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Camera Reviews

Short D70 Review with images

Wayne Lorimer (wjlorimer)

Keywords: nikon, d70, camera, bodies

Show pages (4 Pages)

First Contact

It would be fair to say that digicams – point-and-shoot compact cameras, hold the lions share of digital sales today. Quality has gone up, prices have come down (considerably), and this all bodes well for the consumer (that’s you). Digital camera sales have now overtaken conventional film sales, and it may soon be hard to justify any film camera sales at all.


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Nikon D70 Digital SLR, from a Nikon Canada ad. Click for a large front view of the D70


But digital technology certainly didn’t start out this way – all those many years ago. Digital images started getting noticed only at the very top end of the market, with digital SLR’s aimed at the working pro. These were hybrid cameras produced in partnerships with Kodak, Nikon and Canon. They were bulky, heavy, and very, very expensive.

The convenience of shooting digital couldn’t be denied however, and as demand for the technology increased at the consumer end, digital point-and-shoot cameras were quickly developed. The rest, as they say, is (very recent) history.

To a large extent, digital SLR’s remained the domain of the working pro. While they have reduced down in size and price, they are still considerably more expensive than their digicam consumer counterparts. Or at least they were.

In 2003, Canon dropped a bombshell when it introduced the 300D – the first digital SLR aimed squarely at the consumer. At around NZ$2500 for the body and lens kit, the 300D was still a relatively expensive camera, but early supply could not keep up with demand, although Canon sold bucket loads of them.


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An urban sunset. Click for larger image.

The question on everyone’s lips now was "What will Nikon’s response be?" Well, we didn’t have to wait long, for in December 2003 Nikon announced the introduction for 2004 of their consumer-directed digital SLR – the 6.1 megapixel Nikon D70.

Body format

Looking very much like their ‘prosumer’ D100 (don’t you just love all of these new categories?!), the new Nikon D70 is a formidable digital camera in its kit form with an 18mm to 70mm (27-105mm in conventional 35mm) DX lens. This is a slightly ‘bigger’ lens than the one shipped with Canon’s 300D (28-90mm), and is also more solidly constructed. The trade-off is a slightly higher asking price for the Nikon D70 kit, although those concerned with image quality certainly won’t begrudge the price.


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Lake Brunner - With a Nikon D70. Click for larger image


In almost every aspect the Nikon D70 oozes quality. It is solidly constructed, with a black spray-finish that Nikon SLRs are favouring these days, which gives the camera a very professional look. The large hand grip and excellent heft (weight) makes the camera feel substantial without being heavy, and balances perfectly with the 18-70mm lens. If you have ever used a late model Nikon like the Nikon D100 or Nikon F80, you will feel instantly at home with the Nikon D70. If this is your first Nikon DSLR, then it shouldn't be too long before you get the hang of driving this mean machine.

All buttons are clearly labeled and reasonably self-explanatory, although it would certainly pay the read the manual at least once before venturing out to take photos. To those of us with an aversion to large books (manuals), Nikon have included a smaller ‘quick start’ guide to help ease you into your digital experience if you’re a first time user. Thanks Nikon.

Nikon D70 Features

The Nikon D70 is a ‘real’ photographer’s tool. What do I mean by that? Well firstly, it is always ready to take an image, no matter what you might be reviewing or working through in its numerous menus. A half press of the shutter returns the camera immediately to picture taking readiness. It is almost instantaneously responsive – and quick (did I mention quick?). The shutter lag (time it takes to capture an image once the shutter has been pressed) is almost non-existent, and the shot-to-shot speed is also very impressive.

Top speed with the Nikon D70 is three frames per second shooting .jpeg images, while autofocus is lightning fast and covered by five sensors for off-centre composition.


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Unlike the Canon 300D, which has a rather limited feature set, there’s almost nothing that can’t be tweaked on the Nikon D70. Exposure compensation can be dialed in at an incredible +/- 5 stops (in 1/3 or ½ EV increments), while flash can be altered by +/- 3 stops. White balance can also be tinkered with, and a wealth of information is available in playback mode.

Lost yet? I must admit, the number of parameters that are user selectable can be quite overwhelming at first, especially when compared to most digicams. But that’s what I meant when I said earlier that this is a ‘real’ photographer’s camera. It is not for the faint hearted.

Image quality

Now all of this is all very well and good. But what about the thing that ‘really’ counts? What about image quality? Well, don’t worry, because the Nikon D70 doesn’t disappoint at all on that score either.


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Concert at ISO 1600 - Nikon D70. Click for larger image


In keeping with what I have already said, the camera offers lots of options for image capture with up to nine levels of .jpeg quality plus RAW. You can also select simultaneous RAW and .jpeg capture (at the large/basic setting), while ISO ranges from 200 to 1600.

The Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G DX series lens is also an excellent performer, producing crisp, sharp images with good colour balance and very pleasing contrast. Overseas reviewers of the lens have noted a tendency in some cases for the lens to produce a moire pattern (an effect that produces obvious grid-lines under certain circumstances). But I never experienced this with any of the shots I took under various lighting conditions.


Nikon D70 Performance

The first night I shot with the Nikon D70 was to cover an in-door concert under low light conditions, without flash! (See image above). A tough assignment first up – but the Nikon handled it superbly. I simply set the ISO to 1600, switched the camera to aperture priority f/4.5, and reviewed the images back on the LCD screen as I shot them. I was very impressed with the clarity of the photos, even at ISO 1600. Image ‘noise’ (the conventional equivalent of grain in film) was very acceptable given the shooting conditions, and I left the venue safe in the knowledge that I had captured perfectly exposed shots.

All other images were captured outside, concentrating on the kind of landscape images I specialise in. For these occasions the Nikon D70 was a joy to use. The large 1.8” LCD screen is capable of being read in even strong outside light, while the use of a protective plastic casing that snaps over top of the LCD is a nice touch, and shows that someone in Nikon’s engineering department is on the ball.

The landscapes I shot with the Nikon D70’s 6.1 megapixel sensor were sharp, noiseless at ISO 200, and highly accurate in terms of colour rendition. I also used the histogram function in playback mode to quickly and precisely evaluate the correct exposure. Learn how to use a histogram correctly and it will be your image-making friend for life!


Boats - Click for enlargement

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Final Thoughts

As a ‘traditional’ photographer who grew up with 35mm film SLR cameras, I’ve never really been able to get excited about digital point-and-shoots. I have also, however, never was able to justify the expense associated with the pro SLR cameras, so I’ve had to play the waiting game. Until now that is.


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With a Nikon D70. Click for larger image


With the introduction in 2003 of ‘consumer’ digital SLR’s, I’ve suddenly became very interested, and very excited. Then, when I use a camera like the D70 from Nikon, I get even more excited (yeah, I know, it’s sad in a way. But my doctor says I’ll be fine).

If, like me, you’ve been waiting for a digital SLR that will give you the convenience of shooting digital, with the control and feel of conventional 35mm cameras, at the right price, then wait no more. The Nikon D70 fits the bill perfectly, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Solid, responsive, fully featured, comfortable and sexy (yes, there’s no denying it) – the Nikon D70 is a superb digital SLR. Nikon will sell truckloads.

If hard pressed for a rating
(from 0 to 5):

Design   5
Features   5
Performance   5
Image Quality   4
Value for Money      5
Overall rating   4.8

Boat Landscape - Click for enlargement

You may also be interested in the D70 field review.

We discuss the D70 in the D70 forum


(2 Votes )
Show pages (4 Pages)

Originally written on October 4, 2004

Last updated on January 20, 2021

Wayne Lorimer Wayne Lorimer (wjlorimer)

Awarded for his contributions to the Resources

Greymouth, New Zealand
Basic, 22 posts

1 comment

Harold Hann (Harry7mc) on May 27, 2017

I graduated from a Nikon 601 film camera to a D70 which I loved. Over time I move up to a D7100 BUT----- I still have a D70 which is converted for IR. Note-- I would happily still use a D70 But still use my D200 with a Long lens & tripod. 86 yrs young & age is catching up may even swap D200 for a D70. less weight.