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Nikon N80 F80 Review
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Nikon N80

Nikon N80

I'd get mine here, or look here and here, too.

INTRODUCTION

The N80 was introduced in February 2000 and was the best 35mm film camera for serious amateur photographers until those amateurs went digital.

As of 2007, I'd get a used F100 for not much more money. The F100 is somewhat better but much more durable, but cost three times as much in 2004. In 2007, used F100s don't cost that much more than an N80. Get the F100 if you don't mind the weight, or the N80 if you do

It's called the N80 in the USA and the F80 elsewhere. It's the same camera. I've also seen silver versions.

It gets less expensive as time goes on. As of December 2004 it sells for $350, and after a $50 rebate you're looking at $300 for the body alone. The date back version or a version with a lens will cost more.

Internationally there are three versions just in black. The F80, the F80D and F80S. The regular one is the F80. The F80D imprints the date. The F80S imprints the date and also prints exposure data in between frames. You can see them all in the brochure here. Personally I'd prefer the simplest one without any imprinting.

It's not only very popular as a film camera, but it's also been converted into many different models of digital camera. You can pay $2,000 for it as the Nikon D100, $2,400 for it as the Fuji S2 and $4,000 for it as the new Kodak DCS-14n 14MP digital cameras. Scanning the film from this N80 can give much better quality images than any of those digital cameras.

I read here that the durability of the Kodak DCS-14n is 30,000 photos, so that's probably the rating of the N80. Compare this to 50,000 or more for Pro Nikons and it's not that shabby, but sloppy compared to the Canon EOS-1DS at 150,000. Honestly I forget (and don't care) what the rating for the pro Nikons is. This just tells you the N80 may explode after 1,000 rolls of film, which will cost you $15,000. Are you really going to wear it out? I don't think so. On the other hand, I've already made that many shots on my D1H, so I'd watch out for that Kodak camera.

As you should realize, shutter cycle ratings are much more important for digital cameras than film, since I doubt anyone who buys an N80 will ever come close to 30,000 exposures or 1,000 rolls of film.

This is a swell little plastic camera. Except for it's slow flash sync speed, it has all the features you'd ever need for great photography. It is smaller, lighter and less than one-half the price of the F100 whose features it appears to duplicate or even improve upon. If you're a serious amateur photographer considering this camera then by all means get it: it was designed for you. The more expensive cameras really have no benefits for you other than additional weight, durability and the important flash sync speed if you use fill flash in daylight.

SPECIFICATIONS

see Nikon Japan's site here and print the datasheet here.

1/125 sync speed. Read here why sync speed is important.

2.5 FPS

Illuminated top LCD

Takes two CR123A or DL123A batteries

Cannot use infra-red film since it uses an IR beam to measure film advance. Get an F100 if you need to use IR film.

18.1 oz. (515g) without batteries.

FEATURES COMMON TO N80 AND F100

Bright, clear viewfinder with dioptometric adjustment
Professional black finish
Metal mirror box and film rails
Cheap plastic back
C, S, M and [+] vs. [ ] AF mode selector switches in the same places
Camera back AF sensor selector switch with lock. (The F5 omits this lock, ha ha)
No mirror lockup; needed for landscape photos with telephoto lenses on tripods
Two command dials (front and rear)
Great matrix metering
Compatible with AF-S lenses
Illuminator for top LCD panel
Viewfinder indication of P, S, A, or M exposure modes
Genuine depth-of-field control that stops down to the camera-selected aperture in automatic modes (more expensive N90s can't do this)

N80 FEATURES THAT IMPROVE ON THE F100

Viewfinder displays [+] or [ ] AF mode
In-camera control of fill-flash compensation level without needing to take your eye off the viewfinder
Viewfinder display of fill-flash compensation level
Metering mode switch operable with one finger
Professional threaded cable release socket (missing on the F5, F100, N65 and most AF cameras! The N80 therefore has no need for the stupid remote electronic connector)
Smoother, quieter shutter with less image-blurring recoil
Tiny pop-up flash (ultra-wide-angle and wide zoom lenses may cast shadows in your picture though)
Dedicated knob to select P, S, A, or M exposure modes
Built-in focus assist light. Then again, the AF may be less sensitive on the N80 and may need this annoying light that the F100 and F5 don't
Viewfinder grid for level horizons

FEATURES LACKING IN N80 COMPARED TO F100

The N80, like the N65, can't meter or make auto exposures with manual focus lenses. Manual lenses are almost useless on it except if you have a separate meter. You may be able to do TTL macro flash with it, in which case this is not a downfall.

Durability. The plastic knobs fall off Canon's A2 camera, I suspect the external command dials will fall off the N80 if you beat on it.

Only 1/125 top flash sync speed. This is more important than you think for daylight photos, for which you usually ought to be using a fill-flash. Let me state how important this is in another way: this is the fastest shutter speed you can use when the flash is on. Of course it is limiting for important daylight fill-flash. If you shoot sports, animals or action outside with fill flash then very seriously consider the F100 instead.

Top speed is merely a blisteringly insane 1/4000, instead of the F100's and F5's completely insane (and useless) 1/8000. I never use any speed this fast. 1/500 stops action and 1/1000 stops anything, and so if you have enough light you ought to be using slower film and not speeds above 1/1000. Ignore this feature.

SUGGESTED LENSES

SUMMARY

The N80 offers features I want that the F100 lacks, and except for the slow sync speed seems to lack nothing significant.

The N80 takes two CR123A lithium batteries that cost about $4 US each. I have no idea what the battery life is, although one reader reports 30 rolls with some flash use, which is a lot more than the F5 or F100 get. One report says the battery indicator is poor, only giving you 3-5 shots after it stops reading FULL. Another friend has gotten 50 rolls with little flash use on her first battery and the camera's still going!

One also can get a grip that uses 4-AA batteries instead, the MB-16. It goes for about $75 US. I suspect it has no second release for vertical shots as these grips often have.

Overall, this is an easy camera to love. It is very light, quiet, and feels like it has a shutter at least as smooth and quiet as the F100. In fact, I suspect that the N80 may have a smoother mirror and shutter mechanism than the F100, and therefore may give sharper results with long lenses on tripods.

Unless you need the durability, fast sync speed or can write down some very serious specific reason you need a fancier camera, this is probably a better camera for most people then an F6 or F100. Why? Simple: it's lighter and cheaper. If you are on a budget then save your money for what matters: the lenses. Heck, who cares if it's plastic: you can throw one away and buy a second one and some film for the same price as just one F100.

For instance, you can get better images with this N80 and a professional 80-200 f/2.8 lens than you will with the F100 and the cheap 70-300 lens. Even though the 80-200 costs three times what the 70-300 does, the combo costs a little less.

I may have gotten one of these instead of an F100 if it was out in 1999 when I got my F100.

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