Canon EOS 80D Review

.Swiss Army Knife of DSLRs

Peter Kun Frary



The EOS 80D is an update of the 70D, building on the prior model's foundation with numerous improvements. Thus, the 80D feels, operates and looks nearly the same as the 70D. The significant updates lie beneath the skin: a new 24.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS, tweaked Movie Servo, AI servo in LiveView, all-cross 45-point AF and 100% coverage optical viewfinder.

Punchbowl | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

EOS 80D and EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM | Photo courtesy Canon Inc.

The 80D, targeted at photo and video hobbyists, packs cutting edge technology and features into a compact and lightweight body. Build quality is superb: polycarbonate body shell, matte black paint, magnesium alloy undercarriage and weather seals on switches and ports. At 22.9 oz. (650 g) it's a little lighter than the 70D (23.7 oz) and 6D (23.8 oz.). A deep finger groove and rubber leatherette make for a secure grip.

The shutter sound is subdued for a DSLR—muted but fast "klack"—and noticeably quieter than the 70D. Silent drive mode can fade it to pianissimo, making it perfect for stage and ceremonies.

Pretty Tourist | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM | The 45-point AF system is more "human aware" than 70D AF and quickly locked onto this off-center subject.

The 80D sports a similar 3.0" 1,040,000 dot touchscreen LCD as the 70D, albeit more smudge resistant. It's vivid and touch sensitivity is excellent—better than my iPhone—and sensitivity is adjustable. Most button functions are duplicated on the touchscreen (tap Q in the upper right of the screen). Plus, focus-pulls are a snap with the touch screen. Oddly, the LCD is disabled when using HDMI output, so no touch control when using a larger monitor. Unfortunately, HDMI output is unclean: overlays are displayed and can't be disabled for off-camera recording and viewing. Clean HDMI could be added in a firmware update but unlikely to happen.

Canon EOS 80D on video set | Buy this camera at Amazon

The articulating LCD is ideal for video and ground level macro. If you're a tripod shooter and normally use an L-plate, be aware the vertical plate blocks LCD movement. Stick with a body plate if you plan to use swivel and tilt features.

Canon EOS 80D | Photo courtesy Canon Inc.

Optical Viewfinder
This glass pentaprism based viewfinder is a pleasure to use: bright, smooth and vivid. In a side by side comparison with my 70D, increased viewfinder clarity and brightness are obvious. Plus, the 100% coverage and .95x magnification are slight improvements over the 98% coverage of the 70D.

The transmissive LCD display—transparent LCD over the focusing screen—displays icons, AF and metering patterns, aspect ratios (3:2, 4:3, 16:9 and 1:1), grid and plain matte screens and an electronic level. When an aspect ratio other than 3:2 is selected, black borders are superimposed in the viewfinder. Realize the crop lines are merely a guide for composition as the RAW file is still full frame and may be cropped anyway you choose during post production. I use the 16:9 setting to aid composition when shooting video thumbnails.

The outermost lines of the grid overlay correspond to the 4:3 aspect ratio, so you could leave the grid superimposed if the thick black lines are too distracting.

If the battery is removed, the viewfinder shows an image but is really dim. The LCD overlay needs to be powered for full viewfinder brightness. Canon doesn't call this an hybrid optical-LCD viewfinder but it is certainly heading that direction.

Hawaii Theatre | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

The menu interface appears cleaner and less crowded than the 70D: five icons (reduced from the 70D's fifteen) organized by category. Each menu is color coded (red, blue, etc.) and has two to six numbered submenus. I prefer the prior tabbed menu of the 60D/70D—faster to navigate with a wheel—but submenus allow more options, including space for finger pokes. Like the 70D, you can create a menu of your favorite settings for quick access.

Canon 80D menu: five categories with two to six numbered submenus

Buttons and wheels feel sturdy and may be used while looking through the viewfinder. Like the 70D, the 80D lacks a joystick, flash exposure compensation (FEC) button and white balance (WB) button. These functions are on the Q-screen but dropping camera from eye to use the touchscreen may cost you a shot. Most button functions can be customized, e.g., FEC may be assigned to the SET button (scale displays in the viewfinder) allowing FEC while looking through the viewfinder. The multi-controller (rocker switch in the center of the rear dial) is an able replacement to the joystick. I had no problems reaching it with my thumb and swapping AF points or navigating menus.

Exposure modes are set with a large knurled dial: Creative Zone with manual and semi-auto modes—Program (P), Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv) and Manual (M—and Basic Zone with assorted Full Auto modes. Two Custom (C) modes are included to save your favorite drive, exposure and image quality settings. If you've used EOS before, the interface is similar and you'll barely need to crack the manual.

Canon EOS 80D & EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM | Photo courtesy Canon Inc.

The 45-point cross type AF array is blazing fast and covers a larger percentage of the frame than the 70D's 19-point array. It's also more sure-footed in low light than the 70D. However, with so many AF points, a joystick for selecting them would be more nimble than its rocker-switch multi-controller.

45-point AF array: 62% horizontal and 48% vertical coverage.

The 80D has the same AF modes as the 70D—single-point AF (manual selection of individual points), zone AF (manual selection of zone) and 45-point automatic selection AF—plus a fourth mode, large zone AF (manual selection of zone).

With all these AF modes available, I normally manually select an AF point or zone where I want it to focus. Forty-five point auto select tends to lock on the nearest and/or brightest object. Cameras aren't smart enough to know if you want a tree, rock or cloud in focus. However, if a person enters the frame, the 80D is more human aware than my 6D, 70D and SL1 and usually locks on the humanoid form. It's not as refined as facial recognition servo in video/Live View but is like a dumbed down version of the 7D MKII's iTR AF. I primarily shoot nature and music videos so 80D AF is perfect for my use. If you mainly shoot portraits and want face or eyeball priority AF, move along.

There are few things 45-point AF can't lock focus on. In the image below, the 45-point AF system instantly locked on to the windblown grass seed and rendered a perfect exposure in Av mode.

Liliuokalani Botanical Garden | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM: 135mm, F5.6, 1/250 sec and ISO 400.

Pixel-Level Crop (100%) from the above image. Notice the exceptionally fine film-like grain of the background noise (ISO 400).

I was surprised to find another new AF flavor: AI Servo in LiveView. Tap the subject on the touchscreen, half-press the shutter button and the 80D tracks the subject across the screen. This mode drains power faster than normal AI servo but it's handy for low level shooting of critters and rugrats.

AF Microadjustment
Like the 70D, the 80D allows AF Microadjustment (AFMA): individual lenses may be calibrated for optimal sharpness. Zoom lenses may have two calibrations: one for the wide end of the range and another for the long side. For example, my EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM needed +6 at 18mm and +4 at 135mm to be critically sharp. Settings are stored in camera memory and used each time the lens focuses with the 45-point array. It takes me thirty minutes to calibrate a lens (target shooting and viewing at pixel level), so it's a good idea to write down the settings in case Custom Functions get reset. So far most of my lenses need AFMA, so buying a new camera often involves a lot of extra work.

Incidentally, the Dual Pixel AF (on-chip contrast focus) doesn't need calibration and AFMA is for the 45-point AF array only. Thus, images taken with Dual Pixel AF are an excellent base of comparison while calibrating lenses for the 45-point array.

Club Hubba Hubba | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

Image Quality
RAW images converted in DPP showed pleasing detail, color rendition and excellent noise control. However, I didn't notice significant image improvement over the 70D until I pulled the shadow slider in DPP and saw shadow noise reduction at both low and high ISO: shadows may be brightened at least a stop more than the 70D. The blue channel also has better noise control over the 70D, so cleaner skies! The 80D is the first EOS in years with a significant gain in dynamic range.

Beretania Street at 7:00AM | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM | 18mm, F3.5, 1/400 sec, ISO 100 | Exposed for the sunlit trees in the lower right and let shadows go black. I lifted shadows two stops in DPP and they still look clean and detailed.

Pixel-Level Crop (100%) showing shadow detail from lower right after two-stop lift. I could have lifted another stop or more but I wanted them to look like shadows!

Canon improves AutoISO with each new model, and the 80D sports the latest and greatest Auto ISO iteration: works in manual (M) mode and is programmable. In M mode, set desired shutter speed/F-stop and ISO scales up and down with changing light, maintaining proper exposure. Thus, M mode is transformed into a semi-automatic mode. Exposure compensation (EC) works in M mode with AutoISO and may be set on the Q Screen.

EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM | 135mm, F5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO 1600

At default, AutoISO is set to favor shutter speeds near the one/focal length ratio. I mainly use AutoISO for off the hip street and candid shooting so the default is too slow for me. Luckily, AutoISO can be tweaked to control minimum shutter speed: in the ISO speed settings menu adjust default shutter speed to faster or slower than the default. I programmed my 80D's AutoISO 1-stop over default.

As good as AutoISO is, there are many situations where manual setting of ISO gives a better result. I always set ISO manually when using flash, shooting in controlled studio lighting or using a tripod for long exposures.

Nuuanu Pali | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

The popup deploys at the touch of a button or, in Intelligent Auto Mode, auto erects. It may also serve as master/trigger for wireless slave capable Canon Speedlites. Popup flash range is limited but works fine for close snapshots or fill-in. Flash images were well-exposed using the popup and my 430EX MKII. No problems nailing exposure with bounced flash:

Birthday | EOS 80D and 430EX MKII bounced off ceiling

The main gotcha with AutoISO is flash: defaults to ISO 400 no matter what mode used or light level. If using fill flash in bright light, the background blows out due to the combination of low maximum sync speed (1/250 sec.) and high ISO. My solution is to manually set ISO 100, resulting in a stop or so of exposure leeway. In low light I prefer slow sync to blend ambient light with fill, and ISO 400 is often too slow, resulting in blurring. I dial in ISO 800 or 1600 for a sharp background and fill flash makes the subject pop.

First and foremost, the 80D is a still camera and video is a well implemented add-on feature. With that said, HD video with .MOV/ALL-I compression is excellent: less noisy in low light, more accurate color, better rendered detail and more film-like than the 70D. Also, the 80D exhibits less moire artifacts than the 70D.

The 80D has two video exposure modes: Auto and Manual. Auto mode sets aperture and shutter speed and but allows basic user input, e.g., AF mode, white balance, ISO and exposure compensation. Manual lets you choose the aperture and shutter speed. However, Manual mode also works with Auto ISO, achieving a quasi-auto exposure mode by changing ISO. Exposure compensation also works in Manual mode if Auto ISO is active.

For YouTube/Vimeo work I normally use manual exposure, ISO and white balance. Once adjusted for studio lighting, there are no worries about WB balance or exposure changing due to a backdrop or clothing change. It stays put. This duet track was shot at F5.6, 1/60, ISO 400 and 4800K.

Fernando Sor | Duo Opus 55, No. 3: Andante (Frary Guitar Duo) | 80D, EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM, Tascam DR-60D MKII and Neumann KM-184 mics

As expected, use the mode dial to select the video exposure mode, e.g., rotate to M for manual. I initially thought Av and Tv were semi-auto modes, allowing setting of aperture and shutter speed respectively. But Av, Tv, P, etc., all invoke auto video mode and do not behave as semi-auto modes as they do for still photography.

I'm disappointed 4K HD wasn't included on the 80D. In reality, 1080P is all I need for my YouTube and Vimeo channels: audiences watch on tiny phone and notebook screens. And 4K would force me to upgrade my Mac Mini i7 as it struggles during edits of two camera HD feeds! If you're planning to take your video productions beyond YouTube and Facebook clips, you already know the 80D isn't the camera for you.

Peter Kun Frary | Allemande (Bach) | 80D, EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM, Tascam DR-60 MKII and Neumann KM184 (2X)

Grace Frary | "Ländler" Op. 9, No. 4 (Mertz) | 80D, EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM, Tascam DR-60D MKII and Neumann KM-184 mics

Dual Pixel movie servo AF is improved over the 70D: more accurate tracking, faster and less prone to hunting in low light. Movie servo during video in dimly lit venues like classrooms and churches actually works! Of course you can select and focus on your subject by touching the screen with your finger. Even more impressive, you can drag your finger across the LCD and it smoothly pulls focus from near and far objects!

Love Song at Nightfall | 80D and EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

Although movie servo works best with STM and Nano USM, standard USM lenses focus significantly smoother than they did on the 70D, i.e., no jerks while achieving focus. Suddenly my USM lenses are useful for video! With that said, USM focus is still nosier than STM or Nano USM and is best used with outboard audio and mics.

Movie servo in Face Detection with Tracking mode works amazingly well, allowing me to both shoot and perform in video clips. No more struggling with prefocusing on a broomstick!

Peter Kun Frary | Sarabande (Poulenc) | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM | Tascam DR-60D MKII & Takamine CoolTubes pickup system

Auto white balance (WB) is improved over the 70D and nails it most of the time, even in mixed lighting. Like prior EOS, the 80D leans towards the warm side. The one situation Auto WB completely fails are scenes filled with lots of pinks and reds, resulting in a 1000 degree jump to the warm side. However, I normally avoid "surprise" WB and set it manually for my studio shoots.

Canon EOS 80D | Manfrotto MVH500AH Video Head | Sunwayfoto DDC-50L

Finally, as a solo YouTube artist, I self-shoot most of my videos. Thus, being able to use the RC-6 Wireless Remote Controller to start and stop video recording is a huge plus. Yes, I could use the Canon Connect app on my iPhone but I don't want a cellphone on set (cell signals interfere with audio gear). Plus, the RC-6 is small and easy to use compared to holding a guitar and a big honkin' iPhone: sit in chair with guitar, press remote button, toss RC-6 on floor and rock!

Peter Kun Frary | Startlight Gaze | Tascam DR-60D MKII & Trace Acoustic Cube | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

My only gotcha was due to not reading the manual. With the 60D/70D, RC-6 remote use is enabled for both video and stills with the self-timer/remote option on the drive menu. Oddly, still and video remote functions are separated on the 80D, so doing the before mentioned merely enables remote use for stills. A new option, "Remote," in the 80D video menu must be enabled for RC-6 video triggering. Incidentally, in 80D video mode, the immediate release setting on the RC-6 does nothing whereas it takes a picture on the 70D/60D. However, the 2-second delay setting on the RC-6 starts/stops video recording.

Built-in audio is noticeably improved over the 70D: slightly better preamps, better positioned built-in mics and a stereo mini jack for headphone monitoring. Audio is fine for casual clips but still too noisy and compressed for music videos. I use built-in audio only as a guide track for outboard audio, preferring Tascam recorders and external mics.

Liliuokalani Botanical Garden | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

You can diddle settings, fire shutter, zoom the Canon Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E1, upload images and use LiveView on an iPhone/iPad, Droid or computer with the Canon Camera Connect app. It works well on both my iPhone and iPad (didn't try my Mac). Video may be monitored through Wi-Fi, albeit a wired USB or HDMI connection is smoother and more battery efficient.

Connecting to an iOS device is fiddly the first time but easy once setup. First, enable Wi-Fi in the 80D's communication menu. The menu asks you to name your camera and automatically generates a password. Once 80D Wi-Fi is enabled, go to settings on your iPad/iPhone and select EOS80D (or whatever you named your camera) as the active Wi-Fi network. Once connected, open the Camera Connect app and input the password. That's it. Subsequent connections merely require a few screen touches.

EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM | Manfrotto MVH500AH

I love gadgets but, honestly, Wi-Fi is a feature I rarely use. Why? When I get home, I upload to my Mac with a Lexar Pro USB 3 card reader: blazes compared to Wi-Fi and allows uploading of multiple cards simultaneously. Finally, the iPhone is slow and awkward as a remote—LiveView lags terribly—and Wi-Fi eats batteries like candy, so I'll stick with my wired remote and RC-6 for time exposures and macro.

Battery Life
The 80D uses the same battery type as the 70D, 5D MKII, 6D, etc., the LP-E6 series. The difference is it came with a slightly stronger variant, the LP-E6N, but is backwards compatible with earlier LP-E6 versions. I don't have definitive numbers but can say 80D battery life is excellent and an improvement over the 70D. Shooting RAW with the kit lens, I easily get 1400+ images and still have a partial charge left. Of course, this is with Wi-Fi disabled, no live view and only minor chimping. As for video, I can shoot through an entire Leeward Coast Guitars concert on a single charge, over an hour of HD video clips. My 7D and 70D required a battery change at intermission! My SL1 required two battery changes...

Liliuokalani Botanical Garden | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

Random Ramblings
Being an early adopter of gear, I'm used to hitting speed bumps. At release in March 2016, there was no 80D RAW support from Apple for Aperture and Photos users. Fortunately, Canon's DPP app works great for RAW conversion if you lack a Lightroom or Photoshop subscription. If you want to use the Apple Photos app, DXo has a RAW plugin that works with the 80D.

June 25, 2016 Update: Apple finally released Raw Camera Update 6.20 for the 80D and a dozen other new cameras. It works well in Aperture 3.6x, Preview, iPhoto and Photos! OS 10.11+ required of course. The Apple raw profile tends to over brighten extreme highs so you may need to pull back highs to compensate.

At time of release, there were no dedicated Arca compatible plates for the 80D, although both Kirk and RRS are planning to build one. Incidentally, the RRS 70D body plate doesn't fit the 80D.

August 13, 2016 Update: RRS took their sweet time but finally released a dedicated Arca compatible body and L-plate in late July 2016. Kirk was out he gate about a month before RRS. I just got the RRS body plate and am a happy camper!

The Tourists | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

Final Blurb
The 80D is a nimble and capable camera, and a significant upgrade over the 70D in terms of AF, resolution and control of noise. For a generalist shooter like me, it strikes a near perfect balance of performance, ease of use and portability. It's also a wonderful camera for video bloggers and YouTubers due to the face priority movie servo and reversible LCD screen. The bottom line is the many small improvements add up to an enjoyable experience and excellent images and videos.

Finally, if you're looking to buy an 80D, buy it at Amazon. The referral credit will help support this site.

Honolulu Chinatown | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

Major Features

• 24.2 MP CMOS sensor with with Dual Pixel AF • 22.3mm x 14.9mm (APS-C)

• 45-Point Cross-type AF points • EV -3 to 18 sensitivity

• 63-zone TTL metering • Evaluative, center weighted, partial (6%) and spot (3.8%).

• Articulated LCD • 3"/1.04 MP Display with touch interface

• Popup Flash GN: 39.4 ft./12m (at ISO 100) • 17mm coverage

• SD/SDHC/SDXC and Ultra High-Speed (UHS-I) memory cards

• ISO: 100-16000 (expands to 25600)

• 7 FPS continuous shooting with AF

• Wi-Fi + NFC

• 1080/60p video capture

• Weather-resistant body

• Dimensions (W x H x D): 139.0 x 105.2 x 78.5 mm / 5.47 x 4.14 x 3.09 in.

• Approx. 650 g/22.93 oz. (body only)

Timberline at Mount Hood | EOS 80D/EF-s 18-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM

Source Materials

Canon EOS 80D Instruction Manual (CEL-SW5KA210). Canon Inc., 2016.

Introducing EOS 80D (Canon information site)

Sample Images | Click to enlarge


04/04/2016 | Updated 12/11/2016

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©Copyright 2016-2017 by Peter Kun Frary | All Rights Reserved


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