Nikon D80 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Nikon Cameras / Nikon D i Full Review

Camera Modes and Menus

The mode dial on the left side of the D80's top panel provides access to its various exposure modes, the same arrangement of Auto, three semi-auto, one Manual, and six scene modes as on the original D70/D70S. Here's a list of what's available:

  • Program: Puts the camera in charge of aperture and shutter speed, though all remaining camera settings are available. (And you can vary the combination of aperture and shutter speed the camera has selected, by rotating the Main Command Dial.)
  • Shutter Priority: The user controls shutter speed, from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, while the camera sets the aperture value.
  • Aperture Priority: The opposite of Shutter Priority mode, this mode lets the user control the aperture, while the camera sets the shutter speed.
  • Manual: Gives the user complete control over the exposure (both shutter and aperture settings), and provides access to the camera's Bulb shutter setting for exposures longer than 30 seconds.
  • Auto: The camera sets everything. Used for snapshots or users who just don't want to be bothered with the details of how the camera will do its work. Flash is set to front curtain sync.
  • Portrait: Adjusts Aperture to soften background details to help the main subject stand out more clearly. Flash set to front curtain sync
  • Landscape: Turns up color, saturation, contrast, and enhances outlines for city and forest landscape shots. Flash is turned off in this mode.
  • Close up: Reds and greens are pumped up, camera sets center focus point, flash set to front curtain sync.
  • Sports: Uses high shutter speed, camera switches to continuous focus, both flash and AF illuminator are turned off and will not fire.
  • Night Landscape: Uses a slow shutter speed with no flash.
  • Night Portrait: Uses slow shutter speed with flash, balancing the two so that night portraits look natural even with flash.


Nikon D80 Menus

The menu system on the Nikon D80 follows most closely that of its big brother, the D200, although the D80 sports a Retouch menu instead of the D200's Recent Settings menu, and its custom settings menu isn't divided into sub-pages the way the D200's is.

The D80's menu system makes good use of the large, high-resolution LCD screen, with fonts that are larger and smoother than those on the D70/D70S, and much-improved graphics. The net result is much better readability and a more sophisticated appearance. There are five main menus: Playback, Shooting, CSM (custom menus), Set Up, and Retouch. The Retouch menu is a new addition on the D80, and offers much more extensive options for in-camera image manipulation than we've previously seen. Navigation takes place via the Multi Selector pad, assisted at times by the Enter button. The menus themselves are chosen via a "tabbed" interface, with icons on the left of the screen corresponding to the five menus.

The Nikon D80 carries forward the help system we first saw on the D2x, but has expanded it to cover essentially every menu item, as on the D200. Whenever a menu item is selected that has a help screen associated with it, a square icon with a question mark on it appears in the lower lefthand corner of the screen. When you press the Protect/Help button, the LCD screen will display help information for that current menu selection. Most help screens are just a single page, but a few extend onto multiple pages. The explanations are pretty informative (better than average, we'd say), but there is still room for improvement on a number of the more arcane/involved settings. (Memory is so cheap these days, we don't know why Nikon didn't go the extra mile with an already good idea, and include much more information on some of the help screens. Particularly on a camera aimed more at the mass market, the incremental effort and expense to offer more complete explanations of more infrequently-used camera functions seems small relative to the time it could save for D80 owners, helping avoid trips back to the manual to ferret out the information.)

In the section below, rather than reproduce every menu screen in the main text, we've shown screenshots for only the top level of each menu, and provided clickable links in the descriptive text leading to the various sub-screens.

Nikon D80 Playback Menu

Nikon D80 Playback Menu Options
Top-Level
Selection
Second-Level Third-Level Notes
Delete - Selected
- All
- Select image from thumbnail display Select one or multiple images, then execute with "Enter" button. The Menu button exits without deleting any images.

Delete All doesn't affect images that have been "protected" via the WB/help/protect button

Playback Folder - Current
- All
"All" will also display DCF-compliant image from other manufacturers that may be on the same card.
Rotate Tall - On
- Off
Images captured in "portrait" orientation are rotated onscreen to display in their original orientation. (The camera can even tell whether you had the grip side up or down. If it is moved to point vertically up or down after the shutter button has been half-pressed, it will remember the previous orientation and use that to tag the image.)
Slide Show - Start
- Select pictures
- Change settings
- Select Pictures (All or select from thumbnails)

- Change settings: Style (Standard, Pictmotion)

- Change Settings: Frame Interval (seconds)

- Change Settings (background music)

Enables an automated slide show of captured images on the memory card, with many options, including the ability to combine music with your images.

This function has a complex set of sub-menus, see Slide Show sub-menu screenshots for more details.

Hide Image - Select/set

- Deselect all?

- Select image from thumbnail display Hiding an image also protects it from deletion with the "delete all" command. The menu button exits without hiding any images.
Print Set - Select/set
- Deselect all?
- Select image from thumbnail display, if select/set is chosen Sets up images for printing using the DPOF (Digital Print Order Format).




Nikon D80 Shooting Menu:

Nikon D80 Shooting Menu Options
Top-Level
Selection
Second-Level Third-Level Notes
Optimize Image
- Normal
- Softer
- Vivid
- More vivid
- Portrait
- Custom
- Black-and-white
(For Custom option only)

- Done (accept settings)

- Image sharpening (Auto, -2 to +2, None)

- Tone compensation (Auto, -2 to +2, Custom)

- Color Mode (Ia(sRGB), II (Adobe RGB), IIIa (sRGB)

- Saturation (Auto, -, 0, +)

- Hue adjustment (-9 to +9 degrees)

Softer reduces contrast and saturation

Vivid and More vivid increase saturation and contrast

Portrait makes subtle, specific color and tonal-rendering adjustments.

Custom tone compensation option enables curve loaded from computer

Black-and-white now includes color filtration effects

NOTE - you must select "Done" for custom settings to be registered.

(See Optimize Image Custom menu screenshots)

Image Quality - NEF (RAW)
- JPEG Fine
- JPEG Normal
- JPEG Basic
- NEF + JPEG Fine
- NEF + JPEG Normal
- NEF + JPEG Basic
D80 now offers choice of any JPEG quality in NEF + JPEG modes
Image Size
  • - Large (3,872 x 2,592 pixels)/10.0M
  • - Medium (2,896 x 1,944 pixels)/5.6M

    - Small (1,936 x 1,296 pixels)/2.5M

    White balance - Auto
    - Incandescent
    - Fluorescent
    - Dir. sunlight
    - Flash
    - Cloudy
    - Shade
    - K (choose color temp)
    - PRE WB Preset
    - Auto and all presets: fine tune +/- 3 units

    - Choose color temp: (2,500 - 10,000K)

    - WB Preset:
    -- Measure
    -- Use Photo

    Auto and all presets let you fine-tune white balance +/- 3 units.

    Manual option (PRE) is nice, in that it gives you the choice of setting directly or using a previously-shot photo on the card.

    ISO Sensitivity - (Auto)
    - 100
    - 125
    - 160
    - 200
    - 250
    - 320
    - 400
    - 500
    - 640
    - 800
    - 1000
    - 1250
    - 1600
    - Hi 0.3
    - Hi 0.7
    - Hi 1
    Auto is only available in auto or some scene modes

    The "Hi" settings refer to the number of EV above 1600: Hi 1 is equivalent to ISO 3200

    Long exp. NR - Off
    - On
    Only affects exposures longer than 1 second.
    High ISO NR - Normal
    - Low
    - High
    - Off
    Adjusts strength of the camera's noise reduction processing at ISOs higher than 400. Off disables noise reduction unless sensitivity exceeds ISO 800. Minimal noise reduction is performed at sensitivities over IS0 800 when Off.
    Multiple Exposure - Done
    - Number of shots
    - Auto gain
    - Select number of shots (2,3)

    - Auto gain (on/off)

    Creates a single photograph by combining from two or three images. You can also enable the Auto Gain feature, to adjust the exposure on each individual shot so the final composite image is properly exposed. Unlike the Image Overlay function, Multiple Exposure builds the composite image on the fly (rather than working from previously captured images), and can be used when saving to either JPEG or NEF file formats. (screenshot)


    Nikon D80 Custom Settings Menu

    The Nikon D80's custom settings menu has more options than on the D70/D70S, but fewer than the D200. It's organized as a single scrolling list as in the D70/D70S, rather than the bank-oriented layout of the D200.

    Nikon D80 Custom Settings Menu Options
    Top-Level
    Selection
    Second-Level Third-Level Notes
    R Reset
    - No
    - Yes
    Resets the CSM options to their default values.

    (NOTE that the reset that's accomplished by pressing and holding down BKT and meter-pattern buttons for 2 seconds does not reset the CSM settings.)

    01 Beep - On
    - Off
    Beep sounds for focus confirmation, remote release, or self-timer countdown.
    02 AF-area mode - Single area
    - Dynamic area
    - Auto area AF
    Single and Dynamic area let you select the primary AF point. Auto area AF switches from Single to Dynamic if motion is detected.

    Single is the default for P, S, A, M and Macro modes.

    03 Center AF area - Normal zone
    - Wide zone
    Sets the center AF area to be either a normal-size area or an expanded, wider zone.
    04 AF assist - On
    - Off
    Enable or disable the AF-assist light. Light only comes on if it's needed.

    If SB-800 or SB-600 is attached, camera will use the strobe's AF assist illuminator.

    05 No memory card? - Release locked
    - Enable release
    Prevents (default) or permits shutter release if there's no SD card in the camera.

    (Helps avoid shooting a pile of photos without "film" in the camera.)

    06 Image review - On
    - Off
    Enables or disables the immediate review of an image on the LCD screen after each shot.
    07 ISO Auto - Off
    - On
    - Max Sensitivity
    - Min. shutter speed
    - Max Sensitivity (200, 400, 800, 1600)

    - Min. shutter speed (1, 1/2, 14, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/40, 1/60, 1/80, 1/100, 1/125)

    Boosts ISO automatically if aperture and/or shutter speed selection wouldn't provide sufficient light for a good exposure.

    This option expands on that of the D70/D70S, by letting you specify both a maximum sensitivity that auto ISO boosts will be limited to, as well as the minimum shutter speed at which the boost will begin.

    08 Grid display - Off
    - On
    Enables or disables alignment grid in viewfinder.
    09 Viewfinder warning - On
    - Off
    Enables or disables warning icons in the viewfinder for black/white mode, low battery power, and no memory card.
    10 EV step - 1/3 step
    - 1/2 step
    Sets step size (in EV units) for aperture, shutter, and exposure compensation adjustment.

    (NOTE, ISO steps are always 1/3 EV.)

    11 Exp comp. - Off
    - On
    Determines whether +/- button is needed to adjust exposure compensation. When "on", you can adjust EV at any time with just the command dial.
    12 Center-weighted - 6 mm
    - 8 mm
    - 10 mm
    Selects the area in the center of the frame that's given the greatest weight in center-weighted metering mode. (Only the 8 mm area is indicated in the viewfinder, however).
    13 Auto BKT - AE & flash
    - AE only
    - Flash only
    - WB bracketing
    The D80's auto bracketing feature can control either normal (ambient) exposure, flash exposure, both, or white balance variation.
    14 Auto BKT Order - Default order (MTR>Under>Over)
    - Under>MTR>Over
    In auto bracketing mode, you can change the order in which the camera shoots the bracket.
    15 Command dials - Default
    - Reversed
    Reverses the roles of the Main and Sub Command dials in all control modes.
    16 FUNC button - ISO display
    - Framing grid
    - AF-area mode
    - Center AF area
    - FV lock
    - Flash off
    - Matrix metering
    - Center-weighted
    - Spot metering
    Select a function to be assigned to the FUNC button. Most of these let you use the FUNC button to temporarily override camera settings such as metering pattern, flash mode, etc.
    17 Illumination - On
    - Off
    When on, the backlights for the top panel data readout and main LCD (and on any attached SB-600/800 strobe units) remain lit for a longer time, after the metering-active timer expires.
    18
    AE-L/AF-L
    - AE/AF Lock
    - AE Lock only
    - AF Lock only
    - AE Lock hold
    - AF-ON
    - FV-Lock
    - Focus area selection
    - AE-L/AF-L/AF area
    - AE-L/AF area
    - AF-L/AF area
    - AF on/AF area

    Controls the function of the AE/AF lock button.

    Most modes release the lock after the shutter is tripped, but "AE Lock hold" holds the AE setting until the button is pressed again.

    AF-ON causes the camera to autofocus when the AE/AF button is pressed.

    19 AE Lock - Off
    - On
    Enables AE lock with half-pressed shutter button
    20 Focus area - No Wrap
    - Wrap
    When selecting AF points, commanding the selection to move past the edge of the frame causes it to "wrap" around to the other side.
    21 AF area illumination - Auto
    - Off
    - On
    Controls the (overly?) subtle backlighting of the active AF point when the AF system actuates. In Auto mode, the backlight doesn't activate when you're shooting a bright subject.
    22 Built-in flash - TTL
    - Manual
    - Repeating flash
    - Commander mode

    (See Built-In Flash Menu screenshots)

    Manual
    - (choose from Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64, 1/128 power)

    Repeating flash
    - Output (1/4 - 1/128)
    - Times (2-35)
    - Freq. (1-50 Hz)

    Commander mode:
    - TTL
    - AA
    - M

    Sets the built-in flash to operate TTL (through the lens metering, the default), Manual, Repeating Flash, or Commander modes.

    Under the Manual option, you can set the flash power from Full to 1/128 power.

    Repeating Flash mode lets you fire the flash repeatedly while the shutter is open, and you can set the variables for output, time, and interval.

    Commander mode sets the flash to work with up to two wireless slave units. (Very capable, matches D200) See the menu screenshots for full information.

    23 Flash Warning - On
    - Off
    When enabled, a flash indicator (lightning bolt) will flash in the viewfinder when flash is recommended.
    24 Flash shutter speed - 1/60 sec
    - 1/30 sec
    - 1/15 sec
    - 1/8 sec
    - 1/4 sec
    - 1/2 sec
    - 1 sec
    - 2 sec
    - 4 sec
    - 8 sec
    - 15 sec
    - 30 sec
    Sets the slowest shutter speed that the camera will use in P and A exposure modes when the flash is enabled.
    25 Auto FP - Off
    - On
    When using a compatible, FP-capable external strobe (like the SB-600/800), camera will automatically command the flash to switch to FP mode if the shutter speed is set faster than 1/200 second with the flash enabled. (NOTE, internal flash is not FP-capable.)
    26 Modeling flash - Off
    - On
    If enabled (the default), the built-in flash will temporarily light as a modeling flash when the Depth of Field Preview button is pressed. In Commander mode, Speedlights that support the Nikon Creative Lighting System will also emit modeling flashes.
    27 Monitor off - 5 sec
    - 10 sec
    - 20 sec
    - 1 min
    - 5 min
    - 10 min
    Delay after which rear-panel LCD switches off if no activity.
    28 Auto meter-off - 4 sec
    - 6 sec
    - 8 sec
    - 16 sec
    - 30 sec
    - 30 min
    Length of time the meter displays the exposure setting after it's been activated. (By either a shutter half-press or a press of the AE-L/AF-L button.) Unless the AE-Lock hold option is selected, the meter will continuously update as the scene or camera settings change.
    29 Self-timer - 2 sec
    - 5 sec
    - 10 sec
    - 20 sec
    Duration of self-timer delay.
    30 Remote on duration - 1 min
    - 5 min
    - 10 min
    - 15 min
    Sets the length of time the camera will wait for a signal from the remote control before reverting to single-shot or continuous mode, whichever was last in effect.
    31 Exp. delay mode - Off
    - On
    If enabled, delays shutter release 0.4 second after mirror raises, to let vibrations die down when shooting on a tripod
    32 MB-D80 batteries - LR6 (AA alkaline)
    - HR6 AA Ni-MH)
    - FR6 (AA lithium)
    - ZR6 (AA Ni-Mn)
    Selects the type of batteries in use with the MB-D80 pack, to insure the correct minimum-voltage cutoff point.


    Nikon D80 Setup Menu

    Nikon D80 Setup Menu Options
    Top-Level
    Selection
    Second-Level Third-Level Notes
    CSM/Setup menu - Simple
    - Full
    - My menu
    Select simple or full menus, or customize as you'd like
    Format memory card (Warning / confirmation screen) Reformat SD card
    World time - Time zone
    - Date
    - Date format
    - Daylight saving time
    - Set time zone from graphical display

    - Set date and time

    - Date format (yy/mm/dd, mm/dd/yy, dd/mm/yy)

    - Daylight savings time (off, on)

    Self-explanatory. See subscreens for details.
    LCD brightness (set brightness,
    -2 to +2)
    The camera displays a gray scale on its LCD as an aid to setting the LCD brightness.
    Video Mode - NTSC
    - PAL
    Changes video output signal timing
    Language - German
    - English
    - Spanish
    - Suomi
    - French
    - Italian
    - Dutch
    - Polish
    - Portuguese
    - Russian
    - Swedish
    - Traditional Chinese
    - Simplified Chinese
    - Japanese
    - Korean
    No Esperanto?

    ;-)

    USB - Mass Storage
    - PTP
    Chooses protocol for USB port. Mass Storage tends to transfer faster, PTP links to automatic camera-download software on Mac OS 10 and Windows XP.
    Image comment - Done
    - Input comment
    - Attach comment
    (view)
    (Input screen) Embeds an alphanumeric character string in the EXIF header of captured images. An on-screen keyboard similar to that used for naming folders is shown, but in addition to upper case characters, numbers and the underscore symbol, also lets you select lower case characters and a good range of other punctuation symbols.

    Comments are visible in Picture Project or Nikon Capture 4, versions 4.1 and later.

    Folders
    - Select folder
    - New
    - Rename
    - Delete
    - Select folder from list of folders

    - Enter new folder name

    - Rename folder

    - Delete folder (No, Yes)

    Select which folder will be used for both image storage and playback. Folder names created in the camera allow upper case letters, numbers and the underscore symbol only, and are entered using an on-screen keyboard. The four-way controller is used to highlight a letter on the keyboard, the White Balance / Protect / Help Button is used to select it, the ISO / Thumbnail View Button and Main Command Dial can be used to move backwards or forwards through the folder name, and the Quality / Enter / Magnify Button accepts the name.
    File No. Seq - Off
    - On
    - Reset
    If on, camera will remember and continue file number sequence from one card to the next, and across erase/format operations.
    Mirror lock-up - On
    - Off
    For sensor cleaning, locks mirror up and shutter open. Turn off camera to reset. AC adapter not required.

    NOTE: Don't confuse this with a mirror lockup mode that locks the mirror pre-exposure, to minimize camera shake from mirror bounce. (The D80 doesn't have that feature, but does have Exposure Delay mode, see CSM 31.)

    Dust off ref photo - On
    - Off
    Capture a special "Dust Reference" image that can be used with Nikon Capture 4 to automatically touch-out the images of dust specks on the sensor.
    Battery Info Bat meter (%)

    Pic meter (#)

    Charge Life (0 to 4)

    (info screen)

    Very complete battery status display, same as on D200
    Firmware version (info screen) Displays current camera firmware version.
    Image rotation - Automatic
    - Off
    The D70S has an orientation sensor that records the position of the camera in the file headers, allowing the images to display in their correct orientation on the camera's LCD or in Nikon's software. This option disables this, useful if you're going to be using in an orientation (straight up or straight down) that would result in incorrect orientation data being recorded. (The camera will otherwise simply tag images shot vertically up or down with the last position the camera was in before it was pointed up or down).


    Nikon D80 "Retouch" Menu

    Most digital cameras offer at least some degree of in-camera image modification, even if it's just resizing or cropping. The Nikon D80 goes way beyond that level of capability though, with an entire menu devoted to in-camera "retouching." Calling it retouching may be a bit of a stretch, as retouching has to us always implied direct human interaction with an image, as in cloning-out unwanted elements, locally altering the color or tone, etc. There's no question though, that the Retouch menu on the Nikon D80 goes far beyond anything that's been seen on a mainstream digital camera before.

    The various options on the Retouch menu are shown below, see the Operation>Viewfinder page of this review for a bit more detail:

    Nikon D80 Retouch Menu Options
    Top-Level
    Selection
    Second-Level Third-Level Notes
    D-lighting
    Choose image from thumbnail display
    - Normal
    - Enhanced
    - Moderate
    Nikon's D-Lighting features boosts exposure in the shadows and adjusts the tone curve to give more even illumination with backlit or harshly-lit subjects.
    Red-eye correction
    Choose image from thumbnail display
    Nikon's automatic red-eye reduction algorithm is quite sophisticated, has been part of their consumer point & shoot models for some time
    Trim
    Choose image from thumbnail display
    Choose size of trimmed image:
    - 2560x1920
    - 1920x1440
    - 1280x960
    - 960x720
    - 640x480
    Cropped image displays on monitor,you can scroll with the Multi Selector pad to choose position within larger image
    Monochrome
    Choose image from thumbnail display
    - Black-and-white
    - Sepia
    - Cyanotype
    Fixed conversions, no color contrast filters available as in shooting mode
    Filter Effects
    - Sky light
    - Warm filter
    - Color balance
    Choose image from thumbnail display Skylight is a slight warming, Warm filter is more so. Color balance gives you a wide range of color adjustment
    Small Picture
    - Select picture

    - Choose size

    - Select image from thumbnail display

    - 640x480
    - 320x240
    - 160x120

    Handy for making small versions of images for email transmission
    Image Overlay
    - Choose Image 1
    - Choose Image 2
    - Overlay
    - Save
    (Select images from thumbnail display) Perhaps of limited use (Photoshop or another image editor will give more control), but it can result in some neat effects.
    (Could be neat for party/event photography, combine images with pre-shot frames or other elements.)



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