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Nikon D70 vs D90

The Nikon D70 and the Nikon D90 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2004 and August 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The D70 has a resolution of 6 megapixels, whereas the D90 provides 12.2 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D70 versus Nikon D90
Nikon D70 Nikon D90
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
6 MP, APS-C Sensor 12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 720/24p Video
ISO 200-1,600 ISO 200-3,200 (200 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
1.8 LCD, 130k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 4.5 shutter flaps per second
400 shots per battery charge850 shots per battery charge
140 x 111 x 78 mm, 679 g 132 x 103 x 77 mm, 703 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D70 and the Nikon D90? 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 Nikon D70 and the Nikon D90. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D70 vs Nikon D90
Compare D70 versus D90 top
Comparison D70 or D90 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D90 is notably smaller (13 percent) than the Nikon D70. However, the D90 is slightly heavier (4 percent) than the D70. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D70 nor the D90 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D70 gets 400 shots out of its EN-EL3 battery, while the D90 can take 850 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D70 5.5 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 24.0 oz 400 n Jan 2004 999i
 
Nikon D90 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 n Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Canon 40D 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 750 n Aug 2007 1,299i
 
Canon Rebel 5.6 in 3.9 in 2.8 in 22.9 oz 400 n Aug 2003 899i
 
Nikon D5100 5.0 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.8 oz 660 n Apr 2011 749i
 
Nikon D7000 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Nikon D300S 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
 
Nikon D5000 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749i
 
Nikon D40 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 470 n Nov 2006 499i
 
Nikon D80 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999i
 
Nikon D50 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.0 in 21.9 oz 400 n Apr 2005 749i
 
Nikon D70s 5.5 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 24.0 oz 500 n Apr 2005 899i
 
Nikon D2X 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999i
 
Nikon D100 5.7 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 27.5 oz 370 n Feb 2002 1,999i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D70 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 23 percent) than the D90, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the D90 is 1 percent bigger. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D70 and Nikon D90 sensor measures

With 12.2MP, the D90 offers a higher resolution than the D70 (6MP), but the D90 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 7.85μm for the D70). Yet, the D90 is a much more recent model (by 4 years and 7 months) than the D70, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D90 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D90 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D70 are 15 x 10 inches or 38.2 x 25.4 cm for good quality, 12 x 8 inches or 30.6 x 20.3 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.7 inches or 25.5 x 16.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D70 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D90 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 200-6400.

D70 versus D90 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D90 offers substantially better image quality than the D70 (overall score 23 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.3 bits higher color depth, 2.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.9 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773
 
Canon 40D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.370364
 
Canon Rebel APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
 
Nikon D5100 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.6118380
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
 
Nikon D40 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none21.011.056156
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
 
Nikon D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.856055
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
 
Nikon D2X APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.110.947659
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D90 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D70 does not. The highest resolution format that the D90 can use is 720/24p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D70 and the D90 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 viewfinder in the D90 offers a wider field of view (96%) than the one in the D70 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D90 has a higher magnification (0.63x vs 0.50x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D70 and Nikon D90 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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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
 
Nikon D70optical n 1.8 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D90optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5 Y n
 
Canon 40Doptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n
 
Canon Rebeloptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Nikon D5100optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D40optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D50optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Nikon D70soptical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D2Xoptical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Nikon D100optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the D90, but is missing on the D70 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The D70 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D90 uses SDHC 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 Nikon D70 and Nikon D90 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Nikon D70Y-----1.0---
 
Nikon D90Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Canon 40DY-----2.0---
 
Canon RebelY-----1.1---
 
Nikon D5100YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Nikon D40Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D80Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D50Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D70sY-----2.0---
 
Nikon D2XY-----2.0---
 
Nikon D100Y-----1.1---

Both the D70 and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D70 was replaced by the Nikon D70s, while the D90 was followed by the Nikon D7000. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D70 and the Nikon D90? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D70:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (23 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in January 2004).


Advantages of the Nikon D90:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 43%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (23 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.3 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.2 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.9 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/24p video.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (96% vs 95%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.63x vs 0.50x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 130k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (132x103mm vs 140x111mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (850 versus 400) out of a single battery charge.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.0).
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 7 months of technical progress since the D70 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D90 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

D70 03:16 D90

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D70 and the Nikon D90 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D70 or the D90 perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. 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.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D70..+ +..o.. Jan 2004 999i
 
Nikon D90+ ++ +4/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Canon 40D+ ++ +4.5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299i
 
Canon Rebel..+ +..o.. Aug 2003 899i
 
Nikon D5100+ +76/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749i
 
Nikon D7000..80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Nikon D300S+ +82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
 
Nikon D5000+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749i
 
Nikon D4081/100+ +o5/54.5/5 Nov 2006 499i
 
Nikon D80++ +o4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999i
 
Nikon D5078/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Apr 2005 749i
 
Nikon D70s......o5/5 Apr 2005 899i
 
Nikon D2X..+ +..o.. Sep 2004 4,999i
 
Nikon D100..+ +oo.. Feb 2002 1,999i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Nikon D70:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D90:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Nikon D70 vs Nikon D90

    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 Nikon D70 Nikon D90
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date January 2004 August 2008
    Launch Price USD 999 USD 1,299
    Sensor Specs Nikon D70 Nikon D90
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 372.88 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 6 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3008 x 2000 pixels 4288 x 2848 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.85 μm 5.53 μm
    Pixel Density 1.63 MP/cm2 3.28 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/24p Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 1,600 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 200 - 6,400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 50 73
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.4 22.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.3 12.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 529 977
    Screen Specs Nikon D70 Nikon D90
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.50x 0.63x
    Top-Level Screen no Top Display Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 1.8inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 130k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D70 Nikon D90
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 4.5 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy50 000 actuations100 000 actuations
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D70 Nikon D90
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 1.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D70 Nikon D90
    Battery Type EN-EL3 EN-EL3e
    Battery Life (CIPA)400 shots per charge850 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 140 x 111 x 78 mm
    (5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
    132 x 103 x 77 mm
    (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 679 g (24.0 oz) 703 g (24.8 oz)

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