The 80D’s 24.2MP sensor makes a 25% increase in pixel count over the 70D’s, and it enables the new camera to make a significant step up in detail resolution for the majority of the sensitivity range without an increase in the level of noise. It’s noticeable, however, that at ISO 12,800 the 80D scores lower in our resolution tests than the 70D. However, when the default levels of noise reduction are applied, images shot at this sensitivity setting (and at ISO 16,000) look good.
Noise is controlled well and although some detail is lost, there’s no obvious smearing. We would advise caution with the uppermost setting of ISO 25,600, because some areas have a slight haze and lack detail when images are at around A4 size. But that’s why this value is an expansion setting: Canon makes it available for use if it’s really needed, but doesn’t consider the image quality entirely satisfactory.
Canon has given the 80D a significantly better autofocus (AF) system for use with the viewfinder than the 70D, so I was keen to put it to the test. It didn’t disappoint, getting stationary subjects sharp in a flash and keeping fast-moving subjects sharp, even in low light.
I experimented with the AF point selection modes when shooting skateboarders in the gloomy conditions of London’s Undercroft skate park, and found that the 45-point Automatic Selection option is pretty capable, probably aided by the new colour detection system. Single-point AF (Manual selection) mode also worked well provided I could keep the active point over the subject. That’s easier said than done when you’re shooting skateboarders, who are prone to jumping, twisting and turning, and I had greater success when using the Zone AF mode.
In this mode, the 45 AF points are grouped into nine zones and you select the most appropriate zone to use before starting to shoot. The camera then tracks the subject using the AF points within that zone. It’s a great option for moving targets and you see the points light up as they activate, giving you confidence that your images will be sharp. It’s not 100% fool-proof but I got a high hit rate, and it’s more reliable than 45-point Automatic Selection mode.
The Live View and Video mode AF system is also good. It’s fast enough to shoot stills of moving subjects in some situations, but the viewfinder system is more reliable. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF system’s focus shift is smooth enough to be usable when shooting video, but it is dependent upon the shooting scenario and speed of movement.
In reflex mode the 80D uses the same metering system as the 750D and 760D, which means there’s a 7,560-pixel RGB+IR (infrared) sensor and 63-zone Evaluative, Partial, Centre-weighted and Spot metering options. The evaluative system is very good, but the weighting applied to the active AF point can mean you need to apply exposure compensation in high-contrast situations. There’s nothing especially unusual in that.
When shooting in Live View mode, the 80D uses the imaging sensor to measure exposure, and it does a good job. However, if you’ve turned up the brightness of the screen to cope with bright ambient light, keep an eye on the histogram view: images may look brighter than they actually are.