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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 Top View (with 18-135mm lens)


Tuesday, February 28, 2007 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Nikon D80 dSLR w/Body Cap
  • No memory card [though I received a 256MB San Disk SD Card]
  • BM-7 LCD cover
  • Eyepiece Cup DK-21
  • Eyepiece Cap DK-5
  • Shoulder Strap
  • Li-Ion Battery EN-EL3e 7.4V 1500 mAh, MH-18a Quick Charger & power cord
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • Instruction Manuals (English and French): Quick Start Guide, Guide to Digital Photography
  • Software CDs: Picture Project 1.7, 1-2-3 of Digital Imaging 3.5
  • AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 G IF-ED Lens w/lens hood, lens cap, rear cap, and travelling bag
  • I also received the SB-600 Speedlight

Having previously reviewed the Nikon D200 and Nikon D40, I thought there was nothing much to be gained in reviewing the D80. Boy, was I wrong! If I had to choose between the Nikon D200, D80 and D40, the Nikon D80 DSLR is my hands-down favourite.

Each of the three Nikon digital cameras mentioned above addresses a different audience: the D200 mainly targets the pro who wants a cheaper second body as a backup camera; the D80 has absolutely everything an enthusiast needs; the D40 is a "Family" camera used mostly in point-and-shoot situations. Not that a pro cannot use a D40 or an enthusiast a D200, etc. It's also not just marketing: the D200 is simply overkill for an enthusiast, the D80 is way overkill for a P&S photographer, and the D40 is lacking a couple of features important to the enthusiast.

I like the D80. Very much. As soon as I pick up the D80, I know I am going to enjoy using this digtial SLR. All fingers curl comfortably around the deep handgrip; no pinkie hanging below the handgrip as in many of the more compact DSLRs. The optical viewfinder is very large, very bright and a pleasure to use. The camera's response is instant with no practical shutter lag.

You can display a Framing Grid in the viewfinder and, when I reviewed the D200, I found it difficult to see the fine lines clearly and did not quite like the red colour (I always associate red with alarm). This time around, I actually like the fine lines of the D80's viewfinder and do not mind the red colours one bit. Are the lines subtly different? I'm not sure. Or maybe I am just getting more used to the Nikon way of doing things?

There seems to be just the right amount of control buttons on the D80. Unlike the "mushy feeling" of the controls on the D200, the controls on the D80 have a better tactile feel. And because there is free space for your thumb and index finger to rest on, I do not find it as easy to inadvertently rotate the Main command dial and the Sub-command dial.

As in the D200, the self-timer can be set to release after 2, 5, 10 (default) or 20 sec. and you choose the delay via a Custom Setting in the Menu. Unfortunately only the one selected setting is then available when you switch to self-timer mode. It would have been nice to be able to use the Main command dial to simply dial in a desired delay time.

PictureProject 1.7
PictureProject 1.7

The supplied software, PictureProject 1.7, is relatively easy to use and provides basic editing functions. It can convert a RAW picture into JPEG but unfortunately you cannot tweak any conversion parameters. For that, you'll need to purchase the optional Nikon Capture 4.4.

The Nikon D80 DSLR has lots of exposure flexibility and gives excellent image quality to ISO 800. An advanced and knowledgeable photographer will be able to use RAW file format and noise reduction software to tweak out the best of higher ISO images. The Nikon D80 is a dream come true for the enthusiast: excellent image quality with low noise at high ISOs, instant response, and excellent handling -- at an affordable price.

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