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Nikon D80 DSLR Review
|Review Date: Mar
Advanced Amateur - Prosumer
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 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 &
Here's how the top DSLRs measure up against one
another, without lens attached and without battery
|Nikon D40 / D40x
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).
||Colours: black body with white and
silver letterings, and chrome accents;
kit lens has silver and gold letterings
and chrome accents
||Looks: very professional
||Ergonomic and high quality
||Controls & menu are precise and
easy to use
|| 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
||Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery
EN-EL3e 7.4V 1500mAh, giving up to 2,700
images per battery charge (CIPA)
SPEED OF OPERATION
||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
||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
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.
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
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.
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
- Image size: Large (3872x2592/10.0M), Medium
- 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
- AF-area mode
- Center AF area
- Mo memory card?
- Image review
CUSTOM SETTING MENU 2 of 2
- No memory card?
- Image review
- ISO auto (Max, sensitivity, Min, shutter
- 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
SETUP MENU 2 of 3
- Image comment
- File no. sequence
- MIrror lock-up
- Dust off ref photo
- Battery info
- Firmware version
SETUP MENU 3 of 3
- Auto image rotation
- Red-eye correction
- 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
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.