The year is 2021. Is the Canon 80D still a worthy photography tool in the modern age of mirrorless cameras and super high megapixel counts? Read on and find out!
The Canon 80D was released in February of 2016
The Canon 80S was released in February 2016. As we move into January 2021 the Canon 80D turns 5 years old. A lot of cameras have come out in the meantime. What does this mean to a photographer that has one of these? Not much as far as images go.
The 80D still shoots very nice images. As I will explain in the rest of the article, the image quality of the 80D will not be an issue, there are beautiful images coming out of mine. It will be the incremental improvements that will drive someone to replace the 80D. Newer bodies will have bluetooth or WiFi or higher drive speeds that might be needed for the type of shooting you do.
The Canon 80D is still listed as one of the best all-around cameras for YouTube
When the 80D was introduced, it was the go-to camera for YouTube vloggers. The dual pixel auto focus on the 80D was among the best out there. That was important for vloggers as the superior auto-focus of the 80D meant they could move around a bit on their video and still remain in focus.
Paired with a good lens, this is still the case today. While the 80D will only shoot at 1080p as a maximum resolution, there is an awful lot of content on YouTube still being filmed in 1080p. Even with the push to 4K video these days, YouTube content is still, by a huge margin, consumed on displays that are far lower than 4K resolution.
While megapixels might be creeping up, it is still a great sensor
Megapixels aren’t everything. Higher megapixels allow you to zoom in a little more on an image before the image becomes pixelated and might make an image a little bit sharper. Truthfully at my age, I can’t see the difference as much as I used to.
Comparable cameras today have roughly the same size sensor and the same megapixels on the sensor. The Canon 90D has a 32.5 megapixel sensor, but it seems to be the outlier here. Other prosumer cameras at the same price level are relatively identical in megapixels.
Now imagine two sensors of exactly the same, small size. One is 24-megapixels, the other is 32.5-megapixels. Which sensor would have the larger sized pixels? Obviously, the 24-megapixel sensor since it has about one quarter the number of pixels in the same space. That 24-megapixel sensor and its larger pixel size will be more efficient at gathering light onto the pixels since they are larger.
Larger pixel size is also important when it comes to performance in low-light situations. When photons of light are in short supply, a larger pixel will capture more photons than a small pixel.
Think of pixels as a bucket and photons as rain. If it is raining heavily (well-lit scene), either a small or large bucket will easily gather a cup of water. If it is just barely raining (dimly-lit scene), a larger bucket will capture a cup of water faster. In less than ideal lighting conditions, larger pixels win.
The Canon 80D’s drive speed is slow compared to mirrorless cameras now.
The Canon 80D has a drive speed of seven frames per second. Meaning, if you set the camera to high speed drive and hold down the shutter button, it will take seven images per second. The Canon 90D, being a DSLR, has a relatively high drive speed at 10 frames per second.
Both of these cameras will shoot at these speeds right up until the camera’s onboard memory buffer fills up, and then they will slow down. The buffer on the 80D is rated at 25 RAW images, therefore it will shoot for just over three seconds on continuous high speed drive before it slows down due to the buffer being full. You will then simply have to wait for the camera to finish writing out all the images to your memory card. If you are shooting just JPEG images, the buffer will last for 75-100 images.
The 80D is still going to have a slower drive speed than literally all of the mirrorless cameras out there. The slowest mirrorless camera I could find was even with the 80D with others beating the 80D by varying margins. The 80D is starting to show its age in this arena.
If you are shooting portrait photography or real estate photography, the 80D still holds its own very well. If you are into shooting action photos of sports or racing, you might want to look at newer systems with a higher drive speed.
Glass is still more important for most images than the camera body
I have heard it said and I’ve said it myself, glass is more important than the camera body. The camera bodies come out and we get excited about all the new features: WiFi, bluetooth, and even 4K video have been common the past couple of years.
Once you get past the bells and whistles though, it comes down to the sensor and the lenses on the camera. Good lenses on your camera will make a much larger impact on your image quality than the body the lens is mounted to. I’ve taken some great photos with an old Canon 30D with an 8 megapixel sensor, but I used decent glass.
Even the most advanced camera body out there will not help your sports photography if you don’t have the zoom lenses to get you close enough to the action. The lens will be what draws the subject of an image closer to you if you are across a field shooting a game.
If you are taking portrait photography, a new camera body is nice. A fast lens with great bokeh for blurring the background is nicer, possibly even a requirement. A real estate or architectural photographer will lean toward wide angle lenses, which can’t be reproduced by a camera body.
You get the idea.
Camera phones are taking a lot of camera business
Let’s face it, camera companies are having fits trying to figure out how to deal with camera phones, especially the top tier camera phones. The new iPhone, Samsung and Google phones are among the best camera phones around. The power of their computational photography allows them to capture images that simply cannot be captured by a DSLR camera in one shot.
Computational photography allows a camera phone to take multiple exposures at different levels of light and dark and then combine them into one image. The phone can take all of the best parts of the multiple images and combine them into a single image with good detail in the shadows and highlights while keeping sharp details. It can do all of that fast enough that the user never even notices.
The user can take the photo, edit it on the phone and then post it to social media in a matter of a minute. The phone has the power, storage and internet connection to make those things happen. A DSLR does not – it will have to offload the photos to a computer or tablet for editing and later upload to social media.
Until the camera companies figure out a way to bridge this gap between cameras and camera phones, they will continue to lose sales. As the camera companies lose sales, they will be disincentivized to build newer and better cameras.
The Canon 80D was a fantastic camera when it was introduced in 2016, and it still holds its own today. Shooting the same image with the same lens, no one will be able to tell the difference between an image shot on an 80D and one shot on a 90D or similar newer camera. The only way you would be able to tell the difference would be to look at the metadata.
There simply haven’t been enough evolutionary changes made to cameras in the past few years to make the 80D obsolete. If I were in the market for a new camera today, I would definitely look to a 90D or similar. It won’t shoot appreciably better photos, but it does have bells and whistles that will make life a little easier for the photographer. If you are buying a new camera, might as well get the one with the upgrades.
In the end, you will find that most camera bodies will stay relevant for many years. After five years the Canon 80D still has a few more years of service left in it and even then it will probably only get replaced due to quality of life improvements on new cameras, rather than any issues with image quality.
So go out there and have fun with your camera, it is still more than good enough.
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