Nikon F80 35mm AF SLR Camera

Nikon F80, Top 35mm AF SLR Pick

Nikon F80 (N80) 35mm AF SLR Camera

'Film Camera Review - A quick look at the Nikon F80 (N80), the top 35mm AF SLR film camera pick for the photo enthusiast who already owns Nikon FX lenses' 


Introduction and Overview

If you already own or have one or more Nikon FX lenses in your collection, and would like to delve into the wonderful world of fun and art in film photography, then the natural choice of a 35mm AF SLR film camera that you should go for is the Nikon F80 (N80 in the US), or any of the other two siblings, the F80D (N80D), or F80S (N80S).

Nikon F80, AF Nikkor 50mm F1.8D
The F80's, one of the most advanced of Nikon's SLR cameras, were launched as a high-end enthusiast model in January 2000, to succeed the F-801s (N8008s), which it replaces.

The technology of the camera was based on the highly successful Nikon F100 but comes sans the weather sealing and the shade of ruggedness that one often associates with the former.

Three versions of the F80 are available, the standard F80, the F80D, which has a different back with date imprint functions, and the F80S which adds imprinting of exposure data information between the film frames to the date imprint capability.

My thoughts/review on the Nikon F80
This option of using the F80 as your SLR film camera, though, comes with a caveat. While the camera works with all Nikon autofocus lenses including the G type lenses with full aperture control, the F80 does not have the 'Manual' Servo Selector option, meaning that the F80 cannot accept many pre-AI, and all IX lenses (these cannot be mounted on the F80 without causing damage).

Older non-CPU AI and AIS lenses can still be mounted on the F80, but exposure must be set manually as the camera will not meter through them at all. If you are looking for the capability of using manual focus lenses on AF Nikon SLR film cameras, look for a pair of earlier models, the F90 or F90x, and the F801 or F801S, a model introduced as a bridge between the F90 and the F80.

The two cameras, the F100 and F80, together with the midrange F75 (N75) were the last of Nikon's 35mm SLR film cameras before Nikon went digital. The F80 was also the basis for the development of the D100 digital SLR, FinePix S2 Pro and S3 Pro by Fujifilm, and Kodak DCS Pro 14n and DCS Pro SLR/n by Eastman Kodak.


The Nikon F80

Though it is of an all plastic body with a metal lens mount, but with a form factor that is closer to a compact camera than that of a bulky SLR, the F80 feels packed and solid in the hand, and with its fuss-free design and a simple working interface, it should be a delight to be the owner of one.

With a body weight of only 520 grams for the F80D, the camera is a definite yes in the gear carrying department. Just as well, with its well-damped and surprisingly quiet mirror slap/shutter actuation, the F80 could just be there to steal the show.

Nikon F80, Front

On the front, just below the power/shutter release button situated on top of the hand grip, is the exposure sub-command dial. Next, in the recess between the hand grip and lens housing mount is the DoF (Depth of Field) preview button located below the Self-Timer/AF Assist Illuminator/Red-Eye Reduction lamp.

The lens housing mount is a fair proportion of the smallish body, and to the right of it, on the lower part of the body, the Focus Mode Selector, and above it, the lens release button.

Nikon F80, Top

On the top plane, at the extreme left, are the film advance mode setting with a lock button release, the PASM programme mode, integrated with the Exposure Mode/Custom Setting/Film ISO Speed selector dial. On top of the pentaprism is the button release built-in flash unit, and the additional hot-shoe for external flash units.

To the right, the LCD unit, and on the hump of the finger grip, the Shutter Release Button, Power On/Off switch, Exposure Compensation button, and Flash Exposure Compensation button. An LCD Illuminator Switch, which also doubles up as one the Film Rewind buttons is right on the shoulder of the top plate.

Nikon F80, F80D back

On the back of the top plane, from left to right, is the Auto Exposure Bracketing button, Flash Sync Mode button, which is also the other half of the twin Film Rewind button system. On the back of the pentaprism hump, a decent size viewfinder window. To its right is the AE-L/AF-L lock button, integrated with the Metering System Selector dial.

Just where your thumb rest is the Main Command Dial, used in conjunction with all mode selections options available on the F80.

On the film back itself, the Focus Area Selector dial on a compass point jog wheel, and for 80D version, the Date Imprint LCD panel, and just below it, the AF Area Mode Selector.

Nikon F80, Bottom


A very simple bottom with a ribbed surface, a tripod socket, and the battery chamber cover.

Nikon F80, Film box

A single latch lock mechanism opens up the quick load film box. Film loading is easy and fuss-free. WIth the camera power On, open the film back, insert the film canister into its bay, pull the film tab firm across the film frame mechanism up to the right index mark, and close the back. The cameras auto modes will take over from there.

Film rewind at the end of the roll can be set to be automatic, or manual, by pressing the 2-rewind icon buttons on the camera body simultaneously.


Basic Camera Operation

As with modern cameras that are electronically ahead of their all-manual counterparts of yesteryears, the F80 is equally competent at all the functions and tasks it can do. As a general overview the following bullet points may show you the areas to address and give emphasis to as you read through the instruction manual:

  • Pop-up flash - The F80 is fitted with a pop-up flash, called 'Speedlight' by Nikon, which provides an angle coverage of a 28mm lens with a guide number of 12 (ISO 100, m).
  • Film advance modes - Selectable Single and Continuous film advance modes. When using Continuous Servo AF mode with C film advance mode, the F80 delivers a film advance speed of approximately 2.5 fps.
  • Two Command Dials - The Main-Command Dial is used to select the shutter speed when using Shutter-Priority Auto or Manual, and a range of other camera settings. The Sub-Command Dial allows you to select aperture with Aperture-Priority Auto or Manual. Custom Setting #12 lets you switch the functions of the two Command Dials.
  • Exposure System - The F80 comes with a fully programmed automatic exposure system, with a shutter speed range from 30-second to 1/8000-second, with B, and 1/250-second flash synchronization.
  • Exposure Programme Modes - Standard, as most of us know it by now, are the Exposure Programme Modes as provided for on the F80, which are Auto Multi-Program (P), Shutter-Priority (S), Aperture-Priority (A), and Fully Manual (M). 
  • Metering - The metering system is a choice of Matrix Metering with a 10 segment Matrix Sensor or 3D Matric Metering with Nikon D or G lenses, Center-Weighted Metering with emphasis on the 12mm diameter circle in the viewfinder, and Spot-Metering where the metering sensitivity in concentrated on selected focus areas of the viewfinder.
  • Autofocus Mode - Autofocusing selection is provided for by 2 options, Single Servo AF with Focus-Priority (S), and Continuous Servo AF with Release Priority (C). The D80D does not provide for a Manual Focus (M) option.
  • AF Area Modes - AF area mode selection can be set to Single Area AF, which uses only the selected focus area of the viewfinder, or Dynamic AF, which provides for accurate focusing with subjects that move irregularly.
  • Custom Setting - The F80 provides for a myriad of custom setting that will help you to get the better of the camera. All in all, 18 options are available for the F80D (19 on the F80S). This includes setting for Automatic film rewind at the end of film roll (#1), to AF-Assist Illuminator activation (#18).

Close enough, you might say, and as easy to handle as the DSLR that you are currently using.


LCD Panel

The LCD panel, located on the right of the top plane, is aft of the Shutter Release button, Power On/Off button, Exposure Compensation and Flash Exposure Compensation buttons oval which is located on top of the hand grip, displays all the relevant info on the mode settings for the camera.

These include Shutter Speed/Exposure Compensation value, Flash Exposure compensation, Exposure compensation, Flexible Program, DX indicator, Flash sync mode, Bracketing bar graphs, Aperture, Custom Setting, Battery power, Film frame counter, Focus area, and Auto Exposure Bracketing.


Viewfinder Readout

The F80 is the first Nikon camera to feature on-demand grid lines. You can set this on by accessing option (#4) on the custom menu setting.

Aside from the on-demand grid display, the screen is also etched with a 12mm diameter reference circle for Center-Weighted Metering area, and Focus Brackets which also acts as Spot Metering areas.

The focus brackets, North, South, East, West, and Central, are controlled by the Focus Area Selector jog-wheel located on the film back.

Along the lower part of the viewfinder display is the LCD panel (with built-in illuminator) that displays the DX indication, Shutter Speed/Exposure Compensation value, Aperture, Exposure Compensation, Flash Exposure Compensation, Auto Exposure Bracketing, Bracketing bar graphs, Custom, Flexible Program, Flash Sync mode, AF Area mode, Focus area, Battery power, Film Frame counter, and towards the right, the Flash Ready icon.

The viewfinder is fitted with diopter correction.


Data Back

The F80D and F80S allow you to imprint Year/Month/Day, Day/Hour/Minute (24-hour clock), Month/Day/Year or Day/Month/Year on your picture. This can be done in any exposure mode.


Battery

The Nikon F80 requires a pair of CR123A Lithium battery packs to operate.


Instruction Manual

The English version of the F80, F80S, F80D shared instruction manual, which you can download from NikonSupport.EU, is a hefty 115 pages booklet. Take your time to study the pages and elevate yourself to that of a 'guru' of the F80.


The Clinker

Against all the criticisms, brickbats and head butts levelled at the Nikon F80, where most are centered solely on the fact that the camera does not do metering on dated manual focus lenses, I still have no qualms in claiming that the F80D, the unit I was using, with AF Nikkor lenses, is among the top 35mm AF SLR film cameras that I have reviewed and used, bar none.

Nikon F80 kit

A pair of CR123A's to operate the camera? Yes, that could be another clinker but the batteries are not that hard to find. And the effect of using manual AI Nikkor lenses on the F80? Do not use it on the D80, you will have no benefit of any metering at all.


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