Canon EOS 80D
Canon boosts its mid-level D-SLR offering with a new sensor and processor, new autofocus system, new metering system and enhanced video capabilities. Is it enough to compete with the mirrorless rivals?
Canon boosts its mid-level D-SLR offering with a new sensor and processor, new autofocus system, new metering system and enhanced video capabilities. Is it enough to compete with the mirrorless rivals?
If it ain’t broken… Canon’s EOS 70D was arguably the pick of the mid-level D-SLRs for anybody who didn’t want to venture into the pricier and higher-specced world of top-end enthusiast-orientated models. So, wisely, Canon has kept quite a bit of the 70D in the new EOS 80D.
Again, the 80D is the last stop before the EOS 7D Mark II or, if you want a full-35mm sensor, the EOS 5D line-up which represent an increasingly bigger outlay, but thanks to a number of new features and upgrades, there’s less of a gap in terms of both features and performance.
Carried over from the 70D is a weather-sealed polycarbonate bodyshell – little changed, in fact – and a magnesium alloy chassis. The variable-angle ‘Clear View II’ LCD monitor screen with touch controls is also as before (with the resolution staying at 1.04 megadots because it’s still competitive), as is the maximum continuous shooting speed of 7.0 fps, although the 80D is driven by Canon’s
latest-generation ‘DiG!C 6’ image processor. A single slot for SD format memory cards is retained, along with a GN 12 (at ISO 100) built-in flash and a prism-based optical viewfinder with 0.95x magnification. However, scene coverage is now up from 98 percent to “approximately 100 percent”.The control layout still centres on a main mode dial with a front input wheel just astern of the shutter release and Canon’s ‘Quick Control Dial’ (a.k.a. the rear input wheel) which encircles the ‘Multi Controller’ navigational keypad. As before, a large monochrome LCD read-out panel dominates the top deck and is accompanied by a quartet of function buttons for the AF modes, shooting modes, ISO settings and metering options.
In fact, it takes a very sharp eye to notice the handful of external changes – a couple more positions on the main mode dial (more about these later), the muchneeded relocation of the stereo microphones from behind the built-in flash to the front of the camera, and an additional connection for plugging in monitoring headphones (see the Making Movies side-panel for the rest of the EOS 80D’s video story).
On the inside, though, there’s quite a bit that’s changed which is to be expected given it’s three years since the 70D was launched. The ‘DiG!C 6’ processor has a new sensor to look after and is faster to allow for, among other things, higher-quality Full HD video recording at 25 fps with ALL-I intraframe compression.
The 80D’s sensor is, of course, a Canon-made CMOS device and has an imaging area of 22.3x14.9 mm with a total pixel count of 25.8 million. The effective pixel count is 24.2 million which is a reasonable increase over the 70D’s 20.2 MP and gives a maximum image size of 6000x4000 pixels. RAW files (with 14-bit colour) can be captured in one of three sizes, JPEGs in one of five with a choice of two compression levels. The aspect ratio can be set to 3:2, 4:3, 16:9 or 1:1.
Canon remains committed to retaining an optical low-pass filter to deal with moiré patterns, but this new sensor delivers a number of improvements to imaging performance, including a better signal-to-noise ration which increases the dynamic range. The 80D’s sensor also continues with Canon’s ‘Dual Pixel AF’ architecture which enables phase-difference detection autofocusing to be performed at every pixel as these are actually pairs of photodiodes. This means full phase-detection AF is available when using live view and when recording video where the biggest benefit is more reliable continuous operations and subject tracking. In live view (and video) the autofocusing is now so much more convenient than it once was when using a D-SLR. There’s a choice of AF modes which allow for face detection, auto tracking and, thanks to the touchscreen, instant focus point selection via a quick tap on the desired subject. Thirty-five points are available which, in the ‘FlexiZone – Multi’ mode can be split into groups of nine with automatic shifting between these zones or, alternatively, within them. Manual focusing is assisted via a magnified image (up to 10x), but still there isn’t a focus-peaking display which, in many ways, is a much more effective method (and now pretty much standard in the mirrorless world).
The EOS 80D’s optical AF system gets a bigger upgrade, moving up to 45 focusing points – all of them cross-type arrays – compared to the 70D’s 19. The central point is a dual crosstype for enhanced detection capabilities. The sensitivity range extends down to -3.0 EV (at ISO 100) and 27 of the AF points will work with a lens aperture as slow as f8.0. Switching between singleshot or continuous operations can be either manual or automatic; and there’s the choice of single point, ‘Zone AF’ (using nine-point clusters), ‘Large Zone AF’ (which divides the full array into left, right and centre groupings) and, of course, fully automatic point selection. Tracking is assisted by
THE 80D’S SENSOR ALSO CONTINUES WITH CANON’S ‘DUAL PIXEL AF’ ARCHITECTURE WHICH ENABLES PHASE-DIFFERENCE DETECTION AUTOFOCUSING TO BE PERFORMED AT EVERY PIXEL AS THESE ARE ACTUALLY PAIRS OF PHOTODIODES.
the camera’s also-new 7560-pixels ‘RGB+IR’ metering sensor and is adjustable for sensitivity, acceleration and readiness to switch points. Unlike the higherend Canon D-SLRs which have a dedicated AF menu page, these adjustments are tucked away in the custom settings so they’re less accessible in a hurry, but the positive is at least the possibility of fine-tuning exists. AF microadjustment is also available for up to 40 individual lenses. And it’s worth noting here that the 80D’s 7.0 fps is with continuous AF adjustment.
The new metering sensor drives multi-zone measurements using up to 63 segments; centre-weighted average, selective area and spot modes. Sensitivity can be set between ISO 100 and 16,000 with lightly under a 2/3-stop push to ISO 25,600. The usual selection of automatic, semi-auto and manual exposure modes is supplemented The EOS 5D Mark III is still the darling of D-SLR video-makers, but Canon has equipped the EOS 80D to make it a possible option for anybody on a tighter budget. Apart from the camera itself – which gains new features such as a stereo audio output and 1080/50p recording – there’s a new external shotgun microphone and a very nifty power zoom drive. The DM-E1 microphone is compatible with any camera that has a 3.5 mm stereo input, the new PZ-E1 Power Zoom Adaptor designed specifically for the also-new EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM ‘kit’ lens for the 80D. It attaches to lugs set in the lens barrel which mate its drive gear to the zooming collar and there’s then a choice of two zooming speeds. It’s a pretty compact and lightweight device, powered by four AAA-size batteries, and it makes zooming super smooth and consistent. Canon says it’s likely power zoom adaptors will be offered for other new lenses in the future and there’s the scope for a multi-model device too.
Full HD 1080p video at either 25 or 24 fps (PAL standard) in the MOV format with the choice of either IPB or ALL-I compression regimes (i.e. either intra-frame or inter-frame). Alternatively, you can record in the MP4 format at 50, 25 or 24 fps using IPB compression with either Standard or Light compression levels. Conveniently, the 70D has automatic file partitioning at 4.0 GB so recording continues seamlessly as this file size is exceeded, but the overall maximum clip length remains at the 29 minutes and 59 seconds limit imposed by European taxation laws (which still differentiate between a still camera and a video camcorder). Like its predecessor, the 80D is region specific as far as the PAL and NTSC TV standards are concerned. As noted in the main text, the built-in stereo microphones have been moved to a more suitable location on the front of the camera, and the audio recording levels can be manually adjusted over a wide range of 64 steps. Additionally, both a wind-cut filter and an attenuator are provided.
Three autofocusing modes are available for video recording – face detection with auto tracking, ‘FlexiZone Multi’ and ‘FlexiZone Single’ (all with the option of establishing the focusing point via the touchscreen) – and the tracking sensitivity can be adjusted along with the continuous AF’s speed to better match the subject matter. The ‘FlexiZone Multi’ mode is a widearea mode which employs up to 21 focusing points (although 35 are available in live view) which can be broken down into three zones comprising nine points. The ‘FlexiZone Single’ mode is selfexplanatory and is obviously used for more selective focusing.
Exposure control can be either fully automatic – including with auto scene mode selection – or fully manual, and most of the main processing and correction functions available for still photography are also accessible for shooting video, including the ‘Picture Style’ presets, five ‘Creative Filter’ effects, exposure compensation and the ‘Auto Lighting Optimiser’ corrections. The sensitivity and white balance can also be set manually. Manual focusing is assisted by a magnified image (set to 5x or 10x), but there isn’t a focuspeaking display or, for that matter, a zebra pattern for warning of overexposure.
There are number of contradictions with the 80D’s video capabilities, because although its level of functionality is high – and also includes timelapse movies, HDR recording and time-coding – it lacks other staples such as a ‘clean’ uncompressed HDMI output, a flat colour profile (i.e. as a ‘Picture Style’ preset) or any slowmotion recording speeds. There’s probably more than enough here for the casual movie-maker, but anybody who’s a bit more serious may find these key omissions harder to live with.
by an AE lock, up to +/-5.0 EV of compensation and auto bracketing over three frames with up to +/-3.0 EV of adjustment. Auto bracketing can be combined with exposure compensation settings to give a maximum possible adjustment of +/-8.0 EV.
Ten subject programs are available for manual selection or can be automatically determined by the camera when it’s in the ‘Scene Intelligent Auto’ mode. Also available is a ‘Creative Auto’ mode which is essentially fully automatic, but also provides a couple of basic overrides for depthof-field and what Canon calls the ‘Ambience’ which essentially adjust the colour balance and saturation plus the exposure (i.e. brighter or darker over three levels each). Additionally, there’s the option of shooting in B&W with either sepia or blue toning.
If you think these sound like a simplified version of Canon’s ‘Picture Styles’ presets, you’d be right and, of course, the latter remain when using the standard exposure modes. The EOS 80D now has seven presets with the addition of one called Fine Detail – which enhances definition – plus the Auto option which has also been introduced since the 70D. The Auto ‘Picture Style’ automatically adjusts the colour hue and saturation according to the lighting conditions.
The selection of adjustable parameters has been increased with the addition of three subsettings for the sharpness control labelled Strength, Fineness and Threshold. The adjustments for saturation, hue and contrast remain unchanged, likewise those specific to the Monochrome preset for contrast filters and toning effects. Up to three user-defined ‘Picture Styles’ can be created and stored. The choice of ‘Creative Filter’ special effects has been increased to ten and these are now accessed directly from the main mode dial. The newcomers are all HDR-type effects created via multi-shot capture and the subsequent merging of the three frames. However, as the ‘Creative Filters’ work as standalone fullyauto modes when being used at capture, there’s also a ‘proper’ HDR capture function – again over three frames – which can be applied to any of the standard exposure modes, but with the additional effects (called Vivid, Bold and Embossed) also available. Additionally here, the exposure variation can be set to Auto or to specific adjustments of +/1.0, +/2.0 or +/-3.0 EV. The ‘Auto Lighting Optimiser’ (ALO) processing for dynamic range expansion remains as before, as does the alternative ‘Highlight Tone Priority’ (HTP) processing. The main difference is that the latter only works on the highlights and leaves the shadows unchanged.
There’s been some minor tweaking to the white balance controls with the choice of new ‘Ambience Priority’ or ‘White Priority’ modes for the automatic correction. White balance bracketing, fine-tuning and manual colour temperature setting supplement a set of six presets. One custom WB measurement can be stored for future recall.
As noted at the outset, the EOS 80D has the same pop-up flash unit as its predecessor and the same set of capabilities The flash modes include red-eye reduction (via a built-in illuminator), balanced fill-in, first/second curtain sync switching and a manual mode which allows the output to be reduced to just 1/128 of full power. Flash exposure compensation is available over a range of +/-3.0 EV and flash bracketing, again over +/-3.0 EV. The built-in flash can also operate as the master unit in a wireless TTL flash set-up, providing four channels for controlling (optically) two groups of off-camera Canon Speedlites.
There’s a hotshoe for connecting external flash units, but no PC terminal. Flash sync is at all shutter speeds up to 1/250 second, and the 80D’s full shutter speed range is, as before, 30-1/8000 second, adjustable in ½-stop or 1/3-stop increments. Conveniently, the ‘Bulb’ (B) timer for longer exposures can be preset, eliminating the need to keep the shutter held open in some way. Shutter reliability remains at 100,000 tested cycles.
On the subject of shutter speeds, the flickering of gasignition lighting (i.e. fluorescent types) can create significant problems with both exposure and colour balance when shooting at faster settings. The EOS 80D is the latest Canon D-SLR to be equipped with an anti-flicker capability which detects the frequency of a light source’s blinking and times the exposures to minimise the effect, even with continuous shooting. Obviously there’s a chance here that the shutter lag will reduce the continuous shooting speed, but the advantage is much more even exposures across a sequence of frames and largely similar colour balance. Incidentally, flicker is less of an issue with slower shutter speeds – below 1/25 second in countries with 50 Hz mains power switching – because there’s enough time to counter-balance the effects.
The EOS 80D also gets a new manually-adjustable correction for lens aberration with distortion control added to the previous vignetting (a.k.a. peripheral illumination) and chromatic abberation. Additionally, the number of lenses that can be registered for these corrections is increased from 25 to 30. Still on in-camera corrections, noise reduction processing is provided for both high ISO settings and long exposure.
New to the features list is an intervalometer, but the maximum shots possible in a sequence is pegged at 99. The time-lapse function available in the video mode is rather more generous, enabling up to 3600 frames in the Full HD resolution. As on the 70D, the 80D has a multiple exposure facility which allows for up to nine images to be combined with the choice of either additive or average exposure management. The builtin WiFi is updated to provide the convenience of NFC ‘touch and go’ connectivity.
The EOS 80D continues with Canon’s ‘Intelligent Viewfinder’ display which allows for the superimposition of a level display (albeit for tilt only), flicker detection and a grid guide over the image. The area covered by the autofocusing points is permanently displayed, and usefully along with an icon showing the selected zone pattern. Active AF points illuminate. The spot metering area is also shown. The level display is also available in the monitor screen which can also be set to show a ‘Quick Control’ screen. This
provides direct access to a whole range of capture-related settings as well as serving as an info display. Navigation and selection can be via the traditional method, but obviously the touchscreen route is much faster and efficient. In addition to the touch focus control, there’s also the option of also triggering the shutter this way immediately focus is achieved.
The menu continues with Canon’s current tabbed arrangement for both chapters and pages which means the latter have to be selected individually and you can’t scroll continuously through them. Another idiosyncrasy also continues, namely the need to first press the ‘Set’ button in order to access sub-menus and settings, as well as to subsequently confirm any action. Regular users of Canon D-SLRs are probably quite used to this, but newcomers will have to unlearn the more common practice of using a right-click for these actions. The menu layout isn’t quite a logical as those of the most recent higher-end models – such as the 7D Mark II and the 5Ds duo – but at least the massively long custom menus are now a thing of the past.
The live view screen can be configured with a real-time histogram (switchable between large or small, brightness or RGB), the level indicator, a guide grid and various combinations of read-outs. Additionally, the ‘Quick Menu’ is available as a set tiles superimposed along either side of the frame. This is obviously a reduced list of functions, but still includes AF area modes, metering pattern, the ‘Picture Style’ presets, the ‘Auto Lighting Optimiser’ and the ‘Creative Filters’ settings. In each case, the sub-menu appears at the bottom of the frame.
A ‘Quick Control’ menu is also available for playback, enabling rapid access to a number of functions, including the ‘Creative Art’ effects (for post-capture application), enabling a highlight alert, resizing, cropping, an AF point display (i.e. the AF points actually used) and the application of a star rating. RAW-to-JPEG conversion is also available here. There are three basic image review/replay screens which show the image alone, the image with basic capture info overlaid, or a thumbnail with more data and a histogram. However, this latter display can be configured to one of six variations – a full set of histograms, white balance data (including any fine-tuning), ‘Picture Style’ sharpness settings, ‘Picture Style’ contrast/saturation/colour tone, colour space and noise reduction settings, and the lens aberration correction settings. Additionally, if the optional GP-E2 GPS receiver is fitted, there’s a page of GPS info too. Phew!
The playback options include four thumbnail pages (for four, nine, 36 or 100 images), zooming (from 1.5x to 10x) and a slide show with adjustable image display times and a selection of transitions. Additionally, the slide show can be set to only replay selected images – for example, according to the date of capture, the folder name or the star rating. Touchscreen controls allow for faster browsing and the selection of a thumbnail while the thumband-forefinger pinch or spread actions transition all the way through the smallest thumbnails to the maximum magnification.
SPEED AND PERFORMANCE
Loaded with our reference SD memory card – Lexar’s 128 GB SDXC UHS-II/U3 (Speed Class 3) ‘2000x’ device – the EOS 80D fired off a burst of 100 JPEG/large/fine frames in 14.445 seconds which represents a shooting speed of 6.922 fps. Apart from this speed being very close to Canon’s quoted spec of 7.0 fps, the burst length is too (Canon claims 110 frames) which is much more unusual. Most cameras run out of puff long before the quoted buffer limit, and subsequently slow down markedly. In practice, the so-called ‘unlimited’ burst length doesn’t exist. That the 80D kept firing at close to 7.0 fps for such a long burst length – and with continuous AF/AE adjustment – is impressive. For the record, the average file size across this sequence was 10.5 MB.
The autofocusing is impressively fast and reliable and performs exceedingly well in low light situations. Thanks to the ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’, it’s still
fast when shooting in live view or recording video, and the reliability of the subject tracking is arguably the best we’ve seen in a D-SLR. It’s hard to fault the multi-zone metering too, even in situations where some degree of underor overexposure might have been expected.
The increase in sensor resolution delivers some image quality benefits, most notably enhanced definition which is evident in the reproduction of textures or fine patterns. While the EOS 80D’s closest rival, Nikon’s D7200, has a 24.72 MP sensor that benefits from the absence of an optical low-pass filter, the Canon doesn’t seem to suffer at all in terms of how fine detailing is handled and the best-quality JPEGs exhibit superior colour fidelity across the spectrum, but most particularly in the orange- red range. That said, the auto white balance had a tendency to give blues more of a purple hue and, occasionally, punch up the reds a little too much. Creating a custom white balance setting proved the most effective route in any situation where there was more than one type of lighting, but here you’re limited to be able to store only one measurement. Of course, the ‘Picture Style’ presets provide plenty of scope for tweaking the look of JPEGs, but the new adjustments for sharpness allow for independent control over the edge processing and the graininess. The dynamic range straight out of the camera is significantly better than that of the 70D and, more generally, very good for a 20+ MP ‘APS-C’ size sensor. There’s even more exposure latitude to play with in the RAW files.
Noise is well managed up to ISO 1600 by which time some loss of definition starts to become noticeable and it’s then progressively diminished up to ISO 12,800. Chroma (colour) noise is very evident from ISO 3200 upwards.
Overall, the EOS 80D delivers a superior imaging performance to its predecessor and it keeps Canon competitive with both its Nikon and Pentax rivals in D-SLRs.
The mirrorless camera world has progressed significantly since the EOS 70D appeared and there’s now a lot of non-reflex competition at and around this price point.
With the recent improvements made to the actual performance of Micro Four Thirds sensors and the considerable capabilities of both Fujifilm and Sony in the ‘APS-C’ format, D-SLRs in the entry-level to mid-level range need to do more. The EOS 80D has a good story to tell in relation to its predecessor, but its mirrorless cameras like Fujifilm’s X-T10 and Sony’s A6300 that are the real threat now and, compared to these, the Canon somewhat lacks a bit of fizz.
Ironically though, it’s the EOS 80D’s performance in live view – when it’s essentially functioning as a mirrorless camera – that represents the most significant improvement, especially in terms of the continuous AF speed and auto tracking reliability.
By any measure, the EOS 80D is a very capable camera, but whether that’s now enough to attract buyers away from the seductions of the ever more innovative mirrorless designs is debatable.
EOS 80D replaces a three-year-old model and consequently offers a number of improvements to its capabilities and performance.
‘Quick Control’ screen provides direct access to a wide selection of capture-related functions via the monitor screen. LCD monitor screen is adjustable for tilt and swing, and has the convenience of touch controls. The rear panel layout is unchanged from the previous model and control centres around the combination of Canon’s ‘Quick Control Dial’ (a.k.a. the rear input wheel) and the ‘Multi Controller’ navigational keypad. Polycarbonate bodyshell is fully weather sealed. There’s a magnesium alloy chassis underneath.
Main mode dial now has settings for direct access to the ‘Creative Filters’ effects and a second customised camera settings position. ‘Old school’ monochrome LCD readout panel is retained. Control layout is only very slightly changed from that of the previous EOS 70D. New EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM ‘kit’ lens features a more compact ‘Nano USM’ autofocusing and can be fitted with an optional power zoom drive.
Image review screens include a thumbnail with a brightness histogram, but there’s a choice of six variations which include white balance, ‘Picture Style’ sharpness settings, colour space and noise reduction settings, and lens aberration correction settings.
The live view screen can become a busy place when all the possible elements are added, including a real-time histogram (adjustable for size and type) and AF point and area frame.
Menu design is standard Canon EOS D-SLR fare with tabbed chapters and pages which have to be accessed individually.
New ‘Picture Style’ preset is called Fine Detail and, not surprisingly, is designed to deliver enhanced definition.
Review image can also be shown with a grid guide superimposed.
Built-in stereo microphones are now located on the front of the camera body, either side of the lens mount. Among the upgrades to the camera’s video capabilities is the addition of a stereo audio output for connecting monitoring headphones. HDMI output is Type C mini connector. USB 2.0 connector is above.