Canon EOS 80D Review – Introduction

At a glance:

  • 24.2-million-pixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-16,000 (expandable to 25,600)
  • 45-point autofocus system with Dual Pixel AF technology
  • 7fps continuous shooting
  • Full HD (1920×1080) video at 60,50,30,25,24fps
  • 3in, 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen
  • Price: £999 (body only)

Comparing Canon’s current DSLR line-up with what it was three or four years ago highlights how, today, the manufacturer offers a wider range of models catering for all types of photographer and sizes of budget. Canon once offered a couple of APS-C DSLRs for beginners, another couple for enthusiasts and two or three full-frame DSLRs for seasoned pros. By contrast, today’s line-up features seven APS-C DSLRs and six full-frame models.


For the advanced amateur photographer, Canon’s double-digit series of DSLRs has always been appealing, typically blending a comprehensive spec with a body-only price that falls just below £1,000. However, with competition in the high-end enthusiast DSLR segment intensifying, new models have needed to offer something new or unique to stay one step ahead. In the case of the Canon EOS 70D, the stand-out feature was its Dual Pixel CMOS AF system built into its 20.2-million-pixel sensor that redefined the speed of autofocus in live view and movie mode. This game-changing technology was always going to leave the 70D’s successor with big boots to fill and begs the question, is the Canon EOS 80D another revolutionary DSLR or more of a modest update on what we’ve already seen before?

Canon EOS 80D Review – Features

In the three years since Canon last released a double-digit DSLR, its engineers have been working hard to develop a new 24.2-million-pixel CMOS sensor. Much like the 70D’s 20.2-million-pixel CMOS sensor, this new chip benefits from Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. A more detailed explanation of this technology can be found on page 47. To take it one step further, Canon has introduced continuous autofocus (AI Servo) in live view mode. This was first rolled out on the 760D. The difference with the Canon EOS 80D is that it has phase-detect pixels spread across the entire frame, which should offer superior performance. Photographers who like to track moving subjects will appreciate having the option to select AI Servo in live view mode. It’s also good to see Canon adding extra control of the Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensitivity from the custom function menu. This allows users to adapt the focus to the shooting situation and create slow, natural or fast-focusing transitions.


The focusing improvements don’t end here. When shooting using the viewfinder the 80D features a newly developed autofocus module that is a big upgrade on the 70D. There are now 45 AF points compared with the 19 AF points on the 70D, and all these are the cross type. The AF system isn’t too dissimilar from the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, and out of the 45 AF points on offer 27 remain active when using a teleconverter and lens combination with a maximum aperture of f/8. Furthermore, the centre point is sensitive down to f/2.8, and the working range of the autofocus system (-3EV-18EV) is more in line with its closest rival, the Nikon D7200.


Rather than utilising Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 image processor, the sensor teams up with the manufacturer’s older, but still powerful, DIGIC 6 image processor. This pairing allows the 80D to shoot from ISO 100-16,000 (expandable to ISO 25,600), which works out to be a 1-stop sensitivity gain over the 70D. However, it’s no faster at rattling out a continuous burst than its predecessor, at 7fps. There’s also the option to shoot at 3fps in the 80D’s silent shooting mode, and it’s possible to rattle off a burst at 5fps in live view mode.

It’s not uncommon to see features filter down from models higher up in a manufacturer’s camera range. One example of this is the 80D’s flicker-detection technology. This can detect flickering light and then time each shot to coincide with the peak brightness of the light source for more consistent results. The 80D also inherits Canon’s 7,560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor that impressed us on the 750D and 760D; yet another improvement on the 70D’s older 63-zone dual-layer sensor.


Like the 70D, the 80D’s viewfinder displays a camera-level indicator to avoid skewed horizons. Instead of 98% coverage, it now displays 100% of the frame with 0.95x magnification. In the past, full viewfinder coverage has been exclusive to the more expensive premium models, so it’s great to see this finally filtering down to more affordable enthusiast DSLRs. Beneath the viewfinder, you’ll find a vari-angle 3in, 1.04-million-dot touch-sensitive display that is identical to the 70D’s.

The 80D doesn’t feature 4K video, but does provides videographers with the option to shoot full HD (1,920×1,080) movies up to 60p in the MP4 or MOV file formats. Full control audio levels can be taken directly from the touchscreen. Those who’ve been calling for a headphone socket will welcome the fact that one has been added below the mic port.


To speed up the connection speed between the camera and android devices, Canon has included one-touch NFC connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi connectivity. There’s also the option to adjust exposure settings, fire the camera remotely, and transfer full resolution JPEGs and MP4 movies to smart devices using Canon’s free Camera Connect app. A new fine-detail effect has been added to the list of picture styles, which adjusts the sharpening and noise reduction to improve the rendition of fine textures in JPEG files. Finally, just like the 70D, the 80D accepts the widely used LP-E6N battery.

Canon EOS 80D Review – Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology

For those unfamiliar with the term Dual Pixel CMOS AF, it refers to the 80D’s sensor-based autofocusing system. When the camera is switched over to live view mode, the internal mirror is lifted out of the way of the image sensor, allowing the camera to continuously record the light entering the lens and transmitting the data to the rear screen as a live image. The downside to this process is that without the mirror in place, the camera can no longer utilise the main phase-detection AF system in order to focus automatically. One solution to this problem was to incorporate AF sensors on the face of the image sensor itself. Previously, these AF sensors have been of the contrast-detect variety, which are typically slower and less accurate at locking on to targets than phase detection – especially when tracking moving subjects.


To overcome slow focusing speeds in live view, Canon has developed a Dual Pixel CMOS AF system that supports sensor-based, phase-detection autofocusing. The system works by splitting all the effective pixels on the surface of the sensor into two individual photodiodes – one for left and one for right. Each of these photodiodes can be read separately, allowing faster phase-detection autofocus while simultaneously being used for image capture. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is beneficial to both photographers and videographers who’d like to compose and shoot quickly without having to put up with a slow and clumsy autofocus performance.


Improving where the 70D left off, the 80D’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system now supports Servo AF when shooting still images in live view. This allows the user to select focus on a subject and then track it through the frame all the while the shutter button is half depressed. It’s particularly effective for moving subjects and was used to capture the shot above. The Servo AF mode has successfully maintained focus on the car, which was travelling at 30mph.

Canon EOS 80D Review – Build & Handling

Canon has spent many years refining the design of its enthusiast series of DSLRs and we seem to have reached a point where each new model looks very similar to the last. In the case of the 80D, it shares a close resemblance to the 70D. The only significant change at the rear of the body is an enlarged thumb rest that adorns the same rubberised grip as the front of the camera. Directly above the thumb rest, users have the option to take advantage of an AF-ON button – a feature exclusive to Canon’s more advanced DSLRs. This can be used to separate AF activation from the shutter release, and perform back-button focusing.


To keep things uniform at the rear, the playback and quick menu buttons are now circular to match the menu, info and zoom buttons. Meanwhile, a glance above the on/off switch reveals you can now take control of creative filters and access a second custom setting (C2) direct from the mode dial. The LCD on the top-plate is also larger than that on the EOS 760D, meaning there’s more space to glance at what metering and drive mode you have the camera set to.

Videographers will be pleased to read that Canon has carefully considered the placement of the microphone and headphone inputs to ensure the screen can be fully articulated when audio components are plugged in. The same can be said for the cable-release input, which is located just beneath. Photographers and videographers looking at the 80D as a possible upgrade option from the 70D will also appreciate that it’s fully compatible with the Canon BG-E14 battery grip (£134).


The body is constructed from aluminium and polycarbonate resin with glass and conductive fibre. In the hand, it feels well built and reassuringly solid. However, Canon admits it’s not constructed to the same weather-resistant standard as the EOS 7D Mark II. During my testing I was caught out in a few light rain showers, but these caused no issues with performance or operation, and I was surprised at just how well the touchscreen responded to wet fingers and water droplets across its surface.


One of my criticisms regarding the design of the 80D is Canon’s decision not to include a dual card slot – an extremely useful storage feature for both back-up as well as overflow, should you reach a card’s capacity. Those who feel this is a must-have feature will want to look at the 7D Mark II, which, at the time of writing this review, works out at only £79 more expensive than the 80D, with Canon’s £100 spring cashback promotion (available until 18 June) taken into consideration.

Canon EOS 80D Review – Performance

Unfortunately, Canon’s new kit zoom, the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM and its clip-on PZ-E1 power zoom adapter were not available to test with the 80D. Instead, the 80D was tested with the slightly older Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens as well as a selection of other optics, including the new Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art.

As mentioned earlier, the notable improvement on the 80D is the introduction of continuous autofocus (AI Servo) in live view. This is the first time we’ve seen the feature on a dual-pixel AF camera. To get an idea of how well it works, I tested it outdoors where I had the opportunity to continuously focus on subjects moving at slow and high speeds. Activating live view, and using the AF button on the top-plate, presents the option of selecting the AF method via the command dial on the top-plate and the AF mode with the scroll dial at the rear. After setting the AF method to FlexiZone Single AF, and the AF mode to Servo AF, I utilised the touchscreen to select my subject in the frame and kept the shutter half-depressed while panning. The 80D was quick at keeping up with ducks as they moved closer and farther away from the lens, and I found I was able to shoot a greater number of sharp shots in quick succession than was possible using one-shot AF.


Canon EOS 80D & Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/200sec, f/4.5, ISO 100

To photograph a moving car, I switched the AF method to FlexiZone-Multi and pinpointed the subject centrally in the frame. Again, the 80D had no difficulty continuously focusing in live view as I panned and tracked the vehicle side-on. However, attempting to continuously focus on a group of fast cyclists heading directly towards the camera proved much more of a challenge for the camera, and resulted in a few out-of-focus frames. The only other time the camera struggled to find focus accurately with live view and servo deployed was when it was asked to focus in extremely low-light environments.

Out of live view, the autofocus is snappy and responsive. It should be noted that the 45 AF points do gather towards the centre of the frame, but the wide working range of the autofocus system (-3EV-18EV) sees the camera make light work of focusing when the light levels drop. It’s noticeably more accurate in demanding lighting conditions compared to the 70D, which could only focus down to a conservative -0.5EV.


Canon EOS 80D & Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 DC HSM Art, 1/40sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

In addition to the improvements to autofocus, the 80D boasts a higher buffer depth, meaning it can now record 110 JPEGs, or 25 raw files, at up to 7fps. Those who shoot sports, action and wildlife are most likely to take advantage of this improvement. This is quite a step up from the 70D, which only used to manage 65 JPEGs or 16 raw files before its buffer required time to refresh.

Something I noticed while rattling out a continuous burst with the camera set to its silent mode is that although slap of the shutter mechanism is dampened, it’s not completely silent. Calling it a ‘quiet’ shutter mode, instead of ‘silent’, would be more accurate.

Canon’s menu systems are extremely intuitive and the 80D’s is no exception. The company is the pioneer of touchscreen control on DSLRs and the way the 80D’s responds to light touches makes navigating its settings a breeze. Creative filters are available for those who’d like to experiment with the look of their images. Users can preview creative filters in Live View mode, however, it’s not possible to record an uncompressed raw file at the same time.


Canon EOS 80D & Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 DC HSM Art, 1/160sec, f/5.6, ISO 400

The viewfinder is the best we’ve seen on a double-digit Canon DSLR. It’s great to know that what you see is exactly what the sensor records, thanks to its 100% field of view. I glanced at the electronic level overlay in the bottom corner on many occasions and found it particularly useful when shooting landscapes outdoors on a tripod. In other areas, the metering system performed well, producing bright and accurate exposures that required little more than -0.3EV exposure compensation. Battery life was excellent, too, with just under 1,000 shots captured from a single charge. Overall, I got the feeling the 80D is a polished and strong performing DSLR.

Canon EOS 80D Review – Image Quality

Canon has used a 24-million-pixel sensor before, in the EOS 750D and 760D. However, these two models don’t feature the 80D’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor. The jump to a 24-million-pixel sensor is good news for those who like freedom to crop tightly and, at the same time, preserve a high level of detail. Unlike the Nikon D7200, and some other recent high-resolution APS-C sensors, however, the 80D continues to use an anti-aliasing filter. With this in place, it has its work cut out to achieve the same levels of resolution. At ISO 100, the 80D delivers an impressive 3,400l/ph resolution, much like the Nikon D7200, but at higher sensitivities the D7200 has the edge.

To view more sample images taken on the Canon EOS 80D, visit our sample image gallery.

Dynamic Range

At ISO 100, the 80D’s dynamic range result measured 12.6EV – a figure that’s almost identical to the 12.7EV recorded by the EOS 7D Mark II at the same sensitivity. As the graph illustrates, the figure drops below 12EV beyond ISO 200, but stays above 10EV up to ISO 800. Results at ISO 1,600, 3,200 and 6,400 drop to 9.2EV, 8.0EV and 7.1EV respectively, with shadowed areas gradually getting nosier as you push closer towards the top two sensitivity settings. It’s only when you push beyond the 80D’s native ISO range and up to the extended setting of ISO 25,600 that the figure drops below 6EV. Although the 80D’s results aren’t as high as those recorded by the EOS 7D Mark II at higher sensitivity settings, this is a better than average dynamic range performance.

Canon EOS 80D DR


The 80D resolves an impressive 3,400l/ph at ISO 100, which is higher than the 2,800l/ph the 70D resolves at the same sensitivity setting. This improvement in resolution continues through the sensitivity range, with the 80D attaining 3,000l/ph at ISO 400 and 2,800l/ph up to ISO 1,600. As you begin to push the sensitivity higher, luminance noise starts to soften the finest details and reduces resolution. The sensor resolves 2,400l/ph at ISO 6400, beyond which point there’s a noticeable drop in resolution to 2,200l/ph at ISO 12,800, ending up at 1,800l/ph at its expanded ISO 25,600 setting.

Canon 80D_Res_RAW_100

Raw ISO 100

Canon 80D_Res_RAW_200

Raw ISO 200

Canon 80D_Res_RAW_400

Raw ISO 400

Canon 80D_Res_RAW_800

Raw ISO 800

Canon 80D_Res_RAW_1600

Raw ISO 1600

Canon 80D_Res_RAW_3200

Raw ISO 3200

Canon 80D_Res_RAW_6400

Raw ISO 6400

Canon 80D_Res_RAW_12800

Raw ISO 12800

Canon 80D_Res_RAW_25600

Raw ISO 25600


A close study of our JPEGs between ISO 100 and ISO 400 revealed no signs of noise and a high level of detail. Luminance noise starts to make its presence known at ISO 1,600 and is joined by chroma noise as you push towards ISO 3,200 and 6,400. Users can be confident of producing acceptable images straight out of the camera at ISO 6,400, but it’s worth bearing in mind that fine detail does get lost beyond this point. Inspecting our raw files, having first converted them in Canon’s Digital Photo Professional 4 software, revealed a strong set of results. Chroma noise is absent right up to ISO 6,400 and, although luminance noise is evident at ISO 3,200 and 6,400, it’s well controlled, allowing files to retain a high level of detail. Detail in raw files captured beyond ISO 6,400 takes a hit and the five-digit ISO settings are best avoided if you want to produce the best results.

DIO 80D ISO 100

Canon EOS 80D Raw ISO 100

DIO 80D ISO 200

Canon EOS 80D Raw ISO 200

DIO 80D ISO 400

Canon EOS 80D Raw ISO 400

DIO 80D ISO 800

Canon EOS 80D Raw ISO 800

DIO 80D ISO 1600

Canon EOS 80D Raw ISO 1600

DIO 80D ISO 3200

Canon EOS 80D Raw ISO 3200

DIO 80D ISO 6400

Canon EOS 80D Raw ISO 6400

DIO 80D ISO 12800

Canon EOS 80D Raw ISO 12800

DIO 80D ISO 25600

Canon EOS 80D Raw ISO 25600

Canon EOS 80D Review – Verdict

The 80D isn’t as revolutionary as the 70D was when it was released. Nevertheless, it’s better than its predecessor in a number of areas, including the accuracy of focusing both in and out of live view. The 80D is more responsive at focusing in low light than the 70D, and although it doesn’t feature case studies in the AF section of the menu, like the 7D Mark II, it’s good to see options being added to adjust the tracking sensitivity in the custom function menu.


Videographers who have been pleading for a headphone input have finally had their wish granted, and despite not featuring 4K the camera is equipped with all the advanced video functionality you need to shoot professional and smooth-looking movies at 60p.

The new sensor resolves more detail than the 70D. It doesn’t match the resolution of the Nikon D7200 at high sensitivities, but users will find there’s plenty of detail in images up to ISO 6,400. There was more chroma noise in JPEG files at high ISO than I had anticipated, but the accuracy of colour and exposure metering is just as good as we’ve come to expect from Canon, and is hard to fault. Canon hasn’t cut corners with regard to build quality. The 80D feels well constructed and should survive the test of time.


For amateurs and enthusiasts, the 80D is a well-rounded and highly capable APS-C DSLR that’s worth a close look. Whether you settle for the 80D or 7D Mark II depends on what you shoot, but with £80 (at the time of writing) being all that separates them, it doesn’t make it an easy decision. If a fully articulated screen, higher resolution and a slightly smaller body are what you’re after, the 80D gets the nod. However, if you shoot sports or action and would like your DSLR to shoot at up to 10fps with a highly sophisticated 65-point autofocus system and dual card slots, I’d say it’s worth spending the extra for Canon’s rather excellent EOS 7D Mark II.

testbench 4 stars

Canon EOS 80D Review – Full Specification