Nikon D80 Review

After the Canon EOS 400D and the Sony Alpha 100 have already been tested on our pages, the D80 now follows another 10-megapixel DSLR of the 1,000-Euro class, which has to prove itself in extensive testing.

Short evaluation

Pros

  • very fast response times (AF, shutter release, on-time, continuous shooting, data transfer, etc.)
  • Camera menu can be individually designed
  • excellent noise behaviour (close to Canon level)
  • Battery or multifunction handle optionally available
  • flash system that leaves nothing to be desired (iTTL flash exposure metering and control, built-in miniature flash unit can be used as control flash, etc.)
  • built-in image processing functions
  • extensive parameterization, fine tuning and personalization options
  • convenient viewfinder
  • sophisticated, uncompromisingly intuitive operation (2 setting wheels, LC status display, etc.)
  • excellent price/performance ratio (extremely little of the D200 below)

Cons

  • Nikon Capture NX only at extra charge
  • no mechanical sensor cleaning unit
  • not compatible with other battery types (EN-EL3a and some other brands)
  • more precise exposure measurement is reserved for higher-priced models
  • Continuous-advance function cannot be used with built-in flash
  • bright white AF auxiliary light
  • strong distortion and vignetting of the tested set lens
  • Target group unfocused sharpening settings
  • somewhat unfortunate compression level selection
  • low-effective white balance automatic and presettings in artificial light
  • z. T. limited backward compatibility (partial for lenses, total for flashes)

In the “beginners” category, the choice and the competition are as big as never before, and the Nikon D80, which has been available on the market for some time, has already been able to win many a battle against the competition in the purchase decision of many camera buyers.

Nikon D80 Review

Ergonomics and workmanship

The D80 can’t deny its origin from the outside alone. One recognizes them immediately as “genuine” Nikon, and if there had not been a few more or less noticeable changes of cosmetic and technical nature made, one would also consider them for the predecessor model D70(s). In the comparison, the two cameras reveal their differences most clearly. With external dimensions of 132 x 103 x 77 mm, the D80 is not only one size smaller than the D70(s) and almost as compact as a D50, but compared to the 2.5″ monitor of the D80, the colour screens of the D70 and D70s (1.8″ and 2.0″ screen diagonals) appear comparatively tiny. On the other hand, hardly anything has changed in the construction or in the housing materials used: Like its predecessors, the D80 is mainly made of shock-resistant plastic, and with a weight of 727 grams (without lens) it’s not much lighter than a D70(s). Since the D70, the two adjustment wheels on the front and back of the ergonomically shaped and in practice very sturdy handle are included. Such a 2-wheel system is a rarity in the entry-level class, and while with other cameras like the Canon EOS 400D, the Sony Alpha 100 or the Olympus E-400 you have to practice finger acrobatics when setting the shutter speed and aperture in manual exposure mode, with the D80 you can set both values simultaneously by turning the respective wheel.

Nikon D80 Review

The ergonomics of the housing have been improved in other respects. The OK button (formerly ENTER button) is now within thumb’s reach of the multifunction selector or navigation field, and to enlarge the images in playback mode you no longer need a frame to draw the desired image section, but can zoom in and out with two separate buttons (plus and minus button). Not new, but Nikon-typical are the “shortcuts” (i.e. small, practical key combinations for convenient recall of frequently used functions) for fast, but foolproof resetting of the camera to the factory settings (reset) and formatting of the memory card; in general, the placement of the controls is perfectly thought out. With the D80, the function button familiar from the D200 and the professional models of the D2 series is also entering the entry-level class. The assignment possibilities for the small round button near the lens mount (above the dipping button) include, among other things, the display of the light sensitivity level equivalent set by the camera in the ISO automatic, various settings that can be combined with the rotating wheels, as well as switching between normal and wide AF field size (more on this later). In general, the operation can be adapted to an above-average degree to very personal habits. Thus, one can adjust with which rotary wheel one enters which exposure parameter (shutter speed/aperture), reassign different keys and choose whether the exposure values are changed in third or half steps; in the camera menu, one finds some further configuration and personalization possibilities.

Nikon D80 Review

The D80 is also one of the few entry-level DSLRs that still has a monochrome liquid crystal display with a summary of the most important camera settings. The D80’s status display is even extra wide, can show no less than 22 basic information and can be illuminated by turning the main switch (convenient for night shots). You can also select (via individual function no. 17) that the greenish backlight remains on as long as you make settings on the camera; if the camera is not operated for several seconds, the backlight switches off with the exposure meter (its switch-off time can be set via individual function no. 28).

If the status display remains permanently on (even when the camera is turned off, it still shows the estimated remaining number of images), the color monitor on the back of the camera is only switched on if explicitly requested by the user. This is done either to view the already captured images or to move in the menu system of the camera. The D80 was equipped with the same LC colour screen as the D200 (and in a slightly modified form also the D2Xs). Its main features include the pleasantly large screen surface (screen diagonal of 2.5″ or 6.3 cm), a resolution of 230,000 pixels appropriate to the screen size and a low angle dependency (horizontal and vertical viewing angles of 170 degrees each). In addition, the D80 has an automatic brightness adjustment. In any case, the screen has a sufficiently fine resolution so that the sharpness of the images can be reliably controlled during the enlarged image reproduction (depending on the zoom level and image size, up to 25 times the image magnification is possible). The RGB histogram that can be faded in and the highlighting of the highlights allow a control of the exposure; even if the monitor of the D80 is not calibrated at the factory (as it is the case with the D2Xs), the correctness of the colours can also be judged well.

Nikon D80 Review

Nikon D80 Review

The color also plays a role in the display of the menus on the camera monitor. Each main category has its own colour (blue for the playback functions, green for the recording functions, red for the individual functions, orange for the system settings and purple for the image editing functions); the individual menu items are very legible due to the choice of large characters and a high-contrast display (white writing on a black/grey background). In total, the menu consists of 5 main categories, 69 menu items and over 370 settings. Although Nikon has tried to formulate the keywords in such a way that they are self-explanatory, there remain some menu items and settings that need further explanation, especially for beginners. These can be obtained at any time (i.e. at any point in the menu) by pressing the question mark key. The delivered description is more concise than in the manual, but the built-in help function turns out to be very helpful in everyday use (even if it’s just a “thought support”). Also of great help – and unique in this form – is the user-defined menu selection. With the D80 it is not only possible to switch from a simple view (with a few menu items) to a detailed view (with all 69 menu items), but also to hide almost every single menu item. In this way, you can build your own personal menu and then only the menu items that you really need are displayed. This is practical and contributes to a better clarity of the menus.

Where we are already with the topic (over-) view: The D80 spoils its owner with a pleasantly large and bright viewfinder image. Although the Pentax K10D covers an even slightly larger field of view (96 vs. 95 percent), and the Sony Alpha 100 manages – despite its roof-mounted mirror design – to produce at least as “clear” an image in the viewfinder with its super-bright Spherical Acute Matte viewfinder screen, but the sum of the features (pentaprism viewfinder, 19.5 millimetre eye distance/outlet pupil, 95 percent viewfinder image coverage and 0.94x viewfinder image magnification), the D80 is at the D200 level in terms of viewfinder comfort. In addition, there is the liquid crystal layer embedded in the matt screen to display a wide variety of information (active AF field, battery status, warning for missing memory card, warning for black and white mode, grid), the comfortable rubber eyecup and the practical diopter wheel (the wheel replaces the previous slide control) – and one would have to emphasize the absence of a built-in eyepiece shutter if one wants to find the famous hair in the soup.

Optics

Together with Pentax, Nikon is one of the few camera manufacturers that has paid attention over the years to backward compatibility with older lenses. In plain language, this means that a camera like the D80 can be fitted with even the oldest lenses from the time when cameras still worked with film and purely mechanically – without any additional accessories. Thus, the lens of grandpa’s or Daddy’s old Nikon camera most probably also fits on the D80; with very old “lenses” without autofocus, one only has to adjust the sharpness by hand. However, there is an important limitation with the D80, as with other Nikon entry-level DSLRs: While Nikon’s digital SLRs have a mechanical aperture collector from a certain price range (currently from the D200) to transfer the aperture set on the lens to the camera, the D80 lacks this mechanism. Thus, the camera does not “know” which aperture has been preselected and has no other way of knowing this. Exposure metering must do without aperture information – and this is also the main reason why lenses without processor control or without electronic aperture transmission may only be used in “M” mode (manual exposure control requires determining and setting the exposure yourself) and the shutter release is otherwise locked.

The D80 owner can find out in the manual what restrictions there may still be when using lenses from previous owners. However, those who bought their camera together with the set lens or own more modern autofocus lenses with Nikon connection (so-called “F-mount”) can have the camera electronics granted. If it is a processor-controlled optical system (which can be assumed for almost all AF lenses and which the electrical contacts on the underside of the lens reveal), focusing and exposure are (fully) automatic; manual interventions are only necessary if they are intended. Nikon’s own lenses of the G series, such as the set lens AF-S-Nikkor 18-135mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED, even do completely without an aperture ring, and those who want to preselect the aperture on such lenses must do so on the camera. Those who want to exploit the full technological potential of the D80 or make use of the so-called 3D color matrix measurement should also make sure that the lens has a built-in chip for transmitting the distance data (in the case of non-G lenses, identifiable at the letter D behind the luminous intensity). Basically, the newer the lens, the greater the compatibility with all camera functions.

Nikon D80 Review

In general, the right lens for the D80 needs to be chosen correctly. The set lens already guarantees a very high compatibility and – for everyday use or for beginners – completely sufficient image quality (see section “Image quality”), but you can also put together your equipment individually. At Nikon alone you will find around 50 different autofocus lenses (and that’s far from covering the entire lens range of the brand), and then there are manufacturers such as Sigma, Tamron or Tokina who have their own “creations” with Nikon connectors to offer. Some of them are specifically designed for use with digital SLR cameras (DX series for Nikon and Tokina, DG/DC series for Sigma and Di-/Di-II series for Tamron); other abbreviations stand for optics with whisper-quiet and fast ultrasonic drive (AF-S, HSM, SDM) or with built-in optical image stabilizer (VR, OS). Some lens names can also contain information about the use of special glasses and/or a special coating. Lenses with a particularly low refractive index are called ED lenses at Nikon, for example. This already indicates a higher optical quality. However, since with digital SLR cameras a supposedly good lens may not harmonize well with the camera or its image sensor and signal processing, we recommend a recommendation, a self-test or – better still – reading the DCTau test protocols on our website, which are subject to a fee, in order to ensure that the lens also meets expectations in terms of image quality. As you can see, the choice of lens is already a science in itself, and those who do not (yet) master it should not despair, but certainly do nothing wrong if they still decide on one of the “ready-to-use” kits and only later become “choosy”.

With auto focus with autofocus lenses, the D80 can capture almost any subject (static or moving, regardless of its position in the image or viewfinder) thanks to its eleven AF points. It owes this to the Multi-CAM1000 module; the same component that is also responsible for autofocus in the semi-professional D200 and which consists of four horizontal line sensors, two vertical line sensors and a central cross sensor. Due to the different alignment of the individual sensors, both vertical and horizontal structures can be reliably detected and the autofocus functions with similar precision for landscape and portrait format shots. While the D200 retains the advantage of being able to divide the sensor surface into eleven normal or seven large measuring fields, the D80 retains eleven measuring fields. After all, the width of the middle measuring field can be changed, which is possible via an individual function (03). Either the user or the camera determines which field of view the D80 focuses on. In contrast to the D200, only one measuring field can be selected at a time with manual selection, while the camera’s automatic function can also activate several measuring fields. The “selected” fields are displayed in the viewfinder and on the top liquid crystal display (Status LCD), briefly flashing red in the viewfinder and then bordered in black. It’s a pity that the D80 doesn’t signal the target change when the subject is moving; if the subject leaves the target area that matches the start position of the subject selected by the user in Dynamic Target Control (where the camera tracks subject movement and adjusts focus accordingly), the camera focuses on the next target(s), but without displaying this in the viewfinder.

There is a choice of three AF modes (AF-S single-frame focusing, AF-C focus tracking, AF-A auto mode), three focus area control settings (single, dynamic, auto), and two focus area size settings (normal, large) that can be combined. This makes things unnecessarily complicated, and the overburdened beginner will quickly return to the basic settings or the motif programs (where the camera makes the appropriate settings for the situation) before falling completely into a state of lack of plan. The AF auxiliary light of the D80 can be viewed with mixed feelings. The white lamp on the front of the camera isn’t quite as disturbing as the flash storm of some other cameras (which use the built-in miniature flash as an auxiliary light) and doesn’t need to be unfolded separately, but it’s also shaded by more voluminous lenses, only helps the middle cross sensor on the jumps and is still indiscreet enough to destroy any spontaneity. Fortunately, it can be switched off, and the autofocus of Nikon cameras still works in lighting conditions where most other cameras throw in the towel or already use the auxiliary light (up to -1 IL), so that the D80 cuts a better figure than the competition. But the whole thing is not optimal.

Despite the same AF module, the D200 is superior to the D80 in some situations. For static subjects, the D80 is similarly fast as the D200 (see table of measured values), but when photographing action-packed scenes (e.g. sports shots), the D200 is mercilessly dependent on its little sister. Not that the D80’s autofocus is really lame in focus tracking mode, but with a 160 millisecond viewfinder dark phase, the time in which the autofocus is “blind” (because the flipped mirror is also part of the diversion system to the AF sensor) and can lose the subject is significantly longer than the 105 milliseconds of the D200. The D80 therefore takes more time to re-record the track of the subject being tracked than the D200; a time in which the D200 can take a few more sharp pictures – thanks, among other things, to faster frame rates and shorter trigger intervals. The D80 and the D200 therefore only take a varying number of sharp pictures in the same time (without one camera really taking more blurry pictures than the other), and the fact that the D80 is not quite as action-suitable as the D200 has less to do with the performance of the autofocus than with the other performance values. In any case, the D80’s AF performance and speed are more than enough for the amateur photographer’s everyday photography, and within the entry-level class the D80 certainly has one of the fastest and most precise autofocus systems.

Flash

The built-in miniature flash of the D80 is typical – and indispensable – for an entry-level camera. Depending on whether you operate the D80 in one of the “all-round worry-free” modes (fully automatic and motif programs) or in one of the advanced programs (P/S/A/M), the small light dispenser hidden in the viewfinder box either pops out automatically or at the touch of a button and ignites. The on-board flash is positioned high enough to flash over “small caliber” lenses (lenses with a larger diameter can cause shadowing) and minimise the risk of red eyes; with a power of over LZ 13 (see table of measured values) it is strong enough to bridge distances of up to 9.2 metres (depending on lens speed and sensitivity). By the way, the integrated flash is designed so that it fully covers the image field of the set lens in wide-angle position (corresponding to 18 mm). The illumination is very uniform, and dark corners only occur when using lenses with a stronger wide angle; despite the yellowish reflector lens, the flash does not produce any unpleasant color casts (the white balance automatic already looks to the right).

Nikon D80 Review

But if you use the small on-board flash only as a light source, you will miss its real potential. The built-in miniature flash has “leadership qualities” and can take control of the other flash units in a wireless network of several flash units. In contrast to simple wireless flash triggering, the wireless (iTTL) flash control does not flash at full power (which leads to flash-over effects if the flash output is not adjusted manually at the so-called slave flash), but completely in controlled mode. Where otherwise complicated calculations and/or much head and manual work is necessary, one needs here only as many flash units as one needs to set up in the room and let the electronics do the rest. The whole thing even works by dividing the external flashes into two groups (A+B) of the same or different power level; in the unlikely event that another Nikon photographer also flashes wirelessly at the same place and time, you can avoid mutual interference by selecting a different channel (1-4). For the beginner, the whole thing is extremely practical, since you don’t need any special photographic knowledge to set up a small studio, or simply let the automatic function work, and you can enjoy the advantages of split lighting (i.e. lighting from several sides) with an additional flash unit. All you need is one or more flash units from the “Nikon Creative Lighting System” such as the SB-800, the SB-600, the SB-R200 newly introduced with the D200 or compatible external devices; unlike the wireless flash system from Canon and partly from Pentax, you don’t need to mount a controllable flash unit or a special control unit on the camera.

Those who do not yet have a corresponding flash will hardly be able to avoid buying it. Because as soon as you work with external flash units, iTTL technology becomes a must. No matter whether wireless or with flash on the camera: If you don’t want to do without all automatic functions and make certain settings manually, you need an iTTL-compatible flash unit. With the D80 (and all younger Nikon DSLRs), flash and ambient light (i.e. the natural light) are no longer measured separately. Directly in front of the main flash, the camera emits an ultra-short measuring flash that is invisible to the human eye; the 3D color matrix measuring cell, which is actually dedicated to measuring the ambient light, then measures the flash light reflected by the subject and the ambient light in one go, determines the correct flash exposure and matches this with the subject distance transmitted by the lens, the position of the main subject determined by the AF sensor and the exposure for the ambient light. This guarantees a much more natural coordination between the two light sources or a much more precise flash exposure than with the old method (although there can still be occasional misexposures, especially with non-central motifs against a bright or dark background), but if you want to benefit from all the advantages and possibilities of modern technology, you have to renew your equipment to a greater or lesser extent. After all, all basic and special functions (synchronisation to the 1st or 2nd shutter curtain, flash exposure correction function, flash long time synchronisation, automatic adjustment of the zoom reflector to the set focal length, automatic flash bracketing, pilot light function and so on) are available in flash mode. v. m.) with flash synchronisation times of max. 1/200 s (normal) or 1/4,000 s (high-speed synchronisation); functions which are by no means “gimmicks” but have a real/practical use and are worth their money.

Picture quality

As expected in the meantime in the 1,000 Euro class, the D80 also offers a resolution of 10.2 megapixels. That’s also what it needs to remain competitive in the race for the highest pixel count with the Canon EOS 400D, the Olympus E-400, the Pentax K10D, the Samsung GX-10, the Sony Alpha 100 and co. The D80 uses a slightly modified version of the equally high-resolution CCD image sensor of the D200. The Sony CCD accommodates a total of 10.75 million pixel elements with an edge length of 6.05 µm on an area of 23.6 x 15.8 mm (corresponding to Nikon’s so-called DX format), but the effective pixel number (i.e. the number of pixels actually used) is 10.2 million pixels. From this, the D80 produces photos that consist of a maximum of 3,872 x 2,592 pixels; if desired, the image size can be reduced to 2,896 x 1,944 pixels (corresponding to 5.6 megapixels) or 1,936 x 1,296 pixels (corresponding to 2.5 megapixels) by selecting a different resolution level. You can also choose whether the images are to be saved largely “untreated” in 12-bit raw image data format (as NEF/RAW files with or without JPEG image) or as ready-to-use JPEG files, whereby the camera needs differently short time to save the more or less large images.

The size of the image files depends not only on the file format (NEF/RAW or JPEG), but also on the compression factor selected. In contrast to the D200, one cannot choose whether the raw image data of the D80 should be compressed or not; here, the RAW data are basically stored in compressed form. A file size or quality fixation with variable compression does not exist with the entry-level model either. For JPEG images, the D80 offers the usual three compression levels Fine, Normal and Basic. In Basic mode, the images are “stamped” to almost one fiftieth (1:44) of their original size (28.7 MBytes in the highest resolution). This is definitely far too much – and even if the compression effects do not occur over a large area or across images, but only at large color edges, this setting cannot be recommended. In Fine and Normal mode, the files are also compressed relatively strongly (to about 1/10 or 1/14 of the uncompressed size), but the loss of quality is then in the visually imperceptible area. It doesn’t matter which of the two settings you choose, since the two compression levels are too close to each other to notice any significant difference (in image quality as well as in file size).

The CCD of the D80 is accompanied by a – according to Nikon – , and later on reviewed by me, completely revised image processing electronics, the heart of which is a new, more powerful signal processor. The CCD is read out via two channels (only the D200 and the cameras of the D2 series are even faster with four data channels), which in turn enables a fast transport of the image signal to the processor. Interesting is the fact that on one channel the signals of the red and blue pixels are transported, while on the other channel the signals of the green pixels (which are also present on the CCD in much larger numbers) are transported. The separate pre-processing and conversion (via a so-called analogue/digital converter) of the various CCD signals into a digital data stream takes place with a computing depth of 12 bits (i.e. a data block can consist of up to twelve ones and zeros), and this in turn wants to have an effect on the quality of the image signal (colour fidelity, fineness of the colour transitions, colour optimisation in white balance).

If you analyze the pictures taken with the D80 together with the set lens AF-S Nikkor 18-135 mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED (from the DX series), you will notice that they are not quite as “crisply sharp” as those of the competition when comparing them with pictures from some other 10 megapixel cameras. While other cameras emphasize the edges to improve the visual impression of sharpness, the D80 is discreet in the default setting. Skin and sky areas are only slightly resharpened; sharpening takes place mainly in the areas of medium brightness and is then still so low that no over-sharpening effects (e.g. in the form of so-called “clipping” at the edges) occur. This is ideal for those who want to post-process their images on the computer afterwards – but if you want ready-to-use images with a bit more “bite”, you should increase the sharpness in the camera menu (under the user-defined settings in the “Image Optimization” section) a bit.

Instead of re-sharpening the images, Nikon uses a different “trick” to increase the perceived sharpness. Like the Canon EOS 400D, the D80 prepares the tonal values in such a way that the midtones (i.e. the image areas of medium brightness) are especially rich in contrast; the contrast reproduction in the brighter as also in the brightest image areas is, on the other hand, normal and from the darker image areas up to the darkest image areas, the contrast gets weaker and weaker. However, such an electronic eyewash also has the disadvantage that vignetting is emphasized more strongly. The AF-S Nikkor 18-135 mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED’s lens weakness is particularly pronounced in the wide-angle and telephoto range – even when stopped down – and is made even more apparent by the somewhat unnatural contrast and tonal reproduction. Vignetting can be observed most strongly in the wide-angle range, where it becomes continuously darker from the center to the corners of the image and the decrease in brightness reaches a maximum of more than 1.5 f-stops. If you zoom a little further into the medium focal length range, the very even distortion disappears almost completely (-0.5 f-stops), only to reappear in the telephoto range. There, the lens shows a rather spontaneous or somewhat more sudden edge shadowing with a brightness difference of almost 1 f-stop (between the center and the corners of the image), due to the somewhat too narrow margin between the lens image circle and the sensor size of the camera. Non-DX lenses have the advantage that their image circle is larger and the sensor area is covered more than generously; unfortunately, the set lens of the D80 cannot draw on these reserves.

 

Nikon D80 Review

Nikon D80 Review

Even more striking is the extremely high barrel distortion of the AF-S Nikkor 18-135 mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED in the wide-angle position. Especially with photos of buildings, landscapes and various objects, the lines bend in a conspicuous manner, and you either have to “stand” on perspective distortions or you have to “straighten” the pictures again with the software if you want to continue with the set lens. Starting from the medium focal length the distortion decreases more and more and also changes its appearance (cushion-shaped or outwardly curved lines), but really good distortion values do not reach the optics. This is the price that one has to pay for the large zoom range; the statement that the set lenses that are tightly priced usually have a correspondingly modest optical performance is even more true for zoom-strong set lenses.

The fact that the AF-S Nikkor 18-135 mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED is not a high-performance lens can also be seen in the resolution measurement. So at wide-angle-position at the beginning it shows quite constant performance, in order to fall off clearly near edges of pictures resp. corners of pictures. With other superzoom lenses or universal zoom lenses, this is rather typical for the telephoto range (where the resolution of the Nikon lens drops only slightly towards the image corners); there is practically no loss of resolution in the medium focal length range, where the measured values are very constant. For a lens with such a focal length range and for the image angle corresponding to the wide-angle position, the increased directional dependency of the resolution is quite normal. In the medium and long focal length, the resolution is less bound to the orientation of certain image parts or structures, and the resolution measurements show very constant results.

But even with the set lens, the D80 succeeds in producing very detailed images. The medium to aggressive processing of fine image details is in any case strong enough to compensate for the few marginal weaknesses of the lens – but not so strong that the image result would be too strongly falsified due to many artificial details or image disturbances and the images could hardly be reworked on the computer. This results in a good resolution efficiency in the short and long focal lengths and an excellent resolution efficiency in the medium focal lengths, which in practice means that the images are close to the theoretical ideal in terms of detail. If the D80 produces relatively few image distortions (including no visible color fringes), this does not mean that it does not form any artifacts at all. In the middle of the image, the resolution of this camera/lens combination is already so high that extremely fine image structures partly fall into its “frequency range” (in this case not the reception range of any radio waves, but the fineness with which the smallest details are imaged) and interference or interference occurs – similar to the overlapping of radio frequencies. These appear as brightness moiré (usually in the form of wave-like interference); on inclined structures (especially with an orientation of 135°), even more distinct brightness moiré forms, paired with slight step or sawtooth effects. Some of these resolution-related interferences could be prevented by a so-called low-pass filter, which “attenuates” the resolution where it is too high. As the filter strength increases, the image also loses some of its sharpness, so that Nikon decided to design the low-pass filter of the D80 “thin”. The downside of the medal are visible colour moirés on some horizontal and vertical structures and a medium to limited representation of the finest image details; the moiré effects can prove to be annoying during subsequent image processing on the computer.

The image noise of the D80 is very well corrected. It is particularly low in lighter areas of the image, such as skin and sky areas, to which the human eye pays particular attention. The noise is still most pronounced in the image areas from medium brightness to darker image areas, but it decreases significantly with decreasing image brightness. This indicates advanced internal noise reduction. In its appearance, the noise is pleasantly neutral and soft; it is predominantly colorless brightness noise. Noise reduction artifacts are not visible. The contrast coping power of the D80 is also very good. The electronics “digests” scene modes with a contrast difference of up to 8.8 f-stops and “spits” them out – thanks to good to very good output dynamics – with slightly reduced contrast in the lights and with beautiful shadows. The contrast reproduction, which is trimmed to be visually pleasing (bright parts of the picture, for example, have hardly any tendency to overexposure), is clearly amateur-friendly; however, the D80 is nothing in this respect for those professionals who demand a reproduction of the contrasts that is as exact as possible or true to the original. The same applies to the colour reproduction, where the light purple tint and the strong colours (= high color saturation) will deter the purists and please the amateur. The picture tuning corresponds to the target or buyer group – and you can’t really blame the D80 for that.

The D80, on the other hand, is somewhat disappointing or not quite up to the Nikon call in terms of white balance and exposure metering. For example, the automatic white balance in artificial light generally produces a more or less strong yellow cast, and the white balance preset for incandescent lamps produces better results in neon light than in incandescent light. In order to achieve a colour-neutral result, one often has no choice but to carry out the white balance manually; unless one takes one’s pictures immediately in the RAW/NEF format and does the white balance afterwards on the computer. In some situations it becomes clear during the exposure what advantage the D200 and the professional cameras of the D2 series have in the exposure measurement of their “finer” light analysis. The 420 pixels of the D80 metering cell are sufficient for a very constant and precise exposure of the majority of photos, but in tricky situations, there are always slight misexposures, which become more pronounced the more the main subject is in the picture. The so-called 3D-Colormatrix metering II even takes into account the position of the subject (it receives the information from the autofocus system), its distance (transmitted from the distance chip in the D-lenses), the subject contrasts as well as the coarse color distribution in the image when determining the correct exposure and compares the data with an internal database of more than 30.000 reference motifs; but the 1,005 pixels that make up the exposure measuring cell of the higher-ranking family members (D200, D2Xs, D2Hs & Co.) ultimately seem to make a difference – and contrary to what we wrote in the introduction to the D80.

Special Functions

With the D80, the image processing functions previously known from the Coolpix models are entering the DSLR class. Thus, it is now also possible to search for red eyes in the images afterwards and have them automatically retouched; the D-Lighting function in turn brightens shadows or underexposed image areas electronically in up to three steps. Only portrait autofocus (where the camera focuses on a person’s eyes) is reserved for compact cameras, as it makes little sense with a digital SLR camera or can only be technically integrated into the classic DSLR concept with a great deal of effort. Nikon has accommodated the image processing functions in the menu of the same name, which represent an entire category in its own right, which can also be called up directly via the OK button in playback mode. There you will find further functions for editing the images. For example, you can crop images, reduce their resolution, merge them (but the montage only works with RAW/NEF images), convert them to grayscale images (also with Sepia/Brownstone or Cyan/Bluestone effect if desired) or treat them with the digital effect filters. The skylight filter effect attenuates the more or less strong blue cast that can occur at certain altitudes, while the warm tone filter, for example, gives faces a healthier complexion; via the color balance setting, you can easily increase the proportion of a certain color in the image via a color diagram. The original image remains untouched so that the user does not regret a processing step carried out later. Edited images are stored as copies on the memory card, and in order to be recognized as such, they are marked accordingly.

As practically the only new digital SLR camera in the 1,000 Euro class, the D80 does not have automatic sensor cleaning. In the relevant internet forums, there is still controversy about the necessity of such a feature or about the real extent of the dust problem; but the fact is that if dust should ever get to the sensor, the D80 does nothing to get rid of it. According to the French photo magazine Chasseur d’Images, the CCD of the D80 is coated with a similar antistatic coating as it can be found on the Sony CCDs of other 10-megapixel DSLRs, but while the D80 competitors try to “shake off” or “blast away” the dust stuck to the sensor, the sensor has to be cleaned by hand. A corresponding function, which holds the mirror and the shutter open for the duration of the cleaning process (with a suitable tool from the accessory trade), can be found in the settings menu of the D80, and if you want to delay the cleaning process a little bit in case of slight sensor soiling, you will also find a function for creating a special reference image. The Nikon-Capture-NX-software can then calculate the image errors caused by the dust (mostly black dots or grey spots on the images) out of the images afterwards on the computer – as long as the images are available in the RAW/NEF-format and one has 150 EUR left for the software.

Nikon D80 Review

Otherwise, the D80 offers pretty much all the features, functions and settings that every photographer needs in everyday life. A dipping button for the visual depth of field preview is available as well as a multiple exposure function and the mirror lock-up function, which is particularly useful for long exposures. Also included are an exposure bracketing function, a self-timer with 4 lead times (2, 5, 10 and 20 s), a useful continuous shooting mode (see table of measured values), ready-to-use image parameter settings, various color space settings and much more. The PictMotion mode of the slide show function allows you to use your own MP3 songs as background music after conversion in addition to the pre-installed background melodies and transition effects, and the 32 individual functions of the camera allow you to configure the D80 down to the smallest detail.

The D80 features a PictBridge-compatible USB 2.0 high-speed interface for fast image data transfer and direct connection of the camera to suitable printers. The data throughput of 7.5 MByte per second or faster stated by Nikon can be described as an average value if it turns out to be faster or slower in practice depending on the camera setting (USB mass storage class, PTP) and the configuration of the computer. The information about the maximum number of pictures that can be taken with one battery charge is very optimistic. The 2,700 shots can be achieved at best with an extremely “gentle” use of the camera; here the second statement made by Nikon in the manual (approx. 600 shots) is much more realistic. Please note that the D80 only accepts the new type EN-EL3e (7.4V at 1,500 mAh) when using the lithium ion battery and does not accept the EN-EL3a battery of other Nikon cameras or other brands. For this purpose, the original battery provides precise information about its charge status and possible age weaknesses via the camera’s battery diagnosis function. If you equip the D80 with the optionally available multifunction handle MB-D80 (UVP 160 EUR), you can bypass the external battery ban by the way, since instead of two EN-EL3e batteries, six standard AA/Mignon cells can also be used. The battery handle not only gives the D80 more battery and battery power, it also makes it easier to hold (even in portrait mode thanks to dual controls) and gives it a more professional look. However, the “full expansion stage” is far from being reached with the MB-D80 alone, and Nikon offers a number of accessories for the D80 that can be saved on.

Nikon D80 Review

Bottom line

With the D80, Nikon has succeeded – to use the usual jargon – in building a popular D200 that has only been slimmed down in those points that not everyone needs anyway. Only advanced or especially demanding users will miss the better dust and weather protection or the more robust construction, the backwards compatibility to older Nikon lenses, the somewhat more neutral image tuning, the reaction times suitable for sports photography and other unique features of the D200 with the D80; otherwise, the D80 offers almost everything that you can only get with the D200 for considerably more money. So it’s no wonder that the D80 has an extremely attractive price/performance ratio in the “league” of 1,000 Euro DSLRs, and even if the direct competitors can come up with one or the other extra (e.g. automatic sensor cleaning), in most cases this is not enough to throw them out of the race for the best camera in their class.

Firmware Update for Nikon D80, D200 and Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro: Cure for Three Patients

The Nikon D80 and D200 suffered from the so-called “Dead battery Syndrome”, which also affects the Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro, which is largely identical in construction to the D200. This means that the camera signals an empty battery even though it still has enough “juice”. The cure in the form of a firmware update can be downloaded from the websites of Nikon and Fujifilm. Although the respective cure or firmware update can also be carried out by the user, a doctor (the Nikon Service) or a pharmacist (in the form of a specialist dealer) can also be consulted to avoid risks and side effects; after all, an incorrect application of the “cure” can lead to the death of the patient or the camera.

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Nikon
Model D80
Price approx. 970 EUR
Resolution CCD sensor 10.2 million pixels
Max. Image size
(aspect ratio)
3.872 x 2.5922
.896 x 1.9441
.936 x 1.296
Video recording Resolution levels with

sound Video format Frame rate Recording duration

––––––
Audio recording with
video voice memo
––
optical viewfinderDioptre compensation yesyes
Mirror reflex yes
LCD Monitor Resolution Rotatable Swivels as

Viewfinder Delay Free

230.000 pixels — Yeah
Light measurementMatrix/Multi-field measurementCenter-weightedIntegral measurementSpotMulti-SpotMeasurement value memory

(AE-Lock)

yesye-yes
Display of exposure values Viewfinder
, LC status display
Program automation yes
Aperture priority 1/4,000 to 30
sin 52 steps
Aperture priority Aperture settings depending on
lens
manual exposureaperture shutter speedBULB long-time exposure Aperture settings
depending on lens 1/4
,000 to 30 s in 52 stepsja
Scene modes
Automatic exposure bracketing 3, 5, 7 or 9 shots

1/3, 2/3 or 1 LW

Sensitivity Automatic Manual ISO 100-1.600 (can be narrowed down
)ISO 100, 125, 160,
200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1.000, 1.250, 1.600, H0.3 (corresponds to ISO 2.000), H0.7 (corresponds to ISO 2.500),H1 (corresponds to ISO 3.200)
White BalanceAutomatic Presets Manual (

White Point Memory
)
other

yesDaylight
sunny, Daylight cloudy, Shade, Incandescent light, Fluorescent light
, Flashyes auto
. White balance rows
, Manual color temperature input
,
White balance fine correction
Focal lengthalSmall image equivalentZoom factor lens dependent —
Luminous intensity
(wide angle to telephoto)
object-dependent
Digital zoom
AutofocusNumber of
fields of viewTarget field selectionSingle AF continuousAFAF auxiliary light
yes11automatic

and manual yes yes
(predictive)
yes

Closest focusing distance object-dependent
Filter threads object-dependent
Wide-angle converter*
Teleconverter*
Flash modesAuto manual

onRed-eye correctionLong-term sync

to 2nd shutter curtainFlash exposure correction functionSlave function

yesyyyyyy+

1 LW to -3 LWin
1/2 o. 1/3 Step wireless

iTTL flash control*

Flash connectionFlash shoe sync socket

can be triggered by
external flash common

TTL flash shoe with central contact and manufacturer-specific contacts
(in wireless flash mode)
PC TransferUSB
2.0 InterfaceUSB Mass
Storage Class CompatibilityFirewire Interface
Mini B socket
(High-speed class)yes-
CompatibilityPTP image transfer protocol yes
Video output

PALNTSC

Video-Out jack-jack jack-jajaja
Rechargeable battery EN-EL3eLithium ion battery

(7.4 V, 1,500 mAh)
Charging time: approx. 2 h, charging outside the camera

Standard batteries can be used yes
Mains inlet 9 V
Storage TypeSecure Digital CardMultiMedia Card yes (with SDHC support
)
yes
Self-timer 2, 5, 10, 20 s
Remote release optional
Interval Shooting yes
Image Fine Adjustment Sharpening Image Contrast Color Saturation 6 levels3
levels + own gradation curve3
levels
Menu languages de, en, es,fi, fr, it, nl
,pl, pt, ru, sv, ko, cn, jp
Playback functions Index, slide show, multi-level playback zoom
, histogram display
, EXIF recording data display
, highlights and shadows display, and more.
Image EffectsGrayscaleSepiaBlack & White

(2 Bit)

yesye-
Printing FunctionsDPOFPictBridgeEXIF

2.2/PrintEpson
Print ImageMatching
II

jajajak

.

A.

Reset to
factory setting
yes
Firmware update by
user
yes
Switch-on time approx. 0.18 s
One-hand operation
(zoom + shutter release)
Weight (ready for operation) 730 g (without lens)
– = “not applicable” or “not available”* optional accessories required, offered by camera manufacturer

Short evaluation

Pros

  • very fast response times (AF, shutter release, on-time, continuous shooting, data transfer, etc.)
  • Camera menu can be individually designed
  • excellent noise behaviour (close to Canon level)
  • Battery or multifunction handle optionally available
  • flash system that leaves nothing to be desired (iTTL flash exposure metering and control, built-in miniature flash unit can be used as control flash, etc.)
  • built-in image processing functions
  • extensive parameterization, fine tuning and personalization options
  • convenient viewfinder
  • sophisticated, uncompromisingly intuitive operation (2 setting wheels, LC status display, etc.)
  • excellent price/performance ratio (extremely little of the D200 below)

Cons

  • Nikon Capture NX only at extra charge
  • no mechanical sensor cleaning unit
  • not compatible with other battery types (EN-EL3a and some other brands)
  • more precise exposure measurement is reserved for higher-priced models
  • Continuous-advance function cannot be used with built-in flash
  • bright white AF auxiliary light
  • strong distortion and vignetting of the tested set lens
  • Target group unfocused sharpening settings
  • somewhat unfortunate compression level selection
  • low-effective white balance automatic and presettings in artificial light
  • z. T. limited backward compatibility (partial for lenses, total for flashes)

Nikon D80 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CCD sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)10.8 megapixels (physical) and 10.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 6,0 µm
Photo resolution
3.872 x 2.592 pixels (3:2)
2.896 x 1.944 pixels (3:2)
1.936 x 1.296 pixels (3:2)
Picture formats JPG, RAW
Colour depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard

Lens

Lens mount
Nikon F

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 11 sensors
Autofocus Functions Single autofocus, Continuous autofocus, Tracking autofocus, Manual, AF Assist Light
Focus control Dipping key

Viewfinder and Monitor

Reflex viewfinder Reflex viewfinder (prism viewfinder) (95 % image coverage), 19 mm interpupillary distance, diopter compensation (-2.0 to +1.0 dpt), replaceable focusing screens, grille can be faded in
Monitor 2.5″ TFT LCD monitor with 230,000 pixels
Info display additional info display (top)

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 420 fields, spot measurement (measurement over 3% of the image field)
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (automatic
) bulb function
Exposure control Program automatic, Aperture automatic, Time automatic, Manual
Bracketing function Bracket function with maximum 2 shots, step size from 1/3 to 1/2 EV
Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 100 to ISO 1.600 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 3.200 (manual)
Remote access Remote tripping
Scene modes Landscape, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Close-up, Portrait, Sports/Action, Full Auto, 0 additional scene modes
Picture effects Blue tint, skylight, warm tone
White balance Auto, White balance bracketing, Fine tuning, Manual
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 3.0 fps at highest resolution and max. 100 stored photos, max. 6 consecutive images at 3 fps possible in RAW/NEF mode
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 or 20 s interval
Shooting functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)flash shoe: Nikon, standard center contact
Flash number Guide number 13 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, Fill Flash, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Flash On Second Shutter Curtain, Red-Eye Reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
Power supply Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL3e (Lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 1,500 mAh
)Nikon MB-80 Rechargeable battery/battery grip
Playback Functions Red eye retouching, image index, slideshow function with music, zoom out
Picture parameters Contrast, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Ports Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″
Features and Miscellaneous middle AF-measuring field widenable automatic
AF-measuring field grouping AF-measuring range
:LW -1 to LW 19AF metering memorySpot meteringcan be linked to active AF metering fieldExposure metering memoryPlaybackzoomHighlighting automatic
image orientationReal-time noise reductionFAT

16/32 supportSharpeningimage contrastImage brightnessColor saturationColor balance Simultaneous

recording of JPEG and RAW/NEF image files possible32
Individual functions Manual
text inputColor space setting
(sRGB-Ia,

AdobeRGB-IIa, sRGB-IIIa)
D-Lighting technology for camera-internal compensation between bright and dark image areasPicture Mount FunctionPicture Parameter Presets

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 132 x 103 x 77 mm
Weight 585 g (ready for operation)

Other

included accessories Fujifilm Videocable VideokopfNikon
AN-DC1 Storage AccessoriesNikon
Capture NX SoftwareNikon
DK-21 (Eyecup)
Nikon EG-D2 Audio- / VideocableNikon
EN-EL3e Special BatteryNikon
MH-18a Charger for Special BatteriesNikon
UC-E4 USB-CableUSB-Connection CableTransport StrapCamera SoftwareNikon Picture Project
optional accessory Nikon CF-D80 Camera BagNikon
EN-EL3e Special Battery Power Supply
EH-5Quick Charger
MH-18Multi Charger
MH-19Removable Memory CardPC Card Adapter(for Notebook)
AF-S Nikkor 18-135 mm 1:3.5-5.6G IF-ED DX (in Set)
SB-800/600 System FlashesML-L3
Infrared Remote Control
MC-DC1Battery Handle
MB-D80Nikon System Accessories
(Flashes, Lenses, etc.)

 

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