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Canon EOS 20D

By: Shawn Barnett and Dave Etchells

Slightly smaller and lighter upgrade brings greater speed and ease of use along with higher res and lower image noise.

<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): EOS 20D Imatest Results>>

EOS 20D Sample Images

Review First Posted: 08/19/2004, Update: 11/19/2004

Digital Cameras - Canon EOS-20D Test Images

 

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

 

"Sunlit" Portrait:
(This is my new "Outdoor" Portrait test - read more about it here.)

Outstanding resolution and detail, and accurate color. Good exposure as well, with strong detail in the midtones and highlights.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the EOS-20D did a really excellent job with it.

The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment and the camera's contrast adjustment at its low setting, resulting in appropriate midtone densities with strong detail, yet no loss of detail in the highlights. (This is a much better result than I see with the majority of cameras I test.) The Auto and 4,900K white balance settings both produced accurate, nearly identical results, though I settled on the Auto setting for the main series. The Daylight and Manual options resulted in slightly warmer color balances.

Overall color looks great here, with accurate skin tones. The blue flowers in the bouquet also look very good. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, but the EOS-20D gets them almost exactly right.) The strong reds, greens, and yellows also look about right, though the bright red flowers are just slightly oversaturated. Resolution is excellent, and detail is strong throughout the frame, with very little loss of subtle detail to noise suppression processing, even in the dark shadows. Image noise is very low throughout the image. - Really, just an exceptional job.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files E20OUTAP0.HTM through E20OUTAP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Lens used in above test: Canon Zoom EF 16-35mm 1:2.8L USM

Contrast Series:
The 20D's contrast adjustment option worked exceptionally well here, letting the camera hold onto an unusual amount of highlight detail, without also plugging up the shadows. Looking at the series below though, it appears that the control affects highlight areas much more strongly than shadow areas. Dialing down contrast will thus act to preserve highlight detail directly, but won't pull up the shadows at all. My personal preference is for contrast adjustments to affect the extremes of the tone curve more equally, pulling in both highlights and shadows by similar amounts. That said though, the contrast adjustment on the 20D works very well as a "highlight preservation" device. If you're concerned about highlight detail, dialing down the contrast will let you hold onto it, without really affecting any of your other exposure settings. Bottom line, a well-done control.
Contrast Series
Very Low
Low
Normal
High
Very High

Saturation Series:
Like its contrast adjustment, the EOS-20D's saturation control provides just the right range of adjustment to be photographically useful, with fine enough gradations to permit precise control. Well done...

Saturation Series
Very Low
Low
Normal
High
Very High


Color Tone Series:
This is a pretty subtle adjustment, and you may not be able to see its effects in the small thumbnails below very clearly. It seems to affect color areas, without introducing a color cast in neutrals, a very nice effect. Its action is most obvious in Marti's skin tones, which are rather pink in the "More Red" example, and slightly green-tinged in the "More Blue" image. A nice control, I could see wedding and portrait photographers using this to tweak skin tones. (Not to suggest that its effect is limited to the skin tones though: The control affects other colors in the image as well, it's just more immediately noticeable in the skin tones.)

Color Tone Series
More Red
Red
Normal
Blue
More Blue

Lens used in above tests: Canon Zoom EF 16-35mm 1:2.8L USM

 

Closer Portrait:

Excellent resolution, detail, and color, and a good exposure.

Color balance is similar to the wider shot above, with good skin tones and accurate color elsewhere. The shot at right was taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, a fair bit higher than that required in the wider shot above. (This is unusual, most digicams require less exposure compensation on this shot.) Midtones show a lot of detail, and the highlights also remain fairly in check, once again thanks to the 20D's excellent contrast adjustment option. Resolution is again excellent, with a lot of fine, delicate detail visible throughout the frame. The fine details of Marti's face and hair are very strong, as are even the smallest fabric details in her white shirt and the green leaves.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files E20OUTFACAP0.HTM through E20OUTFACAP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

Lens used this test: Canon Macro EF 100mm 1:2.8 USM

 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
+0.7 EV

Low exposure with the default setting, but bright results with an EV boost. Good color accuracy, but the flowers are slightly washed out by the harsh light from the flash.

The EOS-20D's built-in flash was slightly dim at the default exposure setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment for a bright exposure. The strong, direct flash washes out Marti's skin tones, but overall color is about right, if a little flat. The background incandescent lighting creates a very slight orange cast on Marti's hair, and in some of the shadows on the back wall.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files E20INFP0.HTM through E20INFP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance
2,800K White Balance

Very good color with the Manual and 2800K white balance, and a good exposure as well.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The EOS-20D's Auto and Incandescent white balance settings fell victim to this trap, and produced warm images. (NOTE though, that the Incandescent white balance option in a pro-level camera like the 20D is quite properly set to match the 3200K color temperature of professional tungsten studio lighting.) However, the Manual and 2,800K options produced very good results. I chose the Manual setting for the main series, as the 2,800K image was just a little warm for my taste. (Many users might prefer it as being more faithful to the original scene though, and I myself would use it if this were a picture in which I wanted to preserve a warmer mood.) Skin tones look very natural, and overall color is about right. The blue flowers in the bouquet are dark and purplish, but that's to be expected under this very warm-hued light source. The main shot was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which resulted in strong detail in the highlights and good detail in the midtones and shadows. Another excellent performance.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files E20INMP0.HTM through E20INMP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

ISO Series:
The EOS-20D's image noise characteristics are little short of amazing. Noise is all but invisible at ISO levels below 400, ISO 1,600 is surprisingly clean, and even ISO 3,200 will be entirely usable for a lot of work. A big reason why the 20D's high-ISO images look so good is that the noise pattern is very fine-grained, with little of the blotchiness I'm accustomed to seeing in other cameras (even other high-end D-SLRs). The series of crops shown in the shot below are taken from the full-sized images linked via the table underneath. (The softness in the low-ISO shots is doubtless the result of slight motion blur, as Marti moved slightly during the long exposure.)


ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600 ISO 3,200

Lens used in above tests: Canon Zoom EF 16-35mm 1:2.8L USM

 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Excellent resolution and a lot of fine detail. Good color as well.

The EOS-20D's Auto and Manual white balance settings produced similar results here, with good overall color. The Daylight setting resulted in a warmer cast. I chose the Manual setting for the main shot, though it really wasn't all that different from the Auto shot. The white trim on the house is almost neutral, though a hint warm, but overall color still looks good. Resolution is excellent, and detail is strong in the front shrubbery, as well as in the tree limbs above the roof. (The EOS-20D's 8.8-megapixel CCD stretches the limits of this poster as a test target, however. Even though the poster was made from a 500MB scan of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp lens, the EOS-20D extracts practically all of the detail that's to be found here.) Details are a hint soft throughout the frame, but definition is still quite good.

Lens used this test: Canon Macro EF 100mm 1:2.8 USM

 

Far-Field Test

Exceptional resolution and detail.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different from in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the EOS-20D does an excellent job. The camera captures incredible detail in the tree limbs over the roof and fine foliage in front of the house, with clear leaf patterns. House front details such as the brick pattern, shingles, and trim also show great definition. The camera loses detail in the strongest highlights of the white paint on the bay window, but doesn't appear to be that far overexposed. (This shot was taken using the camera's default contrast setting.) Detail is very strong in the shadow area above the front door, evidence of the EOS-20D's good dynamic range. Overall color looks good, but exposure is a slightly bright overall. (No exposure compensation was used.) The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, and saturation series.

Resolution Series:

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
3,504 x 2,336
E20FAR3504F
E20FAR3504N
2,544 x 1,696
E20FAR2544
-
1,728 x 1,152
E20FAR1728
-


ISO Series:
Once again, really excellent image noise levels...

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600


Sharpness Series:
At its default settings, the 20D's images are distinctly soft. (Distinctly indistinct?) There's no lack of detail though, it's just that the defaults use very conservative amounts of sharpening. Even with the sharpness adjustment set to its maximum, the images don't look over-sharpened. My personal preference would be to routinely boost the sharpness one notch. The shots below show the results of setting the sharpness to minimum, normal, and maximum values.

Sharpness Series
Soft
(-2)
Normal
(0)
Sharp
(+2)


Contrast Series:
Same comments as earlier, a contrast adjustment that primarily affects the highlights, but that's nonetheless easy to use.

Contrast Series
Low
(-2)
Normal
(0)
High
(+2)

Saturation Series:
Ditto the saturation adjustment. Useful range, good step size.

Saturation Series
Low
(-2)
Normal
(0)
High
(+2)

Lens used in above tests: Canon Zoom EF 16-35mm 1:2.8L USM

 

Lens Zoom Range

As do all D-SLRs, the EOS-20D supports a wide range of Canon lenses, so "Lens Zoom Range" really doesn't apply.



 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Slight color casts with each white balance setting, but good results overall. Excellent resolution with a lot of fine detail.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. The EOS-20D's Daylight white balance setting did produce a warm cast, but the Auto setting actually produced near-accurate results (though skin tones are pale). The Manual setting resulted in a stronger magenta cast. Though overall color is slightly cool and skin tones are pale with the Auto white balance, I chose it as the most accurate of the three. The blue robe has purplish tints in the deep shadows, but otherwise looks about right. Resolution is excellent, and fine detail is visible throughout the frame. The embroidery of the blue robe has very good definition, as do the instrument and accessory details of all three models. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the EOS-20D are definitely capable of showing more detail than the poster has in it.)

Lens used this test: Canon Macro EF 100mm 1:2.8 USM

 

Macro Shot

As with the Zoom Range, the EOS-20D's macro performance will depend on the lens in use. (The Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro delivers exceptional results if you're interested in some serious macro capability, though.)



 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good color and exposure, with low image noise and strong shadow detail.

The EOS-20D's Auto white balance setting produced the best overall results here, though the Manual setting came in at a close second. The Daylight setting resulted in a warm image. Though the Auto setting was slightly warm, I still preferred overall color to the slightly magenta cast of the Manual setting. Exposure looks about right, and the EOS-20D has no trouble with the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target. The large color blocks are accurate and well-saturated, though the large red and blue primary color blocks are slightly oversaturated. Detail is strong in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, and image noise is low.

Lens used this test: Canon Macro EF 100mm 1:2.8 USM


Now, for the REAL technoids, Imatest!

I've recently begun using Norman Koren's excellent "Imatest" analysis program for quantitative, thoroughly objective analysis of digicam test images. For those interested, I've prepared a page summarizing what Imatest showed me about the EOS-20D's images.


ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600 ISO 3,200

 

Contrast Series:

Contrast Series
Very Low
Low
Normal
High
Very High

Saturation Series:

Saturation Series
Very Low
Low
Normal
High
Very High



 

Low-Light Tests

Excellent low-light performance, with bright exposures, good color, and very low image noise.

Thanks to several recent improvements in Canon's CMOS sensor technology (several of which made their first appearance in the 1D Mark II), the EOS-20D's image noise levels are just amazingly low, particularly for an 8-megapixel chip. As a result, the 20D's low light performance is arguably the best I've yet seen from a digital camera, at any price point. The EOS-20D produced clear, clean images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all six ISO settings. Color balance turned slightly warm as the light level decreased, but the color shift was pretty minor. Because image noise was so low to begin with (there were essentially no "hot pixels" to be found anywhere), enabling or disabling the camera's Noise Reduction system didn't make a lot of difference, at least at the light levels that I cover in my tests. Even at ISO 3,200, image noise was relatively low, and didn't interfere with color balance or detail. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16fc
No NR
ISO
100
Click to see E20LL0103.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0104.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0105.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0106.JPG
15 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0107.JPG
25 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0107XNR.JPG
25 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see E20LL0203.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0204.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0205.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0206.JPG
8 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0207.JPG
13 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0207XNR.JPG
13 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see E20LL0403.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0404.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0405.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0406.JPG
4 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0407.JPG
6 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0407XNR.JPG
6 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
Click to see E20LL0803.JPG
1/4 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0804.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0805.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0806.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0807.JPG
3.2 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL0807XNR.JPG
3.2 sec
f2.8
ISO
1600
Click to see E20LL1603.JPG
1/8 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL1604.JPG
1/4 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL1605.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL1606.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL1607.JPG
1.6 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL1607XNR.JPG
1.6 sec
f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see E20LL3203.JPG
1/15 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL3204.JPG
1/8 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL3205.JPG
1/4 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL3206.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL3207.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see E20LL3207XNR.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8



Flash Range Test

With the "Kit" lens, an effective flash range of 9-10 feet at ISO 100.

Because it obviously depends on lens aperture, flash range with the 20D will vary with the lens in use. In the US, it seems that at least some bundled versions of the 20D will be sold with the inexpensive 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S lens, so that was the lens I used to check flash range with. Using this lens, I found that the EOS-20D's flash provided adequate illumination at ISO 100 out to a range of roughly 9-10 feet. Given that the 20D's image noise levels are so low though, I'm sure that most users would be comfortable operating it at ISO levels of 400 and even higher. At ISO 400, the effective range would double relative to that at ISO 100, for a usable range of 18-20 feet. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see E20FL08.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E20FL09.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E20FL10.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E20FL11.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E20FL12.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E20FL13.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
Click to see E20FL14.JPG
1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

Lens used this test: Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Very high resolution, 1,500 - 1,650 lines of "strong detail."

The EOS-20D performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,200 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and around 1,000 lines in the vertical direction. I found "strong detail" out to about 1,650 lines/picture height horizontally, 1,500 lines vertically. (Some reviewers will doubtless argue for higher figures than these, but I tend to be more conservative in how I "call" the resolution of cameras with this target. My rule of thumb is to not count lines of resolution beyond the point at which artifacts start to obscure the target lines, even though one's eye may see signs of the target lines beyond that point. Here, the target lines in the horizontally-oriented resolution hyperboloid (which tests for resolution along a vertical axis) show considerable aliasing beginning at about 1,500 lines, even though there's evidence of subject detail at least as far as 1,600 lines. Consequently, that's where I called the vertical resolution.) "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until right at 2,000 lines. Very impressive.

Looking at the results from Imatest, the EOS-20D (like most Canon cameras) uses a very restrained sharpening algorithm that leaves its images a little soft at the default settings, but that leaves the underlying subject detail undisturbed. Using Imatest's "MTF 50" weighting for determining resolution results, and a standard 1-pixel sharpening correction, the 20D resolved 1513 lines/picture height along the horizontal axis, and 1707 lines/picture height vertically, for an average of 1610 lines.

Optical distortion on the EOS-20D will vary depending on the type of lens in use, hence no report of it here...

Resolution Series, 100mm
Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
3,504 x 2,336
E20RES3504F
E20RES3504N
2,544 x 1,696
E20RES2544
-
1,728 x 1,152
E20RES1728
-

 

Sharpness Series
Sharpness Series
Low Sharpness
Soft
Normal
Sharp
Very Sharp

Lens used this test: Canon Macro EF 100mm 1:2.8 USM

 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A pretty accurate optical viewfinder.

The EOS-20D's digital SLR design proved fairly accurate, showing about 94 percent of the final frame. I prefer SLRs like the EOS-20D to have as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the EOS-20D fell slightly short here, although it's important to note that most other d-SLRs have viewfinders that are only 95% accurate as well. Typically, only very high-end models like Canon's own EOS-1D Mark II and EOS-1Ds Mark II have true 100% viewfinders. Flash distribution is quite even, without any falloff in the corners or at the edges of the frame, but then this shot was captured with a 100mm lens, and you wouldn't expect to see any flash uniformity problems at such a long focal length.


Lens used this test: Canon Macro EF 100mm 1:2.8 USM

Reader Comments! --> Visit our discussion forum for the Canon EOS 20D!



<<Reference: Datasheet | EOS 20D Imatest Results>>

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