The Nikon D70s: An Affordable 6 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera

Nikon has had an interesting progression with its digital camera offerings, from the market-dominating D-series of professional cameras down to its Coolpix offerings. The 6.1 Megapixel D70s is the evolution of years of fine-tuning the digital process for an SLR – single-lens reflex – camera. It’s both a great choice for someone graduating from advanced consumer digital cameras into digital SLR and a great choice for someone moving to digital from almost any 35mm format camera.

Size, Speed and Handling
For anyone familiar with Nikon’s advanced consumer digital cameras or any Nikon 35mm camera, you have to admit that the D70s just feels right. Wrapping your hand around that wonderful formed grip is heaven to the photographer. Unless, of course, you are left-handed – then the camera becomes a bit cumbersome since most of the thumb-operated controls are keyed to those with a proclivity for their right hand.

The D70s is featherlight – perhaps moreso than its 35mm ancestors. This makes the camera easy to wield right out of the box. The Nikon kit for the D70s comes with a true Nikkor 18-70 lens; an excellent piece of glass to be included in the kit price. With the lens attached, the “heavy” feeling of larger lenses still isn’t there, so the D70s is still compact enough for everyday use.

Remember when Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun” used that famous line – “I feel the need, the need for speed?” For an entry-level D-SLR, this is what Maverick was looking for. The camera boasts a 3 frames-per-second continuous shot mode that will top out at 144 continuous frames. The D70s is an excellent camera for catching action, motion, or creating an artful series. Also, the camera has been tuned up since the previous D70 model to offer an incredible 0.2 second power-up allowing users to preserve more battery by having the power to turn the D70s on, shoot, and power down again until needed again. Don’t overlook the 1/8000th of a second shutter speed – adjustable up to a max of 30. This is the same effective range of the Nikon pro digital cameras in a much more affordable package.

The Meaty Bits – Autofocus and Matrix Metering
There’s not an easy way to describe the complexity of the autofocus system Nikon has developed for the D70s. It’s a five-point autofocus system with the new addition (new from the original D70) of an all-area search function. Further, the camera features an intuitive AF Lock mode and what Nikon is calling Closest Subject Priority Dynamic AF. What this boils down to, for the layman, is superfast acquisition of subjects with the ability to take dramatic photos on the standard AF performance program settings. As with most of the Nikon digitals, the D70s has strong low-light detection hardware that will allow the camera to adjust rather well to darkened settings, including using a built-in speedlight or to accommodate any number of external flashes with up to a 1/500 speed.

A lot of consumers ask about why the D70s is a better digital SLR than Nikon’s D50 offering. The matrix system in the D70s is the answer. While the color matrix system in the D50 takes good pictures, the D70s takes great pictures. It’s a 3D color matrix system that will measure color, contrast, brightness, depth of field and the subject area to compare to 30,000 stored images to deliver one of the most crisp photos while on automatic exposure mode. For the computer imaging devotees, the matrix is a 1005-pixel RGB sensor, Nikon says.

Speaking of automatic exposures, the D70s comes with seven pre-set modes – Portrait, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Close-Up, Landscape, Sports, and the ever-present Auto. For most users, Auto will be adaptable to almost any shot system, but the other six modes represent fantastic opportunities to really develop shooting skills and bring a reference point for newer users to the combinations capable with shutter speed and F-Stop manipulation.

Bells and Whistles – Do I Really Need More?
No, you probably don’t, but it’s nice to have things like the new 2-inch monitor on the back for reviewing or lining up shots. In addition to being able to break the screen into 4 shots, there are also modes for slide shows and even histogram information. Nikon has also invested in remaking its on-board software so that menu information is much easier to view and comes in colors easy on the eye.

Also, if you are a former D70 user, the D70s comes with an even better battery system. The new EN-EL3a batter is smaller and lighter and holds a longer charge. It’s a Lithium-Ion battery just like its predecessor, the EN-EL3, except that Nikon doesn’t currently have a recall on this one. The consumer will find that the new charger will accommodate both EN-EL3a and EN-EL3 batteries. The camera, by use of an adapter, can also use CR2 disposable batteries.

In addition, the kit comes with Nikon’s new PictureProject software for editing and file sharing.

Certainly, the consumer looking at the D70s is not looking at their first camera purchase and understands a little about the market. The kit cost for the from Nikon’s site is an estimated street price of $995, but don’t despair. Most high-end shops will offer it for about $100 less, and as of this writing, has deals that offer kits with 28-80 and 70-300 lenses, card readers, a 2-Gig Memory card, filters and a number of other accessories for around $1100. The standard kit is selling for around $600-700. Smart shoppers will check Ebay (always use a seller with a strong reputation and make sure the cameras are not “grey-market” items), Froogle and other sites to find the lowest price.

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