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Tuesday, March 15, 2005 |
The Nikon D70 Initial Review
I was asked recently on my thoughts about the Nikon D70. Besides the two deadish pixels, of course. My reply got so long, I figured it be a good idea to post it here as well. One quick addendum is that if you can afford to wait a bit, I'd wait. The Rebel XT is coming out, and prices always drop. In 6 months you can probably have it for less then what I paid. :: If I had a chance to rethink it, I would beg borrow or steal the Digital Rebel or the Pentax *istDS and get some real in the field time with them both. The D70 is a great camera, and I'm not at all sad that I got it. My shots are great, the camera operation is smooth (but not as intuitive as all the review sites make it out to be, I had to do/still have to do some heavy reading in the manual, and the manual is apparently written by dyslexic Peruvian Buddhist monks who have never heard of the written word). But it's not the best thing since sliced bread either. Some main points I don't think are really mentioned in all the reviews, in order of importance. 1) It's big. Ginormous. Huge. I think it's the size of my head. The kit lens is a beast as well (although I should have expected it as it is a zoom). I thought I could walk around with it around my neck and tucked slightly under my overcoat so as not to be conspicuous. I look like I'm 5 months pregnant. And it is heavy to boot. A good preview is to take a tissue box, put a brick inside, and then walk around with it strapped to your neck. The D70 with kit lens is only about 2 inches shorter, and probably just as heavy. If small size matters, the Pentax is worth a serious look. 2) Viewfinder is tiny. They're all like this, tho the Pentax *istDS is better. I was fooling around on my old 1975 Spotmatic before buying this. It's like a theatre size movie screen compared to the D70's cellphone screen. If your eyes are not 100% eagle eye sharp, it's going to take some effort to focus. The autofocus really really helps, but if this is important to you, I'd wait another generation before all the manufacturers fix this problem. 3) Controls. This is another generation wait issue. Old pre-digital SLRs are pretty easy intuitive. ISO dial. Shutter speed dial. Fstop dial. Focus dial. zoom dial. Nowadays it seems like everything needs a button, and it blows. The D70 is better, you push a button and turn one of two dials. And once you memorize the buttons (took me a day), it goes by real quick. Just not as quick as a good old manual dial. One thing I forgot was that there is no f-stop dial on the kit lens. In manual mode, you turn the front dial. To change ISO you push the ISO button and turn the back dial (but there is no indication in the viewfinder, you need to look at the top panel). Once you get used to it, it's easy. And to be fair, when looking through the viewfinder, changing the shutter speed and the fstop is probably faster this way. I like the D70 controls a lot, and it seems better then the Canon or the Pentax. But 5 minutes in the store is no substitute for time in the field. 4) Underexposure. There is a big school of thought that says it's better to underexpose a picture rather then overexpose. Blownout highlights cannot be recovered, but underexposed areas can be enhanced in Photoshop and saved. The D70 subscribes to that school. Since I am a hack that does no post processing, I don't. I've got the manual modes set to overexpose by half a stop, and auto bracket a half stop more. I'm thinking of moving a full stop up on the bracket. Without time in the field, I cannot comment on how the Rebel or the *stDS handles this. *shakes fist at well lit stores* Misc. - The point and shoot mode will not memorize many customizations you make to it, even if it's just a matter of changing modes. The DOF preview button is a little hard to reach with the right hand, and I don't end up using it as much as a result. Battery life is not as phenomenal as advertised, although I did do a lot of USB transferring and a lot of post picture previewing. There is a lot of picture shake, but then that could just be me adjusting to an slr (plus my arms are tired from carrying all that weight). All the door covers feel really cheap and fragile. The kit lens is a zoom, don't expect to do any macro work (I just spent $21 on a diopter lens kit because I loves me the macro). Summary - I made the jump from compact point and shoot. I am now afraid of being mugged or questioned by the police, and did I mention that it is so large it blocks out the sun (although I would be comfortable using it if forced into a knife-fight)? I find myself taking fewer adventurous pictures as I used to. I'm still unsure if I am really an SLR kind of guy (I thought I was, but now I'm not 100% sure), but if I am this is a great dSLR. Oh, and it hasn't magically turned me into the greatest photographer ever. So in that regard, it sucks.

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