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01-22-2009, 09:46 PM   #1
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Thoughts on Nikon D80 vs. Pentax

.


Just bought a new D80 ($538) + 50mm f/1.8 D ($109) from Adorama to use as
a second body, specializing in indoor low-light/tungsten fast-focusing kid shots.

Right off the bat, let me say I'm not going to the dark side - if I were, it wouldn't
be a D80, it would be a D90 or D300. This is 2nd-body material only, replacing
my K-M, which was small and terrific but didn't give me enough AF advantages
over the K20D.

So. Here are some observations gleaned so far from about 45 minutes of playing
and zero minutes of manual reading. (I usually don't RTFM until I satisfy my
"Must Play Now" urge.)

1) The K20D, (and K100DS & K-M for that matter) have better build quality than
the D80. If you tap the plastic of the D80, it sounds hollow and cheaper - the
Pentax bodies sound more solid. The SD card door and port door are flimsy
enough to worry me. The figures on the K20D top dial are in relief - on the
D80, the figures are painted on and the dial looks cheap.

2) The handling and grip-ability of the D80 is very good, and button placement
is intuitive.

3) Being able to dial-change in smaller stops is wonderful - want f/2.2 and ISO
250? It's immediate.

4) The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D is very cheap looking and feeling, but is a pretty good
lens optically. Not as good as the FA 50, maybe.

5) D80 tungsten WB is worse than the K20D and K-M, about as good as the K100DS.

6) Shake reduction has spoiled me and probably given me some bad habits -
with slow shutter speeds on the D80, I have to really try to remember - be still.
Be very still.

7) K20D has much more detail at high-ISO - D80 noise reduction on 'normal'
setting seems very heavy-handed. (strangely enough, this is OK for what I
want it for - web albums and 4x6 prints for family members. Smaller prints look
good with this processing.)

8) AF speed - D80 wins hands down in low-light, almost never hunts with the
50 1.8 even wide-open, and is accurate - but I don't think it's quite as accurate
as the K20D. But jury's still out on that.

9) Image quality. Can't fully judge this yet, because I had no natural light to
shoot in, but very early impressions confirm that the K20D is, as I suspected,
something special. I don't think the D80 is going to match that.


I'll post more in this thread as I discover more, form opinions, and eventually,
read the manual.

Below are some very preliminary jpeg snaps showing some of what I'm talking
about, but keep in mind I haven't had this long, so nothing is very illustrative
yet.

(these are at ISO 800, f/2.8, EV -.7))




Above you can see the yellowish cast - WB not as perfect as K20D's. You can
also see the effects of NR - smeared/smooth look. But also, he was bobbing
around, and I'm positive my K20D wouldn't have locked focus at all - a lot of
hunting would have resulted, maybe would have captured one good shot.

Here are some close-ups, you can see the lack of SR in my technique:

wide-open, 1/15s, ISO 320



f/2.8, 1/13s, IS 500



You can see NR effects here, wide-open, 1/15s, ISO 800:



Here you can see the effects of no SR - with K20D/K100D/K-M, this would
have been razor sharp taken with the same care. If I'm more careful, this gets
razor sharp too, I just have to remember:




Last edited by jsherman999; 01-22-2009 at 10:01 PM.
01-22-2009, 09:54 PM   #2
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Heathen!

Actually, when doing camera shopping the Nikon D80 was one of my choices till i went with the K20D ... it's nice to actually hear about the differences though (i never physically picked up a D80)
01-22-2009, 10:08 PM   #3
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Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by Vylen Quote
Heathen!

Actually, when doing camera shopping the Nikon D80 was one of my choices till i went with the K20D ... it's nice to actually hear about the differences though (i never physically picked up a D80)
Unless you really need faster AF, my preliminary opinion is that you absolutely
made the right choice with the K20D.

I should mention, now that I remember, that another reason I bought the D80
was that it opens up my personal lens roadmap a little more - a lot more lens
choices now, including a new AF 85mm f/1.8 for around $400.

Of course, that's all I need, more lenses...
01-22-2009, 10:22 PM   #4
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Well the D80 lost my favour as I didn't want to pay a premium for VR lenses and wanted a dust removal system :P

01-22-2009, 10:24 PM   #5
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I handled a D90 today and had the same impression wrt body build quality.

Why not a second K20d for a backup? They are back down to $742 at Adorama.
01-22-2009, 10:37 PM   #6
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QuoteQuote:
So. Here are some observations gleaned so far from about 45 minutes of playing
and zero minutes of manual reading. (I usually don't RTFM until I satisfy my
"Must Play Now" urge.)
Well said!

I too feel the same way about the Nikon D80 build quality compared with the K20. And there is no way the D80 resolves with the K20. But you can't deny that access to that Nikon glass is special.

Nice, informative thread--should keep the grass-is-always-greener crew busy with their own lawn--Thanks Jay!
01-22-2009, 10:38 PM   #7
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Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by nostatic Quote
I handled a D90 today and had the same impression wrt body build quality.

Why not a second K20d for a backup? They are back down to $742 at Adorama.
Wanted faster AF. I'm thinking that the next body from Pentax will have it, but
I don't want to pay early-adopter price for faster-AF, and would like to get the K30D
when it drops 25% or more, later in the summer or fall.

Plus, more lenses, although I'm not seeing anything with the same Pentax IQ/price
ratio in the Nikon line yet besides the 85 1.8.
01-22-2009, 10:41 PM   #8
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You know whats weird? I went to Circuit City on tuesday during my extremly long lunch break to play around with their cameras and I found my self holding the D80 after about half an hour of messing around with every Canon and Nikon and Olympus and what ever other brand they had, and thinking to my self how much I enjoyed it. No, it wasn't anywhere near as comfortable to me as my K100ds, but if I had to chose a non Pentax body to shoot with that would be the one.

Solid choice on the D80

01-22-2009, 10:59 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by omz Quote
You know whats weird? I went to Circuit City on tuesday during my extremly long lunch break to play around with their cameras and I found my self holding the D80 after about half an hour of messing around with every Canon and Nikon and Olympus and what ever other brand they had, and thinking to my self how much I enjoyed it. No, it wasn't anywhere near as comfortable to me as my K100ds, but if I had to chose a non Pentax body to shoot with that would be the one.

Solid choice on the D80
Thanks, I did my homework!

Here's a big deal, before I forget - I wouldn't recommend the D40 or D60 - they
will not AF with any Nikon lenses that do not have internal motors. The D80, like
it's bigger brothers up the line (D200, D300, D700, ...) work with all AF Nikon
lenses back to the 70's.

So that's a very Pentaxian consideration!


.
01-23-2009, 12:43 AM   #10
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I bought my other half a D80 (and have a D90 too myself)... There is a big step up between those two cameras, the D80 does feel a little dated to me, especially compared to the K20d (it compares better to the K10d, I think they were both released in 2006), though I think the D80 wasn't really a special model in my mind, not like the K10d was on release....

I do think the 85/1.8 is a very worthwhile purchase, a huge step up from the 50/1.8..

Another good price/performance ratio lens would be the 180/2.8 (even better bargain second hand)..

I am also in love with the Sigma 150mm macro and am still a little annoyed that Sigma still haven't released that in Pentax mount..
01-23-2009, 01:00 AM   #11
Igilligan
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Hey Jay...

Wow I almost did the same thing with the nikon second body Idea...

I struggled long and hard about keeping the K100d and getting the D90+18-105 kit with a fast 50 and that 85mm you are looking at. All for the fast focus shots of the kids. And some shallow DOF video fun.

I ended up with a k20d and still I am not sure I made the right choice, but in 8 months, the used market will be flooded with d90's so I might just get one then. I did shoot with my cousin's d80 and found I feel pretty much the same way about it. The AF spanked my k100d with the tamron 28-75. Even with the slow kit on the D80 it hunted less indoors. And it was pretty good outdoors tracking the kids or at least caught them in focus more often.

I did not really like the feel, although as you said the controls were nicely laid out. And the flash... she has the cheapest of the Nikon flashes but it was way more consistant than my flash on the k100d...

Having said all of that, everything I enjoyed about the K100d is hands down better with the K20d, except my little af hiccups. The issues that I have learned to deal with on the k100d are still there, but the output of that sensor is pretty nice.

Someday that used d90 or used d300 will be my second/family snapper. But for now I close my eyes, push the button and hope for the best

Last edited by Igilligan; 01-23-2009 at 01:11 AM.
01-23-2009, 01:04 AM   #12
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I used a D80 for more than a year and I absolutely loved it. What I miss about it are:

1. AF - Depends on the lens used too
2. Hard buttons to change pretty much everything. One thing I miss is changing WB quickly. On the K20D it's easy to change to custom WB, but it takes longer. The D80 it's harder to remember the shortcut but once you do, it's way faster.
3. Shutter sound. The D80 shutter sounds very soft, nice soft mirror slap. Honestly, I don't really like the sound of the K20D, but I don't mind it anymore. It sounds... electronic-ish.
4. The Fn button and some of the button placement. Actually the only thing I don't like about the K20D button placement is the placement of the Fn button. I have to stretch my thumb down to reach it. Wish it were a bit easier to reach.

About the tungsten WB, there are so many variations of tungsten light bulbs nowadays. I just pull out my tiny gray card and do custom. Perfect colors every time

You are right about the other things too. The build of the K20D is much better. More solid. The SD card door of the D80 feels flimsy. That 50mm you're referring to is half the price of our FA50 so I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't feel or perform as good. The K20D gives me much more detail in the dark areas, which I love. And the ISO grain/noise is much more pleasing.

One more thing is I prefer the metering of the K20D more than the D80. The D80 is designed to expose more for the darks, so it's quite easy to blow highlights with it. Like any camera, it's something you learn and will soon become second nature. The K20D tends to expose so that it won't blow highlights, makes good sense since it holds a lot of detail in the darks.

I miss that camera, Jay. Great choice

Oh do yourself a favor and DON'T try the Nikon flash system. Seriously, that system blows ours away. Cheaper and much better (build, controls) flashes. The CLS is just awesome and much more reliable. I can't wait til Pentax updates the flash system.
01-23-2009, 01:13 AM   #13
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Oh and I miss the AF-assist lamp. Please Pentax give us that. I hate having to pop-up the flash to do so.
01-23-2009, 01:14 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
Thanks, I did my homework!

Here's a big deal, before I forget - I wouldn't recommend the D40 or D60 - they
will not AF with any Nikon lenses that do not have internal motors. The D80, like
it's bigger brothers up the line (D200, D300, D700, ...) work with all AF Nikon
lenses back to the 70's.

So that's a very Pentaxian consideration!


.
The bigger brothers (Dx00 etc) can meter with the older AI-S lenses, while the D80/90 can't
01-23-2009, 01:19 AM   #15
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i also had the opportunity to test the D80, and i must concur - i'm not impressed at all.

build quality is much lower than K100Ds, it's bigger, bulkier than K100Ds, but it's really nice to tweak aperture and ISO values in smaller steps.

strange thing you praise the AF - i found AF extremely slow and extremely unrelialble, it couldn't lock where K100Ds locked almost instantly. probably because of the lens - sigma 17-70 (i think). my bro's gf (her's nikon) is so disappointed with AF, she even keeps it turned constantly on MF.
i'll try to borrow it again with the kit lens and test it out again...

also, consider that while D80 can AF with screw-drive lenses, it will refuse to meter with older, non-CPU lenses. very un-pentaxian.
(oh, soccerjoe was faster than me to point that out )

Last edited by elkarrde; 01-23-2009 at 01:24 AM.
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