Nikon today has taken the wraps off its next digital SLR. Though the company had announced that the D70 was in development back in December 2003, at the time it revealed little about the new model's specifications.
Today, information has begun to flow out on Nikon's competitor to the Canon EOS Digital Rebel/300D, and the first thing that's clear is that the camera's real competitor - from a feature standpoint - isn't the Digital Rebel.
The 6.02 million actual image pixel D70 incorporates the 1005 pixel ambient/flash metering sensor from Nikon's top-of-the-line models (including the D2H), a standard top flash sync speed of 1/500, wireless flash triggering (on par with the D2H in most respects when Speedlight SB-800's are used), the ability to choose between Single Servo AF and Continuous Servo AF autofocus modes, an extensive range of Custom Settings, a built-in flash that can be set to operate in i-TTL (with -3.0 to +1.0 of flash exposure compensation) or manual flash output modes, a built-in receiver for the Nikon ML-L3 remote triggering device, a USB 2.0 port for tethered operation and more.
If the photos emerging from its new image sensor (it's not the same as that found in the D100, says Nikon, though its dimensions and pixel count are the same) and new image processing circuitry look good, then this entry-level digital SLR will appeal to more than just entry-level photographers. Instead, the D70's combination of core camera and digital capabilities appear to position it squarely against the midrange Canon EOS 10D and Nikon's own D100.
In fact, the latter camera may have to work hard to justify its existence in Nikon's lineup, given that in almost all areas the D70 has the same or better specifications than the D100 but is expected to sell for about US$500 less in the US (unless the price of the D100 drops in advance of the D70's introduction). The somewhat-smaller D70 will not be compatible with the MB-D100, and a similar grip is not planned. Unless the MB-D100 is a must-have, then, the D70 is probably going to be the more desirable of the two models.
Nikon D70 - rear view
The marketing message makes it clear that Nikon is aiming this model squarely at the consumer market. But if the photos from the D70 are top-notch, it's likely that consumers will find themselves being elbowed out of the way at the camera counter by Nikon-toting pros looking for a second body, or for any serious shooter who had their eye on the D100 but decided to pass on that model in favour of this more fully-featured and less costly Nikon newcomer.
A Nikon USA press release indicates that the D70 is expected to ship in the spring of 2004 at an expected street price of US$999 in the US for the body only. A bundle that includes the camera and new AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED, an internal focus lens that includes one or more ED glass elements, will sell for about US$1299 in the US, says the release. The lens will also be available separately for about US$400 (as a DX-series lens, it will be compatible with other Nikon digital SLRs), making it about US$100 less expensive to purchase the D70 and lens together.
A Nikon Canada press release offers a release date of March 2004 "worldwide" for the D70 and AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED, while a Nikon UK press release suggests a March/April 2004 timeframe.
AF-S DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED
The Nikon D70 will be shown, for users to touch and try, at the PMA 2004 trade show. The event runs from February 12-15, 2004 in Las Vegas.
Thanks to Steve Heiner, Robert Cristina and Saurabh Wahi for their assistance in the preparation of this article.