Nikon Coolpix P80 Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
With such an extraordinary zoom range in a small body, there are compromises to be expected. It is easy to understand that the lens' short length for an 18X zoom implies that the sensor being it must be very small. This is how they get the FLM sufficiently large to reach 486mm. Despite this, technological advancements have improved lens designs to the point where the P80's lens is reasonably sharp and controls distortion quite well except at wide-angle. At wide-angle, the Nikon Coolpix P80 exhibits high barrel distortion.
The smaller an image sensor, the higher it tends to output noisy pixels. Higher image noise is normally dealt with using stronger noise reduction. The P80 shows a good deal of both as ISO is increased just passed the baseline. Images are clear and show little noise at ISO 64 and 100. 200 is notably noisier but without impacting image quality much. By ISO 400 though, noise reduction becomes destructive and visibly destroys image details. A side effect of the noise-reduction used in the Nikon Coolpix P80 is a color shift which gradually gets worst from ISO 400 onwards. As such, we would not recommend using the P80 any setting past ISO 400. Even ISO 400 should be only reserved for emergencies.
Ignoring the color distortion which appears at high ISO, the Nikon P80 produces reasonably accurate image colors with above average white-balance. The automatic white-balance system, in particular, is quite accurate although takes time to settle. The auto white-balance takes 1 to 2 seconds to get the color temperature right. This is directly visible on the LCD while framing. Within a few seconds of framing a subject, colors become quite neutral. All is not perfect though as dominant colors throw off the AWB system. Therefore, photographers should set white-balance manually when taking pictures with a colored background.
The Nikon Coolpix P80 features 4 metering modes: matrix, center-weighed, spot and spot-AF. The spot metering modes behave as expected with one of them using the frame-center and the other using the AF point to meter its mid-tone. The P80 is helpful here in that it shows the spot or center area being used. The default metering mode is Matrix metering which is expected to produce pleasing results under most circumstances. Unfortunately, the Nikon Coolpix P80 relies too much on the frame center for its Matrix metering thus making overexposure very common. Since we have seen this before from consumer-centric cameras, lets call this Consumer metering from now on. What this does it make sure a subject placed in the center of the frame is itself well exposed. When the background is brighter than the main subject, the background becomes over-exposed. Photographers know that this rarely works out to make a good picture as a bright background is distracting to viewers which weakens the subject. This digital camera captures less dynamic range than most which makes things worse when it cannot exposure properly.
Operating performance of the Nikon Coolpix P80 is a mixed bag. The camera is generally responsive except that button presses are often ignored while the camera is busy. Startup is slow at around 3s, shutdown is fast though. Focusing speeds vary considerably. In good light, near the wide-end of the zoom, the P80 focuses quickly. Near the telephoto end, focusing gets much slower, even worse in low light where it can take several seconds to lock. The zoom controller is fast but not fine-grained. Dials used to change parameters keep up well with the user.
Full-resolution continuous drive is slow and not very continuous: It shoots a maximum of 4 images at less than 1 FPS. This is faster than the shot-to-shot speed of the P80, which is around 3s. Both 2s and 10s self-timer resets themselves after each use. It is rather annoying for the 2s self-timer to do that. The self-timers are also reset when either the mode-dial is rotated or playback more is entered. After a customizable time-out, the P80 enters sleep mode which it wakes up very quickly from once the shutter-release is pressed.
It is fun to have a stabilized wide-angle 18X optical zoom lens. It is even more fun when it fits in a coat pocket or small pouch. This is truly what the Nikon Coolpix P80 is about. While it performs reasonably in some areas, and the lens is good for such a long range, this ultra-zoom has image quality problems which are hard to ignore given the competition.
On the bright side, the P80's lens is an achievement in itself, it stays relatively sharp and shows few optical defects other than barrel distortion near its wide end. As long as ISO is kept low, this camera captures accurate colors and its automatic white-balance system is above average. Speed of operation has some good sides like short shutter-lag, quick LCD refresh and fast auto focus in good light towards the zoom's wide-end. Unfortunately shot-to-shot speeds are quite long and focusing can go to over 2 seconds at the telephoto end.
The most serious limitation is destructive image noise reduction performed by the camera which both destroys image details and causes colors to shift from ISO 400 onward. Other serious problems such as the tendency to over-exposure, nearly unusable EVF, poor viewfinder coverage and limited dynamic range really get in the way of taking great pictures with the Nikon Coolpix P80.
Competition includes the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 which also suffers from destructive noise reduction and limited dynamic range but performs quickly and is easier to operate. There is also the Fuji Finxpix S8000fd which has equally poor LCD and EVF coverage as the P80 but performs faster and produces higher quality images. So, while both Fuji and Panasonic had to compromise too for their 18X ultra-zoom digital cameras, the managed to produce better overall cameras.
Nikon P80 Facts
|10 Megapixels Ultra Zoom||ISO 64-2000|
|18X Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-8s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls|
|0.24" Built-in EVF 230K Pixels||Custom white-balance|
|0.8 FPS Drive, 4 Images||Spot-Metering|
|640x480 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|2.7" LCD 230K Pixels||Secure Digital High Capacity|
Panasonic Lumix GX850 Review
Highly compact mirrorless with 16 MP Four-Thirds CMOS sensor capable of 4K Ultra-HD video. Fast 10 FPS drive and 1/16000s-60s hybrid shutter. 4K Output for 30 FPS bursts, Post Focus and built-in Focus Stacking.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Review
Olympus professional Micro Four-Thirds mirrorless with 20 MP sensor, built-in 5-axis Image-Stabilization, 121-Point Phase-Detect and Contrast Detect AF, 60 FPS Drive, 18 FPS with Continuous AF, Ultra-HD and Cinema 4K Video. Large built-in 2.4 MP 0.45" EVF with 100% Coverage, 0.74X magnification and Eye-Start Sensor in a freezeproof and weatherproof body with dual control-dials.
Fujifilm GFX-50S In-Depth Review
In-depth review of the Fujifilm GFX-50S Medium Format Mirrorless Digital Camera, a groundbreaking 50 megapixels camera with large 44x33mm sensor and unique modular EVF system. ISO 50-102400 range, 3 FPS drive and 1080p video.
Fujinon GFX Lens Roundup
Roundup of reviews for GFX Medium Format Mirrorless lenses: Fujinon GF 23mm F/4R LM WR, GF 32-64mm F/4R LM WR and GF 110mm F/2R LM WR.
Nikon D500 Review
Full-review of the ultimate Nikon flagship APS-C DSLR. The Nikon D500 offers a new 20 MP CMOS sensor with incredible ISO 50-1638400, 10 FPS, 4K Ultra-HD and a 153-Point Phase-Detect AF system sensitive to -4 EV. Built for professionals into a weatherproof body with dual control-dials and large 100% coverage viewfinder with built-in shutter.
DxO ViewPoint 3 Review
Review of DxO ViewPoint 3. Perspective, distortion and horizon correction software.
Nikon D5 XQD Review
Nikon flagship professional DSLR with 20 megapixels Full-Frame CMOS sensor. All-new 153-point Phase-Detect AF sensitive to -4 EV. ISO 50 to unprecedented 3,276,800! 12 FPS Drive for 200 JPEGs or 180 RAW. First Nikon DSLR with 4K Ultra HD video.
Olympus Professional Lens Roundup
Roundup of Olympus Professional and Premium lenses: M.Zuiko 7-14mm F/2.8 PRO, M.Zuiko 12-40mm F/2.8 PRO, M.Zuiko 40-150mm F/2.8 PRO, M.Zuiko 12mm F/2, M.Zuiko 60mm F/2.8 Macro.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Review
Olympus second generation base OM-D with an anti-alias-filter-free 16 MP Four-Thirds CMOS sensor mounted on a 5-axis in-body stabilization system. Speedy 8.5 FPS drive, full HD @ 60 FPS and a wealth of features in a compact and lightweight body. Offers a 2.4 MP 0.45" EVF with 0.62X magnification and 100% coverage, plus dual control-dials and a highly customizable interface.
Fuji X-Pro2 Review
Fuji flagship XF-mount mirrorless with 24 MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor. 273-Point AF with 169 Phase-Detect points. 8 FPS Drive, 1080p video. Dual control-dials, direct dials and a hybrid viewfinder in a weather-sealed freezeproof body.