Features & Controls

The SX20 IS features a 20X optical (28-560mm in the 35mm format) f/2.8-5.7 all-glass aspherical zoom lens, with Canon's true 'Lens-Shift' Optical Image Stabilization system. Unlike electronic image stabilizer systems that typically cause degradation of image quality, Canon's Lens Shift Optical IS system is based on the advancements made in the development and refinement of Canon's EF and video lenses. Reduced in size to fit this model, this Image Stabilizer provides up to three stops of camera shake correction in shutter speed equivalent.


Canon equiped the SX20 with a single-point TTL AF system that achieves sharp focus quickly, and is aided in low-light conditions with a built-in AF assist lamp. You can move the AF frame to the area desired by pressing the AF Point Selection button on the back of the camera and using the 4-way controller as well as choose the AF frame size (Normal or Small). It also features manual focus override as well as a Focus Bracketing function and Canon's Face Detection AF/AE/FE/WB technology. This allows the camera to detect, lock on and track up to nine human faces in a scene simply by pressing the shutter button halfway. The face detection algorithm automatically prioritizes and selects the optimum subject and not simply the closest face (based on Canon's Intelligent Scene Analysis/iSAPS technology). It will then optimize the focus, exposure, and white balance to ensure the best possible results for easy picture taking moments.

The focusing range is:

  • Normal: 1.6 ft. (50cm) - infinity Wide, 3.3 ft. (1m) - infinity Tele
  • Macro: 3.9 in. - 1.6 ft. (10 - 50cm) Wide
  • Super macro: 0 - 3.9 in. (0 - 10cm) Wide

In low light conditions the focus-assist lamp helps to illuminate the subject for accurate focusing.

The built in flash offers Auto, On or Off. Flash output compensation (+/-2.0 stops in 1/3-stop increments), Red-Eye Correction, Red-Eye Reduction, flash output settings (3 steps), FE Lock, Slow Synchro, 2nd-curtain Synchro and Safety FE are also available.

Flash range at ISO Auto is:
  • 1.6 - 22 ft. (50cm - 6.8m) at Wide angle, 3.3 - 12 ft. (1.0 - 3.7m) at Telephot

You can also see the Right and Left microphones located just below the flash, that record stereo audio to be included with your movies.

You can frame your pictures with the color LCD or the high-quality EVF (Electronic ViewFinder). This viewfinder is a tiny 0.44-inch LCD in a magnified eyepiece. Like the LCD on the back of the camera, this display offers 100% frame coverage as well as Dioptric adjustment (-6.0 to +2.0 m-1). On the left and right of the EVF is the Print/Share button and the Movie mode Record button.


Controls on top: on the left is the Flash mode button. Next is the hot shoe that allows you to use optional flash units like Canon's 220EX, 380EX, 430EX II or 580EX II Speedlites. To the right of the hot shoe is the Mode dial with positions for Auto, Program, Shutter priority (Tv), Aperture priority (Av), Manual, Custom, Movie, Stitch Assist, SCN, Sports, Night Scene, Landscape, and Portrait. Next is the shutter release with the zoom lens control mounted around it, in playback mode the zoom lever functions as the index and magnified image control. Last but not least is the On/Off power button.


On the back is a 230,000 pixel 2.5-inch Vari-angle color LCD monitor. It offers a wide viewing angle and can be tilted and rotated up to 270 degrees.


Controls on the back: in the upper right is the Play, Exposure value (Rotate), and Focus point selector (Delete) buttons. The 4-way controller lets you navigate menus and select images during playback, the FUNC/SET button accepts menu selections. It also gives you access to the Function shortcut menu, which has many settings (white balance, Color effects, Bracketing, Flash output compensation, Metering, Movie/Still Image quality and Image size, etc.) In record mode you press 'Up' to change to Manual focus mode, 'Right' to toggle the sensitivity, 'Down' to change the Drive mode, and 'Left' to enable Macro focus mode. Mounted around the 4-way controller is the Control dial. This handy dial allows you to quickly navigate the menu, set aperture and shutter speed values, etc. The DISPlay toggles the amount of information displayed on the LCD and EVF as well as switched between the two. The MENU button calls up and dismisses the menu screens. You can also see the Movie mode Record button in the upper left hand corner.

The PowerShot SX20 is equipped with a card slot that supports use of SD/MMC/MMC+ cards up to 2GB or SDHC/HC MMC+ cards up to 8GB. Unlike past models, Canon does not include a card with the camera. Shown here with a wireless and speedy Eye-Fi Pro 4GB SDHC card - see the tables below for the approximate storage capacity.

At the top you can see the two separate I/O port doors. At the top is the DC IN port for connecting the optional Power Adapter and Audio/Video Output (NTSC or PAL format) for viewing images and movie files on your TV. The Digital USB 2.0 (high-speed) port handles both transferring images to your computer as well as Direct printing to any PictBridge compatible printer.The SX20 also offers HDMI output, with an optional cable.

Number of Recordable Images
Large (L) Medium 1 (M1) Medium 2 (M2) Medium 3 (M3)
File Size (KB) 3,084 1,474 2,060 980 1,395 695 558 278
2GB 626 1,280 930 1,920 1,365 2,672 3,235 6,146
8GB 2,505 5,116 3,721 7,675 5,457 10,679 12,927 24,562

Small (S) Widescreen (W)
File Size (KB) 150 84 2,132 1,109
2GB 10,245 15,368 903 1,862
8GB 40,937 61,406 3,611 7,442
Time of Recordable Movies
High Definition Standard Definition
1,280 x 720 640 x 480 320 x 240
30 fps 30 fps 30 fps
Movie size (KB/sec.) 3,041 1,402 480
2GB 10 min. 33 sec. 22 min. 45 sec. 1 hr. 04 min. 01 sec.
8GB 42 min. 11 sec. 1 hr. 30 min. 57 sec. 4 hr. 15 min. 51 sec.

Note: N=Normal F=Fine
Storage Capacity varies depending on camera settings. This data is estimated from Canon's standard shooting conditions. Figures for Movie Mode represent total capacity of the particular media.


Powering the SX20 IS are four standard AA type batteries. While Canon supplies alkaline type cells, we recommend high-capacity NiMH rechargeable AA batteries. Rechargeable batteries save you money and can be reused hundreds of times. Using CIPA testing standards, Canon estimates that the approx. battery life with alkalines is 340 shots and a total of 12 hours of playback time. Using NiMH batteries you can expect approx. 600 shots or 14 hours of playback time.

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