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Canon EOS 80D review: The Canon 80D delivers on faster focus

Faster than its predecessor and capable of better image quality, this enthusiast dSLR provides just what you'd expect from a Canon.

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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6 min read

Canon delivers a decent update to its popular prosumer action-capable camera, the EOS 70D. The 80D gets a new version of the company's Dual Pixel CMOS sensor with a faster on-sensor autofocus system, plus some minor additions. It has some notable improvements over the 70D, including much better Live View performance; it's not as fast as a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera, but it's finally usable for subjects in motion. And the generally improved performance will resonate with the typical action-shooting enthusiast who buys this class of dSLR. But if you're persnickety about color, you'll have to do some tweaking.

The Good

The Canon EOS 80D is fast, and if you play with the settings can produce excellent photo and video quality.

The Bad

The automatic white balance isn't very good, and it doesn't have a terribly broad set of features.

The Bottom Line

With better performance and photo quality than the 70D, the Canon EOS 80D is worth the upgrade, but it's got a lot of competition for the money.

It costs $1,200 (£1,030, AU$1,880) for the body and $1,600 (£1,380, AU$2,400) for a kit with the updated EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 USM lens that supports new the power zoom adapter.

Good photos, but change the defaults

The 80D is capable of producing excellent photos -- as long as you either shoot raw or change many of the default JPEG settings. The camera's automatic white balance isn't very good. Under our lab lights, the only way I could get anything I could compare to other cameras was by using manual white balance; I've had similar issues with the Nikon D7200 and other Canons, but the 80D's is pretty bad. In real daylight it's better, but still has problems -- among other things, it turns blue flowers purple. I couldn't find a white-balance preset that produced accurate colors. On the flip side, though, the cast keeps its low-light photos from shifting too far to yellow.

Canon EOS 80D full-resolution photo samples

See all photos

Complicating the issue is Canon's Auto Picture Style, which pushes the saturation and contrast way too much, plus overprocesses edges, making them look too heavy. The new Fine Detail option is much better at edge processing, delivering results comparable to using raw up to about ISO 1600, and delivers sharpness on thin lines comparable to other APS-C-sensor cameras. It should really be the default. You can get pretty good results processing raw through ISO 6400, though beyond ISO 1600 there isn't a lot of dynamic range available to recover.

The slightly higher-resolution sensor plus Fine Detail mode allows the 80D to produce noticeably better JPEGs than the 70D, though the latter's auto-white balance is more accurate. The 80D also has a far cleaner noise profile in general across ISO sensitivities.

The video still looks good, not much different than the 70D's, though with the same caveats about the color and image settings. Now it also supports 1080/60p, though.

Analysis samples

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JPEGs look clean up through ISO 400; you can start to see some smearing on details at ISO 800. You can push it closer to ISO 1600 with the Fine Detail style or by shooting raw.

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At the default settings, by ISO 3200 JPEGs have color noise and smeary noise-suppression artifacts.

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You can see how much better the Sony A6300's default detail rendering is than the 80D's.

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Note how much better resolved the JPEG image looks with the Fine Detail Picture Style vs. the default Auto.

Lori Grunin/CNET
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The 80D fares much better compared to the A6300 when changed to the Fine Detail Picture Style.

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Processing the raw yields much more accurate color, and allows you to recover a lot of the blown-out highlights.

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The default auto Picture Style oversaturates reds and pinks, plus shifts blues to purple.

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Under our test lights, the auto white balance has a dramatic color cast.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Faster in Live View

The one thing I immediately noticed about the 80D: Live View is now usable, thanks to faster autofocus in that mode. It's still not as fast as using a mirrorless. But it's about two to three times faster than the 70D, and sufficiently quick for shots I can't get with the 70D, like twitchy cats. Plus, it's that fast with third-party lenses in good light, such as the Sigma 24-35mm f2, not just Canon's STM models, which has been a problem in the past. It's also faster all around in low light.

Servo AI focus, Canon's continuous-tracking autofocus, also performs very well, delivering a reasonable number of in-focus shots out of every burst and at f/8 (the latter is an improvement). The continuous frame rate hasn't changed much, but the raw burst is up to about 21 shots from 17. The continuous AF still operates smoothly when shooting video, too.

It's pretty good in 9-point zone focus, but like most cameras, it's still not great at selecting the correct focus points when you let it choose from the larger zone or full range of 45 points.

Shooting speed

Olympus PEN-F 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.8Canon EOS 80D 0.2 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.4Sony A6300 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.2 2.4Canon EOS 70D 0.2 0.7 0.2 0.2 0.4Nikon D7200 0.6 0.6 0.2 0.2 0.3
  • Shutter lag (typical)
  • Shutter lag (dim light)
  • Typical shot-to-shot time
  • Raw shot-to-shot time
  • Time to first shot
Note: Seconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)

Live View shooting speed

Canon EOS 80D 0.4 0.4 0.7Canon EOS 70D 0.7 1.5 1.5
  • Shutter lag bright (live view)
  • Shutter lag dim (live view)
  • Typical shot-to-shot (live view)
Note: Seconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous-shooting speed

Sony A6300 8.3Canon EOS 80D 7.1Canon EOS 70D 7.0Olympus PEN-F 5.6Nikon D7200 5.0
Note: Frames per second (shorter bars indicate better performance)

Tweaked design

The 80D's design is only slightly updated over the 70D, though I welcome all the changes. They include an increase to 100 percent coverage in the viewfinder, a jack and another custom-setting slot on the mode dial. The new shutter mechanism has a softer feel and quieter operation that you notice immediately.

Otherwise, it looks and feels almost identical to the 70D; comfortable to grip and efficiently designed, with touchscreen operation optimized for shooting video.

However, its feature set is looking dated compared with what we see in comparable mirrorless models. It adds some modern features like Wi-Fi (with a decent remote-shooting app) and in-camera HDR, but for the most part still has an underwhelming handful of effects. The interval shooting timer maxes out at 99 shots -- for more you have to manually turn it off -- and though it can also shoot time-lapse movies, those are limited to HD resolution and fix exposure and focus on the first frame.

The one nontraditional capability is HDR movie, which, like the capability on Panasonic's cameras, combines multiple exposures for each frame, and it does seem to bring out more shadow detail. However, it's only available while shooting with in an automatic mode -- Canon's Basic zone -- at a higher compression rate. And you won't find features like slow motion or clean HDMI out, though it does have and mic jacks.

Conclusion

While the Canon EOS 80D is a definite improvement over the 70D, it's not without its drawbacks. It's fast, and you can get much better photos and video out of it as long as you don't leave it on the defaults. But if you're into filters, want in-body image stabilization for greater lens-choice flexibility or want sharper 4K video, there are less expensive but still good mirrorless interchangeable-lens options.

Comparative specifications

Canon EOS 70D Canon EOS 80D Nikon D7200
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS 24.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS 24.2MP CMOS
Sensor size 22.5 x 15 mm 22.5 x 15 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.6x 1.5x
OLPF Yes Yes No
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ISO 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 16000/ISO 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 25600
(up to ISO 102,400 in black and white)
Burst shooting 7fps
40 JPEG/15 raw
7fps
110 JPEG/25 raw
6fps
100 JPEG (Normal quality)/27 raw (12-bit)
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
Optical
98% coverage
0.95x/0.59x
Optical
100% coverage
0.95x/0.59x
Optical
100% coverage
0.94x/0.63 x
Hot Shoe Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 19-point phase-detection AF
all cross-type
center dual cross to f2.8
45-point phase-detection
all cross-type
27 to f8, 9 cross-type
1 to f2.8
51-point phase-detection AF
15 cross-type
center to f8
AF sensitivity -0.5 - 18 EV -3 to 18 EV -3 - 19 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 sec.; bulb; 1/250 sec. x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 sec.; bulb; 1/250 sec. x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 sec.; bulb; 1/250 sec. x-sync, 1/320 sec. x-sync at reduced flash output, 1/8,000 sec. FP x-sync
Shutter durability 100,000 cycles 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles
Metering 63 zone 7,560-pixel RGB+IR, 63 zones 2,016-pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix Metering II
Metering sensitivity 1 - 20 EV 1 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p, 25p, 24p; 720/60p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p, 25p, 24p; MP4: 720/60p, 1080/60p, 30p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p, 50p @ 1.3x crop; 1080/30p, 25p, 24p
Audio Stereo, mic input Stereo, mic input, jack Stereo, mic input, jack
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time per clip 4GB 4GB/29:59 mins 10 mins
Clean HDMI out No No Yes
IS Optical Optical Optical
Display 3 in./7.7cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in./7.7cm
Articulated touchscreen
1.04m dots
3.2 in./8 cm
Fixed
921,600 dots
(plus extra set of white)
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 2 x SDXC
Wireless connection None Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 800 shots
(2,600 mAh)
960 (VF); 300 (LV)
(2,600 mAh)
1,100 shots
(1,900 mAh)
Size (WHD) 5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1 in.
139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5 mm
5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1 in.
139.0 x 105 x 79 mm
5.3 x 4.2 x 3.0 in.
135.5 x 106.5 x 76 mm
Body operating weight 27.2 oz.
771.1 g
26.4 oz.
748 g
26.9 oz.
762 g
Mfr. price (body only) $900
£730
AU$1,240
$1,200
£1,030
AU$1,880
$1,050
£870
AU$1,300 (est.)
Primary kit $1,200
£1,060
AU$1,620
(with 18-135mm STM lens)
$1,600
£1,380
AU$2,400
(with 18-135mm USM lens)
$1,350
AU$1,800 (est.)
(with 18-140mm lens)
£1,070
AU$1,750 (est.)
(with 18-105mm lens)

Release date August 2013 March 2016 April 2015
canon-eos-80d-01.jpg
8.1

Canon EOS 80D

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 9Image quality 8