Hands-on with the Nikon D80

Take the ultra professional Nikon D200, add a touch of beginner friendliness from the Nikon D50 and this is what you get: the D80 that Nikon’s been hy

Take the ultra professional Nikon D200, add a touch of beginner friendliness from the Nikon D50 and this is what you get: the D80 that Nikon’s been hyping for the past fortnight.

We were lucky enough to have a hands-on play with this new flagship camera yesterday, and – after we got over the lack of anti-shake, GPS and x-ray vision – came away impressed.

The big deal, though Nikon will tell you it’s about the ‘whole package’, is the sensor. It’s a new DX format one, specifically designed for this cam, and it’s capable of snapping 10.2MP images. That’s good enough for even the most zealous poster printer or arty cropper.

Though we only got a look at snaps using the new 2.5in LCD – brighter than the D70’s, incidentally – the pics looked promising. Red eye reduction was particularly cool. Even shooting faces with flash from a foot away produced natural-looking blue, grey and brown eyes, which we like.

Build quality felt solid, too, certainly a step up from the rather plasticky-feeling Sony Alpha that’s just arrived at Stuff towers. Obviously, the D80’s made from plastic, too, but it feels better.

What else to report? Well, it comes with a beginner-friendly seven scene modes like the D50/70 – unusual for such a pro cam – and it also takes the bold step of ditching Compact Flash for SDHC cards. They max out at 4GB right now, but Nikon’s hoping they’ll increase sharpish.

Drawing up alongside the D80 are a pair of new lenses - an 18-135mm DX Zoom jobbie (£300) and a pricier 70-300mm VR Zoom (£400) – and a plug-in battery pack that can add two extra rechargeable batteries, tripling battery life.

All told, this looks a tasty upgrade from the likes of the Canon 350D and the Nikon D70, without the killer price tag of a wedding photographer’s professional camera. Not sold already? Nikon will send you a 512MB SD card if you pre-order this month.

Nikon D80

Price: £950 with 18-135mm DX Zoom lens, £700 body only

On sale: Early September

Contact: Nikon

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