Canon EOS 80D DSLR Review

The EOS 80D is the latest iteration of Canon’s APS-C-chipped DSLRs that began with the introduction of the (no kidding) three-megapixel EOS D30 in 2000. I’ve owned and shot with every camera in this series through the 60D. I so dearly loved my Canon 50D, now converted to infrared-only operation, that I couldn’t imagine anything better, at least until I got the 60D. What happened to the 70D? I guess I must have missed that one. No matter, I was eager to put the new EOS 80D to work because of the specs and features it offered.

The Canon EOS 80D body ($1,199) has an APS-C-sized 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor with 45 all cross-type autofocus points, compared to 19 in the EOS 70D. Most Canon updates include an image processor upgrade and the 80D’s DIGIC 6 processor is supposed to improve image quality and has a native ISO range from 100 to 16,000 that’s expandable to 25,600 for stills and video. Its buffer depth lets you capture 110 JPEGs or 25 Raw files in continuous mode at up to 7 frames per second (fps). The viewfinder has 100 percent coverage with a three-inch touchscreen LCD screen that flips out and swivels, making it useful for down low or Hail Mary shots.

The Canon 80D’s Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus has a new sensor where all of the pixels simultaneously perform still imaging and phase-detection autofocus during Live View or video shooting. In real-world use, it was as fast as you would want or expect. There’s the inevitable built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for transfer of images and video to mobile devices via the free Canon Camera Connect app or backed up to the Canon Connect Station CS100 ($259).

The Canon 80D’s HDR mode offers creative filter effects, such as Natural, Art Standard, Art Bold, Art Vivid, and Art Embossed. Other filters include Grainy Black and White, Soft Focus, Fisheye Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Miniature Effect, and Water Painting Effect. There’s the venerable—some hate them, I love ’em—Picture Style settings of Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Fine Detail, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, and three User Defined modes that can be filled with downloads from the Picture Style Special Site.

There is a tendency, by manufacturers, to keep adding features to DSLRs to fill more checkbox marks in camera comparison charts. These changes occur, I feel, at the expense of greater usability. Bigger screens, for example, while desirable, often make the camera bigger or force physical controls closer together, something that decreases the overall human engineering, especially for those shooters with normal or smaller-sized hands.

So the shape and ergonomics of the Canon EOS 80D suffers, if only slightly, from adding more capabilities. It’s a trade-off. To Canon’s credit, the 60D, 70D, and 80D have their on-off controls in the same place on the camera’s back, something that hasn’t always been across the board in EOS cameras. For reasons I don’t understand—my friend Cliff says it’s because he always uses his SLR on a tripod—some people like big cameras. I don’t.

(Click image to view at full resolution.) Regular readers know one of my favorite places to test new cameras is to photograph the gazebo at O’Brien Park in Parker, Colorado, and I went there near the end of a snowy spring day. For this shot, the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens was set at 19mm. As I shot the light began to grow muddy, so I made this shot using the 3 EV setting for the camera’s Art Standard HDR mode, which then assembles three images in camera to produce the result you see here. Nominal exposure was 1/500 second at f/5 and ISO 400. ©Joe Farace

Canon, more than any other camera company, doubled down on video and there’s no doubt some TV, especially reality shows, and even some movies are shot using Canon DSLRs. A little while ago I made an informal survey of Shutterbug readers that showed when push comes to shove, most of them, myself included, use their smartphones for video, rather than a DSLR.

Nevertheless…the EOS 80D shoots 1080p HD video up to 60 fps in MP4 format and in either ALL-I or IPB compression with optional embedded time code. The 80D camera offers HDR and Time-Lapse modes along with “creative filters” like Fantasy, Old Movie, Memory, Dramatic Monochrome, and Miniature. Custom settings let you speed up or slow down focusing speeds. Because of the EU rules I’ve written about in the past, video clips (please don’t call ’em “movies”) are limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds.

The 80D includes a headphone jack and a built-in stereo mic with manual level adjustment. For better sound—and you need this if you’re even semi-serious about video—Canon offers the optional ($244) Directional Microphone DM-E1. It can rotated up and down 90 to 120 degrees, comes with a windscreen to limit peripheral noise, and uses a lithium cell battery as a built-in power supply.

(Click image to view at full resolution.) I made this image while doing cold weather testing of the EOS 80D at 17 Mile Farm near Parker, Colorado. Temperatures were only in the low 30s and while that’s not cold by Colorado standards it might be a chilly temp where you live. The camera and EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 18mm) performed without a hitch. Shot in Landscape Picture Style with an exposure of 1/640 second at f/14 and ISO 400. ©Joe Farace

Performance & Image Quality
Despite my quibbles about the Canon 80D’s overall handling, another common denominator in newer EOS D-series cameras is an increase in performance speed and functionality. Bigger isn’t always better but in all of the departments that count, such as autofocus and low-light performance, the EOS 80D is a much better performer than its predecessors. (In fact, it made my beloved 60D seem like an antique.) While working in window light, dim light, or at night and shooting with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens, the 80D never faltered, never stuttered. It just worked.

We’re having a late spring here and the snowy and rainy weather has put a damper on local motorsports activity so I couldn’t give the camera’s 7 fps burst mode a proper test. But shooting quickie tests of cars driving up and down Colorado 83 at speeds up to and (mostly) over 55 mph, the camera delivered sharply focused images.

The Guide Number of the Canon 80D’s pop-up flash is 39.4 and while that sounds kind of puny, in practice it proved to be useful as fill when making outdoor portraits. Autoexposure worked perfectly with the flash correctly balancing daylight with flash, although if you find this isn’t true after a test shot you can menu dive to adjust flash by plus or minus three stops in either 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments.

(Click image to view at full resolution.) I made two different portraits of my wife Mary at different locations and under different lighting conditions at McCabe Meadows Park near Parker, Colorado. The image (at left) was made in the shade of a large tree. I just popped up the built-in flash, put the camera in Program mode and this is what I got. Exposure was 1/250 second at f/9 and ISO 400. For the photograph of Mary on the pedestrian bridge (at right) the exposure was 1/250 second at f/11 and ISO 400. ©Joe Farace

I shot the portraits included in this review at ISO 400 to get a bigger bang for the buck with the small flash. The lens focal length for both shots was at 135mm, my favorite focal length for outdoor portraits, which to make the full-length shot of my wife, Mary, on a pedestrian bridge in the park required me to back up pretty far.

The lens will close focus to 1.28 feet, which when used at the 135mm focal length with the EOS 80D produces an effective focal length of 216mm. This lets you get surprisingly close as can be seen by the photographs of the small blossoms starting to burst from an apple tree. Depth of field at these distances and settings, as you can see in the illustration, is extremely shallow, which may be a good thing or not depending on what you’re photographing.

The EOS 80D menus and submenus are more complex than previous Canon DSLRs in this series but are more understandable than the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach used by Olympus. More troubling is actually viewing the menus. On a bright Colorado day menus are difficult to read—even in the shade.

When doing cold weather testing at the 17 Mile Farm in Parker, Colorado, with snow on the ground it was difficult to see the highlighted menu item, even when blocking the screen with my body to create shade. While you can always increase screen brightness, that creates a bigger problem because, in my experience, Canon’s screens are always a little brighter than the captured image anyway, so that’s not a good solution for me. You may have other workarounds.

(Click image to view at full resolution.) Nascent apple blossoms shot with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens at 135mm. Because of the light breeze I cranked up the shutter speed to freeze the branches that were moving with the wind. Exposure was 1/1000 second at f/5.6 and ISO 400. The reflections in the background are from cars driving on the road behind the tree, which explains why they are not completely round. ©Joe Farace

Compared to my EOS 60D, even the JPEG image files I shot with the Canon 80D when viewed on my 5K iMac were simply beautiful to look at. The DxO score (love ’em or hate ’em) for the 60D was 66, the 70D was 68, and the 80D has not been tested as we go to press.

Just by my comparing images on a high-res screen, the 80D blows its predecessors out of the water. Neutral color has long been a forte for Canon EOS cameras, including consistently delivering natural skin tones, which is why so many wedding photographers seem to like Canons. Straight-out-of-the-camera image files from the 80D uphold that tradition of delivering lovely skin tones; see my portrait of Mary, especially in natural light.

(Click image to view at full resolution.) This image of a jogger in the park (as you can see we’re still waiting for real Spring in Colorado) was shot using the EOS 80D’s Monochrome Picture Style. The EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens was at 67mm and the image was captured with an exposure was 1/640 sec at f/11 and ISO 400. ©Joe Farace

Am I going to add a Canon EOS 80D to my gear bag? It’s tempting. The combination of 24 megapixels and 45 AF focus points are a major improvement over my EOS 60D’s 18 megapixels and nine (count ’em) focusing points. And while the 80D lacks the overall ease of handling and, dare I say it, panache of previous models in this series, image quality is impressive and the color off this chip, even in Auto White Balance, is beautiful. The 60D’s high ISO of 6400 seems quaint compared to the 80D’s 16,000 (or 25,600) and the price tag is just a hundred bucks more, which means in real-world terms the 80D actually costs less than my 60D when I purchased it new. Right now, an EOS 80D is not in my budget but I added it to a note I was writing Santa. If you’re a Canon shooter and it’s in your budget, I would advise you to go for it.

The Canon EOS 80D has a list price of $1,199. For more information, visit

Joe Farace has been shooting Canon EOS film then digital SLRs since the 1990s. If you would like to see what specific Canon gear can be found in his actual gear closet (and he does have one), visit or and click on “Gear.”

(Click image to view at full resolution.) Clouds were rolling in over the Rockies late in the day when I made these shots at the PACE Center in Parker, Colorado. With the muddy light on the building, exposures were the same 1/8000 second at f/8 with the ISO at left 16,000 and at right 25,600. Even full screen on my 5K iMac the differences between the two sides were so slight, I had to go bigger. ©Joe Farace

(Click image to view at full resolution.) Zooming in on the area near the Stargate-like sculpture, you can see noise on the left (ISO 16,000) and while the right-hand side (ISO 25,600) clearly shows more amplified noise with colored pixels on the neutral bricks, it is—to my mind—inconsequential. Your, as the EPA says, mileage may vary. Unless you’re noise phobic, if you need to make images in unavailable light, crank up the ISO setting to “H” and go for it. ©Joe Farace