While the name can often confused when verbally addressed, the Canon 80D is a camera targeted highly at the semi-professional market of photographers. It’s a step above their Rebel DSLRs but below the 7D Mk II flagship camera in the APS-C realm. However, it has features that lots of the lower end crowd may really like.
To be very honest, there are lots of things about the 80D that make it my favorite that Canon has put out in a while. But on the other hand, there are things about it that make me wonder what the heck they were thinking.
Pros and Cons
- Fantastic ergonomics
- Fast autofocus in Live View.
- Phenomenal focus tracking, the best I’ve seen.
- Pretty simple to use
- Tilty-swingy screen of awesomeness
- Touch screen is very nice
- Canon proves itself to have the simplest menu system available on the market right now with a camera aimed at the semi-professional
- The directional pad in the middle of the back control wheel isn’t an appropriate replacement for their multi-directional controller.
- Phase detection AF through the viewfinder is crap in low lit conditions though significantly better in Live View
- Image Quality starts to fall apart easily with just a bit of editing
- More image noise than we’re used to seeing at ISO 1600 and above. We haven’t seen this since the Leica M9.
- AF points can be tough to spot in the viewfinder.
The Canon 80D was tested with the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art, Sigma 85mm f1.4, Phottix Mitros + and Odin transmitter, and the Canon 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 STM lens.
Specs taken from our announcement post
- New 45-point all cross-type AF system
- Intelligent Viewfinder with approximately 100% viewfinder coverage
- Newly Developed 24.2 Megapixel (APS-C) CMOS sensor
- ISO 100-16,000
- Seven fps shooting capabilities
- DIGIC 6 image processor for enhanced image quality
- Improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF for smooth, fast and accurate autofocus with video and stills
- Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC capability for easy transfer of images and movies to compatible mobile devices
- 1080/60p Full HD video to capture brilliant results in MP4 format for easy movie sharing on select social networking sites
- Vari-angle Touch Screen 3.0-inch Clear View LCD II monitor enables flexible positioning and clear viewing even outdoors
Looking at the Canon 80D, you can tell that it isn’t one of their higher end DSLRs; but in many ways it reminds me of one of their most legendary cameras: the 40D. Years ago, every wedding photographer pledged themselves to the 40D and the 5D. Then the D700 and the D300 made a splash, and things changed again.
To start out with some of the reasons why this camera reminds me so much of its predecessor, we start at the front. It’s minimal with the exception of the 80D moniker and the lens depression button.
The rest of the front showcases the company’s logo and the lens mount. Unscrew this and what you’ll find are the standard two colored dots that you’ll find on every Canon APS-C sensor camera.
Move to the top of the camera and what you’ll see here are some extra controls. On the left is the mode dial with a middle lock button and on the right side what you’ll find are the typical controls you find on many Canon DSLRs. This includes ISO, drive, focusing type, shutter release, etc.
In the middle of all this you’ll spot the hot shoe.
Move to the back of the camera and what you’ll find are more controls. The Canon 80D was designed mostly with right hand user interfaces in mind. Only the Info and Menu buttons are on the top left. Veteran Canon users will be very familiar with this interface and will enjoy the nice ergonomic dip for your thumb on the back of the camera.
The LCD screen tilts out and flips around for the photographer’s use. In many situations, this style is much more advantageous.
The Canon 80D takes SD cards, and on the grip is a little door that protects it from getting out of the camera. In no situation did I feel that it wasn’t well built enough for semi-professional use.
The top of the camera also has the pop-up flash. I’d honestly never use it unless I’m doing infrared flash control.
Overall the Canon 80D doesn’t feel like Canon’s most solid DSLR, but it is indeed very well built. The most important thing to me is that it reminds me of the old 5D Mk II, 40D and the 6D. That style of ergonomics still appeals much more to me than the 7D Mk II, 5D Mk III etc.
Ease of Use
Canon’s menu systems become more and more complicated as you move up the food chain; but the 80D’s has just exactly what you need and want with the option of more control from specific, deeper menus. It’s a thing of beauty. On top of that, the touch screen makes navigation very simple.
To be honest, the Canon 80D has the best menu system that I’ve seen in years. There are specifically color coded areas with a few sub-menus that can accomplish most of what you need. In the rare case that you demand more, you can delve deeper into the menus to fully unlock the true capabilities of this camera.
In good lighting situations, the focusing from the Canon 80D is incredible. It’s fast, accurate, and I honestly don’t ever remember it ever missing its focus in practice. This usage goes for both Canon and Sigma lenses.
My only qualm is that sometimes the focusing points can be a bit tough to spot in the viewfinder.
In contrast, when it comes to low lighting situations you’ll often run into major headaches with both Canon and Sigma lenses alike. Granted, this is a really tough autofocusing situation but Nikon DSLRs would’ve handled this with ease.
To ensure that it wasn’t just the outer focusing points, I tried using the center point, focusing, and carefully recomposing.
Using the center point helped out a bit more; luckily Erica has the patience of a saint when it comes to my delivering portraits of her. Even so the focusing still wasn’t spot on.
Lots of images ended up looking like the others in this section and it was actually quite frustrating until I whipped out my phone, turned on the flashlight and used that as an assist.
For what it’s worth, the infrared focusing assistance lamp didn’t help much here or in any other situation really. In an actual portrait shooting situation, this can be very frustrating–especially for one of those human-brand light stands.
After a while, I needed to just switch to Live View–where the system had a 90% accuracy rating. For the record, that’s in line with everyone else except Fujifilm. The Fujifilm X Pro 2 has never missed a shot in low light while in my hand.
Low light focusing aside, the tacking AF of the Cnaon 80D in Live View mode is second to none. If they wanted to, Canon could probably come into the mirrorless camera game tomorrow and have Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic panicking. Of course, they’ve need more lenses for the EF-M mount and more premium ones at that. But just take a look at that autofocus tracking.
In my tests, every other manufacturer will be able to deliver decent tracking but they won’t be able to keep the accuracy accordingly. Canon has no problems here.
To that end, I really would’ve been okay if this camera were mirrorless.
According to standard Sunny 16 tests, the Canon 80D is pretty much spot on. What that means in practice is that the metering will be accurate for landscape shooters, but the camera sensor’s output doesn’t really follow it. As I’ll talk about more in the next section, it’s kind of like chrome film or Kodak Ektar. For some of us, that’s a great thing. However, it’s also a frustrating thing that requires more work on your part vs using sensors from other companies.
The Canon 80D is quite an interesting camera when it comes to image quality. If you like the look of film, you’re going to get it here–specifically I feel the look is like that of Kodak Ektar. You can really tell this in the skin tones and the way it renders certain scenes. But it kind of lacks in SOOC comparison to many more modern APS-C sensors. Additionally, like Ektar, you’re not really supposed to push the files. In my experience, pushing the files by just a stop started causing issues. That’s not to say that the images don’t have a lot of dynamic range to play around with considering that you meter correctly in the first place–but getting rid of the grain is pretty tough to do.
Standard JPEG images from the camera look pretty decent. The color are vibrant and very life-like with some saturation to them. Most people will like them.
For the record though, I tend to fancy Fujifilm and Olympus much more when it comes to straight out of camera JPEGs.
High ISO Output
Unfortunately, you’re going to start to see more image noise than excepted at ISO 1600. ISO 6400 isn’t much better–but to be fair I’m also talking about when pixel peeping. What that means is that in the end you’re going to need to more noise reduction and detail recovery. So just prepare yourself for that.
The good thing though is that when it comes to prints, the quality of the noise isn’t going to be such a nuisance.
RAW File Versatility
Here’s the original photo. Notice how you can’t see much in the shadows?
This is my edit. Yup, you’ll see a lot of noise when pixel peeping but it was able to recover the colors in the greens, oranges and blues pretty well. Just be ready to nerf the noise or use something like MacPhun’s Noiseless Pro.
Extra Image Samples
- Great ergonomics
- Excellent AF tracking in Live View mode
- Comfortable to hold for a while
- Nice menus
- More versatile RAW files with less image noise would’ve made this camera have an Editor’s Choice rating
- AF in low light could be better.
The Canon 80D is a pretty great camera in the hands of a skilled photo editor. At the same time, it can be a great camera for the enthusiast that wants to shoot in JPEG with the Live View screen. On top of fantastic ergonomics, the camera also has a lot of features that help make it a great choice for the person looking to get into sports for example. But at the same time, what’s holding it back is how fast the image quality can break apart except when in the hands of a skilled editor.
I’m really torn with the Canon 80D. Is it a bad camera? Heck no. Is it a great camera? Yes, but there are better options out there for the price.
The Canon 80D receives four out of five stars. Want one? Check the Amazon listing for the latest prices.
Recommended Lenses and Accessories
Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art: The best thing to a nifty 50 that you’re going to get your hands on.