Nikon D80 Viewfinder

Like most dSLRs, the Nikon D80 uses an optical viewfinder that works through the lens. (The LCD monitor is for image playback and accessing the menu system only.) A diopter adjustment dial adjusts the focusing of the viewfinder optics to accommodate eyeglass wearers, and the viewfinder also has quite a high eyepoint (meaning you can see the full frame with your eye a good distance from the rear objective). The 19.5mm eyepoint is fairly good, but I personally (Dave speaking here) do still end up having to press my eyeglass lens against the rubber eyecup in order to see the full frame clearly. The -2.0 to +1.0 diopter adjustment range of the viewfinder optics isn't nearly enough to accommodate my own very nearsighted (20:180) vision, but is more than ample to handle my "computer glasses", which are set to provide good focus for my eyes at a distance of about 18-24 inches. (Frankly, people as nearsighted as me are unlikely to ever walk around without some degree of vision correction, so we think the dioptric adjustment range of the D80 should be more than sufficient for most users.)

One big plus about the D80's viewfinder is its size: It's basically the same viewfinder as used on the D200, and is very noticeably larger than the viewfinders on other Nikon consumer SLRs. (The D70/D70S and D50, for instance.) The illustration above, courtesy Nikon, compares the size of D80's viewfinder with those of the Canon Rebel XT and the Sony A100 (both of which are approximately the size of the D50/70 screens). While I dislike having to press my eyeglasses up against the eyecup, all of us at IR really like having a larger viewfinder image to look at.

Here's another, more subtle point about the Nikon D80's viewfinder: It uses a true pentaprism, rather than the pentamirror arrangement that's all but universal in consumer-level SLRs. The reason this is important is that pentaprisms are much brighter. This is because a convenient trick of optics makes prisms 100% internally reflective, so no light is lost as it bounces around inside and back out the eyepiece. Even the best mirrors typically pass only 96-98% of the light falling on them. In a pentamirror, with three reflections required to bounce the light into your eye, this means that anywhere from 6 to 12% of the light is lost, making for a noticeably darker viewfinder image.


An illuminated display inside the viewfinder provides detailed exposure and camera information, including black and white mode, battery low, and "no memory card" warnings, focus confirmation, flash and AE lock, Auto ISO, shutter speed, aperture, metering, battery status, exposure and flash compensation, white balance/exposure bracketing indicator, frame counter, flash ready light, and eleven sets of focus brackets. When activated, the view also includes an alignment grid, useful for lining up difficult shots. A large circular outline in the center of the view indicates the Center-Weighted metering area. The optional grid (enabled via a Custom Menu setting) and focus area indicators can be set to illuminate briefly when the shutter button is half-pressed, although the illumination isn't too bright, and is easily missed against a bright background. (Presumably though, if the background and subject are that bright, you'll be able to see the dark viewfinder markings easily enough without the illuminator.)


Viewfinder Accuracy Test

Good accuracy with optical viewfinder.

18mm eq., Optical 135mm eq., Optical

The Nikon D80's through-the-lens optical viewfinder was pretty accurate, showing 95-98% frame accuracy, depending on the zoom setting. (The variation is likely the result of the barrel/pincushion distortion from the lens.) This agrees with Nikon's own specifications, but as always, we wonder why DSLR makers can't design 100% viewfinders as a matter of course.


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