Body upgrade: what visible IQ-improvement?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by sunray|1, Jan 16, 2010.

  1. Ok, so now I bought some good primes (50 1.4, 85 1.4, and soon a 20 2.8), I started shooting RAW in 'M' and subscribed to a photoclass to learn the basics on digital photography from scratch. Next things will be setting up a workflow with my Mac, backup drive and CS4 and save for a tripod and a SB600.
    I shoot mostly people (headshots, head/shoulder shots) or (social) events indoors/outdoors and travel/city in available light, sometimes low light (no flash...yet...). Preferably at base ISO (200), but sometimes forced to crank it up to 1600 ISO.
    Sooner or later though I feel I want to upgrade from the D70 that I've been using since I bought it new in 2004. I know what I would like to be improved on my next body: bigger/brighter viewfinder and LCD screen and better autofocus, especially with low light. But I'm not exactly sure what more I am missing in the D70, as a tool to take my photography to a higher level.
    My next body will be eitehr a D90, D300 or D700. I've read lots of discussions on FX/DX, investing in more good glass etc. etc. but what I want to know for now is what to actually expect from improvement in IQ. What difference will I actually see IQ-wise between RAW-shots (with as little as possible PP) with that new body on a 8x10 print or 100% on a 20" monitor, compared to what I see now with my D70?
    Or maybe: what is the real life difference between the 6MP CCD and 'old' processor and the new 12MP CMOS (DX or FX) with the new EXPEED processor when it comes to plain, visible image quality? Colors? Detail? Sharpness? Just RAW, not using Picture Controls or Active D-Lighting etc.
    I'm not asking for a buying advice, just your thoughts on the actual difference in IQ, coming from the D70.
    Thank you for taking the effort.
  2. At 8x10 print size? Not a lot of improvement AT LOW ISO. Any of the bodies you mention WILL give better high ISO performance, and noticeably so. Taking your work to a 'higher level', however, is much more a matter of practice and craft development.

    I know that I sound like a broken record/mistracking CD/corrupted MP3 on this subject, but I notice you don't have a portfolio. This makes it impossible for us to see the kind of images you are making, and thus what would or would not lead to improvements.

    I do suggest that 'as little as possible PP' is an unnecessary and harmful restriction. In film days, we 'PPed' images extensively to create REALISTIC prints. Editing skills are necessary, period. Back in the olden days, we either learned to print or hired someone who could. This has not changed in the slightest.

    IMO, a good tripod would serve you better than an 'upgraded' (I hate that term) body. Ditto a good, powerful flash unit.
  3. If you are into portraits, and you have the 85mm f1.4 lens, you may consider the Nikon D700. It will 'handle' the manual focus 85mm f1.4 lens at medium high ISO settings (i.e., 3200 or 4000) without a flash for much better results over the D70 image. If you have the auto-focus 85mm f1.4D Nikkor lens, the D700 will also work very well with your lens.
  4. Hi Les, thank you for your response. I am aware that working on my craft development (including PP) is the key to better pictures , hence the photoclass, 'M'-only shooting and taking lots of pictures whenever I have the time. A tripod is on my list too. I am working on a portfolio and will definitely post some pictures as soon as I'm ready.
    I was just wondering, reading all the info and tips...sometimes I get the feeling that there is almost no use in thinking of 'upgrading' camera body purely for the sake of IQ-improvement (And yes I have understood that, good glass, a tripod and photographic skills come first).
    I was just wondering how one could describe the 'quantum leap in IQ' some people refer to when they discuss the current generation dSLRS vs the 'old generation' like a D70...
  5. >>>Or maybe: what is the real life difference between the 6MP CCD and 'old' processor and the new 12MP CMOS (DX or FX) with the new EXPEED processor when it comes to plain, visible image quality? Colors? Detail? Sharpness? Just RAW, not using Picture Controls or Active D-Lighting etc.<<<

    It will be contrast and colors in high ISO. The difference is tremendous and worth about two stops, even on the D90. Of course, also noise, but you won't notice in small prints. BTW: As far as I understood, Active-D lighting is used in RAW too.
  6. There is a big quality difference between the images from those new bodies and that of the D70. In an 8x10", there is my opinion a noticeable difference if the print is done correctly. In larger prints the differences get more obvious.
  7. btw I've just quickly put some pictures in my PN portfolio...
  8. I was just wondering how one could describe the 'quantum leap in IQ' some people refer to when they discuss the current generation dSLRS vs the 'old generation' like a D70...​
    I'm not sure I know what this 'quantum leap' is. It seems only to be a 'leap' at fairly high ISO, which I seldom use. Even then, I'm not sure it's all that 'quantum'. Gearheads, audiophiles (I wrote for an audio mag) and so on see these great leaps where others see only incremental difference. I have an edit on your image of the little boy in the jacket. I think I achieved a small leap in editing it--be glad to send you the result.
  9. Hey Les,
    I'd be very glad to see your edit! :)
    Haven't the slightest experience yet with CS4 and did only minor tweaks by the seat of my pants with Aperture... :)
  10. Ray.
    I upgraded from the D70 to the D90 last Summer. For me, there was no instant huge benefit to my shots from added IQ - it was more a case that it gave an across the range improvement and offers more flexibility and potential to learn than the D70.
    IQ at higher ISOs is better - and the useful range is obviously extended by a some way.
    I do find that there is a general improvement, better colour rendition, better dynamic range. more functionality (with a few exceptions where the D70 was actually better). I wouldn't personally describe it as a quantum leap from the D70 though.
    I tried out a D300 just before getting the D90 - and have a friend who similarly upgraded from a D70 but to the D300 - and I would hesitate to put words in his mouth, but from chatting, I think he felt similarly.
    Good luck,
  11. Hi Martin,
    Thanx for your useful response. I'm getting the idea that indeed the most gain can be had in the hi ISO performance / extended useful ISO range.
    In what respect did you feel the D70 was actually better than your D90?
  12. In what respect did you feel the D70 was actually better than your D90?​
    The body and build quality is much better with the D70 than the D90. Flash sync at 1/500 insteat of 1/250 (although I believe that is a factor of the sensor in the D70).
    Ergonomically - I found the D70 to be better too. The D90 feels smaller (it is smaller) - and some lenses make it look even smaller (the 105mm VR Micro for eg.)
  13. I skimmed through this thread and I think this wasn't said.
    Please try the 20/2.8 before you purchase one. I've found it to be a rather poor performer on DX bodies.
    When I bought a D80 a couple years ago, I thought my AF 20/2.8 would work well and wouldn't need a zoom. I ended up buying the 18-55 just in case. The lowly $80. lens out shined the AF 20/2.8 by quite a large margin.
  14. Two years ago I went from a 6 MP crop body to a 12 MP D2X. I was shocked at first that the difference was not a "quantum leap". Once I did some controlled tests I could see that the 12 MP sensor did make a worthwhile difference and certainly the much more capable body was also a huge asset.
    The D90 is an extremely good value, with the D300(s) being okay and the D700 being well overpriced. I suggest waiting one more year for the next series of improvements and lower pricing.
  15. The D700 is a big, noticeable, improvement over the D70. You get crisper images, a better meter (I almost never have to adjust contrast in PS), more room to crop, and several stops more in usable ISO. The trade-off is that you may prefer the extra reach that the 1.5x crop factor on the D70 gives you vs. the D700 if you do sports or wildlife.
  16. This website allows you to compare different camera qualities with other cameras via a graph. The D90 is a reasonable replacement body with many excellent qualities. The D300 gives you mostly a more rugged construction. The D700 is to expensive for most people. I imagine all of these bodies are due for replacement this year. Sony is turning up the heat in the pricing department which will be interesting to watch and see what happens.
  17. The D700 is fantastic, your IQ in studio conditions at your print size wont be much different: what will be different is the far superior focusing will have many more of your shots in better focus, so a higher ratio of good shots. In non-studio, the fantastic ISO performance will allow you to shoot with the aperture closed down a couple of stops, even in reasonably poor light, so your lenses will be sharper. You can happily hand-hold at f/8 in mediocre light, getting excellent performance out of your lenses at ISO 3200. Wide open, the IQ will be similar to the D70 with a different field of view, but then again the D700 can shoot handheld in the dark with fast lenses. The other thing is that it feels much better than the D70, operates faster, sturdier, it feels like the pro camera it is. When i get out my D80, it feels and operates like a consumer camera in comparison, huge difference.
  18. At this moment, I have the D70 and the D90 side by side. I can feel or see no difference in weight or size. The cameras feel alike. The D700 is another story, of course.
    I attach a test image of the D90 at ISO3200 compared to the D70 at ISO3200 (ISO1600 pushed one stop in ACR). I took crops so that the image compare on a 90dpi computer screen to a 20x30cm print. The main difference is the color and contrast. There is a lot of noise too in the left (D70) image, but this is manageable at small prints.
  19. The D70 to me feels more like a pro-body when compared to the D90 - and certainly the handling, for me, is better. The moulding for the grip has more bulk to it, and the overall build quality seems better.
    The body on the D70 is taller than the D90 - and there is more space at the rear between the grip / battery compartment and the first of the rear controls - which for me means it is easier to grip whilst making adjustments. That is of course due to having a smaller screen on the D70 - there is more space on the rear to play with. But the body is slightly longer too.
    Here's a link with a pic of the bodies side by side so that you can see the size / proportion differences.
    It's a bit of a moot point though - the D90 is a general improvement over the D70 pretty well across the board, but I would still prefer the D90 in a D70 body (some would say that's nearly the D300).
    Good luck
  20. Gah, typed a whole load more trying to update the above and it timed out.
    I was in the same boat as you regarding wanting to upgrade, and trying to decide between the D90/D300/D700. Undoubtedly they get better and the 300/700 are great cameras.
    But for me the £ was an issue - I could afford a new lens (the 105mm Micro VR - my favourite lens) + the D90 for a nudge more than the D300, and well below the D700 - I have since bought an SB-600 and some other gear and am still well below the D700 price.
    I also had some DX lenses which ruled out the FX - at lesat for a while - any new lenses I buy will be FX compatible (or at least a proportion of them). Getting the DX would have left me with only 1 workable lens - the 50mm 1.4 AF-D.
    I have not regreted getting the D90 instead of the D300 / D700 - the only 2 minor gripes have been the body quality and lack of a PC-Sync socket. But that is me, your needs may well differ.
  21. I have a D70 from 04. I shoot mostly landscapes and cityscapes so I have not upgraded nor do I have a desire. I shoot at base ISO on tripod. I have printed 12x16 competition wise in camera clubs. I have no concerns.
    If you are into portraits, then I suggest a speedlight upgrade. Since you already got some nice glass.
    Given that you do events and some low light, ISO 1600 then the newer bodies may give you more in terms of noise. But in good light I doubt.
  22. In answer the original poster's question, all three D90, D300 and D700 will make only a little improvement in IQ for 8x10 prints taken in bright light at base ISO settings. However, all three bodies mentioned represent a great improvement in IQ when used in very dim light at greatly boosted ISO settings such as ISO 1250, 1600, 3200 and 6400.
    I moved from a D70 to a D200 which offered little IQ improvment but then to the D300 which was a significant leap over the D200 and then onto the D700 which has even more IQ improvemnt over the D300 esp. at the higher end of ISO boost settings ie. at 3200 and 6400.
    OK, keeping the reply on track and in ref. to IQ - the following is a subjective observation of my own. I prefer the 'type' of residual noise left by the D700. Sounds nebulous?? The noise that did come from the D300 was more aggressive than the D700. The D700 appears to me, to produce a more pleasantly "shaped" type of noise and less of it. I try shoot landscapes a lot to make beautiful pictures - I prefer what the D700 does for me in this respect.
  23. I use the D700 for my portrait work. I got it because I wanted to do more natural light portraits. It is a great body. You can see some of the results in my portfolios here or on my other site at
    I started off with a D70, then the D200 and now the D700. The difference in performance between those camera bodies is very large and while the technology does not make the photographer, the technology allows the photographer to explore new boundaries/capabilities.
    There is a D3s which is supposedly 1 to 1.5 stops faster than the D3. Hoping there will be a similar shift for the D700 soon.
  24. "subscribed to a photoclass to learn the basics on digital photography from scratch"
    can I ask which photoclass did you subscribe to? I've been looking for a class to 'fill in the wholes' of what I think I know and what I do know - I'm self -taught doing mostly nature work for the past 3+ years
  25. Hi all!
    Thank you very much for all your replies. Beautiful photo's Les and Steven S.!
    Steven P. I know not everybody is wild about the 20mm 2.8.... I also contemplate(d) the Tokina 11-16, and the race isn't run yet, but I feel I prefer a small and light prime for unobtrusive street and travel photography besides my 50 1.4.
    Steven G. I'm in the Netherlands, I currently do the 'basisopleiding' at the 'Foto Vakschool'. I am more or less self-'taught' since I was a kid and never went further than snapshots at social events and travels, but I feel this will give me a solid ground to build on now that I decided I want to take it all to a new level. They also have a more extended 'professional' class after this, aiming at people who want to make a living as a paid photograper.
    Based on all your input I feel confirmed in my opinion that (value for money aside) a D700 would make sense for giving me more options in low light, no flash situations and improving my chances on a higher hitrate. And that at this moment my D70 serves me well in good light situations. I understand that the real world, visible improvement in IQ will be in colors, contrast and noise in low light/ hi ISO situations. To me that seems important for some aspects of my preferred shooting styles.
    So I will save for a D700 (probably the price will come down some more this year). I will keep the D70 anyhow because DX and FX each have their pros and cons and I can use my lenses on both. If before that time my D70 should die I guess a (used) D90 would be the ticket.
  26. Here is the web page I forgot to put in my post. You can view characteristics of camera's from this page via graph which is helpful in figuring out noise and dynamic range etc. Sometimes the graph does not correlate with what people say at all. Not sure if the graph is incorrect or the people that talk about the huge benefits of a newer camera's are incorrect. But look for yourself.
  27. OPK


    let me put some words....
    I used to make pictures with D70s and D2Hs, D300 and D700.
    the one and only visible difference was by harsh lightning conditions where I was able to shoot with higher ISO.
    D2Hs with 4MPx made picture as good as D70 - maybe better in terms skin tone or overal color rednition. on printings up to A3 size was just tremendous. the most convenient was D300. now I shot with EOS 50D and looging forward D70s again as a second body.
    in a straight words - just grab best lenses and flashes on a market and be happy with yours D70. all new stuff is in most cases just a waste of money.
    just as a hint - do you change your car every couple of years because there's a new one with better engine?
  28. Ray, went from dx to fx, d700. Cant say huge IQ difference. At least, that alone wasnt the reason for the change. Reason, to get actual 70-105 from the 70-200, my main lens for portraits. That 85 1.4 is working as a 130 mm equivalent, it will drop to 85 on ff and you may want a 135 as well. Of course, low light, higher burst and of course brighter viewfinder are regularly appreciated. I rarely need more than 340 mm (with tc) and have a backup dx for the few times I need 510. You have some nice work in your portfolio. My recommendation, keep the body you have, take some classes- composition and lighting and buy and learn studio lighting. It will transform your images way more. Side benefit, is carry over to sensitivity to light in existing light shots. Same for learning to use photoshop creatively. Here's one shot in studio, tweaked in ps, based on an inspiration from phenomenal image posted by Jeff Spirer.
  29. Heres's image.
  30. One important gain going to a D700 from D70 is dynamic range. The D70 seems to me to have a nasty tendency to saturate abruptly, while the 700 is much smoother close to saturation... and of course it brings you between 1.5 and 2.5 more EV of range. Not a detail in many cases, street being a field in which I think you would enjoy the improvement.

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