The D70, Nikon’s answer to the Canon Digital Rebel, is a great entry-level digital SLR that offers performance on par with cameras that, only a few months ago, sold for around $2,000. If you are trading up from a point-and-shoot, or are a beginning professional, you won’t be disappointed with the quality of the D70. It is available as a body only for $999, or packaged in a kit with Nikon’s new 18-70mm DX Zoom Nikkor lens for $1,299.
Advanced Features and Lenses
The D70 has a 6.1-megapixel CCD, and the supplied zoom lens has an equivalent focal length of about 28mm-120mm (on a 35mm film camera). From moderate wide angle to telephoto, you should be able to handle most photographic situations from landscapes to portraits.
This lens also features two elements with Nikon’s ED (extra low dispersion) glass and is optimized for a digital sensor. This is a much higher quality lens than the standard issue on the Digital Rebel and results in pictures that are much sharper and have better color fidelity. The Digital Rebel’s performance was, in the recent past, comparable to the D70 only if you outfitted it with Canon’s EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM zoom lens (priced at $1,079-$1,349). However, Canon has just introduced the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens, which includes an image stabilizer, specifically for the Digital Rebel and the EOS 20D. It will be priced at $599 and will be shipping in the next few weeks.
Nikon has packed a lot of technical muscle into the D70. It features the company’s famous 3-D Matrix Metering and 5-Point Auto Focus, which give you a choice of focusing in the center or at the edge of the frame, or in one of the corners. In addition to the Manual, Program, Aperture, and Shutter Priority modes, there are seven auto-exposure modes preset for different shooting situations (portrait, landscape, night photography).
One of the most amazing features of this camera is its ability to power up almost instantly. Its image buffer lets you to take five pictures at three frames per second in RAW or TIFF modes. You can shoot up to 144 continuous frames in JPEG mode. In every situation the D70 had responsive auto focus performance, locking on the subject in the viewfinder quickly and accurately.
The D70 is easy to use in the studio as well as on location: it has intuitive controls and easy-to-read menus. The standard Li-ion battery was good for about 350 exposures. I really appreciated the pop-up flash in situations that required just a little fill flash, but if you need more power, consider the new Nikon SB-800 Speedlight. This flash attachment is optimized for the zoom and auto focus functions of the D70 and can trigger another SB-800 unit via a wireless sensor for complex lighting situations. I used two of these flash attachments at a wedding recently and they worked fabulously, giving me studio lighting capabilities that I could pack in my camera bag.
As great as the D70 is, it does have a few shortcomings. While it provides outstanding image quality in moderate to bright light, the noise builds up fairly quickly in low light and in the shadow areas of high-contrast scenes. If you still have older manual focus Nikon lenses, you can use them only in manual mode, and worse, the light meter will not work with these lenses. You have to use Nikon’s advanced D1x camera (priced at $3,559-$3,899) to use the legacy lenses. All Nikon auto focus lenses work just fine with the D70.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The Nikon D70 is extremely easy to use for pro and amateur alike. It has a versatile set of features that fit most all shooting conditions and offers tremendous value for a digital SLR in this price range. I would highly suggest buying it in the kit, as it is about $299 extra, but $399 if you buy it separately. Because it is a lens that is designed for a digital sensor (and can’t be used with a film Nikon) the performance is outstanding for the price.