The Nikon D80 digital SLR, with its 10-megapixel sensor, borrows much technology from the more expensive D200 model. Is it the enthusiast photographers dream? The What Digital Camera Nikon D80 review investigates...
Nikon D80: Features
Nikon D80 Review – Unique Sensor
Nikon was the first to put a 10MP chip into a DSLR with the D200. The D80 uses a different sensor, two channel instead of the four in the D200, and 10.2 million pixels. The sensor is reportedly designed by Nikon, so is unique to this camera.
Nikon D80 Review – New Processor
Nikon has also built a new processor for the D80, offering faster processing and lower power usage. This results in a fast start-up time of 0.18 seconds, and continuous shooting of 3fps, at medium sized JPEGs with Fine compression. The processor also offers colour-independent analogue pre-conditioning and high-precision 12-bit digital image-processing algorithms. Nikon claims that this reproduces faithful colour and tones, for natural images.
The D80 has inherited the newer technology of the D200. This includes the large viewfinder, which is a vast improvement over the older camera. The viewfinder also offers a red LED grid overlay for aiding composition and aligning verticals. Again from the D200, and even in the D50, Nikon has included its latest metering system: 3D Colour Matrix Metering II. This evaluative system also uses colour information in achieving accurate exposure. Of course, the camera also offers centreweighted and spot metering options. There’s a variable EV compensation option, allowing you to select half or 1/3 stop intervals, up to ±5EV, which can also be tied into the Auto Bracketing mode. Auto white balance is improved too, with the camera adjusting the White Balance from the entire image area. There’s also a fairly standard set of six preset WB modes, as well as a user-defined preset, and the option to dial in the colour temperature in.
Nikon D80 Review – AF System
One of the biggest changes from the D70 is the AF. Rather than the fairly slow and dated four-area AF module of the past, the D80 has a spanking new 11-area AF, dotted around the central area of the viewfinder. This system is adapted from the Multi-CAM 1000 AF Sensor Module of the D200.
Nikon D80 Review – In-Camera Editing
Nikon has also added some in-camera editing features to the D80, including some digital filter effects, such as a warm-up filter and skylight filter, as well as a colour balance adjustment. What’s different about these – compared to those on other SLRs – is that they are retroactive and work on images after they’ve been taken, and produce a second file so the original remains intact. This also works for other modes, such as monochrome and the image overlay mode, which is like a double exposure mode.
The Nikon D80 also includes some features from Nikon compacts: D-Lighting is included, which balances backlit or contrasty images, and redeye reduction, for example. The camera has a range of flash options, including a built-in flash as well as a hotshoe. The camera offers wireless multi-flash operation for two SB 600 or 800 flash units.
Nikon D80 Review – Multiple Exposures
The Nikon D80 is also one of the few cameras with multiple exposure options, of two or three shots. Nikon has also increased the noise-reduction control, with an option for long exposure noise reduction, and three levels of control over high ISO noise reduction.
Lastly, one of the biggest changes from the D70s is the camera sensitivity. Nikon has finally seen fit to allow us to shoot at ISO 100, instead of ISO 200. Low-light subjects are taken care of by the top speed of ISO 1600, plus an extended boost range of up to one stop, bringing it to an effective ISO 3200.