Caveat; When shooting with a film camera, I use a Nikon F4s and a Contax G. (I formerly used a Nikon F5 for years) Point is, I’m not a big user of “lower end” Nikon cameras. Or any other brand ‘consumer’ cameras. They are just too much trouble when it comes to features, operation and everyday ease of use. Especially if you’re doing a job. They’re like little “make believe” cameras to me.
OK. When I’m wrong, I’ll say I’m wrong. That said, that little toy camera inference does apply to the N50, N65, N75, N2000, (F-301), etc., etc., etc. (and probably to their consumer level digitals) While I do understand Nikon’s marketing of cameras to soccer mom’s and grandma’s, I thought it always cheapened the marque. But, hey,…I’m not a CEO of a major corporation, and I certainly understand the logic behind making money. And the F80 definitely schooled me.
Nikon F80/N80 Still A Bargain
However, with the introduction of the F80/N80, Nikon hit it out of the park. But I’m amazed how people will spend more and more money on film equipment, and not blink an eye at prices rising on FM2n’s and Contax T2’s, yet let this little Nikon gem wallow in obscurity. With prices that reflect that general public disdain. Yeah, the F100 is definitely above the F80. But not by much. When originally released, it was called “the poor man’s F100.” (and the F100 was “the poor man’s” F5 🙄)
Let’s first get something out of the way. The US market N80 and rest of the world F80 are EXACTLY the same camera. Personally, I think Nikon did that to promote “prestige” by separating the “real photographers” from the amateurs. I love Nikon. But I think that was a jerk thing to do. My opinion. They certainly weren’t going to allow the more profitable F100’s to be confused with the lowly N80 crowd. (end of rant)
I’ll be first to admit the build quality is not up to the professional F5,…or even F100. But while it is not “weather sealed”,…neither is the F100. (the F5 is) And while the F100 is full metal under that skin, the F80’s plastic is quite sturdy. It also has a metal tripod mount, available battery pack, (MB-16) and was built in Thailand like most Nikon cameras today. Plus it sports a built in flash. (missing on an F100) But the best thing I can do is just give you the comparisons with it’s closest semi-pro camera, the F100. The amount of features they share even amazed me.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
The Bad; (for some photographers)
- The F100 does exposure compensation in 1/3 stops. The F80 is 1/2 stops.
- The F100 can meter with manual focus (AI and AIS) lenses, the F80 can’t. (you can use them,…just must use stop down metering)
- The F80’s top frame rate is 2.5 fps. (without MB-16) The F100 is 5 fps.
- The F100 has a max shutter speed of 1/8000. The F80 is 1/4000 max.
- The viewfinder of the F80 is 92% of the frame. The F100 is 96% of the frame. (that’s crappy,…for both)
- The F100 uses AA batteries, and the F80 uses two CR123A or DL123A lithium batteries.
- The F100’s flash sync is 1/250. The F80 is 1/125.
- The F100 auto rewind is about 5 seconds faster. (whatever)
- The F100 has a PC sync terminal, the F80 does not. (most people use wireless triggers for strobe anyway)
While I marked it “the bad”, fact is there are lots of cameras, both high end Nikon and other brands, with worse specs.
- The F100 weight is 27.7 ounces. The F80 is 18.2 ounces. (without batteries)
- The F80 has a built-in flash. (GN 40 ft) A little wimpy, but better than a stick in the eye.
- Cost. I’ve actually found mint F80/N80’s for $15! Don’t even waste your time trying to match that with even a broken F100.
- The F80 accepts a manual cable release. On the F100, you have to buy that sometimes expensive 10 pin doo-dad to do the same thing.
- The F80 has “on-demand” grid lines in the viewfinder!
- That stupid “chrome” release button. (my aesthetics)
- Punishing US customers with an ‘N’ designation. (my pet peeve)
- Forcing Kodak’s first full frame digital to use the F80, and banning them from using the F5. (Kodak 14n)
The autofocus is definitely different. (because Nikon says so) They seem the same to me, and I can’t tell the difference in use. But then, I don’t shoot white walls. I’ll leave that argument up to the photo target crowd. However, it does use the CAM 900 rather than the CAM1300 used in the F100 and F5. I would imagine this would be a problem in low light, but since I always have an IR flash AF assist employed, I’ve not experienced that issue.
I you’ve ever used an F5, the weight difference will boggle your mind. Especially as they both can use the same lenses, (including G lenses), and both have features like Program, Shutter, Aperture, and Manual modes, diopter adjustments for the viewfinder, lots of viewfinder info, matrix, spot, center-weighted metering, frame counter, exposure compensation, plus automatic bracketing. Not to mention TTL flash control, including Slow and Rear Sync, depth of field preview, and picking your own focus points. It also has custom functions I’ve only read about, so I won’t get into those here. Besides the MB-16 battery pack/grip, there is also a databack available. (comes with many used ones)
The only thing I hate about this camera, (besides pissing off Americans with the ‘N’ monikor), is the stupid chrome release button, (still in use by Nikon on it’s consumer cams), and the fact that, without the grip, it’s almost “too light”. Of course I know that the plastics are as solid as metals these days, (even in the 80’s/90’s), but I love a more ‘manly’ camera. Yes,…that’s stupid. Just disregard. But the viewfinder is actually very cool. Cooler than the F100, and definitely cooler than the F5. In bright light the focus shows as LED black brackets (like the F5). But when the light dims, the display turns bright red, just like an F100. Why they couldn’t do that with the F5 is beyond me.
My only serious complaint is not being able to meter with my manual focus lenses. But since 95% of photographers just stick to AF lenses anyway, I doubt that would be an issue for most. On the positive side, this is a very advanced camera with very advanced features that’s still available for a pittance. (Shhhhh…) And if you’re not committed to film, just starting out, have a lot of Nikon lenses or just have no “moolah”,…I couldn’t think of a more perfect camera. 😁