Nikon D80 Film Review

This is a review of the Nikon D80 film camera from ~2006. Still relevant today! It’s a decent film camera and you can get the body for about US$20 at Amazon.

Review of the N80
I know it’s not a dSLR, but it’s still a good decent camera. I use the N80 primarily with 100 and 50 speed black and white film which has a much better tonal range and resolution than even my beloved D200. Sadly as of the start of 2006, Nikon has said they will be eliminating all but 2 of their Film SLRs. Digital is good enough for pretty much everyone now it seems. This is a shame becuase you can get good film SLRs cheap (I got my N80 for $114 used, with one function broken (it doesn’t take pictures in continous shooting mode, something I don’t use much)). My point here is that for $114 + $100 in good film and developer + a decent lens I can take great pictures with all the control of my $1800 D200. Even now with the D50 in the $600 range there is no comparason. A digital SLR is a great investment, and it has many bonuses, but unless you shoot 100’s of rolls a year, cost isn’t one of them. The great part about film SLRs is that you don’t buy the sensor for life. If you put good film in a mediocre camera, you can still get great results. Film is a matter of personal preference, I’ve not done that much film work to have exhaustivly tested them all. I enjoy the Ilford 100 speed black and white film the best of those I’ve tested, in my mind color film doesn’t offer enough advantages over digital. (In fact for most film developed at the hour photo booth, I find that my digital camera provides far better results). Black and white film however has amazing grain density and I think that you will have to seen sensors in the 30-50 megapixel range to rival a quality B&W grain. 

On to the N80 Well the N80 is just a great camera, it does everything it should, and not too much it shouldn’t. It has a great set of features allowing you Aperture priority, shutter priority, program mode and manual, has an excellent meter, single and continuous focus modes that both seem to perform great. It’s uncluttered by extra features that you find on higher end SLRs, but is great for 95% of your shooting needs. There are some missing features that may annoy some, no mirror lockup for example, and the shutter does have a good thunk (not as heavy as some though) The N80 reminds me a lot of the D70, with a few more buttons on the outside and a few less menu choices on the inside. It has 5 autofocus zones, the autofocus is quick and quiet. I would say a little slower than my D200, but faster than a D70. It has the 3 main metering modes, spot, centerweighted, and matrix. All of them perform as advertised. It has on demand grid lines in the view finder which I like, but they are not on the “golden thirds” lines which I don’t like. There are 4 lines in each direction. Some people hate the lines, but I like them to aid in composition. 

Film Handling This really hasn’t been an issue for years, but the N80 handles your film like a pro. It’s insanely easy to load and does the rest automatically. You can almost always get an extra shot or two per roll since you don’t have to waste any film wrapping it around the take up reel. If you are coming from a D70 or D200 and looking for a film camera to give you some reach when you need more dynamic range or little higher resolution, this is the camera for you!