Unfortunately, the P80's performance is quite disappointing. Its 2.9 seconds to wake up and shoot isn't awful for a megazoom, but the 1.1 seconds it takes to focus and shoot in decent light is slow for any class. In low-contrast circumstances, its 1.4-second time is closer to average.
The camera has a high shot-to-shot time of 2.4 seconds, which seems to be fueled by slow memory writes. While the 2.8-second flash shot-to-shot performance may not be worst in class, it's still on the high side. Burst shooting, at a typical rate of 1.3 frames per second, also comes in near the bottom of its class.
In practice, the slow performance means the subject can move or someone can walk into the frame of the photo before you get the shot. It's definitely not your best choice for shooting sports, children or animals.
The P80's lens isn't bad. Barrel distortion is about what you'd expect at the widest angle of 27mm-equivalent, however, it exhibits visibly more pincushioning in the middle of the range (around 150mm-equivalent) than the .
Zooming doesn't feel smooth; it vibrates disconcertingly as you zoom through the range. However, it's responsive, given that it's stepped and the optical image stabiliser works as well as we've seen from Nikon's other VR lenses.
For movie capture, the P80 also offers a neat time-lapse mode, though
we wish you could choose shorter intervals than 30 seconds. There's
also a 30fps VGA movie mode, which produces reasonably good AVI clips
at a bitrate of about 1.1 megabytes per second. It's pretty limited, though: no optical zoom or VR available while shooting.
battery didn't conk out too soon, its 250-shot-per-charge rating seems underpowered compared with the FZ18's 400 shots or the 's 450 shots (with AA batteries).
The 10-megapixel P80's strongest point seems to be the saturated, more-frequently-than-not spot-on colours. Exposures tend to be quite good, though in bright sunlight it seems to produce more than its share of blown-out highlights. But even when printed, the photos had a slightly crunchy digital look that we didn't see in shots from other cameras -- including the recent or older or other megazooms such as the .
Furthermore, Nikon's aggressive noise suppression kicks in at ISO 400 and blurs most of the detail away. If you have a lot of detail in your scene, the photos are borderline at ISO 400 and unusable by ISO 800. Depending upon what you shoot, the P80's photos can range from great to just okay.
Among the handful of 18x superzoom models -- the Panasonic FZ18, old-ish and the -- the Nikon Coolpix P80 ranks as one of the better ones. But if speed and solid high-ISO photo quality are really important to you, consider stepping up to a dSLR with configurable lenses.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday