I am an old dinosaur still shooting film with my N90s but once in a while I contemplate going digital for convenience or buying a used medium-format camera for exercise
I asked one friend of mine who claims to be knowledgeable about Nikon gear, if there was any difference in image quality between D80 and D70 aside from pixel count. He said that the D80 had a wider DR.
#4. "RE: DR of D80 vs. D70" In response to Reply # 2
>DPReview has tests for the D80 and I think the D70 where >they mention the dynamic range. If I recall right, it is >indeed wider. D200 and D80 were practically the same. Thanks for the interesting reference. Yes, D200 and D80 are very close. Alas, I have not found any data on the DR for D70.
#5. "RE: DR of D80 vs. D70" In response to Reply # 4
>>DPReview has tests for the D80 and I think the D70 where >>they mention the dynamic range. If I recall right, it is >>indeed wider. D200 and D80 were practically the same. >Thanks for the interesting reference. Yes, D200 and D80 are >very close. Alas, I have not found any data on the DR for >D70.
You can look at the D40, which I believe *should* be similar to the D70s and D50 in terms of dynamic range. I suppose the difference is mainly at high ISO and visually I think this is correct - I seem to get a little better low-light results with the D80 than I was getting with the D70s.
The D40 delivers almost eight stops of dynamic range at ISO 200 and 400, dropping to about seven and a half stops at ISO 800 because of increasing shadow noise. After this range drops progressively as shadow noise grows, note that the highlight range is always between 2.8 and 2.9 stops. Sensitivity Shadow range Highlight range Usable range ISO 200 -5.0 EV 2.9 EV 7.9 EV ISO 400 -5.0 EV 2.9 EV 7.9 EV ISO 800 -4.7 EV 2.9 EV 7.6 EV ISO 1600 -4.0 EV 2.8 EV 6.8 EV ISO 3200 -2.1 EV 2.8 EV 4.9 EV
Sensitivity Shadow range Highlight range Usable range ISO 100 -4.8 EV 3.2 EV 8.0 EV ISO 200 -4.7 EV 3.3 EV 8.0 EV ISO 400 -4.6 EV 3.3 EV 7.9 EV ISO 800 -4.5 EV 3.2 EV 7.8 EV ISO 1600 -4.7 EV 3.1 EV 7.8 EV ISO 3200 -3.0 EV 3.1 EV 6.1 EV
#6. "RE: DR of D80 vs. D70" In response to Reply # 5
From my uneducated point of view, if the sensor is the same, the DR should be the same too, but I do not know whether they use different sensors or not.
The difference between D80 and D40 does not seem to be very big.
By the way, I found an interesting test of D70 DR here http://www.kolumbus.fi/~w442521/photo/dranged70.html. The final conclusion is, "From the results above, it can be said that the Nikon D70 has a dynamic range of approximately 10 stops of distinguishable values, or 6 stops of usable range when using raw format." This is not a pro test and the technique is different so the results are not directly comparable to dpreview. But I think it is good enough for subjective evaluation and comparison of different cameras. I may rent those cameras and try them out.
#7. "RE: DR of D80 vs. D70" In response to Reply # 6
But to get back to your original question. Features aside, in "real life", I think the D80 is visibly better at handling the dark areas than the D70s was for me. Of course, I have no head to head comparisons so I might be wrong. The "better" to me comes in two ways: one, the shadows and mid-tones come out brighter than they came with the D70s so I need less pushing in PP to make them show detail (at proper exposure in both cases, so the D70s and the D80 use different curves, I guess); two, there seems to be less noise providing more pleasing results with more leeway for fixing underexposure.
On the down-side, the D80 is softer if you look at 100% compared to D70s but the end result is comparable after post-processing with the added bonus of the considerably higher resolution and less moire and sharpening artifacts.