I had been lusting after a Nikon D70s since atleast 2011, you might wonder why?. Many reasons – an extraordinary Sony sensor, allmost all features of the D200 in a smaller body, cheap, versatile, the reasons are endless. And yes, it is still relevant in 2016.
D70s is the cheapest camera (used camera as of date from Nikon) with a built in autofocus motor. I bought it cheap for approx $150 from an online buyers forum. Among the cheap backups I initially planned to get a D3200, but since the lack of an autofocus motor is a huge bummer, I wanted to go for a D7000, but then the high prices of this camera put me off. What other options did I have?? Among the older generation cameras I could go for the D80, but its color profile and output is too similar to D200, infact its the same sensor. The D80 has the 2 channel output, whereas the D200 has a 4 channel output (the D300 has a 12 channel output).
Even the basic JPGS from the D200 have a lot of latitude in editing. Unfortunately I cant say the same about the D70s files. I wouldnt say terribly limited, but the limitation shows. The only option if you want good latitude is to shoot RAW, which again is compressed. There are debates online regarding D70s’s compression algorithm, some say its lossy, some say its lossless compressed, i dont know. I havent yet shot RAW with this camera, so cant comment on that.
I am using this camera as a backup and will be shooting RAW subsequently. Whatever the file latitude, dynamic range and IQ I will get from this camera, its plenty enough for a small shoot.
Why I bought the D70s in 2015?
I personally love old cameras and i am a big fan of CCD sensors. As mentioned earlier, i was planning to buy the D70s since atleast 2011, but couldnt find a piece that was good enough and the prices were too high. Another reason i wanted to buy the D70s was that I didnt want to strain my D200 for each and every small hanky panky shoot. I needed a camera for favors that you do for friends, and jobs where the client pay is dicey, small, no budget shoots, that dont require the heavy duty D200. Cameras like the D70s are ideal for small portrait jobs, catalogues etc.
There is nothing i miss from the D200. All the important menu items I use on the D200 are all there including the custom picture profile. It would have been wonderful if there was ISO 50, but unfortunately no, the base ISO is 200. Though its not much of a deal breaker as at the 200 base ISO the pictures are noise free because of the CCD sensor. This attribute is absent even in the pro D300 which has the same base ISO of 200 but the micro level noise is apparent in the D300. Sure there is low iso setting, but I couldnt tell the noise pattern difference at the base ISO of 200 and low ISO of the D300. Another surprising omission is the kelvin temparture. I generally shoot between 4500k and 5000k on my D200. Anything above 5000k is too yellow in Nikon color schemes. I miss this one feature from the D200. Sad.
At this side away from leaf shutter lenses which have crazy sync speeds of 1/1600th , its just the D70s the stands as an old guard to the sync speed capacity at 1/500, it is still crazy given the fact that all modern DSLRs come at 1/250 or worse yet with cameras like Nikon D610, its just 1/180, which in my opinion is a bit lame. 1/500 is enough to cut down ambient light and have more light control if you are shooting with strobes. There is a lot of difference between a picture with 1/250 and 1/500 sync speed. Its a full 1-2 stops of light difference (depending on which lighting you are shooting offcourse). You can effectively use ND filters and polarisers for creative effects.
The sensor tech in the D70s is from 2005, when similar cameras like Minolta maxxum 5D, 7D, Fuji S5 pro were released. 6 megapixel was the absolute ceiling for APS-C sensors then. Incidentally the S5 pro has a Kodak sensor (Kodak sensors are legendary). The D70s also has a very high pixel pitch of 7.8 microns.
D70s sensor and the kit lens 18-70
Nikon realized the fact that the D70 sensor is too contrasty and paired it with a lens that has low contrast to offset and compensate for the sensor’s over enthusiasm in color. This lens was specifically developed by Nikon for the D70/D70s. There is neither any problem with the D70s sensor or the 18-70 lens. This is a subjective issue. I personally love rich, colorful pictures.
I did the mistake of buying the 18-70 kit lens for my D200 after reading some good reviews online. I was tempted by the metal lens mount, weight, better construction, 4.5 max aperture and a 67mm diameter front element, these attributes are all absent unfortunately on the 18-55.
Ironical, as it may sound, the 18-55 is optically superior to the 18-70. Particularly with a sensor like the D200. The 18-70 with the D200 is a downer. The 18-55 with the D200 is a winner. In summary the D200 makes better pics with the 18-55 than the 18-70.
Image quality/comparison with Leica M8 and M9
Doing some research I was surprised to come across a site called Nikon D70 fan on the interwebs. The link is here. There are quite many articles relating to the D70 (D70 and D70s both share the same sensor, but you know that already). Here the author of the blog says that the image quality of the D70 is equal to that of Leica M8 and M9..really??? I want to believe :P
External Controls and Body
Though the body is plastic, it does not feel cheap or flimsy. Compared to the D200, the multi-selector wheel is too small for my big fingers. Thankfully there is a dedicated ISO button. The Camera shares the CF card door to the Nikon D100. Additionally there is a top LCD and an illumination button which is absent on the D200 wherein its a menu item.
Dealmakers for the D70s
- Built in auto focus motor
- Top LCD
- Dirt cheap price
- CCD sensor
- Accepts CF card
- Separate scroll wheels for both aperture and shutter speed