Sensors: D40 verses P80

Started Jul 7, 2008 | Discussions thread
p80bob Junior Member • Posts: 36
Re: Sensors: D40 verses P80

Hi Casey,

How do I like my P80?

Actually I love it for shooting outdoors in bright sunlight when I can shoot moderate to high contrast scenes at ISO 64 or ISO 100. Anything that demands a higher ISO gets pretty noisy. ISO 200 is barely tolerable and ISO 400 and above are the pits -- even if you only look at the photos on your computer monitor.

The P80 does well in bright light at low ISO (ISO 64 and ISO 100). But even then, shooting pix of birds and furry creatures is a bit iffy because of the camera's autofocus. The P80 autofocus works very poorly in low contrast situations, so if you're trying to nail a low key animal or bird by focusing on the eyes, chances are good you'll end up with an out of focus pic. Or focus centered on a branch in the background. Or a leaf in the foreground. Or somewhere else you don't want it.

Trouble is, even when you think the camera chose the right focus point, in reality it's just a bit higher or lower or to one side than you thought. It likes to zero in on hard edges, and that makes photographing fuzzy creatures a pain. If your subject doesn't have a hard edge at the main point of interest results can be sorely disappointing.

I find myself using the P80 much less for catching critters and more for shooting macros and other shots of things that don't move -- or will stand still long enough. Marti from Holland has made some nice bird pix with his P80. Do a search for "Marti58" to find his posts.

Dynamic range is another area where the P80's deficient. I'm just guessing because I haven't run an objective test, but it seems to have a narrow exposure latitude of only 8 to 10 EV. That means lots of washed out highlights and blacker than black shadows which can be annoying when you hoped to capture some rich detail in a bird's plumage or an animal's fur coat.

I bought my P80 for several of the same reasons you mentioned earlier... "I want a camera for outdoor use. . . I don't care how big and bulky it is, and will never print photos (I will just store them on my computer). . . . all I want is a zoom that will get me far out there, and a camera with a fairly quick shutter speed so that I can take pictures of animals and get decent shots (since they don't stand still for a pose)..."

Well, I do like to print some of my good stuff, and usually at display sizes, too. But even if that weren't the case, I'd still be disappointed with the P80 for wildlife photos. I was so unhappy with it's performance in that area that I invested another $530 in the E420 and am about to drop a second chunk of change on a telephoto lens to match it.

I'm keeping the P80, though. Even though it missed the mark I expected it to hit, it's a nice portable camera that's good within its (severe) limitations. If I knew then what I know now, however, I would not have bought it.

I know ya gotta stick within your budget, but if you can stretch it just a little farther then go for the SLR. Either the D40 or E420 would be a good choice. Nikon's budget 70-300mm zoom is a real bargain now. I saw it on Amazon for about a buck-fifty. If you decide on the P80, you may be happy as long as you're not too demanding and don't expect it to perform well when the light's not near-perfect.

Just remember... whatever you buy, take LOTS of pictures!

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