Canon 80D Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Canon 80D image quality to its predecessor, the 70D, as well as against a couple of enthusiast DSLRs, the Nikon D7200 and Pentax K-3 II, and a couple of similarly priced enthusiast mirrorless cameras: the Olympus PEN-F and Sony A6300.

The Canon 80D is the first crop-sensor EOS to offer the company's new Fine Detail Picture Style, so before we get into our usual camera comparisons, we'll first compare the default Standard Picture Style to Fine Detail at base ISO, then do our usual comparisons with other cameras using the default Standard Picture Style.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Canon 80D, Canon 70D, Nikon D7200, Olympus PEN-F, and Sony A6300 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Canon 80D to any camera we've ever tested!

Canon 80D Standard Picture Style vs Fine Detail at Base ISO

Canon 80D at ISO 100, Standard
Canon 80D at ISO 100, Fine Detail

Here we compare the Canon 80D's default "Standard" Picture Style on the left, to the new "Fine Detail" Picture Style on the right, at base ISO. As you can see in the mosaic and fabric crops, Fine Detail does improve the rendering of fine detail, and it also generates less obvious sharpening halos along high-contrast edges. However, luminance noise is more visible in flatter areas, and contrast and exposure are a little lower, making the Fine Detail image appear to have less "pop" overall. There also appear to be minor differences in color, even though Color Tone, Saturation and Contrast settings are identical between these two Picture Styles presets. However, given the flexibility in the 80D's Picture Style settings (there are separate Sharpness Strength, Fineness and Threshold settings in addition to the previously mentioned settings for Color Tone, Saturation and Contrast), you may be able to find a better combination of settings than the defaults we're comparing here.

Canon 80D vs Canon 70D at Base ISO

Canon 80D at ISO 100
Canon 70D at ISO 100

The 24-megapixel 80D does resolve a bit more detail than the 20-megapixel 70D, but the difference is pretty minor (we're only talking about a ~10% increase in theoretical linear resolution). Noise levels from the 80D appear slightly lower than the 70D here at base ISO, which is a nice bonus considering the smaller pixels, but the 70D does a better job with our tricky red-leaf swatch. Otherwise, image quality is very similar from these two siblings at ISO 100.

Canon 80D vs Nikon D7200 at Base ISO

Canon 80D at ISO 100
Nikon D7200 at ISO 100

The image from the Nikon D7200 is sharper, crisper and slightly more detailed than the 80D's at base ISO, thanks to the D7200's lack of an AA filter (confirmed by comparing unsharpened RAW files), as well as more aggressive processing. We do see higher luminance noise from the Nikon, though, and both cameras generate obvious sharpening halos. Aliasing artifacts are more visible from the Nikon, however it did a pretty good job at avoiding the moiré patterns we usually see in our notorious red-leaf swatch, while still resolving more of the fine thread pattern.

Canon 80D vs Olympus PEN-F at Base ISO

Canon 80D at ISO 100
Olympus PEN-F at ISO 200

Here we decided to compare the Canon 80D to the Olympus PEN-F because the PEN-F currently represents the best that Micro Four Thirds cameras have to offer in terms of image quality. The 20-megapixel PEN-F is actually fairly closely matched in terms of resolution here, because its 4/3" sensor has only 112 fewer pixels than the 3:2 aspect ratio 80D on the vertical axis, and we frame this shot vertically. Still, its smaller pixels and higher base ISO puts it at a slight disadvantage in terms of noise, and the 80D does do better with our tricky red-leaf swatch. The PEN-F's lack of an AA filter along with more aggressive default processing produces a sharper, crisper image overall, though. Sharpening halos are visible from both cameras, but the PEN-F's are narrower, if a little brighter.

Canon 80D vs Pentax K-3 II at Base ISO

Canon 80D at ISO 100
Pentax K-3 II at ISO 100

Here we compare the Canon 80D to another 24-megapixel APS-C DSLR without an AA filter, the Pentax K-3 II, and again, we can see that 80D's image is not as sharp and detailed. We do however see more aliasing artifacts from the K-3 II, such as the obvious moiré patterns in the red-leaf swatch. The Canon image is however cleaner, with more accurate color, especially in the pink fabric.

Canon 80D vs Sony A6300 at Base ISO

Canon 80D at ISO 100
Sony A6300 at ISO 100

In this comparison, we pit the Canon 80D against Sony's latest 24-megapixel APS-C mirrorless, the A6300. It has either a very weak or no AA filter which helps maximize sharpness and detail, and Sony's default processing produces crisp images without the obvious and unsightly sharpening halos produced by the Canon. But once again, we do see stronger aliasing artifacts from the A6300, especially in the red-leaf fabric. Color is however noticeably better from the Canon, without the yellow to green shift seen from the Sony.

Canon 80D vs Canon 70D at ISO 1600

Canon 80D at ISO 1600
Canon 70D at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, the 80D still manages to resolve a bit more detail that its predecessor, while at the same time producing very similar levels of noise. However, the 70D continues to deliver better contrast in our red-leaf swatch.

Canon 80D vs Nikon D7200 at ISO 1600

Canon 80D at ISO 1600
Nikon D7200 at ISO 1600

The Nikon D7200 still manages to produce a sharper, crisper image with better detail in most areas at ISO 1600, however the Canon 80D does much better with our tricky red-leaf fabric. Noise levels are similar, however the Nikon's more aggressive sharpening makes luminance noise somewhat more conspicuous.

Canon 80D vs Olympus PEN-F at ISO 1600

Canon 80D at ISO 1600
Olympus PEN-F at ISO 1600

The Olympus PEN-F actually produced a cleaner image here at ISO 1600, but more aggressive noise reduction has blurred away some fine detail that the Canon 80D managed to hold on to. And the PEN-F really struggled to produce any subtle detail in our red-leaf fabric.

Canon 80D vs Pentax K-3 II at ISO 1600

Canon 80D at ISO 1600
Pentax K-3 II at ISO 1600

The Pentax K-3 II continues to deliver better fine detail in our mosaic crop with fewer noise reduction artifacts, however luminance noise is a little higher in flat areas, and the Pentax smudges away almost all detail in our tricky red-leaf swatch. Overall color from the Canon remains more pleasing and accurate.

Canon 80D vs Sony A6300 at ISO 1600

Canon 80D at ISO 1600
Sony A6300 at ISO 1600

Like we saw at base ISO, the Sony A6300 delivers a sharper image with better detail at ISO 1600, though aliasing artifacts are more visible. Noise levels are comparable, however the noise "grain" from the Canon is more consistent and film-like, while the Sony's noise reduction processing produces some darker pixels and other artifacts which give flatter areas a less natural look.

Canon 80D vs Canon 70D at ISO 3200

Canon 80D at ISO 3200
Canon 70D at ISO 3200

Here at ISO 3200, the 80D still manages to captures slightly better detail than the 70D in our mosaic crop, and noise levels appear very similar between the two siblings, but interestingly, the 70D does much better with our difficult red-leaf swatch.

Canon 80D vs Nikon D7200 at ISO 3200

Canon 80D at ISO 3200
Nikon D7200 at ISO 3200

Once again, the Nikon D7200 delivers a sharper, more detailed image than the 80D at ISO 3200. Overall noise levels appear just a bit lower from the Nikon, but its more aggressive processing means the grain pattern isn't quite as uniform as the Canon's. The Nikon actually renders a bit more fine detail in the red-leaf fabric, but some of it is distorted and false, and contrast is a little better from the Canon.

Canon 80D vs Olympus PEN-F at ISO 3200

Canon 80D at ISO 3200
Olympus PEN-F at ISO 3200

The Olympus PEN-F continues to produce a cleaner, crisper image with a finer "grain" pattern at ISO 3200, however aggressive anti-noise processing has flattened fine detail to the point where the mosaic crop is starting to look more like a painting of the label rather than a photo. Both cameras struggle with reproducing detail in our red-leaf swatch, but the Canon does a little better.

Canon 80D vs Pentax K-3 II at ISO 3200

Canon 80D at ISO 3200
Pentax K-3 II at ISO 3200

Similar to what we saw at ISO 1600, the Pentax K-3 II's image at ISO 3200 contains more detail, but luminance noise is also more visible and not as uniform as the Canon's. Almost all detail is lost by the Pentax in our red-leaf swatch, while the Canon still manages to produce a reasonable facsimile. Color also remains much better from the Canon.

Canon 80D vs Sony A6300 at ISO 3200

Canon 80D at ISO 3200
Sony A6300 at ISO 3200

The Sony A6300 continues to produce a crisper, more detailed image than the 80D at ISO 3200, however its area-specific noise reduction generates more artifacts in flatter areas and along edges than Canon's more traditional approach to noise reduction. The 80D blurs our tricky red-leaf fabric quite a bit at ISO 3200, but much of the Sony's apparent detail in that fabric is false.

Canon 80D vs. Canon 70D, Nikon D7200, Olympus PEN-F, Pentax K-3 II, Sony A6300

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
K-3 II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it, too. Here, we see the Canon 80D's slightly higher resolution gives it an edge over the 70D in terms of detail, especially at higher ISOs. The Sony A6300 however is the clear winner here with great detail, high contrast and hardly any sharpening halos. The Nikon D7200 performs slightly better than the 80D, however with more obvious sharpening halos. The Olympus PEN-F does very well at base ISO, but detail drops off more rapidly than the others as ISO climbs. The Pentax K-3 II does well at base ISO, though contrast is a bit lower than the rest, and contrast drops off more quickly at sensitivity climbs, however detail remains good.


Canon 80D Print Quality Analysis

High-quality prints up to 30 x 40 inches at ISO 100-400; Nice 13 x 19 inch prints at ISO 3200; and 4 x 6 inch prints at ISO 25,600.

ISO 100-400 images all look practically identical with lots of fine detail and pleasing, vibrant colors. The Canon 80D's new 24-megapixel sensor allows prints in this range of ISOs to climb all the way up to an impressive 30 x 40 inches. At this large print size, we see some extremely minor pixelation upon close inspection, as we're hitting the limit of the sensor's resolution. However, from a normal viewing distance for a print of this size, it looks very good. At these ISOs, you're really only limited by how much you want to push the 24MP sensor's resolution should you wish to print larger sizes.

ISO 800 prints still look good at 30 x 40 inches, however, we can see that a subtle increase in shadow noise has become more apparent at this sensitivity, making a 20 x 30 inch print the largest size we're willing to accept. That said, the colors and detail are still very good, so a 24 x 36 print could do well for less critical applications or with careful post-processing.

ISO 1600 images, as expected, display slightly stronger noise than the previous ISO. However, noise still looks very well controlled and has a more fine-grained appearance, which allows for nice prints up to 16 x 20 inches. At this size, prints show an acceptable noise level and lots of fine detail and pleasing colors.

ISO 3200 prints do nicely up until 13 x 19 inches. Colors are still vibrant and pleasing, but noise is making more of an impact on fine detail. Noise is still, however, mainly visible in the shadows, and high contrast detail still looks great.

ISO 6400 images show a noticeable increase in noise, and for print sizes larger than 8 x 10 inches, the drop in detail and stronger visible noise becomes an issue.

ISO 12,800 and 16,000 prints both look very similar in terms of detail and noise characteristics. Noise does have a noticeable impact on detail with larger print sizes, but at both ISO levels, the 80D produces usable 5 x 7 inch prints.

ISO 25,600 images manage to squeak out a nice 4 x 6 print. Colors still look good, and there's just enough detail to make a decent print at this size.

Making the jump from the 20-megapixel 70D to an all-new 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, the new mid-range Canon 80D produces an impressive performance in the print department. Prints from ISO 100 - 400 look virtually identical with lots of fine detail and pleasing colors, which allow for very large prints up to 30 x 40 inches -- or however large you're willing to push the resolving power of the sensor. Towards the middle ISO sensitivity levels, the 80D still does very well at controlling noise and striking a good balance between NR processing and fine detail. At ISO 3200, the Canon 80D manages a nice 13 x 19 inch print, and even at the top of the ISO scale, this new enthusiast DSLR achieves a usable 4 x 6 at ISO 25,600.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)


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