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Nikon D80 Review

September 2006 | By Phil Askey
Buy on From $1,429.00

Review based on a production Nikon D80

Two and a half years ago Nikon announced the six megapixel D70, their first affordable enthusiasts digital SLR, it proved to be a very popular camera and strong competitor to the Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel). Just fifteen months later Nikon revealed the D70s which was essentially the same camera with a some subtle tweaks (improved AF, wider flash coverage, higher capacity battery, larger LCD monitor). And so just over fifteen months on from the D70s Nikon present the latest incarnation of their 'enthusiasts' digital SLR line, the ten megapixel D80.

The D80 slots nicely between the entry-level D50 and the semi-professional / professional D200, clearly based on the D70 design but also different enough to be seen as a completely new model. It features a ten megapixel DX format CCD (the same we presume as used by Sony in the DSLR-A100), the metering sensor from the D50 and numerous other items taken or modified from the D200.

UPDATE 18/Dec/06: In our original review a mistake was made in the measurement of the ISO sensitivity of the Canon EOS 400D as used for comparison, this has now been corrected and the releveant pages of this review updated.

Key features

  • 10.2 megapixel DX format CCD (1.5x FOV crop)
  • Image processing engine (similar to D200 / D2X)
  • 3D Color Matrix Metering II, 420 pixel sensor (same as D50)
  • 11-area AF system (new version of Multi-CAM 1000, similar to D200)
  • Custom Auto ISO (selectable maximum ISO, minimum shutter speed)
  • Configurable high ISO and long exposure noise reduction
  • Mechanical only shutter (maximum 1/4000 sec, flash sync to 1/200 sec)
  • Quoted 80 ms shutter lag (short viewfinder blackout; 160 ms)
  • Larger, brighter pentaprism viewfinder (x0.94 magnification)
  • Support for SD-HC (SD cards over 2 GB in capacity)
  • In-camera retouching
    • D-Lighting (shadow / highlight enhancement)
    • Red-eye reduction
    • Trimming
    • Monochrome
    • Filter effects
    • Small picture
    • Image overlay
  • Multiple-exposures
  • Compact body (smaller, lighter than D70/D70s)
  • Improved menu user interface (same as D200)
  • Higher capacity EN-EL3e battery (provides detailed information, same as D200)
  • Wireless flash integration (same as D200)

Compared to the Nikon D70s, major feature and specification differences

As you can see from the table below the D80 carries some quite significant improvements compared to the D70s, the only slight negative point being slightly slower maximum shutter speed and flash sync (this due to a lack of an electronic shutter).


Nikon D80

Nikon D70s
Sensor • 10.2 million effective pixels
• 23.6 x 15.8 mm CCD (DX format)
• 6.1 million effective pixel
• 23.7 x 15.6 mm CCD (DX format)
Image sizes • 3872 x 2592 (10.0 MP)
• 2896 x 1944
• 1936 x 1296
• 3008 x 2000 (6.0 MP)
• 2240 x 1488
• 1504 x 1000
Autofocus • 11 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM1000
• 5 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM900
Lens servo • Single-servo AF (AF-S)
• Continuous-servo AF (AF-C)
• Automatic AF-S/AF-C (AF-A)
• Manual focus (M)
• Single-servo AF (AF-S)
• Continuous-servo AF (AF-C)
• Manual focus (M)
Metering • 420 pixel RGB sensor
• 3D color matrix metering II
• 1005 pixel RGB sensor
• 3D color matrix metering
Metering range • EV 0 to 20 (3D color matrix / CW)
• EV 2 to 20 (Spot)
• EV 0 to 20 (3D color matrix / CW)
• EV 3 to 20 (Spot)

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

ISO 200 - 1600
Auto ISO • Selectable maximum ISO
• Selectable minimum shutter speed
Shutter Electronically controlled vertical-travel focal plane shutter Combined mechanical and CCD electronic shutter
Shutter speed • 30 to 1/4000 sec
• Bulb
• 30 to 1/8000 sec
• Bulb
Flash sync 1/200 sec 1/500 sec
Built-in flash Guide number 13 (ISO 100) Guide number 11 (ISO 100)
Continuous • 3 fps
• 23 / 6 frames (JPEG / RAW)
• 3 fps
• 12 / 4 frames (JPEG / RAW)
White balance • Auto
• 6 presets
• Kelvin color temperature
• Manual preset (immediate or from photo)
• Auto
• 6 presets
• Manual preset (immediate)
Image presets Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, B&W Normal, Vivid, Sharper, Softer, Direct Print, Portrait, Landscape
High ISO NR • Normal
• Low
• High
• Off
Multiple exposures Yes No
Exposure delay Yes, optional, 0.4 sec (mirror lock-up) No
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
• Eyepoint: 18.0 mm (at -1.0 m-1)
• Frame coverage 95% (approx.)
• Magnification approx. 0.75x
• B-type Bright View Clear Matte II
LCD monitor • 2.5" TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixel TFT
• 170 degree viewing angle
• Removable protective cover
• 2.0" TFT LCD
• 130,000 pixel TFT
Histogram Luminance & RGB histogram Luminance histogram
USB USB 2.0 Hi-Speed (480 Mbps max.) USB 2.0 Full-Speed (12 Mbps max.)
Storage SD / SD-HC card Compact Flash Type I or II
Battery Lithium-Ion EN-EL3e (7.4 V, 1500 mAh)
Lithium-Ion EN-EL3a (7.4 V, 1400 mAh)
Battery status • Remaining charge (%)
• No. of shots taken since last charge
• Battery life (5 stage)
3 level on LCD panel
Vertical grip MB-D80 (optional) None (third party only)
Dimensions 132 x 103 x 77 mm (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in) 140 x 111 x 78 mm (5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
Weight • No battery: 585 g (1.3 lb)
• With battery: 668 g (1.5 lb)
• No battery: 595 g (1.3 lb)
• With battery: 679 g (1.5 lb)
Image processing engine • New for D80
• Based on D200 / D2X
• 12-bit algorithms, 2-channel
Programmable FUNC button Yes No
In-camera retouching

• D-Lighting
• Red-eye reduction
• Trimming
• Overlay
• Monochrome and Filter
• Small picture
• Image overlay

Top panel controls • Metering mode
• Exposure compensation
• Shooting mode
• AF mode
• Metering mode
• Exposure compensation
World time Yes No

Two new AF-S lenses

In addition to the D80 Nikon has also announced two new lenses, the big zoom AF-S DX 18-135 mm (7.5x) is set to become the 'Kit Lens' (for another $300) of choice and features ED glass and a fast, quiet SWM (Silent Wave Motor), it should be available in September with the D80. The AF-S 70-300 mm VR (4.3x) offers long telephoto reach with optical Vibration Reduction and a SWM (Silent Wave Motor), it should retail for $699 and be available in October.

AF-S DX 18 - 135 mm F3.5 - F5.6G ED
(27 - 202.5 mm equiv. FOV, 7.5x zoom)

AF-S 70 - 300 mm F4.5 - F5.6G VR
(105 - 450 mm equiv. FOV, 4.3x zoom)

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

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