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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Nikon D80 review

The Nikon D80 digital SLR is the successor the D70s. Announced in August 2006, it’s positioned between the entry-level D50 and semi-professional D200, squarely targeting photographic enthusiasts or those who simply want a step-up from a budget model.
The D80 inherits or tweaks many aspects from both the D50 a
nd D200, along with introducing a few new features of its own. Starting with the headline specifications, the Nikon D80 shares the same 10.2 Megapixel resolution, 2.5in screen and user interface of the D200, although as we’ll explain in the review, there are some differences. The body itself is physically very similar to the D50 and inside there’s the same metering system.



The Nikon D80 includes a larger 2.5-inch 230,000-dot high-resolution LCD, that provides an ultra-wide 170-degree viewing angle. Navigating the spacious preview of your images is easy with a new dedicated Zoom button, magnifying images on screen up to 25 times their original size. A new RGB histogram display aids in evaluating exposures with greater precision. Other playback options include single frame, 4 or 9-image thumbnail display, an improved histogram display and highlight point display. A new menu interface featuring refinements to the carefully chosen color scheme and increased font size makes navigation easier on the eye, easier to understand and easier to use. Menus can be customized to display only selected items using the new "My Menu" set.

The all new Retouch menu offers exclusive in-camera editing functions that will help reduce time spent post processing images on your PC or MAC. These options include:

  • D-Lighting: Automatically balances underexposed portions of an image to enhance detail in these areas, without affecting the highlights of the picture
  • In-camera Red-eye Correction: Automatically removes the annoying red-eye effect sometimes caused by flash.
  • Trim: Images can be trimmed within the camera to produce smaller files with reduced display sizes for easy sharing or greater efficiency for specific end purposes.
  • Image Overlay: Merges a pair of selected RAW files taken with the D80 to create a composite image within the camera as a RAW or JPEG file. This feature is especially useful when trying to create a soft-focus effect with two similar images
  • Monochrome settings: Monochrome settings can be applied to any color image in the camera, to convert it to a pleasing monochromatic picture, either in black-and-white, sepia or cyanotype
  • Filter Effects: Can be used to emulate and apply the effects of a Skylight filter or a Warming filter to any image stored on the inserted SD card. A Customized Color menu within filter effects can also be used to make subtle shifts in color to any image in the camera.

For anyone just beginning to enjoy the added performance and versatility of a digital SLR, creative shooting is as simple as rotating the Digital Vari-Program mode dial on the camera. The Nikon D80 has seven pre-configured exposure modes to optimize the camera for specific shooting conditions and greatly increase the chances of taking a great photograph. In “Portrait” Mode, for example, the camera automatically optimizes the color, hue, and saturation levels to capture the most flattering skin tones, softens the focus of the background to emphasize the face and applies a milder form of in-camera sharpening. Users can choose from Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports, Night Landscape or Night Portrait.

A new 11-area auto-focus system detects focus with superb precision and can even track a moving subject across the frame, shifting focus instantly and automatically to any of the 11 auto-focus points. The Nikon D80 large, bright 0.94x viewfinder affords a remarkable view, making critical composition easier. The camera’s rechargeable battery can last up to 2700 shots on a single charge, while also providing a real-time "Fuel Gauge" of the percentage of charge remaining in the battery at all times. The D80 is also compatible with Nikon’s AF Nikkor lenses as well as the new DX Nikkor lenses, which are designed exclusively for use with Nikon DX format digital SLRs.

One of the key advances developed for the Nikon D80 is Nikon's own high-resolution image processing engine that inherits best-of-breed technologies from Nikon's latest professional digital SLR cameras, including color independent analog pre-conditioning and high-precision 12-bit digital image processing algorithms, which combine to produce natural-looking images that benefit from faithful color and tone reproduction. This new dedicated high-performance processing chip greatly accelerates performance on all levels, while also achieving lower power consumption, assuring more pictures per battery charge.

The Nikon D80 also benefits from Nikon's exclusive 3D Color Matrix Metering II, to ensure accurate exposures, even in the most challenging lighting conditions. Evaluating, rather than merely measuring or averaging the true content of each scene, input from the system's frame-wide 420-pixel sensor is automatically referenced against an onboard database of over 30,000 scenes from actual photography to calculate final exposure value. Variable Center-Weighted metering and Spot metering centered on the active focus area are also available, as are exposure compensation and auto exposure bracketing.

The optional MB-D80 battery pack helps extend the shooting capabilities of the Nikon D80 with an ergonomic design that adds shooting stability. Able to run on either one or two EN-EL3e rechargeable batteries or six AA-size batteries, the pack also features an additional command dial and alternative buttons for shutter release and AE-Lock/AF-Lock that make vertical shooting more comfortable.


Viewfinder:

The Nikon D80 viewfinder is an immediately noticeable improvement over the D70/D70s. According to Nikon it's based on the unit in the D200 and the specs (0.94x magnification, 95% frame coverage) support that. It's bright, with no noticeable distortion and considering the DX (1.5x) crop still manages to fill your view. On the right side is a dioptre adjustment dial. The viewfinder also features the larger DK-21 eyepiece cup.

The Nikon D80 viewfinder display:

1 - Framing grid (can be disabled via the custom menu)
2
- 8mm (0.31 in.) reference circle for center-weighted metering
3
- "No memory card" warning
4
- Battery level indicator
5
- Indicates Black and White exposure

6
- Focus brackets (focus area)
7
- Normal-frame focus brackets
8
- Wide-frame focus brackets



Information displayed on the LCD panel:


Top Control Panel:

The D80 has one control panel on the top on the right side, it provides a full range of information covering photographic and digital settings.


Top of camera controls (right):

On the top of the camera on the right side you will find the power switch and shutter release button. Behind this are four buttons; metering mode, exposure compensation, shooting mode and AF mode. Slightly confusingly (at first) the shooting mode and AF mode buttons do not operate by being held and combined with a command dial turn, instead you tap them to toggle through each mode option, it seems slightly odd for this to operate differently than the metering mode and exposure compensation buttons. At the front and rear edges of this side of the camera, in line with the shutter release button are the two command dials.

Press and hold the exposure compensation and AF buttons together for more than two seconds to perform a 'two-button reset', this returns all camera settings to defaults, although doesn't affect custom function settings.



The D80 specification:

Sensor
-10.2 million effective pixels
-23.6 x 15.8 mm CCD (DX format)

Image sizes
-3872 x 2592 (10.0 MP)
-2896 x 1944
-1936 x 1296

Autofocus
-11 area TTL
-Nikon Multi-CAM1000

Lens servo
-Single-servo AF (AF-S)
-Continuous-servo AF (AF-C)
-Automatic AF-S/AF-C (AF-A)
-Manual focus (M)

Metering
-420 pixel RGB sensor
-3D color matrix metering II

Metering range
-EV 0 to 20 (3D color matrix / CW)
-EV 2 to 20 (Spot)

Sensitivity
-ISO 100 - 1600
-Up to ISO 3200 with boost

Auto ISO
-Selectable maximum ISO
-Selectable minimum shutter speed

Shutter
-Electronically controlled vertical-travel focal plane shutter

Shutter speed
-30 to 1/4000 sec
-Bulb

Flash sync
-1/200 sec

Built-in flash
-Guide number 13 (ISO 100)

Continuous
-3 fps
-23 / 6 frames (JPEG / RAW)

White balance
-Auto
-6 presets
-Kelvin color temperature
-Manual preset (immediate or from photo)

Image presets
-Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, B&W

High ISO NR
-Normal
-Low
-High
-Off

Multiple exposures
-Yes

Exposure delay
-Yes, optional, 0.4 sec (mirror lock-up)

Viewfinder
-Eyepoint: 19.5 mm (at -1.0 m-1)
-Frame coverage 95% (approx.)
-Magnification approx. 0.94x
-B-type Bright View Clear Matte II

LCD monitor
-2.5" TFT LCD
-230,000 pixel TFT
-170 degree viewing angle
-Removable protective cover

Histogram
-Luminance & RGB histogram

USB
-USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (480 Mbps max.)

Storage
-SD / SD-HC card

Battery
-Lithium-Ion EN-EL3e (7.4 V, 1500 mAh)

Battery status
-Remaining charge (%)
-No. of shots taken since last charge
-Battery life (5 stage)

Vertical grip
-MB-D80 (optional)

Dimensions
-132 x 103 x 77 mm (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)

Weight
-No battery: 585 g (1.3 lb)
-With battery: 668 g (1.5 lb)

Conclusion:

PRO
  • Since the D80 borrows so much of its features and user interface from the D200, most of what we liked about the D200 applies to the D80 as well. Hence, many of the items below are the same as for the D200.
  • Good build quality, very solid feel in the hand
  • 18-135mm kit lens is of high quality, lots of aspheric surfaces and ED glass in it. A huge step up from the cheap lenses typically found in kits
  • Viewfinder is unusually large (0.94x) for a prosumer DSLR, and very bright thanks to pentaprism optics
  • Excellent resolution (Only a modest step up from 8 megapixels, a worthwhile upgrade from 6)
  • True shutter-controlled exposure avoids blooming and CCD overload
  • Very good to excellent color
  • Good high-ISO performance
  • User can control high-ISO noise reduction
  • Supports Nikon Creative Lighting System, camera can control two remote channels, plus its own onboard strobe. (Really exceptional remote strobe capability.)
  • Solid 3 fps continuous shooting, with a deep buffer memory. (Almost unlimited JPEG shooting with fast memory cards - depends strongly on level of subject detail though.)
  • Fast, accurate 11-point AF system, works down to unusually low light levels
  • AF-assist is provided with a separate lamp, can be used with flash disabled
  • Dynamic AF option makes tracking active subjects easier
  • Good user interface and ergonomics
  • Viewfinder status bar does good job of conveying important setting information
  • LCD is large, bright, and very readable
  • Very nice playback mode: Loads of information options, extensive (RGB) histogram, highlight display, very capable zoom feature, convenient image deletion
  • Excellent, attractive menu system, with extensive help screens
  • Excellent range of custom settings, one of the more customizable cameras we've seen
  • Excellent programmability of function buttons and controls
  • Highly configurable, extensive Custom Functions menu
  • Unusual image overlay feature
  • Very powerful in-camera color-filter capability
  • Digital color-contrast filters in black -and-white mode
  • Good battery life, extensive data reporting to camera
  • Top-panel LCD status display saves battery power, is convenient for making camera adjustments
  • Optional MB-D80 battery grip for vertical-format shooting and longer run times
  • Optional remote release
  • Lighter and more compact than D200, but still loads of control and features
  • Attractive pricing considering build quality, feature set, and kit lens
CON
  • Flash X-Sync speed reduced to 1/200 second, maximum shutter speed is now 1/4000. (Compared to 1/500 and 1/8000 for the D70/D70S - But the upside is there's no "blooming" on severe overexposure.)
  • Contrast adjustment has limited range, needs to go further in the low-contrast direction. (Color saturation control could use more steps too.)
  • High-ISO noise reduction works well, but does sacrifice some subject detail in areas of lower contrast or uniform color. (Canon XTi preserves more detail.)
  • Poor handling of incandescent lighting in Auto white balance mode.
  • Kit lens is quite sharp across the focal length range and across the frame, but has more chromatic aberration than we'd like to see.
  • Lack of Group Dynamic function (as on D200) can make it harder to acquire active subjects.
  • No non-CPU lens menu as on D200, means very limited utility with older lenses
  • Viewfinder eyepoint could be a little higher to accommodate eyeglass wearers
  • Help screens could provide a bit more detail on many functions
  • Provided Picture Project software has no RAW-format (NEF file) adjustment, provides only simple conversion

Useful info about Nikon D80:

http://www.nikondigitutor.com/eng/d80/index.shtml

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