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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Nikon D80

The successor to the popular D70 boosts resolution and features

Nikon D80

It never ceases to amaze me how much camera manufacturers are able to fit into an SLR body these days. The Nikon D80 is a thoughtful combination of controls and features that makes creating pictures a pleasurable experience.

As I worked with the camera, I appreciated its ergonomic design. Though the camera is relatively compact (5.2x4.1x3.0 inches), the various buttons and controls were easily accessible whether I was holding the camera vertically or horizontally. The same is true of frequently used controls for white balance, ISO, autofocus and exposure compensation, eliminating the need to repeatedly return to the 2.5-inch LCD to make necessary changes to those all-important settings. The large viewfinder, like that of the D200, makes a huge difference when framing, especially because I try to achieve my final crop in-camera rather than later in Photoshop.

I did have some issues seeing the information display when the camera was turned vertically and I was wearing my eyeglasses. I had to compensate my viewing angle to get a clear view of the entire frame and the data. It's a small thing, but can be frustrating if you can't remove your glasses when shooting.

I appreciated the inclusion of a Function button that can be customized to engage features that might otherwise be available only by navigating the menu. I set mine to change the AF mode, which allows the camera to automatically choose the active sensors or puts the onus on me to choose any of the 11 sensors. The ability to quickly go back and forth between those two modes was especially beneficial when I went from shooting a landscape to a tight macro shot, when a single AF sensor was all that was needed.

I trust Nikon's 3D Color Matrix II metering system that produces amazingly accurate results even under the most complicated lighting situations. Nevertheless, it was helpful to view the expanded histogram during playback to be sure I wasn't clipping any of my highlights—an important aspect of shooting digitally.


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