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Nikon D70s vs Olympus E-420

The Nikon D70s and the Olympus E-420 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in April 2005 and March 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D70s) and a Four Thirds (E-420) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 6 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 10 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D70s
versus
Olympus E-420
Nikon D70s   Olympus E-420
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
6 MP – APS-C sensor 10 MP – Four Thirds sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 200-1,600 ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0" LCD – 130k dots 2.7" LCD – 215k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
500 shots per battery charge500 shots per battery charge
140 x 111 x 78 mm, 679 g 130 x 91 x 53 mm, 440 g
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D70s and the Olympus E-420? 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 physical size and weight of the Nikon D70s and the Olympus E-420 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D70s vs Olympus E-420
Compare D70s versus E-420 top
Comparison D70s or E-420 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-420 is notably smaller (24 percent) than the Nikon D70s. Moreover, the E-420 is substantially lighter (35 percent) than the D70s. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D70s nor the E-420 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 Nikon Lens Catalog (D70s) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-420).

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, you can 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
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Nikon D70s 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 500 n Apr 2005 899ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-420 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599ebay.com
3.
 
Canon Rebel 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899ebay.com
4.
 
Nikon D5500 124 mm 97 mm 70 mm 470 g 820 n Jan 2015 899ebay.com
5.
 
Nikon D5300 125 mm 98 mm 76 mm 480 g 600 n Oct 2013 799ebay.com
6.
 
Nikon D5100 128 mm 97 mm 79 mm 560 g 660 n Apr 2011 749ebay.com
7.
 
Nikon D5000 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 n Apr 2009 749ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D40 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 470 n Nov 2006 499ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D50 133 mm 102 mm 76 mm 620 g 400 n Apr 2005 749ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D70 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 400 n Jan 2004 999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D100 144 mm 116 mm 81 mm 780 g 370 n Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-450 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2009 499ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699ebay.com
17.
 
Olympus E-400 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Sep 2006 699ebay.com
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The E-420 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 33 percent) than the D70s, 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. 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D70s features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-420 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-420 is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the D70s has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-420 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D70s and Olympus E-420 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-420 offers a higher resolution of 10 megapixels, compared with 6 MP of the D70s. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.74μm versus 7.85μm for the D70s). However, it should be noted that the E-420 is much more recent (by 2 years and 10 months) than the D70s, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-420 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-420 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D70s 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 D70s has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-420 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the D70s is build around a CCD sensor, while the E-420 uses a CMOS imager. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

D70s versus E-420 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 E-420 has a markedly higher DXO score than the D70s (overall score 6 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1.1 bits higher color depth, 0.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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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
1.
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
2.
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.452756
3.
 
Canon Rebel APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
4.
 
Nikon D5500 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0143884
5.
 
Nikon D5300 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.9133883
6.
 
Nikon D5100 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.6118380
7.
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
8.
 
Nikon D40 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none21.011.056156
9.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
10.
 
Nikon D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.856055
11.
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950
12.
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.49.939448
13.
 
Olympus E-450 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.551256
14.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
15.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
16.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451
17.
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.010.612753
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.
The E-420 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The D70s lacks this capability. 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 D70s and the E-420 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the D70s has a higher magnification than the one of the E-420 (0.50x vs 0.46x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D70s, the Olympus E-420, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Nikon D70soptical n2.0 / 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0/s Y n
2.
 
Olympus E-420optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y n
3.
 
Canon Rebeloptical n1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
4.
 
Nikon D5500optical n3.2 / 1037 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
5.
 
Nikon D5300optical n3.2 / 1037 swivel n 1/4000s 5.0/s Y n
6.
 
Nikon D5100optical n3.0 / 921 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
7.
 
Nikon D5000optical n2.7 / 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y n
8.
 
Nikon D40optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
9.
 
Nikon D80optical n2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
10.
 
Nikon D50optical n2.0 / 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5/s Y n
11.
 
Nikon D70optical n1.8 / 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0/s Y n
12.
 
Nikon D100optical Y1.8 / 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
13.
 
Olympus E-450optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y n
14.
 
Olympus E-620optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y Y
15.
 
Olympus E-520optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y Y
16.
 
Olympus E-410optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
17.
 
Olympus E-400optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

The D70s writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the E-420 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-420 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D70s only has one slot.

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 D70s and Olympus E-420 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
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Nikon D70sY- / ----2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-420Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon RebelY- / ----1.1---
4.
 
Nikon D5500Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0Y--
5.
 
Nikon D5300Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0Y--
6.
 
Nikon D5100Ymono / monoY-mini2.0---
7.
 
Nikon D5000Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Nikon D40Y- / ----2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D80Y- / ----2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D50Y- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D70Y- / ----1.0---
12.
 
Nikon D100Y- / ----1.1---
13.
 
Olympus E-450Y- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-620Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-520Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Olympus E-410Y- / ----2.0---
17.
 
Olympus E-400Y- / ----2.0---

Both the D70s and the E-420 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D70s was replaced by the Nikon D80, while the E-420 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D70s and the Olympus E-420? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D70s:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.50x vs 0.46x).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in April 2005).

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-420:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (10 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 26%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.1 bits more color depth).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (215k vs 130k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (130x91mm vs 140x111mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 239g or 35 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (33 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 10 months of technical progress since the D70s launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-420 is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 3 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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.

D70s 03:11 E-420

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D70s and the Olympus E-420 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D70s or the E-420. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Nikon D70s..........5/5 Apr 2005 899ebay.com
2.
 
Olympus E-420..85/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2008 599ebay.com
3.
 
Canon Rebel......+ +.... Aug 2003 899ebay.com
4.
 
Nikon D55005/5+..79/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2015 899ebay.com
5.
 
Nikon D53004/5+ +..79/1004.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 799ebay.com
6.
 
Nikon D51005/5+ +..76/1004.5/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749ebay.com
7.
 
Nikon D5000..+ +..75/1004/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749ebay.com
8.
 
Nikon D40..81/100..+ +o4.5/5 Nov 2006 499ebay.com
9.
 
Nikon D80..+..+ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999ebay.com
10.
 
Nikon D50..78/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Apr 2005 749ebay.com
11.
 
Nikon D70......+ +.... Jan 2004 999ebay.com
12.
 
Nikon D100......+ +o.. Feb 2002 1,999ebay.com
13.
 
Olympus E-450........4/54/5 Mar 2009 499ebay.com
14.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/100..72/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699ebay.com
15.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699ebay.com
16.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699ebay.com
17.
 
Olympus E-400..85/100....4/54/5 Sep 2006 699ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

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Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Nikon D70s vs Olympus E-420

    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 D70s Olympus E-420
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date April 2005 March 2008
    Launch Price USD 899 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Nikon D70s Olympus E-420
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 6 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3008 x 2000 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.85 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 1.63 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 50 56
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 20.4 21.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.3 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 529 527
    Screen Specs Nikon D70s Olympus E-420
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.50x 0.46x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.0inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 130k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D70s Olympus E-420
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D70s Olympus E-420
    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 Nikon D70s Olympus E-420
    Battery Type EN-EL3a BLS-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)500 shots per charge500 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 140 x 111 x 78 mm
    (5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
    130 x 91 x 53 mm
    (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)
    Camera Weight 679 g (24.0 oz) 440 g (15.5 oz)
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