By March 2, 2009

Nikon P80 review

Nikon’s P80 superzoom digital bridge camera, is it a viable alternative to a DSLR?

The Nikon P80 Digital Bridge Camera 

The Nikon P80

The P80 was introduced in April 2008 and was Nikon’s first look at the true superzoom market. It features a massive 18x zoom and 10 megapixel resolution; this joined a number of models from other manufacturers in an increasingly competitive market. It is rumoured that Nikon plan to launch the P80 replacement, the P90, in March 2009. This will apparently boast an even greater 24x superzoom Nikkor lens and 12 megapixel resolution. But back to the P80; let’s see how it performs and whether or not it fulfils its promise?


What’s in the box?

  • Nikon Coolpix P80 Super Zoom Digital Camera
  • EN-EL5 Rechargeable Battery
  • Nikon EH62A Battery Charger
  • AV and USB Cables
  • User Manuals and Software CD
  • Strap


Nikon P80 Specification:

  • Image Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Size 1/2.33/
  • Total Pixels 10.7 million
  • Effective Pixels 10.1 million
  • Image Area (pixels) – 10M
  • LCD Monitor Size 2.7 in. diagonal
  • Lowest ISO Sensitivity: 64
  • Highest ISO Sensitivity: 6400
  • Storage Media Internal Memory: Approx. 50MB; SD/ SDHC
  • Storage System: Jpeg
  • Image Stabilization: Optical
  • Lens Zoom: 18x
  • Lens Specification -equivalent 35mm format picture angle 27-486mm) f/2.8-4.
  • Viewfinder Frame Coverage Approx. 97
  • Maximum Autofocus Areas/Points 9
  • Scene Modes: Portrait, Night Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Party, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Museum, Fireworks Show
  • Exposure Compensation Plus or minus 2 EV in steps of 1/3
  • Built-in Flash Yes
  • Self-timer 2 sec. or 10 sec.
  • Approx. Dimensions, Height: 3.1 in. (79mm) Width: 4.3 in. (110mm) Depth: 3.1 in. (78mm)
  • Approx. Weight, 365g



The rear of the camera is dominated by the large 2.7 inch LCD, with the eye piece for the viewfinder directly above this. There are two buttons alongside this, one to change the LCD display to show picture taking information and the other to switch between the viewfinder and the LCD rear screen. To the left of the display screen is the D pad, offering flash, exposure compensation, self-timer and macro modes. Three buttons are positioned around this; one to operate playback on the LCD, one to access the menu and one for deleting images.

Nikon P80 Back View

Nikon P80 back view

On the top plate we have the on/off button positioned just behind the shutter release button. This in turn has the zoom ring positioned around it, move to the left for telephoto and to the right for wide angle. Nearer the middle of the top plate is the control dial offering a number of modes including video, fully automatic point and shoot, continuous sport, AP, SP, P, M, scene selection and access to the set up menu.

Nikon P80 Top View

Nikon P80 top view


To the front of the camera we have the self timer lamp and the pop up flash which is operated by a button to the side. A CCD sensor is used and processing is achieved by using Nikon’s Expeed processor similar to the one used in their DSLR range, which is proven to achieve bright, high quality images. Somewhat surprisingly the P80 only captures images in Jpeg format with no RAW option being offered. Nikon also includes in the package a clear, well written instruction book and a CD rom software suite for image manipulation. The unit itself is uncluttered and easy to operate, including accessing menus and is ergonomically designed to feel comfortable in the hands.

Nikon P80 Front View

Nikon P80 front view


On the right hand side of the P80 (right hand side if you are holding it) there is a rubber cover over the small A/V connector.

Nikon P80 right side view

Nikon P80 right side


On the bottom of the Nikon P80 is a screw thread for mounting on a tripod and a fairly secure cover over the battery compartment. The placement of the two means that you’d have to remove the camera from the tripod mount in order to gain access to the battery.

Nikon P80 bottom view

Nikon P80 bottom view



I have carried and used the Nikon P80 for two weeks now for a variety of tasks, including work relating to my occupation and for general family and hobby photography. First of all it is light and compact, so there is no excuse for not carrying it with you most of the time. When you switch the camera on you encounter my first criticism – the lens automatically moves forward pushing the lens cap off which locates on the camera body not the lens itself. Not a major problem you might think but the lens cap cannot be refitted until the camera is switched off. I always make a point of refitting the cap when not taking a photo, to avoid dust and other contamination, but this design makes it impossible.

The performance of the camera is very impressive, the 18x zoom being a major plus point ranging from a true wide angle (27mm) to a mighty telephoto (486mm). The wide angle has often been overlooked by manufacturers on other models in favour of ever increasing telephoto length, with many starting at a not-so-wide 38mm. This makes a camera quite limiting if you enjoy taking architecture or landscape, so the 27mm of the P80 is a very useful addition. I would have preferred a manual zoom operation instead of it being motorised, as I feel this gives better control, but the bridge cameras offering this tend to be much larger and heavier, which may have compromised the appeal of the P80. Nikon have included vibration reduction, using a shifting CCD sensor on the P80, which is very useful on a camera like this and makes a noticeable difference to image quality, particularly when zoomed in.

The picture can be composed by using either the electronic view finder or the 2.7 inch LCD screen on the rear of the body, both offering about 97% scene coverage. These can also be used in playback mode which is a welcome addition when reviewing your images in bright sunlight.

There are a number of scene modes accessed through the menu system, (portrait, night portrait, sports, landscape, night landscape, party, beach/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, museum, fireworks), and these give the operator a wide choice of point and shoot programmes. All the ones used produced excellent results. The macro mode works well but does have some difficulty in achieving sharp focus below 3cm. I had the opportunity to try out the snow scene mode a number of times during the recent wintry weather conditions, and exposures and autofocus remained controlled even in driving snow.

Nikon’s D lighting system is also included, only at one level and only in playback mode, but even so this is a more than useful feature allowing the operator to lighten details even in dark shadows. As well as these, the more advanced operator has the choice of programme, aperture priority, shutter priority and fully manual modes.

Added to this Nikon has also included a continuous sports mode offering shooting speeds of up to 13 fps, which will enable you to keep up with the action. This is often the best one to use as there is some shutter lag when used on single shot, although in fairness this is not as bad as on some other bridge camera models.

Flash is catered for with a built in unit, again offering a number of options such as automatic, red eye reduction, slow sync. and combinations of these, and it also offers video capability with sound at around 15 fps. Once the image is captured, the P80 has a range of options when it comes to viewing and managing it, including viewing thumbnails (16 on a screen at a time), zoom in/zoom out up to 10x, view a slide show and the usual delete, protect, rotate etc.

So the specification is comprehensive and the optical performance excellent for a camera of this type.



My first impression of the P80 after unpacking, was that it would not be my type of camera; it felt too light and small for me and not very comfortable in my hands. It’s not that I dislike bridge cameras as I have owned several and use them for my work all the time.

However, having used the P80 for the past two weeks my opinion has changed. The camera is light to carry, easy to use and produces clear sharp images in a wide variety of situations. More importantly two of my work colleagues were impressed enough to consider purchasing one. Now the question is should you buy this or wait for the forthcoming P90? Rumour suggests the P90 will be priced considerably higher than the P80, possibly around the £350 to £400 mark. So, unless you really need the extra top end zoom and another 2 megapixels, I would seriously consider buying the P80 now. You will not be disappointed.


Review by: Ian McKenna

Posted in: Cameras, Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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