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Leica M8 vs Nikon D70s

The Leica M8 and the Nikon D70s are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2006 and April 2005. The M8 is a rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, while the D70s is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an APS-H (M8) and an APS-C (D70s) sensor. The Leica has a resolution of 10.4 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 6 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Leica M8   Nikon D70s
Leica M8 Nikon D70s
Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
10.4 MP, APS-H Sensor 6 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 160-2500 ISO 200-1600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5" LCD, 230k dots 2.0" LCD, 130k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
2 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
139 x 80 x 37 mm, 591 g 140 x 111 x 78 mm, 679 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Leica M8 and the Nikon D70s? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Leica M8 and the Nikon D70s. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The M8 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the D70s is only available in black.

Size Leica M8 vs Nikon D70s
Compare M8 versus D70s top
Comparison M8 or D70s rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D70s is notably larger (40 percent) than the Leica M8. Moreover, the D70s is markedly heavier (15 percent) than the M8. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M8 nor the D70s are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Leica M Lens Catalog (M8) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D70s).

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8» 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.8 oz .. n Sep 2006 5,499- i Leica M8
 
Nikon D70s« 5.5 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 24.0 oz 500 n Apr 2005 899- i Nikon D70s
 
Canon T3« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 17.5 oz 700 n Feb 2011 449- i Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« » 5.0 in 3.3 in 2.6 in 19.6 oz 370 n Aug 2006 799- i Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 23.3 oz 210 Y Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.7 in 24.0 oz .. Y Nov 2015 5,195- i Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« » 5.5 in 3.1 in 1.5 in 20.6 oz .. n Sep 2009 7,999- i Leica M9
 
Nikon D5300« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 16.9 oz 600 n Oct 2013 799- i Nikon D5300
 
Nikon D3000« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 18.9 oz 500 n Jul 2009 599- i Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« » 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749- i Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 n Mar 2007 729- i Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D40« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 470 n Nov 2006 499- i Nikon D40
 
Nikon D80« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
 
Nikon D50« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.0 in 21.9 oz 400 n Apr 2005 749- i Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70« » 5.5 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 24.0 oz 400 n Jan 2004 999- i Nikon D70
 
Panasonic L10« » 5.3 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 450 n Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D70s was launched at a markedly lower price (by 84 percent) than the M8, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Leica M8 features an APS-H sensor and the Nikon D70s an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D70s is 24 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Leica M8 and Nikon D70s sensor measures

With 10.4MP, the M8 offers a higher resolution than the D70s (6MP), but the M8 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.84μm versus 7.85μm for the D70s). However, the M8 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 4 months) than the D70s, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the M8 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Leica M8 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the M8 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 19.7 x 13.2 inch or 50 x 33.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 15.7 x 10.5 inch or 40 x 26.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.1 x 8.8 inch or 33.3 x 22.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D70s are 15 x 10 inch or 38.2 x 25.4 cm for good quality, 12 x 8 inch or 30.6 x 20.3 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.7 inch or 25.5 x 16.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Leica M8 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 160 to ISO 2500. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D70s are ISO 200 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

M8 versus D70s MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the M8 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the D70s (overall score 9 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.7 bits higher color depth, 1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8» APS-H 10.4 3936 2630-21.111.366359Leica M8
 
Nikon D70s« APS-C 6.0 3008 2000-20.410.352950Nikon D70s
 
Canon T3« » APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.066462Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« » Full Frame 23.8 5952 3992-24.413.2213386Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« » Full Frame 23.7 5952 3976-----Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« » Full Frame 18.1 5212 3472-22.511.788469Leica M9
 
Nikon D5300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.9133883Nikon D5300
 
Nikon D3000« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.156362Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.411.451663Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D40« » APS-C 6.0 3008 2000-21.011.056156Nikon D40
 
Nikon D80« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.111.252461Nikon D80
 
Nikon D50« » APS-C 6.0 3008 2000-20.910.856055Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70« » APS-C 6.0 3008 2000-20.410.352950Nikon D70
 
Panasonic L10« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.310.842955Panasonic L10
Neither the M8 nor the D70s offer Live View, so that they cannot project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen. Moreover, both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The M8 and the D70s are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Leica M8, the Nikon D70s, and comparable cameras.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8»optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n Leica M8
 
Nikon D70s«optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D70s
 
Canon T3« »optical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« »optical n 3.0 1037 fixed n 1/4000s 5.0 n n Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.0 n n Leica M9
 
Nikon D5300« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel n 1/4000s 5.0 Y n Nikon D5300
 
Nikon D3000« »optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« »optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D40« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Nikon D40
 
Nikon D80« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D80
 
Nikon D50« »optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70« »optical n 1.8 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D70
 
Panasonic L10« »optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Panasonic L10

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D70s has one, while the M8 does not. While the built-in flash of the D70s is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The M8 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D70s uses Compact Flash cards.

 

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Leica M8 and Nikon D70s and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8»Y-----2.0---Leica M8
 
Nikon D70s«Y-----2.0---Nikon D70s
 
Canon T3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« »Y-----2.0---Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« »Y------Y--Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« »Y-----2.0---Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« »Y-----2.0---Leica M9
 
Nikon D5300« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--Nikon D5300
 
Nikon D3000« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« »Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D40« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D40
 
Nikon D80« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D80
 
Nikon D50« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70« »Y-----1.0---Nikon D70
 
Panasonic L10« »Y-----2.0---Panasonic L10

Both the M8 and the D70s have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D70s was replaced by the Nikon D80, while the M8 was followed by the Leica M9. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Leica and Nikon websites.


Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Leica M8 and the Nikon D70s? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Arguments in favor of the Leica M8:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (10.4 vs 6MP) with a 31% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (9 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 130k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x80mm vs 140x111mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 88g or 13 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale price.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 4 months after the D70s).

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D70s:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (84 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in April 2005).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the M8 is the clear winner of the match-up (11 : 5 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

M8 11:05 D70s

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M8 or the D70s. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Leica M8»-+ +--- Sep 2006 5,499- i Leica M8
 
Nikon D70s«---o5/5 Apr 2005 899- i Nikon D70s
 
Canon T3« »80/10069/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449- i Canon T3
 
Canon XTi« »+ ++ +o4.5/54/5 Aug 2006 799- i Canon XTi
 
Leica M10« »--4/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 6,595 i i Leica M10
 
Leica M Typ 262« »----- Nov 2015 5,195- i Leica M Typ 262
 
Leica M9« »--4.5/54.5/5- Sep 2009 7,999- i Leica M9
 
Nikon D5300« »+ +79/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 799- i Nikon D5300
 
Nikon D3000« »+72/1004/53.5/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599- i Nikon D3000
 
Nikon D5000« »+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749- i Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D40X« »79/100+ +4/5o4/5 Mar 2007 729- i Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D40« »81/100+ +o5/54.5/5 Nov 2006 499- i Nikon D40
 
Nikon D80« »++ +o4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
 
Nikon D50« »78/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Apr 2005 749- i Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70« »-+ +-o- Jan 2004 999- i Nikon D70
 
Panasonic L10« »85/100+3.5/5o4/5 Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Leica M8:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D70s:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Leica M8 vs Nikon D70s

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Leica M8 Nikon D70s
    Camera Type Rangefinder camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Leica M mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2006 April 2005
    Launch Price USD 5499 USD 899
    Sensor Specs Leica M8 Nikon D70s
    Sensor Technology CCD CCD
    Sensor Format APS-H Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 27.0 x 18.0 mm 23.7 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 486 mm2 369.72 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 32.4 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.3x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 10.4 Megapixels 6 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3936 x 2630 pixels 3008 x 2000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.84 μm 7.85 μm
    Pixel Density 2.13 MP/cm2 1.63 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 160-2500 ISO 200-1600 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 59 50
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.1 20.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.3 10.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 663 529
    Screen Specs Leica M8 Nikon D70s
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification ..x 0.50x
    Rear LCD Size 2.5 inch 2.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 130k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Leica M8 Nikon D70s
    Autofocus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 2 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Leica M8 Nikon D70s
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Leica M8 Nikon D70s
    Battery Type BLI-312 EN-EL3a
    Body Dimensions 139 x 80 x 37 mm
    (5.5 x 3.1 x 1.5 in)
    140 x 111 x 78 mm
    (5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
    Camera Weight 591 g (20.8 oz) 679 g (24.0 oz)

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