6.1MP Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera
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One of the first entry-level digital SLRs available, the D70 was Nikon’s answer to Canon’s Digital Rebel (EOS 300D), the first under-$1000 consumer-grade SLR on the market. The D70 is currently a discontinued model, but the upgraded version, the D70S is still available. The D70 seies body is based on Nikon’s early professional grade DSLRs, all of which have bodies much larger than most other brand DSLRs on the market. So if you want a no-frills, high quality DSLR (and you have big hands), the D70S may be for you!
Why would I call the Nikon D70S a “no frills camera?”
I mean, for a thousand dollars, you expect some frills, right? Let me explain:
• Neither this camera nor the lenses normally sold with it have image stabilization. Not a big issue, unless you plan to use longer zooms. Most cameras and/or lenses today have image stabilization built in.
• This is not a whiz-bang, feature-loaded, digital point-and-shoot with movie mode. The D70S has none of that. Therefore, this review is more focused on other things which may be of interest to the advanced amateur photographer. Since the D70S shares most of its features and specs with other consumer-grade SLRs on the market (which you can get from Nikon’s website), these days I tend to think of such things as commodities. What concerns me most is what stands out about the camera and what differentiates the D70S from other DSLRs on the market. The D70S is a high quality, basic consumer-grade digital SLR with state-of-the art technology, circa 2005.
• The upgrades from the D70 are: slightly larger LCD viewing screen (2 inch), different menu layout, and more precise auto-focusing.
Cameras such as the D70S are often sold in kits.
The body comes with a cheap lens, battery and charger, Compact Flash memory card, and a carrying strap. Additionally, you may want to invest in a protective clear filter for the lens and a carrying case. The consumer-grade Nikon DSLRs kits typically include the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Nikkor zoom lens (35mm film format equivalent is 27 to 82 mm). This lens can be purchased separately for about $115 (which should give you an idea of its quality).
Although the lens is extremely light and compact, you might want a better one (say, with higher quality optics or longer zoom range). A better choice would be the Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX Nikkor zoom lens (35mm film format equivalent is 27 to 105 mm). This somewhat faster lens (f4.5 as opposed to f5.6) is of course more expensive, at around $300.
The D70S and Image Stabilization
As of this writing, Nikon does not make a DSLR with Vibration Reduction (Nikon’s term for image stabilization) built into the camera body. Neither of the above mentioned lenses have image stabilization, which is probably okay for their limited focal length. If you wanted something longer, say 80 – 200mm, you’d most likely want an image stabilized lens. Nikon sells such products, an example being the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor lens. A wide array of after-market (non-Nikon) lenses are available for the D70S.
When considering the Nikon D70S for purchase, here are a few things to think about:
• The fact that it’s only got 6 MP resolution should not deter you from this model. In this day and age, image quality has much more to do with optics and the image sensor/processor combination than it does with the number of megapixels. Unless you’re shooting RAW, a 6 MP JPEG image, for instance, is not going to look a lot different from a 10 MP image (all things equal).
• Because the body of Nikon’s D70S is so large, you can’t just let it hang by your side, whipping it up to your eye to catch that fast shot. Also, the controls are not positioned to allow quick single-handed use. Even though I have relatively large hands (XL glove size), I find it impossible to flick the camera on with my thumb, then adjust some of the settings with one hand. Most people would need both hands to handle this whopper.
• The body has no Image Stabilization (or Vibration Reduction, as Nikon calls it). If you want this, you must buy a lens with this feature. For what it’s worth, having this feature in the lens is supposedly more effective than having it in the body anyway. Image Stabilization is a complex issue, and it in no way guarantees a clear crisp photo! Click here to read more on this topic.
• No sensor dust-off feature. With interchangeable lenses, you risk getting dust inside the camera body. Dust on the image sensor shows up as spots on your image. Some cameras vibrate the sensor to shake dust off. While the D70S does not have this, it does allow you to lock the mirror up so you can remove the lens and blow any dust off the (highly fragile!) image sensor. For more info on this, please click here.
• This camera can use any Nikon auto-focus lens made, of which there are hundreds of varieties. No need to buy a new “digital” lens to go with this camera. A 10-year-old high quality lens designed for a Nikon film 35mm SLR will work just fine (doesn’t have to be a Nikon-brand lens). Which means that like any SLR (digital or film), you can buy the camera body separate from the lenses.
In my opinion, these are good and bad points of the Nikon D70:
• About the best thing I can say for the D70S is that it’s a good choice if you’ve got a lot of Nikon auto-focus lenses from your 35mm film shooting days.
• I’ve never been a big Nikon fan (I think the optical quality of their lenses is overrated), though I do appreciate the high quality of construction of their products.
• Body’s too big–for me, anyway. Hold this camera before you buy it to see how comfortable it is in your hands.
• The D70S doesn’t do any type of monochrome image capture (B&W nor Sepia) in camera. You have to convert the color images to monochrome after capture with photo editing software. Though I prefer to capture in BW, he said sheepishly, this is theoretically a bad thing. Why?
- Shooting in color gives you more flexibility after capture– you can choose to use the shot in color, or you can convert it to monochrome. If you shoot in BW, you can’t go back later and add color!
- Most high-end photo editing software allows for more sophisticated conversion to BW than simply desaturating to greyscale. Hue saturation layers allow you to control how the different colors are converted to BW, similar to the effects produced using red, orange and yellow filters with B&W film.
An interesting trick to turn color to monochrome in the camera: shoot through a sepia filter! This works because a DSLR won’t auto-color compensate for the presence of the filter like most digital point-and-shoot cameras will.
• Relatively small (2 inch) image display – most DSLRs today boast a larger 2.5 inch display.
• As with everything I say in my reviews, this is purely subjective, but I much prefer the viewing screen and status panel (which displays such things as shutter speed and f-stop) to both be on the back of the camera. In some cameras (e.g. Nikon’s D40), it’s all together on the back viewing screen. The problem I have with the status panel on top of the D70 body is this: if I’m composing an image looking through the viewfinder, it’s much easier to check such things as shutter speed and f-stop if they’re on the display in front of me. With the D70S, I have to reposition myself so I can see the top display, then recompose. Annoys me!
(which may be two of the most beautiful words in the English language…) though Nikon made some improvements to the D70 with its D70S, Nikon’s newer (and smaller-bodied) models now give you more and better technology for your money.