After two-plus years, I think I expected a little more from the update to the Canon EOS 70D. The 80D gets a new, moderately higher-resolution version of the company’s Dual Pixel CMOS sensor with a welcome update to its on-sensor autofocus system, plus some feature additions that bring it up-to-date. In addition to targeting the typical action-shooting enthusiast, Canon’s also taking aim at wedding photographers on a budget who have been drawn to the 70D.
Canon plans to ship the 80D in March at $1,200 for the body and $1,800 for a kit with the new EF-S 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 USM lens. I don’t have other prices or availability yet, but those directly convert to £840/AU$1,675 and £1,260/AU$2,510. Along with the camera, Canon announced a new directional microphone, the DM-E1, which it expects to ship in June for $250; directly converted, £175 and AU$350.
What’s newSensor and autofocus. Canon’s Dual-Pixel CMOS has pixels that contain both photosites and phase-detection autofocus, which means that any increase in sensor resolution usually comes with an automatic increase in autofocus points. Canon raises the resolution to 24.2 megapixels from 20.2MP and the number of AF points to 45 from 19. It gains the Large Zone AF mode from the 7D Mark II, which lets it use bigger clumps of focus points, potentially improving autofocus performance when shooting vertically, as well as AF-point auto switching, which defines how it selects focus points within a given focus zone. It also increases the number of points available at f8 for better focus at narrow apertures, and gains improved low-light focusing sensitivity. While the camera gets updated to a more recent version of Canon’s image-processing engine, Digic 6, that seems to only deliver better data transfer during continuous shooting to increase the number of shots you can get before the camera slows or stops.Metering. Canon brings the metering system up-to-date as well, switching to its more recent RGB+IR sensor from the older iFCL. In dSLRs, the RGB metering sensors provide supplemental data to the autofocus system; in this case, it provides color tracking information in continuous autofocus mode to improve speed and accuracy when the scene becomes low contrast.Shutter mechanism. The new shutter mechanism, similar to the one in the 5D Mark III, controls vibration better than the previous one, helping to minimize camera shake.Design and features. The most notable update here is the viewfinder, which increases to 100 percent scene coverage. As well as adding NFC for Wi-Fi connections and a headphone jack, the body has minor but welcome design tweaks to some of the buttons and the addition of a second custom-setting slot on the mode dial. New software features include time-lapse movies and in-camera HDR. While the LCD has the same specs, it’s an updated model that Canon claims will provide better visibility in sunlight. And the camera can now record 1080/60p video.
Like its main competitor, the Nikon D7200, the 80D just feels like the same camera as its predecessor. In the case of the 80D, there’s plenty from the 70D that is smart to retain, and I’m certainly happy about the (hopefully) improved autofocus performance, but there are also missed enhancements that it would have been nice to see, such as dual-card slots. To me, the 70D’s biggest weakness is its solid-but-not-stellar photo quality, and I don’t get any sense that Canon’s really done anything with it in the 80D. I hope I’m wrong.