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Nikon D80 preview - Hands on Digital SLR Review

Nikon D80 preview - Hands on

| Nikon D80 in Digital SLRs
Speculation about the new Nikon to be released has been brewing, with leaked images, and wild speculation about the specifications flying around. Gary Wolstenholme managed to get his hands on a pre-production sample of the camera at its launch yesterday. Here he'll take a look at the features, and whether they live up to those produced by the grinding of the rumour-mill.

Nikon D80 preview - Hands on Digital SLR Review: Nikon D80 preview - Hands onSpecification
  • 10.2 megapixels
  • 11-area Multi-Cam 1000 AF system
  • ISO sensitivity range ISO100 to ISO1600 plus HI-1(equivalent ISO3200)
  • SDHC compatible
  • File formats - Compressed NEF or Jpeg
  • 2.5inch LCD screen
  • Compatible with all Nikon AF lenses.
  • 3D colour matrix metering II, and centre-weighted or spot metering modes
  • Exposure metering range - EV0 to EV20 with 3D colour matrix or centre weighted metering
  • Exposure compensation up to +/-5EV
  • Shutter speed range - 30secs to 1/4000sec and bulb
  • Flash synch up to 1/200sec
  • Flash compensation -3 to +1EV
  • Depth-of-field preview
  • Rechargeable EN-EL3e Li-ion battery
  • Dimensions 132mm(W) x 103mm(H) x 77mm(D)
  • Weight - 585g without battery
Features and controls
Nikon D80 preview - Hands on Digital SLR Review: Nikon D80 preview - Hands on
  1. Exposure mode dial
    Anyone who has used a D70 or D50 before will find the features very familiar. A selection of creative manual modes and automatic scene program modes means there should be enough to satisfy newbie photographers, as well as those who demand more control.
  2. Flash system
    The Nikon D80 fully supports Nikon's SB-600 and SB-800 flashguns as well as complete compatibility with the Nikon Creative lighting system. This allows you to fire multiple Nikon Speedlites either with the built-in flash, or with a special infrared commander unit.
  3. Eye-piece adjustment detail
    A dial replaces the slider that Nikon D50 and D70 owners will be familiar with, which should make fine adjustment of the eye-piece simpler and more precise.
  4. Large top LCD panel
    Nikon have crammed as much camera information as they can into the top LCD panel. Rotating the power switch clockwise illuminates the top-panel as default, orit can be set to stay illuminated as a custom function.
  5. AF mode selector button
    Holding this and rotating the control dial allows you to switch between continuous servo, single servo and manual focus modes. I liked the placement of this control, it makes adjustments quick and simple.
  6. Drive mode selector
    This buttons allows for quick selection between single-shot, continuous shooting and self-timer shooting modes.
  7. Metering and exposure compensation
    Switching between the various metering options and exposure compensation adjustments can be performed using these buttons. The 3D colour matrix metering system performs at it's best when used with Nikon's D or G AF lenses. There is no metering support for older manual lenses.
  8. Shutter release and power switch
    Nikon claim that the D80 powers up in 0.18 seconds and it has no discernible shutter lag that I could notice in my brief time with the camera.1
Nikon D80 preview - Hands on Digital SLR Review: Nikon D80 preview - Hands on
  1. Viewfinder
    A common complaint with cameras that have a sensor smaller than 35mm film is with the size and brightness of the viewfinder. The finder in the Nikon D80 is larger than I expected, and very bright as well.
  2. Multi-selector control
    This is used for directly selecting AF areas, or navigating menus. The sample I used had a reassuring stiffness to it.
  3. Direct playback zoom controls
    Unlike previous Nikon DSLRs, the D80 has buttons for zooming directly in and out during playback. Instead direct controls make zooming quicker and easier. I also liked the way a smaller version of your image is shown in the corner of the frame for easier navigation when fully zoomed in.
  4. 2.5inch LCD screen
    Bigger than on the D50 and D70 models, the large 2.5inch screen is a welcome addition to the D80.
  5. OK button
    The enter button has been renamed as the OK button as moved over to the right-hand side of the screen. I prefer the new placement of this button, but whether you will or not is entirely subjective.
Nikon D80 preview - Hands on Digital SLR Review: Nikon D80 preview - Hands on
  1. Built-in flash
    The pop-up flash is handy for fill-in or for illumination when light levels drop as a last resort. The flash on the D80 seems to pop-up quite high, which will reduce the chance of vignetting when photographing close-up.
  2. AF-illuminator
    This emits a powerful white beam of light to aid focusing in dark conditions
  3. Control dials
    The D80 has control dials on the front and back, this makes exposure adjustments quick and simple, especially if you enjoy shooting in the manual exposure mode
  4. Function button
    This button can be configured to perform many different tasks. The one I liked the most was the ability to set the button so that it will show the sensitivity the camera has chosen, when using the Auto ISO mode.
  5. Depth-of-field preview button
    Stops down the lens to the aperture selected. This is great for anyone taking photos where depth-of-field is critical, such as Macro photography.

Unfortunately, because the sample I used was a pre-production model, I cannot comment on the image-quality produced by the camera. The D200-like 11-point AF system is a big step-up from the five point systems of the D70 and D50, and I am sure many D70 users will appreciate the difference.

In fact, with so many features that appear to have been inherited from the D200, including support for a vertical grip, I imagine many people who were thinking of buying a D200 may think again, especially if they don't need the faster frame-rates and environmental sealing.

As soon as it becomes available, sometime in September, the D80 will most definitely be one to watch. As soon as we have tested a proper production sample, we will post our findings here.

Check out the latest price of the Nikon D80 SLR here

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Photographs taken using the Nikon D80

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