Color reproduction

Color reproduction is a new addition to our in-depth reviews and provides a quick overview of the general look of images from the camera as well as an ability to compare this to other cameras. Here you can see a generated GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, place your mouse over any of the labels below it to see the color reproduction in that mode. Select a camera/setting combination from the 'Compared to' drop-down to comparative boxes inside each patch.

The D80's default color response was extremely good, with strong, vivid, yet accurate colors. Some may find saturation to be a little too strong but this can of course be adjusted downwards with a custom image parameter set. Compared to other cameras color was very similar to the Sony DSLR-A100 and slightly 'richer' (deeper reds and blues) than the Canon EOS 400D / Digital Rebel XTi.

Nikon D80 Compare to:  
NormalSofterVividMore vivid
PortraitB&WCustom Mode IaCustom Mode II
Custom Mode IIIa

Artificial light White Balance

We're never that surprised to see poor automatic white balance in incandescent light but it's a pity that after all these years of innovation and development that manufacturers still can't offer a solution. As you can see a strong orange color cast using auto WB in incandescent light, improved significantly if you use the incandescent preset. Fluorescent auto WB was of course much better (as it always is).

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 12.1%, Blue: -16.1%, Poor
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red: 1.3%, Blue: -1.9%, Good
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red:-1.0%, Blue: -1.7%, Good
Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red: -2.4%, Blue: 0.7%, Good

Long Exposure noise reduction / Night shots

Even with the D80's optional 'dark frame subtraction' long exposure noise reduction switched off there wasn't the normal 'sprinkling' of hot pixels we would expect. We did manage to find one hot pixel which wasn't actually removed by the noise reduction.

Noise reduction Off Noise reduction On
ISO 100, 30 sec, F9 ISO 100, 30 sec, F9
Brightness enhanced Brightness enhanced


Using the flash the D80 faired well as far as color balance is concerned, and did well against our color test patches, however we got fairly consistent -1/3 EV underexposure shooting a portrait with a white background. Obviously this could be corrected with flash exposure compensation.

Built-in flash Built-in flash

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

Results from the D80 were very good, the new ten megapixel sensor delivering as much detail as we have seen from other such sensors. It's clear that Nikon are going lighter on the strength of the anti-alias filter since the D70 days and that artificial softness is gone. That said the internal image processing still takes a more conservative approach to sharpening that some of the competition, avoiding artifacts and keeping visible noise lower. You can turn the sharpening up, although as always for the crispest most detailed images shoot RAW and convert using Nikon Capture NX or Adobe Camera RAW. Color balance was very good if clearly 'consumer biased' (more saturated, richer colors), the D80 coping well with highly saturated color in bright light (such as sun lit red flowers).

Nikon's approach to noise reduction works well in the D80; firstly use mostly color noise reduction which maintains as much luminance information (detail) as possible, the remaining noise having a more film like, monochromatic grain appearance. The second part to the noise equation is giving the user control over the amount of luminance noise reduction, if you prefer you can turn it off completely (this level of control is sadly missing on many cameras). Of course the ideal would be to have a clean signal in the first place, unfortunately Nikon are at the whim of their sensor manufacturer on this point.