D70 vs. Digital Rebel

Camera Comparison: Canon Digital Rebel (EOS-300D) vs. Nikon D70


After having had the Canon Digital Rebel since September 13, 2003, I picked up the Nikon D70 digital camera on April 3, 2004. Since I have both of these cameras in hand for at least the short-term future, I've decided to write up a real-world comparison of the two cameras.

To start off, let me give you a little background about myself. I'm an avid amateur photographer. I've been dealing with 35mm SLR since the Canon A2E, and moved over to digital photography with the release of the Fuji FinePix S602Z (of which I maintain an FAQ list here). In September 2003, Canon released the Digital Rebel (EOS-300D in Europe, KISS Digital in most of Asia) and I switched over to DSLR photography and haven't looked back since. I've taken approximately 2700 shots since September with the Digital Rebel, and I also host a FAQ list for it as well here. With the recent release of Nikon's D70 DSLR, I've decided to check out Nikon's side of the digital photography world.

The Contenders

Nikon D70, S/N 3008003
Nikon AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED DX S/N US2003209

Canon Digital Rebel, S/N 0460007128
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 S/N 80002116
(Possibly the first received in the US — Receipt dated September 13, 2003 at 10:04am Central time; the date of the camera's release!)

More Background

All that being said, both cameras are excellent cameras. There has been much talk on several photography forums about Canon's supposed “crippling” of the Digital Rebel so as to not compete with it's big brother, the EOS-10D. I don't know that I adhere to the viewpoint that the Digital Rebel is “crippled” — but it is lacking in a few features that presumably could have been left in the design with a few simple software modifications. However, I agree with a lot of other people (and probably Canon's marketing here) — if you want these features, step up and buy the EOS-10D; there's a reason the DR is US$500 less than the EOS-10D.

Testing Methods & Theory

My test methodologies are as follows: since it was my first day out with the D70, I invited a friend over to use the Digital Rebel and we'd go take (approximately) the same pictures at the same place. I don't care for precise measurements of the camera since other professional review sites deal with that just fine, and we'll get those results when they come out. My review focus is on the practical usability of the cameras and their picture qualities. Cameras were used on automatic white balance in programmed exposure (P) mode. ISO was left at 200 at all times on the D70, while the DR photographer varied between ISO100 and ISO400. Both cameras were using Kingston compact flash memory (1GB in the D70, 256MB in the Digital Rebel), and both cameras were using their automatic focus modes.

The Learning Curve

Nikon and Canon's ergonomics and methodologies are drastically different. If you're a Canon guy coming over to the Nikon system, expect to spend a few days figuring out what the heck is going on with the Nikon system; especially the lenses. (D types, G types, AI-S, etc.) It's a bit more complicated than Canon's system, but within the complication lies the beauty that a modern D-type CPU lens can be used with a Nikon f-mount camera from the 1950's. Canon's current line of EOS mount lenses can only be used with EOS mount cameras going back to the early 1980's. This likely won't have an impact on your day to day digital photography, but it gives insight into Nikon's engineering and desire to support more than just the last 20 years of equipment.

Lenses & Settings

Since I have only one Nikon lens currently, I decided that to keep the testing between cameras fair we would be limited to using only the “kit” or “outfit” lenses that came with the camera. The Digital Rebel would use the Canon EF-s 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, while the D70 would use Nikon's AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED DX lens. After taking in the field of view crop multipliers, the Canon is equivalent to a 35mm 29-88mm lens, while the D70 is equivalent to a 27-105mm lens (Canon FOV Crop is 1.6, Nikon is 1.5). Personally, I find that I shoot wide-angle more frequently than telephoto, so the Nikon 1.5 crop is advantageous to me.

Individual camera picture settings were as follows:

Setting Canon Digital Rebel Nikon D70
Image Quality Fine Fine
Image Size Large Large
Sharpening +1 Normal
Tone Compensation Normal Normal
Color Mode sRGB Adobe RGB
Saturation Normal Normal
Contrast Normal N/A
Hue Adjustment N/A 0{deg}
Exposure Comp 0EV -1/3EV


Out of the box and unprocessed pictures are available for review here. Please note that the D70 pictures were taken in Adobe RGB mode and you will need a viewer that is capable of discerning color space information to view them correctly. Internet Explorer, nor Mozilla Firefox are capable of doing this correctly. I don't know of any web browsers that are; if you do, drop me an e-mail. UPDATE 2/10/2005: I've gotten several e-mails from people that indicated that Opera supports color management. Awesome! Thanks to all who followed up with me on that.

As far as I'm concerned, the D70 and the Digital Rebel are both wonderful cameras. The DR has the edge on the D70 in its ISO range (100-1600 on the DR, 200-1600 on the D70) but the D70 fights back with 1/3EV increments on ISO instead of 1EV increments (i.e., DR does 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600; D70 does 200, 250, 320, 400, etc.).

The D70 seems to have more accurate reproduction of colors, at least in Adobe RGB mode. They are vibrant, and the D2h color balance sensor does an awesome job of getting white balance spot-on in automatic mode. Furthermore, the D70 allows you to fine-tune all the white balance presets, and even the automatic WB mode to allow for slightly warmer or cooler images. In a dash of genius, Nikon engineers set the fine tuning for flourescent lighting to have a much more pronounced effect; this accounts for the major differences in flourescent lighting. (I miss the old days of my Fuji FinePix S602Z — it had presets for cool flourescent, warm flourescent, and normal flourescent) Unfortunately, custom white balance can not be fine tuned for warmer/cooler settings.

The D70 is a much faster responding camera; flip the power switch and it's ready to shoot while the DR takes about 3 seconds to be ready for action. The ergonomics on the D70 seem a bit more sensical to me, but that's a very subjective statement that is best judged by you going to a camera shop and handling them both yourself.

The Canon rear lens caps and body cap have always meshed together well for storage while the lens is on the camera; unfortunately the Nikon caps don't snap together very well and rattle quite loudly when you have them in this setup. Wildlife photographers and professional stalkers (hah) need to beware of this potential noise issue. I love the fact that the D70 has a protective screen over the back LCD panel to keep my noseprints off the screen.

The ability to force set AF-S mode on the D70 (equivalent to AI Servo mode in Canon lingo) came in handy while photographing flying ducks at the park today. The DR photographer wasn't able to catch the flying ducks at 30 feet while the D70 had no problem with it. The EOS-10D can do this, but doesn't have the built-in spot meter. The main difference between the 10D and the D70 is the spot meter and the mirror lock up. Whichever of those you need, pick the camera accordingly.

The Moire Issue

A lot has been made on photography forums regarding moire from the D70 due to it's weaker AA filter. In my shooting today, I found two cases of minor moire out of approximately 80 images shot. They were both on the same subject — a male mallard duck. Male mallards have very tight black and white striped feathers on their back. The DR didn't exhibit moire on these, but it was unable to resolve the stripes accurately. The weaker AA filter on the D70 allowed the sensor to see the stripes, albeit with moire there as well. Post-processing could have eliminated it easily, in my opinion.

The Lenses

The Nikon AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED DX lens is bar-none far superior to the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. The build construction is far superior, the metal connection point as opposed to the plastic on the Canon, and the use of non-glass elements lead to a superior piece of craftsmanship. One thing I did notice between the two lenses (I presume lenses; it could've been something to do with the pentamirrors) is a slight color shift (each of them are slight; compared to one another, the shifts are quite dramatic). Looking through the viewfinders, I find the Canon to be slightly cold looking, while the Nikon viewfinder exhibits a green tint. The green tint is quite a bit more subtle than the stark coldness provided by the Canon to my eye, but decent white balancing should take care of that. The Nikon lens has a superior petal-style hood, and a true focusing ring (unlike the Canon's “spin the tip of the lens” style focus ring). Zoom and focus on the Nikon are smooth, but not nearly as smooth as my Canon EF 70-200 f/4L. Since the Nikon is IF, the front element doesn't move during focusing, simplifying the use of a polarizing filter. The Canon kit lens is front focusing, which makes polarizer use in non-still life and non-landscape situations difficult at best.

Playback Issues

Here's one where Canon takes the cake. The magnification ability during playback whoops the Nikon's playback zoom. I seem to recall seeing somewhere that the Canon can do 9X magnification during playback; I would guess that the Nikon is around 6X magnification. Coupled with the awkward button mashing combination to magnify playback on the Nikon makes it quite difficult.


That all said, I think I'll be keeping the D70 and exiting the Canon arena. The D70's increased manual control options fit where I want to be in photography — in control of the tool that I'm using to take pictures. The DR served me well, and is an excellent camera for those that don't need to be in control of metering modes and focus modes. As a bonus, the D70 gets me a true 1{deg} spot meter.

I'll update this review as I have more opportunities to compare the cameras in different situations.

The Basics

I've always enjoyed photography, and migrated to digital photography in June 2002 with a Fuji Finepix S602Z digital camera. The camera served me well, but with the recent (September 2003) introduction of the Canon Digital Rebel, I've upgraded and gone SLR. The Fuji has gone to a better home courtesy of eBay — it's in Hawaii now (hey… I'm jealous). Additionally, Diann has a Canon Powershot A60 that I bought for her while she was in San Diego. To compliment the A60, I bought Canon's WP-DC-700 Underwater housing that we recently took with us to Belize for SCUBA shots.

I maintain and host FAQ's for the Fuji S602Z and the Canon Digital Rebel: