The period between the middle of August and the middle of September this year was a busy time in the camera business. In just four weeks Canon, Olympus, Pentax and Nikon all announced new 10-megapixel semi-pro digital SLRs that were so closely matched in specification as to make choosing between them nearly impossible. Add to this the Sony Alpha A100 which was launched two months previously and you can see that Summer 2006 was a hectic few months in the DSLR market.
I reviewed the Sony A100 back in June a few days after its official European launch, and I took a look at the impressive Olympus E-400 two weeks ago. I’m hoping to review the Canon EOS 400D next week, and samples of the Pentax K10D aren’t yet available for review, so today I’m casting a critical eye over the new Nikon D80.
The relative pricing of these competing cameras is interesting. In a kit with a standard zoom lens the Olympus E-400 is available for around £660, the Sony A100 for around £500, the Canon EOS 400D is about £490 and the Pentax K10D is available for pre-order at £700. The Nikon D80 is priced at around £700 bundled with an AF-S DX 18-70mm F3.5-4.5 lens, making it one of most expensive of its current peer group. Given that it’s up against some very stiff competition, especially from the Pentax with its weatherproof body and anti-shake system, is it really worth the money?
If all that was required to sell a camera were first impressions, the answer would be an unequivocal “yes”. Although in terms of size and weight the D80 is closer to the D50, in terms of specification, performance and overall feel it is closer to the D200, something that will be welcomed by enthusiasts.
Without its lens or battery the D80 weighs in at a chunky 585g, 30g more than the Sony A100, 75g more than the Canon 400D and a massive 210g heavier than the Olympus E-400. However the weight is well balanced and the camera feels reassuringly solid and steady. Measuring 132 x 103 x 77mm the body is just a few millimetres larger than the D50. It has a plastic shell over what is presumably a magnesium alloy or aluminium frame, and as one might expect at this price level the build quality is superb.
The battery hatch is metal, the card hatch has metal hinges and spring, and the connection ports and remote control connector are covered by tight-fitting dust proof rubber plugs. While the D80 lacks the environmental seals of the D200 or the Pentax K10D, it is certainly tough enough to survive professional use outdoors.