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D70s or 350XT - the agony of choice


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#1 of 23 OFFLINE   Rob Gillespie

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Posted August 15 2005 - 06:49 AM

If you were in the market for a D-SLR and had no lenses for either Canon or Nikon, would your choice be the 350 XT (Rebel XT in the US) or the D70s?

I'm finding it incredibly hard to choose between them. The D70s is a lot heavier and feels more workman-like. The Canon is pretty light but smaller in the hands. The Nikon comes with a much better lens but the Canon (at about £100 lower in price) seems better value. Then there's all the other little technical things.

The 350 is about to be released here with a dual-lens kit - the EF-S 18-55 AND 55-200, plus the vertical grip - all for about £730 or so. The Nikon is that much with just it's 18-70 lens.

If the Nikon had 8mp I'd go for that without doubt. I know the 2mp is THAT big a deal, but I do print pretty big sometimes (HP 8750 A3 printer) so I cannot discount that extra resolution as being irrelevant.

I've handled both cameras side by side and neither feels significantly 'better' than the other - just different (mainly down to size). I think the Canon would be better for hauling around all day when I'm out hiking, but the Nikon would provide more mass and possibly provide a firmer hold (but with the vertical grip attachment that may become a moot point).

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#2 of 23 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted August 15 2005 - 11:32 AM

Something to consider if the extra 2MP matters to you. Will those kit lenses be good enough in that case? I suspect not. Good lenses are important. Personally, I would not want to spend so much $$$ on a DSLR and not get better lenses than those Canon kit lenses. Even the Nikon 18-70DX is not w/out its own faults.

One other thing. The image quality diff between the XT and D70s is not quite 2MP in practice. The D70s produces noticeably better quality/sharper pixels on a per-pixel level. One might argue that the XT's 8MP is more like 7MP vs the D70s's 6MP.

And really, many people do just fine uprezzing (ie. interpolating) to larger file sizes for printing large. It's done all the time in the professional world. If you produce an excellent exposure, making the most of the camera's resolution, that will make a bigger difference than any small diffs in the camera specs. Most of the time, the problem is in the execution of making the photo, not the camera's resolution spec.

_Man_

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#3 of 23 OFFLINE   Rob Gillespie

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Posted August 15 2005 - 12:49 PM

Man, thanks for your insights again.

You've used the 70 for a while - what are your thoughts on the levels of noise inherent in the images (something Canon are supposed to have upped with the release of the 350)? I know you use different lenses, but how good is the kit 18-70 as an all-round lens? Buying extra lenses at this point isn't an option, so I need something usable from day one, hopefully that will serve me well for a while.
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#4 of 23 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted August 16 2005 - 05:55 AM

Rob,

The 18-70DX is a fine lens and about as good as you can expect for the price. Haven't looked into prices recently, but IIRC, you do also get a $100 rebate when you buy the body w/ that lens in the kit -- oops, forgot that you're in the UK and probably won't get this rebate. It's a better lens all-around than the cheaper Canon kit lens. Image quality is a fair bit better -- you'd have to spend substantially more to top it on Canon side and not by much either -- although there is this odd mustache-like geometry distortion at the wideangle end, which is its main flaw and could be a real problem if you like to shoot architecture w/ clean lines at wideangle (from say 18-22mm). Still, if you're critical about your architecture photos, you should probably get some fixed prime lenses for that as all zooms will have some geometry distortion at the wide end -- usually barrel distortion -- and Nikon offers a better range of wide angle lenses in general. Posted Image

Lens build quality and ergo are substantially better (and comes w/ 5-year warranty like most Nikon lenses vs 1 for Canon, even if it were their top L lenses). It's AFS while the Canon kit lens is *not* USM, if that matters to you. The extra bit of reach to 70mm is useful for a walkaround lens although most do prefer something longer for walkaround -- some go for 24-120VR or a 28-200 (or something similar on Canon side).

If you want to add an affordable telezoom later, you can get a 70-300 (or the new 55-200) for $100-300 depending on maker and model. You should note though that Canon offers a better range of telephoto lenses at this point although Nikon is catching up -- may not matter to most people who don't spend their time chasing birds though. Posted Image

As for the noise issue, yes, the XT seems to yield noticeably lower noise, particularly at high ISOs, but the noise characteristics of the Nikon is better, more film-like and monochromatic vs random color noise. Also, from what I can tell, there's something about Canon's general approach to tonal response (across all their bodies upto 1Ds Mk2) that seems to trade contrast and shadow details for supposed higher DR (at low ISO's) and/or lower noise. If you apply a judicious amount of NR in postprocessing, you should likely get similar results in terms of noise level while random color noise is much harder to get rid of. And postprocessing software keeps getting better all the time while what's done inside the camera is done forever.

And really, if you're shooting at low ISO's, the tiny amount of noise diff won't be noticeable on print -- only barely noticeable studied closely at 100% on screen. And for high ISO shots, the kind of noise grain that shows up in the Nikon might actually enhance the photos aesthetically speaking for the kinds of photography you might do at high ISO, eg. photojournalistic images, etc. Also, Nikon's Auto-ISO feature along w/ finer control of ISO steps helps here whereas w/ Canon you only have basic 1-stop ISO steps. Personally, I find lots of Canon shooters go way overboard on the noise issue and even apply additional NR to their photos that produce a very plastic look. Grain is not always bad afterall -- and I sometimes *add* grain to my images too -- but of course, this is a matter of personal taste just like the color response issue too -- and yes, I prefer Nikon's colors. Posted Image

FWIW, I'm looking forward to the rumored, upcoming D200 as I'd like a better AF system and bigger viewfinder, maybe optional vertical grip, etc. Of course, I wouldn't mind the higher res too, but that's secondary for me. I was actually tempted to consider the D2H when the price went down to $2K here (or a used one in excellent shape for maybe $1.7K), but 4MP seems a bit too low and the noise level and characteristics are a concern w/ that one. If Nikon put out a D2 body w/ 6-8MP and noise similar to the D70 for $2K, I'd jump for it, but that's probably not gonna happen for the forseeable future -- the D2H at $2K was probably just priced for clearance to prepare for the arrival of D2Hs and D2X.

_Man_

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#5 of 23 OFFLINE   Thomas Newton

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Posted August 16 2005 - 06:37 AM

Here are a few more data points to add to your agony. Posted Image

Canon 350D (Digital Rebel XT) and EOS 20D - Have 15% greater horizontal and vertical pixel counts than 6MP DSLRs; will likely have pleasing color. If you liked the build quality of the D70s, you will probably like the EOS 20D, too. Kit zooms are 18-55mm (28.8-88mm equivalent). Some photo sites suggest (or hint, through their choice of lens for taking their sample shots) that you should buy the $600 Canon 18-85mm IS (image-stabilized) zoom instead.

Nikon D50, D70, and D70s - D70 and D70s are good cameras, and kit lens supposedly is good (in terms of range and image quality, if not in terms of light-gathering ability) right out of the box. You can save $200 - $250 by buying a D70, if you can live with the tradeoffs (the biggest one being that there is no remote control socket for attaching certain types of accessories, like a vertical grip that controls the camera). D50 is $300 cheaper than the D70s, but its kit zoom only covers 18-55mm (27-82.5mm equivalent), and there is no depth of field preview.

Minolta Maxxum 5D and 7D - Maxxum 7D has attracted attention for several reasons: a large, bright, viewfinder; a large LCD; a camera body loaded with controls that reduce the need to go to menus; and image stabilization that works with just about every lens. Some reviews say it produces soft pictures. The 7D doesn't usually include a kit lens -- or at least, not one whose range is tailored to the crop factor of SLRs with APS-sized sensors. That bumps up the total package price. Maxxum 5D is a more entry-level camera. It has the image stabilizer, a more attractive price, and an 18-70mm kit lens -- but not all of the external controls (and perhaps not all of the build quality) of the 7D.

#6 of 23 OFFLINE   Bryce_H

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Posted August 16 2005 - 07:15 AM

As a note: Consumer Reports Magazine just put the Rebal XT at the top of the Digital SRL they tested.
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#7 of 23 OFFLINE   Rob Gillespie

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Posted August 16 2005 - 09:13 AM

Thomas - the 20D would be lovely but there's no way I'd buy it with the same kit lens as the 350. The IS lens people rave about is £400 over here, which means I'm looking at around £1350 instead of £700. Not going to happen. The 350 or D70 will have to serve me for a couple of years - maybe longer before upgrading again and by that time there'll be more affordable D-SLRs with full size sensors. I'd rather get a good camera and lens now and get a fantastic one later, if you get me (money situation dictates so anyway).

Bryce, I've seen similar lists over here and I never take them entirely seriously. They always factor cost into the equation, which means the 350 will have a big head start before any other factors are considered. One of the popular magazines here this month have a shootout between the 350 and the D70s (with kit lenses) and extra resolution or not, the Nikon won in terms of sheer image quality (like how Man describes it).

I still need to think on this some but I'd be glad to field more opinions.
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#8 of 23 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted August 16 2005 - 09:48 AM

If you're really having a hard time weighing the issues, look at the lens lineups, and read reviews on the lenses that catch your eye. Consider the type of shooting you do. Even if you're not going to buy extra lenses now, you know you will in the future - and the lenses almost always outlive the body.

A little planning now can help you later.

Canon and Nikon both make very good DSLRs. Each line has their own "personality." You have to decide which "personality" fits you best, and factor in future lens selections as well.

If you haven't explored the ergonomics and menu systems of each in detail, camera as well as software, do so if you can.

For the record, I shoot with a Canon 10D. But both brands have a lot to offer.

Also, regarding print size and sensor resolution - I've made several 16x24 prints with my 6.3MP Canon, and I've been quite pleased with the results.

-Scott

#9 of 23 OFFLINE   Thomas Newton

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Posted August 16 2005 - 12:26 PM

Quote:
As a note: Consumer Reports Magazine just put the Rebal XT at the top of the Digital SRL they tested.

I trust Consumer Reports for cars, but I don't think much of their digital SLR writeup (only half a page; not a full report). They forgot to mention some important things that a novice would need to know -- like that 1.5x or 1.6x effective "crop factor" that makes telephoto cheap, and wide-angle very expensive.

From an advanced amateur perspective, the implication that the 350D has the highest quality doesn't make much sense. Most reviews I've seen give the build quality advantage to the EOS 20D, D70/D70s, and 7D. As for picture quality, the EOS 20D should have matched the 350D for resolution and color. Yet the 350D beat the EOS 20D in their list.

#10 of 23 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted August 16 2005 - 12:32 PM

I agree w/ Scott's feelings about choosing although if you really don't expect to buy new lenses for a long time, particularly the expensive pro level variety or specialty ones, then lens selection might not matter too much. While there are differences between them, both sides are working to fill gaps. And there are usually good alternatives for either side too from the likes of Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.

Quote:
by that time there'll be more affordable D-SLRs with full size sensors

Well, don't hold your breath waiting for that. Posted Image I don't expect it to happen for the next 5 years myself, if ever. There's an inherent problem w/ production cost for full size sensors that doesn't fit w/ Moore's Law. Generally, much of the cost reduction w/ such stuff comes from size reduction or is often indirectly related to size reduction. But asking for *larger* sensors is going in the opposite direction. And at the end of the day, there really isn't a huge market demand for full size sensors, probably not enough to warrant the kind of production levels that might help drop prices that much. And the current trend of producing/marketing new lenses for APS-sized sensors seems to be driving the (affordable) consumer market away from what you want -- remember, all these EF-S, DX, etc. lenses will not work properly, if at all, on full frame bodies.

I think if you really *need* full frame, then plan on upgrading to a pro body down the line. Maybe you'll want to get a used 1Ds Mk2 for $2-3K when the 1Ds Mk4 (or whatever) comes out 4 years from now. Nowadays, a "lot" of people buy the old 1Ds used for ~$4K from the rich hobbyists who upgraded to the Mk2. And if you're moving up to a full frame Canon, you probably won't need to worry much about whether you're upgrading from a Nikon or Canon APS-sized body because you'll need to buy many new lenses to make full use of the upgrade anyway. Posted Image Canon's own wideangle lenses are not good enough to make full use of their 1Ds Mk2 from what I understand -- and any EF-S lenses wouldn't work anyway. Some people end up buying some very expensive Carl Zeiss lenses for wideangle on the 1Ds Mk2. And of course, there's also the shift in FOV (and perceived/effective focal length) that will affect lens choices.

On Nikon's side, it's uncertain when a full frame body will even come out for the pro market. And the success of the D2X has made full frame less necessary than before.

Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

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#11 of 23 OFFLINE   Thomas Newton

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Posted August 16 2005 - 04:36 PM

I remembered that Nikon has kits that include a 55-200mm lens. On this side of the pond, I've seen them go for:

Nikon D50 , 18-55mm and 55-200mm Nikkor lenses - $1099.95
Nikon D70s, 18-70mm and 55-200mm Nikkor lenses - $1369.95

The D50 kit is cheaper than a one-lens D70s, and the cost to get the second lens in the D70s kit ($170 = 95 pounds) isn't too bad.

#12 of 23 OFFLINE   Rob Gillespie

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Posted August 16 2005 - 06:57 PM

Guys, thanks. It's done - the D70s is ordered Posted Image
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#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Dennis*G

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Posted September 01 2005 - 03:12 AM

A little late to this, and I see you already got your camera (and by another thread have some pics), but just wanted to throw in, when going SLR, you should always buy by the lenses, not the camera body. Basically look at Canon, Nikon, Minolta lenses, read the specs, find out which company makes the best lenses (no mater the cost) for the type of shooting you like to do, then get the body of that brand that fits your needs.

Camera bodies come and go, but you can have your lenses forever.

#14 of 23 OFFLINE   Seth--L

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Posted September 01 2005 - 10:05 AM

I trust Consumer Reports for cars, but I don't think much of their digital SLR writeup (only half a page; not a full report).


A "full report" is what DP Review does.
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#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Chad A Wright

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Posted December 18 2005 - 02:41 AM

I was debating between the D70s and the 350XT for my wife for Christmas. I was originally going to get here a D200, but I couldn't get a firm release date from anyone, so I just went with the D70s and figured I could upgrade later. I'll need another good camera in about 6 months anyway.

We've used both the Nikon and Canon extensively and the D70s just seems to be a better all around camera. I dont' have any numbers or anything to prove it, I just like it better. The photos seem better overall, and the camera itself just feels better built.

I also ordered her a copy of Apeture to go with it. I can't wait to get that in and start playing around.

#16 of 23 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted December 22 2005 - 09:49 AM

Congrats to your wife, Chad. A very nice Christmas present indeed.

FWIW, the D200 was officially released on 12/15. And I managed to land not just 1, but TWO of them (accidentally) that were delivered just today. Posted Image Looks like an awesome camera -- it'll be an upgrade from my ~1.7-year-old D70. But I'm sure your wife will be very happy w/ the D70s as well. All of these DSLRs are pretty great cameras that offer lots of room for learning and growing (and plain snapshooting fun as well). And w/ the savings in the camera body costs, you could invest that toward some good lenses, which is at least as important as the body itself. I've certainly spent more $$$ on lenses so far than my original D70 or even the new D200 (by a hair), and will very likely spend more on lenses going forward among other things.

Merry Christmas and happy shooting!

_Man_

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#17 of 23 OFFLINE   Brian Perry

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Posted December 23 2005 - 01:46 AM

Man-

Any interest in selling me the extra D200? Posted Image

#18 of 23 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted December 23 2005 - 08:40 AM

Hey, Brian.

If you're interested, sure, why not? I was just going to sell the extra one anyway (one way or another) after I'm satisfied w/ the one unit I've opened. I plan to test out the one for a few days to a week before selling the extra unopened one to make sure I don't have a lemon that needs returning -- and I doubt they'd have another replacement available anytime soon.

FWIW, I'm really loving the D200. The whole shooting experience thus far is easily a couple steps up from my old D70 (if not more) and very much worth the upgrade.

Anyway, let me know if you're still interested and whether you can wait a few days to a week before I commit.

Regards,

_Man_

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#19 of 23 OFFLINE   Brian Perry

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Posted December 23 2005 - 01:46 PM

Okay, I'll send you an e-mail.

#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Adam Barratt

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Posted January 02 2006 - 12:33 PM

I picked up a D70s with 18-70 and 70-300 lenses today (plus a bag, UV filter and CF card). I preferred the way the D70s felt in-hand compared to the 350/XT. I also plan to do some flash photography which made the wireless commander mode a real bonus (and I'm just used to looking at an LCD at the top of the camera body, not at the back).

I was also considering a D200, but it seems like it won't be freely available locally (without having to join a long queue) for quite some time.

Adam





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