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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

 

IMAGE QUALITY

The Nikon D80 DSLR is as easy to use as the Nikon D40 and comes with the image quality, handling and many of the professional features of the Nikon D200. It has 10.2 megapixel resolution on an APS-sized (23.6 x 15.8mm) CCD image sensor.

It can be purchased body only, or with the 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor lens kit, the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens kit, and used with many of the AF-DX, AF-D, AF-G, AF-I, AF-S, and AF VR Nikkor lenses.

7.5x Optical Zoom
18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Wide-angle 18mm Tele 135mm
Wide-angle 18mm
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 135mm
(200mm, 35mm equivalent)

One of the advantages of using a DSLR is the ability to attach interchangeable lenses suited for specific jobs. For this review, we used the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens [28-200mm, 35mm equivalent] which provides a wonderful wide-angle coverage for large group shots and expansive vistas.

"Macro"
Macro
135mm, Programmed Auto, Spot, 1/640 sec., F6.3, ISO 100

The actual macro capability is a function of the lens you use, and the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens we used allows us to focus only as close as 45 cm (1.5 feet) at all zoom settings. This is very convenient and provides a "safe" working distance from your subject so as not to scare it (for a live subject) and to allow sufficient light to illuminate it.

If you are into macro photography, check out the 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor lens which features a silent wave motor and Vibration Reduction technology that Nikon claims allows photographers to shoot hand-held at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than otherwise possible.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 100
ISO 100
ISO 125 ISO 160
ISO 125 ISO 160
ISO 200 ISO 250
ISO 200 ISO 250
ISO 320 ISO 400
ISO 320 ISO 400
ISO 500 ISO 640
ISO 500 ISO 640
ISO 800 ISO 1000
ISO 800 ISO 1000
ISO 1250 ISO 1600
ISO 1250 ISO 1600
ISO H03 ISO H07
ISO H03 [HI + 0.3 = 2000] ISO H07 [HI + 0.7 = 2500]
ISO H10  
ISO H10 [HI + 1.0 = 3200]  

The Nikon D80 has 16 ISO settings going from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, plus the ability to "boost" to 3 more higher ISO settings dubbed "HI + 0.3," "HI + 0.7," and "HI + 1.0" where the "HI + 1.0" is equivalent to ISO 3200, The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds. At ISO 100 to 400, noise is under control and detail is preserved. Noise is slight from ISO 800 to 1000 but very usable. Noise is visibly present at ISO 1250 to 1600. The boosted ISOs are very noisy. Overall, excellent results with the noise level very low at high ISOs.

Chromatic Aberrations
CA

I have not been able to find much CA in everyday high-contrast shots using the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens, and where it is present it is minimal. The corner delimited by the red square at top right, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right, shows minimal purple fringing.

Long Shutter Speed (NR OFF)

Long Shutter Speed without NR

70mm, Manaul, Spot, 30 sec., F8.0, ISO 100
Manual WB, Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod Used
Noise Reduction OFF

The Nikon D80 allows the use of a long shutter speed of up to 30 sec. in Manual and Shutter-Priority modes (plus Bulb in Manual mode), therefore allowing nice night photography. Generally, with image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent at long shutter speeds. When you set Noise Reduction to ON in the menu [Shooting Menu - Long Exp. NR - ON and Shooting Menu - High ISO NR - ON (Normal, Low, High)], the Nikon D80 has special noise reduction algorithm that automatically kicks in at slow shutter speeds and you'll notice a longer processing time (less than twice as long) before the next picture can be taken.

To test this noise reduction algorithm, we decided to take a low-light indoors shot. To obtain a long exposure, I place Bamm-Bamm under my desk where it's dark.

I experiment a bit to obtain the optimum exposure, eventually settling on 30 sec. at F8.0. Even at this long shutter speed, the Nikon D80's noise reduction seems to be working great, producing a nice smooth blurring effect of the background.

We have two pictures, the one above without NR and the one below with NR.

Long Shutter Speed (NR ON)

Long Shutter Speed with NR

70mm, Manaul, Spot, 30 sec., F8.0, ISO 100
Manual WB, Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod Used
Noise Reduction ON

We find that the AF is very responsive and images snap quickly into focus. There is a dedicated AF Illuminator to aid in focusing. Note that the shutter will not trigger if the camera cannot achieve focus (you can however press the AE-L/AF-L button together with the shutter to take a picture). We were at first unable to take Bamm-Bamm's picture until we moved back the required minimum focus distance of 45cm (1.5 ft) and zoom in to achieve focus lock.

The pop-up flash is quite powerful, and a hot shoe accepts external speedlights.

RGB Histograms

Since there is no Live View LCD, the Nikon D80 does not incorporate a live histogram. In Playback mode, press the Multi-Selector up/down and you can view the RGB Histogram.

Image quality is a function of the image sensor, firmware and especially the lens attached to the body. We find the overall image quality of the Nikon D80 with 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens attached to be excellent with low noise up to ISO 800.

The pictures in the Nikon D80 Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the camera is capable of. I have provided unprocessed samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 3,872 x 2,592 pixels original size (click on the image for the original version). Any of the 800x600 image that is adjusted for levels and/or sharpened in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name. Original images are never adjusted.

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod.

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!

 

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