Canon 80D Review – Auto Focus and Image quality

Canon 80D Review

Canon 80D Review – Auto Focus

The closest rivals to the Canon 80D are Canon’s own top of the line APS-C 7D MK II and Nikon’s D7200. While the Canon 80D can’t compete with the 7d mk II’s 10fps shooting speed it does get quite close at 7fps.

Is this good enough to negate the need to splash out more cash on the 7d MK II. It also offers a 1 fps advantage over the Nikon D7200 so is it better for rapid shooting than its Nikon rival.

Also of interest is that the 80D now offers a 45 point focus system (all cross type) and can focus down to -3ev. This is quite a significant upgrade from the 70d’s 19 point focus system which also only focused down to -.5 ev.

We did some basic testing with the 80D and Nikon D7200 side by side to get a feel for the performance of the two.

The Canon 80D was set to high speed mode with tracking auto focus enabled and the sensitivity of the auto focus set to its default level.

The Nikon D7200 was set to high speed mode with 3D auto focus.

We found that the 80D’s 7fps shooting rate seemed significantly faster than the D7200 in use. It felt faster and more fluid and on top of that we were able to take about 50% more photos with the 80D before the buffer filled up. One of the issues we found with the D7100 a few years ago was that it had a really small buffer which hindered shooting lots of photos at high fps in raw.

The D7200 hundred has improved in this area but the 80D is noticeably better.

However when it came to auto focus accuracy when tracking a moving subject the Nikon D7200 performed better than the 80D. With the Nikon shooting a burst of 10 photos of our scruffy little poodle running at us it managed to get 8 shots in focus. The 80D only achieved a score of 6 images in focus. We repeated this test several times, always using the 18-135 Canon kit lens and the Nikon 18-140mm kit lens supplied with the D7200 and found the results to be similar each time.

Canon 80D Auto Focus

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Nikon D7200 Auto Focus

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In conclusion if good fast tracking auto focus for stills is important to you then you may be better served by the Nikon D7200 or better still either the 7D MK II or D500.

Although we didn’t run side by side tests of the 80D vs the 7D MKII we have used the 7D Mk II a lot previously and while the 80D put in a decent performance it is simply not in the same league for fast action as its bigger brother. The 7D MK II has a separate auto focus section within the menu which allows for a variety of customisation not available on the 80D.

The spread of the auto focus points on the 7D MK II is larger and you are given more options to fine tune the system. It is also more responsive and accurate. From out testing the 7D MK II achieved hit rates of 80-90% on moving subjects. Combine that with 10fps shooting and it clearly bests the 80D.

However most people who want or need to shoot fast action will in all likelihood already be looking at the 7D MK II or the new Nikon D500. However the 80D is no slouch and compared to mirrorless offerings the system is fast, responsive but perhaps not quite as accurate.

Video Performance

What the 80D does offer is a competitive stills camera while also being a very nice video camera. The combination of an articulated touch screen with Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology makes shooting videos a breeze.

Flip out the LCD screen and simply touch to focus and the response from the camera is very fast, quickly moving the desired part of the image in to focus. The new 18-135mm Nano lens is fast and quiet while focusing.

Check out our quick video below to see touch to focus in action.

When put in to tracking mode the auto focus can keep up with steadily moving objects such as a presenter walking through a scene without hunting back and forth for focus and ruining the shot.

The combination of the above technologies puts it way ahead of the D7200 if you shoot video as the performance of the Nikon auto focus in video is sketchy at best and of course, there is no articulated screen. The 7D MK II actually focuses better than the 80D for video but the articulated touch screen makes the 80D a better, more usable choice for video overall.


The Canon EOS 80D offers mic in and headphone out jacks which adds a level of professionalism to those more in to creating video but the lack of 4K video at this price point when competitors like the Sony A6300 offer it is disappointing.

Canon 80d review

There is also no truly flat picture profile although we found shooting in Canon’s natural picture profile with sharpness, contrast and saturation all set to their minimum settings gave a fairly flat image that could be graded in post quite nicely.

The video coming out of the 80D at 1080 24p is good if not mind blowing. It doesn’t suffer with major artifacts and is clean. However video from the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A6300 is sharper and in the case of the latter, holds together better at high ISO’s.  Don’t forget that with those two cameras you can also shoot in 4k and down sample the video to a 1080p timeline and get even sharper looking video too.

Even though other cameras offer more in terms of video image quality and indeed functionality the 80D is a nice tool when creating video thanks to its articulated touch screen and the fact that you can use the vast range of Canon EF lenses without having to mess around with adapters (albeit EF lenses will be subject to a crop factor of 1.6x on the 80D body).


Image Quality


One area where Canon seem to have been overtaken recently is image quality. This all started with the Nikon D810 a couple of years ago offering a 36mp sensor and improved dynamic range thanks to Sony’s sensor technology. Canon’s high ISO performance was also lacking so have they managed to catch up with the new 24mp APS-C sensor in the 80D or not.


We have now been shooting the Canon EOS 80D for around a month and in that time we have come to appreciate the new sensor. It is an improvement over the older 20mp sensor found in the 7dMK II in terms of high ISO performance and dynamic range and it offers a small improvement in IQ thanks to the jump up from 20 to 24mp.


Below are samples of some portraits taken with the 80D. They were shot in Raw and Jpeg using window light and just the on-camera flash for a little fill light. The aim was to shoot some nice high key shots and we found that the 80D did a decent job. The full resolution files are available on Flickr


Canon 80D Portraits

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Here is a straight conversion of the original Raw file and a 100% crop of the same file. The image was shot with the new 18-135mm nano lens at f/5.6, 1/160, ISO 500 and shows good detail thanks to the new 24mp sensor.

Canon 80D image quality

canon 80d review

Here is an image that we deliberately over exposed and then in post attempted to recover the highlights by reducing the exposure by 2EV




Un-Edited Jpeg intentionally over exposed.
Un-Edited Jpeg intentionally over exposed.



Raw file of the same shot with highlights recovered by 2EV in Lightroom
Raw file of the same shot with highlights recovered by 2EV in Lightroom


As you can see the 80D did a pretty decent job of recovering the hghlights but there are areas where there is significant loss of detail such as in the curtain in the centre of the image. It does show that if you accidentally clip the highlights a little then there is some headroom for recovery with the new sensor.


Below is a shot which was underexposed and Lightroom warned of blocked shadows in the subjects hair.

canon 80d noise performance
Shot at ISO 100


And here is a crop from the top of the hair with the image pushed +3EV

Shadow Recovery is definitely an improved area with the new sensor
Shadow Recovery is definitely an improved area with the new sensor


We are pretty impressed with the 80D’s ability to push the shadows by +3EV and still retain detail without much noise at all. For landscape photographers in particular this marks a significant improvement over previous Canon sensors which would introduce noise trying to perform similar tasks. For landscape photographers in particular this will give the ability to shoot to ensure no clipped highlights and simply push the shadows as required in post, giving a boost to dynamic range.


Noise performance


One area we were interested in was how the new 24mp sensor performs at high ISOs in real world situations. You can shoot all the test charts you want but it is in the real world that we see the true performance available.

Below are a few samples shot at high ISOs.



Raw shot at f/2.5 , 1/125, ISO 6400
Raw shot at f/2.5 , 1/125, ISO 6400
100% crop of the above image
100% crop of the above image


As you can see from the cropped image at ISo 6400 we are still getting pretty usable files. There is some noise but it is not objectionable and in fact the noise pattern is quite pleasant. This image is an unedited raw file so with a tiny bit of luminance noise reduction in Lightroom we would have no problem using this image. One thing we did notice was that under indoor lighting the Canon 80D’s white balance tended to oversaturate the red channel so we would advise shooting in Raw to easily correct this in post.


Below is another raw image at ISO 6400. We have shown a 100% crop with no noise reduction and then a further one with just 25 of luminance noise reduction in Lightroom to show the results you can easily obtain. Note the white balance is over saturated in the red and  magenta channels again.

f/2.5, 1/100, ISO 6400 Unedited Raw
f/2.5, 1/100, ISO 6400 Unedited Raw
100% Crop of the above Image
100% Crop of the above Image
Same as above with +25 Luminance NR in Lightroom added.
Same as above with +25 Luminance NR in Lightroom added.


From our testing we think the sensor in the Canon 80D provides about a 1 stop advantage in high ISO performance over the 7D MK II.


Here is another example, this time at ISO 3200

f/4, 1/160, ISO 3200, 100% crop no PP
f/4, 1/160, ISO 3200, 100% crop no PP

Below is a gallery of SOOC Jpeg images we shot with the 80D. These and more are available on our Flickr page

Canon 80D SOOC Jpegs

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So is the Canon 80D the right choice for you? Check out our conclusion to find out