Nikon D80 Review
Control Enumeration, Command Dials
Here's our usual "walk around the camera," this time starting with the two Command Dials, the Main Command Dial and the Sub Command Dial, since they're so key to camera operation. Most camera settings are made by pressing and holding the appropriate button while rotating one or the other of these two controls. Functions controlled by these dials are as follows:
Main Command Dial: The Main Command Dial is located on the back of the camera, in the upper right hand corner, directly under your right thumb. Used in conjunction with other buttons, this dial controls ISO, White Balance, Quality, exposure mode, EV compensation, and Flash mode settings when turned while pressing any of those buttons. It also controls bracketing when used in conjunction with the BKT button. In Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes, this dial sets the shutter speed, although it can be made to control the aperture instead, via a Custom Menu setting. In Program exposure mode, turning this dial shifts the program to favor higher or lower speeds/larger or smaller apertures.
Sub-Command Dial: The Sub Command Dial is located on the front of the handgrip, just under the Shutter button, conveniently placed for your index finger to grip. This dial fine-tunes the white balance across the -3 to +3 range (arbitrary units) when pressing the White Balance button. It sets the image resolution when the Quality button is pressed, and adjusts the Flash Compensation when used with the Flash Mode button. In Manual and Aperture Priority modes, it sets the aperture value, although it can be made to control shutter speed instead, via a Custom Menu setting.
As we've seen in other of their SLRs, Nikon's combination of Main and Sub-Command Dials makes for very fluid camera operation, as you can quickly adjust two related parameters, one with your thumb, the other with your index finger. Once you're familiar with the camera, the layout of other controls on the camera body and their separation from each other makes it relatively easy to reach and press them without looking. Taken together, the various buttons and the twin Command Dials let you control most important shooting parameters with a minimum of fuss and distraction; in many cases without so much as taking your eye away from the viewfinder.
Control Enumeration, Top Panel Controls, RightThe controls on the right side of the top panel are the primary shooting controls, generally dealing with immediate camera operations.
Power Dial: Surrounding the Shutter button on the top right of the camera, this dial turns the camera on and off. A third On position illuminates the small status display for easy viewing in dim lighting.
Shutter Button: In the center of the Power dial, on the top of the camera, this button sets focus (when in autofocus mode) when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed. You can choose whether or not the Shutter button also locks exposure, via an option on the Custom Settings menu.
When an image is displayed on the LCD monitor, halfway pressing the Shutter button dismisses the display and immediately switches the camera to shooting mode. (A partial expression of Nikon's "shooting priority" philosophy.)
Exposure Compensation Button: Behind and to the right of the Shutter button on the top of the camera, pressing this button while turning the Main Command dial sets the Exposure Compensation from –5 to +5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. Pressing and holding down this button and the AE button simultaneously resets the camera to its default settings.
Metering Button: Directly beside the Exposure Compensation button, holding this button and rotating the Main Command Dial changes the metering mode. Choices include matrix, center-weighted, and spot. Pressing and holding this button together with the Delete button on the rear panel reformats the memory card. (You have to press and hold a few seconds, then press both together again to confirm that you really do want to reformat the card.)
Drive Mode Button: Located just to the right of the data readout LCD, the Drive Mode button lets you select between single shot, continuous shooting, self-timer and remote control options. Following the trend seen in some other controls on the D80, you cycle through the drive options by pressing this button multiple times, rather than by holding it down and using one of the Command Dials.
AF Button: In the lower right hand corner of the top panel, this button selects the D80's focus mode. As with the Drive button, you choose a focus mode by pressing the button repeatedly to cycle through the options, rather than holding it down while rotating a Command Dial as in other Nikon dSLRs. Options include Single AF, Continuous AF, and AF Auto. In AF Auto mode, the camera begins focus operations in single-focus mode, but switches to Continuous Dynamic AF if it detects motion within the active AF area.
Control Enumeration, Top Panel Controls, Left
Mode Dial : The left side of the D80's top panel holds only the main Mode Dial. The Mode Dial exactly duplicates that on the D70 and D70S, offering a range of programmed and automatic exposure options, as well as a choice of 6 Scene modes. See the Modes & Menus subtab of this review for details on all the options.
Control Enumeration, Left Side Controls
The left side of the protrusion surrounding the lens mounting flange carries three controls, plus the lens-mount lock button.
BKT Button: This button controls exposure and white balance bracketing, when used in conjunction with the Main and Sub Control dials. For a full description of the options available, refer to the bottom of the Exposure>Control/Metering page of this review.
Flash Button: Pressed with the flash down, this button releases the flash head to pop up. Pressing and holding it while rotating the Main Command Dial changes the flash sync mode (Normal, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync with Red-Eye Reduction, and Rear Curtain sync); holding it down while rotating the Sub Command Dial varies flash exposure compensation.
Focus Selector: At the bottom of the lens flange is a small rotary switch, which selects between Autofocus (AF) and Manual (M) focusing options. Many Nikkor lenses also have a Manual/Auto focus switch on the side of the lens barrel, so note that if that's the case with a lens you're using, both switches must be in the Auto position for AF to function.
Control Enumeration, Rear Panel Controls
Most of the camera's remaining controls are found on the rear panel. As we noted earlier, some of them have moved around a bit relative to the arrangement of the D70/D70S. We think the changes amount to improvements in the user interface, but experienced D70/D70S owners may find themselves having to reacclimate a little to the changed layout. We'll start our tour at the top left.
Delete Button: In the upper left hand corner, underneath the mode dial, this button deletes individual images in playback mode, with a confirmation screen to give you the opportunity to change your mind. Pressing and holding this button together with the Metering Mode button formats the memory card. (For safety's sake, you have to press both a second time to confirm the format.)
Diopter Adjustment Dial: Adjacent to the top right side of the viewfinder eyepiece, this dial adjusts the optical viewfinder to accommodate eyeglass wearers. (Range is -2 to +1 diopters.)
AE/AF Lock Button: Located to the right of the viewfinder eyepiece, this button locks the exposure and/or focus when pressed. The settings remain locked as long as you hold the button down, regardless of any action of the Shutter button. Several options for this control can be set via the Custom Settings Menu. You can program it to lock either focus or exposure separately, or both together (the default). You can also change its operation so a single press locks and holds the exposure setting. (No need to keep the button pressed down.) It can also be used to temporarily turn the AF on, if the camera is set to manual focus mode. An FV lock option lets it lock the flash exposure value, and a final option lets it enable focus-area selection.
Multi Controller (Focus Area Selector and Lock / Four-Way Arrow Rocker Pad): Just off the top right corner of the LCD monitor on the back panel, this rocker button with its associated locking switch (directly below it) controls the autofocus area in Record mode. The switch beneath it unlocks the rocker control and pressing any side of the rocker moves the active AF selection in that direction. (by choosing one of the 11 brackets displayed in the viewfinder).
In Playback mode, the rocker pad's right and left arrows scroll through captured images while the up and down arrow directions cycle through various information displays for each image. When you zoom in on an image in playback mode, the rocker pad lets you scroll around the magnified image.
In any settings menu, the arrow directions on this control are used to navigate through the LCD menu system.
Playback Button: Just off the top left corner of the LCD monitor, this button displays the most recently captured image, putting the camera into Playback mode. Once an image is displayed, the arrow keys navigate through the other images saved on the memory card. This button also dismisses the image display. (The camera also drops out of playback mode immediately if you touch the shutter button.)
Menu Button: Below the Playback button, this button displays or dismisses the LCD menu system.
Protect / Help / White Balance Button: Just under the Menu button, this button write-protects individual images, protecting them from accidental deletion. (Note though, that even "protected" images will be lost when a card is reformatted.) If an image is already protected, pressing the Protect button removes protection.
In Record mode, pressing this button and rotating the Main Command Dial changes the White Balance setting.
In any settings menu, pressing the Protect/Help Button displays an explanation of the current menu selection.
Thumbnail View / Zoom Out / ISO Button: Just below the Protect/Help/WB button, this button either zooms out from a magnified view or shows either a four or nine-image index view of images in the current folder on the memory card. The chosen display mode remains selected indefinitely, even if the camera is turned off. To return to normal viewing, press the Thumbnail View button again, and rotate the Command Dial in the opposite direction. When a thumbnail view is activated, you can scroll a cursor through the thumbnail images very rapidly with the rocker pad. Pressing the Quality/Magnify button (see below) magnifies the image that's currently selected, increasing the magnification each time it's pressed, up to a limit of 25x for the highest-resolution images. See the previous Viewfinder section of this review for a more complete description of this function.
In Record mode, pressing this button and rotating the Main Command Dial changes the ISO setting.
Quality / Magnify Button: In the bottom left corner of the rear panel, this button zooms in on images displayed in playback mode. Pressing the button repeatedly increase the magnification level, up to a limit of 25x at the largest image size. (Zoom magnification is limited on smaller images, basically always taking you in to the same pixel scale on the LCD display.)
In Record mode, pressing this button while rotating the Main Command Dial selects image size, while rotating the Sub Command Dial selects JPEG quality.
Control Enumeration, Front Controls
There are just three controls on the front of the camera body. They are:
Function Button: On the right side of the body (as viewed from the back), just beneath the AF assist light, this button is programmable, and can control a range of functions. The Custom Settings menu lets you choose the function, from 9 available options. (ISO display, Framing Grid on, AF-area mode, Center AF area narrow/wide, Flash exposure lock, Flash off (temporarily), and switch temporarily to Matrix, Center-Weighted, or Spot metering)
Depth of Field Preview Button: Below the FUNC button, nestled close beneath the lens-mount flange, this button lets you check the depth of field with the current aperture setting. Pressing the button stops down the lens, so you can get an idea of the depth of field through the viewfinder.
Lens Release Button: Right next to the lens mount, at about the 3 o'clock position (viewed from the front), this button releases the lens from its mount when pressed, so you can rotate and remove it.
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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.