Nikon D70 & D70s Specifications

D100 Minus 30 Equals Better?

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The shipments have finally begun, so we can now close the book on feature specifications (my review of the camera can be found here). Here are the specifications with my brief comments in italics:

  • 6.1mp CCD (3008 x 2000 Large, 2240x1488 Medium, 1504x1000 Small sizes), 12-bit in NEF. The buzz is that this is a Sanyo-produced sensor that uses Nikon-specified updates to the Sony chip used in the D100. In most aspects, the sensor is identical to the D100's, but it uses electronic shutter speeds above 1/250. Better than D100
  • ISO 200 to 1600, Auto. I wish they'd leave off Auto or only make it work in Manual exposure mode. That would cut down on the number of questions I get concerning why the Auto ISO doesn't work (it does, just cryptically in some exposure modes). Moreover, if you implement Auto ISO,the user needs some idea of what's being set, which no Nikon body to date has provided.
  • 30 second to 1/8000 shutter, combined electronic/mechanical, with flash sync to 1/500. No mirror pre-release (mirror-lockup for cleaning, though). At the Slow Sync end, users can set the slowest shutter speed to be used with flash (e.g., you can set 1/30 instead of 1/60 as the bottom shutter speed limit). Very nicely done, and a big step up, as it essentially matches one of the acclaimed aspects of the D1 series. With an AS-14 to give PC Sync out you may be able to sync at higher shutter speeds, ala the D1 series. Better than D100 except for mirror prerelease
  • 1005-pixel Color CCD Matrix meter. The viewfinder CCD performs matrix metering, flash metering, and white balance calculations. It seems to do all these with aplomb, just as we'd expect after the D2h. Better than D100
  • 1.8" color LCD, 130k pixels. D70s: 2" LCD.
  • Auto rotation of images (while viewing, too). Better than D100
  • 14 frame buffer JPEG, 4 frame buffer NEF, 3 fps, WA and 32-bit FAT support. A reasonable capability level for a camera aimed at serious amateurs. But this only hints at the camera's capabilities, since it using a new, smarter buffering system and is faster at writing files. Nikon's press release claims that the Dynamic Buffer allows shooting up to 144 frames at 3 fps, but this requires you to set the camera to JPEG NORMAL and use a card that can keep up (specified in the press release as a SanDisk 256MB Ultra II). In general, buffer limitations, even if hit, are substantially less restricting on the D70, especially if you're using a state-of-the-art storage card. Better than D100 in speed
  • Compressed NEF, JPEG, and Compressed NEF+JPEG; no uncompressed NEF or TIFF. Dropping TIFF support isn't significant, IMHO. Leaving off Uncompressed NEF is potentially significant--we've been limited in our ability to post process highlight detail, since some of it is destroyed in compression.
  • 5-sensor CAM900 AF module.
  • M, A, S, P exposure modes, plus 7 scene exposure modes (Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Landscape). Be aware that the special scene exposure modes place limitations on other features. In general, I've never liked Nikon's implementations of these modes, as they never quite are as extreme as they need to be and they limit the user's options.
  • I-TTL support (up to three wireless groups with an SB-800 as master, flash value lock, ala D2h). The internal flash has a Commander mode, which allows it to control a single wireless group of SB-600 or SB-800 Speedlights. You can also set the internal flash at several Manual power levels. However, note that D-TTL is NOT supported if you use an SB-28DX, SB-50DX, or SB-80DX. Better than D100 with new CLS flashes, worse with older DX flashes
  • N80-like On Demand grid lines in viewfinder.
  • 25 Custom Settings (no big surprises in what can be set, though some users will find not having Single Area AF and Dynamic Area AF as an external control something that slows them down). Custom Settings can be shown as normal or "detailed," but I don't see much point in having this difference.
  • PictBridge, EXIF 2.21, DPOF Support. D70s adds paper size to PictBridge.
  • 18mm eye point (-1.6 to +.5 diopter adjust), 95% frame coverage at .75x magnification. DK-16 eyecup (so eyepiece is slightly different design). A new DR-6 right-angle finder was introduced in Japan. Not sure when it'll appear in the States.
  • Exposure compensation and ISO setting in 1/3 stop (or 1/2 stop).
  • Image enhancement settings: Normal, Vivid, Sharp, Soft, Direct Print, Landscape, and Custom (controls sharpening, contrast, tone, color, saturation, and hue, available in P, S, A, and M exposure modes). We'll have to test these things in order to get a handle of their usefulness. In general, I'm suspicious of attempts to generalize settings like this, though I can see how it could be some benefit to untrained amateurs. But given the high specifications of this camera, this seems a bit of a mismatch in target customer. Also, Nikon is now labeling the sRGB color modes Ia, and IIIa (they're I and III in the D100 and D2h). The D70's target appears to be slightly different than the D100's.
  • PictureProject (apparently meant to eventually replace Nikon View) and Capture 4.1 (optional). PictureProject and the new Capture support plug-ins. Capture 4.1 is a 30-day trial version or US$99 extra.
  • It doesn't have a threaded shutter release, but has a wireless IR remote. The ML-L3 remote isn't included, but it's less than US$20. Range on the IR remote is adequate for casual self-portrait use, but not for serious long distance triggering. You need the remote to do Bulb exposures conveniently, by the way, but good luck finding it as they sold out at most stores days after the D70 appeared. D70s adds new MC-DC1 remote cable.
  • The body design is a bit taller than the N75 and uses a cross of D100 and D2h styling. In general, it looks like an update to the D100. Be aware that some controls have moved (metering) and are overloaded (flash release button), which will take some getting used to if you're transitioning to the D70 from a D100.
  • It's an all-black body design.
  • USB 12MBs transfer rate. Direct control of the camera from a computer is possible, but you have to switch the camera to PTP mode (normally, USB cameras default to look like mass storage devices).
  • The external connections are under a rubber side cover ala the D100.
  • EN-EL3 lithium ion battery (or use CR2 batteries). Same as the D100 D70s: EN-EL3a battery provides longer life.
  • No PC Sync terminal (requires AS-15). Same as the D100
  • No 10-pin connector option. Worse than D100
  • No optional extended grip/vertical release. I wasn't a fan of the optional grip, but some will lament the loss, especially since the 10-pin connector option disappears. Worse than D100
  • A new consumer-oriented DX lens, the 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G DX ED-IF AF-S accompanies the actual product launch and is targeted at the D70 customer. The optics perform well, and this gives you a fast-focusing ~28-105mm equivalent, which is the focal range most amateurs tend to use most.
  • US$999 street price without lens. Euro1100 without lens. In Japan, some stores are already listing the D70 at lower prices than Canon's Digital Rebel (300D), which probably means that there's some pricing flexibility that we'll see over time (the Digital Rebel lists for US$899 in the States).
  • Does not meter with AI and AI-S lenses.
  • 1.5x angle of view change, ala other Nikon DSLRs.
  • Weight is 595g without battery (~21 ounces).
  • Body is made in Thailand (as have been many Nikon bodies).

Note how many of the features in the above list are "better than D100" and how few are "worse than D100." Given the lower price, the D70 effectively removes the D100 from the market and lowers the resale value of the D100. Note that this doesn't mean the D100 is any less capable than it has been (which is to say "very"), just that the target for digital cameras moves forward.

Since many are interested in the controls, here's are some of the highlights:

  • It has front and back command dials.
  • It has the N75 style autofocus mode switch on the front.
  • It has the N75 DOF button on the front, close to the lens mount at the bottom and a slightly less convenient position than other Nikon bodies.
  • AE-L, AF-L button.
  • Autofocus sensor pad plus AF pad lock.
  • Delete (trash can) button.
  • Playback button
  • Menu button
  • Sensitivity/Thumbnail button, White Balance/Protect/Help button, Image Quality/Size/Playback button Dual purposing the back buttons give users faster access to common image settings, retain compatibility with previous playback style
  • Flash exposure compensation button (and options button) is the flash release button!
  • However, Nikon has once again changed both the order and naming used in the menu system, something that's going to frustrate those of us with multiple Nikon DSLR bodies. Also, the tabbed interface remains, but can controlled slightly differently.

Other:

  • An 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G DX AF-S ED-IF lens launched with the D70, with a street price for the lens of perhaps US$500 or less. Again, this is very reasonable range, and the AF-S and internal focusing make this a step above previous Nikon consumer lens offerings.
  • SB-600 Speedlight. A much needed second CLS (I-TTL) capable flash (should be available in June 2004).
  • Coolwalker Digital Photo Storage Viewer (digital wallet type device)! While the idea of digital wallet type devices is obvious and potentially useful, in practice they've been a disappointment for two primary reasons: (1) battery life is abysmal, and (2) any drive failure can result in the catastrophic loss of many photos. Because of #1, you don't use them in the field, you use them in the hotel room after a day's shoot. Because of #2 you bring a laptop just in case you need to run a recovery utility on the drive. Which means that in practice you might as well just bring the images into your laptop. We'll see if Nikon has added anything to the mix that breaks this Catch 22 situation and makes the Coolwalker road-worthy for us extensive travelers, but I'm not hopeful. Available in June 2004.

Capture 4.1 adds:

  • D70 support. Obvious need given that the D70 only saves NEFs in compressed format.
  • Multi-image window (supports images from multiple folders). Marginally helpful; mostly useful to batch processors.
  • Color moire reduction. Surprise feature, at least until everyone discovered the D70 is more prone to moire.
  • Faster. Always good news.
  • Plug-in Filter support! You'll see plug-ins from at least Nik (DFine, Sharpener) on day 1 [while Nikon promised that, it didn't happen], and if Nikon is developing this correctly and supporting the developers well, this is very good news, indeed.
  • Direct JPEG to NEF conversion? I'm not 100% sure about this function, (e.g., can we re-apply white balance after the fact to JPEG images?), but I actually see several interesting possibilities with this. By converting a JPEG to NEF and then running that NEF through Photoshop CS, for instance, we could remove chromatic aberration from a JPEG more easily than before (that's assuming this works the way I envision it, obviously). Also, NEFs can be saved to JPEG format, too.
  • Option to save individual parameters in instruction sets. Much needed, and probably the number one request to Capture's development staff. Combined with the ability to batch selected images, this is very useful.
  • Ability to edit one image while others are being batch processed.
  • LCH editor (similar to what's in Nikon Scan, I believe) and Chroma (saturation) booster function.
Version history

1/26/04: completed specifications list and added my comments

1/28/04: checked against Nikon press release; few minor items updated

1/28/04: fixed number of pixels on LCD

1/28/04: Added compressed NEF only, removed Better than D100 in that category

1/28/04: Added Capture 4.1 info

1/29/04: Someone asked for a D70-specific accessory list. Here it is: EN-EL3 battery, MH-10 multi-charger, MH-18 charger, EH-5 AC adapter, CF-D70 soft case, DR-6 right angle viewfinder, ML-L3 IR remote. No other D70-specific accessories are listed by Nikon.

1/29/04 (darn, the versioning now needs versions!): I keep getting questioned about USB 1.1. While several Nikon subsidiaries list "USB 2.0" in their spec sheets, it appears that Nikon is taking advantage of a USB consortium convention that says that digital cameras that only support the FULL speed (12mbps) transfer rate can label themselves as USB 2.0, even though they don't support the HIGH speed (450mbps) transfer. Essentially, the D70 appears to support only USB 1.1 transfer rates.

1/29/04: Added "no TTL with DX flashes"

2/2/04: Added internal Manual flash power levels; fixed decimal point in diopter values; added no mirror prerelease; added DK-16 eyecup; added D100 or D70 (below).

2/3/04: Added Slow Sync option; added HI-1, HI-2 ISO values; spell-checked again; menu comments added.

2/5/04: Added 12MBs transfer rate to USB section.

3/28/04: Lots of factual and comment updates based upon the shipping camera.

4/28/04: Added review pointer

5/6/05: updated to D70s

D100 or D70?
One question I'm getting these days is: should I wait for a D70 or get the D100? That's impossible to say for sure, since we don't know what the image quality and durability of a D70 are yet, but here are the primary reasons why you'd still consider a D100:
  • Mirror pre-release is needed.
  • You want the full tonal value afforded by 12-bit uncompressed NEFs.
  • You think a metal frame body is more durable.
  • You have a significant investment in DX flashes.
  • You like having a vertical grip.
  • You require the 10-pin connector for something like the Lightning Trigger, a Pocket Wizard, or one of Nikon's remote releases.



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