Pros: Lightning fast, improved AF capabilities, easy to use and change functions on the fly.
Cons: The only one I can think of might be expense.
Recently a friend of mine who is also an amateur photographer came to visit. He brought along his brand new toy, a Canon EOS-20D and we spent the better part of a weekend taking shots with it around town. I currently own the Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel) and have been drooling over the higher end EOS digitals for well over a year.
About Canon and the EOS-20D
Canon's most successful film SLR was the EOS Rebel, and they have carried that success over into their line of digital SLR cameras. The numbering system for Canon's cameras is actually quite simple. The more digits the model number has, the lower end the camera is. Thus, my 300D is a consumer-amateur level camera, the 20D is a more prosumer higher end camera, and the 1D is more of a professional camera than the 20D. Currently Canon manufactures the following digital EOS cameras:
- EOS-1Ds Mark II Digital
- EOS-1Ds Digital
- EOS-1D Mark II Digital
- EOS-20D Digital
- EOS-10D Digital
- EOS Digital Rebel (300D)
The EOS-20D has the following features:
- An 8.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor
- ISO range from 100 - 1600, ISO 3200 in extended mode
- Top shutter speed of 1/8000 sec. with a flash synch speed of 1/250.
- Second Generation DIGIC II Image Processor, the same processor that was developed originally for the EOS-1D Mark II camera. This processor uses highly sophisticated processing algorithms which accelerates the time for all aspects of image capture and consumes less energy than first generation DIGIC processors.
- Image Capture Optimization for fast RAW and JPEG image capture. After a starting up in record time at .2 seconds, the new CMOS sensor combined with the DIGIC II Image Processor processes images so quickly that you can continuously shoot up to 23 frames (JPEG Large/Fine) at a rate of 5fps with reductions in buffer clearing times for the camera.
- New 9-Point diamond-Shaped AutoFocus System is also expanded to allow you to instantly switch focus points while shooting.
- Extensive White Balance Compensation Function allows you to customize your white balance further than ever before, plus WB bracketing
- Built-In Monochrome Mode for in-camera black & white photography effects
- Magnesium alloy and stainless steel body
- Compatibility with EF and EF-S Series Lenses that was previously only found in the Digital Rebel. Using the EF-S lenses which seat back closer to the sensor, users will find wide-range angle lens options that they would not have had on other EOS cameras except the lower-end 300D.
- E-TTL II Flash Metering System first debuted with the EOS-1D Mark II and is now available on the EOS-20D.
The camera also comes with the kinds of specs you would expect to find on a higher end camera:
- Dioptric adjustment correction from -3.0 to 1.0 dpt.
- Focusing modes: One-Shot AF, Predictive AI Servo AF, AI Focus AF, Manual Focus (MF)
- Metering Systems: TTL full aperture metering with 35-zone SPC for Evaluative metering (linkable to any AF point), Partial metering (approximately 9% of viewfinder at the center) and Center-weighted average metering.
- Standard Canon Exposure Control Modes: Program AE (Full Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Flash Off, Program), Shutter-priority AE, Aperture-priority AE, Automatic Depth-of-Field AE, Manual Exposure, ETTL-II Autoflash
- Exposure Compensation: AEB: /-2 stops in 1/2- or 1/3 stop increments
- Shutter Speeds: 1/8000 - 30 sec. (1/2- or 1/3-stop increments), bulb, X-sync at 1/250 sec.
- Dimensions: 5.7 x 4.2 x 2.8 in (WxHxD)
- Weight: 24.2 ounces (body only)
Yeah, Yeah, Specs... But what about USING It?
This camera is a joy to behold. It's a hefty beast, sure, at more than 24 ounces for the body alone. Compared to my Digital Rebel it is one solid monster but it is still slightly lighter than some of Canon's other EOS cameras.. The EOS 20-D has a classy matte black body and the standard Canon shutter and dial layout on top. If you've used an EOS camera before, any EOS camera, the learning curve for the EOS-20D will be very brief.
The rear of the camera is somewhat different from my 300D but it's very similar to the 10D. It has a control dial on the back with a set button located in the center and it has an on/off and dial activation lever down toward the bottom. There is also a new quick access button on the back that lets the user select AF points on the fly and change WB options. The back of the camera also contains many other Canon EOS digital standards: Menu, Info, Jump and Play buttons as well as a Trash/Delete button and a 1.8" crystal clear Liquid Crystal display for easy playback of images.
We set out to take some shots in the city and one of the first things that really jumped out at me about this camera was its pure, unadulterated, lightning-fast speed. My Digital Rebel feels like it's taking shots in a barrel of molasses now that I've used the EOS-20D. The camera is ready for shooting almost immediately after you turn it on, and blasting through multiple images for action shots is a snap with the new DIGIC II Image processor.
I really like the viewfinder and the new pattern of 9 AutoFocus points that are laid out in a diamond. Using partial metering is also easier with the improved display. I found that the AutoFocus capabilities of this camera worked far beyond what I get with my 300D, especially in low-light scenarios. There was almost no struggling for the camera to find its autofocus point indoors in dim lighting. The additional heft of the camera, over my 300D's weight, made it easier for me to brace against it to steady it for slow shutter speed shots.
I loved the control wheel on the back of the camera, and the new button that you can use to select AF points. Interacting with this camera is much more intuitive than with the 300D - I have always hated that so many functions on the 300D required combinations of buttons to be pushed at the same time, which meant that mid-shooting you would have to pause, bring the camera down from your face and make adjustments. Always a distraction.
The menus, accessed easily via the "Menu" button on the back of the camera when it's on, are standard Canon and let you configure contrast, color space, and a slew of other options. Dropping the camera into standby mode isn't an inconvenience anymore, with just a simple press of the shutter button the camera is back on in way under a second. With the 300D it feels like you have to really anticipate the action because turning it on always takes longer with the older DIGIC processor.
In short, I really hated to give this camera back to its rightful owner, who had patiently been taking pictures with my slower 300D while I played with his toy.
Over the course of the weekend, we took approximately 950 shots with the camera, burning through all of our Compact Flash cards combined repeatedly. This is more than I think I've ever taken with my Digital Rebel in such a short timeframe. I'm guessing that's because it was so easy to fire off a dozen shots in a row for action sequences. The battery wasn't recharged once during his trip. The new sensor really does seem to utilize power more efficiently than the first generation of sensors for the EOS line.
Pulling Pictures Off the Camera
The EOS-20D takes Compact Flash cards, just like the rest of the EOS lineup. It doesn't come with a flash card, which is pretty standard. This bugs a lot of people, but as someone who already owns several 1Gb flash cards, I'd prefer a camera with no CF card included. The reason is simple, if they included a CF card, they would jack up the price and they would never include one that was big enough for my standards. At most you might get a 256Mb flash card with it. I'd much rather not get any card than get one at a jacked up price that I didn't find useful.
The EOS-20D has a USB 2.0 port, so you can use the included cable to pull off pictures as USB 2.0 speeds. I have a CF card reader built into my computer, so I simply eject the CF card and put it into the computer.
What can I say? At 8.2 Megapixels the downloaded images are larger than the images I get from my 6 Megapixel Digital Rebel. Some of the qualities inherent in the images, such as softening around the edges or chromatic aberration, are really products of the lenses attached to the EOS-20D body, not the EOS-20D itself. The most important thing that reflects on the body and the sensor itself, in my opinion, is how well the camera handles the noise at different ISO levels. I took shots from ISO 100 to ISO 1600 and the noise level was acceptable to me up to about ISO 400. After that, it requires some post-processing work. ISO 400 is about the best I could do with my 300D as well.
The RAW image files were enormous and slower to work with. RAW formatted images give you a lot of room for post-processing. Since it's truly the raw data captured by the sensor, you can change your exposure values, white balance and sharpening options in post-processing. This is fantastic for those who really MUST capture that perfect picture, but at 8.2 Megapixels my paltry computer, even with it's Gigabyte of RAM, began to slow down considerably while processing the files.
Customer Service and Warranty
The EOS-20D comes with a one year limited warranty against defects in materials or workmanship. Cameras should be returned to Canon USA, Canon Canada, or an authorized EOS Digital Camera service provider for warranty service and repair.
Toll-Free Technical Support: 1-800-828-4040 M-F 8AM - 12Midnight EST, Saturday 10AM - 8PM EST
I fell in love with this camera, but that is hardly surprising to me. Canon has taken their fantastic EOS platform and delivered numerous improvements in both speed and functionality. The EOS-20D is a huge step up from the lower end 300D and even the mid-range 10D. If you've been lusting after the faster DIGIC technology of the high-end Mark II cameras from Canon but can't shell out the big bucks for it, then look no further. The CANON EOS-20D brings that into an affordable range for pro-sumer use.
I miss the camera already. I wonder if I can convince this guy to come back down and visit for New Years Eve...