Pros: Professional grade feature set, image quality, speed, looks, everything really...
Cons: Price, LCD resolution.
I didnt get serious about photography as a hobby until about this time last year. My dad gave me his old Minolta SRT-202 and a few lenses. After a few outings, the camera ended up jamming on me. I upgraded to the Canon Elan 7E soon afterwards. Ive had much success with this body, and I wasnt able to find any faults with it at all. Well none that werent inherent with film.
I had kicked around purchasing a digital SLR for a variety of reasons: instant feedback, lower risk associated with experimenting, and ease of digital transfers. Each of these reasons just happen to be a weakness of film and a strength of digital. During my first round of searching, I looked at 3 choices: Canon Digital Rebel, Canons EOS-10D, and Nikons D70.
The Digital Rebel was reasonably priced, but from the reviews looked to be too sluggish for my shooting style.
The Canon-10D has everything I would want in a DSLR. There wasnt much that users seemed to pick at, except for the power-on time and the price.
The D70 was priced close to the Digital Rebel, but has performance that rivals the EOS-10D. Ah, but its Nikon, and I already have a nice Canon lens.
The 10D it was. I wanted to wait for it to drop in price a little, and pick one up. Then Canon dropped it like its hot. They released the EOS-20D, adding 2 more megapixels, and speeding it up quite a bit. Seemed like a perfect time to pick up the 10D, as former owners were selling them and buying the 20D. However, for an extra $200-300 more youd get higher resolution, and faster performance. I changed my decision and decided to get the EOS-20D.
The Nuts and Bolts
Here are the specs at a glance; the full specs can be found on numerous sites:
8.2 Megapixels CMOS DIGIC II sensor (22.5mm x 15mm)
EF/EF-S Lens Mount
Max Shutter Speed of 1/8000 second
ISO Range of 100-3200
Color Temp of 2500-100000 K
USB 2.0 connectivity
RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG Modes
Black & White, Tone shooting modes
5 fps shooting mode
9 point AF system
The first thing youll notice when you pick up the camera, is how firm and substantial the body feels. It has a rugged construction that makes you feel confident about using in a variety of settings.
For the gadget lovers, the camera has a good amount of buttons and dials to keep you happy, however if youve used any other Canon consumer line camera, you should be right at home with the controls and functions of this camera. The control layout is nearly identical to all other Canon consumer line digitals.
The main dial sets the shooting mode, which are pretty much standard on any SLR, and most decent point and shoot cameras. Most people who are interested in the 20D probably have owned at least one SLR (and likely a Canon Body) and know these modes by heart.
In what Canon calls the Basic Zone, the shooting modes are: Full Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports, Night, and Flash Off. In each mode, the camera does all the work to achieve the desired results for each situation.
The Creative Zone features the following shooting modes: Program Auto Exposure, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and Auto Depth of Field (A-Dep). A-Dep attempts to create a wide depth of field for near and far subjects (such as a group shot with the landscape in focus).
Setting any of these modes is as simple as turning the main dial.
There are two more dials, one on the back of the camera, and the other on the grip near the shutter-release button. There is a switch that disables the dial on the back, though for the life of me, I cant understand why you would want to do this. This dial is used to change the aperture in manual mode, and used to maneuver the menu.
Most of the common functions are set via dedicated buttons, or a combination of button press with a dial. The less common functions (Canon calls them Custom Functions) are set via the menu. This is a welcome change from the confusing button combinations used in Canons film bodies.
Finally, the EF lens mount supports the standard EF line, and the EF-S lens series.
My Experience with the EOS-20D
I almost exclusively shoot in Manual, with a sprinkle use of P-AE during the times a shot takes me by surprise. Full Auto is great when I hand the camera to my wife to take a shot with me in it.
The camera handles well in all the situations Ive used it in. ISO 100-400 has very little to no noise at all, making this camera perform exceptionally well. Ive also tested ISO 1600, and I was very impressed the low noise in the shot. Its possible to use ISO 1600 to obtain an 8x10 print with no artifacts at all. Additionally the camera supports ISO 3200, though Ive not tested it.
The camera is quick, and easy to operate. Focusing is quick, and generally the AF is correct, but manually selecting the AF point isnt overly difficult, and after a little practice, itll become second nature. Truth be told, I do miss the eye control focus from my Elan7E. After switching, it took me a little while to get use to working with the AF system, but after I got the hang of it, it works almost as well as the eye control. From time to time, I get caught off guard, so having the instant on, ready to shoot, is great. I was on a plane flying to Florida, and out the window I saw a mountain sticking out above the clouds. By time I got my camera out of the overhead bin, I was ready to go immediately, and didnt miss the shot.
The image quality is exceptional, no complaints here. The lens you use will make a difference. Buy a good lens, and this camera will pop! I used the 50mm f1.8 ($70 street) and have taken some great images.
Battery life has not been a problem. With IS and about 30% flash usage, I got about 450 images before the battery meter indicated that it was time to recharge. The IS was the biggest drain on my battery undeniably, so depending on your usage, battery life will be good to exceptional.
The sensor isnt a full 35mm frame sensor, so there is a crop factor of 1.6. Typically this only becomes a problem with wide-angle shots, and only if you dont have a super wide-angle lens. I own the EF 28-90mm el-cheapo that came with my Elan7E, the EF 28-135mm IS general purpose consumer lens, and recently got the EF 50mm f1.8 bargain badboy. Based on my current lenses, I cant get any wide-angle shots. I was in Florida staying at a friends house and I was in awe of the interior design of the home. The lack of wide-angle really hurts for indoor, building shots. Its impossible to back up far enough to adequately frame walls and ceilings, so wide-angle lenses are a necessity.
To compensate for the 1.6 crop factor, Canon has released some cheaper wide-angle zoom lenses, using the EF-S mount. My best guess for the new mount is to prevent non digital users from getting cheap wide angle lenses. Us digital users have already paid a high premium for the body, so its okay to let us get a deal with these lenses.
To help me on the wide angle, I contemplated picking up the cheapest lens, which is equivalent to my el-cheapo 28-90mm lens. Forward thinking says that Canon will likely release a full-frame consumer DSLR eventually, so spending a lot of money on an ultra wide-angle lens may not make sense. Wide angle has a lot of use to me, but not ultra wide-angle. However, why spend a lot for a good body, only to hook up a garbage lens to it? With my 20D, the effective 28mm (17mm * 1.6) focal length DOES have some value. I know I definitely dont want to buy the 17-88 IS lens, because after 28mm, I have the rest of the focal lengths covered with my 28-135lens. Additionally the lens is going for around $600, which seems overpriced.
What you get
The body comes in three packages: Body Only, a kit with the EF-S 17-55mm lens, and a kit with the EF-S 17-88mm IS lens. Since I have both 35mm equivalent lenses, I got the body only kit.
The contents of the box are:
Manuals in both Spanish and English
A Strap (which is about as comfortable as an itchy t-shirt tag)
TV Cable (to hook up your camera to your tv)
Camera Drivers and Capture Utilities
What doesnt work for me
There isnt much to not like, but there are some things that stand out. Switching between self-timer, continuous and one shot is done using the combination of a button and turning a dial. It should have been implemented akin to film bodies, with a switch that is set next to the main dial. As implemented, its the same button thats used to set the ISO setting.
The LCD is 1.8 inches, and if youre not careful, you may mistake an out of focus shot to be in focus. Ive had this happen a few times, but now Im more careful, to inspect my shots, especially when hand holding at slower shutter speeds.
This camera is absolutely worth taking a look at if youre ready to move to digital, or upgrade from an older DSLR.
Depending on your shooting style, this camera may be a substantial improvement, specifically in the area of power-on time. If youre more calculating in your shots, and not prone to fast shooting, this may not be a big deal.
The images the EOS-20D are fantastic, noiseless images at ISO100-400, and minimal noise at the higher ISOs.
You wont be sorry you bought this camera. It rocks.