Nikon D80 vs. Sony A100

Started Sep 9, 2006 | Discussions thread
Anthony Cheh Senior Member • Posts: 2,474
I Have Both....

Considering that this is a Nikon forum, it's not surprising that the weight of opinion favors the Nikon : )

Sony (and Konica Minolta) owners and partisans seem to tilt in the other direction.

I have an A100 and a D80. The two cameras are quite different, and the state of development and availability of their respective systems are also quite different.

Sony's (KM's) stabilizer technology is very useful advantage. If you shoot jpgs, the Dynamic Range Optimizer can also very useful, frequently (but not always) resulting in significant improvements in rendering of tones.

Some have criticized the A100 for cheap and "plasticky" construction. To me, the Sony feels almost as sturdy in hand as the D80 (I also own a D2X and used to work with M Leicas - so I'm pretty critical). Some of the physical differences are cosmetic (the paint and surface finishes are different), but the Nikon does have an overall more refined look, "feel", and function. The D80's overall external appearance is more professional and less consumer, the shutter lag and mirror blackout is shorter with the Nikon, and the viewfinder on the Nikon is superior in clarity and magnification.

Sony only has a limited number of lenses available at the moment, although some very interesting and useful ones (including some Zeiss designs) are in the pipeline for delivery during the next several months. Sony also has, and will reintroduce, a potpourri of rebadged Minolta and Tamron lenses. If you're a bokeh fan, Minolta's designs have traditionally excelled in this regard, while Nikon has been more variable.

Nikon has one of the most extensive lens and accessory systems available. However, the range that Nikon offers doesn't ensure that YOU will inevitably find a better match in their system. For example, the Zeiss 16-80, which should be avilable for the A100 in a few months, doesn't have a true optical and mechanical counterpart with Nikon.

So far, the results I'm seeing from both cameras are quite different, but equally good. Sony's results actually seem a bit more "accurate" in terms of color palette and tonality; but there is an occasional tendency to underexpose scenes with small bright light areas, when using Sony's matrix metering. The image stabilizer is a real plus for hand held shooting, but Sony's slightly longer shutter lag and mirror blackout is a deficit where quick responsiveness is important. Sony's extraordinary depth in electronic imaging technology (they've been making some of the best professional video equipment for years), including image processing, cannot be discounted; the A100 can produce some very fine images.

Nikon's default saturation and contrast settings are too high, but once turned back a notch, the results are extremely pleasing and attractive (almost "euphonic"), but still a bit less realistic, to my eye and based upon preliminary results, than the Sony. The Sony more often draws with a more "tangible" and photojournalistic quality, while the Nikon seems a bit more "painterly". These early observations could also be partly attributable to the different lenses used.

In short, both are excellent cameras for their price point and are capable of quality results which were out of reach at any price, until fairly recently. Each also has distinclty different advantages and disadvantages, and the Sony system is still at a nascent stage, while Nikon's system is extensive and well established.

Ultimately, the choice of one over the other must be based upon YOUR individual preferences and needs. Neither camera offers an absolute advantage over the other.

Good luck with your decision.


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