It has great all-round specs, but how does the 80D perform? We test Canon's most-recent enthusiast EOS DSLR...
Canon has designed the EOS 80D to appeal to its core following of dedicated enthusiast photographers; people who want to shoot a range of subjects in a variety of conditions and have access to an extensive feature set with plenty of control options, but who don't need a full-on professional-level camera. As such, the 80D has a new 24-million-pixel sensor inside along with a Digic 6 processing engine.
This combination brings a native sensitivity range of ISO100-16,000 (that's 1/3-stop higher than the 70D) and a maximum expansion value of ISO25,600 (the same as the 70D). And while the maximum continuous shooting rate is the same as the 70D's at 7fps, the burst depth has been increased to 110 JPEGs or 25 Raw files when a UHS-1 SD card is used. That's a significant step up from the 65 JPEG or 16 Raw files possible with the 70D.
Modern DSLRs have two autofocus systems: one for when using the camera conventionally (in reflex mode) when images are composed in the viewfinder; and the second for use in Live View and video mode. Canon has improved both of these systems for the 80D in comparison with the 70D. The reflex mode system, for instance, has 45 AF points, all of which are cross-type, whereas the 70D has 19 AF points. It can also use colour information from the 7560-pixel RGB+IR (infrared) metering sensor to help with subject tracking. This, and the increased burst depth, makes the 80D more attractive to sport and action photographers.
Turning to the Live View and video autofocus system, the 80D uses Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology like the 70D, which means it has phase detection points on the imaging sensor itself. According to Canon, the new system is more sensitive and faster than the one in the 70D, but because fast autofocusing often isn't desirable when you're shooting video, it's possible to vary the speed of the 80D's system over seven steps for slower focus changes.
Although the 80D lacks one of the most in-vogue video features - 4K recording - it improves upon the 70D's video offering with a headphone port for audio monitoring and the ability to record Full HD (1980x1020) footage at 50/60fps for 2x slow-motion playback. Like the 70D it also has an external mic port as well as HDMI Mini and A/V Digital Out terminals. Plus the 80D can record in MOV or MP4, whereas the 70D can only shoot in MOV format.
Like the 70D, the 80D has Wi-Fi connectivity, but the 80D also gets NFC (Near Field Communication). This enables the camera to be connected to an NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet (or the Canon CS100 Connect Station) with just a tap - to connect with and share images, as well as control the 80D remotely for wire-free shooting.
Build and handling
As the 70D's form and control layout was met with general approval, and to ensure an easy upgrade path for 70D users, Canon hasn't changed much for the 80D. When my index finger is poised over the shutter release there's enough room to accommodate the rest of the fingers of my right hand on the 80D's grip. Those with large hands, however, may find it a tad more comfortable to slip their little finger beneath the grip.
The majority of the button controls are located on the right side of the camera, either on the back or the top-plate, and are within easy reach as you hold the camera for use.
However some, like the AF, Drive and Metering buttons, are designed for use in conjunction with the Main or Quick Control dials while you look at the secondary LCD screen on the camera's top-plate, rather than through the viewfinder. It's a tried-and-tested approach that works well, but many will find the touch-control afforded by the main screen on the back of the camera much more intuitive to use. Unlike most other manufacturers, Canon gives touch-control over both the menu and Quick Control Screen, and it can really speed up use.
"The Quick Control Screen provides a speedy route to commonly used features"
The Quick Control Screen is very useful, providing a speedy route to some of the most commonly used features. It would be nice, however, if this was customizable so that it only contained those features that you use on a frequent basis. Some photographers, for example, may never need or want to change the file format that they shoot.
As with Canon's other touchenabled DSLRs, the touch-control works very well. Menu items can be selected by a tap and options chosen either by a second tap or by using the navigation keys or a control dial, whichever you prefer.
While the 3-inch 1,040,000-dot Clear View II screen on the back on the 80D is the same as the one on the 70D, it deserves a mention because it provides a delightfully detailed, crisp view. In Live View mode it makes focusing manually much easier than when using the viewfinder, especially when the target area is magnified on-screen.
Its vari-angle hinge also makes it very useful when shooting from awkward angles in either landscape or portrait orientation, saving you from crawling around on the ground to get a worm's eye view. At these times the ability to set an AF point and trip the shutter with a tap on the screen comes into its own.
In bright sunlight, however, it's necessary to turn the brightness of the screen to its maximum setting for a clear view. I found it useful to assign the LCD Brightness control to one of up to six customizable My Menu screens so I could access it quickly. Ideally I would probably assign it to the Quick Control Screen, if that were possible.
Although the 80D's screen is very good, the viewfinder is still the more natural option for most photographers to use when shooting stills, especially if the subject is moving. This also provides a nice bright view and, unlike the 70D's viewfinder that only covers 98% of the lens field of view, the 80D's covers 100%. That means there are fewer surprises around the edge of the frame when reviewing shots.
In an update on the 70D, it's possible to select Creative Filter mode via the 80D's Mode dial. When this is selected, one of ten filter effects can be applied to JPEG images as they are shot. If you're shooting Raw or Raw+JPEG files, the camera switches automatically to shooting just JPEGs. Although it's possible to use the Creative Filters when composing images through the viewfinder, their impact can only be previewed on the main screen in Live View mode.
One of the reasons that high-pixel count cameras are so enticing is that they have the potential to capture more detail than a competing lower-resolution model. The potential booby-trap, however, is that the photoreceptors have to be made smaller, and this often means they generate a weaker image signal that requires more gain to be applied, and that can result in more image noise. Happily Canon has managed to get the custard pie on the plate rather than in the face.
The 80D's 24.2Mp sensor makes a 25% increase in pixel count over the 70D's and it enables the new camera to make a significant step up in detail resolution for the majority of the sensitivity range without an increase in the level of noise. It's noticeable, however, that at ISO12,800 the 80D scores lower in our resolution tests than the 70D.
However, when the default levels of noise reduction are applied, images shot at this sensitivity setting and ISO16,000 look good. Noise is controlled well and, although some detail is lost, there's no obvious smearing. I would advise caution with the expanded ISO25,600 setting because some areas have a slight haze and lack detail when images are at around A4 size. But that's why this value is an expansion setting; Canon makes it available if needed but doesn't consider the image quality entirely satisfactory.
CANON HAS increased the number of Custom settings accessible via the Mode dial from one on the 70D to two on the 80D. This means that you can be shooting with one set of settings and quickly switch to two alternatives. For instance, you could set one Custom mode to Shutter Priority, with a shutter speed of 1/500 sec, Auto ISO sensitivity, Natural picture style, Continuous AF and Continuous Shooting, so that if you happen to see some wildlife when you're out shooting landscapes, you can change all the settings with just a twist of the Mode dial.
It's also possible to assign up to six menu items to each of up to six My Menu tabs. This makes it a great deal easier to access some of the more buried functions, such as Mirror Lockup. I found it useful to assign key stills shooting features to one tab and video features to another.
In addition, Custom Function III 4 enables you to customize up to nine controls (buttons and dials) to access certain features. I found it helpful to set the navigation control to give a direct means of selecting the AF point, for instance.
Canon has given the 80D a significantly better autofocus (AF) system to use with the viewfinder than the 70D, so naturally I was very keen to put it to test. It didn't disappoint, getting stationary subjects sharp in a flash and keeping fast-moving subjects sharp even in low light. I experimented with the AF point selection modes when shooting skateboarders in the gloomy conditions of London's Undercroft and found that the 45-point Automatic Selection option is very capable, aided by the new colour detection system. Despite the distracting background of graffitied walls, in most cases it managed to correctly identify the subject and follow it as it moved around the frame, getting closer to or further away from the camera.
Single-point AF (Manual selection) mode also worked well, provided I could keep the active point over the subject. That's easier said than done with skateboarders, who are prone to jumping, twisting and turning, and I had greater success when using Zone AF mode. In this mode the 45 AF points are grouped into nine zones and you select the most appropriate zone to use before starting to shoot. The camera then tracks the subject using the AF points within that zone, it's a great option for moving targets and you see the points light up as they activate, giving you confidence that your images will be sharp. It's not 100% foolproof but I got a high hit rate and it's more predictable and reliable than 45-point Automatic Selection mode.
ONE OF the key improvements that the 80D makes upon the 70D is with its autofocus system for use when images are composed in the viewfinder. The 70D has a 19-point system while the 80D has 45 points. This means the new camera has better AF point coverage, making it more able to follow subjects around the frame. Furthermore, all of the points are cross-type with lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/5.6 or greater, while the central 27 operate at f/8 and nine of them are cross-type at f/8. That's good news for anyone using telephoto lens and teleconverter combos that reduce the maximum aperture to f/8.
Those who want to get more in-depth with the 80D's AF system will find a total of 16 customization options within the menu (three more than the 70D) with the ability to adjust tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking and the speed of AF point switching. These can be useful options, requiring a good understanding of the subject, the shooting conditions and the ability of the photographer to keep the active AF point over the subject. If you shoot the same subjects on a regular basis they are worth investigating to see if the various settings can increase your hit rate or make life easier.
The Live View and video mode AF system is also good. It's fast enough to shoot stills of moving subjects in some situations, but the viewfinder system is more reliable. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF system's focus shift is smooth enough to be usable when shooting video, but it is dependent upon the shooting scenario and subject/camera speed.
In reflex mode, the 80D uses the same metering system as the 750D and 760D, which means there's a 7560-pixel RGB+IR (infrared) sensor and 63-zone Evaluative, Partial, Centre-weighted and Spot metering options. Evaluative is very good, but the weighting applied to the active AF point can mean you need to use exposure compensation in high-contrast situations. The Centre-Weighted, Partial and Spot options prove their worth with backlit subjects.
When shooting in Live View mode the camera uses the imaging sensor to measure exposure, and it does a good job. However, if you've turned the brightness of the screen up to cope with ambient light, it's a good idea to keep an eye on the histogram because images may look brighter than they actually are.
"Those who want to get in-depth with the AF will find 16 customization options"
The 80D's white balance system performs as we have come to expect from Canon, and has the new White and Ambience Priority options for the Auto WB setting. The White Priority setting proved very capable, delivering neutral images in artificial lighting conditions that often cause problems. The Ambient Priority option retains a little of the warmer colour cast, which can be preferable in some situations.
The great all-rounder gets a raft of improvements
Thanks to its 24Mp sensor, the 80D captures far more detail than the 70D for most of its sensitivity range, and noise is controlled well. Its autofocus system is also extremely capable, even in low light, and the metering and white balance systems are both reliable. In addition, the camera's handling is excellent, with the vari-angle screen and touch control promoting creative shooting, as well as making setting adjustments quick and easy. There's also a good level of customization available, but we'd like to see a bit more, with customizable Quick Control Screens for video and stills shooting. Nevertheless, the Canon 80D is an excellent choice of camera for enthusiast photographers and it's suitable for shooting a wide variety of subjects.
|80D SPECIFICATIONS||70D SPECIFICATIONS|
|SENSOR 24.2Mp APS-C CMOS (1.6x crop)||SENSOR 20.2Mp APS-C CMOS (1.6x crop)|
|IMAGE PROCESSOR DIGIC 6||IMAGE PROCESSOR DIGIC 5+|
|AF POINTS 45 (all cross-type)||AF POINTS 19 (all cross-type)|
|ISO RANGE 100-16,000 (25,600 exp)||ISO RANGE 100-12,800 (25,600 exp)|
|MAX IMAGE SIZE 6000x4000||MAX IMAGE SIZE 5472x3648|
|METERING ZONES 63 (7560-pixel RGB+IR)||METERING ZONES 63 (dual layer iFCL)|
|HD VIDEO 1080p at 60, 50, 30, 25, 24fps||HD VIDEO 1080p at 30, 25, 24fps|
|VIEWFINDER Pentaprism 100% coverage, 0.95x magnification||VIEWFINDER Pentaprism, 98% coverage, 0.95x magnification|
|MEMORY CARD 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC||MEMORY CARD 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC|
|LCD 3in, 1040K, vari-angle, touchscreen||LCD 3in, 1040K, vari-angle, touchscreen|
|TOP-PLATE LCD Yes||TOP-PLATE LCD Yes|
|MAX BURST 110 JPEG or 25 Raw at 7fps||MAX BURST 65 JPEG or 16 Raw at 7fps|
|WI-FI/GPS/NFC Wi-Fi/NFC||WI-FI/GPS/NFC Wi-Fi|
|SHUTTER SPEEDS 30-1/8000 sec, bulb||SHUTTER SPEEDS 30-1/8000 sec, bulb|
|SIZE 139x105x79mm||SIZE 139x104x79mm|
|WEIGHT 730g||WEIGHT 755g|
|WEB www.canon.co.uk||WEB www.canon.co.uk|
|PRICE (RRP) £969/$1199 (body only)||PRICE (STREET) £699/$999(body only)|
PROS: 24Mp sensor resolves detail well; fast and effective autofocus system; excellent rear vari-angle touchscreen
CONS: Complex AF system requires time to master; APS-C rather than full-frame; Quick Control Screen not customizable
WE SAY: Canon has created an excellent all-round DSLR for enthusiasts, and makes a worthwhile upgrade from the 70D. It's well built, with sensibly arranged controls, has good ergonomics and an extensive set that of specifications and features provide just about everything you need to shoot all subjects, and it can be set up to suit your shooting style. Most importantly, the image quality is superb with lots of detail, especially at the lower sensitivity settings.
BUILD & HANDLING ★★★★☆
IMAGE QUALITY ★★★★☆