since the review was written, and it is possible/likely that Nikon has changed it's bundle.

Pamela Mills , December 14, 2004; 01:13 A.M.

For the record, the D70 ships in Australia with PictureProject, not Photoshop Elements. One frustration I have with the D70 is the lack of external switch to Continuous focusing. The D100 has an easy button to switch between Manual, Single and Continuous. On the D70, the switch is only between M and S. The need to refer to the menu to switch to Continuous focus, can cost precious seconds. It's also a shame that compatibility with Speedlights is limited. My SB-50DX, purchased last year with the D100, is not compatible with the D70.

Steve Broyles , January 09, 2005; 04:36 P.M.

Regarding the autofocus selection in the digital Vari program, I agree with the author that it would be nice if the camera remembered which mode you had chosen after switching to a different Vari program. But in use, it seems to only take a moment to change the AF mode, once you learn the keystrokes it is just MENU-RIGHT-DOWN-RIGHT shutter half way and you are back to Single Mode. I imagine that for those not raised playing fighting games on playstation (or whatever) that may seem to be a "hassle", but if you practice a few times I'll bet you can do it without looking in about 1 second. By the way, the above key sequence only works if the last menu interaction was changing the AF mode. Note to Nikon: I want a firmware update that remembers if I left it on single or dynamic or Auto!

Ron Stafford , January 14, 2005; 05:57 A.M.

Nikon has posted a firmware update for the D70 as of Jan 11, 2005. Go to this link at Rob Galbraith's Digital Photography Insights for links for Mac and Windows to Nikon USA.

http://robgalbraith.com/bins/content_page.asp?cid=7-6463-7476

"The new firmware fixes a problem in which JPEG photos processed into the sRGB colour space in the camera were being incorrectly marked as Adobe RGB."

Carl Dyck , January 15, 2005; 02:39 A.M.

i got the d70 recently, and i've also been playing with my dads old FM2 a bit with the same lenses. the bigger brighter screen is nice, but i just want to say that i would love the focusing screen the FM2 has in it. i always use centre point, because the other ones are spread out too far to be useful...even in sports.

the split prism would tell me where the centre AF is, but it is amazing how much more acuratly the FM2's screen shows whats in focus. the d70 has a good 6 inches on a 80-200 at 15 feet where you cant tell what its focused on, whereas the FM2 is spectacularly sharp, and the split screen lets you be even more precise.

am i correct in assuming you cannot change the screen on the d70? thats a drag, so i guess i'll be using AF, and using the LCD to see if it worked out.

Ilkka Nissila , January 15, 2005; 08:08 A.M.

You can change the screen on the D70, but Nikon doesn't make alternative screens for this camera.

Tahawar Ali , January 26, 2005; 01:30 A.M.

I considered purchasing the Canon 20d as my first DSLR but bought the Nikon D70 instead because: 1. I have loads of Nikon lenses. 2. The D70 was about half the price. 3. The bundled lens was superior. 4. The lens was cheaper by about 100 pounds if bought in kit form than if bought alone. 5. I wasnt particularly impressed by the AF on the 20D (!). I must say that I only used it at a photo exhibition for about 15 mins or so with a 16-35 lens. Comparitively the 18-70 Nikkor was much quicker. 6. Faster startup time. 7. Personal preference for Nikon equipment. Having said that I have all the respect for the 20D as far as image quality is concerned, which in my opinion is the most important issue. Unfortunately I couldnt justify the extra expenditure for the camera body alone, let alone investing in a new set of lenses etc. If I had Canon lenses I would have definitely gone for the 20D. Hope this helps the first time buyer. P.S. What does one do with the old digital SLR after the new one comes out in a few months? Film cameras somehow have longer lives.

Jason Earl , February 28, 2005; 10:39 A.M.

Originally posted by --Ilkka Nissila

"If I had Canon lenses I would have definitely gone for the 20D."

If your suggesting using yester-years canon lenses with the EOS 20D you might want to look again. After a talk with a canon technical rep he notes,"..the Canon EOS is only compatable with EF and EF-S series lenses." "..Canon does not support the use of other Canon lenses with there EOS 20D camera..". After sitting on the phone with my local camera dealer he notes, "..the EOS series cameras can use the old Canon lenses but, a lot of people complain about reported error messages with the camera and a stop in the ability to shot it with non EF lenses attached." I dont know about you but, I dont feel like buying a whole new set of lenses. I really like the Canon EOS 20D but if i have to buy one its going to be the Nikon D70 unless someone can tell me how the 20D performs with old canon lenses.

Jason Earl , February 28, 2005; 10:58 A.M.

'removing foot from mouth...'

after talking to another canon associate they inform me that all canon lenses after 1986 are in fact EF lenses. That means only one of my 3 lenses needs to be replaced. this sheds new light on the subject of which to buy for me.

Brad Willard , April 11, 2005; 04:50 P.M.

Having owned the D70 for several months now I can honestly say I'm switching to Canon mostly for the viewfinder. Nikon doesn't seem to be coming out with a new DSLR with an accetably sized viewfinder. Now I do portrait work with very narrow depth of field, and since I started using the D70, the number of out of focus shots has jumped tremendously to unacceptable levels. The reason is that I can't see what's going on and have to trust to autofocus (which isn't always correct). Sure it's enough is you're shooting the f/3.5 kit lens...but man it gets to be a drag around F/2. It's hard to get both eyes in focus, especially when the camera's autofocus wants to focus on the nose or eye brow and you want the eye under an inch further away.

Anyone looking to buy a digital slr. Go to the store and pick up three cameras before for you make a decision. Some mid range film camera like a Nikon N80, The D70, and the Canon 20D all at the same time. Hold up two and go back and forth looking through them. You'll notice the film camera will be the best, the d70 will look pathetic by comparison, and the Canon 20D seems like an acceptable compromise. Remember you need to see the frame and all its nuances to take a good pictures.

Even with the the D70s rumored to be coming out, they are not addressing the viewfinder from what I can tell. I really hope Nikon releases a semi-pro digital with a large viewfinder someday. They just lost one customer here because of it.

Naveen N , April 12, 2005; 05:03 P.M.

I've been using the D70 for about an year now, I also have the F5 and had an F4. In my experience, the D70 is waaaay to delicate! the F5 - you can use it for self defence, the D70 - uses you for self defence. The most minute dirt particle can find its way straight into the sensor if you are not careful - and then you have to clean it up in PS. I'd find it hard to imagine someone using this for the same level of punishment as an F5. I certainly hope the D2X stands upto the F5 regimen....

Ray Paseur , May 12, 2005; 07:52 P.M.

Nikon has released a firmware update for the D70. I have a link to the new firmware on my D70 survey page: www.non-AOL.com/D70 -Ray Paseur

Amit Barak , November 19, 2005; 01:20 P.M.

The D70 is indeed a superb camera, with awesome bang per your bucks. Until you get the BGLOD

il poveropiero , May 22, 2008; 07:23 A.M.

Dear Sirs, D70 users continue to exist and grow! :) I bouqht mine (used) several months ago, and I'm really happy with the quality of this great camera.. I really appreciated the complete review I found here at photo.net. Well done!

Brooke Willson , December 15, 2011; 11:08 A.M.

I've owned a lot of cameras over the last forty-five years, including Canon F-1 and FTb, Nikon F, F2 and FE; Olympus OM-1, 2s, and 4.  I've taught photography at a major University.  My seven year old D70 is simply the best camera I've ever owned.  Enough said.

Russell McNeil , October 21, 2012; 05:03 A.M.

After dithering and equivocating for several years I have at long last entered the D70 domain. Yes, I am now eight years into the life cycle of this camera - call me a late adopter perhaps but it is all that my limited budget allows. Late or not I am just as excited reading this review today as I might have been in 2004 had I shelled out for this baby when she was born. The D70 completes my stable of Nikon cameras (two analogs, an F90X and an F601) and a Sony A200 which sit alongside a full collection of other instruments including several compacts and P&S units from Kodak, Canon, Panasonic and Fuji. Whatever the particular limitations of any of these cameras, every camera I own does have its own unique personality and characteristics. I love them all and honestly just can't bear the thought of "retiring" any. So, I continue to use them all and to post selected images.


Add a comment



Notify me of comments