Ten megapixels ought to be enough for anybody.

It was ten years ago this past September that Nikon introduced its 10 megapixel, twin-dial D80 DSLR. It was also ten years ago that my dad picked up a shiny new one to act as a backup to his workhorse studio camera, the D200. I didn't really know all that much about photography at the time, but that didn't stop me from drooling over it.

Apart from the increase in resolution, the D80 was otherwise a significant step up from the D70S that it effectively replaced. It offered a smaller, lighter body, bigger and brighter viewfinder, larger rear screen and an all-new autofocus system borrowed from the D200. Unfortunately, it lost out on the CCD electronic shutter option from the D70S, and the flash sync speed dropped from 1/500 sec to 1/250 sec.

After finally getting my hands on one, the D80 quickly became my constant companion, accompanying me on a six week trip to Nepal in 2010. I wish I had brought a faster lens, though. Nikon AF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6. ISO 1600, 1/15 sec, F3.5. Photo by Carey Rose

Years later, my dad found himself with a D300, and I found myself borrowing the D80 for the beginning photojournalism class I'd signed up for. I never gave it back. He has since forgiven me for that.

The D80 was a near-perfect camera to really get into photography with. The twin dials made it exceptionally easy to control, it was built well, and in good light, took great images. But as I saw my friends around me graduating to new D700's, 5D Mark II's and even D90's, my little D80 began to feel a bit inadequate. Since I was basically living off of student loans at the time, I had a hard time justifying any upgrade.

I still see people raving about the color and tonality of older CCD sensors, and in good light, the D80 did well in this regard even at moderately high ISO values. Shame about the (very) clipped highlights, though. Nikon AF-D 80-200mm F2.8 'push-pull.' ISO 800, 1/320 sec, F4. Photo by Carey Rose

As a photojournalism student in northern Washington state in the winter time, there wasn't an abundance of great light...or any light...during much of my time shooting for school publications. So, while the D80 could reach ISO 3200, it was so noisy that it ended up being a setting that I reserved for dire emergencies only.

The D80 could also shoot continuously at 3 fps, which more than respectable when it arrived in 2006, but by the time I began shooting more seriously in 2010, newer models, such as the D7000, had arrived that could shoot at double that speed (to say nothing of existing D300 and D200 models).

The concert venues in Bellingham didn't always have the best lighting, either. Through some strange process, the EXIF doesn't show the ISO, but I'd be willing to bet I was bumping up to 3200 here. Nikon AF-D 80-200mm F2.8 'push pull.' ISO 1600-3200, 1/100 sec, F2.8. Photo by Carey Rose

Okay, so these days the D80 doesn't really hold up as an ideal action or low light camera. That said, working around these limitations proved educational to some degree - instead of firing away at 8 fps during a basketball game, I would do my best to anticipate peak action and capture it with one or two quick frames. Without any stabilized lenses or in-body stabilization, I really had to work on my shooting technique to take sharp shots with slower shutter speeds.

Looking back through a handful of images from my early photographic days with the D80 reminded me of something that I too often forget, especially in my current career. While it's true that in many situations a nicer, newer camera would have made certain photographs easier for me to get, the D80 wasn't really the limiting factor. I was.

The D80 was even there for when I photographed my first wedding. Nikon AF-D 80-200mm F2.8 'push pull.' ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, F2.8. Photo by Carey Rose

I don't really need the D80 these days to be honest, but I hold onto it as a fun camera to go out with every so often. And as with so many of these older APS-C DSLRs, it can be had at an absolute bargain these days if you're chiefly concerned with just taking pictures instead of examining a spec sheet. The D80 is still a highly capable camera for beginners and advanced users alike.

What was the first camera you acquired when you got 'serious' about photography? Let us know in the comments!

Read our full Nikon D80 Review

If you're okay carrying a medium-sized DSLR, the D80 still makes for a great, low-investment travel camera. Nikon AF-S 35mm F1.8G DX. ISO 100, 1/1600 sec, F2.8. Photo by Carey Rose

Nikon D80 review sample gallery