Pros: Great price, lots of menu options, Nikon F mount lenses work
Cons: Very grainy above 800ISO even with noise reduction turned on, kit lens is mediocre
My father gave me my first SLR camera when I was 8 or 9 years old. I love SLR photography. I held off on digital cameras until a now-long-ex boyfriend bought me a point-and-shoot one. I loved the ease of digital (getting the pictures on a screen, emailing it, etc), but hated that I couldn't control ISO, shutter speed, aperture or change lenses!
Newer "bridge" cameras between a point and shoot (P&S) and digital single lens reflex (DSLR) are making it so a user can control ISO, shutter, and aperture, but I still wanted to be able to get different lenses.
After doing weeks of research, I chose the Nikon D80.
I've been using this camera for a year now, and I use it every single day, so I feel familiar enough with the camera to write a review.
The Nikon D80 is a camera that experienced or very serious amateur photographers should surely check out. It has a ton of features and options, and the motor on the body means you can use it with autofocus lenses without a motor.
I find that the full menu isn't very intuitive, but after a few uses, you learn where things are. I really like the white balance setting and custom sharpness/color/contrast menus. I've also used the double exposure setting quite a few times. One thing that wasn't clear to me was that if you shoot RAW and do custom settings, it will only shoot RAW. Beware! If you wish to do custom, you must shoot JPG or JPG and RAW.
Having said that, the full menu of options would probably be overwhelming to most new photographers. While I adore my D80, I have recommended the Nikon D40 or D40X to less experienced photographers.
Why do I tell newer photographers to get a D40 or D40X? Two words:
In the past, people bought a good body and great lenses. Camera bodies also lasted forever. With the cost of digital bodies dropping seasonally, and with the turn over rate of manufacturing, it's now more common to replace bodies. As such, it doesn't make sense to buy a D80 if you're not going to use most of the features the camera offers. Where you really want to drop money is on the lenses.
The kit lens (18-135mm) is a good starter lens, but it's not great. I've found that the focus tends to be soft, especially at lower f/stops (3.5, 4). Vignetting is a problem at 18mm, which isn't a huge shock, as that's fairly standard for a wide angle lens.
The body of the camera itself is very solid feeling. I've dropped the camera on accident a few times and never had any problems (though I did eventually get some rubber cover for it!) with it.
I've cropped photos down drastically and had them printed at 8 by 10 size and they look fantastic. The color is rich, the grain is small--until you get up to about ISO 800. At that point grain becomes very strong, even with anti-noise reduction turned on.
The battery life is WONDERFUL. I once shot an image for 50 mins straight (one frame, used the optional remote control) and the battery still lasted, even after doing the frame and taking another ~40 mins to do noise reduction. Battery also recharges quickly. Nikon did a fantastic job on their battery!
Overall, a great camera with a lot of features.