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You are hereHome > Best Digital Cameras > Nikon D80 DSLR

Nikon Digital Cameras

   

Nikon D80 DSLR Review

Review Date: Mar 19, 2007

Category: Advanced Amateur - Prosumer

Nikon D80

HANDLING & FEEL

The Nikon D80 DSLR is probably the best digital SLR for enthusiast photographers that Nikon has ever made. It is not as large and heavy or as complicated as the Nikon D200 -- nor is it lacking in some of the features of the Nikon D40. It is perfect in size, weight and handling the moment you pick it up in your hands. The body is rugged high impact plastic draped over a solid metal chassis, with the unmistakable feel of quality that permeates all Nikon digital SLRs. The large and deep grip is rubber coated and allows you to hold the camera with all fingers solidly on the grip.

Nikon D80 mount

The lens mount system used in the Nikon D80 is the Nikon "F" mount (with AF coupling and AF contacts) which means that almost the complete range of Nikkor F lenses can be used. Due to the APS sized image sensor, there is a 1.5x field of view (FOV) crop. The 18-135mm kit lens therefore translates to a 28-200mm equivalent field of view.

The Nikon D80 uses the Secure Digital (SD & SDHC) Card.

Here's how the top DSLRs measure up against one another, without lens attached and without battery and card:

Camera W
(mm)
H
(mm)
D
(mm)
Weight
(g)
Nikon D200 147 113 74 830
Panasonic L1 145.8 86.9 80 530
Canon 30D 144 105.5 73.5 700
Nikon D80 132 103 77 585
Olympus E-330 140 87 72 550
Sony A-100 133 95 71 545
Pentax K100D 129.5 92.5 70 560
Olympus E-510 136 91.5 68 460
Canon XTi/400D 126.5 94.2 65 510
Nikon D40 / D40x 126 94 64 475
Olympus E-410 129.5 91 53 375

The D80 has the extra 10 or so cm in height that is required for all your fingers to find a place securely on the handgrip.

The AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF Lens has dimensions of 73mm x 75.5mm long (2.9 in. x 3.0 in.) and adds in a further 390g (14.8 oz.). Filter/Attachment Size is 67mm. Minimum Focus Distance is 0.38m (15 inches).

The AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF Lens has dimensions of 80mm x 143.5mm long (2.9 in. x 4.3 in.) and adds in a further 385g (13.6 oz.). Filter/Attachment Size is 67mm. Minimum Focus Distance is 0.45m (1.5 ft).

STYLE
- Colours: black body with white and silver letterings, and chrome accents; kit lens has silver and gold letterings and chrome accents
- Looks: very professional
   
FEEL
- Ergonomic and high quality
- Controls & menu are precise and easy to use
   
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- Nice heft
- Dimensions: 132 x 103 x 77mm (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in.)
- Weight: approx. 585g (1lb. 5oz.) without battery, memory card, body cap, or monitor cover
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL3e 7.4V 1500mAh, giving up to 2,700 images per battery charge (CIPA)
   

SPEED OF OPERATION

(using SHQ)

- Startup is quasi instant
- Shot to shot time as fast as you can press the shutter.
-

Burst: approx. 3fps for first 90 frames; then slows down (100 frames in 38 sec.); then stops recording after 100 frames

I used a regular SanDisk 2.0GB and the camera was set to full Manual mode.

- No practical shutter lag
- Overall, superb performance
   

Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL3e and a Battery Charger MH-18a (with power cord) that will recharge a new battery in about 2.15 hrs. An optional MB-D80 Multi-Power Battery Pack uses two EN-EL3e or six AA batteries in it to provide added stability with extended shooting potential.

Nikon D80 Top View (without lens)

The control buttons on top of the camera are placed in a clean layout. The D80 has a nice handgrip and your index finger falls naturally on the shutter-release button. The Power Switch is around the Shutter-release button with 3 settings: OFF, ON and backighting for the information LCD. Behind it are the Mode and Exposure Compensation buttons. To the right of the LCD control panel are the Drive and AF mode buttons. The Control Mode button (on the left side) allows you to select PASM, as well as Scene Modes.

The large rectangle is the LCD information panel that displays all your exposure settings.

Just in front of -- and a little under -- the shutter-release button is the Sub-command dial. This Sub-command dial is operated with your index finger. To lock the mirror in the up position, you need to access the MENU - SETUP - Mirror lock-up.

Nikon D80 Back View

The D80 has a large 2.5-in. high resolution LCD monitor with wide-angle viewing and the 230K pixels are put to the best use with beautifully legible text and graphics. There is no live view and this LCD is strictly used for Playback. There is bright and large viewfinder with approx. 95% coverage. AF is lighting fast: half-press the Shutter-release button and your subject snaps into focus.

There are many control buttons on the D80 so there is not much need to resort to the Menu. Falling under your thumb is the Main command dial.

You use the Main command dial and Sub-command dial to quickly set your exposure values.

In Manual mode, the Main command dial and Sub-command dial allow you to control the shutter speed and aperture, respectively (you can switch this in Custom Setting Menu - 15 Command Dials - Reversed).

In Shutter-Priority mode, use the Main command dial to change shutter speed.

In Aperture-priority mode, use the Sub-command dial to change aperture.

In Programmed Auto [P] mode, rotating the Main command dial switches you into Flexible Program [P*] mode (i.e. Program Shift) and allows you to select different combinations of shutter speed and aperture while keeping the same exposure.

If you select Easy Exposure Compensation (Custom Setting Menu - 11 Exposure Comp. - On), you do not need to press the [+/-] button down and rotate Main command dial to dial in an Exposure Compensation. In P and S modes, simply rotate the Sub-command dial; in A mode, rotate the Main Command dial.

I love the fact that exposure compensation is defaulted and can be easily and directly dialed in. However, the "0" mark blink continuously, which I find unnecessarily irritating. Neither the viewfinder nor the Control Panel displays the actual value dialed in but tiny bars display along a bar to give an indication of the value. In addition, the [+/-] graphic is also displayed to indicate an exposure compensation has been dialed in. You'll have to press the [+/-] button to see the actual value. Which kind of defeats the whole purpose of not having to press that button in the first place. Improvement suggestion is to display the actual exp. comp. value.

Note that even with Easy Exposure Compensation ON, you can still press the [+/-] button and rotate the Main command dial to set an exposure compensation.

Using the Multi selector, you can specify one of 11 AF areas you want the camera to focus on. There are 4 AF Area Modes to choose from. The Framing grid and the focus brackets are fine black lines which blink red when you half-press the Shutter-release button.

Nikon D80 Left View (with 18-135mm lens)

Underneath the camera, as expected, the metal tripod mount is located in line with the center of the lens and the imaging focal plane. You should be able to change the battery with the camera mounted on a tripod.

Nikon D80 Right View (with 18-135mm lens)

As you would expect, there are tons of customizable settings to choose from, more than we can reproduce here (unless we reproduce the whole manual).

SHOOTING MENU 1 of 2

- Optimize image: Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, Custom, Black-and-white
- Image quality: NEF (RAW), JPEG fine, JPEG normal, JPEG basic, NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine, NEF (RAW) + JPEG normal, NEF (RAW) + JPEG basic
- Image size: Large (3872x2592/10.0M), Medium (2896x1944/5.6M), Small
- File Naming (1936x1296/2.5M)
- White balance: Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, Choose color temp., White balance preset
- ISO sensitivity: [Auto], 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, HI 0.3, HI 0.7, HI 1
- Long Exp. NR
- High ISO NR

SHOOTING MENU 2 of 2

- Multiple exposure

CUSTOM SETTING MENU 1 of 2

- Reset
- Beep
- AF-area mode
- Center AF area
- AF-assist
- Mo memory card?
- Image review

CUSTOM SETTING MENU 2 of 2

- AF-assist
- No memory card?
- Image review
- ISO auto (Max, sensitivity, Min, shutter speed)
- Grid display
- Viewfinder warning
- EV step: 1/3 EV or 1/2 EV

SETUP MENU 1 of 3

- CSM/Setup menu
- Format memory card
- World time
- LCD brightness
- Video mode
- Language
- USB

SETUP MENU 2 of 3

- Image comment
- Folders
- File no. sequence
- MIrror lock-up
- Dust off ref photo
- Battery info
- Firmware version

SETUP MENU 3 of 3

- Auto image rotation

RETOUCH MENU

- D-lighting
- Red-eye correction
- Trim
- Monochrome
- Filter effects
- Small pictue
- Image overlay

PLAYBACK MENU 1 of 5

- Info on LCD

PLAYBACK MENU 2 of 5

- Info on LCD

PLAYBACK MENU 3 of 5

- Info at bottom of screen

PLAYBACK MENU 4 of 5

- RGB Histogram

PLAYBACK MENU 5 of 5

- Highlight

PLAYBACK MAGNIFY

 

ISO AUTO

 

The Nikon D80 is definitely the camera you want to "move up" to if you are using a family DSLR with some "missing" features. I really like the exceptional ergonomics of the Nikon D80; from the moment you pick the camera up, it feels right. A thorough read of The Nikon Guide to Digital Photography with the D80 (aka User Manual) is necessary to make the most of this versatile camera.

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