Despite a troubled DSLR market, Canon has been resolute in maintaining enough variety in its offerings to ensure a smooth ascent for users who want to climb the ladder of sophistication. The 80D sits at around the middle rung of that ladder, giving advanced users plenty of tools to work with while remaining approachable and budget-friendly for those aspiring to new heights.
The 80D sports a 24-megapixel, APS-C-sized image sensor with a native ISO range of 100-16,000 (expandable to 25,600). It boasts a 45-point, all cross-type autofocusing system compatible with most EF lenses. It employs Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system to smoothly focus during video and for improved focusing performance when using live view. The 80D can meter in low light down to an impressive -3 EV.
Several new High Dynamic Range modes help photographers cope with high-contrast environments. There’s an HDR movie mode that records HD video at 60fps, taking one frame at a standard exposure and another underexposed and then merging the final video into a single 30 fps clip. Like prior Canon DSLRs, the 80D can detect and compensate for flickering light sources, triggering the shutter only when lighting is at its peak volume.
There’s Wi-Fi and NFC for wireless remote control of the camera through a free smartphone app. There’s no GPS.
The 80D feels light in the hand and while it’s not built as tough as a member of the 5D series, it’s extremely comfortable to shoot with. Canon shooters will feel right at home with the controls. In contrast to its higher-end siblings, the 80D offers a 3-inch LCD that can be pulled out and rotated for framing at difficult angles. We found the touch screen very responsive, but the display was often difficult to view in bright sunlight.
NJ photographer David Patiño, who helped us test the 80D, tells us he really liked the dedicated AF selector button adjacent the shutter. When composing through the viewfinder, the button will pull up your selection of AF modes so you can quickly toggle through them. You’ll also be able to select AF points using a combination of that AF selector and the back scroll wheel.
Still image performance was solid, Patiño tells us, with excellent color accuracy. The 80D delivers pleasing JPEGs and RAW files showed good dynamic range. However, Patiño cautioned that high ISO performance “wasn’t there.” In JPEGs, detail retention is solid as you begin to push the camera into higher ISOs but at ISO 1600 we spotted some color shifting in reds. JPEGs show noise at 100 percent at ISO 6400.
The 80D only records HD video at up to 60 fps in camera. The video quality was “typical Canon,” Patiño says, which means it was consistently excellent and color accurate. The lack of 4K is a drawback now that it’s increasingly expected on cameras at this price point, but 1080p shooters won’t be disappointed with the 80D’s video quality nor with the inclusion of a headphone and mic jack.
The 80D’s AF system pleasantly surprised Patiño. “I wasn’t expecting it to focus so fast,” Patiño says. “It grabs and goes.” The 80D’s use of Dual Pixel CMOS AF allowed for incredibly smooth focus transitions during video, even if Patiño says he would still stick with manual focusing for any serious video shoot. We were surprised that in our time with the 80D, it didn’t hunt for focus once during video.
The Canon’s 80D Wi-Fi makes it convenient to operate remotely using your smartphone, but there were a few areas where Patiño tells us it could improve, such as touch focusing. In still photo mode, you can touch to select a focus point on your smartphone display, but the image on the display won’t change focus points to reflect your selection, even though the focus will be correctly adjusted on the camera. Yet in video, touch focusing using the app is more responsive giving you a visual indication that focus has changed.
The camera is fairly speedy, delivering 7 fps in continuous shooting mode with focus locked on the first frame. Sony’s less expensive a6300, however, clocks in at 11 fps with AF tracking engaged.
The 80D gets an impressive 1,390 shots per charge, easily besting all of its mirrorless competition.
In isolation, the 80D is an excellent DSLR. “For $1,200, you can’t go wrong,” Patiño says. If you’re in the EOS family and want to stay there, the 80D is a solid addition. If you own a 70D, you’re looking at a big jump in AF points (45 on the 80D vs. 19 on the 70D) and performance but only a modest hop in resolution and ISO capability. There’s no clear cut case for upgrading from a 70D unless you really need that AF performance, but as a step-up from a Rebel or older crop sensor Canon, it’s a compelling value.
The 80D fares well against similarly priced DSLRs, even if it’s not blowing them out of the water. Nikon’s D7200 has a similar sensor, but no low-pass filter, higher ISO and slightly more AF points. If you stack it against its mirrorless competition, Sony’s a6300 is more compact, has far more AF points, is faster and records 4K video with a host of cinema-friendly features but lacks the comfortable ergonomics and battery life of the 80D.
PROS: Great battery life; comfortable design; rotating display; convenient AF selector button; responsive autofocus; solid image quality.
CONS: Lacks GPS; underwhelming low-light performance; inconsistent touch focusing through the app; no 4K.
CreativeLive Video Tutorial: A fast-track introduction to the Canon EOS 80D