I bought my Nikon F80 from a seller in Spain nearly two years ago. I had wanted to buy an F100, but didn’t want to pay the prices being asked for. While the F100 is undoubtedly an excellent camera, I felt that the F80 was as good (for my needs) as the F100 at a significantly lower price. The camera arrived boxed with its instruction booklet (in Spanish) in close to mint condition. The only fault I found with it was that the pop-up flash didn’t work. This didn’t bother me in the slightest, as I would only ever use flash if Elvis landed in a spaceship and I had no other means of lighting the scene.
The F80 has autofocus (5 focus points) and supports Nikon f mount lenses including AF, AF-D and AF-S and also supports Vibration Reduction (Image Stabilisation). While older (AI and AI-S) lenses can be mounted on the F80, it restricts functionality and the light meter will not work. The custom functions allow the user to set multiple exposures, change the self-timer duration and items such as changing the function of the command dials. Now you may be saying to yourself – does this not fly in the face of using film in the first place? Slowing down, more involved experience etc etc? To an extent it does, but being fortunate enough to have access to a number of film cameras, I generally use more manual cameras from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. however, if I want to shoot film and don’t want to have to think about focus or exposure – but want the quality associated with an SLR and the good lenses that comes with it – then the F80 is the camera that I reach for. It is extremely light and compact, and when you pair it with a 50mm f1.8, it is very easy to pack and carry around.
Having shot a number of rolls through this camera, I have to say that I have been surprised at how much I enjoy using it. While it is mostly made of plastic and does not have anywhere the tactile feel of the likes of the Nikon FM or F3, it is a pleasure to use. It doesn’t suffer from sticky plastic syndrome that a lot of cameras from that era suffer from –(for me that can make the camera virtually unusable). Its easy to use with an uncomplicated layout and the auto-focus works just about as well as it does on my digital camera (albeit with much fewer focus points) – particularly with the more modern AF-S/G lenses. Focusing options include single and continuous servo.
I have been really pleased at the quality of the output from the F80. Yes, I know that the lens drives most of the quality of the image, but the exposures are all pretty much spot on – even in relatively challenging lighting situations. You can choose from 3D-Matrix, Centre weighted or spot metering. It uses DX coding, but that can be over-ridden manually for non-DX films and for shooting a film at a non-native ISO.
One very small issue is that there is no way to stop the film from fully rewinding into the cartridge. If you process your own films, and you prefer to help the film onto the spool rather than open the cartridge then you will need a film retrieval tool (or a piece of plastic and some sticky tape !) to bring the film leader back out. While the camera was still in production, it was possible to update the firmware for the Custom Functions to do this, but obviously, this is no longer an option. I’ve seen some “interesting” suggestions that you could power off the camera when the frame counter rewinds close to “1” – but there are so many potential issues with that…
One other issue to be aware of is the need for CR123A batteries which are a little more expensive and awkward to get compared to AA or AAA batteries. Having said that, I bought a set of batteries for it when I got the camera and they are still going strong two years later. As with any camera I have, I never leave batteries loaded while the camera is not in use.
I have included some shots I took on Kodak Ektar 100, which was my favourite colour film until the price went beyond what I’m willing to pay for it. I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of rolls of expired Ektar and use it very sparingly – I can rely on the F80 to make good use of this excellent film. The colour rendering is fantastic – blues and greens in particular take on a lovely hue that to my eye is unique. Coming back to grain representation and having shot on film from the 70’s through to the early 00’s I spent most of my time trying to make grain disappear, and while I can understand why some newer film users introduce grain, I still like it to be virtually imperceptible.
While F100’s continually catch my eye, I still come back to the logic that there is not a lot else that I would need the F80 to do. You could do a lot worse than picking up one of these cameras for €50 or €100 and sticking a nifty-fifty on it.
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