How would you rate your skills with a camera – newbie, amateur, enthusiast or professional?

If you fall into that third category, Canon has just refreshed its line-up with the ideal digital SLR.

The 80D is an upgrade on the 70D, which was one of Canon’s more popular cameras – and not for the reason you might expect. It was the go-to DSLR for YouTubers, apparently, and this replacement wants to capitalise on that appeal.

I got the chance to try one out at a London launch event a few weeks ago, so now I can share some hands-on initial impressions.

Dial it in

If the 700D was a step-up camera, aimed at anyone with a passing interest in photography, the 70D was for enthusiasts who needed extra dials and were more likely to buy extra lenses.

It’s no surprise that the 80D has almost the exact same button and dial layout as the 70D – it wasn’t broken before, so didn’t need fixing.

That means you get multiple command dials, an LCD top plate for quickly checking settings without having to look at the touchscreen, and buttons for just about everything you could want.

Because everything is in the same place, anyone that’s owned a Canon SLR before can pick it up and know instantly how to make ISO changes or change the drive mode.

The thicker, deeper grip also makes it far comfier to hold than the 70D, fitting the contour of your thumb so you don’t have to sling it around your neck while out on a shoot.

Lights, camera, action

The 70D is one of the most popular cameras for vloggers and YouTubers, but it isn’t perfect; there’s no headphone output and it could only shoot video at 30fps.

The 80D fixes both of these things; it finally gets a headphone output for monitoring while you’re shooting, and the video mode has been bumped to a silky smooth 60fps.

Wi-Fi and NFC let you control the camera remotely, too, so you can set it up on a tripod and trigger recording from a distance once you’re satisfied with framing and focus.

We haven’t seen what the new sensor is capable of at this frame rate just yet, but if the 70D is any indication it could just as quickly become a favourite among Let’s Players and YouTube channels.

Snap happy

There have been some major upgrades inside that make the 80D stand out when it comes to stills, too.

Canon has opted for a brand new 24MP APC-C sensor, rather than go full-frame like Nikon did with the D610. It’s got a wider ISO range of 100-16,000 compared to the 70D, and can be expanded to 25,600 for low-light shooting.

I tried the camera out on an (admittedly overcast) January lunchtime, so wasn’t able to test low light performance, so we’ll have to wait until a full review to see how it fares.

The 45 cross-type AF points certainly came in handy for locking down focus on a subject, though, and the DIGIC 6 processor had no trouble shooting at 7fps.

Canon says it has redesigned the mirror box to make it quieter, dropping springs for gears, but it still makes a very audible sound every time you press the shutter. If you want silence, a mirrorless CSC is still the way to go.

We weren’t allowed to take away test shots from the launch event, and without slotting in an SD card it was impossible to say if Canon’s claim of 25 RAWs or 100 JPEGs before buffering are true. Both numbers are still a big jump from the 16 RAWs and 65 JPEGs seen on the 70D though.

Early verdict

The 80D looks like a solid upgrade to the 70D, fixing the flaws that affect its biggest audience. Stills photographers will welcome the changes too, but make no mistake; this is a DSLR aimed at video first.

At launch, the 80D will go head-to-head with Nikon’s full-frame D610. That can only manage Full HD video at 30fps, but it might have the edge when it comes to stills – we won’t know until a full review.

If you’re after a camera to give your YouTube channel a 60fps upgrade, though, the £999 (body-only) 80D could be one to watch when it arrives in May.

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