The newly designed built-in flash unit can sync at 1/250sec or slower and now extends slightly higher than before to reduce the chances of red eye. The increased elevation also prevents a shadow being cast from the lens, although this can still occur when using some of the physically longer wide-angle lenses. The built-in flash also features Canon’s new E-TTL II flash system that utilises distance information from the lens in order to provide better metering.
So long as you’re not shooting in one of the Auto modes, pressing the flash button on the side of the camera will pop the flash up regardless of the light level. Otherwise, the flash will pop-up automatically when required. In use, its effective range is limited to just a few metres, so if you’re after more reach I’d suggest investing in a separate flashgun. The observant among you will also have noticed that the white Canon logo has been embossed into the front of the 20D’s flash unit rather than just being printed on - apparently inspired by the design of Canon’s famous F1 SLR camera from the 1970s. Whatever the motivation behind it, in my opinion it’s a stylish touch.
Hidden under the new recessed rubber seal on the left side of the camera body are the connectors for the optional remote shutter release, the PC terminal (flash sync), the video out and also the USB2.0 interface. On the right hand side of the body you’ll find the CompactFlash compartment, which is located just behind the hand grip.
At the base of the grip is the battery compartment that houses the new BP-511A Lithium-ion battery, and also the small CR2016 battery which maintains the camera’s date and time when the main battery is removed. The higher capacity BP-511A battery is rated at 1390mAh, which provides a longer battery life than the older 1100mAh BP-511 battery used in the earlier cameras. In practice I found the 20D’s battery life to be excellent. Despite frequent use of the LCD display to review and delete images, and the occasional use of the built-in flash, I could usually manage at least 500 shots before the low battery warning first appeared, and even then I could squeeze out another few hundred shots before it died.
The 20D’s menu is colour coded for the different menu categories: red for the Shooting menu, blue for the Playback menu and yellow for the Set-up menu. Navigation through the menus is straightforward and is carried out using the Quick Control Dial and Set button on the back of the camera. Also, by pressing the Jump button you can skip quickly to the first item of each menu category. It’s through the menu system that you gain access to the 20D’s numerous Custom Functions that allow you to tweak and customise various features according to your own preferences. One notable feature for example is that you can increase the 20D’s maximum sensitivity from ISO 1600 to ISO 3200 by enabling the ‘ISO expansion’ Custom Function. Of course the downside is that image noise will increase, but if you really need to get that shot then the extra stop of light could prove invaluable in difficult shooting conditions.
''List of the EOS 20D's "Custom Functions"'
The 20D now has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec, compared to 1/4000sec on the earlier models. When shooting continuously at 5fps, you can take up to 23 consecutive shots at the highest resolution JPEG setting. If shooting in RAW mode however, this drops down to a maximum burst of eight shots. Either way after a short wait for the 20D’s memory buffer to empty you’re then ready for another burst. It obviously helps here if you invest in a fast CF card, since it means less time is spent waiting for the queue of images to be transferred from the buffer. It is a pity however that the continuous shooting speed can’t be slowed down at all (to an intermediate setting of say 2.5fps), as quite often I found myself accidentally firing off three or four shots when all I wanted was one extra. Also, the shutter release sound is now slightly louder than before, which I guess is mainly due to the 20D’s new high-speed mirror mechanism.