Nikon P80 Review
Nikon Coolpix P80 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Minor oversaturation in strong reds and blues, and generally very good hue accuracy.
Saturation. The Nikon Coolpix P80 performed pretty well in terms of color saturation, though it did push strong reds a little, shifting cyan toward blue. The camera also undersaturated yellows and greens a bit. Still, overall saturation was pleasing and natural. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.
Skin tones. Skin tones were just a bit on the pink side, but still within acceptable limits. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. In terms of hue accuracy, the Coolpix P80 created only a few
small shifts, such as cyan toward blue and yellow toward green. Overall
color, however, was pretty accurate. Hue is "what color" the
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Nearly accurate color with the Manual white balance option, and less than average positive compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Both the Auto and Incandescent white balance settings resulted in warmer color balances here, with the Auto setting taking on a strong reddish cast. However, Manual mode produced the most accurate color overall, despite a very slight magenta tint. The Coolpix P80 required only a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, which is little less than average for this shot. A small amount of image noise interferes with fine detail definition here, but results are still pretty good. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
High contrast under harsh lighting, but good color and saturation.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Nikon Coolpix P80 produced good overall color and exposure, though with high contrast. (Many consumers actually prefer slightly higher contrast for added depth.) Still, shadow detail is actually pretty good, and the bright highlights also hold onto a lot of detail. Color is bright and vibrant, though the strong reds are just a hair too bright. The camera's adjustable contrast setting did decrease the tonal range slightly, and might be a consideration for shooting under conditions like these. Still, good results overall.
High resolution, 1,350 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,350 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,350 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed distinct line patterns down to about 1,350 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction occurred around 1,900 lines. Chromatic aberration and demosaicing errors actually make this measurement hard to call, as color artifacts follow the lines all the way out to their widest point. Bottom line, it's not a great result. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Soft images overall, though with minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits detail in the shadows, and image noise grain decreases detail definition as well.
|Definition of high-contrast
elements is affected by
noise suppression and there's
evidence of minor
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.
Sharpness. The Nikon Coolpix P80 detail rendering suffers from both noise suppression and noise grain. Slight enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. There is essentially no sharp part of this image. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows high noise suppression, with the darker areas of hair showing limited detail. Individual strands become lost even in the brighter shadows. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
ISO & Noise Performance
High noise at the normal sensitivity settings, with a big jump in noise at the highest settings. Strong blurring from noise suppression at all settings.
|ISO 64||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||
(2,048 x 1,536)
The Nikon Coolpix P80 produced high noise at even the lowest setting, with chroma noise in the shadows even at ISO 64. ISO 200 looks like other cameras at ISO 400 and 800. At ISOs 400 and 800, noise suppression becomes even more of an issue, resulting in strong blurring in areas of fine detail. At ISOs 1,600 and 2,000, the camera opts to preserve more detail and decreases its efforts to preserve noise, thus noise grain is higher and more defined here. The 3,200 and 6,400 ISO settings are only available at the 2,048x1,536-pixel resolution setting, in an effort to preserve as much detail as possible. Both noise and noise suppression are stronger here, resulting very smudgey fine detail. A poor performance overall.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but slightly high contrast. Mediocre low-light performance.
|+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV||+1.3 EV|
Sunlight. The Nikon Coolpix P80 produced high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, with strong highlights and deep shadows. However, the shadow areas do hold onto a lot of fine detail, and highlight details aren't wholly lost. The Coolpix P80 required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get good skin tones, though the highlights on the white shirt are a bit too hot. The P80's available contrast adjustment did help tone things down a little here, but a fill flash is better in situations like the one shown above; and it's best to shoot in the shade when possible.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
Low light. The Nikon Coolpix P80 captured bright images at our lowest light level at sensitivities as low as ISO 400. The target was visible at the lower ISO settings, but the image just a little too dim to consider usable. Noise and noise suppression are a little higher at the higher sensitivity settings, but not wildly out of control. Color balance looks good with the Auto white balance setting, without any strong blue or pink tints. The camera's AF system was almost able to keep up with its exposure system unassisted, as it focused down to just below the 1/4 foot-candle light level. With AF assistance, the camera could focus in complete darkness.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
A powerful flash at close range, though not a match for the camera's 18x optical zoom. Our standard shots required lower than average exposure compensation.
|27mm equivalent||486mm equivalent|
|+0.7 EV||+0.3 EV|
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle, though results were about average. At full telephoto, the target was too far away for the flash to illuminate it. In the Indoor test, the Nikon Coolpix P80's flash underexposed our subject just a little at its default setting, requiring a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced slightly brighter and more even results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting. Here, the best exposure was achieved with only a +0.3 EV exposure boost.
ISO 100 Range. At wide-angle and ISO 100, flash shots remained bright all the way out to 16 feet. At telephoto, though, brightness started to fall beyond 11 feet and got darker from there.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 218
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the Coolpix P80's wide-angle results are inconclusive, because it appears the camera exposed for the foreground rather than the center of the scene (our target). Telephoto results are a little dim; the camera probably could have raised the ISO a bit more for a better exposure.
Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Mediocre print quality, good color, sharp 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots are still good at 5x7.
The Nikon P80 had enough resolution to make good looking 11x14 inch prints, though with some chroma noise even at ISO 64. 13x19 inch prints were too soft, with noticeable chroma noise in the shadows. ISO 200 are really smudgy and noisy at 11x14, but with good color. ISO 400 shots are good at 8x10. ISO 800 shots are better at 5x7, and ISO 1,600 shots are usable, if a bit faded, at 4x6. ISO 2,000, 3,200, and 6,400 shots are better left unprinted.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon Coolpix P80 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Nikon Coolpix P80 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.