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Nikon lifts the curtain on 10-megapixel SLR

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It's a great time to be a photo enthusiast. With every generation of cameras, we get more features for our money, and Nikon's new SLR seems to be no exception.

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Today the company announced the 10.2-megapixel D80, a replacement for its 6.1-megapixel D70s. For starters, the D80 offers a kit lens with a more powerful zoom than many other models we've tested. For US$1299 you get the body ($999) and an 18-135mm lens. The D80 incorporates a number of attributes from more advanced models, such as the image processing used in $4699 D2Xs (though the D80's CCD is different). Also, the D80 borrows a couple attributes from the $1700 D200, such as an 11-area AF and speed light capability for commanding two groups of remote flashes (the D70s can control one group).

Here's some appetite-whetting specs: The purportedly fast D80 starts up in under 0.2-second, and suffers minimal shutter lag of 80ms. The battery (again, borrowed from the D200) is specified to last 2700 shots per charge, versus 1800 frames with the D70s.

But not all of the D80's noteworthy features have trickled down from semi-pro SLRs. Some are conveniences from Nikon's Coolpix line of point-and-shoot cameras, such as in-camera retouching. The D80 can apply lighting effects, reduce red-eye, overlay multiple images, and trim photos. Also, for black-and-white fans, there are color filter effects--something I saw first in the Olympus E-500.

Those with bigger budgets might want to splurge for Nikon's new $669 70-300mm zoom lens, which features a vibration reduction system. With such extras offered by consumer-priced SLRs, I expect to see even more people with an SLR hanging around their neck.

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