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Customer Review

194 of 200 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nikon hits this one out of the park, September 25, 2006
This review is from: Nikon D80 DSLR Camera (Body only) (OLD MODEL) (Electronics)
Since this camera just hit the streets less than 2 weeks ago, I obviously haven't had this for a super long time, but I moved to the D80 as an upgrade from the terrific D50, and the D80 takes care of every single minor nitpick I had with the D50, and then takes it even beyond that. Moreover, since I moved from the D50 and not a D70-series, I was thrilled that the D80 uses Secure Digital (SD) flash cards, which I used for not only my D50, but for my Casio EX-Z750 point and shoot as well.

As with the D50, the D80 just feels terrific in my hand. I was concerned initially because the ergonomics of the grip have been ever so slightly modified (more like that of the D70s than the D50), and I really liked the feel of the D50. However, once I got the D80 and actually started using it and shooting with it, the concern evaporated quickly. The D80 is a complete success ergonomically... it feels solid and substantial without being excessively heavy. Nikon has really always excelled in this niche, which isn't something that shows up in most reviews or on any test charts. Moreover, the controls are very logically placed, easy to identify and use in real-world photography, and the menus are intuitive and highly functional.

This camera is FAST. It's senseless to really even try to quantify it because the numbers (less than 0.1 second to start up) just don't convey how instantaneous shooting with this camera is. There's no discernible shutter lag, and shot-to-shot time is as fast as you need it to be. The D80 can fire up to 3 frames per second, up to 100 JPGs deep. Amazing for a sub-$1,000 camera.

The things missing from the D50 that the D80 addresses? Backlit LCD, superimposable gridlines in the finder, depth of field preview, one-button bracketing, bright and large viewfinder, one-touch zooming on picture playback, ISO equivalency down to 100, and a snap-on clear plastic cover for the monitor.

As a bonus, some of the in-camera retouching options are fantastic. You can take a color shot, then convert it to B&W with a red filter (still preserving your original image). You can utilize red-eye reduction (in the uncommon instances when it occurs at all), and Nikon's D-lighting is the digital equivalent of dodging and burning, and I love it. There is even a color balance shift function which is fun to play with.

The autofocusing on the camera is staggeringly fast when coupled with the right lens. (I recommend the Nikon 18-70mm DX lens; I'm not a fan of the kit lenses offered with the D80. They're very good optically, but the build quality is lacking for my personal tastes.) Like other Nikon dSLRs, the D80 has an independent AF-assist light (some other cameras rely on the flash unit for this). For AF lenses utilizing the screw-driven focusing mechanism, there is a noticeable increase in focusing speed over the D50. You can also employ an 11-segment dynamic AF grid and select which segment will be used for the point of focus.

A word about the pop-up flash: It's brilliant. Rarely does a camera with a built-in flash get it right so often with such consistency. I took numerous flash photos in sometimes varying and difficult lighting situations, and the D80 nailed it every single time.

The LCD is the best I've seen to date on any camera. Plenty of cameras have 2.5" monitors now, but this one has 230,000 pixels and is gorgeously sharp and detailed. You can view it from any angle in a 170-degree arc. Similarly, the viewfinder is a major improvement over both the D50 and the D70 series. Rather than utilizing a cheaper pentamirror like some of the competition, Nikon elects to use a genuine pentaprism which allows the finder to be nice and bright. Additionally, the diopter control knob with detents for each setting is a welcome change from the slider on the D50.

Image quality is superb, as one would expect from a 10.2 MP dSLR. I like sharp, vivid pictures, and the D80 delivers. Different processing algorithms can be selected in the menu to yield different degrees of sharpness and saturation. I haven't had any of my photos from the D80 printed out yet; only viewed them on a 19" monitor, but they look terrific. The D80 can also shoot NEF (RAW) files simultaneously with JPGs in one of three compression modes. Very nice.

Battery life is exceptional. It's fantastic on the D50, even better on the D80. A six-segment display on the top LCD panel shows you how much life remains, or you can go to the menu and see how many shots have been fired since the battery was recharged, an exact percentage (to 1%) of life remaining, and the battery's "charge life" remaining (since any rechargeable battery has a finite number of charge cycles in it).

I bought the 2-lens package from Cameta Camera (available through Amazon, though you can call the camera store directly and get the same package for $40 less than Amazon charges). For my needs, the Tamron 28-80mm lens is, quite frankly, virtually worthless, so it immediately went on eBay, and I bought a new Nikon 18-70mm DX lens in its place (a vastly superior lens). However, the Tamron 70-300mm Di LD Macro lens that's included is a surprisingly good piece of glass. I've shot nature and architectural-type photos with the D80 and the Tamron 70-300mm and was very pleasantly surprised at the results. The lens seems to be quite clear and sharp, it focuses quickly with no "hunting," and the 1:2 macro ratio is terrific. The short end of the zoom range on the 70-300mm is excellent for portrait work; this is enhanced by the foreshortening effect of the long lens. Coupled with the excellent Nikon 18-70mm lens, I have essentially the entire range of useful focal lengths covered (although those 12-24mm super wides do make me drool a bit!). Like many Nikon users, I'd love to have the 18-200mm VR lens, but I'm unwilling to pay a $200-300 premium over its list price simply because it's hard to find anywhere in stock nearly a year after its release. I'll wait.

As for the D80, though, if you have any interest in owning a serious dSLR, buy this camera and don't even think twice about it. For 2006 and likely for 2007, it's the right choice. The D80 is highly recommended as the perfect camera for the advanced amateur or enthusiast photographer. It bridges the gap between the D50 and the D200 perfectly. Pair this camera up with a high-quality lens, and a good photographer will have a tool with which stunning images can be made.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 22, 2006 12:07:58 PM PDT
Himal Ayan says:
An excellent, comprehensive review!

Posted on Dec 28, 2007 9:48:53 PM PST
This review certainly helps with my "buy or not buy" decision. I especially appreciated the comments about the Tamron 70-300mm Di LD Macro lens since I plan to do a lot of macro photography. Thanks.
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