Contax N Digital vs Nikon D80
The Contax N Digital and the Nikon D80 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2002 and August 2006. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (N Digital) and an APS-C (D80) sensor. The Contax has a resolution of 6.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 10 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D80? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D80 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D80 is considerably smaller (35 percent) than the Contax N Digital. Moreover, the D80 is markedly lighter (33 percent) than the N Digital. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the N Digital nor the D80 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
As can be seen in the images above, the N Digital has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the D80, Nikon provides the MB-D80 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Contax N Digital||152 mm||138 mm||80 mm||990 g||100||n||Feb 2002||7,399|
|2.||Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|3.||Canon 10D||150 mm||107 mm||75 mm||850 g||500||n||Feb 2003||1,999|
|4.||Canon Rebel||142 mm||99 mm||72 mm||649 g||400||n||Aug 2003||899|
|5.||Canon 1Ds||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1265 g||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999|
|6.||Canon D60||150 mm||107 mm||75 mm||855 g||620||n||Feb 2002||2,999|
|7.||Leica M10-P||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Aug 2018||7,995|
|8.||Leica M10||139 mm||80 mm||39 mm||660 g||210||Y||Jan 2017||6,595|
|9.||Leica SL||147 mm||104 mm||39 mm||847 g||400||Y||Oct 2015||7,450|
|10.||Leica M9||139 mm||80 mm||37 mm||585 g||..||n||Sep 2009||7,999|
|11.||Nikon D3000||126 mm||97 mm||64 mm||536 g||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|12.||Nikon D90||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||703 g||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299|
|13.||Nikon D300||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|14.||Nikon D2Xs||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699|
|15.||Nikon D70s||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||500||n||Apr 2005||899|
|16.||Nikon D100||144 mm||116 mm||81 mm||780 g||370||n||Feb 2002||1,999|
|17.||Nikon D1X||157 mm||153 mm||85 mm||1100 g||1200||Y||Feb 2001||5,999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D80 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 86 percent) than the N Digital, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Contax N Digital features a full frame sensor and the Nikon D80 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D80 is 57 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the D80 offers a higher resolution of 10 megapixels, compared with 6.1 MP of the N Digital. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 6.11μm versus 11.90μm for the N Digital). However, it should be noted that the D80 is much more recent (by 4 years and 5 months) than the N Digital, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D80 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D80 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 19.4 x 13 inches or 49.2 x 32.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 15.5 x 10.4 inches or 39.3 x 26.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 12.9 x 8.6 inches or 32.8 x 21.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Contax N Digital are 15.2 x 10 inches or 38.6 x 25.5 cm for good quality, 12.2 x 8 inches or 30.9 x 20.4 cm for very good quality, and 10.1 x 6.7 inches or 25.7 x 17 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Contax N Digital has a native sensitivity range from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D80 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-3200.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Contax N Digital||Full Frame||6.1||3040||2008||none||..||..||..||..|
|5.||Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63|
|7.||Leica M10-P||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||..||..||..||..|
|8.||Leica M10||Full Frame||23.8||5952||3992||none||24.4||13.2||2133||86|
|9.||Leica SL||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||13.4||1821||88|
|10.||Leica M9||Full Frame||18.1||5212||3472||none||22.5||11.7||884||69|
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The N Digital and the D80 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the N Digital has a higher magnification than the one of the D80 (0.73x vs 0.62x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Contax N Digital, the Nikon D80, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Contax N Digital||optical||Y||2.0||200||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||n||n|
One feature that is present on the N Digital, but is missing on the D80 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The N Digital writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D80 uses SDHC cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Contax N Digital and Nikon D80 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|1.||Contax N Digital||Y||-||-||-||-||-||FW||-||-||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Contax N Digital (unlike the D80) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the N Digital and the D80 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D80 was replaced by the Nikon D90, while the N Digital does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Contax and Nikon websites.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Contax N Digital or the Nikon D80 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Contax N Digital:
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.62x).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2002).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D80:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (10 vs 6.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 28%.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 200k dots).
- More compact: Is smaller (132x103mm vs 152x138mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 322g or 33 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (600 versus 100) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (86 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 4 years and 5 months of technical progress since the N Digital launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D80 emerges as the winner of the match-up (9 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Contax N Digital and the Nikon D80 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the N Digital or the D80. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Contax N Digital||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2002||7,399|
|2.||Nikon D80||..||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|3.||Canon 10D||..||..||+ +||..||..||Feb 2003||1,999|
|4.||Canon Rebel||..||..||+ +||..||..||Aug 2003||899|
|5.||Canon 1Ds||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2002||8,999|
|6.||Canon D60||..||..||+ +||o||..||Feb 2002||2,999|
|7.||Leica M10-P||..||..||..||..||4/5||Aug 2018||7,995|
|8.||Leica M10||4.5/5||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||6,595|
|9.||Leica SL||4/5||..||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||Oct 2015||7,450|
|10.||Leica M9||..||..||..||4.5/5||..||Sep 2009||7,999|
|11.||Nikon D3000||..||+||72/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|12.||Nikon D90||..||+ +||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|13.||Nikon D300||..||+ +||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|14.||Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||..||..||Jun 2006||4,699|
|15.||Nikon D70s||..||..||..||..||5/5||Apr 2005||899|
|16.||Nikon D100||..||..||+ +||o||..||Feb 2002||1,999|
|17.||Nikon D1X||..||..||+ +||..||..||Feb 2001||5,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Contax N Digital vs Nikon D80
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Contax N Digital||Nikon D80|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Contax N mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2002||August 2006|
|Launch Price||USD 7,399||USD 999|
|Sensor Specs||Contax N Digital||Nikon D80|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||23.6 x 15.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||372.88 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||6.1 Megapixels||10 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3040 x 2008 pixels||3872 x 2592 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||11.90 μm||6.11 μm|
|Pixel Density||0.71 MP/cm2||2.69 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||50 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 1,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 3,200 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||61|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||22.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||11.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||524|
|Screen Specs||Contax N Digital||Nikon D80|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||95%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0inch||2.5inch|
|LCD Resolution||200k dots||230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Contax N Digital||Nikon D80|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||4 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Contax N Digital||Nikon D80|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||Firewire||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||no HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Contax N Digital||Nikon D80|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||100 shots per charge||600 shots per charge|
152 x 138 x 80 mm
(6.0 x 5.4 x 3.1 in)
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||990 g (34.9 oz)||668 g (23.6 oz)|
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