Short Report: Nikon D80
Small but powerful, the latest Nikon D-SLR offers a lot at an affordable price
Much of my photography involves walking the streets of Los Angeles, looking at light, shapes and people, and searching for that special combination of just the right elements that make a memorable photograph. Carrying a huge pro-end D-SLR isn't necessary, though it may do wonders for my ego. Instead, a smaller camera with key features like those found in the new Nikon D80 often provides just the tools I need.
Measuring only 5.2x4.1x3.0 inches, the camera makes me much more inconspicuous than when using a pro camera. This is particularly helpful when I'm approaching people on the street. Whether I'm using the 18-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G or my trusty 50mm lens, I find people are much less intimidated by my desire to take their photograph with this less-conspicuous camera.
More importantly, however, the D80 provides the features and controls that I really need to consistently produce sharp photographs with accurate exposures, even under the most demanding shooting conditions.
Having shot with Nikon since the mid-'80s, I've come to appreciate its ergonomic designs. The various buttons and controls are easily accessible, whether I'm holding the camera vertically or horizontally. Frequently used controls for white balance, ISO, autofocus and exposure compensation are at my fingertips, eliminating the need to repeatedly return to the 2.5-inch LCD to make necessary changes to those all-important settings.
The large viewfinder, which is similar to the one found in the D200, makes a huge difference for me when framing my shots, as compared to D-SLRs with much smaller viewfinders. As I try to achieve my final crop in-camera rather than later in Photoshop, the large screen is a welcome bonus. I've really come to trust the 3D Color Matrix II metering system found in Nikon cameras. It produces amazingly accurate results, even under the most complicated lighting situations. Nevertheless, it was still good to see the expanded histogram view during playback that allows me to review all three color channels. That gave me the security of knowing that I wasn't clipping any of my highlights, a very important aspect of shooting digitally.