Canon EOS 80D features
Sensor specifications: 24.0-megapixel APS-C sensor sized 22.50mm x 15.00mm
Special features: touchscreen LCD panel, 7.0 fps continuous shooting, optical (pentaprism) viewfinder
Current Retail Pricing: $999.00 body-only
Sony a6300 features
Sensor specification: 24.0-megapixel APS-C sensor sized 23.50mm x 15.60mm
Special features: 4k video recording (3840 x 2160p), 120 fps high-speed video, 11 fps continuous shooting, 2359k dot electronic viewfinder
Current Retail Pricing: $898.00 body-only
Camera Size & Ergonomics
These two cameras are excellent examples of the differences between DSLR and mirrorless cameras. The Canon EOS 80D is a classic DSLR with a chunky body and huge grip. It’s slightly longer than the a6300 and three times as thick in some places. And at 730 g the 80D is 326g lighter than the Sony a6300 (404 g). This camera can’t be slipped into a pocket and will take up weight no matter what you do with it.
Both cameras feature a built-in flash unit but that of the 80D has up to 12.0m of coverage at the lowest ISO setting, double that of the 6.0m coverage of the a6300. These cameras also both offer weather sealing which locks out dust and moisture such as light rain. Nature and outdoor event photographers will find weatherization to be incredibly handy when the skies turn grey.
Being a DSLR, the Canon EOS 80D relies on a phase detection based autofocus system with its own separate set of inner mirrors. Because of this side, autofocus system design in addition to the optical viewfinder DSLRs has a chunky style that some photographers don’t enjoy. Phase detection is fast, faster than contrast detection, the second most common type. But it’s not quite as accurate, which is important for portraits, macro photography, and other styles where the precision focus is needed. The 80D also has contrast detection elements on the sensor as well which is unusual for a DSLR.
The a6300 relies on a truly hybrid design that is one of the best in its class. Not only does the a6300 have nearly 10x as many autofocus point as the 80D (425 vs 45 focus points) but they’re extremely well integrated into the sensor. The 425 AF points are grouped to work simultaneously as 169 contrast detection points. This gives me both speed and accuracy. And the extremely high density of these points across the sensor gives the a6300 incredible continuous autofocus tracking capacity.
Both cameras use 24-megapixel APS-C sensors. But that of the Canon 80D is overall much less sensitive in low light situations. With a maximum ISO of 16000, the camera is definitely going to struggle to autofocus and avoid image noise, especially if I’m using lenses with a narrow aperture like most kit lenses.
The a6300 has a good maximum native ISO of 25,600 which makes 16000 even more useful because it’s not at the extreme end of the sensor’s range. The a6300 can also ISO boost to 51,200. But this is selectively useful because the boost is not true ISO 51,200. The image noise at this setting will be far too extreme to be useable.
As a DSLR the 80D uses a complex system of internal mirrors to channel light to the viewfinder, phase detection autofocus system, and into the lens. The Sony a6300 is a mirrorless camera, therefore it has no internal mirrors to move the light around. Instead, the sensor acts as an imager, autofocus system, and viewfinder all in one.
The a6300’s electronic “Trufinder” is one of the best in its class, with a 120 frames per second refresh rate and 2359k resolution display. Electronic viewfinders always take additional power to operate, however. This creates an additional drain on the already small batteries of the Sony a6300. Because mirrorless cameras don’t need the inner mirror space of DSLRs manufacturers tend to maximize that compactness by keeping every element as small as possible. That even includes sensors, which is why there are so few full-frame sensors available for mirrorless cameras.
Despite not using any power the optical viewfinder of the 80D is true to life and takes no additional power to operate. Operating using the optical viewfinder in low light settings can be a challenge but the 80D also comes with an LCD panel to compensate. And unlike that of the a6300, the LCD of the 80D is a touchscreen for even more flexibility in camera control.
Because the 80D uses relatively little power compared to the a6300 the battery life is significantly longer. The 80D gets up to 960 shots per charge compared to 400 shots maximum for the a6300. That’s over 560 more pictures per charge or twice as much. While extra batteries are always worth thinking about the 80D makes them an option whereas they’re mandatory for the a6300.
Video Recording and Audio Input
The a6300 and 80D are both cameras well suited for videographers. They both include microphone ports for superior audio recording levels. But there are significant differences as well. The Sony a6300’s video resolution goes as high as 4K (3840 x 2160p) while the Canon 80D maxes out at Full HD (1920 x 1080). However, the 80D comes with a headphone port as well as a mic port, allowing you to better control the audio levels as they are being recorded.
Lenses and Lens Mounts
Canon is king when it comes to lens selection and the EOS 80D is heir to nearly 300 native Canon lenses. My choices are truly unlimited when it comes to finding just the right lens and that’s not including other manufacturers like Tamron. The Sony a6300 has a good selection for a mirrorless camera but still far fewer lenses at 83 lenses natively available.
The 80D uses the EF/EF-S-mount system for Canon while the a6300 uses Sony’s E (NEX) mount system. When lens shopping I want to also consider whether my lens has optical image stabilization built in because neither camera body has built-in IS. While this is becoming the norm for mirrorless cameras DSLRs have yet to catch up to this new trend.
Innate image stabilization is incredibly useful. It allows me to take pictures in situations where handshake would normally cause slight amounts of motion blur. Depending on how powerful the image stabilization is, of course. With four stops of IS, a scene that requires a shutter speed of 1/500ths of a second to avoid motion blur can instead be shot as slow as 1/30th of a second and have the same overall chance of motion blur.
Is the Canon EOS 80D right for me?
For photographers already well invested in Canon’s lens collection, the EOS 80D is the better choice here. However, it has very little to offer that previous Canon models don’t already have except for weather sealing. It’s the outdoor photographer’s version of the Rebel series of cameras. The touchscreen LCD panel is also a nice touch, as is the wireless connectivity, something older Canon models tend not to have. And the battery stamina is excellent even for a DSLR. Overall the 80D is a rugged, moderate upgrade for the budget-oriented Canon user without offering anything truly unique.
Is the Sony a6300 right for me?
This camera offers everything that the Canon 80D does and more besides. And in a smaller package, to boot. The image quality is the same if not better in low light situations. The video resolution is four times better. And the focus points combined with the incredible autofocus system makes the a6300 king of this competition. Given the almost identical prices, the only reason I could see someone preferring the 80D is if they prefer the DSLR styling or are already heavily invested in Canon lenses. Someone looking for a brand new camera should consider the a6300 over the 80D.
Some camera comparisons are closer than others but this one’s no contest. The Sony a6300 comes with an incredible suite of features in a much smaller package and for less money as well. Canon has a very large, very loyal following but more and more are turning to mirrorless cameras as both Canon and Nikon fail to add anything meaningful feature-wise to each new iteration. No 4K video on a 2016 release camera is quite disappointing whether you need it or not. Hopefully, Canon steps up its game with its next release.