Canon EOS 80D Review

Canon EOS 80D

The Canon EOS 80D is the latest iteration of Canon’s APS-C-chipped DSLRs that began with the introduction of the (no kidding) three-megapixel Canon EOS D30 in 2000. I’ve owned and shot with every camera in this series through the Canon EOS 60D. I so dearly loved my Canon EOS 50D, now converted to infrared-only operation, that I couldn’t imagine anything better, at least until I got the Canon EOS 60D. What happened to the Canon EOS 70D? I guess I must have missed that one. No matter, I was eager to put the Canon EOS 80D to work because of the specs and features it offered.

Features
The Canon EOS 80D body ($1,099) has an APS-C-sized 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor with 45 all cross-type autofocus points, compared to 19 in the Canon EOS 70D. Most Canon updates include an image processor upgrade and the Canon EOS 80D’s DIGIC 6 processor is designed to improve image quality and has a native ISO range from 100 to 16,000 that’s expandable to 25,600 for stills and video. Its buffer depth lets you capture 110 JPEGs or 25 Raw files in continuous mode at up to 7 frames per second (fps). The viewfinder has 100 percent coverage with a three-inch touchscreen LCD screen that flips out and swivels, making it useful for down low or Hail Mary shots.

Canon EOS 80D

The Canon EOS 80D’s Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus has a unique sensor where all of the pixels simultaneously perform still imaging and phase-detection autofocus during Live View or video shooting. In real-world use, it was as fast as you would want or expect. There’s also built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for transfer of images and video to mobile devices via the free Canon Camera Connect app or backed up to the Canon Connect Station CS100 ($299).

The Canon EOS 80D ’s HDR mode offers creative filter effects, such as Natural, Art Standard, Art Bold, Art Vivid, and Art Embossed. Other filters include Grainy Black and White, Soft Focus, Fisheye Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Miniature Effect, and Water Painting Effect. There’s the venerable Picture Style settings of Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Fine Detail, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, and three User Defined modes that can be filled with downloads from the Picture Style Special Site.

Regular readers know one of my favorite places to test cameras is to photograph the gazebo at O’Brien Park in Parker, Colorado, and I went there near the end of a snowy spring day. For this shot, the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens was set at 19mm. As I shot the light began to grow muddy, so I made this shot using the 3 EV setting for the camera’s Art Standard HDR mode, which then assembles three images in camera to produce the result you see here. Nominal exposure was 1/500 second at f/5 and ISO 400.

Video
Canon, more than any other camera company, doubled down on video and there’s no doubt some TV, especially reality shows, and even some movies are shot using Canon DSLRs. The Canon EOS 80D shoots 1080p HD video up to 60 fps in MP4 format and in either ALL-I or IPB compression with optional embedded time code.

The Canon EOS 80D camera offers HDR and Time-Lapse modes along with “creative filters” like Fantasy, Old Movie, Memory, Dramatic Monochrome, and Miniature. Custom settings let you speed up or slow down focusing speeds. The Canon EOS 80D includes a headphone jack and a built-in stereo mic with manual level adjustment. For better sound—and you need this if you’re even semi-serious about video—Canon offers the optional ($249) Directional Microphone DM-E1. It can rotate up and down 90 to 120 degrees, comes with a windscreen to limit peripheral noise, and uses a lithium cell battery as a built-in power supply.

I made this image while doing cold weather testing of the Canon EOS 80D at 17 Mile Farm near Parker, Colorado. Temperatures were only in the low 30s and while that’s not cold by Colorado standards it might be a chilly temp where you live. The camera and EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 18mm) performed without a hitch. Shot in Landscape Picture Style with an exposure of 1/640 second at f/14 and ISO 400.

Performance & Image Quality
The Canon EOS 80D is a much better performer than its predecessors. (In fact, it made my beloved Canon EOS 60D seem like an antique.) While working in window light, dim light, or at night and shooting with the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens, the Canon EOS 80D never faltered, never stuttered. It just worked.

Nascent apple blossoms shot with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens at 135mm. Because of the light breeze I cranked up the shutter speed to freeze the branches that were moving with the wind. Exposure was 1/1000 second at f/5.6 and ISO 400. The reflections in the background are from cars driving on the road behind the tree, which explains why they are not completely round.

We’re having a rough winter here and the snow has put a damper on local motorsports activity so I couldn’t give the camera’s 7 fps burst mode a proper test. But shooting quickie tests of cars driving up and down Colorado 83 at speeds up to and (mostly) over 55 mph, the camera delivered sharply focused images.

The Guide Number of the Canon EOS 80D’s pop-up flash is 39.4 and while that sounds kind of puny, in practice it proved to be useful as fill when making outdoor portraits. Autoexposure worked perfectly with the flash correctly balancing daylight with flash, although if you find this isn’t true after a test shot you can menu dive to adjust flash by plus or minus three stops in either 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments.

Clouds were rolling in over the Rockies late in the day when I made these shots at the PACE Center in Parker, Colorado. With the muddy light on the building, exposures were the same 1/8000 second at f/8 with the ISO at left 16,000 and at right 25,600. Even full screen on my 5K iMac the differences between the two sides were so slight, I had to go bigger.

I shot the portraits included in this review at ISO 400 to get a bigger bang for the buck with the small flash. The lens focal length for both shots was at 135mm, my favorite focal length for outdoor portraits, which to make the full-length shot of my wife, Mary, on a pedestrian bridge in the park required me to back up pretty far.

The lens will close focus to 1.28 feet, which when used at the 135mm focal length with the Canon EOS 80D produces an effective focal length of 216mm. This lets you get quite close as can be seen by the photographs of the small blossoms starting to burst from an apple tree. Depth of field at these distances and settings, as you can see in the illustration, is extremely shallow, which may be a good thing or not depending on what you’re photographing.

The Canon EOS 80D menus and submenus are more complex than previous Canon DSLRs in this series but are more understandable than the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach used by some competitors.

Zooming in on the area near the Stargate-like sculpture, you can see noise on the left (ISO 16,000) and while the right-hand side (ISO 25,600) clearly shows more amplified noise with colored pixels on the neutral bricks, it is—to my mind—inconsequential. Your, as the EPA says, mileage may vary. Unless you’re noise phobic, if you need to make images in unavailable light, crank up the ISO setting to “H” and go for it.Photos ©Joe Farace

Compared to my Canon EOS 60D, even the JPEG image files I shot with the Canon EOS 80D when viewed on my 5K iMac were simply beautiful to look at Just by my comparing images on a high-res screen, the Canon EOS 80D blows its predecessors out of the water. Neutral color has long been a forte for Canon EOS cameras, including consistently delivering natural skin tones, which is why so many wedding photographers seem to like Canons. Straight-out-of-the-camera image files from the Canon EOS 80D uphold that tradition of delivering lovely skin tones; see my portrait of Mary, especially in natural light.

Conclusion
Am I going to add a Canon EOS 80D to my gear bag? Believe me, it’s very tempting. The combination of 24 megapixels and 45 AF focus points are a major improvement over my Canon EOS 60D’s 18 megapixels and nine focusing points. The Canon EOS 80D’s image quality is impressive and the color off of this sensor, even in Auto White Balance, is beautiful. The Canon EOS 60D’s high ISO of 6400 seems quaint compared to the Canon EOS 80D’s 16,000 (or 25,600)) and the price tag is just a hundred bucks more, which means in real-world terms the Canon EOS 80D actually costs less than my Canon EOS 60D when I purchased it new. Right now, a Canon EOS 80D is not in my budget but I added it to a note I was writing Santa. If you’re a Canon shooter and it’s in your budget, I would advise you to go for it.

The Canon EOS 80D Body has a current list price of just $1,099. For more information, visit usa.canon.com.

Joe Farace has been shooting Canon EOS film then digital SLRs since the 1990s. If you would like to see what specific Canon gear can be found in his actual gear closet (and he does have one), visit joefarace.com or joefaraceblogs.com and click on “Gear.”