Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Nikon D80 review

A little of everything and AUTO ISO explained

I hear you say " old news,why another one, we know everything about it, ". Well, do you? I don't think so. Why another review? Because I am pretty sure that after week or two of "extended" testing nobody can write a complete review. I know I can't. I own Nikon D80 for 2 months now and I did take over 4000 photos* with it and I still don't know what to do in every situation that can pop-up. That's why I shoot in RAW (just kidding. But I do use RAW). And the reason why my review is different from other reviews that were published shortly after the camera was launched is: "It's mine, I use it every day and I paid for it !" So it better be good. That's a big a difference. I will not explain every single function on Nikon D80. There is too much for explain, but I will point feature or two that I like.
*It's an old post. It's like 8 months now and cca 16.000 pictures taken.

It's smaller than D70 and bigger than KonicaMinolta 5D. KM 5D? What is this camera had to do with Nikon D80? Well, before switching to yellow camp I owned a KM 5D. It was (and still is) a damn good camera. Back to Nikon D80. If you do not have palm of your hand as big as shoe box, it will fit just fine. The little finger will find a support. If you do have palm of your hand big as shoe box, buy a battery grip or D200. Both options are OK. In short, body will be fine for most of you. It's fine for me anyway. Position of buttons and dials is fine, but use of some buttons is not that straight as I would like (and I am used to). For example, on Nikon D80 you must use both your hands to change ISO. With left thumb you must press ISO button ( it is on the left side of the body) and with right thumb you turn Command Dial to change ISO value. On KM 5D ISO button was on the right side and you could look through the view finder and set ISO with one hand using index finger and thumb. Nice, a? And WB Dial on KM 5D was just fantastic. On Nikon D80 you can change main functions with buttons and that is very good. The worst thing on body are battery doors. They are just too loose. Biggy ha?

Buttons&dials /where are they and how to use them
Mode dial.
You need one and you have one. On my camera most of the time it's in A or M mode. There are also useful Point& Shoot modes; auto, portrait, landscape, macro,... . If you find yourself shooting most of the time with these modes, you should think about buying Point&Shoot camera, which is also smaller.
Main and sub-command dial.
You have both of them. This is very handy (and not every 10MP DSLR has it). In "A and S mode" you can "program" main dial to change EV. Nice. With sub dial you change aperture. There is no need for changing EV in M mode, so with main dial you change a shutter speed. There is more to it, but this is important for me.
for almost every feature you need. For metering mode, shooting mode, auto focus AF, ISO, EV, Qual (RAW or different JPEG settings), WB, bracketing, AE-L/AF-L and Func button. Of course, there is also a Multi selector. You can even format your SD card if you press 2 of those buttons simultaneously(marked with red sign). And all these features you can change also in Menu.
Well, I could write a novel to describe each and every feature you can change, set or do in Menu. Hey, you have a little digital dark room in there ( crop, lightening of dark areas, changing colour photo to B&W with filters!,...), you can see how many shots did you take with battery, status of the battery, you can change tone, colors, contrast,... . On top of that there is a Custom Setting Menu where you can change over 30 settings; It' just too extensive to write about it. But, there are 2 features that I really really like. First one is my favourite and is in Custom Settings Menu. AUTO ISO. I just love it. Since ISO is issue no more with Nikon D80 (even at ISO 1600) it s very useful. But more important is the way that is implemented. In AUTO ISO you set max ISO value and you set min. shutter speed. It would be wise, that you use mm/shutter speed rule (i.e. 100mm lens-1/100sec shutter speed).
Let's look how it works. In short, correct exposure is done by camera changing ISO value. We are in digital era, aren't we, so we don't need to be limited with ISO films no more. Right?
In A mode you select desired aperture, shutter speed is chosen by camera and is limited by AUTO ISO (it's not fixed and could change). Camera will set correct exposure by raising ISO first and only after max ISO is reached (one that you have set in AUTO ISO) shutter speed will be lowered below your chosen min shutter speed (also set in AUTO ISO). Clear? No? For example let's say that in AUTO ISO you set max ISO at 1600 and min. shutter speed at 1/125 sec. For correct exposure D80 will first raise ISO until ISO 1600 is reached and only than will start to lower your shutter speed you set at 1/125. Where can you use this? In situation where you need constant aperture and shutter speed. It's excellent way to reduce blurry photos. There is a limitation. In AUTO ISO you can set min shutter speed at only 1/125sec (why Nikon, why'). So, if you use lenses longer than 125mm ( I am sure that you do) you could get blurry photos any way. But there is a trump card! M (manual) mode. Regardless of what shutter speed did you set in AUTO ISO, camera will over-ride it and choose one set in M mode. But there is no free lunch. You must take care not to over expose, since when min ISO is reached, camera won't lower shutter speed or increase aperture and you will and up with over exposed photo. It would be very nice if Nikon would add higher shutter speeds in AUTO ISO. Maybe with next Firmware? In my opinion AUTO ISO should be an "ISO priority mode" on Mode dial.
Second feature that I also like very much is relating to spot metering. When you select "spot metering", metering is done in AF point that you will select and not in central AF point. You get focusing and metering in one point.
There is a lot to like with Nikon D80. And there are few things that I like less. Like when you take a shot and pre-view is on by turning a Main dial you start to list a photos on LCD monitor. You must half-press a shutter release button or wait until photo disappear from display. There can be some blown highlights in Multi-metering mode. But you can correct this in "Shooting Menu-Custom" with "Tone Compensation" by selecting " Medium low" or "Less contrast". I shoot in "Central weighted" mode and have no problem with that. Even here you can choose 3 different settings: 6,8 and 10mm where camera is metering. Some features Nikon even didn't bother to market as a selling point. Like anti-static coat over a sensor to reduce dust issue. Also AUTO ISO and spot metering in AF point weren't talked about. But I am glad that they are there. As I wrote before, there are so many different settings that is really almost impossible to use every one, since we stick with settings that we know well and can predict a result-a good picture. Would I recommend Nikon D80? Absolutely.
A picture can speak a thousand words. So here are few of my taken with Nikon D80. If I believe there is something to explain, I will.

f/2,8 - 1/25s - ISO 1600 - 65mm- 1:1 crop-click for 100% view
You still think that ISO1600 is a problem? Think again.

AUTO ISO - Spot metering on the eye. f/4 - 1/800sec - ISO 125 - 180mm

100% crop from above photo- click to view 1:1

These 2 photos of tiger are interesting. They were taken one after another, but difference in exposure is obvious. I believe it's caused by spot metering on different spots.

AUTO ISO - spot metering - f/4 - 1/125sec - ISO 180 - 180mm

AUTO ISO - spot metering - f/4 -1/320 - ISO 125

AUTO ISO - spot metering -0,7EV - f/4 - 1/200 - ISO - 180mm

Back lit and (I believe) nicely exposed.

central weighted - f/4 - 1/320sec - ISO 100 - 180mm

If you would like to know more about Nikon D80 click on this link
Digitutor Nikon D80


Anonymous said...

Nice article.

By the way. Get the cheapest prices on digital cameras, digital camcorders and accessories at Megacameras.com

Tabitha said...

People should read this.