The Nikon D80 – first impressions

Arriving at my work this afternoon, I did my usual routine, checking out the new arrivals At the back of the pile, a pair of Nikon D80’s, fresh from their shipping box The camera isn’t scheduled to be available to consumers for a few more weeks! So, of course with this unique chance, I immediately had to try it out

Here are my first impressions – based on my quick tryout of this new camera. Well, first thing I noticed was the screen It’s a very nice looking display, on par with the Sony Alpha and a step above that on the Canon 30D in terms of clarity It looks like they took the D200’s screen directly and put it on the back of this D70s-like body The next thing I looked for was the lens I was going to use I grabbed the 18-70 off of a D70s… only to be hit with an error message Ok, quick I grabbed the 18-70 off of the D200, then one off the shelf It refused to work with any of them So, I then grabbed the 18-55 off of the D50, worked like a charm Further exploration will be necessary, but upon first impression, it looks like those of us with the D70 kit lens might be in for a rude awakening when we go for the D80 — Update — I finally figured out the issue with the 18-70 lens, a small bit of dirt had lodged on one of the contacts, likely from the first 18-70 lens we tried For some reason, it prevented the camera from accepting any 18-70 lens A quick cleaning later, and the camera handled the 18-70’s fine Tip to you good folks, keep your lens contacts clean.

Then I began figuring out the controls Quickly it became apparent that little has changed from the D70 The wired remote moved a little, and appears to be a new plug design to boot Controls were easy to figure out, rapidly allowing me to delve into the depths of the camera New features, no idea what they all do One thing I did notice was a new ‘hi’ feature for the ISO I took some sample pictures, and hope to have them up shortly for comparison I’m curious what the noise level on this camera is, but it looks similar to the D200, which is to say ‘very low’ Compared to the Sony Alpha or even the Canon Rebel XT, the first impression makes me go ‘wow.’ I couldn’t find any major pixelization or noise.

Now, for the bad The D80 shares the same slightly-too-short grip as the D70s, which really bugs me to no end It’s 1/4 too short for my hands Talking to some of the pros that I know, they all agree, the D70/D80 grip design just doesn’t feel as natural as the old F100 or the new D200 grip Next to the flash, I found noticable lens shadow with the 18-55 lens when at 22mm or wider… which I’ve not had happen quite so noticably with the D70s or the D50 before The skin tones felt a little bit flat compared to the D70s and the D200 as well, but that could easily have been the screen Once I get the photos uploaded to the PC and play with them some, we will know more.

Overall, the D80 felt like a small step over the D70, but once you took the pixels off of the table I felt a bit short-changed I was expecting a bit more from the latest from Nikon More soon, so just you wait.

Full Specifications

  • 0.2 Megapixel Nikon DX format CCD imaging sensor: Effectively optimized by Nikon to deliver a wide dynamic range, producing outstanding images with high resolution and vivid detail yielding 3,872 x 2,592-pixel files.
  • New high-resolution Nikon image-processing engine: New 12- bit Image Processing Engine combines color independent analog pre-conditioning with improved image processing algorithms
  • Instant 0.18 sec. start-up with fast 80ms shutter response.With a power-up time of a mere 0.18 seconds and a shutter release time lag of only 80ms, responsiveness is extraordinary
  • Continuous shooting at up to 3 frames per second and up to 100 consecutive JPEG images: Fast framing rates contribute to the ability to capture moments in time instantly. Sophisticated systems throughout the D80, including high-speed buffer memory handling, fast image processing, high-speed memory card access and large system bus bandwidth help make this possible
  • Up to 2,700 images per battery charge:* High-Efficiency power systems featuring reduced power consumption and Real-Time Fuel Gauge with Nikon’s EN-EL3e Lithium Ion rechargeable battery
  • Nikon 3D Color Matrix Metering II, plus Variable Center-Weighted and Spot Metering: Substantially more sophisticated than traditional multi-pattern metering systems, Nikon’s 3D Color Matrix Metering II instantly and accurately evaluates brightness, color, contrast, selected focus area and subject-to-camera distance information, referencing the results against an onboard database of 30,000 scenes from actual photography. Vary the size of the center-weighted area reading and spot metering readings correspond to 11 focusing points.
  • In-Camera Image Editing with Retouching Menu: Highly versatile in-camera editing features include Nikon D-lighting, Red-eye Correction, Image Trimming, Image Overlay, Monochrome Black and White, Sepia and Cyanotype along with Skylight, Warm Tone and Custom Color filter effects
  • Built-in Speedlight with Nikon i-TTL flash metering and two-group Wireless Commander: Nikon’s acclaimed i-TTL flash control evaluates flash exposure with greater precision to achieve better automatic flash balance and deliver outstanding results with SB-600, SB-800 or SB-R200 Speedlights.
  • 2.5′ LCD color monitor with 170-degree, wide-angle viewing: Playback images can be viewed easily from all angles with extraordinary color and clarity.
  • 11-area AF system with Wide-area Center Segment and Auto-area AF functions:Nikon’s Multi-CAM 1000 provides maximum flexibility and optimum performance under varied shooting situations. 11-area autofocus system features a cross-type sensor in the center, broad frame coverage, as well as class-leading low light detection and convenient AF-assist illuminator to aid in low-light conditions. New Wide Area AF option gives greater compositional freedom when shooting sports and action
  • Seven Digital Vari-Programs plus Programmed Auto with Flexible Program, Shutter-Priority Auto, Shutter-Priority Auto and Manual: Digital Vari-Programs include: Auto Portrait, Landscape, Macro Close up Sports, Night landscape, Night portrait each of which adjust automatically for optimal results under varied conditions-automatically
  • Image Optimization Mode: Optimize color, contrast, sharpening as well as other image settings according to the type of scene or output desired. Options include: Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, Custom, Black and White
  • Large, bright 0.94x viewfinder: Optical glass viewfinder features large (0.94X) magnification making composing frames easier while overall viewfinder brightness makes low-light photography possible
  • Built-in Slideshow function with Pictmotion: Select a range of images, pick a style and add music for beautiful picture presentations delivered from the D80 to a television or simply view on the camera’s 2.5 inches LCD. Effects include: slide-in, slide-out, fade-in, and fade-out

Written by Nate Downes