The story begins in a dark, lonely night...the sky is raining cats and dogs...and lightning strikes heavily here and there...suddenly the phone rings...
...it was my friend's father who calls. I bought the camera on behalf of a friend's father in Johor, Malaysia in Nov 2000. I was able to own and play around with this little hot camera for a few days before passing it to a friend to bring back to Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia (my friend's father lives in Kuching). The colour that I bought is in black colour, personally I find the champagne colour looks for attractive and nice to me. Black colour has more pro looks, thus not very easy to differentiate from the consumer lever F60 from far...ha...need to note that black colour model should cost less than the champagne colour one, although I pay the same price as for the champagne colour. According to the shop, earlier model having price difference for different colour, but later Nikon standardize the price to make them the same (ha...not sure if that's true...).
F80 is sure a hot cake when it is first released (Oct 2000). Many places have hard time having this camera available, including United Stated. Here in Malaysia, the camera can be obtained easily, but then it is hard to bargain as demand is high. Usual price for a F80 model should be at RM1550, date version will need RM100 extra, data back version will be around RM400 extra. Retail price is about RM1800 for the simplest model, and the one I pay is at RM1750 for the F80D. Should be able to bargain till RM1650...
What so exciting about F80? I am really blessed enough to have F100 in hand comparing side by side with the F80. F80 is really a features rich camera. It is a great starter kit for those who wants to get serious into photography. It has all the important features that F100 has, e.g.: electronic DOF preview, 5 points focusing, thumb pad (some call it the Nintendo pad), custom functions, multiple exposures, 3 metering systems...etc. The features in F80 is even much more than F90X alone without MF21. F80 is no doubt a scale down model of F100...some call it the baby F100, and F100 is the baby F5 (can I call F80 then the grandson F5?). At less than RM2000, one can get almost all the necessary features that offers by F100...so why not? Spend RM2k and get the F80S that can imprint data (exposure value) in between frames, so you are more advance than the F100 alone!
One feature that F80 shines out F100 or F5 is the on demand grid line function. This is not available even in F100 or F5. It is the first Nikon that having this function. It is really useful as one doesn't have to change screen to get the grid line on for landscape photography or other type of situations where vertical or horizontal alignment is essential. This can save money buying extra screens too, as Nikon screen is nowhere cheap. Need to note that F80's screen is not interchangeable, thus no other screen is provided as accessory for F80. Anyhow, why need to change screen?
Why not F80?
Although F80 is a camera that really rich in features, but it is still not the camera for me. 2 very important reason is:
1. Can't meter with manual lenses
Although F80 still uses the same F lens mount, but it doesn't have the electronic rangefinder if you mount a non AF lens onto this body. Same as if you mount an extension tube, bellows or non AF tele-convertor. This is really a big minus for me...as I like the vastly available 2nd hand Nikkor lenses in the market, and using extension tube for close-up.
2. The feel of it...
When holding F80 in hand, the feel is not right...the camera seems too small for me to hold firmly, and the Nintendo pad is not in the right position for my thumb. I do have large hands and long fingers, so this might apply for me only. F80 is a small camera, even smaller than my F60. My fourth and fifth fingers are can't hold the camera firmly, when grabbing the F80 in hand. Other than size, the elegant feel in F80 is no where. F80 feels like a toy rather than an expensive imaging equipment. This might due to its light weight and size.
F80 and F100...
When comparing F80 to F100, they are never the same. F80 is smaller, lighter and lack the solid/confident feel inside. In terms of features, they might be the same, but when comes to use, you will definitely notice the feel is not right. It is very similar to F100 but not F100. This should be or else Nikon will face problem in selling F100.
F80 with Lens
Holding F80 alone without lens makes me feel the camera is really too small...and light. However, after mounting a lens to it, the Nikon feel is back. The camera is ok for me to hold without having the feel that I might drop it anytime! This is mainly because my left hand is holding onto the lens that's give the confident in me. So, size and weight is not really a problem if using F80 with moderate size lens (zoom lens).
The screen of F80 is actually control and govern by the camera itself, as without battery inserted, the screen is a bit dim, after inserting the batteries, the screen becomes brighter. Ha...that would also means that the camera is eating away your batteries if you just leave it there...
On the Field
I didn't test the F80 in field, as the camera is not belongs to me, thus not right for me to use it. However, I do have a friend who owns a F80 + Sigma 28-105mm lens. From the photos he shown me, the metering of F80 seems very accurate. For flash photography, the F80 give very pleasant results. I am very impressed at the indoor flash photos that my friend took with his F80 and build in flash. Need to re-clarify here, I didn't run film through F80 myself, thus I can only judge its metering accuracy from photos taken by my friend, and this might not be very accurate.
Built in Flash
F80 built in flash guide number is the least powerful among F60 and F70. F60 has the most powerful guide number among the three. Anyhow, it is still pretty handy if one doesn't like to bring an external flash around. One thing to note is that the newer F65 has the automatic pops up flash (Nikon is getting more and more Canon alike...), which haven been incorporated into F80.
One very nice accessory that F80 is having is the battery pack. F60 and F70 users will know how expensive lithium CR123 battery can cost up to...especially if using the built in flash extensively. Battery pack for F80 uses commonly available AA size battery, which means that one can also use the rechargeable AA size battery in F80. Get the battery pack as it does not only give the extra battery power and convenient, but also give better feel and more firmly hold to F80.
F80 Compares to F60 and F70
F80 is definitely a better camera than F60, so if one has enough money and thinking of getting F60, then better think again...and again...and again...till changing his/her mind. F80 is everywhere a better camera than F60, or should I be more moderate...F60 is better in built quality (made in Japan compares to F80 made in Thailand), and better feel in hand (larger and heavier). Still, with the richly features that F80 offers...it is still a better buy.
When comparing F80 to F70, I would say F80 still wins out a bit. Why I say a bit? Because F80 lacks the very important 'ability to meter with manual lenses'. Nikon really should have put in this electronic rangefinder for manual lenses in F80, then it will become the perfect camera for beginner. In other aspect, F80 wins out F70 in everywhere. Oh yeah...F70 is made in Japan compare to F80 made in Thailand...if you mind...as I do mind...
F80 is supplied with a wide strap nowadays. I noticed that in early batch, Nikon still gives the AN-7 (small strap) for the F80 camera. However, the F80 that I bought is having a wider strap, model not known, but the wording is printed and not sewing. Anyhow, still I think it is better that the AN-7 strap so it worth mentioning...
Is This the Camera for YOU?
If you have RM2k
If you will only purchase AF lenses (MF lens is more expensive...and not so available new, or you are good in estimating exposure yourself...)
If you are not interested in using extension tube or bellows
If you are not hard or fierce user
If you are a beginner that admires Canon users who gets all the fancy features in their not so expensive Canon...
then the answer is YES!
Updated (12th April 2001): I have some very nice pics of Tokina ATX PRO 28-80mm f/2.8 lens mounted on the Nikon F80. If you are interested...take a look at my Tokina ATX PRO 280 page.