20D in depth

“Canon EOS 1D MarkII”

“Canon EOS 20D”

“Canon EOS 10D”

“Read review”

Ok, here’s my lowdown of the Canon EOS 20D

There have been arguments that it’s more like a baby MarkII rather than a successor to the 10D. Of course, it still is shit compared to the MarkII but the 20D as of this moment, probably merits it’s own pricepoint – right smack in the middle of the 10D and MarkII.

Lucky for us, it’s still priced like a 10D… which makes it as valuable as a 300D at its pricepoint. Seems that Moore’s law is gaining.

For a really detailed review of the 20D (and picture quality comparisons), check out dpreview’s article on the 20D1: http://consumer.usa.canon.com/ir/controller?act=ModelDetailAct&fcategoryid=139&modelid=9808 “Canon EOS 1D MarkII”

“Canon EOS 20D”

“Canon EOS 10D”

“28-135mm IS USM”

The Features

8.2 MegaPixels

I believe that this has minimal impact on photogprahy as far as “needs” are concerned. When on a DLSR standpoint, a 6 or above megapixel count is enough, unless you’re doing some really large prints. But as they say, “the bigger the better.” I’m just relieved that they we’re able to up the resolution, while reducing (or at least maintaining) the noise ratio.

DIGIC II Image Processor

Now this (and the sensor) is what matters in the field more than the MP count. This is the reason why a 4MP 1D still is more expensive than a 6MP 300D (of course the speed and feature set also plays a part, but you know what I mean).

As of this posting, only two Canon models use the DigicII processor. Namely, the EOS 1D MarkII and the 20D. Obviously, every model hereafter will probably have the same or even better sensor/processor.

Regardless, this is one reason why 20D performance is being compared to the MarkII instead of the 10D

1:1.6x Crop

Similar to the 300D. For me less is still better for a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) shooting experience. However, to support EF-S lenses, shrinking stuff was necessary (and hence the crop factor).

9 Point focusing

Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me, as long as you can focus – since you can always recompose. Yet like the MP count, more is a welcome development.

What I did like though, is the new “joystick”-button/multi-controller which allows you to select your AF points instantly. This means no more dialing until the AF point is selected (though it could still be done)

1/8000s Max Shutter speed

I have yet to experience the time when I’ll actually need that fast a shutter speed. This usually means uber bright daylight settings and/or the necessity to stop motion of something going extremely fast… maybe stopping the motion of a fly’s wings perhaps?

Then again, this will probably allow you a large aperture on uber bright days, assuming you don’t use ND filters

5fps Continuous Shooting Speed

5 frames per second. Now this is something useful. And I’m not only talking about events/sports photography, which almost always require this feature. The faster the better, and you can never have “too much” speed.

If you like bracketing shots while shooting a couple of scenes regardles of the type of shoot you have, this could help too – as it takes the bracketed shots faster [obviously] so your subject/s (if alive or moving) will have more chances of being in the same “pose” or position on all your bracketed shots.

25 Frame Buffer

This is connected to the continuous shooting mode. It states the maximum number of shots before the camera starts slowing down (or stalling). This basically says you can normally take 25 continuous shots at 5fps before it slows down (assuming you’re on a fast shutter speed). That roughly translates to 5 full seconds of continuous shooting. schweeet!

The more you can shoot, the more data you’ll have to be writing. Especially since they now upped the resolution to 8MP (and upped the frame capture rate to 5fps). You can never have too much “slack” when it comes to frame buffering.

EF-S support

The million dollar question is if Canon intends to concentrate on EF-S lens production in the long term… which I highly doubt. But then again using EF-S lenses allows your cam to have smaller sensors, therefore cheaper production.

Honestly, I think this was just a financial move rather than introducing a feature that can aid in photography. Not that I’m complaining… On one hand, you can make your sensors larger, until you have a 1:1 ratio with your focal lengths but that would yeild hella-expensive camera bodies. On the other, you can just shift to EF-S to make everying more affordable, which could entail future lenses (even the L series) to use EF-S, which in turn will force people to upgrade… and people don’t like being forced into anything.

E-TTL II support

Like the DigicII processor, only the MarkII and the 20D currently support this type of metering.

Flash photography can be a pretty complicated thing when you’re trying to balance natural and fill light. The purpose of such application us to usually get a decently lighted subject while maintaining a “natural” feel to the scene. This is particularly true indoors, where not everyone has the benefit of a fast lens (or bright ambient light).

E-TTL II is yet another improvement on metering and flash compensation, so how could anyone diss it? Anything better is always welcome.

0.2sec startup time

Now this is another big reason to upgrade! You may say that “I can be patient while my cam boots up,” but I wonder how long you can keep saying that – especially after you’ve missed all those “moments.”

I usually leave my 300D on auto off/standby (keeping it on) when I know I’ll be shooting once and a while… but when I’m ready to pull it out and wake it up from standby, it takes a whole 2.5 seconds (try counting from 0-2, that’s pretty long!), which pissed the hell out of me.

Now it’s down to a quarter of a second, which is a godsend. The time it will take to move your camera to your eye [after switching it on] guarantees that you’re ready to focus and shoot.

50g lighter than 10D

It’s an all metal body now, which will mean it’ll be heavier. even a plastic 300D with a battery grip and flash (and decently sized lens) can leave your arm sore at the end of a shoot (unless you use a monopod or tripod). What more with a metal body?

Of course lighter is better!

Other Nuances

Using with the eyepiece extender

The dioptric dial can now be easily adjusted/accessed even with an eyepiece extender installed. This isn’t really necessary since you usually only adjust it once. Having to adjust it multiple times means you either have prescription optical paraphernalia of different grades, which is ridiculous.

On the Built-in Flash

The built-in flash is [again] higher than the 300D. This is good, since there are instances that the height of my 300D’s built-in flash still coudn’t cut it – like my 28-135mm IS USM lens (the light couldn’t clear the top of the lens)

Of course this argument is pretty much a moot point – the built-in is probably just an emergengy measure. If you got yourself a 20D, then you should be serious enough to get a decent external flash for it.


Aside from the obvious improvement by introducing the new “multi-controller,” (which acts like a “joystick-button”) there are now more dedicated buttons to access more settings realtime.

You can now adjust the following features easily:

  • ISO speed
  • Drive/shooting mode
  • Metering mode
  • Flash exposure compensation
  • White balance
  • AF-point
  • Exposure lock

On Usability

The main dial is that dial near the shutter button. The quick control dial is the big-assed dial at the back of the unit.

IMHO, the quick control dial is easier to manipulate rather than the main dial.

The best way to utilize the cam is to learn how to shoot with your middle finger, that way your pointer can easily access the main dial (and top buttons, which select the WB, ISO, Drive mode, etc.) and your thumb on the quick control dial. I just don’t know the drawback it will have with regards to weight, since you’ll have 2 fingers left supporting your cam (of course the your other hand supporting the lens)…

A custom function to reverse the roles of the quick control dial and main dial in Av or Tv would probably have been welcome. Since the quick control dial, as I said, is much easier to fiddle with.

The best layout [for me] would be putting the main dial below the shutter button (like how Nikon does it) – that way you hold everything naturally, and probably put the other top buttons to the right of the quick control dial. That way everything will be accessible without shifting fingers much… even with a battery grip.

Remote and Battery Grip

My main gripe is why did they have to change the interface for an external remote and battery grip. Now we’ll have to sell more stuff to replace hehehe.

White Balance (WB)

There are a lot of white balance options – bracketing the WB, even a matrix that can allow you to fine tune your WB setting.

This camera seems pretty serious about getting its colors right hehehe.

Custom Functions

The 20D has 18 custom function settings ranging from how other buttons should and could work, to how the camera behaves in other modes.

I’ll be talking about some custom functions (not all) that I’ve found useful or irritating.

ISO Expansion

This enables ISO 3200 (indicated as H). It’s beyond me why they have to waste a whole option to display or hide this. They should’ve just included H/3200 and used that custom function for something more useful.

Mirror Lockup (MLU)

After using the hacked firmware of the 300D, MLU was a pretty interesting feature. And useful if minimal camera motion is an absolute must.

My only comment about the 20D‘s (and other cams) method is it enables MLU on all drive modes. Let me ask you: is MLU useful at all on continuous drive mode? Of course not!

They should’ve done it like the hack: on single-shot and timer mode only. Since you can still mimmick single drive performance on continuous drive mode (just learn how to let go of the trigger).

If it implemented the drive mode limitations it had similar to that of the 300D hack, then it’d be cool since you could leave MLU on and not have to go to the menu to enable or disable it.

You want MLU? switch to single drive mode, if you want single drive mode without MLU? Then you could simply switch to continuous drive mode and let go of the shutter button after the shot (5fps plenty enough latency to allow you to let go before the next shot is fired). Of course, this is assuming they’ve implemented it like the hack.

AF Point Selection Method

There’s a neat feature that allows you to use either the multi controller or the quick control dial as direct AF selection controls, therefore bypassing the AF selection button altogether.

This was supposed to have been a great idea, since I set the multi controller button to select any of the 9 points instantly… but they missed a few ergonomic concerns:

The “normal” function of AF point selection, is when you press the AF selection button, then use the multi controller, main dial, or the quick control dial to select your AF points. That’s three ways of selecting… and they all work simultaneously.

When you select either the quick control dial or multi controller button as direct AF point selectors, you can’t use the other 2 anymore, which sucks.

Lens AF Stop Button Function

This is a pretty interesting function, but it’s a bit selfish since it’s dedicated to Canon Super telephoto lenses, which have the button in question. So you’ll need to have those lens to even use this.

It’s a shame since there’s a function there, that makes lens IS (Image Stabilization) only engage after the shutter is tripped – which I think is really useful as I can recompose quickly without the lens trying to “stabilize” the scene (which can feel kind of surreal if you’re not used to it).

But then, that would also be selfish [of me] cuz not all lenses have IS. So I guess it’s ok.


Rear-Button Focusing (RBF)

You can now assign focusing to a separate button!

I’ve just posted info on this in one of my newer posts, but i’ll quote it here anyways:

This has a number of obvious benefits – mostly during sports/events photography where people prefer tracking using AISERVO. But in a practical sense, RBF is great as you can take your shot regardless if you’re focused or not. Normally, if you’re on AF (auto focus mode), you’d have to focus by half pressing – and as long as it’s not yet focused, you can’t trip the shutter.

This is a sensible approach, but can be frustrating at times: If you focus on a subject, and know that you’ll be taking another shot of them (assuming you’re not on continuous drive), you’d still have to half-press and waste time as the camera re-focuses on [probably] the same point (which is ridiculous if you think about it)

RBF allows you to trip your shutter regardless, so it’s a kind of pseudo AF/MF focusing mode, which I think is pretty cool and useful.

I used a [supposed] 52x speed CF card and tried the continuous drive buffer – it seems that the 20Ds performance can utilize the card’s write speed.

It stated a 25 frame buffer, but I was able to shoot about 230+ frames @ 5fps continuously using the worst JPEG settings (small/not-fine), and about 60+ frames using the best (large/fine).

Unfortunately the buffer for RAW data is still at about 6fps, but the overall improvement in speed and efficiency of the cam is more than what anyone bargained for, so no complaints here.

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