Nikon D70s vs Sony A7
The Nikon D70s and the Sony Alpha A7 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in April 2005 and October 2013. The D70s is a DSLR, while the A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D70s) and a full frame (A7) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 6 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D70s and the Sony Alpha A7? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D70s and the Sony A7 is provided 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 size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 is notably smaller (23 percent) than the Nikon D70s. Moreover, the A7 is markedly lighter (30 percent) than the D70s. It is noteworthy in this context that the A7 is splash and dust-proof, while the D70s does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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 Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
Concerning battery life, the D70s gets 500 shots out of its EN-EL3a battery, while the A7 can take 340 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack. The power pack in the A7 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Nikon D70s||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||500||n||Apr 2005||899||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony A7||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||474 g||340||Y||Oct 2013||1,699||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon Rebel||142 mm||99 mm||72 mm||649 g||400||n||Aug 2003||899||ebay.com|
|4.||Nikon D5500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||470 g||820||n||Jan 2015||899||ebay.com|
|5.||Nikon D5300||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||n||Oct 2013||799||ebay.com|
|6.||Nikon D5100||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||n||Apr 2011||749||ebay.com|
|7.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749||ebay.com|
|8.||Nikon D40||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||470||n||Nov 2006||499||ebay.com|
|9.||Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999||ebay.com|
|10.||Nikon D50||133 mm||102 mm||76 mm||620 g||400||n||Apr 2005||749||ebay.com|
|11.||Nikon D70||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||400||n||Jan 2004||999||ebay.com|
|12.||Nikon D100||144 mm||116 mm||81 mm||780 g||370||n||Feb 2002||1,999||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony A7 II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony A7S||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||489 g||380||Y||Apr 2014||2,499||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony A7R||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||465 g||340||Y||Oct 2013||2,299||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony RX1R||113 mm||65 mm||70 mm||482 g||270||n||Jun 2013||2,799||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony RX1||113 mm||65 mm||70 mm||482 g||270||n||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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 47 percent) than the A7, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D70s features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A7 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7 is 131 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 24MP, the A7 offers a higher resolution than the D70s (6MP), but the A7 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 7.85μm for the D70s). Yet, the A7 is a much more recent model (by 8 years and 5 months) than the D70s, 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 Sony A7 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A7 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 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 A7 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Nikon D70s has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A7 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-51200.
In terms of underlying technology, the D70s is build around a CCD sensor, while the A7 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.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 consideration, the A7 offers substantially better image quality than the D70s (overall score 40 points higher). The advantage is based on 4.4 bits higher color depth, 3.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.1 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.
|2.||Sony A7||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
|13.||Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|14.||Sony A7S||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||1080/60p||23.9||13.2||3702||87|
|15.||Sony A7R||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.6||14.1||2746||95|
|16.||Sony RX1R||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||13.6||2537||91|
|17.||Sony RX1||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.1||14.3||2534||93|
|Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The A7 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D70s does not. The highest resolution format that the A7 can use is 1080/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7 has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the D70s has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinder in the A7 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D70s (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the A7 has a higher magnification (0.71x 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 D70s and Sony A7 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|1.||Nikon D70s||optical||n||2.0 / 130||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|2.||Sony A7||2400||n||3.0 / 1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|3.||Canon Rebel||optical||n||1.8 / 118||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5/s||Y||n|
|4.||Nikon D5500||optical||n||3.2 / 1037||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|5.||Nikon D5300||optical||n||3.2 / 1037||swivel||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|6.||Nikon D5100||optical||n||3.0 / 921||swivel||n||1/4000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|7.||Nikon D5000||optical||n||2.7 / 230||full-flex||n||1/4000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|8.||Nikon D40||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5/s||Y||n|
|9.||Nikon D80||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|10.||Nikon D50||optical||n||2.0 / 130||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5/s||Y||n|
|11.||Nikon D70||optical||n||1.8 / 130||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|12.||Nikon D100||optical||Y||1.8 / 118||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|13.||Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0 / 1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A7S||2400||n||3.0 / 921||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|15.||Sony A7R||2400||n||3.0 / 1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||4.0/s||n||n|
|16.||Sony RX1R||optional||n||3.0 / 1229||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|17.||Sony RX1||optional||n||3.0 / 1229||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D70s has one, while the A7 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 D70s writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the A7 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.
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 Sony Alpha A7 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Nikon D70s||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Sony A7||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|3.||Canon Rebel||Y||- / -||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|4.||Nikon D5500||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|5.||Nikon D5300||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|6.||Nikon D5100||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Nikon D5000||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Nikon D40||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Nikon D80||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Nikon D50||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Nikon D70||Y||- / -||-||-||-||1.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Nikon D100||Y||- / -||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|13.||Sony A7 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|14.||Sony A7S||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|15.||Sony A7R||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|16.||Sony RX1R||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony RX1||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the A7 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the D70s does not provide wifi capability.
Both the D70s and the A7 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D70s was replaced by the Nikon D80, while the A7 was followed by the Sony A7 II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Sony websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D70s or the Sony A7 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D70s:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (500 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (47 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in April 2005).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 100%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (40 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (4.4 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.9 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.1 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.50x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 130k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 140x111mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 205g or 30 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- More modern: Reflects 8 years and 5 months of technical progress since the D70s launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7 is the clear winner of the contest (22 : 5 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D70s and the Sony A7 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D70s or the A7. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. 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.
|1.||Nikon D70s||..||..||..||..||..||5/5||Apr 2005||899||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony A7||5/5||+ +||..||80/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,699||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon Rebel||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Aug 2003||899||ebay.com|
|4.||Nikon D5500||5/5||+||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||899||ebay.com|
|5.||Nikon D5300||4/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799||ebay.com|
|6.||Nikon D5100||5/5||+ +||..||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749||ebay.com|
|7.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749||ebay.com|
|8.||Nikon D40||..||81/100||..||+ +||o||4.5/5||Nov 2006||499||ebay.com|
|9.||Nikon D80||..||+||..||+ +||o||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999||ebay.com|
|10.||Nikon D50||..||78/100||..||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2005||749||ebay.com|
|11.||Nikon D70||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jan 2004||999||ebay.com|
|12.||Nikon D100||..||..||..||+ +||o||..||Feb 2002||1,999||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony A7 II||5/5||+||4/5||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony A7S||4/5||..||..||86/100||4.5/5||5/5||Apr 2014||2,499||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony A7R||5/5||+ +||..||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||2,299||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony RX1R||5/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2013||2,799||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony RX1||5/5||..||..||79/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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.
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Nikon D70s vs Sony A7
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 Model||Nikon D70s||Sony A7|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||April 2005||October 2013|
|Launch Price||USD 899||USD 1,699|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A7|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.7 x 15.6 mm||35.8 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||369.72 mm2||855.62 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||43 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||6 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3008 x 2000 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.85 μm||5.97 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.63 MP/cm2||2.80 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 51,200 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||50||90|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||20.4||24.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.3||14.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||529||2248|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A7|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2400k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||130k dots||1230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A7|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||5 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A7|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A7|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||500 shots per charge||340 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
140 x 111 x 78 mm
(5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
127 x 94 x 48 mm
(5.0 x 3.7 x 1.9 in)
|Camera Weight||679 g (24.0 oz)||474 g (16.7 oz)|
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