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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nikon Announces D80

A few years ago, when Canon introduced the Digital Rebel to great acclaim and market reponse, Nikon needed to pull a rabbit out of its corporate hat. What it came up with was the D70, a camera that sold for more than the Rebel but, unlike the Rebel, didn't dumb down any features. It was a smart move and a huge success, and managed to move Nikon's feet away from the fire right smartly.

The task of the new D80 seems similar: Sony has come out with a bargain-priced 10.2 MP camera that uses the same chip as Nikon's stellar D200, and Nikon needs to prevent customer migration. Nikon's problem is that, for the most part, it outsources its sensors—from Sony, now newly minted as a Nikon competitor in the DSLR sweepstakes.

Sony and Canon's problem—along with all the rest—is that Nikon really knows cameras and photographers. You might say that it concentrates on camera technology slightly more, and sensor technology slightly less, than its competitors. The great felicity of the marvelous D200 is its razor-sharp responsiveness, speed, ergonomics, and deployability. From the specs, it looks as if Nikon, besides strategically plugging a potential leak in its market share, is trying to play to those strengths and give buyers as much of that as possible in a less expensive camera with the D80 (although, naturally, I am suspicious of the "exciting" additional in-camera processing modes). I'm sure those of you whose main preoccupation in the hobby is camera models will soon know more than I do about the new camera, and that the catalogue-style reviews that treat cameras feature-by-feature will soon add a great deal more detail to either clarify or confuse you. The upshot from a more gestalt perspective, however, doesn't seem too hard to suss out: another great Nikon, in a long line of great Nikons, well judged for the times.



Blogger Albano Garcia said...

Totally agree. Nikon really knows how to make a camera. When I got the money to buy a DSLR I examined three possiblities: Pentax (as a Pentax user), Nikon and Canon. The Pentax was quickly away due to its price and I knew the sensor was older technology. Then, between the D50 and the Rebel XT there wasn't any doubt, the D50 was my camera. It felt excellent in my hands, right size and shape, excellent quick access to main functions, great built, looks and feels like a real camera. The Rebel was small in a very bad way (unlike the Pentax that's small AND comfortable), the user interface was not so great, felt and looked cheaper. Even the kit lens is better in the Nikon case (even with usm motor). So, 2 megapixels more wasn't an excuse to get the Rebel. I got the D50 and I'm so so pleased.
The D80 is now my official dream camera. :-)

10:56 AM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

Speaking as a Canon photographer...the D80 looks like a terrific successor to the D70. I'm sure Nikon will do very well with it. I'll leave it to photo forum correspondents to endlessly debate Canon -vs- Nikon and whether Nikon "knows photographers" better than Canon or others. These are both fundamentally optical companies with cameras being one of many markets for their lens technologies.

My own entry into the Canon line came 32 years ago when I needed to buy a simple, no-frills slr and 50mm lens to use with my college work. Not being as well-heeled as many of today's young people I had scrimped to save approximately $150 for the purchase. Nikon was THE brand at the time and I really had my heart set on one of its cameras. I was crestfallen when a salesperson at Erbers Camera in Champaign, Illinois told me, in a sightly condescending tone that Nikon had nothing to offer me in that price range. Canon, however, did have just the ticket; a TLb and a pretty good 50mm lens. The deal was done and from that moment, many tens of thousands of dollars later, I've been a Canon camera and lens customer.

11:04 AM  
Blogger sbug said...

The D80 is pretty much exactly what I was hoping Nikon would announce. The viewfinder improvement along with a slightly smaller body are my favorite updates. Now I just need to find the scratch to actually buy one.

2:38 PM  
Blogger David Kelly said...

"well judged for the times" but not well enough to include in-camera anti-shake, sure to be a must-have feature for boomers facing the unsteady hands of geezerdom, as i am, or anybody else who wants a two-stop advantage in low light. Is this Sony's ticket to the major leagues? -David kelly

7:44 PM  
Blogger Vikas said...

Can't wait to get the D80 in hand (once it arrives in the local stores), it does look like a promising camera between the D70 and D200, does sound better than the Canon Rebel XT and priced lower than the Canon 30D.

I agree Nikon knows what the photographers want and targets them very well by adding functionality.. rather than wasting time on sensors!

10:42 AM  
Blogger Nimesh said...

I am very happy with my D70S but for 2 shortcomings: 1) small pentamirror "tunnel-vision" viewfinder (compared to even my old Nikkormat's) and 2) lack of metering capability with manual lenses (no aperture coupling ring). D80 definitely improves upon (1)- it has a 0.94 magnification pentaprism viewfinder. However, I am not sure about the manual lens support- based on reading of some of the previews.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Dave M said...

The D80 will have the same limitations with manual lenses as the D70 and D50: You'll be able to mount the lenses (as long as they're not pre-AI) but the meter will not work. You can work around this by guessing your exposure, shooting, and examining the histogram to see if you need to adjust anything. Personally that would drive me nuts, but it is one way you can work if you want to use older Nikon glass on a consumer or prosumer Nikon digital body.

For years Nikon has allowed users of their more expensive bodies to meter with old manual focus lenses while not including metering with those lenses on their consumer bodies. (I'm sure that Nikon has a good reason for doing this, or at least they believe that they do. I've seen countless discussions online about why Nikon does this, but it's all conjecture as far as I can tell.)

If you have an investment in manual focus Nikon lenses and you want to buy a low-end dSLR to use with those lenses, you'll be able to work faster if you buy a Digital Rebel XT or 20D body and a lens adapter than you can if you buy a D50, D70, or D80 body. You'll have to live with stop-down metering, but at least you'll have metering. Add a better focusing screen (3rd party) and an eyepiece magnifier (the new Nikon magnifier fits the Canon bodies), and you'll have a very workable digital solution that uses your old Nikon glass. (Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride" was shot this way...Nikon lenses on a Canon body.)

We live in interesting times...

9:53 AM  
Blogger ccp said...

I am a Nikon shooter from way back, FM2, F90, F90X. Dreamed about a F100 but it didn't out perform the F90X so didn't bother. Lusted after a F5 but had one for gig for a weekend and came to loathe its size and weight.

So to digital, I hit digital full force doing event photography, we used to hire in the cameras, needless to say they were the best that were available at the time from each brand - like I cared - as long as it was dig.

Well Nikpon may know people but they certainly know squat about colour. Canon in my view has stolen such a march on the market in regars to colour nikon et el are still trying to catch up.

Reviewed files from a friends new D200, I can hurl with better colour balance. Nikon just can't seem to get it right. Apparently they are getting their CCD's from Sony - stop , don't run don't look back get them from starving peasensts in outer areas of China, you couldn't be doing any worse.

Needless to say I went Canon, still love my Nikon film bodies and the gorgeous nikon lenses but they suck at digital colour.

It is all to do with work flow, you have to put in nealry twice the amount of time into a Nikon dig file as you do to a Canon dig file.

Doing 3000 of each side by side continuousely showed me this.

I was hoping the D80 would be better and handle manual lenses but alas not. Which highlights another point, when you buy a Canon anything all software and cables are in the box.

Nikon on the other hand have always made you buy the extra stuff at extortionist prices.

So do Nikon really know people?

6:17 AM  

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