In this regard, if you have an entry-level Nikon DSLR (Nikon D40, D40X, D50, D60, D3000 and D5000), you might consider upgrading to a D80. If you don't have a DSLR yet and are considering one, the D80 should be on your short list. It costs about the same as a bridge camera but the performance is far better.
In my opinion, the most important real world benefits of a D80 are:
1. built-in wireless commander: makes it easier to use the flash off-camera which has a huge impact on your photos;
2. bigger viewfinder;
3. brighter viewfinder (pentaprism, not pentamirror);
4. dual command dials;
5. 11 AF sensors.
There are other advantages, but in my view, the foregoing (especially the built-in wireless commander) justify getting a D80 instead of an entry-level Nikon DSLR. Because the D80 is a few years old and has been discontinued, the incremental cost of upgrading to a D80 from any one of these cameras is so low (if you sell your entry-level DSLR) that in my opinion, upgrading is a no-brainer. Alternatively, you can get the D80 as a second body (useful if you plan to cover events such as weddings).
To be fair, there are disadvantages:
- D5000 and D3000 have newer sensors with less noise. This can be mitigated by noise reduction software.
- D40 and D50 have sync speed of 1/500. D80's sync speed is 1/200 (there's Auto FP sync at any shutter speed though or you can use ND filters).
- The D5000 has an articulated screen that is useful when taking shots from unusual angles.
Note: the D70 and D70s also have a wireless commander but can only be used with one flash group, and the popup can't be used to contribute light. On the other hand, they have a sync speed of 1/500.
If you're buying a used D80, see this used camera checklist.