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Saturday, May 14, 2011

NIkon D70

Nikon D70 Review

Mayl 2011 | Phil Askey

Review based on a production Nikon D70
The D70, announced on 28th January 2004 is Nikon's answer to the new sub-$1,000 digital SLR market, its clear competition being the Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel) announced last August. The D70 is revealed by Nikon exactly two years since the D100, the D70 appears to share quite a lot with its sibling including a six megapixel CCD sensor and Multi-CAM900 auto focus system. The D70 also appears to have quite a bit going for it which are the primary complaints for EOS 300D owners, flash exposure compensation being one of them.

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).
Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.
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Nikon D70 specifications

Price (US)• Body only: $999
• Body + 18-70 mm DX lens kit: $1,299
Sensor• 6.24 megapixel (total) CCD
• 6.1 million effective pixels
• 23.7 x 15.6 mm
• Nikon DX format (size)
• RGB Color Filter Array
• 12-bit A/D converter
Image sizes• 3008 x 2000 [L] (6.01 million)
• 2240 x 1488 [M]
• 1504 x 1000 [S]
File formats• NEF (12-bit lossless compressed RAW)
• JPEG (EXIF 2.21)
Color space• Ia (sRGB)
• II (Adobe RGB)
• IIIa (sRGB - more green for colourful landscapes)
Lens mount• Nikon F mount (with AF coupling & AF contacts)
• 1.5x field of view crop
Lens compatibility• DX Nikkor : All functions supported
• Type G or D AF Nikkor : All functions supported
• Micro Nikkor 85 mm F2.8D : All functions supported except autofocus and some exposure modes
• Other AF Nikkor*2 : All functions supported except 3D color matrix metering, i-TTL balanced fill-fl ash for digital SLR
• AI-P Nikkor : All functions supported except 3D color matrix metering, i-TTL balanced fill-flash for digital SLR, and autofocus
• Non-CPU : Can be used in exposure mode M, but exposure meter does not function; electronic range finder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster
*1 IX Nikkor lenses can not be used
*2 Excluding lenses for F3AF
Autofocus• TTL phase detection
• Nikon Multi-CAM900 autofocus module
• Detection range: EV -1 to +19 (ISO 100 equivalent, at normal temperature)
Lens servo• Single Servo AF (AF-S)
• Continuous Servo AF (AF-C)
• Manual focus (M)
AF Area mode• Single Area AF
• Dynamic Area AF
• Closest Subject Priority Dynamic Area AF
Focus areaOne of five areas can be selected
Focus lockFocus can be locked by pressing shutter-release button halfway (single-servo AF) or by pressing AE-L/AF-L button
AF AssistWhite light lamp
Exposure mode• Digital Vari-program
    - Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close up, Sports, Night landscape, Night portrait
• Programmed auto (P) with flexible program
• Shutter-priority auto (S)
• Aperture priority auto (A)
• Manual (M)
MeteringTTL full-aperture exposure metering system
• 3D color matrix metering with 1,005-pixel RGB sensor
• Center-weighted: Weight of 75%(8mm circle) given to 6, 8, 10, or 13-mm circle in center of frame, or weighting based on average of entire frame
• Spot: Meters 2.3mm circle (about 1% of frame) centered on active focus area
Metering range• EV 0 to 20 (3D color matrix or center-weighted metering)
• EV 3 to 20 (spot metering) (ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens, 20 °C)
Meter couplingCPU coupling
Exposure compen.• +/-5 EV
• 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
AE LockDetected exposure value locked by pressing AE-L/AF-L button
AE Bracketing• 2 or 3 frames
• +/- 2 EV
• 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
Sensitivity• Auto
• ISO 200 - 1600
• 1/3 EV steps
Shutter speed• Combined mechanical and CCD electronic shutter
• 30 to 1/8000 sec
• Steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV
• Flash X-Sync: up to 1/500 sec
• Bulb
White balance• Auto (TTL white-balance with 1,005 pixels RGB sensor)
• Six manual modes with fine-tuning
• Preset white balance
• White balance bracketing possible
Image parameters• Sharpening
• Tone
• Color
• Hue
Viewfinder• Pentaprism
• Optical-type fixed eye-level
• Built-in diopter adjustment (-1.6 to +0.5 m-1)
• Eyepoint: 18 mm (at -1.0 m-1)
• Frame coverage 95% (approx.)
• Viewfinder magnification approx. 0.75x with 50mm lens at infinity; -1.0 m-1
• Focusing screen: Type B BriteView clear matte screen Mark II with superimposed focus brackets and On-Demand grid lines
LCD monitor• 1.8"
• 130,000 pixel TFT
Flash control• TTL : TTL flash control by 1,005 pixel RGB sensor
    o Built-in Speedlight: i-TTL balanced fill-flash or standard i-TTL flash (spot metering or mode dial set to M)
    o SB-800 or 600: i-TTL balanced fill-flash or standard i-TTL flash (spot metering)
• Auto aperture: Available with SB-800 and 600 with CPU lens
• Non-TTL Auto: Available with Speedlights such as SB-800, 80DX, 28DX, 28, 27, and 22s
• Range-priority manual available with SB-800
Flash Sync Mode• Front-Curtain Sync (normal sync)
• Red-Eye Reduction
• Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync
• Slow Sync
• Rear-Curtain Sync
Built-in Speedlight• Auto flash with auto pop-up
• [P], [S], [A], [M]: manual pop-up with button release Auto flash with auto pop-up
• Guide number (ISO 200/ISO 100, m): approx. 15/11 (manual full 17/12)
Flash compensation• -3 to +1 EV
• 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
Accessory shoe• ISO standard hot-shoe with safety lock
Flash Sync TerminalNo
DOF PreviewWhen CPU lens is attached, lens aperture can be stopped down to value selected by user (A and M modes) or value selected by camera (Digital Vari-Program, P, and S modes)
Shooting modes• Single frame shooting (S) mode
• Continuous shooting (C) mode: approx. 3 frame per second (up to 12 consecutive shots with JPEG format, 4 shot with RAW format)
• Self-timer/remote control mode.
Self-timer• 2 to 20 sec
Playback functions• 1 frame: Thumbnail (4 or 9 segments)
• Magnifying playback
• Slide show
• Histogram indication
• Highlight point display
• Auto image rotation
Storage• Compact Flash Type I or II
• Microdrive supported
• No CF card supplied
Text inputUp to 36 characters of alphanumeric text input is available with LCD monitor and multi-selector; stored in Exif header
Playback functions• Single image
• 4 or 9 thumbnails
• Magnified playback
• Slide show
• Histogram indication
• Highlight point display
Video outputNTSC or PAL selectable
Remote controlML-L3 wireless remote controller (optional)
Connectivity• USB 2.0 (only at 12 Mbps)
• Mass storage / PTP selectable
• Video out
• DC-IN (optional AC adapter)
Power• Lithium-Ion battery pack EN-EL3
• Three CR2 lithium batteries (with supplied MS-D70 battery holder)
• AC Adapter EH-5 (optional)
Dimensions140 x 111 x 78 mm (5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
Weight (no battery)595 g (1.3 lb)
Weight (inc. batt)679 g (1.5 lb)
Box contents *Strap, Body cap, Eyepiece cap, LCD monitor cover, Video cable, USB cable, Rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL3, Quick Charger MH-18, Picture Project CD-ROM, MS-D70 CR2 battery holder
Optional accessoriesRechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL3, Multi Charger MH-19, Quick Charger MH-18, AC Adapter EH-5, Speedlight SB-800/600, Nikon Capture 4 Software, Semi-soft Case CF-D70, Remote Controller ML-L3, CompactFlash™ Card
* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area


Record Review

You can set the D70 to display a review of the image immediately after you take the shot. The camera has several different play modes and record review uses the last mode selected, for example if you were in thumbnail play mode record review will appear in this mode.


Pressing the play button displays the last image shot (or the last image in the CF Card). Press the 4-way controller left or right to view up to five 'pages' of image information (including exposure details, histogram etc.). Press the 4-way controller up or down to browse through images, this very fast but again would have been nice if the main or sub command dials could be set to also perform this function.
1: Folder, File name, Image size, Image quality2: Detail - Camera, Date, Tim, Metering, Shutter speed, Aperture, Exposure Mode, Exp. compen, Flash exp. compen., Focal length, Flash mode
3: Detail - Image development, ISO sensitivity, White Balance, White Balance Fine Tune, Image size, Image quality, Sharpness, Tone, Color Mode, Hue, Saturation4: Highlights (note the blinking areas aren't necessarily completely overexposed but are 'near')
5: Histogram overlay 

Protect / Delete

Press the delete button to display the 'Delete?' prompt, press once more to delete the imagePress the protect button to protect (small key icon appears) or unprotect an image

Playback Magnification

Press ENTER to switch to magnification mode, the level of magnification used depends on the last level used. Hold down the thumbnail button to display away controller), once you release the thumbnail button the newly selected area is displayed. small 'overview' image in the bottom right corner of the frame, with this you can resize and reposition the loupe (using the main command dial and 4-
Press ENTER to switch to magnify mode, the last magnification level selected is usedHold the thumbnail button to display the overview image and magnifying loupe
Turn the main command dial to change magnification (and hence the size of the loupe) and the 4-way controller to repositionRelease the thumbnail button to display the newly selected area

Playback thumbnail views

The D70 has two levels of thumbnail view, either 2 x 2 or 3 x 3. Press the thumbnail button to enter thumbnail view mode with 4 images (2 x 2), press again to switch to the 9 image (3 x 3) view and press again to return to single image view mode.
Press thumbnail button oncePress again (one more press returns to single image view)

Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution and sharpness, seems better than EOS 300D / EOS 10D
  • Neutral color balance, 'Nikon like' (tuned towards skin tones)
  • Good clean sharpening algorithm leaves almost no 'halo' artifacts
  • Low noise even at high sensitivities, more monochromatic (film like)
  • Excellent image parameter control; sharpening, tone, color mode, saturation and hue
  • Custom curves allows user definable tone response
  • Superb Nikon Matrix metering
  • Very fast camera operation, virtually no startup, minimal usage delays
  • Excellent continuous shooting, great throughput and 'Smart buffering'
  • Very fast CF write performance
  • Body design, finish and build quality
  • More logical control layout, faster settings access than D100
  • Lighter weight than D100, considerably lighter than EOS 10D
  • Help pages on custom function menus
  • Viewfinder gridlines (surprisingly useful)
  • More manual control and more customizable than Canon EOS 300D
  • RAW mode provides the 'digital negative'
  • Image comment attachment
  • Multiple color space support (sRGB, Adobe RGB)
  • Orientation sensor for automatic image rotation
  • Fully Nikkor lens compatible (plus new DX lenses)
  • High resolution 134,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • High capacity Lithium-Ion batteries, included CR2 battery carrier
  • Superb value for money, better still than the EOS 300D (Digital Rebel)

Conclusion - Cons

  • Moiré / maze artifact pattern visible in certain images at the limit of resolution
  • Bug which incorrectly tags images as Adobe RGB (we expect a firmware fix)
  • Vignetting / lens shading on the AF-S DX 18-70mm lens at 18 mm, F3.5
  • Still a very average automatic white balance performance, we expected more
  • No Kelvin white balance selection in-camera
  • Can't match the EOS 300D's silky smooth ISO 100 (low noise)
  • ISO sensitivity not displayed on viewfinder status bar while being changed
  • PictureProject feels like a step backwards, I recommend sticking with Nikon View
  • USB connection labeled as USB 2 but only supports USB 1.1 transfer speeds
  • Some reported quality control problems with early cameras (we did not experience this)
  • No vertical grip (portrait grip / battery pack) available
  • It's a pity RAW+JPEG only captures a Basic quality JPEG

Overall conclusion

Shortly after Canon announced the EOS 300D (Digital Rebel) and it made its way into reviewers hands it was fairly clear that Canon were offering a formidable package at an excellent price which would be the mark for affordable digital SLR's of the future, with image quality almost identical to the EOS 10D and a sub-$1000 price it caused a significant ripple in the market. Now however it's clear that Nikon were well aware of this and had the D70 up their sleeve, a camera which is a significant step ahead of the EOS 300D in terms of build quality and feature set and a match, and in some instances better from an image quality point of view.
Nikon have achieved three major improvements with the D70 (compared to the competition / the D100): (1) They have improved the performance of the camera, with its instant on availability, very fast shutter release, superb continuous shooting and image processing speed and smart use of its buffer. (2) They have maintained build quality while still delivering a smaller and lighter camera, the D70 doesn't feel much less well built than the D100 but is lighter, it certainly feels much more like $1000 worth of camera than the EOS 300D could. (3) They have improved image sharpness and detail, while we could niggle about moiré the compromise between artifacts and sharpness is worth it, in many instances the D70 delivering more detail than our previous benchmark, the EOS 300D / EOS 10D CMOS sensor.
There's not much more for me to add other than I am very pleased to see Nikon stepping up with a quality camera which doesn't compromise on build quality, feature set or image quality and yet offers superb value for money. There's no risk involved in the D70's slightly higher price compared to the EOS 300D (Digital Rebel), it's absolutely worth it.
Highly Recommended
So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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