Nikon D80 Review
Review Date: November 13th 2006
Author: Michael Roscoe
Ease of Use
Nikon have taken no risks with the appearance of the D80. It strongly resembles its predecessor and takes more than a few of its features from its big brother the D200. The predominately plastic outer shell feels solid and well constructed and is finished off with a rubberised grip. This is by no means the smallest DSLR on the market (like competitor models the Canon EOS 400D and Olympus E400) but its good-sized dimensions (32x103x77mm) and 585g weight make it easy to grasp. There is enough space for four fingers on the grip for a secure and firm hold. There are some well thought out details on the Nikon D80. A curved rubberised area gives the thumb a firm base on the back of model and an ergonomic area on the grip supports the finger tips.
The camera has a logical design of buttons, switches and dials. It features eight buttons on its rear along with a thumb wheel, four-way controller and lock switch. There are another eight buttons positioned around the rest of the camera with the mode dial, and on/off switch located on the top plate.
In practice, using the Nikon D80 is intuitive and uncomplicated. The camera settings can be adjusted through the Nikon menu system by using the thumb pad controller on the back. There are five subsections including a playback, shooting, custom setting and set-up menu that are easily negotiated. These enable adjustments to be made to the auto-focus modes, noise reduction modes and camera set-up, without fuss. You will also find an impressive array of image quality settings including three JPEG choices, a RAW (NEF) format and three dual RAW and JPEG options. At first glance there is a reasonable standard ISO range from 100 to 1600 but the D80 also extends its range with options referred to as H1, H0.7 and H.3, which boost the scope considerably and give the equivalent of a setting over ISO 3000.
|Mode Dial||Retouch Menu|
One prominent feature in the Nikon D80 menu is a new Retouch menu section enabling you to perform in-camera image editing, effects and enhancements. These include automatic red-eye correction and cropping facility, as well as a D-lighting image optimising function and monochrome and filter effect settings. While many users might prefer to have more control by editing images via a PC, these are useful nonetheless, delivering reasonable results in a few seconds.
The external controls are familiar enough, with a mode dial offering all the usual manual and semi-automatic controls, as well as an auto setting and six scene specific picture modes for macro, portrait, landscape and night environments and subject matter. Changing the aperture and shutter speed settings is achieved via the two dials at the front and back of the camera but there is also a large +/- 5-stop exposure compensation range. There are some useful shortcut buttons so that camera settings like the ISO and white balance can be adjusted rapidly with some buttons located next to the LCD screen.
The Nikon D80 is ready for action with no noticeable start-up time. Adjusting the 11-area auto-focus points on the D80 with the four-way controller is simple enough but it is worth remembering to activate the lock switch, as it is easy to change the focus point accidentally.
In this review the Nikon D80 was tested with a standard AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm 1:3.5-4.5G ED DX lens. Focus speeds are swift and accurate enough in bright conditions to satisfy even the demanding amateur user but there is a fair amount of searching in lowlight environments. It is hard to detect any shutter lag as it's stated at only 80 milliseconds and action photographers will appreciate the 3 frames per second capture rate that is almost limitless when shooting JPEGs, but with RAW format images the rate slows after only six frames.
|Battery Compartment||Memory Card Slot|
Nearly all sub-£1000 DSLRs feature a pop-up flash and the Nikon D80 is no different. It has a guide number of 42 (at ISO100) and, sensibly, gives coverage to lenses as wide as 18mm. But this flash can be used for more that a bit of fill-in light on backlit subjects, as there's the option to program in red-eye reduction, slow sync, red-eye reduction with slow sync, and rear-curtain sync. For extra illumination, there is also the obligatory hotshoe that allows a more powerful and controllable flashgun, or Speedlite, to be used.
The viewfinder is clear and bright and can be adjusted with a dioptre dial located next to the rubber eyepiece. It displays 95% frame coverage and illuminates all the essential information like the battery condition, number of remaining shots and exposure settings under the picture frame for quick reference. There is also the option to activate a grid overlay.
One of the improvements on the Nikon D80 compared to former models is the quality of the 2.5-inch LCD. This high-resolution screen permits users to inspect images with improved clarity as it features 230,000 pixels and a wide 170-degree viewing angle. You can review your captures full-screen but there are also an RGB display, highlight warning and exif data options for more detailed image feedback. One bug-bear of previous Nikon cameras has been the convoluted method needed to zoom in to review images, but thankfully the D80 puts this right as there's now a single button control to magnify images by up to 25x, as well as to view a series of stored images in sets of four or nine.
Overall, the Nikon D80 provides a superb user experience and offers a logical menu system and intuitive operation that becomes second nature in no time. To give even handling and extended power, it might be worth investing in a vertical battery grip (MB-D80) but, for its price, it is hard to find fault in the Nikon D80.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Nikon D80 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.