Canon’s double-digit EOS line has actually been in existence since the launch of the 6.3MP 10D way back in 2003. Since then, the brand’s enthusiast-level range has evolved consistently, always offering decent features and a reasonable price-tag.
The release of the range’s eighth model, the EOS 80D, sees further steps forward with the camera jumping in resolution from the 70D’s 20MP to an impressive 24MP. It could also be argued that the 80D has seen more evolution than any previous camera in the range, with the introduction of pro-level video specs, NFC technology, faster burst rates and an improved autofocus system. All told, it pushes this camera towards semi-pro territory. But with the APS-C DSLR market full of strong rivals such as the Pentax K-3 II and Nikon D7200, does the 80D offer enough to come up trumps? Let’s find out...
Features & Build
The jump in megapixels means the 80D actually has more resolution than Canon’s full-frame 6D DSLR, matches the brand’s flagship 1D X MkII, and is on par with the Pentax K-3 II that also has an APS-C sensor. Other steps forward see the autofocus significantly improved with an all-new 45-point system (all cross-type) building on the 19-point system of the 80D’s predecessor, the 70D. The native ISO ceiling is up to 16,000 (from 12,800) and the addition of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology allows the camera to connect easily to smart devices like phones and tablets so you can share images to the web without fuss. The AF system is of particular note as 45 AF points on a sub-£1000 camera are a real highlight. With more AF points, particularly the sensitive cross-type points, you stand a better chance of achieving sharp shots. Couple this with the 80D’s ability to fire off 7 frames per second (only three behind the semi-pro EOS 7D MkII) and it’s clear the 80D is built to hold its own in the action photography arena. One feature that will help those shooting under artificial lighting is the Flicker Detection technology. This ensures consistent exposure and colour when shooting in continuous burst mode under the flickering artificial lights that are typically found indoors.
While sports shooters will appreciate the 80D’s quick burst rate, landscapers will love the versatile vari-angle screen – something the Nikon D7200 and Pentax K-3 II both lack. This makes awkward, ground-level compositions much easier. The touchscreen technology allows for settings such as Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO and Exposure Compensation to be adjusted in an instant. Canon hasn’t neglected video shooters either, as the 80D offers dedicated headphone and external mic sockets as well as being able to capture footage in Full HD.
Those considering the 80D will find two more additions that aren’t present on the 70D. A timelapse recording feature helps photographers capture the passing of time – perfect for a cracking sunset – and a flash sync port enables flash lighting to be triggered via a cable, rather than a wireless trigger system.
In the field, the 80D is a pleasure to use because it combines an ergonomic button layout with a Menu system that will be instantly familiar to existing Canon users. And even if this is your first time with a Canon model, there is nothing ‘hard work’ about it.
The body is a tad on the heavy side, especially when used with a telezoom, but still 35g lighter than the Nikon D7200 – arguably the 80D’s closest rival. The polycarbonate body provides protection against moisture and dust through its weather seals. It feels well made and the pronounced handgrip provides a reassuringly comfortable purchase.
The 45 AF points come into their own when used with the Large Zone AF preset and this covers not all, but the vast majority of the frame. As is typical though, for more control with the focusing, it’s wiser to switching to the Manual AF point selection mode. The 7fps burst mode is certainly capable of capturing action sequences of fast-moving sports or wildlife subjects.
Write times from the 80D are average, with RAW files taking 1.8secs and JPEGs taking 1.1secs. When set to JPEG, 44 shots could be captured before the buffer filled and, when RAW format was selected, that figure changed to 20 shots. The articulating screen is still one of this line’s most useful features, allowing the user to set-up awkward compositions, such as low angle shots. The ability to change settings on the tilted screen is a bonus – you don’t have to be eye-level with the LCD and don’t have to fumble with the command wheel. This really does speed up capturing images when you are out and about in the field. The camera’s pentaprism ‘Intelligent viewfinder’ offers 100% coverage of the frame and can be configured to display gridlines and an electronic level alongside selected settings.
Value for money
Priced at £999, the 80D represents reasonable value for money. The Nikon D7200 costs around £720, but this has been on the market for over a year, so has reduced in price. If existing Canon users are more interested in speed, the 7D MkII costs £180 more and offers 10fps so is a tempting alternative. However, the 80D has more resolution and, as it is no slow coach at 7fps, represents a good all-round balance of resolution, features and pace. Some dealers also offer the 80D paired with the 18-55 IS STM lens for £1090, which is even better value.
New feature 45-point AF system
The 80D’s new autofocus system is advanced, customisable, yet simple to operate. All 45 of its AF points are the most accurate cross-type, and can be used either individually or in groups. What’s more, 27 of these points are f/8 compatible, which enables their use when you switch lenses and attach a specialist teleconverter to increase the focal length of a lens without cropping in on the frame. This system operates down to -3EV, performing well in low light.
Image quality ISO
The 80D hands digital Noise well, both in JPEG and RAW files. Grain isn’t obvious until ISO 3200, and by 6400, there is a slight deterioration in image quality with the typical speckles associated with digital Noise. However, files are still usable once Noise Reduction processing has been applied in software such as Lightroom or Photoshop. The 80D’s upper ISO settings display obvious Noise, and although you could still use images captured at ISO 16000 in an emergency, they are best avoided.
As with previous additions to Canon’s XXD line up, the 80D builds on the strengths of its predecessors, offering enthusiast photographers a powerful APS-C DSLR that’s easy to use and gives great results. What’s different this time is that Canon has added features in the shape of the headphone port and 41-point AF system that stray into semi-pro territory. Image quality from the 80D is fantastic and it performs well in the field, offering true versatility that will appeal to a wide audience, including enthusiasts, semi-pros and even videographers. The increased focus points (up from 19 to 45) are notable when shooting action, and this increases the chances of capturing sharp shots. While many of the other improvements may not be headline grabbers or huge leaps forward, they do prove useful and make a difference out in the field.
- Body price: £999 (As of July 2016)
- Street price: £999 body-only
- Resolution: 24.2MP (6000x4000px)
- Format: RAW & JPEG
- Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 22.3x14.9mm
- ISO: 100-16,000 (25,600 when expanded to its maximum)
- Shutter: 1/8000secs - 30secs + Bulb
- AF system: 45-point phase detection
- Burst rate: 7fps
- Monitor: 3in 1040k-dot fixed LCD
- Viewfinder: Optical pentaprism
- Flash: Yes
- Video: Full HD 1920x1080 up to 60fps
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi/NFC
- Storage: SD/SDHC
- Weight: 730g with battery/SD card
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 139x105x78mm
- Visit: www.canon.co.uk
This review was first published in the July 2016 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.