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VINE VOICEon May 25, 2008
If you don't care to know about the art of photography and you don't like to read manuals, don't buy this camera and you can stop reading right here. Otherwise, read on.

I can take any camera and take bad shots with it. But if I use most modern cameras to their full potential, I tend to end up with great shots. By that I mean using correct focus, exposure compensation when necessary, and selecting the proper ISO, shutter speed, and aperture for the situation. Those are just the basics. There are also other adjustments and tweaks like Face Detection, D-Lighting (Nikon's term for bringing out more detail from dark areas of the photo), white balance, etc..

Essentially, if you know how to use all those things (and your camera lets you adjust them yourself), you can end up with some pretty great shots from any camera. You can get creative in ways that auto-only cameras will not allow. Some people end up with blurry shots because they don't know how to take sharper shots. Better shooters can take sharp shots - or they can make them blurry on purpose for an artistic effect. I personally can't stand blurry shots - except for the occasional shots where only the subjects are a bit blurry (to accentuate motion).

This camera has 6 settings that affect the sharpness of the photo - and that doesn't include aperture. One of them is the macro focus setting. Although normally used for close-ups, you can keep it in "macro focus" in most of the different shooting modes (Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program, etc.). The other setting is the Sharpness setting. By default, the camera is in the middle of the scale. Some might consider the middle of the scale to be too soft. Simply click it up to the "sharp" level, or one more for the sharpest level. There are also two clicks down to increase softness. 1 macro + 5 sharpness levels = 6.

Why would someone want a soft (not so sharp) photo? One example is portraits. In general, people don't like portraits of themselves that show every pore and hair on their skin. Softening particular subjects can also convey a delicate beauty - say a ballerina resting on a chair.

So for those who complain about this camera not taking sharp pictures out of the box, all you have to do is turn it up. For extra measure, use a small aperture and a good tripod. You will see the difference.

Not all sub-SLRs offer as many options as the P80. In particular, I like the high-powered zoom, the camera's ability to correct wide angle distortion, the overall compactness (considering the zoom), and the logical way things are laid out. The image tweaking controls that are most useful are also the easiest to access via the circular multi-control on the back. I also like that the flash doesn't pop up unless I want it to (it has a manual switch to pop it up).

The P80 is easy to carry around and covers all the bases (video, wide angle, super zoom, full manual control, etc.). If you know the features of this camera and know how and when to apply them, you'll end up with spectacular shots. It's that simple.

This camera has nice features that you may not always use, but for those special occasions, they are nice to have. One of these features is the ability to move the focus point around. With your trusty tripod set up, you want to get a surfer off to one side, gazing out over the sea. But you don't want the ocean to be in sharp focus because you want to immediately draw your viewer's eyes to the surfer. By clicking the circular button, you move the focus point over the surfer and set the camera to also meter on the focus point (so that the surfer is perfectly exposed). Add a little flash fill if you like, and Voila! Instant art.

Night shots really benefit from an adjustable focus point. Say you want a shot of a lonely lighthouse on a cliff at night. It's off to one side of your shot to give it a more dramatic frame. With the focus point in manual and the camera set to meter on the focus point, move the focus point closer to the lighthouse until what you see in the LCD looks properly exposed. If you have to keep the exact focus point a little bit away from the lighthouse to get the right exposure, no problem, just set the focus to lock on infinity (I'm assuming you aren't standing right next the lighthouse). The same concept will work for public Christmas tree displays at night. To get the right exposure and focus, move the focus point onto or near the tree that most interests you.

Want to take pictures of your friends, and maybe get in the shot yourself? Switch on face detection, hit the self-timer and take your place next to your friends.

The sports mode will have your friends lining up to get their golf swings and tennis serves photographed. The camera shoots 13 frames per second in the default mode, sacrificing everything for speed (aperture, ISO, etc.). So while your shots from this mode won't make the cover of SI, everyone will get a kick out of seeing themselves in a stop motion sequence (up to 30 frames).

The camera has two modes which help you get the best shot in unusual circumstances. In Best Shot Selection mode, it shoots up to ten shots as long as you hold down the shutter release button. Then it automatically selects and saves the sharpest picture in the bunch, discarding the rest. In Exposure Bracketing mode, it applies three different levels of exposure to the same shot. One of them is likely to be just what you wanted. Exposure bracketing can even be fine tuned to your liking (read the manual to learn how).

With a single press of the shutter release, this camera can automatically take and assemble 16 shots, 1.1 seconds apart, into a single picture. You get a picture made of 16 consecutive "scenes". This is good for things like a cat playing with a ball, or you and your buddy making funny faces.

Do you wonder who or what knocks over your garbage cans when you're not home? The P80 can shoot time lapse sequences, firing once every 30 seconds to once every hour. It turns off between shots to conserve power, or you can buy an external power supply.

Hate crooked pictures? Push the DISP button to lay down a grid which you can align with horizontal or vertical objects. The grid also helps you position subjects according to the "Rule of Thirds", which even amateur photographers should know.

The digital zoom is cool! It doesn't just enlarge and crop - it interpolates to fill in detail that might otherwise be lost. If you go full optical and full digital zoom, you can see the craters and "seas" on the moon! Use a tripod, lock the focus on infinity, turn off VR, and use a 2 or 10 second delay to allow the tripod vibration to settle.

I'm quite pleased with my purchase. If you're the creative type and a camera nut (you actually read the manual and experiment), you'll probably be very pleased; producing countless pictures suitable for framing. If you just like to point and shoot, this camera is probably not for you.

But don't just take my word for it. Go to Flickr and do a search on "Nikon P80" to see what this camera can do.
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3434 comments|422 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 6, 2008
I tried this camera this week, and found myself returning it within a couple days. In all honesty, I had read good things and I had hoped perhaps this would serve me as a bridge camera between my Canon G9 and my dSLR camera.

First, it is nicely made, and feels good in the hand. It works smoothly, and is relatively quiet during operation. The lens is high quality, and it has the standard Nikon layout on the selection dial. Curiously, it maintains the separate setting on the dial for SETTINGS which should be standard for all creative zone options. This is similar to all other recent Nikon cameras.

In use, the camera feels more like a point and shoot than a true tool of the trade -- and therein my average review. If you are working your way up from a point and shoot and not quite ready for a dSLR, this might be the camera for you.

But based on my observations: the camera had a difficult time focusing in low-light conditions, and then defaults to grainy high ISO defaults -- sure you can set that, or use Manual mode, but it won't work right out of the box in auto or Programmed Auto or Aperture or Shutter mode.

The image quality is fair -- many photos needed saturation boosts -- they just seemed bland out of the box. Again, this is programmable, for those who venture into the menu, or those who like playing with photoshop.

In general, all photos looked soft, and they all need sharpening in photoshop. This is something I would clearly not want to waste my time on with every photo taken that I might want to use for print purposes. The image quality just us NOT what you would expect with a camera of this price. That being said -- the image quality is consistent from closeup to faraway landscape. There is no noticeable loss of IQ with longer focal distance shots, which is better than most superzoom compact cameras I have seen. Closeup macro shots appear the sharpest: if you like taking photos of bees on flower blossoms, this is your baby.

While the photos do not lose IQ at the far range of the considerable 18x optical zoom -- they suffer from severe purple fringing at that end -- worse than many other superzoom ultraportables I have seen.

The VR works as promised -- provided you are moving and your subject is not moving. I couldn't get clear images of moving objects without significant futzing with the settings.

The shutter lag is considerable, nowhere near the rapid response of a dSLR -- and compared to my Canon G9, significantly slower than that as well.

This compares favorably to the Canon S5 and might in fact be better than that camera -- but the image quality is not better than the Canon G9, which remains the absolutely best Image Quality camera out there at this price point (without the zoom lens, of course).

I'm not going to rant and rave and say this is a terrible camera -- it just seems incredibly average at this price range -- take a look at the Canon G9 for faster shutter speed, better image quality, and similar manual control.

I will say one thing -- for those who like to isolate their subject from the background (i.e. blur your background, with good depth of field) the Nikon P80 excels at that -- I haven't quite seen as nice aperture priority images in a point-and-shoot as I have with this camera.

But overall, it's a highly priced point and shoot, which won't satisfy advanced camera users.
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on May 10, 2008
This is what practitioners of Kyudo, the Japanese martial archery, seek: "correct hitting is in correct shooting". And this is how this camera makes you feel after mastering and getting used to its controls and abilities.

After months of research I decided and bought this ultrazoom. SLRs take better pictures but I refuse to carry all the extra equipment when on vacation. NIKON P5100 was the choice on the other end but it lacked both the x18 tele and the wide end zoom.

The (close) second contender was OLYMPUS SP-570UZ but here is why I found the NIKON a better choice and did not regret it: although the OLYMPUS comes with a larger zoom (x20) it is controlled solely by an awkward (motorized) ring that requires both hands and has an uneven feeling. Moreover, both cameras sport 10MP but, contrary to the OLYMPUS which just had more mega-pixels crammed onto the old (550 & 560) sensor, the NIKON comes with a newly developed sensor. On top of that, I avoided the slow and limited XD-cards OLYMPUS seems stuck on. On the other hand, I missed on 2mm of wideness and x2 on tele zoom.

I have been using the camera with undiminished enthusiasm for over a week and I have only good things to tell you about it. It took me a while to familiarize myself with the settings - full auto will not get the best results under any conditions. Once that harmonious point is reached though, this is the camera you would want to be using in most situations.
Where it looses the 5th star: the flash does not pop up automatically when needed. Forget to do so and a high (and noisy) ISO creeps in. So yes, this piece of equipment is not without its caprices...

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (and Zen masters) warn about the observer altering the event being observed. With NIKON P80 one can obtain the shot visualized either from very close or from afar. And it does so with simplicity and style.
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on May 10, 2008
I've been using this camera in a variety of situations and subject matter and I just love it. As a professional in the field, I wanted a camera that would have the zoom capability and the image quality of more costly (and heavier, bulkier 'pro' equipment) combined with the spontaneity and efficiency of a point a shoot, one-hand camera. This camera DELIVERS all that for me in a great little package that is easy to use, light to carry, superbly intuitive to navigate and still yields excellent high quality images. At $400 out the door at a retail store, I couldn't be happier with my purchase. I compared it with everything else in that price range and it just blew the others away. If you have $800-$1000 sure, go ahead and get one of the next level dSLRs like the D40 or D60. But if you don't want to be messing with lens changes and like to 'shoot-on-the-go', then you simply can't do better than this camera. It's a versatile, easy to use product at a reasonable price.
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on May 11, 2008
I'm a Nikon fan, and saw this as a economical way of getting DSLR-like features. In particular the "super-zoom" functionality and sports shot setting -- seemingly perfect for the games my children play -- motivated me to pull the trigger on this purchase.

I'll leave the in-depth analysis of the camera to others who are more knowledgeable but what has me disappointed are the streaks of light that showed up on several hundred photographs I took, using the high speed continuous setting in the sports mode, late in the afternoon (between 4:15PM-6:00PM) on Saturday, May 10th.

After consulting the manual I found the following on page 47: "If bright objects such as the sun or electric lights are captured during high-speed continuous shooting, vertical streaks of light may appear in the recorded images. We recommend that you avoid capturing bright objects during high-speed continuous shooting."

Precisely my problem.

There are multiple settings in the sports mode (as well as the manual setting) to try, so I will be doing that before delivering the box to UPS for return, however it is troubling to discover that the fastest programmable shutter speed (1/4000) is best suited for . . . shooting in the dark?

If I fall in love with this camera (and end up keeping it) I'll be sure to update this review.

UPDATE: Went out recently and tried other settings/features -- images are crisp without any hint of the problem encountered in the sports setting. As a result I'm bumping my rating up to three stars (though it doesn't appear that Amazon will allow for such a revision?).

Will continue to update as developments warrant :)

FINAL UPDATE: I emailed Nikon support about the light streaks that appear in photographs when using the sports mode (what they called "bands of overexposure"). They were very honest in their assessment -- there's no way to eliminate the problem entirely. Their recommendation was to utilize the exposure compensation setting (-0.3 or -.07) to ameliorate the effect. Though disappointed, the quality of the images overall (especially macro) is so good that I have decided to keep the camera. The overall rating of Amazon reviewers (3.5 as I write this) seems absolutely correct!

FINAL, FINAL UPDATE: Purchased a filter adapter from and a circular polarizing lens. This has all but eliminated the bands of overexposure that showed up in the high speed continuous, sports shooting mode. I have also discovered that, with an infrared filter (R72) the P80 is capable of some nice infrared photography (as long as I keep the ISO setting at a maximum of 200 -- 400 and above is very noisy)!

FINAL, FINAL, FINAL UPDATE: As my meager skills as a "photographer" improved the limitations of this *class* of camera (i.e. "superzooms") left too much to be desired, especially in low light, fast action situations (i.e. image resolution was very poor, and very noisy). Ultimately, I sold the P80 and am looking at entry level DSLRs (e.g. Canon Rebel Xsi).
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on August 19, 2008
I don't normally post product reviews, but I wanted to throw in my two cents on the Nikon P80--especially considering the number of negative reviews by seemingly impatient people who used the camera for a day or two and felt compelled to return it. To read their reviews, you'd think this camera was manufactured by blind monkeys.

Rest assured, this camera takes fine pictures. In most people's hands, the Nikon P80 produces clear, vibrant images. Will it get you published in National Geographic? Not if you returned it the day after you bought it! Besides, even the best cameras can't make up for a lack of skill.

I purchased this camera because my previous point-and-shoot, which served me very well for 5 years, was too limited in its capabilities for what I wanted to do. On the other hand, a full DSLR camera was more than I needed. I saw the P80 in a local store and realized that it was the type of camera I was looking for. I read the reviews here, and had to filter through the poor reviews because the reviewers seemed too dismissive and too harsh in their judgments.

I will be using this camera mostly for outdoor use. I do a lot of hiking, canoeing, and snowshoeing, and along the way I take a lot of pictures. Some of these pictures wind up in print, both B&W and color. The camera I had been using was small enough to fit in my breast pocket, which made it easily accessible and allowed me to be spontaneous. But a smaller camera has obvious limitations, which I sometimes ran into while trying to prep a shot for publication at 300 dpi. Don't get me wrong, that little 5-mp point-and-shoot worked well for me, but I wanted to see what I could do with a larger, more sophisticated camera.

The P80 is too big to fit in my pocket, but it is light enough that I won't mind taking it on week-long wilderness hikes. I have only owned the camera for 2 weeks now, and so far I have only been using the automatic settings while I get a feel for its capabilities, but already I have taken several shots that I like very much. The resolution is perfect for what I'll be using it for. Chances are, if I used a tripod the images would be even sharper. A full-size image works out to be 9 x 12 inches at 300 dpi. You can, of course, set the camera to take smaller pictures.

One thing I've noticed from two weekend hikes is that the battery has a more limited life compared to what I'm used to with the smaller camera. Having been sure to fully recharge the battery the Friday night before my trip, I have been getting the "low battery" indicator by Sunday afternoon on both trips. Granted, I've had a bad case of "new toy syndrome" and over time I will probably learn to conserve battery power better. In the meantime, I plan to buy a back-up battery. It couldn't hurt. One thing that I've missed is an indicator that tracks battery power from start to finish, not just one that flashes when the power is low.

Another minor fault--which I can learn to live with--is that the on/off button can be a little too easily triggered. While trying to put the camera back in my backpack, I've accidentally touched the button and turned it on a couple times.

One thing I wasn't clear on when purchasing the camera from Amazon was what it came with. For the record, the following items come in the box with the camera:

* Battery recharger
* Rechargeable battery
* USB and AV cables
* A strap long enough to hang the camera from one's neck
* Software CD, especially helpful for managing the file upload process

The internal memory is good for ~18 images at full resolution. I bought a 4 gb SD card, with a capacity of ~850 images.

So, if you're looking for a camera somewhere between a POS and a DSLR, don't pass this one over thinking it only takes grainy, blurry images. It is a fine camera, especially for the price I bought it for. I haven't regretted it, and I am looking forward to getting to know it better.

I give it 4-1/2 stars.
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on June 8, 2008
It is simply my point and click. This might be to complex for the entry level digital user because like other reviewers I use a Cannon. Yesterday at a swim party I used the L400 lens for the distance face shots, but I used the p80 for the cake and presents shots. To me Photoshop is as necessary for photos as a good lens. I know I lose a lot of shooters when I add all the complicating issues. This little camera is very light and is in my purse at all times unlike my Cannon. I use it to all of its potential. You have to read the book and practice to enjoy all it can give. I love the spot meter and focus used at the same spot. I can shoot faces in the dark and have face colors that are quite good and from my purse to photo takes seconds. I love this camera, it is with me and in a restaurant or on a walk with the dog all those times when I never planned on taking any photos.
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on May 8, 2008
My interest in this camera is about obtaining mega zoom and macro abilities at a reasonable price. While this camera is classified as a point and shoot, and it certainly can be that, it does have some overides such as aperture and shutter priority and manual. Without the overide capabilities I wouldn't have been interested since I want creative control of my shots. Just out of the box last night I found that the macro worked fine as did the mega zoom. Mid range shots had stunning clarity. I noticed some noise on low light macro shots. So far I like this camera.

It would have been great if Nikon would have included RAW image processing. I would have much rather had that than the capability to make short videos. I also would have liked it if it were possible to thread filters on to the lens, which it is not.

The user's manual is really clear and understandable for someone used to working with DSLRs. I was able to load images on my computer using USB1 and Windows XP with no problem. I ignored the Nikon photoloading program and sent the images to Photoshop.

I would definitely suggest getting an additional memory card, since if you are shooting on the 'fine' setting it does not take long to fill up the camera's internal memory. For example if you shoot 10 images at the 'fine' setting the 50 MB internal memory will be full.

When this camera arrived at my home via shipping through Amazon the driver just left it on the doorstep. I would have rather a signature had been required than risk a $400 camera being swiped off my front porch.
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44 comments|54 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 7, 2008
My desire was to find a camera that was in between my pocket Canon SD1000 (a truly wonderful camera, but no optical zoom) and a more expensive and heavy SDLR. The Nikon P80 fits this "tweener" area nicely.

I have owned the camera for about 6 weeks and have taken over 1000 pictures with it. It's accompanied me to a pro football training camp, kayaking and canoes trips, parties and multiple family occasions. My original concern that this camera would be too big to tote around is simply not the case. It's become a wonderful companion.

A bullet list of observations:
- The zoom is incredible. I shut off the digital zoom feature completely. Found that I didn't need it and figured it would maximize sharpness. I do less cropping of pictures now with this camera than before.

- The sport shooting mode is wonderful. I use it more than I thought I would.

- I shopped around extensively and the reasons I chose this camera over the comparable Sony and the Canon, Lumix models were: This camera had a better zoom, used SD cards, had a more solid feel and had simple controls but yet had equally extensive features. Above all the others it felt good in the hand.

- Although this camera can act as a "point and shoot", by no means is this "juniors first camera". I really think the best way to get better results is to take the time to learn about the camera controls/features (RTFM) and learn about how to take pictures. In addition to my purchase of this camera I also bought the book "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson which has increased what minimal knowledge I had about exposure.

There are some annoyances with this camera.....

- It's slow. If you don't learn to use the camera in other priority modes or manual - you may get frustrated at the slow shutter response and missed shots. I've also found it's slow to zoom focus. The flash also requires some wait time as well (to be expected).

- I want to put a lens filter to protect the lens but ... #1 I can't find any and #2 doing so would require a different lens cap. Many have complained about the cheap plastic lens cap, but it's actually designed to easily pop off when you turn on the camera. A more solid lens cap would over time screw up the lens drive. It just looks cheesy.

Anyhoo, the camera's not perfect, but I felt I did my homework and made the best purchase for my needs. I am pleased with it and have already recommended it to friends who I think have beyond basic interest in photography.

I hope this information helps anyone who is considering this camera.
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on May 19, 2008
Just got this camera last week. We are novice users and found this camera to be very easy to use. The instructions that came with the camera are great and the in-camera instructions are excellent as well. We took our new camera for a test drive at our kids soccer games on Saturday. The shots we were able to get are FANTASTIC!!! We can actually see our kids in action, up close and in focus. The sports mode is wonderful. We really enjoyed zooming in on the picture after we took it to see even more detail. The battery worked really well. After 280 shots it was still going strong. 280 shots in one afternoon. Who would have ever thought we would take so many pictures. With our old camera we were lucky to take a handful. It was just so much fun to shot that we just kept going. We will play around with all of the settings over the next few days, but so far it has really WOWed us.
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