Nikon has rectified nearly all complaints users generated with the N65 by the introduction of the Nikon N80. This same body is called the F80 outside the US. Introduced in 2000, this model is one step up from the N65 in the Nikon line. While still clothed a plastic housing it offers a more substantial feel in the photographer's hands. Combined with Nikon's excellent line of ED lenses and plentiful accessories, the N80 is the camera for all but the professional photographer.
The N80 is the least expensive Nikon to include custom settings. 18 options are user selectable, allowing invaluable control over the behavior of the camera. Memorization of these 18 functions, named unassumingly 1-18, is impossible let alone recall of each possible sub-option. User selectable gridlines and the self-timer length are two that I modify frequently. I found by creating a memo on my Palm Pilot, I have the complete textual description of these functions readily available.
Auto bracketing is the feature that really made me drool over this camera. Set an amount to bracket exposure by and hold down the shutter release. The N80 will fire off a set of three shots, one on metered exposure and the other two above and below by the desired amount. As a slide film user, I find this feature fantastic.
The metering system is excellent and rarely disappoints. In all but the contrastiest scenes this system will meter for correct exposure. 3D, center-weighted and spot metering are the available on the N80. The lowest body of the Nikon line to offer spot metering.
Two command wheels, versus one on lower Nikon models may require some time to adjust to; though, a photographer will find it a pleasure to easily manipulate shutter and aperture settings simultaneously. The specific function of each wheel is can be changed via the custom settings.
The N80 is also offers a continuous focusing mode found only on higher-level Nikon SLR's. This is extremely helpful in any scene involving a moving subject. Though promoted as a feature for sports photographers, I have found it invaluable in a multitude of situations as a nature and travel photographer.
Selectable focusing areas make the N80 very easy to use. By simply nudging a thumb-switch on the back of the film door, one of 5 auto-focus zones can be designated. In comparison, the N65 focuses only in the center of the frame and the user must recompose the shot. Manual focus is also a setting I use often.
This is likely one of the last bodies produced by Nikon to offers the simple mechanical remote shutter release cable. The N65 and F100 both require a wireless remote control. These newer versions induce the need for more batteries and potential for breakdown. The inexpensive mechanical shutter release has become a favorite of mine for nearly all tripod-based shots.
As with all models above, the N80 has eliminated the sports, night, scenic and close-up modes, forcing the user to make adjustments for specific situations. Having owned the N65 for a couple of years, I never used these preset functions. The N80 retains programmed auto exposure, shutter or aperture priority and the fully manual modes.
With only 92% viewfinder coverage I would appreciate more as is found in the F100 (96%) and F5 (100%). Even the digital SLR's by Nikon, with the exception of the D2H, have not reached the 100% viewfinder coverage. There is an optional batter pack grip, allowing the use of 4 AA batteries instead of the 2-CR123A's; though, the N80 is not a battery hog. The only problems are that this grip does not include a vertical shutter release and Really Right Stuff does not make a plate for it.
This body combines the best of economy and features and has been known as the camera for 99% of photographers, 99% of the time. Until I make the jump to digital, this body will be trekking with me around the globe. To learn more about photography, check out photo.net.