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Simply Super: From Super Moonrise to Super Sunset with the Canon EOS 80D

By Jeff Wignall   Thursday December 1, 2016

Moondance

Well, it's a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I'm trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
And all the night's magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush

Can I just have one more moondance with you, my love
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love
            
                                    --Van Morrison



This is actually the first picture that I shot with the Canon 80D the day after the camera arrived. The super moon rose in the late afternoon and there was still quite a lot of light in the sky. It's rare that I shoot a full moon rising with such nice soft light on the foreground. The shot was made at 1/15 second @ f/5.6, on a Manfrotto tripod at ISO 400.

Snapshot:

Name: Canon EOS 80D
Sensor type: CMOS
Pixels: Approx. 24.2 megapixels
AF: wide-area, 45-point, all cross-type AF system
Shutter-speed range: 1/8000 to 30 sec., bulb; X-sync at 1/250 sec.
ISO range:  ISO 100–16000 (expandable to 25600)
Burst rate max: 7 fps (up to 25 frames in RAW)
Video: MOV: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD): 30 fps (29.97 fps) / 24 fps (23.98 fps); MP4: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD): 60 fps (59.94 fps) / 30 fps (29.97 fps) / 24 fps (23.98 fps); 1280 x 720 (HD): 60 fps (59.94 fps) / 30 fps (29.97 fps). No 4K.
LCD: Vari-angle 3.0-inch LCD touch screen
Complete Specs: Here



The 80D is a really well-designed camera and it's weather sealed so shooting in the rain (at least a soft rain) is not an issue. One of the things I really like about the 80D is the swiveling LCD. Video bloggers will like that you can aim the screen forward so that you can monitor yourself as you shoot. I just like being able to put the camera low to the ground or high over my head and still get a clear look at what I'm shooting. also, the back of the camera is pretty clean though I found that holding some of the control buttons on the top of the body and turning the command dial wheel at the back took some serious finger twisting.

Thank You Captain Ron

There’s a real funny scene in the movie Captain Ron (easily Kurt Russell’s best role ever) where, as he’s about to examine a rickety old yacht he’s agreed to deliver from the Caribbean to Miami, he starts getting shot at by a guy whose car he (inadvertently) drove off a dock. Russell’s character decides that rather than dodge bullets, it might be a safer idea to beat a hasty retreat. So, before he’s even really looked the boat over, he tells the owner’s wife: “The best way to find out if she’s seaworthy is to get her out on the ocean Kitty, if anything’s going to happen it’s going to happen out there.”

That pretty much describes how I often feel when I’m testing a piece of equipment that I’ve never seen before. Since I have the equipment for a pretty short period of time, the only way to make deadlines and give the equipment a hearty review is to hit the ground clicking—kick the tires and light the fires, as they say. As well as I know cameras, I still tend to find myself standing in front of a pretty scene with a manual in one hand and a brand new camera in the other.


This is the same night as the first shot, about 10 minutes later. And yes, i was literally reading a printed pdf of the camera manual between shots while trying to figure out how to set the exposure compensation using the Q menu and the touch screen which turned out to be "super" easy. The shot was exposed for 1.3 seconds at f/4, ISO 200, on a Manfrotto tripod. I used a long exposure because I wanted to get some detail in the houses on the horizon, even though knew I'd lose detail in the moon--one of the brightest moons I've ever seen.

That was almost exactly the situation I found myself in the Saturday that the Canon EOS 80D arrived. That weekend all anyone was buzzing about was the super moon that was going to be rising on Sunday night (see photos). As I unboxed the camera and mounted it with a Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, both supplied to me by the great people at BorrowLenses (more about them below), I had one question in my head: Could I get to know the camera well enough (and fast enough) to get a worthy shot of the full moon of the century, or the millennium, or however they were billing this monumental event? (And doesn’t it seem like we’ve had an awful lot of “once-in-a-lifetime” full moons recently?) If anything is going to happen (or not happen) it’s going to happen out there. Yes, Captain Ron?

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. Once I had sat with the camera in my lap for a few hours exploring its various features, I discovered one of the nice secrets about this camera: it’s a really simple camera to use. That, I think, as much as the powerhouse of technology that is crammed into this camera, is how Canon is marketing the camera: it is a very easy camera to master in a very short period of time—even for a relative DSLR beginner. And amen to that.

By the way, one thing that helped in getting to know the camera quickly was David Busch's Canon EOS 80D Guide to Digital SLR Photography which I had ordered a few days before. It arrived on the same day as the camera, so rather than just having a manual in my left hand as I went out to shoot the moon, I also had Busch’s book. If you’re going own the camera, by the way, I highly recommend buying the book, David did a great job.


The 24mp sensor of the 80D creates wonderfully huge files. I normally don't crop my images at all, but just as a demonstration, this shot of a Canada goose is a crop from about half of the frame and the resolution in the feathers is perfect. The Canon 55-250mm lens is very lightweight and a good lens for handheld wildlife shots. Exposure was 1/320 second at f/5.6, ISO 200.

High Tech for the Common Dude

So what makes it so easy to use? I think that because Canon seems to be aiming this camera squarely at the serious consumer/prosumer who is perhaps making their first big investment in a DSLR, the EOS 80D was designed not just to take great pictures, but to take them without having to get a degree in camera controls. The camera has a lot of features that, with just a few hours of studying, pretty much let you take full advantage of its very high image potential. Let’s face it, with a 24mp sensor, 7fps (you can shoot 25 RAW frames in one burst without stopping) and extremely good dynamic range, you have a very pro-capable camera in your hands—for a retail price of just slightly over a grand. Short of buying a full-frame body, it’s probably the best DSLR that Canon has to offer. It took a while to get here, but in a lot of ways I think this is Canon’s response to cameras like the Nikon D7200. Here are some of the things I liked about the camera.

Dynamite Touch screen: One thing that I absolutely fell in love with on the Canon EOS 80D is the touchscreen LCD. I have never really been a big fan of touch screens, but Canon has created a very precise and reliable interface that is a joy to use for shooting both stills and video. Using the Quick-Menu button you can call up and change things like file size, exposure compensation or white balance within seconds. Even though you’re dealing with relatively tiny screen icons, they are incredibly precise and my fingers are far from a pianist’s long narrow pointers. The responses are fast, accurate and completely circumvent the need to look at most menu options. I hate complex menus and anything I can do to avoid navigating them wins points with me.

I also really liked how fast I could focus with a quick tap. If you like to use focus “pulling” while shooting video, the 80D lets you gracefully shift focus from one point to another quickly and smoothly—just drag your fingertip from point A to point B. It’s really a fun technique and creates very professional-looking focus shifts. When it comes to reviewing images, you can scroll through them at warp speed the same way that you do on your phone. You can also use two-finger spreads to zoom in on images to check focus, etc.

Articulated LCD: The 80D has a terrific articulated LCD screen and I don’t know why all DSLRs don’t have one. When you’re shooting close-ups at ground level, for example, it’s nice to be able to swing out that viewfinder and aim it up so that you’re not laying on your face trying to see your composition. If you are shooting in crowds, at a parade, etc., it’s nice to hold the camera over your head and still see the scene accurately. For me, not having an swivel/articulated LCD is almost a deal breaker.


I was photographing the sunset at a beach on Long Island Sound when this woman popped up singing and dancing along the sandbars and gave me a perfect test subject for single-point focusing--easy to do just by tapping on the touchscreen. At one point (top frame) she rain into the watering singing and I was a bit worried about her. It dawned on me later she was in the midst of an animated phone conversation and shooting selfies of her in the sunset and singing songs for her friend. I seriously doubt that I would ever buy another camera without touchscreen. The top shot was exposed for 1/800 second at f/11, ISO 640 with +.33 exposure compensation. The bottom shot was exposed for 1/640 second at f/13, ISO 640, same compensation.

Simple focusing options:  The focusing system on the 80D is, in most situations, extremely fast and accurate. To be honest, I stumbled across a few frustrating situations (see the shots of the crow) where the camera latched on to the wrong part of the frame missing what I thought was an obvious subject. Frustrating, to be sure. What I like most about the focusing system though is that there are really only four clearly-defined basic options: Single-point AF (which I used a great deal, particularly with off-center subjects), Zone AF (you can manually select from nine different focusing zone placements), Large-zone AF (three different zones that are larger than the Zone AF groupings—great for beginners) and a 45-point AF Auto Selection option that more or less puts the camera in control—very useful for moving subjects.  

  
While focusing using the Zone AF (which uses 9 focus points) was pretty accurate most of the time, it surprised me a few times by grabbing the background instead of a very obvious foreground subject like this fish crow. The crow is obviously much closer to the camera than the background and I was using the center AF zone, but because the zone is a bit larger than the subject it latched onto the background. It was easy to fix by just trying again or zooming in a bit (and then recomposing if necessary), but I ended up using single-point AF for a lot of shots and found that to be 100-percent reliable.

ISO Speed: I guess that coming from a Kodachrome background where a top speed of ISO 200 seemed outrageous, being able to shoot at ISO speeds in the thousands still makes me a bit suspicious. What dark art voodoo is this? But even when shooting several subjects at speeds of ISO 3200 and 6400 (the 80D has a top speed of ISO 16000), I came away very impressed by the results. Check out the comparison shots of the boats, below.



See a lot of difference in the quality of the top two shots? Neither do I. Yes, the top shot is crisper and the colors (look at the autumn foliage in the distance and the orange bucket on the dock) are a bit more vibrant, but the noise is barely a factor until you start to enlarge quite a bit. The top one was shot at ISO 100 and the middle shot at ISO 6400--an exposure factor of five times. The bottom shot is a crop of the ISO 6400 shot.

In the shots of the deer (below) I can see noise—but I was shooting in deep twilight at ISO 3200. In fact, up to ISO 1600 I really saw no noticeable image degradation and even at ISO 6400 only when the lighting was very low did grain become noticeable—noticeable but in most cases very acceptable. The 80D surely isn’t the only camera that has good high ISO performance (the Nikon D810 is remarkable at even higher speeds), but it’s still impressive.

Finally, the Canon lens that I was using, the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, is a pretty decent lens at a ridiculously low price (under $300 on Amazon). With the 1.6x cropping factor of the 80D, it’s the equivalent of an 88-400mm lens. I was full out when shooting the deer and as you can see, I was able to fill the frame from probably (guessing) 50’ away. I still prefer my Nikkor Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR, but that’s mainly just familiarity and the fact that it's a bit longer. The Canon lens was plenty sharp at almost all focal lengths.


I shot these deer in a state park and was pretty much ready to pack it in because they were staying just out of close-up range when this doe and her yearling emerged from the woods very close to my shooting position. Both were shot at 1/250 second at f/5.6 at ISO 3200. How nice is it to be able to shoot handheld at twilight with the equivalent of a 400mm lens? The nice thing about shooting deer is that their eyesight isn't great and as long as you don't move too much, they'll let you get fairly close.

Things I don’t like?

Yeah, there were a few things that I didn’t particularly like. I found that the buffer seemed slow to me even when I was just shooting one shot every few seconds. I found myself waiting to see if the red buffer light was going to pop on and slow down my shooting (or cut it off completely) and it came on way too often. It became apparent that you need a very fast card to help the camera keep up. I also prefer Nikon’s style of having a front and a rear control wheel at the top of the camera. I found it awkward to reach down to the wheel surrounding the main rear control dial. Finally, I found the top-mounted display window difficult to read. I’m old and have trouble reading Aspirin bottles, granted, but the window needs some growth hormones.


After shooting the deer I turned to see the sky, which had better pretty sullen most of the afternoon, erupt into this color show. Rather than fuss with exposure I put the camera in full auto and just concentrated on finding different compositions. I think that for first-time DSLR buyers the ability to ignore settings and just shoot is a nice feature. Both shots were made at ISO 400,and exposed at 1/160 second at f/9. Sunsets like this are worth staying out until dark. 

Rent it from BorrowLenses first!

By the way, I was lucky enough to get both the EOS 80 D and the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens super fast and painlessly from my friends at BorrowLenses and I’ve come to the conclusion that the small amount of money you spend to rent and test gear before purchasing it (or to get gear for special assignments, etc.) is money well invested. The camera and lens arrived very fast and perfectly packed with a neck strap on the body and the battery fully charged. All I had to do was to mount the lens, insert a memory card and start shooting. I think I'm a serious convert to renting based on my good experiences with this company. There are a lot of times I want to try something out or when I need a lens or extra body for a one-time shoot and buying it isn't an option. The gear ships with a return label so all you have to do is repackage the gear, tape up the box and drop it off at UPS. Check out their site and you can see the very extensive inventory of the still, video (including new 8K Red cameras!), audio, lighting and accessory gear they have available. Sign up for their emails now and you can get $25 off a rental fee of $50 or more. Other deals are offered regularly. They also sell used gear.


I wanted to test the auto white balance in the camera on the last night I had it and so while waiting for pizza (the end of every good Wiggy camera test), I walked around the parking lot of a strip mall and shot storefronts and neon signs. I shot this photo of a laundromat that had about six different kinds of lighting going on, ranging from neon to fluorescent. This is from a RAW file but I changed nothing in the color balance--this is exactly as it was shot. Exposure was 1/25 second at f/5, handheld.

Conclusion

As it turns out, the very first frames that I shot with the Canon 80D were of that super moon rise and the last ones that I shot were of a super sunset. In between I spent a lot of time in familiar haunts, along the shore, in the woods following a family of deer, and in parking lots waiting for pizza. You go where old paths take you. By the time I shot the deer about a week into the test I found myself praising the touchscreen and the lightness of the body out loud (while trying not to scare the deer away). I think for someone who wants a cutting edge Canon body with a great sensor, beautiful dynamic range, fast focusing and a very simple interface, this is a good option. As I said earlier, short of going to a full-frame body, this is probably going to be the height of the Canon line up for a few years to come. I'm not much of a video shooter, so the lack of 4K video doesn't bother me but it might be something that concerns you. Other than that, I can't imagine anyone not being thrilled to own this camera.

New Product News

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ2500. I’m a big fan of superzoom cameras and I’m excited to see that Panasonic has introduced a new camera: the LUMIX DMC-FZ2500. The camera uses a 1-inch 20.1megapixel sensor and offers a hybrid mix of very advanced photo and 4K video capabilities, including 4K Post Focus and internal Focus Stacking modes. Optically this camera continues the Lumix tradition of incorporating world-class Leica optics, in this case the 20X LEICA VARIO-ELMART F2.8-4.5 lens (24-480mm equivalent). The macro mode allows a minimum focusing distance of 3cm for flowers, insects and more. The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 that I tested a while back has one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever seen, so i can’t wait to test this new model--hopefully in the next month or two (along with the cool new Lumix G85 that i'll also be testing!).

DJI Phantom 4 Pro Drone All-New PRO Model. DJI has introduced the all-new Phanton 4 Pro Drone that features a 1-inch 20 megapixel camera that, says the company, has almost 12 stops of dynamic range and has an f/2.8 aperture and a mechanical shutter. The camera can capture slow-motion 4K video up to 60fps at a maximum, as well as high-quality 20MP stills. The drone has a maximum flight time of up to 30 minutes. The control range is 4.3 miles (7km) and it also has a 100-foot (30m) sensor range for avoiding obstacles and it can avoid them in four directions and it has a self-guiding return-to-base mode if it loses it's signal. It can fly at 31mph in P mode with obstacle avoidance in effect and has a top speed of 45mph when flown in sport mode. Here’s a nice video on Youtube. Oh, do I want this drone! Dear Santa…

Nikon PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED. Nikon has introduced a new 19mm f/4E ED perspective-control (tilt-shift) lens. Designed for use with Nikon FX-mount camera bodies the lens has a maximum aperture of f/4 and a minimum of f/32. The lens can rotate 90 degrees in either direction, tilt up/down 7.5 degrees, shift left/right 12mm. Tilt-shift lenses are the ultimate in extending depth-of-field range by tilting the lens or you can adjust perspective by shifting the lens. And, says Nikon: “For the first time with a NIKKOR PC lens, the direction of tilt operation can be made parallel or perpendicular to shift, offering users nearly unprecedented ability to control perspective, focus and depth-of-field, without having to lock and unlock to make adjustments.” Photographers that I know that use PC lenses regularly would surrender their passports before giving up the lenses.

1 Comments

  1. Donna Caporaso commented on: January 13, 2017 at 7:55 p.m.
    Love your reviews. It will be hard to choose when it's time to upgrade. Renting is something I'll probably do before making a final decision.

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