To further emphasize last week’s tirade, PC Magazine usurps C|Net’s position as poster child for digital photography review incompetence. This time it is a review of the Nikon D70s, a small upgrade of my Nikon D70.
Check out this gem:
We love the D70s’ feel and design as much as we did the D70′s, and for those with larger hands, these two models may be preferable to the lighter Canon Rebel XT. The Rebel XT, however, ups the capacity ante to 8MP, which gives you the ability to print very large images, still besting the 6.1MP Nikons. The Canon kit (lens and body) is also cheaper than the D70s kit, although the Nikon lens is longer.
The D70s’s larger size is preferable for larger sized hands.
Obviously this conclusion is drawn from the 5″x3.7″x2.5″ (Canon) vs the 5.5″x4.4″x3.1″ (Nikon) listed dimensions. I don’t have large hands, but both these models are significantly bulkier than any digital point and shoot used by people with hands much larger than mine. The major complaint of small cameras tends to be tiny viewfinders or buttons that are easy to mispress—neither camera suffers from this. If anything, Nikon’s setup is probably a little worse in this category: the design favors right handers and the dials are both more important for shooting and more delicate. As for viewfinders, the Pentax *ist DS in the only SLR in this price range with full-sized viewfinder (it’s also smaller than both these models).
The Canon Rebel XT is lighter.
This is based on comparing 19oz (Canon) to 24oz (Nikon). I currently have any one of four lenses with my Nikon which weigh: 5.5oz (50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor), 14.8oz (18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor), 16.07oz (12-24mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor), and 48.2oz (70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor). A general purpose kit lens accounts for half the weight of the camera and a performance zoom lens weighs twice the camera body! A dSLR’s #1 advantage comes from the ability to swap lenses. From this we see that your main pack weight and bulk in dSLR photography is a entirely dependent on lenses, not the body. This is why pro bodies are made entirely out of metal instead of polycarbonate on metal.
Digital systems like the 4/3 system from Olympus are more compact because they are designed around the smaller image sensor. Right now, that weight/selection edge favors Nikon which has six digital-specific lenses while Canon only has two.
8 megapixel gives you the ability to print very large images that 6 megapixel doesn’t.
The reviewer might as well write, “I’m a moron” with this comment. Since pixel count goes as square of the area, resolution goes as the square root of the pixel count! The actual resolution is 15% more.
Let’s put the reviewers analysis in terms of practical print images. The best prints have an effective resolution of 300dpi.1 The Nikon will make a 10 inch print at this resolution! That’s already “very large” in my book. But if it isn’t, how is 11.5 inches (Canon) “very large” and Nikon isn’t? There is more I have to bitch on this topic, but I’ve left that for another article.
The Canon kit is cheaper than the Nikon kit.
This is most specious. If the kit lens is the only one you own for a dSLR, you are better served with a ZLR bridge camera, which is easier to use and offers a wider zoom range. What we really care about is the body price. In that category, the Canon ($840) is indeed cheaper than the Nikon ($870). I leave that up to you to decide whether $30 is meaningful after you purchase lenses, tripod, tripod head, filters, and camera bags.
The Nikon lens is longer.
I think the reviewer means that the zoom range of the Nikon is 18-70mm while the Canon is 18-55mm. There are numerous comparisons you can read but it amounts to you get what you pay for.2 The price is the #1 difference between the lenses. What you get for your two extra Benjamin’s? Hint: it’s not the extra 15mm worth of magnification as the review implies.3 It is much more subtle: like an extra 2/3 of a stop when zoomed in; like metal mounts vs. plastic (may become an issue if you switch out lenses a lot); like internal focusing (since they both have wave motors, they focus fast, the practical difference here is that the Canon Kit lens has a filter mount that rotates which is a problem if you use polarizers); like ED and aspherical glass (chromatic aberration at wide angles is less with the Nikon); and amenities like a hood and a soft lens pouch.4 But did the PC Magazine reviewer mention any of these differences?
None of this really matters: Nikon will sell you a lens marginally better than Canon’s kit, and Canon has a digital lens that leaves Nikon’s kit lens in the dust.5
(The thing that I most dislike about the kit lens happens to be the non-standard (67mm) filter ring—a good set of filters will cost as much as the lens itself. You’ll notice that the reviewer overlooked that small detail.6)
Both cameras are great cameras with very negligible differences in performance. However, Canon and Nikon made different design choices and thus aren’t even the same camera. The Nikon is a performance dSLR (black, manual modes, flash sync, exposure + flash system, APS-C sensor) with some feature cutbacks in order to hit the lower price point (plastic body, smaller viewfinder, simpler focusing system) it has the barest nod at automatic point and shoot features (program modes). While the Canon is a point-and-shoot ZLR (bulletproof operation, silver plastic body, smaller viewfinder, simpler exposure system/flash sync) where you can swap out the lenses, have less noise (APS-C sensor), and have the ability to “go manual” in a pinch (through some menu acrobatics).
If you want to just take snapshots and swap out lenses, the Canon is a better camera. If you want to go pro later, the Nikon will not require retraining. But one camera will do as well as the other, and any is better than none.7
Someone who might buy a Nikon D70s should look at the Canon 20D and a person who might buy the Canon 350D should consider the Olympus E-300. But invoking that comparison would take cojones and half an original thought.
Instead it appears that the reviewer simply stared at the specification sheet in the classic camera war8 and regurgitated differences with sound and fury, signifying nothing. Any moron could have done that. In fact, every day in computer and electronics stores across the country, people do that every day. This is why you should buy an inferior 8 megapixel camera over a superior 6 megapixel one (unless you have “larger hands”).