Nikon Coolpix P80

      Photo Review 8

      In summary

      A stylish 18x zoom digicam with a 10-megapixel sensor and P, A, S and M shooting modes.Nikon’s Coolpix P80 combines a 10-megapixel sensor with an 18x ‘superzoom’ lens that offers wide-angle shooting at the equivalent of 27mm in 35mm format. The overall zoom range (which extends to the equivalent of 486mm) provides a useful span of focal lengths with relatively wide maximum apertures. The camera body is compact and well designed with a comfortable rubber-coated grip and thumb rest. Weighing just over 390 grams with battery and card, it provides a useful suite of manual controls. . . [more]

      Full review


      Nikon’s Coolpix P80 combines a 10-megapixel sensor with an 18x ‘superzoom’ lens that offers wide-angle shooting at the equivalent of 27mm in 35mm format. The overall zoom range (which extends to the equivalent of 486mm) provides a useful span of focal lengths with relatively wide maximum apertures. The camera body is compact and well designed with a comfortable rubber-coated grip and thumb rest. Weighing just over 390 grams with battery and card, it provides a useful suite of manual controls.
      Like most of its competitors, the P80 has a 2.7-inch LCD monitor and electronic viewfinder (EVF) with a button left of the EVF that lets you toggle between them. Right of the EVF is a second button for changing screen display modes. Three options are provided: no data, shooting data or a rule of thirds grid overlay plus icons for shooting mode, ISO aperture and shutter speed settings. Both buttons are rather small.


      Rear view of the Coolpix P80 showing the location of the key controls.

      The EVF is small and not particularly bright. It also becomes dimmer as you extend the zoom. This dimming last a second or so and then the camera reacts by brightening the display; sometimes slightly over-doing the adjustment before settling down to provide an adequate, although not outstandingly sharp, view.


      Front view with the pop-up flash raised.

      The built-in flash is popped up manually in the manually-adjustable modes (P, A, S and M). It’s located directly above the lens and rises a reasonable distance above the optical axis to reduce the chance of red eyes in flash shots. A pre-flash red-eye reduction mode is available, along with in-camera processing to correct the problem. In addition to the standard Auto, On, Off and Red-eye reduction modes, the P80 provides slow synch and rear-curtain synch settings.
      Shooting modes are selected through a mode dial, which as settings for full auto, program AE, aperture- and shutter priority AE and manual exposure as well as a Set-up mode, Movie mode, Scene mode and high-speed continuous shooting mode. Photographers who are accustomed to accessing the set-up menu may find using the mode dial annoying. However, that’s where you must go to format the memory card (which should be done regularly). VR stabilisation and digital zoom controls are also found in this menu. VR is engaged by default so you only need to use the menu if you wish to turn it off.
      The remaining settings are mostly set-and-forget items. For example, the set-up menu can be used to select between two menu options: text (the default) or icons. Menu design is generally straightforward and easy to read.


      The text menu.


      The icon menu.

      Notable inclusions in the shooting menu are a wide range of ISO settings (64 to 6400) plus a Fixed Range Auto mode that lets you choose from three ranges: 64-100, 64-200 or 64-400 for P, A and S modes. There’s also a High ISO sensitivity auto mode that automatically adjusts the ISO between 64 and 1600.


      The latter two settings default to ISO 64 in manual shooting mode. Selecting ISO 3200 or ISO 6400 automatically reduces the image size to 2048 x 1536 pixels, which suggests these settings should only be used if no other options is available for capturing the image – or if the images will be used only at small reproduction sizes.
      Focusing modes are similar to the P5100 and include auto, macro, infinity and Manual settings, all of which are accessed via the arrow pad. The menu allows you to select between single and continuous AF. It is also used for adjusting the AF-area modes, which include face priority, auto, manual and centre focusing. Matrix, centre-weighted average and spot metering are also provided, along with a Spot-AF area setting for use with the AF area modes.
      The Optimise image menu is the same as the P5100 and contains pre-sets for Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid and Portrait colour and tonal renditions as well as a B&W setting and a Custom mode for creating your own rendition by adjusting Contrast, Image sharpening and Saturation (+/- 2 steps for each). No Sepia setting is provided but the Custom setting includes Contrast and Image sharpening adjustments while the B&W mode includes digital filters that replicate the monochrome effects of yellow, orange, red and green filters.
      Other functions carried over from the P5100 include the Distortion control, which will correct barrel distortion in shots taken with the wide lens setting, along with the now-standard Nikon D-Lighting adjustment. The noise reduction function has the same limitations and doesn’t work with the continuous shooting modes. Continuous shooting options include a Continuous setting which records up to nine shots (depending on resolution) at 1.1 frames/second; a Multi-shot 16 mode and Nikon’s Best Shot Selector (BSS).
      Image Capture and Playback
      The P80 supports 11 image size settings, including 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratio and 2736 x 2736-pixel mode that produces square pictures. Only three quality settings are provided: fine, normal (the default) and basic. Compression ratios are 1:4, 1:8 and 1:16 respectively. Raw file capture is not available. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Image size


      File sizes




      3648 x 2736




      3264 x 2448




      2592 x 1944




      2048 x 1536




      1600 x 1200




      1280 x 960




      1024 x 768




      640 x 480




      3648 x 2432 (3:2)




      3648 x 2016 (16:9)




      2736 x 2736





      Movie settings are essentially the same as the Coolpix P5100, which means the P80 lacks widescreen recording capabilities. Typical clip lengths and frame limits for the various movie modes are shown in the table below.

      Movie setting

      Image size and frame rate

      Maximum recording

      (1GB memory card)

      TV movie 640

      640 x 480 pixels at 30 fps

      14 min. 40 sec.

      TV movie 640

      640 x 480 pixels at 15 fps

      29 min. 20 sec.

      Small size 320

      320 x 240 pixels at 15 fps

      57 min. 20 sec.

      Smaller size 160

      160 x 120 pixels at 15 fps

      189 min. 40 sec.

      Time-lapse movie

      640 x 480 pixels with playback at 30 fps

      1800 frames per movie*

      Sepia movie 320

      320 x 240 pixels at 15 fps

      57 min. 20 sec.

      B&W movie 320

      320 x 240 pixels at 15 fps

      57 min. 20 sec.

      Playback modes are also similar, with the regular single, index and slideshow modes plus delete, protect and rotate functions, image tagging for printing and small pic mode that resizes shots for emailing, saving the smaller image separately. D-Lighting adjustments can be applied post-capture and in-camera cropping and re-saving are supported and users can add black borders to images and save them separately.
      The software bundle supplied with the P80 is standard for Nikon’s Coolpix range and comes on a disk titled ‘Software Suite for Coolpix’. In contains ArcSoft Panorama Maker 4, Apple QuickTime 7, Nikon Transfer and Microsoft DirectX 9.

      The zoom lens on the review camera moved smoothly – and not too fast – providing a better level of precision than we’ve seen in some superzoom models. With brightly-lit subjects, autofocusing was fast and usually accurate, with little evidence of hunting. However, at lower light levels, the tendency to hunt increased, particularly at longer focal lengths.
      The face priority AF mode was sporadically inaccurate and the auto setting missed the target completely on occasions. Manual AF point selection worked well but was relatively slow to use. The LCD monitor was clear and sharp but slightly warm in hue. Visibility in sunlight was average. The EVF clips about 3% of the sensor’s field of view but both displays update quickly enough to appear smooth.
      Outdoor shots taken in bright sunlight were similar to shots taken with the P5100 in that highlights were often blown and shadows blocked up. However, coloured fringing was much less evident and Imatest showed lateral chromatic aberration to be generally low.
      Resolution was close to expectations for a 10-megapxiel camera in our Imatest evaluations but we found a measurable (although not large) difference between centre and edge resolution across the lens aperture and focal length range. Edge softening became obvious at smaller lens apertures. The results of our tests are shown in the graph below.


      Resolution declined as ISO sensitivity was increased, with relatively small reductions up to (and including) ISO 2000 and steep falls for ISO 3200 and 6400, where camera resolution is decreased. The graph below shows the results of our tests.


      Imatest showed overall colour accuracy to be slightly below average and revealed shifts in both light and dark skin hues as well as for purplish blue and orange. Reds showed higher than normal saturation, while purples were lower. Saturation in test shots appeared to be slightly high, although Imatest showed it to be lower than average for compact digicams.
      The test camera’s auto white balance control reacted unpredictably in open shade, occasionally producing quite strong colour casts. Some examples are shown below.


      Under artificial lighting, the auto white balance delivered neutral colours with fluorescent lights but had the usual failure to remove the orange cast of incandescent lighting. The manual settings tended to slightly over-compensate for the inherent casts of each lighting type but the ‘pre-set’ manual measurement delivered a neutral colour balance.
      Barrel distortion was apparent at the widest focal length setting and gradually declined towards the middle of the range, where slight pincushioning became evident. Neither would be a major issue for family snapshooters.
      In our tests involving long exposures at night we noticed a distinct hue shift when we moved from ISO 200 to ISO 400, where shots took on a distinct yellow cast that became progressively greener as sensitivity was increased. Examples are shown below.


      ISO 200


      ISO 400


      ISO 1600


      ISO 6400

      Noise reduction kicked in at ISO 400, where edges began to blur. Blurring increased with sensitivity as noise also increased. Flash performance was similar to the Coolpix P5100 and the P80 had the same difficulties illuminating an average-sized room at low ISO settings. Flash exposures were relatively even from ISO 200 on.
      Camera response times were relatively slow. It took almost three seconds to power-up for shooting and we measured an average capture lag of 0.9 seconds, of which the major delaying factor was autofocusing. With pre-focusing, shots could be recorded in less than 0.1 seconds. Shot-to-shot times averaged 2.6 seconds with flash – unless the red-eye reduction flash mode was selected (which increased processing times).
      The continuous shooting mode performed to specifications, recording six high-resolutions JPEGs in 4.4 seconds. It took less than one second to process and store each high-resolution JPEG file and just under three seconds to process and store this burst.









      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      4.7mm focal length setting.


      84.2mm focal length setting.


      Digital zoom




      Enlargement from the frame above


      Image captured in contrasty lighting to show the test camera’s dynamic range limitations.




      Image sensor: 7.4 x 5.6 mm CCD with 10.7 Million photosites (10.1 megapixels effective)
      Lens: 4.7-84.2mm f/2.8-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens (27-486mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 18x optical; up to 4x digital
      Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies ““ AVI/WAV
      Image Sizes: Stills – 3648 x 2736, 3264 x 2448, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480, 3648 x 2432 (3:2), 3564 x 2016 (16:9), 2736 x 2736 (1:1); Movies ““ VGA at 30 or 15 fps; QVGA at15 fps; Time Lapse at 640 pixels, playback at 30 fps
      Shutter speed range: 8 to 1/2000 second
      Image Stabilisation: Sensor-shift type
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 EV steps
      Focus system/range: Contrast-detect AF, Multi-area AF, Face-priority AF, manual; range 40 cm to infinity; macro to 1 cm
      Exposure metering/control: 256-segment matrix, centre-weighted & spot metering; Auto, P, A, S and M shooting modes plus 14 Scene modes and voice recording
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
      White balance: Auto, Pre-set manual, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto):TTL auto flash with monitor pre-flashes; range 0.5 to 8.8 metres
      Sequence shooting: Approx. 1.1 fps for 3648 x 2736 images with Normal compression; Multi-shot 16 and BSS modes available
      Storage Media: 50MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC expansion slot
      Viewfinder: 0.24-inch colour TFT EVF with approx 230,000 dots and dioptre adjustment
      LCD monitor: 2.7-inch TFT LCD with 230,000 dots and anti-reflection coating
      Power supply: EN-EL5 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 110 x 79 x 78 mm (excluding projections)
      Weight: 365 grams (without battery and card)





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      • OVERALL: 8.0