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Nikon D70s

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Though the six-megapixel Nikon D70s gives you excellent image quality, and is a well-built, full-featured camera, it’s priced a little high given its capabilities. If you already own a collection of Nikon lenses (that you might have bought for your film camera), then the D70s makes a lot of sense for the Nikon user who is looking for a capable digital SLR. For everyone else, the choice isn’t so clear. (For more information about digital SLRs, see Digital SLR Glossary.)

Small changes

To the casual observer, there’s no real difference between the design of the new D70s and the original Nikon D70 (   ). The new camera is similarly sturdy, and offers the same comfortable grip and control layout as its predecessor, but includes slight modifications including a 2-inch LCD screen, a higher-capacity battery, redesigned menus, and improved five-area autofocus performance.

The D70s is fairly large when compared to other cameras in this market. At 5.5 by 4.4 by 3.1 inches and 1 pound 5 ounces, the D70s is substantially larger than the Canon Digital Rebel XT (   ), the Pentax ist DS (   ), and the Olympus Evolt E-300 (   ). Many users will prefer the larger size, so you’ll definitely want to test the feel of the D70s before making a final decision.

When it comes to usability, the D70s differs from the Canon Digital Rebel XT, its main competitor, in one predominant way: all of its controls are interlocked. In other words, you can’t change any camera setting without using at least two controls. While this makes it impossible to accidentally change a camera setting, it also makes it impossible to alter any setting with only one hand.

As with the D70, one of the most impressive things about the design of the D70s is its very quiet shutter mechanism. If you frequently shoot in venues that require you make as little noise as possible, the D70s is an ideal choice.

Big feature list

The D70s packs all the features you’d want in a digital SLR. In addition to a full complement of shooting modes, the camera’s autofocus mechanism is very good, providing accurate, speedy, quiet autofocus, even in low light.

While the camera’s burst rate is not great, it does manage three frames per second for about 10 frames, and then it slows down to about 1.5 frames per second. This is about the same as the Digital Rebel XT.

The D70s yields the same excellent images as its predecessor, giving you sharp images with accurate color and low noise up to ISO 800. Though its images are a tiny bit noisier at ISO 1600 than the Canon Digital Rebels or the Canon EOS 20D, you’ll be hard-pressed to identify an image quality difference between the D70s and its competitors. (For image-quality jury results for all digital SLR cameras we’ve tested, please see Digital SLR camera jury tests.)

Weird price

Although the D70s has attractive features and gives you excellent quality images, its price makes it a difficult sell. Offered as a body only for $900, or in a kit with an 18-70mm lens for $1,200, the D70 costs as much or more than the 8-megapixel Canon Digital Rebel XT. Resolution isn’t everything when it comes to image quality, but if I can get an extra 2 million pixels for the same price, without giving up any other features, why should I buy the D70s? The extra resolution of the Rebel will afford a slightly larger print size, and allow for more zooming and cropping.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

The D70s is a very good camera, but it’s not a very good value. If you already own Nikon lenses, then the D70s is an obvious choice. And if you don’t have Nikon lenses, you’ll want to handle it yourself to see if you like its feel better than the competition.

Jury Tests

Color Accuracy Excellent
Clarity—Detail Excellent
Clarity—Artifacts and Noise Very Good

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

How we tested: We took a photo of a standard test scene with each camera under controlled conditions, with the flash turned off, with the white-point setting at tungsten, and at the same aperture and shutter-speed settings. All other settings were at automatic and all in-camera image-processing options were set at factory defaults. Images were saved as JPEGs. A panel of experts looked at our test image, both on screen and printed by an Epson Stylus Photo 2200, and rated color quality and clarity as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, or Unacceptable.—Macworld Lab testing by Ben Long and James Galbraith


Resolution 6.1 megapixels
Zoom/Focal Length Kit lens: 18-70mm (27-140 in 35mm equivalency)
Maximum Aperture Kit lens: 3.5
Size (wxhxd) 5.5 inches x 4.4 inches x 3.1 inches
Weight 1 lb 5 oz (body only)

[ Ben Long is the author of Complete Digital Photography , 3rd Edition (Charles River Books, 2004). ]

Nikon D70s
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