Nikon D70s vs Sony A850
The Nikon D70s and the Sony Alpha A850 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in April 2005 and August 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D70s) and a full frame (A850) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 6 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24.4 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 A850? 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.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D70s and the Sony A850. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. 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 A850 is notably larger (17 percent) than the Nikon D70s. Moreover, the A850 is markedly heavier (32 percent) than the D70s. It is noteworthy in this context that the A850 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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Nikon D70s||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||500||n||Apr 2005||899||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999||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 D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299||ebay.com|
|6.||Nikon D5300||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||n||Oct 2013||799||ebay.com|
|7.||Nikon D5100||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||n||Apr 2011||749||ebay.com|
|8.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749||ebay.com|
|9.||Nikon D40||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||470||n||Nov 2006||499||ebay.com|
|10.||Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999||ebay.com|
|11.||Nikon D50||133 mm||102 mm||76 mm||620 g||400||n||Apr 2005||749||ebay.com|
|12.||Nikon D70||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||400||n||Jan 2004||999||ebay.com|
|13.||Nikon D100||144 mm||116 mm||81 mm||780 g||370||n||Feb 2002||1,999||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony A7C||124 mm||71 mm||60 mm||509 g||740||Y||Sep 2020||1,799||amazon.com|
|15.||Sony A7 III||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||610||Y||Feb 2018||1,999||amazon.com|
|16.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony A900||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Sep 2008||2,999||ebay.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 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 55 percent) than the A850, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
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 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. 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 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 Sony A850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A850 is 133 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 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the D70s (6MP), but the A850 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 7.85μm for the D70s). Yet, the A850 is a much more recent model (by 4 years and 4 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 A850 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A850 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.2 inches or 76.8 x 51.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 41 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 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 Sony Alpha A850 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.
In terms of underlying technology, the D70s is build around a CCD sensor, while the A850 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.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the A850 offers substantially better image quality than the D70s (overall score 29 points higher). The advantage is based on 3.4 bits higher color depth, 1.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.4 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 A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
|5.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|14.||Sony A7C||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3407||95|
|15.||Sony A7 III||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3730||96|
|16.||Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
|17.||Sony A900||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.7||12.3||1431||79|
|Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.|
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D70s and the A850 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 A850 offers a wider field of view (98%) 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 A850 has a higher magnification (0.74x 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 A850 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 A850||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0/s||n||Y|
|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 D750||optical||Y||3.2 / 1229||tilting||n||1/4000s||6.0/s||Y||n|
|6.||Nikon D5300||optical||n||3.2 / 1037||swivel||n||1/4000s||5.0/s||Y||n|
|7.||Nikon D5100||optical||n||3.0 / 921||swivel||n||1/4000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|8.||Nikon D5000||optical||n||2.7 / 230||full-flex||n||1/4000s||4.0/s||Y||n|
|9.||Nikon D40||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5/s||Y||n|
|10.||Nikon D80||optical||n||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|11.||Nikon D50||optical||n||2.0 / 130||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.5/s||Y||n|
|12.||Nikon D70||optical||n||1.8 / 130||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|13.||Nikon D100||optical||Y||1.8 / 118||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0/s||Y||n|
|14.||Sony A7C||2360||n||3.0 / 922||swivel||Y||1/4000s||10.0/s||n||Y|
|15.||Sony A7 III||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0/s||n||Y|
|16.||Sony A99||2359||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||6.0/s||n||Y|
|17.||Sony A900||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||Y|
|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 A850 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 A850 uses Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A850 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D70s only has one slot.
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 A850 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 A850||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon Rebel||Y||- / -||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|4.||Nikon D5500||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|5.||Nikon D750||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|6.||Nikon D5300||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|7.||Nikon D5100||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Nikon D5000||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Nikon D40||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Nikon D80||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Nikon D50||Y||- / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Nikon D70||Y||- / -||-||-||-||1.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Nikon D100||Y||- / -||-||-||-||1.1||-||-||-|
|14.||Sony A7C||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||Y||Y|
|15.||Sony A7 III||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|16.||Sony A99||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony A900||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A850 (unlike the D70s) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D70s and the A850 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The D70s was replaced by the Nikon D80, while the A850 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the features and operation of the D70s and A850 can be found, respectively, in the Nikon D70s Manual (free pdf) or the online Sony A850 Manual.
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D70s and the Sony A850? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D70s:
- More compact: Is smaller (140x111mm vs 156x117mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 216g or 24 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (55 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in April 2005).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 101%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (29 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (3.4 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.9 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.4 stops ISO advantage).
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (98% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.74x 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 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 130k dots).
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (880 versus 500) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Reflects 4 years and 4 months of technical progress since the D70s launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A850 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 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 wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro 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 A850 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 D70s or the A850 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.
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 (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 A850||3/5||..||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999||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 D750||5/5||+ +||4/5||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299||ebay.com|
|6.||Nikon D5300||4/5||+ +||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799||ebay.com|
|7.||Nikon D5100||5/5||+ +||..||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749||ebay.com|
|8.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749||ebay.com|
|9.||Nikon D40||..||81/100||..||+ +||o||4.5/5||Nov 2006||499||ebay.com|
|10.||Nikon D80||..||+||..||+ +||o||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999||ebay.com|
|11.||Nikon D50||..||78/100||..||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2005||749||ebay.com|
|12.||Nikon D70||..||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jan 2004||999||ebay.com|
|13.||Nikon D100||..||..||..||+ +||o||..||Feb 2002||1,999||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony A7C||3.5/5||..||3.5/5||86/100||4/5||4/5||Sep 2020||1,799||amazon.com|
|15.||Sony A7 III||..||+ +||4.5/5||89/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2018||1,999||amazon.com|
|16.||Sony A99||5/5||..||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony A900||..||+ +||..||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999||ebay.com|
|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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Nikon D70s vs Sony A850
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 A850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||April 2005||August 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 899||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A850|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.7 x 15.6 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||369.72 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||6 Megapixels||24.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3008 x 2000 pixels||6048 x 4032 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.85 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.63 MP/cm2||2.83 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||50||79|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||20.4||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.3||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||529||1415|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A850|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||98%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||130k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A850|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF or MS cards|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A850|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D70s||Sony A850|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||500 shots per charge||880 shots per charge|
140 x 111 x 78 mm
(5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
156 x 117 x 82 mm
(6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||679 g (24.0 oz)||895 g (31.6 oz)|
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