Beware: the minute you pick up the Nikon D70, you'll start believing you're a great photographer. With a solid and well-designed body, intelligently implemented features, speedy performance, and impressive photo quality, this 6-megapixel dSLR delivers an as yet unmatched digital-photography experience for the enthusiast. Sure, the camera has its share of bewildering omissions and annoying quirks, but they don't seriously detract from its appeal. At below £600 (body only), it's in direct competition with the Canon EOS 300D, but as a kit, the D70 is really going up against models such as the Nikon D100 and the Canon EOS 10D. The D70 outshoots them all.
If your fingers aren't especially nimble, the CompactFlash slot's slightly angled position may slow down your card changes.
We loaded the Nikon D70 with a CompactFlash card, a lithium-ion battery, and an 18mm-to-70mm lens (equivalent to a 35mm model's 27mm-to-105mm lens). All that made for a total shooting weight of slightly over 1.1kg. The camera is a handful, but it's not really heavy by dSLR standards, and its moulded-plastic, solid-feeling body offers a very comfortable grip.
|Nikon piles on the quick-access features. For instance, you can format the CompactFlash card by pressing the LCD-backlight and continuous-shooting buttons (marked with red icons) twice in succession.|
See the button with the question mark? Pushing it when the LCD menu is active calls up a context-sensitive description of the selected feature.
Though Nikon makes using this sophisticated camera relatively straightforward, you'll probably want to read the manual before you even pick up the D70. You definitely have to study the instructions before you start playing around with customisation. In Simple mode, the screen displays fewer menu settings and context-sensitive descriptions, but Nikon's propensity for opaque naming conventions may still give you some trouble.
No matter what your proficiency level, the Nikon D70 delivers relevant and really useful features. Novices can drop it into fully automatic mode and simply enjoy the ergonomics of manual zoom and focus. More-ambitious photographers can take advantage of Nikon's sophisticated Vari-Program scene modes, which optimise not only the usual shutter speed and aperture but also sharpness, colour intensity, contrast, and more. If you want to go a little further with the settings, the D70 gives you a choice of basic or advanced customisation, both of which offer "What the heck does this do?" pop-up text.
As you'd expect, though, the D70 really stands out for the breadth of features it offers the truly tweaky enthusiast. The camera supplies all the essentials: there are manual and semimanual exposure modes, and shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to 1/8,000 of a second. You can choose from automatic, preset, and manual white-balance options, as well as spot, centre-weighted, and 3D colour matrix metering. You'll also find exposure, flash, and white-balance bracketing and continuous predictive 5-point autofocus.