Canon 80D Conclusion

What's there to say about the Canon 80D? The camera is an excellent, well-built DSLR that produces reasonably sharp, detailed photographs and high quality Full HD video. It's comfortable to hold with classic Canon DSLR styling, ergonomics and controls, and its versatile AF system is great -- especially thanks to Dual Pixel CMOS AF. The 80D feels like a tried-and-true Canon DSLR -- nothing over the top, ground-breaking or revolutionary, just what it's meant to be. It's a straightforward camera that works well, performs well, and captures pleasing images. And for that, it gets our applause.

18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM: 79mm, f/5.6, 1/100s, ISO 320

The Canon 80D gains a new sensor, boosts image quality

But, the devil is in the details, so let's begin with the Canon 80D's image quality. Overall, the Canon 80D offers solid performance in the image quality department on nearly all fronts at both low and higher ISOs. The new 24-megapixel APS-C sensor now puts the Canon 80D more in-line with a number of major competing APS-C cameras, and results in excellent, highly detailed images. Despite the increase in resolution, the Canon 80D's new sensor also shows modest improvements with a higher maximum native ISO over the 70D, lower shadow noise, and improved RAW high ISO performance, but it still lags somewhat behind the best modern competitors, though.

The Canon 80D's sensor still features an optical low-pass filter, while most of its competitors are doing away with it to get an extra leg-up on fine detail resolving power. In some cases, this is a noticeable benefit, but it does have its drawbacks, namely moiré and other aliasing artifacts which can be difficult to remove later on. For the target customer of the Canon 80D we think it's a smart choice to include a filter, but in terms of absolute maximum sharpness, the Canon 80D is at a disadvantage. On the plus side, at least for JPEG shooters, Canon has included their new "Fine Detail" Picture Style, which we first saw included on the high-end 5DS and 5DS R cameras. With the Canon 80D, Fine Detail doesn't offer as striking of a difference as we saw with the 5DS/R cameras, but it does show a subtle improvement with more natural fine detail rendering and fewer sharpening halos.

On the subject of detail and sharpness, the Canon 80D can be purchased in a kit configuration with a new 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. Featuring a new "Nano USM" AF system, this lens is not only versatile in terms of focal length range, but its AF performance is super quick and super quiet. What is disappointing, however, is its sharpness. The lens is not very sharp overall, and especially in the corners. Chromatic aberration and distortion is also problematic. You can correct for all of this with in-camera JPEGs -- and the 80D does a good job there -- but it's quite apparent with uncorrected RAWs. For a one-lens solution, the 18-135mm is okay, but there are sharper options out there.

18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM: 18mm, f/4.5, 1/400s, ISO 100

Same burst rate, bigger buffer and beefed-up autofocus

While certainly not as speedy and as quick-firing as its 7D Mark II big brother, the Canon 80D's performance is a comfortable and capable middle ground that's plenty fast for a variety of fast action, sports and wildlife pursuits. Claiming up to 7fps bursts in continuous mode, our lab tests show this to be the case if just a hair under spec. This is unchanged from the 70D's burst rate, however buffer performance is noticeably improved which should keep you shooting for longer -- and all this despite the heftier 24MP resolution. According to our buffer depth tests, the 80D managed a healthy 53 best quality JPEGs, dipping down to 19 frames for RAW+JPEG. Buffer clearing was quite good, at only four seconds for JPEGs or 13 seconds for RAW+JPEG, and the camera lets you continue firing shots or change settings while clearing the buffer so you can keep on capturing.

The Canon 80D's autofocus undergoes a big upgrade compared to its predecessor. Sporting a 45-point phase-detect autofocus system, it's a very nice upgrade and much more versatile than the 19-point AF system of the 70D. The 80D doesn't offer as many of the AF Area modes, however, as the higher-end EOS cameras like the 7D Mark II, but it does offer AF functionality down to f/8 unlike the 70D. Owners of long supertelephoto lenses and teleconverters will be pleased with this upgrade.

Of course, you can't forget about Dual Pixel CMOS AF. Debuting on the 70D, the addition of on-sensor phase detect pixels to the sensor allows for vastly improved live view focusing for both stills and video. And it works beautifully in the Canon 80D. For stills, Live View AF is super fast, and with the combination of the touchscreen LCD to quickly change the focus point, it's a very useful feature. For video work, the Dual Pixel system provides pleasing, smooth and cinematic-looking AF performance. Video focus speed is adjustable to fit your shooting style or mood, and overall the subject tracking works very well, making the Canon 80D a rather versatile video camera.

The Canon 80D's AF performance overall is quite good, barring one interesting discovery. While the 80D is spec'd for better low-light autofocusing compared to the earlier 70D when using the optical viewfinder (-3.0 EV vs. -0.5 EV), our low-light AF lab tests didn't confirm that despite testing with multiple lenses -- at least initially. We found the 80D's low-light AF performance to be a bit of a mixed experience; on the one hand, it can indeed focus on a sharp, contrasty targets down to its rated light level of -3.0EV. That said, though, other less expensive and less highly-rated Canon bodies outperformed the 80D when dealing with a less-contrasty subject in similarly dark conditions.

Outside of the lab, the Canon 80D felt decently quick to autofocus in low-light conditions. Using the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens, we compared the 80D to the Canon T6s. On a very dark, poorly lit, indoor subject both cameras struggled to acquire focus (however the 1D X Mark II was able to acquire focus quite easily on the same subject). However, with a better lit indoor subject, on which both the 80D and T6s were able to successfully acquire focus, the Canon 80D did feel consistently quicker to acquire focus.

18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM: 135mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 2000

Canon 80D video features are robust, but lack a few key elements

Like the 70D before it, the new Canon 80D is very much a hybrid camera -- designed for videography as well as photography. As mentioned, its Dual Pixel CMOS AF is excellent and makes shooting video much simpler and more straightforward. You no longer have to resort to manual focus like in the early days of DSLR video, well, unless you want to -- though the 80D doesn't offer focus peaking.

As for other video features, the Canon 80D offers a good, well-rounded set of amenities, though noticeably absent is the increasingly popular choice of 4K resolution. There's a growing number of 4K-capable cameras, at a variety of price points, so we're a bit disappointed that Canon left this feature out of the 80D. The new DIGIC 6 image processor does allow for 1080/60p video now, though you can't use that frame rate with the higher quality ALL-I compression -- IPB only for 60p (or 50p). For both ALL-I and IPB video, the quality looks good to our eyes with lots of detail and decent dynamic range. You can even use the new Fine Detail Picture Style with video if you want. Advanced videographers will also enjoy the addition of a headphone jack, though there is still no clean HDMI output.

Perhaps the only other major drawback to video other than the lack of 4K is the continuous recording time limit. Long having been a factor for Canon shooters, the 80D carries on the tradition of stopping continuous video at 29 minutes, 59 seconds. For those needing to record long, continuous scenes or events, be ready to press the record button manually after 30 minutes.

Summary: Canon 80D maintains characteristic fit & finish

Overall, the Canon 80D is a solid, well-built, well-rounded multimedia DSLR. Its ergonomics and design are classic Canon, which translates to easy, comfortable functionality with tons of external controls. The camera's image quality is very good. Thanks to its new 24MP sensor, it shows improvements to both low and higher ISOs, though competing cameras still have an edge image quality-wise over the 80D. 

Performance is very good, too, with decent burst speeds, improved buffer depths, excellent battery life, and a new, more versatile 45-point AF system. Combined with Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology for fast live view AF, the Canon 80D is well suited for a variety of shooting scenarios, including general use, portraits and traveling as well as more challenging endeavors like sports and wildlife. Video is also a hallmark feature, and while it's sadly lacking a few notable features like 4K, overall the 80D offers good quality video with lots of features for both beginners and advanced video creators.

All in all, while the Canon 80D feels more evolutionary than revolutionary, it's an all-around excellent DSLR with a good combination of image quality, advanced features, great build quality, and a good price point. It's a great still camera, and Canon's Dual-Pixel autofocus is unbeatable for video. All told, the Canon 80D gets the nod as a Dave's Pick in our book.

 

Pros & Cons

  • New sensor produces lower noise in the shadows at low ISOs compared to the 70D
  • Slightly better high ISO performance (in RAW files) than 70D
  • Higher resolution compared to predecessor, now more in line with competition
  • Fine Detail Picture Style improves JPEG rendering
  • Very good hue accuracy
  • HTP and ALO help with harsh lighting
  • In-camera HDR mode
  • Low shutter lag
  • Very fast autofocus speeds
  • Focuses down to -3.0 EV (but see con)
  • 45 cross-type AF points
  • f/8 AF support
  • Dual Pixel AF provides great AF performance in Live View mode, much better than most DSLRs
  • Longer than average 7.5x zoom kit lens, with fast, quiet autofocus
  • Fast cycle times
  • Good burst performance at almost 7fps
  • Improved buffer depths over its predecessor, despite higher-resolution files
  • Very good OVF coverage accuracy
  • Very good battery life when using the OVF
  • Good built-in flash range, though with narrow coverage
  • Built-in flash can act as commander to remote slave flashes
  • Headphone jack as well as a external microphone input
  • 1080/60p video
  • Comfortable ergonomics and lots of external controls
  • Responsive touchscreen LCD
  • Convenient built-in Wi-Fi with NFC
  • Kit lens could be sharper, especially in the corners
  • Moderately high to high chromatic aberration and distortion from kit lens in uncorrected RAW files
  • Dynamic range and high ISO performance are improved, but still lags the best of competition
  • Images are a little soft compared to cameras without an AA filter even with a sharp lens (but they contain fewer aliasing artifacts)
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance too warm in tungsten lighting
  • Full low-light AF spec only attained with a high-contrast subject
  • No 4K video
  • 1080/60p video not available with higher quality ALL-I format
  • No clean HDMI output
  • 29min, 59sec continuous video recording limit
  • No tap-to-focus with Wi-Fi remote app


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