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Canon certainly doesn’t hang around when it comes to introducing new cameras – for instance it’s only been three years since I got my hands on the Canon EOS D30 – the company’s first compact digital SLR. Building on the success of that, and the subsequent D60 and 10D, the new EOS 20D has been designed with both serious amateur and professional photographers in mind. The 20D offers a significant number of improvements over its predecessors. These include Canon’s new DIGIC II imaging processor, a new Hi-Precision 9-point AF system, an impressive 5fps shooting speed, and a fast start-up time of 0.2 secs.
Probably the most notable change however is the newly developed 8.2 megapixel sensor that delivers images up to 3,504 x 2,336 pixels in size, in the same 3:2 aspect ratio as conventional 35mm film. As you can see from the image below the 20D offers a significant increase in sensor resolution compared to the 3.1 megapixel EOS D30, although the improvement relative to the D60 and 10D is rather more modest. At the end of the day however, owners of the 20D will have more pixels to play with when post-processing and cropping images, which for some will be a major advantage.
Straight out of the box, the 20D looks remarkably similar to the 10D that it replaces. Canon’s hallmark Quick Control Dial can still be found on the back panel alongside the main LCD screen. I must say, I was quite surprised to see that Canon has used the same 1.8in 118,000 pixel display that was used in the 10D, especially when you consider that its prosumer-orientated PowerShot Pro1 actually has a larger 2.0in display with 235,000 pixels. Thankfully, the 20D’s display does offer a 10X zoom playback facility, which certainly helps when checking the focus of shots. You can also scroll through the images while still viewing the magnified display, which I found to be particularly useful when trying to pick out the sharpest shot from a series of very similar images.
Along the top is the familiar LCD information panel (which can be backlit if required), main dial, and also the shooting mode dial that has the usual array of ‘Creative’ and fully automatic exposure programs to choose from. However, take a closer look and you’ll notice that the control layout has actually been altered slightly, including the addition of a new multi-controller ‘joystick’ on the back panel. Located just above the Quick Control Dial and within easy reach of your thumb, the main purpose of the multi-controller is to allow users to select one or all of the nine auto focus points quickly and easily. It can also be used for moving around magnified images (in eight directions) on the LCD display.
Like the 10D, the top, front and rear covers of the 20D’s body are constructed from magnesium alloy which helps give it a solid, more ‘professional’ feel. However, thanks to a redesigned body structure the 20D is actually slightly smaller and lighter than the 10D. It also feels well-balanced in the hand and the rubber-coated grip makes it quite comfortable to use over long periods.