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Nikon N80

by Philip Greenspun, June, 2001


The Nikon N80 is all the camera that 99 percent of people need, 99 percent of the time. It has an accurate 5-sensor autofocus system, 10-sensor matrix metering, spot metering, a dedicated depth of field preview button, autofocus start that can be moved from the shutter release to a thumb button on the rear of the camera, and a built-in flash. This is probably the best Nikon body for casual travel where weight is a concern.

Note that this camera is called the "F80" outside the United States.

Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Bleecker and Macdougal. Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York

Autofocus

The N80 offers extremely predictable autofocus right down to extremely low light levels. This was a refreshing change from the Canon Elan 7 that I'd been using for 20 or so rolls previously. The N80 does not sound impressive in the AF department. There are only five sensors. The camera does not promise any artificial intelligence in choosing which one to use; either you fix the camera to one sensor or it chooses the closest subject that is underneath any of the five. But in light levels where the Elan 7 was hunting and giving up, even with a 50/1.4 lens mounted, the N80 was unfazed. This is especially remarkable given that the N80 was tested with a 24-120/3.5-5.6 zoom lens, three f-stops slower than a 50/1.4. The published specs on the N80 and Elan 7 indicate that the Nikon body is good down to EV -1, two f-stops lower light than the Elan 7's EV 1. However, the difference in low-light autofocus performance seems substantially larger than the specs would indicate.

The N80 facilitates simultaneous use of manual and auto focus with a handful of lenses. Using a custom function, you can shift autofocus from the shutter release to the exposure lock button on the rear of the body, which falls very naturally underneath your right thumb. If you have a lens with a "Silent Wave" motor, you can leave the lens in AF mode for AF or MF. When you want to focus, turn the ring on the lens or push the button under your thumb. You make a conscious decision. If your subject stays at the same distance and you don't feel the need to refocus, you need not. If the custom function is set, the camera will never run off wildly and unexpectedly to hunt for focus. Keep in mind that this important feature is not available with most Nikon lenses, including the 24-120 zoom that we borrowed for testing. There are a handful of Nikon AF-S and Sigma HSM lenses that work smoothly. If you don't happen to be using one of these lenses, the N80 will force you to flip the body around and flip a control wheel next to the lens mount from "S" to "M" when switching from auto to manual focus.

This is not the ultimate camera for sports photography. Continuous AF works only up to about 2.5 frames per second.

If you've been accustomed to the Canon EOS system, the noises made by the N80 when focusing a standard lens will be unnerving at first. You can hear the little screwdriver blade in the body driving gears in the lens. When hunting for focus this is a whirring sound like a child's radio-control toy. When adjusting focus, this is a little crunching sound.

User Interface

Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut The viewfinder displays about 92 percent of the image plus an LCD display on the bottom. Eyeglass wearers may have a tough time seeing to the corners of the frame, especially if looking at the readouts. This may lead to overly centralized image compositions. Even with a slow wide-angle zoom, it is easy to focus manually on the ground glass. A built-in slider offers diopter adjustments from -1.8 to +0.8. If you have a fantastic memory for trivia you might be able to recall the custom function number that will turn on composition-aid grid lines in the viewfinder.

Exposure on the N80 is controlled with two wheels. One falls under your right index finger, just in front of the shutter release. The second is on the upper-right-hand corner of the back of the camera. You can operate it with your thumb scrunched up a bit. In manual exposure mode, the finger (front) button controls aperture, the thumb (rear) button controls shutter speed. In aperture-priority mode, the finger button controls aperture; the thumb button does nothing. In shutter-priority mode, the thumb button controls shutter speed; the finger button does nothing. In program-autoexposure mode, in which the camera picks both shutter speed and aperture, the finger button does nothing and the thumb button shifts the program, e.g., to be biased to use a substantially slower shutter speed because you know that the camera is on a tripod and the camera's computer isn't smart enough to know. The is one of the glories of the Nikon system compared to Canon. Instead of the camera forgetting your program shift for the next picture, it does into "P*" mode. Your bias is remembered until the camera is turned off or switched out of program mode.

Exposure compensation, by contrast, is handled clumsily. On a Canon EOS body you set exposure compensation by turning a convenient thumb wheel. The viewfinder display then shows graphically exactly how much compensation has been set. On the N80 you press a tiny little "+/-" button while simultaneously turning the thumb wheel. This is a bit awkward. What's worse, however, is that to see how much compensation has been set you have to press the tiny little button again. Exposure compensation persists even if the body has been turned entirely off and then on again.

The spot on a Canon EOS body that is given over to the 2nd exposure wheel is here on the N80 devoted to a four-way paddle. This is roughly in the middle of the camera back and is the easiest to reach spot for one's thumb, no scrunching. Nikon's paddle enables you to quickly change AF sensor. Personally I very seldom wish to change the AF sensor but am always toying with exposure or exposure compensation and therefore I prefer the Canon layout.

Depth of field preview is accomplished via a small button, perfectly placed on the center right of the lens mount.

The camera does not have "portrait, sports, landscape, etc." idiot modes like its mid-range Canon counterparts.

Flash Photography

Winterthur. Wilmington, Delaware The N80 has excellent compatibility with all previous Nikon AF-system flashes. The built-in flash has a guide number of 39 and a fixed coverage angle of 28mm, i.e., because the flash cannot zoom you're wasting most of your flash power if you use it with a 50 or 85mm lens. The flash pops up at the press of a small button on its left side.

Maximum sync speed with a standard flash is 1/125th of a second.

The brilliant Nikon D flash exposure system ensures that whatever you focussed on is correctedly exposed. For example, in the image below the lens was focussed on the flowers. A standard through-the-lens (TTL) flash exposure system would try to keep dumping out power until the whole frame was nicely illuminated. Since the flowers occupy only a small portion of the frame they'd be blasted white. Nikon is smart enough to compute the appropriate flash duration from subject distance (read from lens) film speed, and aperture:

(Yes it is a terrible picture, like most taken with on-camera flash, but it illustrates a point.)

Tips

Longwood Gardens, just west of Wilmington, Delaware in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania Probably the most desirable version of this camera is the "F80-S". This is grey-market only. It imprints data in between film frames. You won't run the risk of your images being ruined by a huge in-frame set of numbers. Yet if you are willing to pull the negs out of the filing cabinet you can find out what f-stop and shutter speed you were using. Avoid the US-market "Date" version of this camera. This simply prints data inside the frame.

Do not get the N80 as part of a kit with a cheap zoom lens, Nikon or otherwise. The Nikon 50/1.8 is a great starter lens, rated by optical experts as one of the best 50mm lenses ever designed. The best user experience is provided by Nikon AF-S ("Silent Wave") lenses and Sigma HSM lenses. These include motors similar in principle to those in the extensive Canon EOS Ultrasonic line. Unfortunately, though both AF-S and HSM date back to 1998 or so, very few lenses are actually available.

The pair of CR123 lithium batteries in the body should last for 30 rolls or so, with some use of flash. If that isn't enough or if you expect to be traveling to remote regions where only AA batteries are available, consider the MB-16 grip. This lacks a vertical shutter release but it may make camera handling easier for those with large hands.

Warts

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The latest round of camera reviews has forced me to switch bodies every month or two. All of these bodies, including the modern plastic ones, are usable in some sense without reference to the owner's manual. However you can't get the full value out of a modern wonder unless you have a prodigious memory or the manual in your pocket. For example, Nikon proudly proclaims that the N80 has 18 customer functions. How much good will these do you? If you can remember the meanings of "5-0", "5-1", and "5-2", quite a lot of good.

Consider a Leica M camera. You buy it. You read the owner's manual. For the rest of your life you can use the camera's three controls (focus, aperture, shutter speed) and two readouts (frame counter and exposure LEDs). You will never have to read the owner's manual again.

Fire escapes. Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York Let's go back to the custom function idea. This was introduced by Canon in the late 1980s as part of their EOS-1 body. The EOS-1 was Canon's top-of-the-line body and intended for daily use by photojournalists. There weren't that many custom functions. The photojournalist could be expected to carry a reminder card listing them all. The photojournalist could be expected to remember from one day to the next what CF5 was for. Does it make sense to pull a feature from a working photojournalist's daily tool and uncritically stuff it into a consumer's weekend or vacation camera?

What could Nikon and Canon be doing? For one thing, the custom functions could be indicated by mnemonics, e.g., "gl" for grid lines. Instead of "0" and "1", how about "on" and "off"? This drives up the cost of the top-deck LCD display but it seems worth it (see the Minolta Maxxum 7, for example, which has a big plain-language display on the back). Or if these companies are truly determined to freeze photographers into the late 1980s Canon EOS-1 user interface, how about putting owner's manuals on the Web? Mamiya and Minolta have managed to do it (see http://www.mamiya.com/customerservice1.asp?id=3&id2=115 and http://www.minoltausa.com/customer_support/owners_manuals/consumer/). Virtually ever other camera manufacturer seems to be stuck in the "brochureware uber alles" theory of Web site design and determined to offer nothing to existing customers.

Why Buy A Bigger Body?

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Nikon sells several more expensive bodies than the N80. Given that the N80 is so capable, why would anyone want to burden themselves with extra expense and weight?

Room for improvement 1: viewfinders. The F100 viewfinder shows 96 percent of the image and is easy for eyeglass wearers. The F5 shows 100 percent of the image to be captured. This is ideal for those who will be scanning and presenting their work digitally. The F5 also has a tremendous amount of eye relief for eyeglass wearers and big-nosed photographers.

Room for improvement 2: water sealing. The bigger Nikon bodies are sealed against inclement weather. The N80 tested for this review was subjected to some rain drops and suffered no ill effects but it is not intended for use in downpours.

Room for improvement 3: vertical grip. With the F4 body, released in the late 1980s, Nikon was a pioneer in making camera handling neutral. The F4 has an integrated vertical grip and second shutter release. Your right index finger is always on top of the shutter release, regardless of whether you are holding the camera vertically or horizontally. The F5 continues this tradition with a built-in grip and extra shutter release. The F100 offers an optional MB-15 grip with secondary controls. The N80's battery pack MB-16 does not have a shutter release, much less a control wheel. This makes it inferior in this regard to the Canon Rebel. If you do a lot of portrait photography, you may wish to consider the F100, a used N90 with grip, or one of the low-end Canon bodies.

Room for improvement 4: mirror lock-up. If you're using lenses longer than 300mm or doing macro photography, you'll get higher quality images with a body that can lock its mirror up well before the exposure is made. This reduces vibration of the camera/lens/tripod system.

More

Gallery

In the two weeks during which I tested the N80, I stumbled upon an installation of a sculpture entitled "Escaping Flatland". This was designed by information design authority Edward Tufte. As this was a photojournalism project, the N80 was loaded up with classic Kodak Tri-X.

Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut Installation of an Escaping Flatland sculpture by Edward Tufte. Cheshire, Connecticut

(If you want one of these sculptures for your own backyard, you can order one at www.edwardtufte.com.)

We tested this camera with the 24-120 Nikon lens, a good choice for travel photography, especially if supplemented with a 50/1.8.

24mm 120mm
Mill on Brandywine River Mill on Brandywine River

Here are a few snapshots from the Wilmington, Delaware area. Almost everything worth seeing in Wilmington stems from the immigration of the du Pont family from France around 1800. They came with utopian dreams but settled down to making gunpowder. The modern du Pont corporation was built by Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954). He was an MIT-educated engineer. For five years, Pierre du Pont was simultaneously president of DuPont Corporation and General Motors Corporation. He was America's hardest core gardener and created Longwood Gardens.

Eleutherian Mills, the original du Pont mansion on the Brandywine River; Wilmington, Delaware Longwood Gardens, just west of Wilmington, Delaware in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania Downtown Wilmington, Delaware Longwood Gardens, just west of Wilmington, Delaware in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania Longwood Gardens, just west of Wilmington, Delaware in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania Downtown Wilmington, Delaware

Charm City (Baltimore, Maryland) has some nice buildings on the Inner Harbor plus a good public aquarium (notice how the last picture demonstrates that 120mm is too short even for captive wildlife; it is also another triumph for Nikon D flash metering):

Barnes and Noble store. Baltimore Harbor. National Aquarium. Baltimore Harbor. National Aquarium. Baltimore Harbor. National Aquarium. Baltimore Harbor.

If you're sick of the gentility and snobbery of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket, the mid-atlantic coast is for you. There are boardwalks at Atlantic City, Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach (small), and Ocean City.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Ferry from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware. Ferry from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware. Cape May, New Jersey Cape May, New Jersey Cape May, New Jersey Cape May, New Jersey Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey


Text and pictures Copyright 2001 Philip Greenspun.
PhotoCD scans by the good folks at Advanced Digital Imaging.

Article created June, 2001

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Ling-Nan Zou , July 07, 2001; 06:36 A.M.

Two items:

1.) While the MB16 battery holder/grip contains no camera controls, it does improve camera handling enormously. It is seriously worthwhile to get it with the N80/F80 just for the improved ergonomics alone. Also it enables the use of cheaper and more avaliable AA dry cells.

2.) The viewfinder of the N80/F80 is noticably (at least 2 stops) dimmer than that of previous Nikon bodies, e.g. N90s, N70, older manual bodies.

Quentin Fennessy , July 07, 2001; 08:41 A.M.

I've used my N80 for a year now and I have taken 60 or 70 rolls of film with it. I have found the matrix metering very accurate. I've only taken about 15 rolls of slide film, all with this camera, and the metering has not failed me.

The main drawback for the N80 is that it will not meter with non-AF lenses. I understood this fact when I purchased the camera--this is no secret. But that is the only feature that I find this camera body lacking.

Vlad Crispy , July 08, 2001; 12:01 A.M.

Having yearned for a Nikon ever since I was but a pale-legged boy in shorts I used a trip to Vietnam as the perfect excuse to buy an F80. In teaming this with a Tamron AF28-200mm Super II 'Macro' F3.8-5.6 I've found this to be a top-notch little travelling kit, the F80 compensating extremely well in low-light situations.

However, the four-way paddle in the middle of the camera back is not only 'the easiest to reach spot for one's thumb' but also for one's nose whether you want it to or not. Having no more than an average-sized proboscus I've found that the positioning of the paddle is perfect for inadvertantly changing the AF sensor spot with your nose, useful if you need your thumb for another purpose but generally a tad irritating.

Nasal shennanigans aside I've found this to be a versatile and affordable beast perfect for slinging over my shoulder and riding off into the sunset with.

T T , July 08, 2001; 02:38 A.M.

the color pics in this review all seem to exhibit some real blurriness in the corners. what's up with that?

Jeroen Wenting , July 08, 2001; 02:46 A.M.

The package of F80 + 28-80 Nikkor D + strap and batteries is not an Adorama special but seems to be a Nikon standard. It is offered worldwide as far as I can tell. The rebate is offered by Nikon USA, not Adorama.

The Nikkor 50mm 1.8 is a good lens, but not enough for most people. The zoom is good (though the mount seems a bit plasticy) and offers more versatility. For most people zooms are a good way to start and find out what primes they will benefit most from. After some time they can then buy only those primes without having lenses that will become dustmagnets in a storage cabinet somewhere. The 28-80D is cheap enough that you will not loose sleep over it if it goes that way once replaced by some primes (which for me will probably be 35 and 80, not the 50).

Having used an F80 for several months now, I have to disagree with the "perfect" position of the AE-Lock button. I find it hard to reach (but I have short stubby fingers). For the rest, the layout of the controls is excellent. Battery life for me was more around 50 rolls. I used the flash only sparingly and spent part of the time on manual focus which also saves power.

My gripes: 1) the AF sensor sometimes seems to forget which way to turn. I never noticed that on a Minolta Dynax 500Si, which is the only other AF camera I used. It might thus be normal. It does not happen often, but of course always at inopportune moments. 2) AE-L button is hard to reach. This includes switching between metering modes (which is accomplished by turning a ring around the AE-L button). Partly offset by switching the function of the buttun in the custom program. 3) lack of a quick-reference card of camera functions, especially custom programming.

Chris Battey , July 10, 2001; 12:27 A.M.

I recently bought another Nikon, after slowly swinging back from Canon last year. I looked at the f80, and yes it is small and quiet. It's great if your a 'one camera and a couple of zooms' holiday type person. But if you want to be using a camera regularly to improve your way of making pictures, then get a Nikon fm2 with a 50 or 35mm lens.

If you really need the the metering and flash wizardry, bypass the f80 and pickup an f90x.

I bought the f90x, and use both manual and AF prime lenses with this camera.

My main need was for flash fill technology with Transparency film using the SB28.

The following put me off the Nikon f80.

No Metering with manual lenses.

Maximum sync only 1/125th

No dust or rain sealing.

Too light to balance larger lenses.

Winder too slow for Commercial work.

No PC Sync.

Poor resale value in the long term.

Too small for my needs.

I think the f90x is probably the besy 'new' deal across the market. I also bought a s/h Nikon FA, which really is magical for taking candids...no clutter in its brightfinder.

Eye relief with the f90x is also marvellous. Especially here in Sydney where I get to wear my 'sunnies' most days.

David G. Kelly , July 13, 2001; 05:26 P.M.

I recently bought an N80 and used it to document my family vacation in Ireland. I have mixed feelings about it, and I am not sure if I will keep it. I had previously been using an FM2 (manual camera). I bought the N80 because I wanted a camera with TTL flash metering and auto focus for action shots.

Unfortunately, I have found the N80 to be a hassel to use, compared to the FM2. Even after studying the manual and bringing it along for reference, I still have a hard time operating the controls and remembering what button to push. Frankly, I find all the metering and focussing modes confusing. I use manual controls most of the time, and they are easier to operate on a manual camera. Many of the buttons on the N80 are very small and over-sensitive, so this camera demands a high degree of manual dexterity and patience.

The auto focus can be a nuissance, so I switch it off most of the time. In low light, it shines a beam to assist in focussing and this can be disturbing to other people. The auto focus is fairly slow and it spends a lot of time hunting around. It is unable to keep up with a moving subject. If I forget to switch it off, or if I fail to maintain adequate pressure on the shutter button, I will lose the focus when I move the camera to adjust the composition. I have had too many pictures ruined by the camera focussing on the wrong subject. Sure, it is operator error, but I don't make those mistakes with manual focus.

I am currently testing the TTL matrix metering with my SB-28 flash. I got good results in program mode when photographing a wedding, but closeups of the bride were under-exposed.

That's enough ranting. I do like the spot metering better than my FM2. I wish I had more raves, but I think I will like the N80 more as I memorize its functions and learn how to use them. Now, if I can only remember which dial is for the aperture and which one is the shutter speed....

Larry Kincaid , July 13, 2001; 09:47 P.M.

I bought this camera 2 weeks before my daugher's wedding,loaded it with Fujicolor 160 (recommeded by a dealer for weddings) and took pictures without any previous practice. The built-in flash worked perfectly as indicated above. The photos were sharp, I assume because of the outstanding 85 mm 1.8 lens and my no-tripod steady hands. As it turned out, my dauthter preferred my photos over the ones taken by the professional she hired for the wedding. She ultimately used my 11 by 14 print of the bride and groom as her main photograph. Needless to say, everyone thought I was a great photographer...which is partly what it's all about. I've had similar "beginner's luck" taking photos of horses jumping fences at a local steeplechase race, and so forth. I credit most of this beginner's luck to the quality and ease of use of the camera (I find I can only blame myself for poor photos.) and the quality of the prime lenses I use. The zoom lens described above has below average ratings for sharpness, so any problems you notice with the photos can be attributed to that particular lens. Bias: my previous experience was with a manual Pentax spotmatic 20 years ago followed by point-and-shoots. So the size seemed right to me, even though I do not have small hands. The built-in flash and auto-focus tracking makes it possible for me start using a SLR camera again, after failing miserably to take pictures of my son playing soccer with the manual focus Pentax. The $450 made it possible for me to finally purchase a Nikon. So, the 99% mentioned above should be its overall rating. Remembering the functions is not a problem for me, because like the Leica users, I simply do not use them. It's an option not a requirement, and since I cannot buy a comparable camera without them for any less money, I am not really paying anything extra for them. And finally, the weight, though called too light by some, is still heavy enough to make me think twice about taking it with me. So, I bought my wife a Yashika T5, thanks to the many positive reviews of it on photo.net.

Harvey King , July 14, 2001; 02:52 P.M.

One thing that prevent myself from purchasing that otherwise a very good camera body is the fact that N80 can not be metered with manual lenses, which makes it effectively incompatible with the manual lenses.

For those who are shopping for an autofocus replacement of FM/FE, well, keep looking, as N80/F80 is not the camera of the choice.

A D , July 14, 2001; 06:22 P.M.

"Now, if I can only remember which dial is for the aperture and which one is the shutter speed.... "

The way I remember it is, each dial controls the piece it is closer to. The front ("sub command") dial is closer to the aperture blades, so that one controls aperture. The rear ("main command") dial is closer to the shutter, so that one controls shutter speed.

Bride may have been underexposed, because remember a camera meter tries to make the scene 18% gray. It didn't know your subject's dress was white (although the F5 would have) so you might have needed to add 1/2 to 1 stop of exposure for the bride.

William Nicholls , July 16, 2001; 12:26 A.M.

For anyone interested, I've designed a custom settings reminder card that is available for download as a PDF document at the www.nikonians.com website, who've been kind enough to keep it on their server. I created the card when I found my N80 didn't have a card similar to the one provided with my F100. The layout also includes a decals you can print out to apply on the inside of lenscaps.

My N80 gets more use than the F100. It's a better choice for long photo hikes and offers much of the F100's functionality (plus a handy built in daylight fill flash). Use the camera for a day and the command dial functions will be second nature. How many people besides Phil feel the need to cross-dress between Nikon and Canon so often anyway? Am I so alone in having little difficulty shooting a vertical shot with one shutter release button? Maybe I have supple wrists, but I don't find a vertical release to be worth the inevitable bulk and weight that such a feature adds. But I'm a former Olympus OM guy, so my values are not to be trusted...

Yiming Zhang , July 16, 2001; 06:58 P.M.

Overall, the I'm pretty sastisfied with this Camera, although I personally feel the MB-16 grip is mandatory required (but it lacks vertical shuuter release, a pain).

On the other hand, I prefer the body still capable of adjusting aperture using the ring (which often lead me to wrong aperture selection in hurry situation if I unmount the len from N80 to another body or, get ERR on N80 when moving len from other body to n80, both because of the minimum aperture mandatorily required in N80 AE mode.

I do not sure if this logical aperture preset and aperture ring setting is eventually the same thing or not for the len, as I often find, for the same len with other factor the same setting (including film), shooting on N70 is often bit sharper than on N80.

Yiming

dexter legaspi , July 17, 2001; 10:25 A.M.

Bride may have been underexposed, because remember a camera meter tries to make the scene 18% gray. It didn't know your subject's dress was white (although the F5 would have) so you might have needed to add 1/2 to 1 stop of exposure for the bride.

hmm...unless he's been using center-weighted or spot metering, the camera should have been able to compensate accordingly...similar to what F5 would have done (but with probably more segments of matrix metering)...and with the F5 RGB metering is turned off with flash photography so i don't see how the F5 should perform differently than the F80......................but i could be wrong you know. ;-)

on the sample photos...i wish Phil used a 50/1.8...it's making the Nikon look bad...the photos here have blurry corners...ugh! note to self: never buy the 24-120 zoom....

Jarek Miszkinis , July 20, 2001; 01:54 A.M.

To David Rivera:

The F100 viewfinder is around 2 stops brighter then F80.

Jeffrey Windsor , July 23, 2001; 04:43 P.M.

Hey: I just downloaded the card (and lens cap insert) for my N80 from the www.nikonians.com site. Highly recommended. It allowed me to quickly change the timer setting down to 2 seconds (from the default of 10) while taking some shots of some flowers. Very handy when I don't have a shutter-release cable.

With the card of complete settings, I was also able to change the thumb button (which isn't that hard to hit, even with my larger-than-average hands) to be AE lock, while leaving the focus lock on the shutter. Much easier than lugging around the manual (which can't be easily laminated, unlike the card).

William Hunton , August 03, 2001; 04:57 P.M.

I started using the N80 about 6 months ago for wedding candids, receptions, meetings, and conventions. Together with the 28-105D Nikkor and the SB-28 flash, it is as close to perfect as Nikon can get it.

One person cautioned that the focus assist beam might disturb people. I have not received any complaints from anyone. I would say they are less disturbed by the focus assist light than by receiving out of focus photographs. Previously I was shooting receptions and meetings with an all manual camera and my trusty Vivitar 283. The combination worked well, but the meeting rooms usually have lowered lights which caused me problems focusing. The N80's low light sensitivity and the focus assist light relieved my frustration and heightened my confidence.

Great camera, lens, and flash combo. (P.S. I like the depth of field button - easy to use. The standard cable release socket is a welcome low tech feature, too).

Jamie Leonhard , August 23, 2001; 11:26 A.M.

My husband bought me a N80 this past Christmas, and I knew nothing whatsoever about taking pictures. I took it to Africa with me that month, and shot some of the best pictures I'd ever taken before, all with the N80. I didn't think, I just took what looked good. And about 75% came out as wonderful snapshots.

Since then, I've learned about 80% of the features, and I have loved every minute. I've learned more about the artistic side of picture taking, and I've grown into my camera. However, my N80 still lets "dummies" take decent snapshots, as well as letting me take more complex shots.

I've run about 65 rolls of film, and each gets better than the last. I feel that it does a lot of thinking for me, so i can conentrate on the artistic mode, rather than worry about metering. Each time I pick up the camera, my pictures get better, and a lot of it has to do with this camera.

Andrew Milbourn , August 24, 2001; 08:34 A.M.

I very much agree with the point that the Canon's do not keep a shift you make in P mode. It occurs to me that it is strange that even though all these new fangled cameras are digital computers there is no way of loading better or different software to overcome problems like this. I ownder if anyone has ever taken this up with the manufacturers.

Brian Ezzell , September 30, 2001; 12:21 A.M.

The N80 is my 3rd Nikon camera. Started with an N2020, then an N60, and now the N80. This is by far the best camera I have used. It's taken a few rolls to figure out some of the controls, but my photos have never been better.

I'm still using lenses from the 2020 with the 80 - and have had excelent results from the "budget" G series lens I recently purchased for the N60 and use on the N80.

As for the 18 Custom settings, for me they are set-once-and-forget options. I don't need a cheat card, because they haven't changed since the second roll.

My favorite features are the gridlines and the selectable focus sensor. It makes framing for portraits easy. The 3D Balanced Fill-Flash has not let me down, using either the built-in, or my Sigma speedlight.

The N80 is an excelent camera for a serious amateur who wants to learn more and experiment with advanced techniques.

I wish it had a PC Sync socket...

Image Attachment: s06.jpg

Eric Chang , October 04, 2001; 03:44 P.M.

I have two things to add:

1. For those who own lots of manual lenses, be aware. Even though you can mount any manual lenses to N80, the metering systems on N80 do not work with any manual lenses.

2. If you are thinking of getting the N90s instead of the N80, be aware! N80 supports the VR (Vibration Reduction) technology, while N90s does not. If you plan to buy these VR lenses (similar to the Canon IS lenses), N80 (or F100 and F5) is the only choice. I have a 80-400 VR lens and I love it.

3. In F100, you can use one of the custom programs to allow one of the dials to function as Exposure Compensation. This eliminates the need to push the small +/- button, as discussed. If N80 works in a similar way, you should be able to find this in one of the many cutom programs.

bruce bigenho , November 04, 2001; 03:42 P.M.

A warning to all N80 owners and potential owners. The camera is extremely vulnerable to environmental conditions - notably moisture. Right now my body sits in a repair shop ($200+ repair) for "water damage." But the camera was never exposed to water - except for atmospheric humidity (I recently took a trip to Indonesia).

So the proof is in the pudding: The camera has a nice feature set but is poorly poorly sealed against the environment.

Bruce

Mike Harrington , November 15, 2001; 03:06 A.M.


I recently purchased a Nikon N80 and took Phil's advice on purchasing the AF 50mm f/1.8 lens as well as the AF 28-80G zoom. At first I found all the various switches and modes a little daunting after having used a Nikomat FTn (all manual) for the past 33 years, but things soon began to fall into place.

I took a trip to Utah to photograph the Autumn colors and lost all my opportunities due to illness and rain. Therefore most of my photos turned out to be candid indoor flash shots which turned out very well in most cases. I must admit that the cheap zoom performed very well, as a matter of fact, much better than most critics had warned. Only slight distortion at full wide angle which isn't really objectionable. Macro photos were not bad either, and bokeh didn't seem to be a problem at all. (See photo above)

The AF 50mm 1.8 is very crisp and I recommmend it also. But there is one caveat: it is neither a "D" nor "G" lens. Therefore it will not "talk" to the 3-D Matrix side of the exposure metering system and compute exposure for subject distance. I find this so far to be a minor annoyance only.

The optional "eyecup" is stupid. It's not even a cup and covers up the icons for the metering button. What's up with that?Maybe I am not using it right. My Nikon FTn eyecup is perfectly round and has a circular ridge that actually seals around either my glasses or eye socket to prevent back entry of light to the meter.

While I have only run 4 rolls of film thru it, I am going to say right now that I am sure this will be a joy to use as I learn to use it's advanced features in the future. I also plan to boost the flash power by adding a Nikon SB 50DX Speedlite. This will eliminate the backshadowing cast on backdrops, giving even candid shots more depth and dimension.

lee buckley , November 20, 2001; 09:31 A.M.

The N80 would be the perfect camera for me (a) if it had a flash sync terminal - so i could use one flash on the hotshoe and one on a bracket, (b) if it had a higher frame rate of 4.5 fps for example - 2.5 fps is not nearly fast enough! (c)if nikon sold a decent bracket type flash like canon's 480EG speedlite(which is truly awesome), (d) if it had high speed fp flash sync. But the F100 is too expensive and I can't find a better camera in the N80's price range that i'd prefer to use, so i'm gonna buy it anyway!

Zane Richards , February 25, 2002; 12:51 A.M.

I switched from Canon to Nikon only recently, with the purchase of an N80. There are some features on the Elan II that I miss, the seperate controls for the timer and multiple exposure modes. And the very un-annoying semi-infrared AF assist beam. Both the Elan 7 and the N80 have the bright white syndrome. But having said that I find the N80 to be a good shooters camera, I know and care little about the heavily technical side of photography. I am studying that part of photography more(some technical information is very useful to have). But the N80, even with the more complicated controls(I do carry my owners manual with my camera at all times, JIC), is very good for just shooting `from the hip` as it were. Except for one lens, a 50mm f1.8 AF, I use only D model lenses as is suggested, and supposedly the only lens you can get full metering with. After an unfortunate accident which killed my older Tamron 28-200 lens I was able to pick up the newer Tamron 28-300(this one a `D` model specifically for-I think-the N80...I`m curious, is the F5 also meant to use D lenses also?) and even at full range I`m getting good sharp images(compared to what I heard about earlier Tamron 28-300mm lenses) so this might be a good suggestion for N80 users? I also wish that the body was a bit more wear and tear proof, and I`m considering moving to a F100. But I think I`ll read up on it while I`m looking at this website(it`s a great storehouse of information for someone like me). Oh, I also had trouble with my nose disagreeing with the controls on the back...which is why I always leave it locked(that, and I hardly ever use them).

H.D. Shin , May 28, 2002; 02:07 P.M.

Something I'm surprised no one else has mentioned is how quiet the N80 shutter release is. It's the least intrusive I've ever come across in an SLR, signicantly quieter than the manual Nikons, AF Canons, or Pentax cameras I've tried. The shutter click and motor wind is also pitched rather low and doesn't carry. Perfect for a street camera.

My N6006 just bit the dust, and I'm considering getting one.

Albert Ma , November 17, 2002; 07:25 P.M.

The shutter lag....it's a big difference between the N80 and the bigger Nikon bodies. On the N90s, F100, and F4s, the shutter lag was much smaller than that on the N80....and the bigger bodies have shutters that just sound crisp, nonhesistant and right. The N80 shutter sounds slow, dragging along, etc. Otherwise, the N80 is a great camera, and superb value.

Steven Thomas , February 12, 2003; 08:51 A.M.

Just a suggestion: before you complain about a particular feature on a camera, find out if it can be turned off. The N80 has 18 custom functions. It's possible that feature which annoys you so much is optional. The AF assist light comes to mind.

Simon Hannan , February 18, 2003; 07:49 A.M.

I've had my F80 for about a year now, and I've been pretty pleased with it. It's not perfect - my ideal would have been F100 features and build quality, but as I only had F80 money and the rest of our stuff was Nikon it was the best compromise. It's worked well with four different Sigma AF lenses and one Tokina - sure the AF hunts sometimes, but not often. Lens compatibility is a non-issue for me as this was an upgrade from a F401X and all the lenses we had for that worked fine (tested them with the 80 in the shop before I bought it just to make sure), although I was annoyed that my AF teleconverter that works with the 401 only works on manual for the 80. Similar issue I guess - lousy backwards compatibility. On the other hand, the 80 can use a cable release, which the 401 can't - using a self timer is a poor substitute. It's fairly well specced for the price (confession - I bought mine second hand) although you can tell from the weight and feel how Nikon kept the price down. Lots of plastic, and not much in the way of sealing - but it seems to be strong enough where it really needs to be, eg lens mount. With all the info being shown in the viewfinder, even in Program mode, you really don't need to look at the LCD panel much. I do still get the shutter and aperture dials mixed up sometimes, partly because I haven't used it enough for it to become second nature, and also because I used one of the custom settings to change 'em round and had to change back again when I found it was better the way it was. I reckon most of these custom settings can be left on default, and the few I've changed I'm happy to leave alone now. The settings I've got now are all default apart from:<P> No 3 - bracketing order changed to under->metered value->over. I just prefer it that way.<P> No 4 - viewfinder gridlines left on. Too good an aid to composition to switch off.<P> No 11 - AEL/AEF button. I sight with my left eye, so all the controls on the back are hard to get to without jamming my thumb up my nose. To reduce this a bit I've got the AEL/AEF button to lock exposure with one touch. It unlocks after the picture is taken or when pressed again. Focus can be locked with the shutter release as normal while you're in single servo AF. I don't use continous servo AF much to worry about changing this. (I keep pressing the pad to change focus/spot metering area with my nose as well, so I find it best to leave locked it on the centre area and use AEL where necessary.)<P> Apart from my now semi-useless teleconverter I've only got three real gripes. First is about bracketing. As has already been said, it's a fiddly hold-the-button-down-and-spin-the-dial-till-you-get-what-you-want system. Surely they could have done better, and given us 1/3 stop increments instead of 1/2. Also it's not displayed in the viewfinder, so it's not a quick operation. Second is exposure copmensation, which works much the same way, although it is at least shown in the viewfinder. Also, it's not switched off with the body, though you can do a quick reset by holding down 2 buttons for a couple of seconds. It just would have been much easier to turn the camera off and on again. Lastly, batteries. Our old 401 used 4 AA cells which you can get cheaply almost anywhere, but the 80 uses a pair of 3V CR123A batteries - harder to find and much more expensive. Sure, it's always been a good idea to keep spares, and this makes it even more so, but it still seems like a step backwards to me. Maybe they were trying to save some weight, but I'd argue that a light body like this could do with the extra weight for balance when there's a long lens attached. Keep an eye out for a used MB16 grip if you want to the convenience of AA cells and/or the extra weight. The only other thing is that very occasionally it'd be handy to shoot faster than 2.5 fps, but that says more about my wallet than the camera.<P> Overall it's a very good camera, and I expect to be using it for some years yet. Even if I bought an F100 tomorrow I'd keep this in the gadget bag, and not just as a back up either.

G P , August 18, 2003; 03:45 P.M.

I've been using an F80 for a couple of years now - its performance has been impeccable and it's never let me down. I find I can push my own photographic boundaries and feel confident that my F80 will be right there, delivering - all I have to do is do it justice. I live in the UK hence having the F80 model (as opposed to the N80 in the States). I do a lot of dawn and late evening low light shots and have an FM2n as an alternative/second body. I really enjoy the manual robustness of the FM2n and find the F80 offers the modern equivalent in a simple yet satisfying way. There are no annoying sports or night portrait modes etc, just simple aperture and shutter priority - this simplicity allows me to really understand what I'm doing and helps retain clarity when it's all kicking off. Or fully manual like the FM2n - this is one reason why I like using the two side by side so much. I've thought about replacing the F80 with an F100 but really can't see much point apart from vanity! The spec almost matches that of the F100 with a few exceptions which will matter to specialist or pro photographers. The build quality of the F80 is great. Ok it's not cased in titanium like the F100 or F5 but I don't go dropping it off cliff edges too often! The ergonomics are perfect - I have fairly large but slender hands and love the feel of this camera, it's a perfect fit. This camera will produce fantastic photos, comparable to the F100 & F5 in most situations as a great deal of the internal core components are like for like. For me the biggest advantage/joy of using a F100 is the larger, brighter viewfinder. There is one distinct advantage though that the F80 has to offer over its more expensive, titanium clad brothers and that's weight. I think the F80 is a perfectly balanced SLR for the advanced amateur/semi pro. The above is a very personal view but I do hope it helps someone in a positive way.

David L. Smith , November 18, 2003; 09:58 P.M.

I have had my NIKON N80 for almost two years now...and I LOVE it!

I have not had ANY problems with it. I especially like the customized settings. I have about 6 settings that I've changed from the default. I keep the grid lines displayed on my view screen ALL the time. It helps ALOT with composition. Also, the grid lines help with the 'rule of thirds'. I personally find that the grid lines are invaluable.

Living in Yosemite National Park year round, I do a lot of wildlife shots... and I use the spot metering almost exclusively for that. I've gotten better results using spot rather than matrix metering. (I do meter various points in the frame before taking the shot... usually with the camera set on manual or aperature priority).

For me... the NIKON N80 is perfect!

James Moule , December 12, 2003; 01:26 P.M.

I bought an N80 to be able to use the 80-400 VR lens on a trip to Africa. I have had it for two years and have probably run 80 rolls of film through it. Frankly, I still miss my Leica IIIg from years ago. The N80 seems too heavy. Unlike the Leica IIIg, I can not press it hard against my face to stabilize it and still see clearly through the finder.

Most of my photography is travel photography. When I was carrying a Leica I was also carrying a case with five additional lenses of different focal lengths. You are much less likely to have equipment stolen if all you carry is one camera with one lens attached. The N80 with a 24-120 VR lens can handle just about any situation that comes up in big cities where theft is a problem. For wildlife photography, where theft is a non-problem, I can stick it on a tripod and attach any of a number of excellent long lenses.

Although I still miss my Leica, I have to admit that the N80 is a much more all round usable camera for what I do. Two months ago I was doing street photography in Barcelona. Next week, I leave for wildlife photography in Antarctica. The N80 is well matched to either task.

G P , December 23, 2003; 08:07 P.M.

To further my comments above about the F80 I've recently traded in my Nikon FM2n and bought a Nikon n90s as a replacement. I did this because I found I was using the F80 far more than the FM2n. I found that I gelled with the F80 so well that I would always choose it over the FM2n. The n90s (with mb10 grip) has turned out to be a phenomenal camera. I was initially worried that my trusty F80 would be destined for life as a backup due to the superior build of the n90s. Not so, I now have two cameras that I cherish equally and they both have their strengths. The F80 is much lighter than the n90s. It also has bracketing, multiple exposure facility, flash compensation and on demand grid lines which are all fantastic features when you need them. The n90s on the other hand has ways around these updated F80 features, has superior build quality/weather sealing, faster flash sync and a much faster frame rate. It also has the ability to download shooting data via the photo secretary software, which is a very nice feature, and one that I know I'll be taking for granted soon. What I am coming to is I bought my second hand n90s (F90X in Europe) for the same price as a new F80. If you're considering the F80 as a purchase I'd suggest looking also at the n90s as a second hand camera - they both have an awful lot to offer and I can't rate them highly enough, all I can advise is that you look at both and decide which is right for you. One final note on the F80; get the MB15 grip if you can as the ergonomics and battery life are vastly improved with it fitted. Hope this helps.

Maria Kay , September 23, 2004; 12:17 A.M.

I am an serious-amature Photographer for past 15 years. I shoot films for my own pleasure and occationally get paying jobs on editorial-documentary photography for past couple of years. I have been using N80 for about a year now. I like it very much, sometimes better then my F100. It has everything that F100 has but lighter in plastic shell which I like because of less weight and size. I've dropped it twice but not even a scratch on the body. I'm thinking of give away my F100 to my brother and use N80 along with my lover FM3A. It's very practical camera and very straight forward. Great back up to my FM3A. I especially love matrix metering, on demand grids and quiet film rewind, its very usuful. It seems like the quality of photos I make with N80 are no different from F100. I don't mind the slower AF on N80 compare to F100 since I manual focus fater with FM3A than those two cameras anyways, I think. :D I took N80 with 35/f2, 50/f1.8, 85/f1.8 and FM3A, 28/f2.8, 45/f2.8 to Europe and Asia for 4months. Both cameras held up really well even with frequent weather and humid changes. They are my everyday walkaround kit with all kinds of films. N80 is very realible camera and handy at every situation. It perfectly suits for my needs and more. Highly recommended for those who are looking for light and go package with great features. You can get N80 and invest on really really good lens. And they still will cost less than F100 body alone.

David Rivera , November 19, 2004; 11:46 P.M.


Here's a shot of the N80 taken with my 4x5 Crown Graphic with Portra 400NC color negative film

I think the N80 would be a perfect camera if the motordrive was faster but the rest of the camera works great. The flash exposure compensation feature really helps make my pictures appear to be shot with ambient light only.

As for those that say the Canon Elan 7 is the quietest slr they've used then they haven't used an N80. And for those that say that Canon's autofocus is quieter and faster than Nikon's, again they haven't used an N80 with a 300mm f2.8 AFS lens or any of the other silent wave lenses.

John Falkenstine , February 21, 2005; 12:29 A.M.

I purchased my N80 about 2 years ago when the door broke on my N6006. What I got was a camera that was electronically far more sophisticated and lighter. The film advance mechanism compared to the N6006 is almost silent. Great control layout but I have found the extra features on the film door an annoyance. And that film door itself is a turd of a design feature, allowing dirt to enter the film side of the camera, especially at the bottom. Everytime the door is opened or closed, it fouls the neckstrap, meaning that to change film I have to put the camera lens down on some surface. Additionally Nikon still has the plastic latches on this door, even tho it has been known for almost a decade that these latches don't last. Compared to the N6006 overall, the camera is junky and also prone to scratching film. NOT what I expected from Nikon. Last year I took the N6006 to the repair shop and had the door fixed..the N80 is now taking a long nap.

Wes Trebel , June 21, 2010; 02:57 A.M.

I'm a Canon / Nikon guy but had never used the Nikon N80 before. I recently picked one up used and rather cheap, not something I needed but the price was right. Pretty impressive camera, I really like everything about it. I'll play around with it over the next few weeks and see what I think, my current SLR is a Canon 5D.  I'm interested to see how this one performs as I picked it up for virtually nothing. Another Nice Nikon for my museum of cameras.


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