At a Glance
A long-awaited successor to the Nikon D70s, the D80 arrives with a 10.2-megapixel sensor, a larger LCD, better performance, and many fine features. At $1300 (as of November 6, 2006) bundled with an 18mm-to-135mm lens, the D80 resembles the Canon EOS 30D in quality of components, ease of use, and price, but it also matches the higher resolution of the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the Sony DSLR-Alpha 100K.
Though significantly smaller than the D70s, the D80 is very comfortable to hold, thanks to its textured finish, large handgrip, and sturdy metal body. Experienced Nikon shooters will feel right at home with the D80's front- and rear-mounted control dials and interface layout.
A top-mounted status LCD displays all of the camera settings needed for everyday shooting, and the camera has a good assortment of external controls, including drive and autofocus modes, exposure compensation focus and exposure lock, auto bracketing, and flash compensation. The larger (at 2.5 inches) LCD screen is a nice upgrade from the D70s, but the switch in storage media from CompactFlash cards to Secure Digital cards might frustrate current Nikon owners.
The camera's boot and wake from sleep are instantaneous; and autofocus, burst shooting (3 frames per second for Raw or JPEG images), and file management tasks are all faster. The camera's autofocus system is quicker and more accurate, too, thanks to the D80's 11 focus points--7 more than the D70s offered.
Serious photographers will appreciate the camera's raw format, noise reduction and mirror lock-up for long exposures, spot metering, and ISO speed range of 100 to 3200. Many features present on the higher-end Nikon D200 are here as well, though in most instances the D80's versions are scaled down. For example, the bracketing mode allows brackets of only two- or three shots, instead of the D200's five. The D80's battery life is excellent, reaching the maximum of 500 shots in our tests. And the D80 produced excellent images with low noise across its ISO range.
For a camera in its price range, the D80 includes a generous assortment of additional features, letting you do such things as combine multiple exposures, add text comments to any image, or program the built-in flash to fire multiple times at specified intervals.
The new Retouch menu lets you automatically apply various effects to your images. D-Lighting performs adaptive brightening, much as the Shadow/Highlight tool does in Photoshop CS2. Other options include built-in red-eye correction, cropping, monochrome conversion, and warming and cooling filters.
Though it costs more than the Digital Rebel XTi and the DSLR-Alpha 100K, the Nikon D80 delivers a lot more features, too. If you're considering the Canon EOS 30D, you should take a close look at this camera. Nikon and Canon camera layouts differ and you may find that you prefer one to the other.