After quite some time waiting on Nikon's product in the lower price class, the D70 is finally on the shelves. There was a lot of speculation and guessing about this camera. The true hot stuff. But we can only judge about it's capabilities when it has been thoroughly tested. Well, now it is here. With the estimated price of about $1299 including the kit lens, the first review reveals expected quality and usefulness of it.
At the end of last year, there were many guesses about it's performance. The suggested price of about €1000 brought up many interesting questions and answers, but from first photographs as well as from specifications, we could easily put it in it's right class regarding usability and quality. It was also obvious that the camera will be a bit better than EOS 300D, thanks to it's nicely shaped black body. Technical data of D70 promised much, but it was it's highly competitive price that put it near the EOS 300D. However, after the official presentation and first impressions, it is quite clear that Nikon has sped-up in the development of it's baby digital camera. They managed to combine very powerful features with an attractive price.
When you take the D70 in your hands, you immediately feel it's similarity with F80 in the analog class. Which means middle and not lower class. It has a very firm and nicely designed body that will suit many advanced hobby photographers. I can confidently say that D70, as well as EOS 300D six months ago, is revealing what the industry is capable of at a very attractive price point.
And what does it really offer?
Are you already familiar with Nikon? Do you own any Nikon equipment already? Does EOS 300D not meet your needs and you are not willing to pay the money for EOS 10D, D100, Pentax *istD or Olympus E-1?
If that is the case, then the answer is simple. If you want to enter into the DSLR world, the D70 is the camera for you. At this moment, the D70 is offering a lot.
I have stressed many times that you can tell who the camera is for, what price range does it fell into and how good the technology in it is, just by looking at the materials used, it's design and construction. Market strategy of manufacturers is simple: don't offer too much for too little money. If you don't follow this rule, there will be nobody buying your higher priced and "better" products. EOS 300D is a good example of that. Canon could made it black and mat as is the D70, so it would look more serious. Furthermore, we did see some software hacks that enabled some features, which only means that the manufacturer could made it possible in the first place. But who would then buy it's higher priced brother, the 10D? So the principle is simple and if I look at the D70 with that in mind, for it's price range it is right on the spot. No doubt it would reach even higher if it was made from better plastic and let's say, have additional ISO of 50 and 100. It would probably be the complete successor of the D100 and a competitor of 10D. But Nikon chose not to do this in order to prepare the market for their new and more expensive camera which is most likely soon to come. All of this means only one thing, everything is made for it's purpose and the consumer must decide for himself what is best for him.
The body of D70 is something Nikon did a very good job at. User who is familiar with the feel of a SLR camera, will immediately know this is it. Even if the body is from plastic, it is not too sleek or cold when you touch it. It is matted, with some engraved structure and a piece of soft rubber on the hand grip. The camera is firmly set in our hands. The layout of buttons is also very well done and existing Nikon users will find it similar to other models.
On the front side, there are buttons for lens release, AF/MF switch, flash pop-up, depth-of-field preview and AF assist lamp with connection to red-eye reduction. On the top of the hand grip, there is a command dial which can be used for setting the shutter, exposure compensation, bracketing, white balance and 3 file-compression modes.
Top of the camera is a place for on/off button, shutter release button, exposure compensation and bracketing function. There is also a button for backlighting the status LCD. Backlight button in combination with capture mode button enables quick formatting, thus skipping any work in menus. On the top left side, there is a command dial for program selection (10 settings plus manual M).
On the back of the camera, there are 13 buttons. Under the selection wheel, there are buttons for bracketing control and shooting speed control. Diopter adjustment is placed near the viewfinder and there are also buttons for exposure and focus lock. Another wheel is used for setting the exposition, enabling of bracketing, as well as all ISO, WB, file output mode (RAW, RAW and JPG, JPG) and resolution settings. On the left side of the LCD screen there are standard buttons for picture review, menu invoke, ISO modes and different browsing modes. There are buttons for WB, picture protection from accidental erasing, file output format, resolution and compression, zooming and confirming various settings. Right of the LCD is a main dial for browsing through the menus, moving the picture in review mode and for displaying information (histogram, settings used, etc.). Underneath it, there is a lock button and even lower, there is a button for deleting pictures.
So much about the buttons. I might have missed some feature, because apart from two cameras for tests, I didn't get any instruction manual so I was not able to check if I covered everything.
What did I found out reviewing all these features?
I like the feel of the camera in my hands, although for a photographer who is used of more expensive cameras, the plastic does feel less robust. However users of D70 will in most cases be more gentle with the camera and will probably never need a heavy-duty body.
Buttons are very user-friendly and when you get used to them, they are quick to find and easy to use. Of course, the more you use the camera, the more you are familiar to the operation of it and the layout of it's controls.
The D70 uses Li-Ion high capacity 1400mAh battery. Following the instructions, it should last for about 2000 shots in normal use. I have reached 400 shots and the indicator didn't move even a bit, although I often used the LCD screen. Battery and charger are supplied in the box. The first charging takes about 3 hours. Regarding batteries, the battery door is not so well-thought of. You must use your finger nail to open it and it is not quite comfortable thing to do. It is even worse for women with longer nails. I recommend you to be careful doing it.
In kit version you get a new AF-S lens, which is compatible with the sensor size of 23.7mm x 15.6mm, which is used by Nikon. Focal length of 18-70mm (in 35mm format this translates to 27-105mm) makes it a comparatively good wide-angle lens as well as middle tele-photo lens. Maximum aperture of 3.5-4.5 is still quite acceptable for it's price range. The lens is light and it's body is made from solid plastic, just like the camera's. Focus and zoom rings are made from firm rubber. At the first glance, it looks to me as it was made by Sigma. Another useful feature is a distance scale. The lens is well designed DX ED lens with metal bayonet (a huge plus for users who often change lenses) and a famous golden writing Nikon on it.
|The camera uses CF memory cards type I. and II. I have used MicroDrive.|
|The Li-Ion battery has 7.4V and 1400mAh. It can be used for more than a 1000 shots with no worries at all.|
|USB, video and AC connections are very well protected.|
|The kit lens 18-70mm has a metal bayonet, a plastic version is also possible, so be careful when buying. The difference in price might be of that reason.|
|I have tested two D70s, a new flash SB-800 and how the older lenses, like AF 80-200mm f/2.8 D and macro 105mm f/2.8 D, actually work.|
In this brief review I can already give you my first opinion. Nikon made an excellent camera for the price with it's good design, materials, features, nice lens and a high-capacity battery. This is true at this moment with these prices. DSLR cameras will become even cheaper in not so distant future. There will also be more competitive products in this price range. However, this does in no way diminish the value of D70.
Turning it on for the first time
You can quickly become familiar with the basic features of the camera. Let me tell you right here at the beginning that this is the camera which will find many uses not just for occasional photographers. It offers so much that it will suit many. However, if you want to use at least some part of the functions it offers, you have to become close to your camera. I have already described the buttons. Then there is the menu, which uses large letters (at least 14 dots) on a 1.8" screen with 130,000 points. The menu itself offers so many settings, I will not even describe all of them in this first review of the camera. In general, there are some features that the average user will never need. But they are here and they can be used if the need be. You can also customize your settings so they suit you completely.
Some settings can be manipulated without using the menu and just by pressing the buttons. However there are a few features which can be accessed only through menus: e.g. "optimize image" for setting the colors, sharpness and direct print. There is NR (noise reduction) filter for eliminating noise in longer expositions. Standard Reset function is used for setting all features on default values which is useful if we lend our camera to a friend who likes to change each and every setting he sees. Furthermore, a beep sound can be muted, focus assist lamp can be turned off, we can lock and protect the memory card and turn on/off viewfinder grid. EV can be set in 1/3 or 1/2 steps. Exposure compensation can be set without using the button on the top of the camera, so it can be quickly accessible for each shot taken. Light metering can be set for center weight as 6, 8, 10 or 12mm. We can program the camera to use bracketing in certain situations. There is also AF/AE lock function as well as setting for individual property of AE lock. Focusing mechanism can operate exactly at the point or in it's neighborhood also. There are many settings for flash, like speed (up to 1/60 for the built-in flash). Review time of photos, duration of information display, timer and remote control settings can also be programmed.
Even by this short presentation, we see that there are more features than we are used to in this price class.
I can only say it one more time, Nikon D70 is at the moment right there where it's price puts it. You get a lot for the money spent.
|Mettering the whole surface.|
|Center mettering. Different settings can be made, from 6 to 12mm.|
Using film, the quality of the photo is not dependant on the camera itself. If we set the same film in F65 and in F5 and using the same lens, there will be no difference in the shots taken. But these cameras are made for different purposes. Professional photographer who takes many shots does not buy F65 or F80 – they are not robust enough for him and they do not have some features needed. Hobby photographer likewise does not buy F100 or F5 – because they cost more and weigh more. For his needs, they bring nothing more useful comparing to the less expensive models
This is somewhat different using digital. Besides the body, here is another factor to take into consideration. It is the technology used for capturing the light: CCD/CMOS sensors, A/D converter and various software solutions, which translate electronic signals into bit array. With that in mind, the body still tells who the camera is for. It does not influence the picture itself, but we know that the quality of a photo is not completely dependant nor on body, nor on number of pixels or many features. The most important factor is still the photographer behind the camera. Equipment is there only to help him reach his goals. And with the D70, this is not very difficult.
I have so far tested two cameras D70 with three lenses: the kit lens AF-S 18-70mm, F/3.5-4.5, makro 105mm f/2,8 D, and an older one, AF Nikkor 80-200mm, f/2.8 D.
I am publishing some photos from this first test. The review is made from the user's point of view and I have invited all interested buyers to see and feel the camera for themselves and give their opinions.
Final conclusions from the user's point of view
The camera is designed for hobby photographers which are ready to enter the DSLR world, even though the prices are still a bit high. The D70 really does offer a lot. Quite more than EOS 300D which will be it's most frequent competitor. However this comparison is of little value. It is true that if you pay more, you get more. EOS 300D is cheaper. But image wise, D70 is not that much different. The difference is in handling the camera. Image qualitiy is quite the same as with other DSLR cameras. Users of this camera will rarely print larger than 30x45cm or use photos for high-quality graphics. Today, most of these pictures will be used on computer screens, so there really is no need to look for weaknesses in large printing. I always stress that one can capture an amazing photo with a compact camera, too. Not in all conditions, but in general situations you can achieve a lot.
This is just the reason I do not intend to describe each and every feature the camera has, especially higher ISO values. I will do that in the future review by DIWA standards.
I must repeat one fact though, known from EOS 300D, which I have written in the section "Matjaževa ocena" (Matjaz' grade). The camera is as good as the user expects or needs it to be. I have been warning users familiar with SLR cameras of higher classes, that EOS 300D might not be the right decision for them. There is always some hysteria when a new model is released, but photographer might soon discover that this camera just doesn't fulfill his needs. I have written at the beginning and I repeat it here again: manufacturer's principles are such that users often realize only after some time that they actually need a more advanced camera. This is just the case with the D70. If you are used to film cameras such as F100 and F5 or digital cameras D100, D1x and D1h, think twice if D70 is going to be suitable for you. Of course you can buy it for the start in the DSLR world and sell or change later. Please take this only as my personal opinion and advice. If you are an advanced photographer and you are not forced to enter the DSLR right now, think hard about D70. There are more than few EOS 300D users who are waiting on the next model or are changing it for the 10D instead.
But then again, buying a camera now, they are able to take photos now. At the moment, better cameras are still a lot more expensive. So this is the place and this is the time for the D70 perhaps. It offers so many features that only plastic body makes it not so good as more expensive cameras. Oh, and another interesting characteristic, which I don't completely understand even now, but is more than likely connected to the principles of manufacturers I was talking about earlier – it is the minimum ISO value of 200. This is just another indicator who is this camera really for. During the test, I have shot many photos using time under 1/1000s and f8. It is true what some of you might think: higher ISO with the same quality as lower ISO is OK. This is true for lenses with lower apertures and normal use of the camera, but what if we want to capture some object using longer times and with opened aperture? The answer is obvious, we could use gray filter, but this is not always convenient nor possible. I am quite sure this will be fixed, if in no other way, perhaps by a software hack similar to the one for EOS 300D. New Nikon models will most likely bring lower ISOs – for those of course, who will need it. So if minimum ISO 200 does not bother you or you know how to use it, there is no need for you to wait for the next model, because there will always be next model after the next model
So much about my first field review of the Nikon D70. More about it's technical specifications, features, quality of photographs using various settings, etc., will be made in the near future by DIWA standards. For the majority of photographers, for which the D70 is made for, this much of information is enough. Advanced users might however expect and need something different.
|D70 and AF 80 - 200mm, f/2,8 D. 200mm, 1/125 sek, f/2,8. EV -0.7, ISO 200, WB AUTO|
|D70, 40mm, 1/500 sek, f/11. EV 0, ISO 200, WB AUTO|
|D70, 18mm, 1/320 sek, f/9. EV 0, ISO 200, WB AUTO|
|D70, 55mm, 1/200 sek, f/7.1. EV 0, ISO 200, WB AUTO |
|D70, 80 mm, 1/200 sek, f/8. EV -0,7, ISO 200, WB AUTO|
|D70, 80 mm, 1/200 sek, f/8. EV -0,7, ISO 200, WB AUTO|
|There are two ways. To buy a DSLR camera or to wait some more. And those who already have the D100, should you change it or not?|
|3D color matrix mettering with 1005 RGB points does a good work. 80mm, 1/3200s, f/5, EV -0.7, ISO 200, WB AUTO|
|D70 is quite suitable for studio work, too. And the quality? As always, it depends on your customers and your photographic knowledge.|
|D70 with the new flash, SB-800. On the right side of the flash, there is room for the fifth battery. Connection mount is made from metal.|
|D70 with flash mounted. With iTTL mettering the camera does a good job of evaluating ambient light.|
|D70 and SB-800 is a good combination.|
|Fill-in with flash mounted.|
|Letters on the LCD screen are quite large. For those who have problems reading small letters, this is good news.|
Full images: JPEG, NEF with EXIF.
Photo in RAW
D70, makro 105mm f/2,8 D, 1/30 sek, f/11, ISO 200, AUTO WB
Original NEF file
At the end
I can se clearly now, individual camps will be formed for each DSLR camera. There are many models released now and more are to come.
D70 is not a true replacement for D100. It sure does have the same sensor, a better LSI processor, which is built in D2h, too, and it does have plenty features. Only the body remains on a sligthly lower level, which does not completely satisfy a demanding user.
Also, comparison between D70 and 300D is not the right one. 300D is on the market for seven months and you know well what does this time mean in a digital imaging market. However, the picture quality is pretty much the same in both cameras, which is what really matters anyway. So far, picture quality among different DSLR models is basically on the same level, especially if we compare 30x45cm prints on photo paper. There are only minor differences, which are not relevant for an average user.
Each camera has it's benefits. But when buying a camera, always take the time to consider why you need it. If you will choose right, it will be you favorite and best camera ever. Myself, I have never used Velvia, have never really needed it for my kind of work. Well, there will never be a perfect camera, but if you are comparing different models, make sure you check their whole system, their whole technology and their true functions, you will need and use. I will write more about it in the next review, which will be made by DIWA standards.