Nikon D70 Review from an amateur

I have read many reviews of the Nikon D70 which are very technical and cover very intricate details of the camera. But how does it function in the hands of an amateur photographer who solely practices recreational photography? Here are some of my observations.

– The camera is larger than my Minolta HTSI Plus. It is immiediately apparent. It is larger, broader and definitely heavier. The body is a beautiful and professional jet black and the buttons are in just the right places. Once in your grip, the camera feels very natural and picture taking is very fluid and natural.

– The fore finger and the thumb are placed just right to make best use of the two rotating dials on the two sides of the camera. I really like the placement of the information window on the top of the camera and there is a small backlight button which illuminates that part of the camera. Rotating functions and “photo mode” knob is on the left and is very easy to use. The only complain I have about the controls is that the two control dials on the front and back and not very fluid and it feels like overuse might break them. Overall, the camera is impressive to look at and very intuitive for a photographer who has ever owned an non-digital SLR before.

– Major complaints against the Nikon D70 include the little transparent snap on lid that covers the LCD screen. The lid is very useful to keep out scratches and dust but is also VERY prone to get covered on the inside with condensation from your own breath. This condensation, after a few minutes of constant shooting, is no longer just condensation, but condenses into little droplets of water that need to be removed with a cloth AFTER removing the snap on lid. This is very annoying and I wish Nikon would have thought of that before hand. The second major/slightly major complaint I have is with the viewfinder/eyepeice being too close to the body of the camera with that lid snapped on. You almost have to kink the camera to get the viewfinder placed right. I believe that the snap on lid was an afterthought and was not well planned. (which is very unlike the rest of the camera)

– Pictures are beautiful. I have played around with it quite a bit and you can see the results of my experiments at this link. The camera begs to be played with. I will try to quickly describe the strengths and weaknesses of the optics of this camera.

– The autofocus is fast, sharp, extremely configurable (I havent played with all the modes yet) and with the DX CPU lens, almost silent. The visual queues inside the viewfinder are quite adequate and the camer focuses almost instantly. I have found that I like taking pictures in the fast action/sports mode because it constantly focuses on the subject and I dont have to half-depress the trigger over and over again. More on the modes in a second. Manual override for the autofocus is very easy to achieve and there are a bunch of modes that control that as well.

– Almost every picture (except for artsy shots which use the features of an SLR) is well taken with the autofocus and the complete auto settings. I have tried all the different modes but have only scratched the surface when it comes to features. Auto is great. Period. The potrait setting, the landscape, nightscape (2 modes) and the fast action preset modes are very reactive and you can really tell the difference in the cameras attitude in those modes. No complaints, only accolades there.

– The half-manual modes are just as useful and convenient. Nothing to say there. Works just like my other SLR. The little spot meter in the viewfinder is amazing and helps to setup the shots tremendously. There are a bunch of exposure bracket, shutter bracket, exposure lock, exposure/shutter compensation modes which are just complicated variations of the basic manual mode. Full manual mode is a dream to use. The two dials control the shutter and exposure and just point, frame, modify and shoot. One note of interest is the depth of field button on the front of the camera which gives you a view of your settings as seen by the lens (through the viewfinder of course). Very cool stuff, lots to play with.

– Night pictures/landscapes are a breeze if you can hold your camera steady. I have to get a tripod for my nightscapes but the camera works flawlessly in both full auto and nightscape modes. At low ISO settings, there is a lot of management being performed by the camera and the user does little. The only time there was visible noise in the exposure (from high ISO) was after the 540 setting. At 1600, a long exposed shot is noisy but a relatively dark room still gets captured on the frame.

– The built-in flash on the NikonD70 is very configurable. There are a bunch of modes (only available in the manual camera modes) for the flash and the power of the flash can be controlled as well. The built in focus sensor is a boon because the flash is not needed in low light situations for the camera to determine exposure and focus. I do have some complaints about the flash. You cannot have the lens hood on or the flash will leave a nasty shadow on the picture. The flash also give a distinct bluish tinge to the pictures in the full auto mode. It is almost impossible to get soft light shots without really mokeying with the settings (with the flash turned on). I have found myself shooting with the flash turned off at most times. I might get a hot shoe flash sometime later.

– The DX lens is marvellous. Nothing but good things to say about it. It is fast, easy to use and the 19-70mm zoom is adequate for casual shots. There is no lens/dust filter provided for the lens though it does come with a nice hood. The autofocus can easily be overridden with the focus ring. This lens fits well with the camera.

– Another real pleasure has been the startup and recovery times of the camera. The camera starts up instantly and there is not wait period to take the first shot. In rapid shot mode, depending on the size and quality of the picture, I can shoot upto 30 shots in one burst of three seconds. This only works when the flash is turned off (of course) but is a lot of fun.

– A 256 meg Type II flash card holds about 278 images in medium setting and about a quarter that in full 6.3 Megapixel large setting. At full, the pictures are about 3 megs in size and are truly HUGE.

Those are some of my preliminary observations on the camera. I love it and it is worth every penny that I am paying for it. Some accessories will have to be purchased along the way (such as a dust filter, camera bag, external hot shoe flash, a macro and a tele lens etc).

In one word the Nikon D70 is … impressive.

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15 thoughts on “Nikon D70 Review from an amateur”

  1. Well, you made me do it — I had to go out and buy one for myself… 🙂 BTW, I experienced the same condensation problem almost immediately while I was playing around with it. Otherwise, a really impressive camera.

  2. Did you run into some exposure problems with the D70? That is, do the default pictures show up a little underexposed everytime?

  3. Not particularly… Things can get tricky when you play with white balance, but otherwise I haven’t had any problems. Are you using the latest firmware revisions (1.01 and 1.02)?

  4. You need to go out and shoot some things with color and detail to get a real feel for what this camera can do. Try some macro work on flowers and prepare to be blown away with the results. The D70 is one of the most incredible cameras to come along in a long time.

  5. Looking at some of your recent pictures, I do see the underexposure you’re talking about. It certainly looks more severe than anything I’ve encountered. Are you using a program/manual mode or auto mode? BTW, the darkness can be fixed by using Photoshop (or similar) and playing with the highlights/midtone levels.

  6. How do you feel about the 1.5 multiplier? I want to shoot with wide angles and am concerned about the focal length.

  7. Mark said: Did you run into some exposure problems with the D70? That is, do the default pictures show up a little underexposed everytime?

    Steinar: Just bought aD70S TODAY – my question is: What can you do about this problem mentioned by Mark ? (I am totally new), because I have read the same in a test ????

  8. I have owned my D70 for two years now and I am so glad that I chose the camera I did. I looked at the Canon 300D and the Nikon won me over – hands down a superior product. I never owned a Canon or Nikon before so the choice I made was on how each felt and performed for me. The Nikon just felt better in my hands and seemed so much more robust, like it would last longer. I think both take great pictures and besides the camera is only a tool. Great pictures come with practice and not just from the camera. A poor photographer blames his tools. I find that using a DSLR has so many advantages over film in my ability to shoot and shoot without having to worry about cost and I can see my results immediately. I feel that I am so fortunate to have a great camera such as the D70 to allow me to enjoy my hobby. When the Canon 350XT came out I also checked out this Camera. I think Canon did a good job of making improvements over the 300D but if I still had to make a choice it would still be the D70 for me. The Canon just feels less strong and unsteady in my hands. The Nikon feels like a DSLR should feel – like a handful of strong camera. The Canon, for me anyway, does not. The 8 megapixels vs 6 megapixels doesn\’t sway me. Just not a big enough difference. I know that the camera manufactures are pushing megapixels as a sales gimick but it is just a number. To make a real difference you would need a substanial jump in megapixels to make a difference for the amature photographer. My preference is to look at build quality and how the camera and controls feel to me. The Nikon D70 filled both of these for me.

  9. I\’ve had a D70 for 2 years and I love it. It\’s a great beginner camera and will allow you to grow without restrictions. I recently got a D200 and it\’s a better camera, but for the price you can\’t beat a D70. Check out my D70 review for my full take on this great camera.

  10. Well I\’ve had a D70 for 2 years and I love it. It\’s a great beginner camera and will allow you to grow without restrictions. I recently got a D200 and it\’s a better camera, but for the price you can\’t beat a D70. Check out my D70 review for my full take on this great camera.

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