Steve's Digicams

Canon PowerShot S20

Review posted 2/26/00


Click here to take a 360-degree QTVR tour of the S20
Click on the S20 to take a 360-degree QTVR tour

Canon's new PowerShot S20 is housed in the same, compact, all-metal shell as the PowerShot S10 except this time it's champagne colored. There's no reason to mess with success except to upgrade it with a state of the art 3.3 megapixel CCD imager. The S20 has a sharp 2x optical (32-64mm 35mm equivalent) zoom lens that safely tucks away inside of the camera when powered down and requires no lens cap.

The finished image size is 2048x1536 (Large), 1024x768 (Medium), or 640x480 (Small) with three levels of JPEG compression available, Super-Fine, Fine or Normal.   It does not have an uncompressed mode but the Super-Fine mode produces a JPEG image at just about 100% quality. The CompactFlash Type II card slot handles the 340MB Microdrive as easily as the included 16MB solid state CF card or any other CF or CF/2 storage device. The sensitivity is equivalent to ISO 100 with gain up options of 200 and 400. Exposure metering is center-weighted with a spot metering option available in manual mode.

Click here for the complete S20 specifications

Canon s20

As with the other Canon compacts, the S20 features a builtin lens cap that protects the lens whenever it is retracted into the body.

Canon s20

Even a 1.8" color LCD looks big on the back of the diminutive S20. Controls have been kept to a minimum and the buttons are clearly labeled with icons that don't require a lot of "read the manual" time.

Canon s20

The main command dial has positions for Connect to PC, Playback, Off, Automatic, Manual Record, Image Mode and Stitch Assist Mode. You do have to cycle through the Off position to go from Record to Playback and yes, the lens does retract in Playback mode.

Canon s20

Not only is the body metal but so is the tripod socket. The battery door has a very positive-latching slide lever. As with the S10, the S20 is made to take a licking and keep on clicking (sorry timex) !

Canon s20

Controls to the left of the optical viewfinder - flash mode (auto, off, red-eye), Record mode (single, continuous) / selftimer. The buttons also perform secondary functions during Playback to display thumbnails and zoom-in.

Top LED (green steady - ready to record, green flashing - recording to or reading from CF card, red steady - ready to record with flash, red flashing - camera blur warning [low light]). Lower LED lights orange to indicate camera is in Macro mode.

Canon s20

To the right we have the macro mode button, the mode dial and the 4-way "Omni Selector" which during record you use the upper and lower parts to operate the zoom lens. During playback you use it like a joystick to navigate the thumbnails or to go forward or backward through the stored images.

The 4-way control is also used to navigate through the menu system, see page three of this report for the menu screens.

Continue on to
Page Two

Image Sensor 3,338,400 pixel CCD sensor (total)
1/1.8" (0.556") size
Number of Recording Pixels
Large :
2,048 x 1,536 pixels
Middle :
1,024 x 768 pixels
Small :
640 x 480 pixels
Sensitivity ISO 100 (gain-up for ISO 200 and 400)
Image Data Storage CompactFlash™ Type I or II (Microdrive compatible)
Image Compression JPEG standard
Compression Modes Super-Fine / Fine / Normal
Image Storage Capacity *
(with 16MB CF card)
Large/ Super-Fine :
Approx. 6 images
Large/ Fine :
Approx. 16 images
Large/ Normal :
Approx. 31 images
Lens 6.5 - 13mm (35mm film equivalent: 32-64mm)
F2.9 (W) - F4.0 (T)
Digital Tele-converter 2X, 4X (Maximum 8X digital zoom is available combined with optical zoom)
Shutter Mechanical + Electronic control
Shutter Speed 2 - 1/1,000 sec. (2 sec. shutter for Slow Shutter and Night Scene mode)
Focusing Method TTL autofocus
Focusing Range
(from the top of lens barrel)
Macro :
12 cm to 66 cm (0.4 to 2.2 ft.)
Standard :
66 cm to infinity (2.2 ft. to infinity)
AE Method TTL program AE
Light Metering Method Center-weighted metering / Spot metering
White Balance Control TTL auto white balance plus 4 presets
Continuous Shooting Mode Approx. 1.7 images / sec. (at Large / Fine mode and when LCD finder is off)
Self-timer 10 seconds
Flash Built-in (Auto / Red-eye reduction / On / Off)
Flash Range
Wide-angle :
0.17 to 3.3 m (0.6 to 10.8 ft.)
Telephoto :
0.17 to 2.3 m (0.6 to 7.5 ft.)
Optical Viewfinder Real-image optical viewfinder
LCD Monitor 1.8" low-temperture polysilicon color TFT (Approx. 140k pixels)
File Format Design rule for Camera File system (DCF **)
Print Order Format Digital Print Order Format (DPOF)
Interface USB / RS232C
CF card slot (complies with CF Type II standards)
Video out
Power Source 2CR5 lithium battery
NiMH rechargeable battery
AC adapter
CR 2016 lithium battery for date / clock backup
Operating Environment Temperature : 0 - 40 degrees C, Humidity : 10 - 90 %
Dimensions (W x H x D) 105.4 x 69.4 x 33.8 mm (4.1" x 2.7" x 1.3") excluding protrusion
Weight Approx. 270 g (9.5 oz) excluding batteries and CF card
* These numbers are based on Canon standardized shooting conditions. Actual numbers may differ according to the shooting conditions and photographic subjects.
** "DCF" is an abbreviation of "Design rule for Camera File system" standardized by Japan Electronic Industry Development Association (JEIDA).
All data is based on Canon's standard testing methods. Subject to change without notice.

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