for the 5D and EOS-1DS MKII pro models, Canon's digital
SLR legacy is traceable from the D60 up through the 10D,
350/400D, 20D and 30D — lots of heritage but little
else that's new except that wonderful Digic II processor.
Nikon digitals, by contrast, had been bringing up the rear
in recent years, but finally woke itself up with the D70,
following on with a series of new designs for the D50,
D200 and then this D80. When you add Nikon's cornucopia
of high quality lenses to the mix, it's hard to deny that
Nikon has taken its turn to spank Canon. The consumer is
the winner. Even the non-Nikon choices I've panned are
not really bad — they're just not up to the standards
being set by Nikon.
the D80 during two weeks of active shooting in Toronto
and in several small towns in eastern Ontario and western
New York. The first thing I noticed and relished was
the light weight, a camera body that is physically smaller
than my D200, a prominent and hand-filling right grip,
and ergonomics which lead the industry right now. The
feature and function set is spectacular, one of my favorites
being the option to limit the ISO range when shooting
in full auto mode. Low light performance in terms of
image noise is another shining example of Nikon rising
to demands of its loyal (and some not so loyal) critics.
The new processing tweaks and CCD sensor improvements
produce low light and long exposure performance that
is very clean through ISO 800 and very good through ISO
1200. For those of you who want a direct comparison,
there's essentially no noise performance difference between
the D200 and D80 compared with the Canon 5D and 400D
XTi through ISO 1200. Professional photographers and
digital photo editors care about this stuff to some degree,
but in all honesty even the most meticulous pro will
admit that Nikon's performance is nothing short of excellent.
The D80 benefits from decades of photography and imaging
experience at Nikon and the results are there for all
to see. As long as you can operate a shutter button properly,
results from the D80 are often shockingly good.
Nikon D80 offers a number of features not found in any
of its competitors in this price range. One of the most
interesting and misunderstood features is weather sealing.
The camera is not waterproof—that's a whole different
product category. But like its professional big brothers,
the D80 offers lots of moisture proofing. In other words,
mist, excessive humidity and a variety of other related
conditions aren't going to have much effect on the D80.
Couple it with a pro lens and go trekking somewhere,
or prowl the urban canyons of whatever city you call
home, hang out in back alleys looking for weird and wonderful
lighting and textures, visit a local park and shoot the
wildlife, or find a river or stream and wander the banks.
If you find yourself in the midst of a swelteringly humid
summer day, you can step out of a cold, air conditioned
car and completely ignore the effects of instant condensation.
Wipe off the front element of your lens and away you
quick White Balance adjustments takes only a few seconds.
Using the camera's built-in range of preset shooting
modes is delightful in a camera of this quality. Shooting
modes are found most often in point & shoot pocket
cameras. Having access to them through the main selector
on top of the camera is absolutely wonderful. Pros can
use it to check their manual settings against Nikon's
suggested setting. Best of all for hobbyists, casual
shooters, travelers and anyone else with a penchant for
photography, the D80's configuration menus are a tweaker's
and customizer's delight. Menu organization is excellent
and the settings you need most often are always no more
than a click or two away.
D80 is well built. The body is solid, well sealed and
feels tight and grip-able with all working surfaces covered
in textured synthetic rubber. The rear LCD is bright
and very accurate. Like its older siblings and its bigger
brothers, the D80 has an LCD that is genuinely useful
for accurately reviewing shots. At 2.5" in size
it's also big enough to actually see important details.
Most important for many people, the D80 uses Nikon's
F mount and is fully compatible with all of Nikon's huge
assortment of AF-S and AF-I lenses.
supplied us with the D80 kit for this review. It includes
the new 18-135 AF zoom lens. While it will never be mistaken
for a pro lens, the 18-135 does one thing extremely well—it
takes razor sharp pictures. That's my bell ringer by
the way. Sharpness. I can live with all sorts of vignetting
(corners that are slightly darker than the rest of the
photo) and chromatic aberration (faint color fringing
that's visible when you blow things up real big), but
sharpness is the big deal for me. The 18-135, again,
is sharp. It's also color accurate, with good glass coatings
which help to reduce flare and other problems. On the
other hand, the lens does not do well shooting across
the light. If you buy the kit, don't walk out of the
store without a polarizing filter or without making sure
the lens hood is in the box.
standard D80 kit (body + lens) includes the Nikkor 18-135mm
zoom lens. Do yourself a favor and pay for a lens upgrade.
The 18-135mm zoom is competent enough and even razor
sharp, but the D80 will excel when paired with the Nikkor
18-200mm VR lens or the 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens and
almost all of the huge line of Nikon lenses. The 18-55mm
and the 18-200mm VR cost more, but the results are clearly
worth every penny. I ran into some minor metering inconsistencies
from shot to shot and had to use +/- EV compensation
more often (at least compared to metering with a D200).
There's nothing wrong with SD cards for storage, but
I've already got a sizable investment in CF cards which
I've used in my Nikon's since purchasing a D70 quite
a few years ago. Apparently, the SD card was used in
the D80 design simply because of the smaller port requirement
compared to a CF card. Grrr. The 18-135 lens supplied
with the D80 kit is good but not great and it's not quite
up to the standard set by the D80.
were not expecting so many professional features in what
is presented as a consumer-friendly enthusiast digital
SLR, but there they are nonetheless. With customizability
rivaling that of the much more expensive and clearly
professional level Nikon D200 and Canon 5D, in our opinion
the Nikon D80 is a hands-down choice over the rival Canon
400D (Rebel XTi). Nikon seems to have worked very hard
to shake off accusations that its digital images were
slightly soft because the results from the D80 are among
the best we've ever seen from any digital camera. Add
a good quality Nikon lens to the D80 — the 18-200mm
VR zoom is a brilliant choice — and the only thing
that will prevent you from getting great photos is you.
Excellent battery life. I spend almost as much time looking
at the LCD as I do looking through the viewfinder, so
the D80's LCD screen was a bit of a revelation—large,
bright, remarkably sharp and genuinely useful for shot
analysis. Very bright pentaprism viewfinder makes competing
SLR models from Canon, Pentax, Olympus and Sony look
somewhat dark and small by comparison. Well designed
with comfortable and intuitive ergonomics. If you're
a photography enthusiast or hobbyist or harbor a secret
desire to be a great photographer, get the D80. If you're
an engineer, designer, project manager or work in one
of a thousand other skills that require accurate photographs,
get the D80. Nikon has hit another home run with this
one. Highly recommended.