D80-my first impressions

Started Sep 8, 2006 | Discussions thread
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doktorwise Junior Member • Posts: 44
D80-my first impressions

I've been shooting for many years with a Canon AT-1 and AE-1 film cameras, and I've got a little Canon digital P&S, which I love, but is quite limited and slow. I've now finally made the plunge into DSLR land with a D80 that I received yesterday.

Last night I unpacked it and fiddled with it a little while the battery charged. I took a couple pictures before going to sleep and a few this morning. The reason for this post is to give other film camera folks thinking of making the plunge my first impressions.

First of all, while the viewfinder is definitely better than the D70 and D50 versions that I looked at in a camera store, it isn't nearly as nice as my 25+ year old Canon viewfinders. It's noticably smaller. There's a lot more information there, and I suppose that's a good thing, but in my mind, what is missing is an intuitive exposure interface for use in manual mode. My personal gold standard is the ring and needle approach in my old AT-1. Nikon makes an effort with a little horizontal row of vertical lines to indicate over/under exposure, but it feels a little like the difference between and old school dial speedometer and the digital speed readouts you see in some newer cars. Somehow just seeing a needle moving takes less brain cycles to interpret than a bunch of lines lighting up. Part of the problem may be just a matter of getting used to the control wheels on the camera body instead of an aperature ring on the lens and a shutter speed dial on the body. I like the idea of the control wheels, but it will take a bit of adjustment. Because the control wheels are used for so many different things, I keep forgetting which is which for what and when. (If you know what I mean.)

To me the build quality feels very robust. It's a bit heavier and bulkier than my film cameras, although part of that is the zoom lens, which seems very nice. This is the first auto-focus camera other than a P&S that I've had, and I must say, I like that part a lot more than I thought I would. It's quiet and smooth, and focuses faster that I could manually, although I'm still getting the hang of controlling it.

The controls generally make sense, and seem logically placed. The LCD screen is bright and sharp, and zooming into pictures and viewing their histograms is very nicely implemented. I haven't spent a ton of time diving into all the menus, but so far, the interface seems straightforward and easy to understand.

I'm not going to comment to comment on image quality, as I haven't really had a chance to print anything, and I'm very confident that the IQ will be at least as good as what I'm used to, and probably much better.

To wrap up, I'm happy and excited about my purchase. I've got a lot to learn, and a lot to get used to, but this camera feels like a very good starting point for me. If you're still a film person thinking about making the jump, I would recommend it, although it will take some time to adust.

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