The EOS 70D impressed us when it arrived on the scene three years ago. Michael Topham tests the new Canon EOS 80D to find out how it improves on what we’ve seen before
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.
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.
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.
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.