Nikon D70s DSLR

D70s Update


How different is the D70s from the original D70? How much is that little "s" going to cost you?

Different? Not a great deal. But it will save you $100 (perhaps more) when you buy it!

That's always a good deal.

Nikon has done something very nice for its customers. They have increased several features--things that will make you smile--while retaining virtually all of the performance points of the original model and extending the model life of the camera, saving buyers a hundred bucks. Why would they do that?

The original D70 was a breakthrough camera. So many features for so little money. Image quality was quite good, feature count was way higher than anything else for the money and prints up to 13 x 19 (about the largest "affordable" printer size available) were eye-poppingly clear, colorful and sharp.

Its prime competitor, the Canon EOS 300D Digital Rebel, had been introduced a year before the D70 and pretty much had owned the market. Billions of them had been made and they turned a market on its nose. Nikon's development of the D70 was on a later schedule and when it appeared, the competitive edge that the Canon Rebel enjoyed evaporated overnight. But Canon wasn't asleep at the switch. They had other things in mind. The Rebel XT has a marginally larger image.

8MP sounds much larger than 6MP, but it's not. Liner pixel count between the two are 3008 and 3456 pixels. At 19 inch wide images, the Nikon packs 158 pixels into every inch of paper. The Rebel XT plants 182 into the same inch. 24 more pixels in an inch of page is pretty close to negligible at these scales.

What was of much more importance was that the Rebel XT was far, far more camera than the original Rebel. I speak from experience, having both, and having written eBooks on both. The Canon Rebel 300D can become a very capable camera in experienced hands (and the eBook about it transfers large barrels of experience into user's heads) but the Rebel XT is more targeted to compete with the D70.

At this point in the evolution of DSLRs, Nikon boldly adjusted the playing field by increasing the D70's features, memory, monitor, menu system and colorimetry by smaller steps--then reduced its price--and kept it in the line while they concentrated on developing their next SuperCam, the D200. (The D2X had already been designed by then.)

None of the superlative features of the D70 are missing in the D70s. All the flash features, fast ergonomics, AF, AE, review and menu options are present. It's just a bit better and kinder on your wallet.

What's New in the D70s?

• The monitor is almost a quarter of an inch larger, but the pixel count of the monitor image is the same. It's just easier to see.

• The menu is a tad more readable with an improved color scheme. If you have a D70, you can add this feature via the V2.0 Firmware upgrade available here.

• Internal memory--vital when shooting a string of images or several RAW images in a row--is doubled. Where the worst-case-scenario of the D70 was nine shots, the D70s will gather 18. In real live situations with a fast CF Card, these numbers actually are considerably higher.

• The D70s has an Area Search Priority function for its Auto-Focus system. By selecting this, all of the focus sensors become active at once and the nearest detected object is focused on. Handy, but not earth-shattering. All other AF functions are the same.

• The D70s comes with the newer EN-EL3a battery which has 1500MAh versus the EN-EL3's 1400MAh. Big deal? I think not. But an improvement nonetheless.

• USB data transfers from the D70s are via USB 2.0 and thus are faster. Hooked to a USB 1.0 machine and transfers go at a lower speed. The D70 was USB 1.1 compliant.

• Shutter lag is a few milliseconds faster. Read Imaging Resource's comparison page for details.

Where is it less than the D70?

• It's scarcely a millimeter smaller, with every button the same place as its older brother.

• It weighs a tad less. 21 ounces versus the D70's 23.9 oz. (600g vs 683g)

• A few of the timings are different. Startup is about 1/3 second slower. All together now: "Awwww." Sarcasm aside, you will hardly miss it.

• It takes a tad longer to display an image after it has been taken. Here the delay is around half of a second. It's still on the screen faster than you can pull the camera from your eye to see it, so this one also goes into the Big Fizz category.


Nikon did a killer job when they produced the D70. Then they tweaked it with some improvements and gave it a second life as the D70s. If you have either one, you won't be missing anything significant that the other one has.

No, if you have the D70, selling it to get the D70s is NOT a good idea. I'm sure Nikon doesn't want me to say that, but it's a factoid.

If you want to consider the upgrade path and recycle all your Nikkor lenses into a Next Camera--start looking at the D200.

The B List: (D50 / D40)

Want a solid, but lesser camera? Nikon has been doing their homework. The capable, 6MP D50 and newer D40 cameras may be exactly what you need. These are basic DSLRs that concentrate on focusing, exposing and zooming while allowing access to the full range of Nikon optics, including the more exotic and extreme ones.

Fisheyes, teles, VR zooms and Micro-Nikkors are all available to D50 / D40 users without reservation. No, they won't take the manual external-linked legacy optics or AF lenses from the 1980s, but they work just fine with all the newer lenses and most accessories.

Student photographers will be delighted to work with the Nikon D40. Here's a Nikon camera + lens for a cash outlay every father will love. While many may view it as a "mere" student camera, it has every bit as good an image as the original D70--actually a bit more refined--and covers about 91.5% of the D70's feature set. More if the criterion for comparison is based on features used per image exposed.

D40 cameras have

  • A beautiful 2.5-inch monitor
  • High-sensor count matrix meter (420 RGB sensors)
  • SD card media
  • Programmable FUNC button
  • 1/500 sec flash sync
  • JPEG & NEF (RAW) images
  • 2.5 fps continuous mode
  • Predictive continuous focus mode
  • B&W shooting mode
  • AF assist lamp
  • Optimize image controls
  • ISO 200-3200 (Hi)
  • A $599 price tag with an 18-55mm Nikkor DX II zoom lens.

It deletes some things from D80 / D70 / D50 models

  • No iTTL Commander Mode (but works with SB-800/600s in other ways)
  • Only 3-area focus system
  • No internal AF motor for non-AF-S lenses
  • No DOF preview button
  • LCD data display
  • No Bracketing mode
  • Pentamirror (not a block pentaprism)
  • No "Night Landscape" Vari-program exposure mode.

After inspecting this list, informed photographers see things novices might miss:

  • The DOF button? Not a big deal at all. Ground-glass DOF inspection is notoriously rudimentary on ANY brand or model of DSLR. You will always see more on the monitor by zooming into the playback of a test image if viewing conditions are favorable
  • Lack of i-TTL Commander mode will be missed.
  • Lack of Bracketing mode will be missed.
  • Lack of Night Landscape won't be missed.
  • The AF motor is only good for older non-electronic lenses with mechanical links to the camera body for focus mojo. Unless you have a shelf full of these legacy relics, fuggeddaboudit. You can still use these old timers manually.
  • No LCD? The D40 does its data on the large, bright monitor.
  • Pentamirror? A tad dimmer than a pentaprism, it is lighter and presents a bit smaller image. Tip: Get the Nikon DK-21M viewfinder accessory ($30US). It magnifies the view to 117% of its original size. Aha! Now it's as big as the best.
  • Three-area focus? It's better than one. The D80 has 11. This is a good reason this camera costs less than half of the D80.

Here's a more complete rundown.


The eBook for the D70/D70s

Speaking of writing, at this hour the eBook, "DSLR: Nikon D70" is available.

It's out now, and 99.5% of the D70s is in this camera, so armed with the info above, it's an excellent fit to the camera you know and love.

A huge--and I mean HUGE--amount of data, camera specific special techniques, problem solving procedures, operational short-cuts, headache prescriptions, shot achieving tips, smart camera tricks and D70/D70s lore you've never seen anywhere else is within its pages.



Note: Photography and artwork by Peter iNova. ©2006 Peter iNova, all rights reserved.

Read the news from the digital camera testers:

DPReview (Askey): Click here. (no particular D70s Update)
Steve's Digicams: Click
Imaging Resource: Click
here. (A complete D70s Update here.)

Get the eBooks. DSLR series titles available.
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© 2006 Peter iNova. All rights reserved. Do not reprint. Simply add a link to this page.