Canon EOS 20D SLR Review

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Canon EOS 20D

Camera Features & Controls

The EOS 20D has 1.7 million more pixels on its CMOS sensor than the EOS 10D's similarly sized unit, so each pixel must be smaller. However, advances in technology have made it possible for the EOS 20D to have the same ISO range as the 10D, a higher default ISO, lower noise, higher dynamic range, higher resolution and a brighter finder than the 10D.

Incorporating advances first seen in the EOS-1D Mark II, Canon has increased the size of the on-chip light-gathering microlenses while reducing the gaps between them to half the size found on the EOS 10D. The result is much greater efficiency and much less light lost. Furthermore, Canon has improved the design of the photo diodes in the CMOS sensor by eliminating transistors in each pixel, making a greater portion of the surface area of each pixel sensitive to light.

In addition to its image quality improvements, the DIGIC II chip is also responsible for speeding up camera performance in areas such as start-up time, autofocus calculation, card-writing speed, direct printing and data transfer speed through the new USB 2.0 High Speed interface.

The all-new 8.2 megapixel CMOS sensor in the 20D was not only designed and manufactured by Canon, but also made with equipment that was designed and manufactured by Canon. Many benefits derive from Canon's total control of the production process. All associated circuits and devices, such as the Canon-developed color filter and on-chip microlenses; the 2nd-generation, on-chip, noise-filtering circuit; the 4 channel reading; the low-noise, high-speed output amp; the infrared-blocking low-pass filter and the power-saving circuitry were designed and optimized to work with the new sensor, and vice versa.

Canon EOS 20D, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

The EOS 20D uses a Canon EF lens mount (full electronic control type) and accepts the over 40 available Canon EF lenses from 14mm ultra-wide-angle to 1200mm super-telephoto. It's also compatible with the EF-S series lenses such as the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 first seen bundled with the EOS Digital Rebel.

Canon's New EF-S Zoom Lenses

Canon EOS 20D, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

This exciting new zoom lens provides ultra wide-angle coverage to the EOS 20D and Digital Rebel shooter. Equivalent to a 16-35mm zoom for a 35mm film camera, it offers excellent performance and optics designed from the ground-up for digital SLR use. Excluding fisheye lenses, the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM has the shortest minimum focal length ever offered for interchangeable lens digital SLRs with APS-C image sensors.

Photographers will achieve consistently excellent image quality throughout the zoom range of this lens because of its 3 Aspherical elements and 1 Super-UD element in a 13-element optical formula. A ring-type ultrasonic focusing motor (USM) provides fast and silent AF along with full-time manual focus. Minimum focusing distance is 9.5 inches for breathtaking close-ups. The EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM is relatively light and compact at 3.5 inches in length and a weight of 13.6 oz. The new lens accepts 77mm filters and can be fitted with an optional bayonet-mount lens hood.

Canon EOS 20D, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

This new EF-S lens brings true wide-angle to telephoto coverage to EOS 20D and Digital Rebel photographers. It features Canon's Image Stabilization system, allowing safe hand- held photography at shutter speeds up to three steps slower than otherwise possible. And of course, it's optically optimized for digital SLRs. A ring-type USM delivers fast and silent auto focus, as well as full-time manual focus when in the AF mode.

The EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens provides a 5x zoom ratio and an angle of view equivalent to a 27-136mm lens on a 35mm camera. The new lens also uses a glass-molded aspherical lens element with aspherical surfaces on both sides for superb image quality throughout the entire zoom range and it features a closest focusing distance of 12 inches at all focal lengths. The EF-S 17-85mm IS lens is 5% shorter and 12% lighter than the EF 28-135mm IS lens and accepts 67mm filters.

Canon EOS 20D, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

The sophisticated 9-point autofocus system has a high-precision cross-type sensor in the center position. This new design seen for the first time in the 20D provides full cross- type performance with maximum apertures as small as f/5.6, yet it achieves up to 3 times the standard focusing precision when used with EF lenses featuring maximum apertures larger than or equal to f/2.8. A new, convenient Multi-controller provides fast and easy AF point selection.

User-selectable focus modes include: One-shot AF, AI Servo AF with focus prediction, AI Focus AF, and manual focus. The 20D's AF system is able to work down to -0.5EV (a full 1 stop improvement over the 10D).

There is no external AF-assist lamp, the 20D emits a series of micro-flashes from the built-in flash to illuminate the subject in low-light conditions. The range of the AF-assist is approx. 13.2 feet (4 m).

Canon EOS 20D, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

The new, built-in flash of the Canon EOS 20D supports E-TTL II and has an arm that permits the flash center to be 18.6mm higher than the unit on the EOS 10D. This reduces the chance that red-eye will occur or that the lens barrel will obstruct flash coverage. The relative positions of the reflector and the xenon flash tube have been optimized and the fresnel flash panel's transparency has been increased, permitting a wider field of coverage, up to a 17mm focal length (equivalent to 27mm in 35mm format), while maintaining the same guide number as the EOS 10D's flash unit.

The built in flash provides flash illumination and exposure control even under complex lighting conditions. It includes a flash exposure compensation function (adjustment plus/minus 2 stops in 1/2-stop or 1/3-stop increments), as well as a flash exposure (FE) lock function that provides the proper lighting for the part of the subject you choose, and the 1st curtain/2nd curtain sync-switching function for capturing moving subjects.

When shooting in the AUTO mode or the Basic Zone modes (except landscape, sports or no flash mode), the built in flash will automatically pop up and fire in low-light or back lit conditions. In other recording modes you press the release button to pop it up when needed.

The working range of the flash at ISO 100 is 3.3 - 12.1 ft at 24mm and 3.3 - 9.5 ft at 85mm (using EF 24-85mm F3.5 USM lens.) Flash sync speed is 1/250 to 1/60 in "P" mode, in "Tv" mode use 1/250 or slower, in "Av" mode it is automatically set at 1/250 to 30sec and in "M" mode use 1/250 to 30 secs.

Canon EOS 20D with Canon 550EX speedlight, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

If you need more flash power the EOS 20D functions in full E-TTL II with the new Canon Speedlite 580EX or with the 550EX, 420EX, 220EX, Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX or Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX. The 580EX/550EX can be used as a master unit to trigger other 580EX, 550EX or 420EX Speedlites without wires. There's also a standard PC flash sync port to connect to other external flash units or studio strobes.

When the EOS 20D digital camera is used with the built-in flash or the new Speedlite 580EX, color temperature data transmission is enabled. The camera has an extensive complement of white balance controls, processing parameters, bracketing options, shooting modes and custom functions that permit the camera to be configured for any situation; the revised menu format, simplified control layout and clever new Multi-controller make the camera easy to use.

Evolved E-TTL II Flash Exposure Control

Though still compatible with all EX-series Speedlites, the "smarter" E-TTL II system captures the subject as a "plane" and ensures that images containing various colors and levels of reflection are captured accurately and optimally. The system compares the ambient light with the reflected pre-flash off the subject reported in all 35 metering zones and selects the areas with a small difference to be weighted for flash exposure calculation. This system also eliminates or under weights areas with large difference recognizing them as an extremely reflective object in the background or as a highly reflective subject, smartly ensuring it by considering the distance information data provided from compatible EF lenses. The system similarly prevents over-exposure when photographers lock focus and recompose the shot by considering the flash output level calculated according to the broader distance. The camera also allows users to select an average metering pattern by using its custom function settings.

Canon EOS 20D, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

The eye level viewfinder shows approx 95% of the captured image. There is a -3.0 - +1.0 diopter adjustment for those of us with less than perfect eyesight. Around the viewfinder is a soft rubber eyepiece that fits comfortably against your face or eyeglasses, it provides a 20mm eye point. Canon offers several optional eyepieces that fit on the EOS 20D including the 90° Angle Finder C.

The 20D's shutter release lag time is brief 65 milliseconds and the viewfinder blackout time has been reduced to 115 milliseconds thanks to a new high-speed mirror drive.

Canon EOS 20D

Inside the viewfinder is a partial metering circle (spot) and nine focusing points. The active focus point(s) are illuminated so you know exactly which AF zone(s) has been selected. A custom function lets you enable or disable the AF point illumination feature.

Along the bottom is a digital status line that displays - AF points, AE lock, FE lock, AEB in progress, flash ready, improper FE lock warning, high-speed sync, flash exposure compensation, shutter speed, bulb, FE lock, processing data, aperture, exposure level (exposure compensation, manual exposure level, AEB level, flash exposure compensation, red-eye reduction lamp-on indicator), Max. burst during continuous shooting, AF/MF focus confirmation, CF card full, CF card error, no CF card.

The EOS 20D features a newly developed Precision Matte focusing screen that has optimally distributed microlenses. By controlling the microlens curvature, the overall light distribution angle is determined. By optimizing the microlens arrangement, the wide light distribution angle's characteristic is controlled as appropriate when a fast lens is attached. Because of improvements to the shape of the imager's microlenses, it is easy to distinguish the precise point of focus during manual focusing, especially with lenses f/2.8 or faster. The new Precision Matte focusing screen has also reduced viewfinder coloration and increased brightness compared with the EOS 10D.

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