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August 9, 2006 - After weeks of teasing, Nikon Corp. unveiled its newest DSLR today, the D80. The 10.2 megapixel camera will be available September 1 at the suggested price of $999 for the body or $1,299 packaged with the kit lens.
Coming after much speculation from Nikon fans, the D80 will replace the immensely popular D70s. The Nikon website teaser, posted earlier this month, had left many scratching their heads over where the new DSLR would fall in the product line. The D80 will take the place of Nikon’s best-selling SLR camera, which according to Nikon, sold more units in one year than any other SLR in Nikon’s history. With a higher 10.2 megapixel count that rivals the D200, the new D80 will eventually phase out the successful 6.1 megapixel D70s, although the two cameras will co-exist for a short time.
**Faster Performance with Borrowed Features
**"The D80 features a slimmer, more compact body with the size, layout, and operation of all buttons and controls," stated today’s Nikon press release. Weighing 21 ounces without battery and card, the D80 is lighter than the 29-ounce D200.
With a faster performance rate, the D80 is quicker than the two-year-old D70. Borrowed from the D200 and the D2X, the D80’s image processor helps the camera to an advertised start-up time of 0.18 seconds and a mere 80-millisecond shutter lag time. Users can shoot at 3 frames per second for up to 100 JPEG Fine images, according to Nikon representative Steve Heiner.
The D70’s LCD screen has a 1.8-inch, 130,000 pixel monitor, which has become outdated by current standards. The D80 improves on this, incorporating a 2.5-inch TFT LCD that is akin to that of the D200, with 230,000 pixels and a 170 degree viewing angle.
The Nikon D80 additionally borrows its auto focus module from the D200. In addition to single area AF and dynamic area AF for moving subjects, the D80 possesses a new auto-area AF that automatically calculates primary subjects by distance and provides a visual aid to the photographer. The new auto-area AF feature only operates in center-area AF and not at wide extremes. Like the D200, the D80 has 11 focus spots; however, the D80 does not offer the 7-point wide area AF that’s included on the D200. Instead, the D80 enables users to select the 11 sensor points individually or group them towards the center of the composition.
In terms of light metering, the Nikon D80 takes a page from the entry-level D50, as both cameras have 3D Color Matrix Metering II for exposure that is referenced against a database of 30,000 images, according to the press release. The D80 also has center-weighted and spot exposure metering for active subjects or with the auto-area AF. The AF sensors can also be linked to spot metering.
**Best of Both Worlds, a Pro-sumer Camera
**Blending consumer features with professional equipment, the Nikon D80 includes in-camera editing tools. The D80 comes with a new Retouch menu for built-in camera effects, similar to the ones included on Nikon’s Coolpix models.
"It may not be the most popular feature, but since these cameras are PictBridge compatible, they may well be [popular] for some people who want to enhance their photos so they can plug the camera into the printer," Heiner stated. "They can bypass the computer altogether."
The new D80 retouch menu has options that include Nikon’s D-lighting, red-eye correction, trimming, image overlap, monochrome effects, and filter effects. According to today’s Nikon press release, the menus on the D80 have larger fonts and include a "My Menu" function for users to customize their menu listings.
The D80, like the more recent Coolpix digital cameras, also has a Pictmotion mode that merges soundtracks and themed slide shows. Although not Wi-Fi enabled like the Coolpix P3 or S6, the Nikon D80 comes with a resizing function. Like Nikon’s point-and-shoot cameras, the D80 is PictBridge compatible for direct printing.
The camera has 7 digital program modes like the D70 (Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close Up, Sports, Night Landscape, and Night Portrait) and 7 image optimization choices (Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, Custom, and Black-and-white). For black-and-white images, users can convert the images back to color when captured in NEF format. Users can also customize black-and-white sharpening settings and select from various simulated filter effects.
**The D80 has an "unprecedented compatibility with Nikon’s lineup of AF Nikkor lenses and digital-exclusive DX Nikkor lenses," stated the news release. The D80 kit comes with an AF-S DX 18-135mm Zoom-Nikkor lens, providing a larger focal range than the D70’s original packaged lens that measured 18-70mm. The new f/3.5-5.6 G lens has ED glass and a silent wave motor for quiet focusing.
Nikon also released a separate zoom lens today, the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm. The f/4.5-5.6 ED glass lens has VRII vibration reduction and a silent wave motor. Priced at just under $700, the 70-300mm zoom lens is not offered in a kit with the new DSLR.
**The new Nikon D80 is compatible with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System, including the SB-R200, SB-800, and SB-600 TTL Speedlight flashes. Unlike the D70, in which users could only control one group of external flash units, D80 users can control two groups of flashes using the on-camera pop-up flash as a command trigger. "You could literally create a 3-light setup with 2 additional Speedlights," Heiner said.
**Like all of Nikon’s DSLRs, a free 30-day trial of Capture NX photo management software is included. A separate purchase of Capture NX retails at $140. The D80 also comes with complimentary PictureProject software.
**The Nikon D80 has an EN-EL3e Li battery to support 2,700 images on a single charge, according to the release. Like the D200, the D80 displays battery information on the LCD, including the battery power and overall battery lifespan.
An additional battery pack, the MB-D80, is also available. The battery pack can house 1 or 2 EN-EL3e batteries or six AA batteries for traveling photographers.
Unlike the D70, the D80 is compatible with SD media and will not accept CompactFlash cards.
The Nikon D80 DSLR enters the market at the original price of the D70, when it was released two years ago, according to Nikon representatives. The D80 is also an "unbelievable value," said Heiner, "but light-years ahead of the D70 in performance."