DigitalCameraReview.com
Nikon Coolpix P80 First Thoughts
by J. Keenan -  6/8/2008

While I've shot Nikon SLR film cameras since 1975, my first experimentation with digital was a Sony F717. Eventually a Nikon Coolpix 5400 and then an 8800 joined the compact collection, and despite a somewhat pokey shutter lag time, the 8800 remained my favorite Nikon compact until yesterday. First announced in 2004, the 8800 offered a 35-350mm 10x zoom lens and Vibration Reduction (Nikon's image stabilization system), and in my opinion Nikon hasn't produced a worthy successor since the 8800's fairly rapid demise – until now.

Nikon Coolpix P80


Our Nikon Coolpix P80 review unit arrived June 6 and it didn't take long to nudge the 8800 into second place on my Nikon compact list. Ultrazooms are my favorites in the compact digital field, and the P80's 27-486mm (18x) lens certainly fits the bill in that regard.

Nikon Coolpix P80
Wide-angle
Nikon Coolpix P80
Telephoto

The camera has VR and good shutter lag time. Frankly, the big lens, low lag, and VR alone were probably enough to drop the 8800 to second place, but the P80 isn't competing against a four-year-old Nikon – the fight is with other brands and their current offerings. My brief time with the P80 suggests Nikon has brought a definite contender to the ring.

Nikon Coolpix P80

The camera is compact and light as far as super zooms go – Nikon claims it's the most compact of any ultrazoom with an 18x lens as of March 18, 2008. The plastics used in construction of the body are fairly plain, but the camera seems well built otherwise. The P80 won't fit in a shirt pocket, but a coat pocket or small purse/fannypack is more than enough.

Nikon Coolpix P80

The camera might be lightweight, but the shots it has produced so far are anything but: image color and quality are very good and true across a spectrum of natural light ranging from direct sun to heavy overcast and open shade. Flash color looks good, and the auto WB worked well with fluorescent lighting indoors.

Nikon Coolpix P80
Daylight
Nikon Coolpix P80
Overcast
Nikon Coolpix P80
Flash
Nikon Coolpix P80
Open Shade

Nikon debuted its latest-generation EXPEED processor with the D3 and D300 DSLRs this past November, and EXPEED technology has reportedly found its way into the P80. In just a few shots at the beach, I've noticed the P80 seems to do a better job of not losing highlights in the dark water/white water shots of breaking waves than non-EXPEED Nikon compacts I've reviewed in the past.

Nikon Coolpix P80 Nikon Coolpix P80
Nikon Coolpix P80 Nikon Coolpix P80

The camera also includes Nikon's automatic in-camera red-eye fix and D-Lighting tool, both of which have proven their worth in previous Nikons I've reviewed.

Nikon Coolpix P80
Original
Nikon Coolpix P80
D-Lighting

We'll have a full review on the P80 in a few weeks that will explore the camera's performance envelope more completely, but based on my brief time with it, I'd buy one. And I probably will, since the wife has been suggesting she needs a small camera and thinks the P80 is "cute."