Top positive review
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Nikon's low price D-SLR is a high quality performer
on 27 May 2004
I've now owned my Nikon D70 for just over a month, and have already taken over 1300 photographs with it. Overall I can hardly fault the camera. It feels very solid, professional, and has controls that are nigh-on perfectly laid out (for my average size hands, anyway). The camera body and the lens are great to handle, the body has rubber inserts where your hand contacts it so it feels secure to grip. The CompactFlash door is metal hinged and feels sturdy enough for years of use (although because I have a 4Gb Hitachi Microdrive in the camera, and upload images from it to the PC via the USB 1.2 port, the drive therefore doesn't need to be removed very often). The camera takes a Li-ion rechargeable battery which seems to last for ever (well, to be more accurate, over 400 shots - some taken with the built-in flash, and most reviewed on the LCD screen afterwards).
All main functions are generally 'one-stage' operations, involving pressing a button on the camera and rotating either the main or sub-command dials. This greatly enhances the camera's ease and speed of operation. The need to access menus is minimised, unless the photographer is setting up some custom function. But when this needs to be done, the LCD screen on the camera back is bright, clear and the menus are logical and easy to navigate. The scope for customising the camera functions is wide, and the more experienced photographer has plenty of opportunity to set things just how they like them.
The images from the camera are generally outstanding. Although I have to admit I downloaded and installed a 'custom tone curve' to the camera that alters its tendency to underexpose (which resulted in slightly darker images than I wanted). The custom curve adds around +0.5 EV to each shot, but only in the mid-tones. (All the information you could ever want on the subject can be found in the D70 forum area of dpreview.com.)
The 'kit lens' that is supplied is a great bargain too. It feels very solid, with its chunky rubber zoom and focusing grips and metal bayonet mount. Its performance is great, and it covers a very useful range; 18-70mm is equivalent to 27-105 on a 35mm camera, so you're getting true wideangle through portrait to low telephoto range.
It's a shame that Nikon only include a 30 day trial version of their Capture 4.1 software on the CD with the camera. This software allows advanced post-processing of the NEF RAW files that are the best quality images the camera can save. It would be fairer for this software to be part of the package - as it is, if you want to continue using it after 30 days, it'll cost an extra £100 or so to register. This is a bit of a mean hidden extra cost. However, installing the software also installs a plug-in for Photoshop, which allows the NEF files to be opened directly by that program. As I'm a long-time Photoshop user, and the plug-in stays active after the trial period ends, I'm content to forego the extra features of NC 4.1 and do all my post-processing in Photoshop.
Another minor gripe is the ease with which dust can get onto the AA filter. This can happen when the lens is removed from the camera, and particles get inside the camera body. This has already happened to my D70, even though I've only changed lenses once. It means you either take it to a dealer to be cleaned, or be brave, equip yourself with the right tools and do it yourself (which is what I plan to do), or live with specks on your images and remove them with the 'clone' brush in Photoshop when necessary (which is what I'm doing until I have my sensor cleaning kit together). But the dust problem is one that all digital SLR cameras suffer from and which currently only one - The Olympus E1 - deals with effectively by vibrating dust off the sensor each time it's switched on.
All in all, I'm totally blown away by the quality of this camera. I've used the more expensive Fuji S2 Pro and the cheaper Canon 300D. As far as image quality is concerned, they're all capable of superb results. But for me, the Nikon handles better than them both and has a more 'quality' feel.
• Great price
• Instantaneous start-up time
• Well laid-out and easily customised controls
• Fast and very accurate auto focusing
• Accurate exposure metering
• Versatile flash functions
• User can upload 'custom curves' to the camera for exposure tweaking
• Excellent power economy = long gaps between battery charges
• Slight colour fringe evident occasionally on straight edges in bright scenes
• Colour moiré effect in certain tight textures
• Nikon Capture software costs extra - it should be included
• No vertical grip add-on option
• Ease of getting crud on the AA filter