Last updated: 2004.04.24

Nikon D70 Digital SLR Review

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Out of the Box Experience

I mail ordered the Nikon D70 DSLR from PC Connection. They are a very reliable mail order vendor that I use also for work. Because they are closed to where I live, I got the camera overnight via Airborne, even though I paid for 2nd day.

The camera came in a typical gold Nikon box. Inside, a medium size white box contains the charger, charger AC cable, batteries, USB cable, video cable, eye piece cap, and a battery compartment. The Li-ion battery pack comes with a plaster "cover/base" covering the contact points. One side of the box contain the kit lens and lense hood, and another white box contains the rest of the accessories.

First thing first, I need to charge up the battery. It took about one and a half hour to fully charge. Shorter then the suggested 2 hours for a full charge from empty.

Next thing is to take a look at the camera and attach the kit lens. The camera feels great. I used to use a (very old) beginner's Nikon SLR and this one feels just like the old one. Good balance, feels heavy enough to allow me to hold the camera steady for shots, but (seems to be) light enough to carry it around for a long time. I have small hands and all the control falls naturally at my finger tips.

Documentation

I am going thru the quick start guide. One interesting point, on "how to insert a memory card", the guide provides three diagrams, one top view, to show the fact that the memory card is inserted at an angle. No one want to break a $300 CF card first time !

Formatting a CF Card

The made formatting a CF card extremely difficult -- which is a good thing. You have to press two buttons, on two different location on the camera body, and hold it for 2 secs to go into formatting mode, and press the buttons again start the format process. The formatting buttons are marked....

Shutter and Aperture Settings

Depending on which programmed mode, you may be able to change one or the other or both of these settings. Again, user interface design -- the assigned "key" is modeless. The front (secondary) command wheel always set the aperture, the back (main) command wheel always set the shutter speed.

PC Connectivity

I am a Windows user. There are two ways to download pictures from the camera to the PC. One is just to remove the CF card and put in an attached CF Card reader on the PC. My thinkpad X31 has a built in CF card reader.

The other method is to use the built in USB file transfer. On my Windows 2000 desktop it supports the connection directly without having to load any drivers. Make sure you set the USB mode to "M", for Mass Storage. (Menu | Tools | USB | Mass Storage). The CF card appears like a disk on the PC. You can just copy files on and off the camera. I prefer this method.

TV Viewing

The D70 has built in video output. Using the supplied cable, you can connect the D70 to a monitor or TV that has a composite video-in connector (usually yellow). I find that I use this feature more than I thought I would. After taking some family pictures, it is a great and easy way to put on a "slide show" at the family room with the big screen TV.

Random thoughts

Well thought out user interface, these are for professional/proconsumer, not necessary for techies. Make it idiot proof is important. e.g. formatting the CF card.

Haven't used a SLR for a long time, first thing that I need to adjust back to is that the zoom control is the zoom ring on the lens, not on the camera body. Which is of course a much faster way to zoom/frame the subject.

Issues

So being a beginner/amateur photographer, how can I find faults with the D70? Well, these are just some gotcha's that, well, got me:

  • The ISO Setting is not displayed anywhere on the LCD nor in the view finder. More than once I switched the ISO setting to something (usually high to push the sensitivity in dark environment) and I forgot to switch it back to more normal setting.

Case

I purchased a Lowepro Nova 1 AW as a starting case for the camera. It is very small, in fact it is the smallest Lowepro that I can find which fits the camera comfortably. I just want a case to carry the camera to the car, or on a short trip, to protect the camera while I am not using it. It has room for a flash and a extra len, but I have neither of those yet.

Manuals

This is quite rediculous, I cannot find the PDF version of the user manuals on the Nikon USA site. On the Nikonians forum, I found a link to the PDFs on the Singapore site:

Links

  • Nikon Official Site
  • DP Review -- a great review site with a active community of photographers offering tips and pictures.
  • The byThom site has a lot of Nikon information and advice.
  • My own (growing) photo gallery of pictures mostly taken by the D70, at photos.pkshiu.com .
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