D90 vs D70: The Body and Controls

The Nikon D70 was one of the first dSLRs targeted at the amateur photography market. It ran rings around it’s older brother, the D100. After the introduction of the D70s, D60, D50, D40, D80, D200, D300, D2x, D2h, D3, and D700 comes the D90.

D70 meet your replacement. The D90 is slight shorter and includes a customizable function button below the autofocus assist lamp. The mic for recording video is over on the right. Nothing else to see here really. Think of the D90 as a mullet: business in the front, party in the back.

The D90’s 3 inch LCD simply dwarfs the D70’s diminutive 1.8 inch screen and boasts a much higher resolution. The D70’s bracketing button moved to the side under the flash button and shooting mode moved to the top panel. The delete button takes the spot in the top left and is replaced with a nifty INFO button that brings up the current settings on the LCD and gives quick access to some settings. The autofocus sensor selector lock is more compact and the 4 way directional pad gets an OK button (performs menu selections, resets autofocus sensor to the middle and starts recording video in Live view). The top panel now sports the exposure mode, exposure compensation, shooting mode and autofocus mode buttons.

The other big visible change is the viewfinder. Using my SD700’s macro mode I actually got a shot of each viewfinder to compare the size of each. The D90’s viewfinder is noticeably bigger. Like the LCD, bigger is better here.

Not readibly visible are a lot of interface changes inside the menus. It is now possible to save and name customized picture settings, store 5 preset white balances and setup a custom menu with all your frequently accessed items. All of that makes changing settings much easier. On the D70, I got things where I wanted 2 years ago and left all the settings alone because they were a pain to adjust and then remember what to switch them back to.

Some prelimanary shots and tests of the D90’s “Active-D lighting”, high ISO performance and built-in chromatic aberration correction up next. If you’re already sold, grab it from a reputable dealer like Amazon.

5 Replies to “D90 vs D70: The Body and Controls”

  1. Man, that display on the back is gorgeous, and so is the viewfinder. And correct me if I’m wrong, but the D90 is even smaller overall than your D70? That’s also way cool.

  2. I have a D70 and want to jump to the D90.Will the batteries in the D70 match the D90?

    Are you going to make further comparisons? I would like to see the differences before spending the bucks.

  3. The D70’s EN-EL3 batteries won’t work in the D90, the EN-EL3e has a 3rd contact it uses for power level monitoring. The EN-EL3e will work in the D70 though.

    I already sold my D70 so these were all the side by side comparison shots that I have. Did you see my other comparison?


    That gives a quick look at the difference in exposure, white balance and ISO performance. If you are a serious amateur and feel the D70 is a little limiting like I did then you’ll never want to go back. The need for post-processing has been pretty much eliminated. With the D70, if I wanted that really great looking shot it was off to Photoshop.

    Was there anything in particular that you were curious about because I could post more specific impressions? Heck if you’re in the Los Angeles area we could meet up for you to check it out, otherwise I’d say visit the local photo shop and get some hands on time.

  4. Yup, everything that worked on the D70s will work on the D90. Both have a built in autofocus motor so they work with non AF-S lenses like the older 50mm f/1.8.

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