In the Nikon family of digital SLR cameras, there are flagship cameras that are suited for serious photographers and there are entry-level cameras that have a friendly user-interface for first time DSLR users, but there are also cameras like the Nikon D80 that bridge the gap when advanced features aren’t really sought.
Nikon D80’s Position in the D Series
The Nikon D80 falls under the midrange series replacing both the Nikon D70 and D70s which are the models that began the midrange series. The whole idea of the midrange series is to combine the simplicity of the entry-level cameras like the D40 and D60 while at the same time incorporating higher-end features coming from the D200 cameras. The D200 camera has plenty of advanced features yet is being sold at a price tag that may not be reachable for all. With some of the popular features going to the D80, aspiring photographers have a chance at professionalism without draining their wallet and going through a steep learning curve.
The Nikon D80 design is quite unique because it successfully builds on the previous D70 and adds some elements from the D200 for added ruggedness yet manages to be smaller than both. The smaller size makes it a bit lighter as well and the ruggedness is just right to carry it and use it the same way you would use an entry level camera. It is basically an entry-level camera with a few bells and whistles. The size of the camera is just right for a comfortable grip.
The front view of the camera shows the components in all their usual places and also manages to incorporate the special programmable button as well as the depth-of-field preview button.
On the left side, you can see two rubbery flaps that protect separate compartments housing different connectors. The opening the first and bigger compartment reveals the USB, Video Out, and DC In connectors while the smaller one is used for the optional remote control accessory. The flash and maintains its usual position on the side as well as the Focus mode controls and bracketing (BKT) button. No changes on the right side either where you place the memory card.
The top view also looks similar to the other entry-level designs with the mode dial as the centerpiece which sets the exposure and scene settings. Like all the other DSLR cameras, the shutter button lies with the power switch for convenience.
The top view gives more of the D200 feel with the LCD found on the right so the mode dial had to be placed in the same position as the other high-end models. This shouldn’t frustrate people transitioning from the entry-level one bit as the other button positions remain the same. The LCD is a welcome addition displaying useful statistics including battery life. The back introduces a nice 2.5 inch LCD display along with more buttons to navigate the interface and activate the Live View mode. The bottom of the camera is also the same where you can find the tripod socket and battery compartment.
Actual user review:
“Obviously, I am enamored with the Nikon D80. As one who has extensively used the D100, D70s, and D200, I was curious as to how the D80 would “shake out” in comparison with these fine cameras. The answer is that it does very well indeed. The most obvious improvement in D80 over the D70s and D100 is the upgrade from 6.1 to 10.2 Megapixels. Shooters of wildlife will appreciate the additional resolution of the D80. The other very obvious D80 improvements are the larger viewfinder and larger rear-LCD. These are very welcome improvements also borrowed from the D200. The viewfinder is wide, bright, and a literal joy to use. Combined with the 11-point autofocus system, the viewfinder makes the D80 a powerhouse camera for moving subjects, or for framing the subject in places other than the center of the image. The autofocus is fast and sure. I literally never use manual focus with the D80. The 2.5 inch rear LCD is bright and vivid. The menu selections in the D80 closely track those of the D200 and are largely pretty intuitive for anyone who is somewhat familiar with the Nikon system. Overall, the D80 is destined to become one of the great Nikon cameras that will find a place with users all over the world.” – R.J. Buffington (CA,USA)
Resolution isn’t the main focus here taking the same 10.2 megapixel specifications from the entry level DSLR cameras. That isn’t a bad thing since 3872×2592 is a fairly high resolution for producing great details even when the zoom features are used. It also uses a new 12-bit image processing engine for significant color improvements.
Speed is another highlight of the D80 with a 0.18 start-up combined with a 80ms shutter response. That is exceptional for getting that perfect shot which is tough for point-and-shoot camera users. Continuous shooting is also similar to the entry level cameras capable of shooting up to 100 straight JPEG shoots at a 3 frames per second rate thanks to the large system bus bandwidth.
To add to the entry-level features, the Nikon D80 layers it with an 11-area AF system which is crucial for caption sports moments and other high-speed action. The AF-assist illuminator also helps when shooting in low-light scenarios. The “Live View” mode also aids in ensuring that the perfect scene is captured.
The Nikon D80 fuses the best features that high-end cameras have with the speedy performance of the entry-level cameras. This is an excellent professional camera to get when the budget doesn’t make the cut.
Average User Rating:
- “The D80 takes care of every single minor nitpick I had with the D50, and beyond that. It feels solid and substantial without being excessively heavy. 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. 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. The autofocusing on the camera is staggeringly fast when coupled with the right lens. Like other Nikon dSLRs, the D80 has an independent AF-assist light. 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. I took numerous flash photos in sometimes varying and difficult lighting situations, and the D80 nailed it every single time. The LCD has 230,000 pixels and is gorgeously sharp and detailed. You can view it from any angle in a 170-degree arc. Nikon elects to use a viewfinder with 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. I like sharp, vivid pictures, and the D80 delivers. Battery life is exceptional. 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.” – Chad (USA)
- “To date, this DSLR is by far the best Camera for the money. The image quality is outstanding. I upgrade to the D80 just last week, moving up from my D70s, and I can say that after 10 minuets of shooting, it was worth every penny. This is basically a D200 mini, if you will. Other than the smaller body, and the slightly different auto exposure metering system, you are holding a D200 for $700 less. This is a professional grade camera with easy to use features, and even better all around quality.Its great for anyone really.” – R. D. Heatley
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