Nikon F80 (N80) Review

I will write series of articles about Nikon film cameras i own or have owned. Then this will be followed by comparison article. So let’s start with Nikon F80 known as N80 in American market.

Nikon F80 was a prosumer 35mm AF (Auto-Focus) SLR , similar to Nikon D5000’s series of today. It was introduced at January 2000, as scaled down F100 and replaced earlier F70 model. F80 had 3 models: vanilla F80, F80D (no it’s not digital camera) and F80S. F80D imprints date on film while F80S imprints date and exposure data on film. Expect to pay more for last two versions. F80 either comes in black or silver color, most of body is made from plastic. While grip and front is covered with black leather. Camera is quite light only little bit over 500 grams. There are two new features that were included first time with Nikon cameras: rotating PASM dial and on-demand grid lines. With Nikon F5 or F100 you had to hold “Mode” button and rotate dial to get to needed exposure mode (P – programmed exposure mode,  A – Aperture priority, S- Shutter priority, M – Manual exposure mode), now all modes are on same Dial which also includes Custom setting bank and ISO speed change setting. Also keep in mind that most of high-end Nikon digital cameras still have mode+dial for this, like D700/D800 and D3/D4.  F80 was first Nikon camera with on demand grid lines, you just have to change one custom function and they always be on for easier framing.  Camera uses 2x CR123A batteries instead of regular 4AA to conserve space.

F80 was so successful that it’s chassis was used by several early model digital cameras like: Nikon D100, Fuji S2 Pro, S3 Pro and some Kodak full frame digital cameras.

Key Specifications:

  • 35mm Auto-Focus, Auto exposure SLR camera
  • 5 Focus points
  • Metering modes: Matrix, Center-weighted and Spot
  • ISO range:  Manual 6-6400;  DX 25-5000
  • Shutter Speeds: from 1/4000th of second to 30 seconds + Bulb mode.
  • Sync Speed: 1/125th of second
  • Viewfinder Coverage 92%
  • Around 2.5 FPS in continuous shooting mode
  • Takes standard screw-in release cable
  • Rewind speed (36 exposure film): 15 second in normal mode; 23 seconds in quite mode
  • Allows multi exposures
  • Built-in Flash
  • Uses 2 CR123A batteries
  • Batteries last for around 40-50 rolls without flash usage. Or 6 hours in bulb mode
  • Weight: 515 grams, 5 grams more for D version and 10 for S version

Manual: http://www.cameramanuals.org/nikon_pdf/nikon_n80_n80qd.pdf

Price: Around 25-30 US dollars for N80 in eBay, probably less if you try your luck in bidding.  At KEH.com 41$ for bargain condition and $62 for excellent.  In Europe around 25-30 Euros.

I paid around 30 euros including shipping for mine and around 1/3 of it for batteries.

Pros:

  • Cheapest and lightest Nikon film body with all available features
  • Takes Screw-in cable release
  • PASM dial
  • In-built flash
  • Diopter Adjustment (from -1.8 to +0.8)
  • On Demand Grid-lines

Cons:

  • Relatively cheap plastic body
  • Viewfinder coverage (92%)
  • Stability with long and heavy lenses
  • CR123A batteries (expensive and hard to find)
  • Doesn’t meter with old manual lenses (pre-1977)
  • Mediocre Sync speed
  • Exposure can be changed in half stops instead of 1/3. With +/- 3 EV stop range.

Conclusion

Nikon F80 is probably one of best “Bang for a buck” 35mm SLR AF out there. It’s especially great if you want an inexpensive AF camera,  that does all the focusing and exposure work, so you can just concentrate on picture making. It it compatible with all latest tech including VR, G-lenses and etc. It just won’t measure with old pre 1977 manual focus lenses. So you need light meter if you want to use them on this camera, but it would be better to get proper camera for those lenses. Apart from previous mentioned PASM dial and grid lines, camera also have built-in diopter adjuster, so people (like me) who are shortsighted or farsighted can correct viewfinder to optimal sharpness,  although correction range is not so great as with larger cameras.

Main weakness of this camera is not that it lacks some of features of more advanced models, but use of CR123A batteries which is pain in the arse nowadays. They might have been good way to supply camera with more voltage in less space (2x CR123A gives same 6V as 4AA’s while taking up like 1/3 of space) back in those days. But now as most of P&S uses LIPO batteries or at least AA’s it’s hard and expensive to get these. You won’t find them in local store or some small household store. Usually look for them in photo shops/stores, supermarkets (only some of them have these) or electronics store. Besides there aren’t cheap ones available usually, only some bigger brands. If you are serious in photography and have more than one camera which takes CR123A batteries i would suggest looking into rechargeable batteries and charger.  Other things i wish to note is that body is too light for usage with long zoom lenses like 80-200 f/2.8, lens is too heavy and camera too light to hold it steady, so you may get blurred pictures(of course if you use tripod then there isn’t problem), this isn’t problem with heavier bodies like F5 or F100, where body mass stabilizes long and heavy lenses. Also because of light body mirror slap vibrations are more noticeable.  But you have to trade something if you wish light carry everywhere camera.  F80’s body is made from plastic so i suppose it won’t take much damage until it’s broken, unlike higher end metal cameras. Flash sync is also a bit low if you are using fill-flash, same as viewfinder coverage is at only 92% and expsoure is adjusted in half steps intead of 1/3 of steps.

In short highly recommended camera, if you want a light Nikon 35mm AF body which has all the  newest features.

Nikon F80 from http://www.mir.com.my

Nikon F80, top view PASM dial on left hand. Image taken from – http://www.mir.com.my

Nikon F80D back

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