Ben Hermann’s Nikon D80 vs Olympus E-510 User Report

First published on: Thursday, 20 September 2007

You’ll probably not find a better user report comparing the strengths of both cameras than this forum post by Ben Hermann.

Special thanks to Ben for writing his review below, which I quote from his Olympus E-510 review thread with some edits for spelling, grammar and terminology:

Both the D80 and the E510 are really nice, but they are two totally different cameras other than the fact that both have 10 MP.

  1. To begin with, the E510 has 4 huge features that are completely absent from the D80: 1) IS (a biggie and most valuable feature); 2) the dustbuster (dust-cleaning mechanism); 3) internal pixel mapping; 4) and LiveView LCD.
  2. Weight-wise — the D80 is obviously a larger and heavier camera, whereas the E510, although smaller feels just as solidly constructed with a nice grip.
  3. Image wise — both sport 10 MP sensors. The D80 has a tendency to overexpose (burn out) the highlights. It looks as it has been designed to expose for shadow areas. This can sometimes turn what would otherwise be a perfectly blue sky into a white sky (depending on the contrasts present). I would then use center weighted metering if I came across that scenario. The E510 seems to have a much more accurate (consistent?) metering system.
  4. Tonality: The E510 retains our gorgeous Oly tonality. The D80 (and the D40) have a nice tonality also — in particular the “blues,” such as the sky. A blue sky rendered by the D80 (if the situations are right) can almost be Oly-like (notice I said “almost”). Nikon has been making a transition here, with many colors approaching an oly-like appearance (not exact, but it’s becoming very close). This is more noticeable on a crisp, clear day where there is no haze and the skies are a rich blue. In those instances, you might mistaken a well taken image as one taken with an Olympus DSLR.
  5. Battery grip: Yes, you can get an optional battery grip for the D80 (which I did). I hope that Oly elects to release a battery grip for the E510 because I’d probably be first in line to pick one up.
  6. Media: D80 takes the SD card (I like SD cards), whereas the E510 gives you two choices of Compact Flash or xD. I have a Transcend 8 Gig 120x CF card in my E510, which allows for 469 RAW files. Screw the xD format (IMO of course).
  7. Buffer — in continuous shooting, both cameras feel about the same. I believe the D80 has a somewhat larger buffer, but this is not noticeable in actual use.
  8. Price: Only $799 for the E510 body (and look at all of the features it has), whereas the D80 body is $999. Now go figure…which is the best deal value-wise.
  9. System expandability: The D80 has all of the Nikkor lenses and many 3rd party lenses to work with, not to mention all of the Nikkor accessories, so you definitely have a wealth of choices here. The E510 has all of the 4/3 lenses currently available from Olympus, Sigma, and Leica/Panasonic, with many more being planned.
  10. The standard software that comes with Nikon (gosh, I had a brain fart because I can’t remember the name … because I don’t use it) is ridiculous. The new Master software that comes with the Oly DSLR’s is far superior in many ways. The optional Nikon Capture NX is a highly superior piece of software that allows superb rendering of NEF files. I’m not impressed with the optional Studio 2 software that you can get from Olympus. Just my opinion here.
  11. Other variables: With the D80 — using the optional Nikon Control software, you can actually program tone curves into the camera (by uploading them), which has always been a nice feature with Nikon DSLR’s. This can be very flexible and you can have fun designing your own tone curves for various situations. The E510 does not have this capability — but again…if you shoot RAW, the tone curves are kind of like an after-thought really, and I have rarely if ever used this capability…even back when I had the D100. Not a missed feature on Oly DSLR’s (again IMO).
  12. If I had just one choice having used both: Well, with the increased high ISO capabilities of the E510 — not to mention the newly (invaluable) added feature of inbody IS (and the other features that set the Oly DSLR’s apart)…it is the E510 hands down (and you save $200 bucks in the process when comparing body to body).

It’s a no brainer at this point — at least for me. I cannot speak for others. But I do love the D80 and the D40. Those are the major systems that I maintain — Olympus and Nikon.

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