Nikon CoolPix P80
Competent advanced camera with great zoom lens
- Great lens, sharp pictures
- Slow to use, high ISOs relatively useless
The P80 from Nikon is an advanced camera with a very capable zoom lens. It’s not as fast as the majority of other advanced cameras we’ve looked at, but the images it captures are rich and sharp.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
Nikon's Coolpix P80 is an advanced compact digital camera with an 18x zoom lens and some other useful features. It's not a particularly fast camera but it can take great photographs.
The P80 is quite bulky. It certainly won't be fitting into any pockets, but thankfully Nikon provides a full neck strap to secure the unit. There's no automatic lens cap built in, but Nikon provides a removable one. It fits on easily and can be attached to the body with a cord, but there isn't any way to clip it to the lens.
The lens is this unit's key attraction. From a relatively wide 27mm to an incredibly long 478mm, the P80 can be used in almost every situation. Focusing was generally trouble-free, and the camera was easily able to decide which elements to focus on.
The P80's menus are intuitive and simple to use; advanced options can be accessed from a dedicated setting on the shooting mode dial. There are plenty of options to be found in the advanced settings menu, including an ISO range from 64 all the way up to 6400. This is an incredibly high ISO for a consumer-focused camera; it may not be ideal for the vast majority of situations, but its inclusion certainly isn't a negative.
The speed of the P80 is a little uninspiring. From a cold start, it takes around 3sec from pressing the power button to an image being captured. When the camera is already on, focusing and capturing an image at minimum zoom takes a full 1.1sec — which can be agonisingly slow for sports and candid photos. Time between successive single shots was around 2.5sec, largely due to a slow SD card writing speed. When set to continuous shooting mode without flash, images were captured at approximately 1.3 frames per second.
When shooting, you can choose between the LCD and the P80's viewfinder — which uses a small LCD screen rather than an optical frame. These aren't particularly sharp, which means that sometimes you simply have to trust that the camera is focused on the correct object. The LCD is otherwise good, performing well under direct light and maintaining its colour from wide viewing angles.
To test the camera's image quality we took several standard photos and ran them through the Imatest image processing. Colour reproduction was the strongest point for the P80 — it was accurate and balanced without being bland and unsaturated; the results were generally on par with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX520 that we looked at recently. Picture sharpness is another solid plus for this unit. From minimum to maximum zoom, we were pleased to find that pictures were consistently crisp, with fine detail easily distinguishable when examining photos.
Performance using the different ISO ranges varies. The smart setting allows the ISO to vary automatically between 64 and 400 — this is a safe setting to leave it on for everyday use. Manual settings of up to 6400 are available, but in an everyday situation the high settings will introduce noticeable blurriness because of the on-board noise reduction software.
It may not be the fastest advanced compact on the market, but the P80 excels when it comes to capturing crisp, vibrant pictures both up close and at long distances.
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