D70 IQ limit or skill/technique?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by sunray|1, Dec 3, 2009.

  1. Hi there,
    For 5 years I use a D70, recently only w/5omm 1.4. I thought about upgrading and with the help from input from this forum I decided just to stick a little longer with my old D70 to learn more and develop my skills, exploring the M and A setting and playing with WB and exposure compensation etc.. Of course since then I made a lot more bad pics then before, but I'm not discouraged and keep on clicking ;-)
    Here's a snapshot I just to took with low candescendent light 10ft away, ISO 1600, f1.4 and 1/30s from app. 1ft from subject.
    Just the plain, untouched RAW/NEF straight out of the camera.
    Aside from the composition clearly this is a very noisy, low IQ shot. ;-)
    I was just wondering: is this what you'd call pushing it to the limit with a D70, IQ/ noisewise? Would a D90 or D300(s) give me a realy big upgrade in IQ in the same situation? As far as lenses go I guess I could not really ask for more than the 50mm 1.4...
    Or has this more to do with mys skills/technique.
    Or am I being unrealistic about low light shooting without flash or tripod?
    Thanx for your feedback!
  2. A d90 would make the image slightly better, and a D300 would likely assist in getting better autofocus results. The next leap in image quality, though, as far as high ISO would be a D700. An upgrade would help you, likely, but I would save for a full frame camera and then probably not upgrade again until the year 2025. =o)
  3. I do think ISO 1600 with a D70 is probably pushing the limit noise-wise, yes. Upgrading to a D90 or 300s will certainly give you better ISO 1600 performance, but it's not going to be the magic "wow all of a sudden I'm a better photographer" thing. Using a tripod and a flash with the D70 would probably help you just as much as the upgrade, and personally, I think I'd explore the flash/tripod thing with the 50mm 1.4 before spending the bucks on a new camera.
  4. Hi Robert,
    Yes, if upgrading my camera I definitely plan keeping it for some time DX or FX...
    Same with lenses; I first want to fully explore the possibilities of this 50mm and just slowly build on a very select prime collection (just add a 20 or 24 and a 85 or just maybe a 105/135/180).
    I forgot to mention that I also wondered if PP in Aperture or Lightroom could do any wonders on a pic like this? on one hand I actually hope not....I am actually not much of a computer type and hope to lear to take pictures that require only minor adjustments... :)
    So basically the question remains if it's skills or tools with pictures like this. The D700 has crossed my mind already but it's very much money and I feel a bit awkward regarding my skills versus such a camera ;-)
  5. Hi Ted,
    Thanx, and yes, I will also invest in a tripod an flash some time, but I am very attracted to learn to shoot handheld without flash in low light...
  6. Bad lighting is bad lighting - the identical image shot using the same settings with a D700 would not look all that different (unless you were pixel peeping). An unprocessed RAW file is not a fair comparison either as no noise reduction and sharpening are likely being applied. There are numerous programs available to you that can do a good job on an ISO 1600 image even from your camera. A well exposed ISO 1600 image from a D70 can actually be made to look pretty good (depending on print size).
  7. Hi Elliot,
    I saw that (of course) the image I uploaded is now a jpeg; I imported it with Aperture and than sent it as a mail attachment without adjusting anything.
    What programs (or tools in Aperture...which I really not yet have explored...) would you suggest to enhance such a noisy ISO1600 image?
  8. The uploaded image does not look noisey to me. How big do you intend to print your shots.
  9. Hi Stuart,
    I view my images mostly on a laptop or iPod/Imageviewer on the road, or on a flatscreen TV as a iPhoto slideshow for family. I rarely print, but if i do it's small size, maybe max. 20x30 cm or in a A4 sized web-order album.
    I must say (of course)...the posted image, downsized an converted to jpeg does indeed look not so bad as the RAW on full screen.... but still...
  10. A D3s would make your way of working a lot easier with its 102,400 ISO. As Robert wrote above, a D90 and D300 would make for visible improvements. For me, the better AF would be the thing.
    Otherwise, a good noise program, and if you can deal with the change in working methodology, a tripod and a used flash for use with your present camera & lens. I would have a hard time living with only a 50mm on a Dx body. For strong-light use, I would consider a used 18-70 Nikkor.
  11. Ray, I use and recommend DXO - their newest release, Version 6 is now availabe. It offers an excellent RAW converter and superb NR with minimal loss in detail. Other programs like Bibble, Noise Ninja, etc. can also do a grfeat job. (FWIW - DXO offers a free 30 day trial.)
    When DXO Version 5 came out, I did a series of test shots at ISO 3200. You can view the results here:
    Version 6 offers noticeably better high ISO results compared to Version 5 so you can expect even better results than the above linked samples.
  12. Hi Luis,
    For a number of reasons (money, size, 'matching skills-tools') I'm really only flrting with the D90 or D300 (s) as a possible upgrade (with a preference to de 300).
    I really begin to realize that I should spend some time behind a computer and learn on post processing programs...:) :-(
    Elliot, thanx for the info and link. That looks really amazing indeed! ISO 1600 DXO almost as good as ISO100 RAW??? wow...
    Hope it's easy to use for a computerphobe? :)
  13. A new camera will not help you get a better understanding of what a RAW file is nor will it help improve your technique. The fact that you don't make prints very often and instead simply view on small lcd screens only reinforces that. Looking at 100% views of rendered RAW files with no adjustments is completely unnecessary.
    The hardware is not to blame here. In my opinion, you need more experience and more understanding of what your D70 is actually doing.
  14. Sorry if I missed this, but:
    1/30th is not terribly realistic for hand-holding a 50mm, especially at high mag (1 foot). If you had exceptional skills, braced elbows, three-shot bursts, maybe, but I'd "aim higher". The main problem with this shot that I see is either camera shake or subject movement (or both). Perhaps this is what folks meant by suggesting a tripod.
    Like the OP, I enjoy hand-held low light photography. When shooting indoors, I tend to find or map out the "pools of light", the conversation areas that are directly under the overhead lights, the seats next to the table lamp, etc. I find the exposure values for those areas, and then await "targets of opportunity". If something is happening in the shadows, I either ignore it or reach for a flash.
  15. 1600 with a D70 is pushing it but that is really a side issue on this shot:
    At that range at f1.4 the dof is probably only a few of cm anyway and looks like you missed the focus
    At 1/30 it has suffered from one or more of the following: camera shake, subject movement
    Other than a bit less noise it would look just the same from a newer/more expensive camera. If your pics are not sharp at web jpg size there is something seriously wrong.
  16. I sometimes use neat image with my D1h and D80 ISO 3200 shots and it does a pretty good job at making the noise less visible. One thing to remember is to avoid underexposure at hi ISOs because if you underexpose and have to brighten the image in post processing then the noise will show even more. Another thing is that sharpening makes noise more visible so avoid over sharpening also. Another thing is to take advantage of the noise and go for a grainy kind of shot if you like that kind of thing.
  17. Ray, your inclination to work on your SKILLS is a good one, because technique can ALWAYS be improved.
    That said, a D90 would give you noticeably better IQ than your D70. The D90 will work with your 18-70 mm DX lens. If you want to make another jump in quality later, consider the 16-85 mm DX VRII lens. VR isn't going to work miracles, but it would have helped make your cat photo a bit sharper.
    By the way, I don't think this photo was taken in "bad light." If it had been just a bit sharper it would have been a very strong and moving image.
  18. Here is one from the D1h at ISO 6400 I had to use neat image to get a decent 8x10 print.
    Shot with a 50mm 1.8 at F2 and 1/100 sec.
  19. Of course a camera with ISO 12800 should help a lot to make this image. However, the D70 can properly handle this situation. You do only need to work around your shooting technique and composition.
  20. When I got my D90, I got Vincent Bockaert's copy of his 123 of digital imaging. He goes right into how a camera works, and specifically the digital camera. How it captures the image and processes it. Then he helps to understand the use of light. In photography it is all about the correct lighting on the subject. Getting a good ebook or book on photography would be a huge help to you, it would give you the answers and reasons for doing it like this or that way. It is a small price to pay for getting more personal satisfaction from your light capturing tool, the camera. He is not the only person to offer their experience.
  21. Wow guys! Thank you all for your helpful comments!
    Looks like indeed I have to learn and pratice more in getting sharp images; Todd's approach to map the pools of light and target the opportunities is a keeper for me :)
    Also I feel that I won't escape some learning about RAW and RAW processing....as much though as I'd like to do without computer-fiddling and get good images just right after clicking :)
    That said...I also pick up that, although it's not about the hardware (ISO performance of the D70), an upgrade to the D90 (or D300) isn't a stupid thing to do either ...
    And the joy of of a new tool could actually add to my motivation to work on shotting skills and PP-skills :)
  22. Beautiful images by the way! Thanx!
    If I could achieve that one day.... :)
  23. Ray,
    Downloading and blowing up your image - you don't have serious noise problems, but you missed the focus a bit. Actually given low shutter speed, high ISO, wide open lens, and how squirmy your subject normally is - it's a good shot.
    Have you printed a 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 of this shot?
  24. Hey Glenn,
    Thanx for taking all the trouble; you are quicker than I am: I just took the shot, sitting on the couch after dinner, playing with the D70 and posting the image here spontaneously:)
    Would be worthwhile to print it one of these days though...
    Your comment further confirms the need to improve my focussing skills, especially with shallow DOF/1.4
    In that respect I can imagine a better/bigger/brighter viewfinder and a better/faster/more accurate AF system would make sense...
  25. I did indeed noticed that the AF was hunting when I tried to focus on the eyes....it only locked when I moved just sideways to the left..guess it picked up more contrast there...
    I disabled the AF assist light for these situations...
    I guess this specific shot was a difficult one for the D70 and I will probably get much better shots easier in better light situations.
    I'll go practising! :)
  26. First off I'm glad you posted on here before upgrading. This is not necessarily pushing the limit with this camera. This shows that you really need to refine your technique. Under your circumstances this capture required use of a flash or other type of lighting. Granted you could upgrade to a D700 be able to shoot at 6400 ISO but than you would still down the road run into technique problems in making satisfactory pictures.
    Concerning this picture, you shot at 1/30s with a 50mm which isn't bad at all may or may not be handholdable, that just depends on how steady you are. Secondly you shot wide open, meaning the lens' maximum aperture, this in itself is a problem. All lenses tend to be soft at the very least at their max aperture along with other distortions. Now if you stop it down to say f4 you tend to get pretty sharp results.
    Also a foot away from your subject is awfully close, i dont exactly know what the minimum focusing distance is for that lens so im not sure but you might want to make sure you were within the minimum focusing distance of that lens.
    Lastly if you are barely exploring the manual (M) and aperture priority (A) settings you really should consider maybe familiarizing yourself with the basics of exposure a little more until you can use these shooting modes without any worries and be able to nail the exposure every time. Your camera is more than capable focus more on your technique, maybe purchasing an external flash or other types of lighting and also better lenses.
    Good Luck
    -David O.
  27. Ray, the minimum focus on the 50mm is 1.5 feet, so if you were closer than that, that's part of what threw off your focus. I didn't see enough noise in the photo to be distracting--it's more about the focus. If you really want to shoot without flash, then a tripod is a really good thing to have, though if the cat moves it won't help!
  28. Ray, on my D70 I have to really pick and choose which images to apply Noise Ninja on to get acceptable images beyond ISO-400. The D70, particularly with good noise reducing SW can do well, but you have to pay attention to the subject and surroundings. Any areas that are black or dark in tone are essentially going to be underexposed in low light conditions, and underexposure is where digital noise thrives due to the strength of the signal being quite low compared to the always present noise. Your picture with a black cat and dark background is asking for trouble, and you did quite well considering the potential. If you look at the other sample pictures posted here (which are very good for low light, I must say), you will notice that they generally have light/bright tones, and if you look closely in shadows and dark areas you will notice that there is more noise present there.
  29. I'd second David O's reply, as the camera is only as good as the person using it. Look at the work of people about (say) 50 years ago, using cameras considerably less sophisticated and optically poorer than what you are using. The benefits of just using a tripod or monopod, will considerably improve the images you already take. Understanding the effect of using different f-stops and shutter speeds, instead of just relying on what the Program setting delivers, will eventually deliver results that better those of a more expensive camera.
  30. Almost off to bed now.... :)
    Just one more shot of my patient model, this time with some more attention to focussing....different spot in the room but still handheld at ISO1600/1.4 and this time 1/13s(...) and just a slight exposure tweaking in Aperture
  31. Thanx again all of you! Very good and wise words and confirming what I already knew (TECHNIQUE), although of course new camera-technologies could be useful to make things easier in some situations...
    btw I shot the first image on 'M', and this one on 'A'. Since I have the 50mm, the 18-70 is catching dust and I never used the P or Scene modes ever again:)
  32. "Or am I being unrealistic about low light shooting without flash or tripod?"
    In a word, YES! True that newer cameras will give better high ISO performance, but not that much better. Learning about lighting and depth of field, and proper use of a flash (NOT ON CAMERA) is a big step in the right direction.
    I've made prints from my D70 up to 24x30 inches on ISO 400. That was not even from a RAW file. I used a tripod, and some very controlled studio lights, colored gels, and careful placement of focus and exposure.
  33. Ray
    Remember this: camera 10% lighting 90% the only person to disagree will be someone trying to sell you a new camera. A D70 is a great camera I only upgraded because mine stopped working. You have unrealistic expectations taking a picture of a black cat with no thought about the lighting, the best and most expensive camera in the world won't help if you don't care about the lighting.
  34. Ray, I used my D70 at 1600 all the time with different lenses. 1600 iso is very usable if correctly exposed and processed carefully. I shoot in RAW and turn off all sharpening, and use maximum "chroma noise reduction" in Adobe ACR, which gets rid of the colored speckles in underexposed areas. I don't see any in your shots, which are too dark by the way. Here's (100% crop) of an example of the D70 of a cat in better lighting, 1600 iso 125 sec. Don't remember the f-stop (old pre-AI 50mm f1.4 manual lens). After the conversion from raw I selectively sharpened only his eye and a few whisker areas using a layer mask. Sharpening technique depends on final output size, and depends on whether its just a jpg for the net, or an actual print. Once you start resizing pixels, it gets tricky.
    In my film days I shot lots of indoor shots with the 50mm lens wide open at 1/30, which seemed to be just right for typical "living room lighting." Here's one such shot, on Plus-X, which is only iso 125!. http://www.photo.net/photo/1152740. Here's a series, again on Plus X, shot at 1/15 sec hand held, which gives this series of portraits a smooth look, due to my slight camera movement: http://www.photo.net/photo/1179717&size=lg
    I wouldn't worry about the iso as much as getting good lighting and focusing carefully. Get some books or articles on lighting for starters.
  35. here's the full shot
  36. great shot Steve!
    I think I got the info I needed, thanx to all of you.
    Indeed lighting is a subject I should learn on, whether how to create it or how to use it (including composition)
    I'll go working on it!
  37. Ray, I am still using my old D70 as well. I used DxO Optics for quite a while, and I only recently upgraded the software to the new version 6. I found it absolutely intuitive to use, and - best of all - it does a great job using all its default settings.
    On installation or afterwards you have to choose your camera and lenses out of a list, and DxO loads its corresponding modules. It will eliminate most of your camera's and lens' vignetting and distortions magically and without any further need to take action. Also, it's an excellent RAW converter. So for the vast majority of my pictures I simply have to import them into a project and "develop" them afterwards. I couldn't do a better job manually, what DxO does with its default settings. Occasionally, I have to crop some pictures as needed, bt that's about all I have to do by hand.
    So I can only encourage you to give it a try. It's really, really simple to use, it has become reasonably quick (depending on your computer, obviously) and the results are brilliant. Finally, you have a 30 day free test, and you'll need the less expensive "Standard" version for the D70.
    Regards, Heiko
  38. It looks like either Rootie or you moved during exposure. Nothing wrong with the camera in my opinion.
  39. IMO you won't see an improvement in ISO from the D70 to the D90 or D300. They are about the same. I made a similar switch earlier this year. See my old posts for comparisons. Lot's of people dismissed my claims, even ones that made the same switch. I thought this was really interesting. I had hoped somebody else would post the same comparison with their own cameras, but I haven't seen it.
    What I really noticed in the JPEGs was that the NR in the D300 really crushes the blacks. So overall it looks less noisy, but the shadow detail is gone at ISO 1600. Probably you can adjust this if you don't like it, but I don't use NX2 so I didn't look into it.
    I think the reason the D300 has a reputation as being relatively good in the ISO dept is because most people buying it were coming from the D80 or D200, and compared to these cameras it is an improvement. But the cameras which all shared the same chip as the D70 (D40/D50) though older were already better than the D80 and D200 in ISO.
    Funny thing, kind of, is that my apartment got broken into last week and both my D40 and D50 were taken. They actually missed the D300 and my better lenses because they were in my camera bag while the others were sitting out. Now I'm looking to get a D70 to replace the D40/50 as it takes the same cards and batteries as the D300. For me, (for me!!! you are not me!) the high sync speed of the D70 is more valuable than any other improvements of the D300. Well, the big screen is nice. But the D40 screen was good too. I like the 12mp vs 6mp, but I never print bigger than A4 so it doesn't really matter, and I do little cropping. Low light AF is definitely much better, but for still subjects, which is what I'm shooting most of the time, I don't see any difference in accuracy. That's my take on it.
  40. OPK


    I could also add something....
    ...D70s was my first digital SLR, which I am still missing after long way through D2Hs, D300 and even D700, which I have sold recently. Now I'm using other 'camp', but in a short future I'm gonna buy D70s AGAIN. I thing there's nothing special in newer bodies but higher ISO capability. D70s has it's own sparkle which other cons cameras are lacking. moreover it's more advanced in possibilities and constuction than nowadays consumer cameras.
    so....my short advice - get D70s with a lot of great lenses and learn some exposure/lightning stuff.
  41. Just looking back at some of my D70 images I am suprised at just how good some of the ISO 1600 images really are. I never suffered with noise with my D70 and when I got the D80 I never really found it to be that noisey either. The D70 did seem to be more predictable at higher ISOs and the Noise of the D70 and D80 is really quite different. The D70 looks much more like a film scan at higher ISOs. Whereas the D80 at higher ISOs gets a kind of mushy blotchy noise that is does not look quite so nice. In prints they kind of print about the same though.
  42. I regularly use ISO 3200 on my D40, but then again I only use black and white, so it's not noise; it's grain :)
  43. I have been using D70s for around four years now and was considering to moving to D300s basically for high ISO capability. Going through these some posts here I am getting feeling that I need not.
    So what is really the strength of D300s ?
  44. OPK


    again - high iso capability and robust build, faster and more complex AF, bigger viewfinder and lots of functions you barely use. and a little wider dynamic range. that's all....
    if you aren't sure you WOULD need it - you don't
  45. Anand
    dynamically the D300 is a nicer camera to use it has bigger viewfinder and a more sold feel, a bit like the difference between a Nikkormat and a Nikon F2As and of course faster autofocus etc etc
  46. I agree with Steve and respectfully disagree with Martin's "if you aren't sure you would Need it you don't".

    I've shot with the Nikon line for 40 years starting with an F several other's before digital until the D70 and finally the D300 2 years ago. The D300 allows me to do things that I would never have been able to do before. About the only thing about the D300 I do not like are its size and weight. In every other regard in my opinion the D300 is a quantum leap forward not a small incremental jump from the D70.
    It is most apparent in ISO performance. In my experience shooting the D70 at ISO 800 or above created barely acceptable images. The D300 works well up to 1600 and even 3200.
    I did not really know I needed better auto focus I just assumed it was my technical skill and technique. But I found that 6 fps, plus a far superior auto focus system allows me to take far better sports pictures. I never enjoyed shooting sports because the results were so mediocre but I found an upgrade in equipment opened up many avenues and opportunities.
    So my advice is if you have the money and enjoy photography going from a D70 to a D300 and upgrade definitely worth making. The 4 year gap between the D70 and the D300 is huge in terms of development.
    Finally, I'm sure many can rightfully say wait because there will be something better. Of course there will be something better but you will be in the same spot forever. Having said that I still use a PowerPC Mac, and ride a steel frame bike because they suit my needs for now. In the final analysis you need to decide on needs vs costs and what you perceive will be the improvement you will get.
  47. Anand,
    having moved up to the D300 almost 2 years ago, from a D70, I must say that my D70 unfortunately is mainly collecting dust, but I would use it more often, if it had not been for one main obstacle, at least for me: The LCD-screen on the back. Being in my 40ties, I have to reach for my glasses more often, and the D70-screen is simply too small for me now, and with too little possibility for enlargement, now that I am used to the D300. I even have to use glasses to see the file numering on the back of the D70!
    (Of course I love the higher ISO-capabilities of the D300, as well as the higher speed possibilities with the grip MB-D10)

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