Friday, February 6, 2015

Nikon N80/F80 Review - My 2015 Film Adventure (Part 2)

After the Nikon EM review last time (make sure to read that article if you wanna know why I also shoot film these days), we have the N80/F80. The letter simply indicates if it was a US import (N80) or not. There is no other difference whatsoever. This model comes in three editions: one without a databack, one that imprints date/time (it can be turned off of course), and one that imprints exposure info between frames.

+ modern layout and button philosophy, if you can use a Nikon DSLR, you can start shooting with the N80 right away.
+ great value; they are cheap enough to make sense for an adventure into the film realm, but offer enough functionality to make this adventure one worth while.
+ small, light, and discreet for an AF SLR camera

- instead of something like AA, you need CR123A batteries. Then again, one set should last you plenty of film rolls (realistically, how many you plan to try anyway?)
- don't use it in heavy rainfall, it really doesn't inspire confidence in that department.
- no metering with AIS lenses. Bummer.

Intended Users
Great for:
  • probably the best value out there in terms of a feature-rich modern film camera.
  • people familiar with a Nikon DSLR. Way closer to your experience than an older, manual camera.
  • excellent compatibility with modern lenses: AF, AF-S, VR, they all work! 
Not for:
  • ...but, alas, AIS do not. Non-cpu lenses can be used in M mode and you have to guess the exposure.
  • although it can take a beating within reason, this is not a camera fit for abuse. Not a bad hiking camera, but not the best either.
  • not a great action camera. I did not like the AF response and custom settings make it a pain to tweak things as-you-go.

Final Verdict
In this 2015 film adventure of mine (the purpose and scope of which will be revealed in the next couple of weeks), the N80 was my main film camera. I did enjoy using the Nikon EM, too, and I enjoyed using the third film camera of the group (which I will review next). But the N80 gave me the most hassle-free experience (at least from the perspective of someone used to advanced digital bodies). It is highly reliable, easy to use, yet allows the user all the control s/he needs. For my own purposes, it was superb. I suspect some people who want to use it for sports (film for sports? hmmm...) might find the AF response and customization philosophy a bit lacking. Similarly, I would feel uncomfortable dragging the N80 to sandy/dusty/wet environments. But for pretty much everything else, you cannot go wrong with such a cheap film camera. Highly Recommended!

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