Vintage Camera Review: Nikon N80 (Nikon F Mount)

For a really long time, the Nikon F100 was the best buy if you were looking for a Nikon film SLR at a good price that was compatible with most modern lenses. But then people discovered it, and like everything that gets discovered, the price got ruined. The Nikon FM2? Yeah, they’re really expensive now. It’s no secret second hand film cameras are on the up and up when it comes to prices and sales. Not only that, but they’re pretty. Well, most of them are. In the case of the Nikon N80, we’ve got the camera designed to be more consumer oriented and a step down below the famous Nikon F100. But for everything a professional photographer could want or need, it’s highly capable. And unlike digital cameras, all you need is some sharp film, good glass, and a lot of light.

Gear Used

We tested the Nikon N80 with Ilford SPX 200, Fujifilm Velvia 50, Fujifilm Superia 200, the Nikon 50mm f1.8 G, Nikon 24-120mm f4, and the Nikon 16-35mm f4.

Tech Specs

Specs for the Nikon N80 taken from the Nikon website itself.

Cross-ranged, five-area autofocus system
Focus Tracking with Lock-On™
Built-in AF-Assist Illuminator
Center-Weighted Metering and Spot Metering
Built-in Speedlight: guide number 12/39 (ISO 100, m/ft.); 28mm lens coverage
QD (F80D) and Data Imprint (F80S) versions
Custom settings of 18 functions (19 functions with F80S)
Choice of 1) Dynamic AF, 2) Closest-subject-priority Dynamic AF and 3) Single Area AF
Vari-Brite Focus Area display provides at-a-glance AF-area confirmation
3D Matrix Metering (with D-/G-type Nikkor lens)
Four exposure modes ([P], [S], [A], [M])
3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash capability
On-Demand Grid Lines can be displayed in viewfinder (with Custom setting #4)

Exposure control: Auto-Multi Program [P] with Flexible Program, Shutter-Priority Auto [S], Aperture-Priority Auto [A] and Manual [M]

Shutter speed: 1/4,000 to 30 s; stepless on [P] or A; in 1/2 EV steps on [S] or [M]; B

Exposure metering: 3D Matrix, Center-Weighted and Spot; EV 0 to 21 at ISO 100 with f/1.4 lens (EV 3 to 21 with Spot Metering)

Power source: Two 3V CR123A or DL123A lithium batteries; Battery Pack MB-16 is also available (for four R6/AA-size alkaline, lithium, NiCd or Ni-MH batteries)

Dimensions (W x H x D): Approx. 141.5 x 98.5 x 71mm (5.6 x 3.9 x 2.8 in.)

Weight (body only without batteries): Approx. 515g (18.2 oz.)

Ergonomics

The Nikon N80 is a camera that is pretty simple in its design and interface. Nikon purposely designed it that way. The only sort of controls on the front are the exposure dial, the focusing type, and the lens release.

On top of the Nikon N80 is the hot shoe. To the left is the mode dial, which is super important. That’s how you change the ISO on the camera; weird, right? Then on the right is the big LCD screen and the on/off switch.

Open up the back of the Nikon N80 and you’ll see where you load film into it. Make sure that the teeth on the spool latch onto the film and it will easily advance.

Close the back up and you’ll find the selector pad. The Nikon N80 lets you choose the focus point this way.

Build Quality

The Nikon N80 isn’t the best built SLR film camera. This is around the time Nikon began opting more for plastics and it’s something in between the Nikon N2020 and the Nikon F100. If you hold cameras like the Nikon F5 or F6, you’ll know they’re absolute tanks. But the Nikon N80 isn’t weather sealed at all and is designed for the consumer. You can go ahead and put your weather sealed Nikon lenses on here, but I wouldn’t risk it in the rain.

Nikon’s E lenses won’t have aperture control here unfortunately. Those only have aperture control with digital camera bodies.

Ease of Use

The Nikon N80 is a pretty straightforward SLR film camera if you know and understand how to use Nikon’s DSLR cameras. One of the weird touches though is that the mode dial has a dedicated spot for you to change the ISO you’re shooting at. So if you choose to load up CineStill 800T and want to shoot it at ISO 400, then you’ll need to switch the dial to ISO and then set it to ISO 400 vs ISO 800. Otherwise, it’s just like using any Nikon DSLR that has been around for years. Changing the focusing point is more or less the same, metering the same, etc.

If you’re in manual mode and your metering is way off, then you won’t really see anything displayed in the exposure meter. Instead, you’ll need to use an educated guess and figure out what it is until you start to see the exposure meter reading blinker again go along the scale. That’s sort of like how Sony works currently.

Metering

Considering that you’re shooting with film, Sunny 16 rules apply here. That’s all.

Autofocus

The Nikon N80 has a number of focusing points. They work well enough, but don’t expect a whole ton of them like you would with more modern cameras. I also probably wouldn’t use this camera with AF tracking: it isn’t that great.

Image Quality

Nikon’s N80 has image quality totally dependant on, wait for it, you! It’s film. Put some good lenses and film in the camera, expose it right and you’ll be set.

Ilford SPX 200

Fujifilm Velvia 50

Fujifilm Superia 200

Conclusions

If you want an old school, analog Nikon SLR film camera, this isn’t the one. Sure it uses film, but if it doesn’t have a battery, it isn’t going to work at all. This camera is the best bet for anyone that wants a cheaper alternative to the autofocusing SLR cameras that aren’t the pro-level, high end options. And for those people, the Nikon N80 is really a great choice.