Is the Nikon D70 really as good as you claim?
Are there not any drawbacks with it?
Of course there are, see other (upcoming) posts for details. But the point is that the advantages outweigh the drawbacks by a wide margin.
Is it really as good as new cameras?
Of course not as good as all new cameras. But considering ergonomics, functionality, and image quality together, it is not beaten by many in 2012. Again, there are better cameras but not that much better. Not so much that a D70 owner should upgrade unless he or she has specific needs.
But don’t take my word for it. And don’t read the majority of tests out there. They were conducted and written around 2004-2005 when the D70 was state-of-the-art. Instead, we could look at what highly regarded Nikon web writer Thom Hogan says about the D70 in 2011. On the subject of upgrading, he says about the D70: ”Realistically, nothing wrong with what you’ve got.” This is compared to new current cameras from Nikon, not the competitors back in 2004. If you should get a newer one, there are really only two to choose from: D90 and D7000. They most closely resemble the ergonomics and functionality specs of the D70 with some added capabilities.
The D70’s immediate successor, the D80, is out of the question. Again, don’t take my word for it. I never bought one – I was very happy with my D70 – but some friends did. They were all much less happy with their D80s than I or other D70 owners were with our cameras. This has also been noted on the web. Thom Hogan says: “In retrospect, I would now say that the D70 was an excellent […] product, the D80 less so. […] First, over time, I’ve found myself picking up the D80 less and less than I did my D70 […]. As I started playing with the new D90 I found myself thinking about why I’d fallen out of like with the D80. If I had to characterize the problem, it’s that it just didn’t quite perform up to its specifications. The matrix meter on the D80 is the least reliable of any Nikon matrix metering system I’ve ever used: it’s just too prone to picking up on the tonality of the thing under the current autofocus sensor, so exposures in matrix metering wander all over the place. This is weird, because if Nikon had been known for one thing since introducing matrix metering it’s that the Nikon approach worked more consistently than any other I know of. So in a crucial aspect, the D80 felt like a step backward into the world of center-weighted and spot metering. But the D80 had other weaknesses, too. In long exposures there is an amp noise pollution that’s significant, and every D80 I’ve tried has a strong tendency towards producing hot pixels at high ISO, in warm climates, or in long exposures. […] Now that I’ve used a D90 for a bit it’s very clear to me that in the D70 to D80 to D90 progression, the weakest of those is the D80. The metering, image quality, and focusing of the D80 all seems to sag when you map the D70, D80, and D90 on a chart.”
This narrows your choice of serious amateur Nikon DSLR down to three: D70, D90, or D7000. Of those, D70 has no video, D90 has a rudimentary one, and D7000 has a little better one. But DSLRs are still not video cameras. In time due, they will become, but as of 2012, video is best shot by a video camera. They are not that expensive and a dedicated one is much easier to focus and to shoot, and has much better sound. The three DSLRs are ergonomically and functionally very similar, except that the D7000 is around 3 oz. (100 grams) heavier and has the defunct “new i-TTL” flash control system (see another post). It also has much slower flash sync, 1/250 compared to 1/500-1/4000 for the D70, while the D90 is more similar to the D70 in these respects. They have different megapixel counts (6, 12, 16) and thus a difference in image resolution. The difference is much less than you think (or the manufacturers would like you to think) but it is there and will be discussed in another post on the Nikon D70 sensor compared to current sensors.