Canon D20 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon PowerShot D20
Resolution: 12.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3"
Lens: 5.00x zoom
(28-140mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 100-3200
Shutter: 15-1/1600
Max Aperture: 3.9
Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.8 x 1.1 in.
(112 x 71 x 28 mm)
Weight: 8.0 oz (227 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $350
Availability: 05/2012
Manufacturer: Canon
12.10
Megapixels
5.00x zoom
1/2.3"
size sensor
image of Canon PowerShot D20
Front side of Canon PowerShot D20 digital camera Back side of Canon PowerShot D20 digital camera Top side of Canon PowerShot D20 digital camera Left side of Canon PowerShot D20 digital camera Right side of Canon PowerShot D20 digital camera

D20 Review Summary: The Canon PowerShot D20 is one of the better waterproof cameras we've tested, featuring a rugged, element-defying design. Its 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor and 28-140mm eq. zoom lens deliver good quality still and video images, but not good enough that you'll be mistaking the Canon D20 for an enthusiast-level digicam.

Pros: Good still and video image quality; Attractive, comfortable design; 3-inch LCD monitor that's easy to view in even bright sunlight.

Cons: Feature set lags behind current (2013) models; Performance average at best; Poor wide-angle optical quality; High chromatic aberration and corner softness.

Price and availability: The Canon PowerShot D20 started shipping in the U.S. as of May 2012. List pricing is set at approximately US$350.

Imaging Resource rating: 3.5 out of 5.0

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See our 2013 Best Waterproof Cameras Shootout, where we
compare the Canon D20 against five top 2013 competitors
and identify which waterproof camera may be right for you.

Canon D20 Review

by Daniel Grotta and Shawn Barnett, with
Original Review posted 11/7/2012
Updated: 10/10/2013

Canon took its time redesigning its waterproof camera, so we had high hopes for the Canon D20, a waterproof, shock-proof, and freeze-proof digital camera with a 5x optical zoom lens and Canon's own HS system for low-light photography.

Overview. With a practical 28-140mm zoom lens, the Canon D20 has a good zoom range for basic outdoor photography. Its 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor works in conjunction with its DIGIC 4 processor and is designed to deliver images with low noise and good overall quality, according to Canon. Intelligent Image Stabilization helps steady stills and videos, which can later be viewed on the 3-inch LCD. Because the Canon D20 is a camera built for the outdoors, it includes wind-reduction technology to help reduce recording wind noise even when it's breezy out, and a built-in GPS so you know precisely where you were when you took each photo.

Among the Canon D20's 21 Scene modes you'll find a built-in Underwater Macro mode specially designed to get close-up shots while underwater. The Canon D20 was also designed to be used while you're wearing gloves, thanks to an easy-access button. The Canon D20 is waterproof to a very deep 33 feet, and shockproof to drops from up to 5 feet. It can also withstand cold down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Design. Canon's PowerShot D20 is neat-looking, curvy, rounded and asymmetrical. Because of its control arrangement, especially the sloping telephoto and zoom buttons, we found the Canon D20 a comfortable camera to hold and shoot two-handed, but a bit more difficult one-handed. Oddly, the Playback button is on top, next to the shutter button, which makes it hard to find. The other buttons on the back are large, nicely placed and labeled, and because they're made of no-slip material, easy to press underwater. Of course, the Canon D20's battery/memory card and port doors are waterproof, but there's no safety lock to keep you from accidently opening them underwater. A bayonet mount on the right side of the camera mounts a unique hand-strap; this, unfortunately, prevents the Canon D20 from standing upright on a flat surface.


Features, functions and modes. Among the Canon D20's traditional array of features and functions, we liked the way Fisheye warps the images. Other notable effects include a smart self-timer mode that automatically snaps when you smile or wink, plus the ability to tweak colors (vivid, neutral, sepia, black & white, positive film, lighter skin tone, darker skin tone) or even substitute one color (vivid blue, vivid green, vivid red) for another. The Canon D20 is the only device in our Waterproof Roundup without an in-camera panorama mode. Instead, it has what is called Stitch Assist, which requires using Canon's software on a computer to create a panorama. Another function that isn't quite up to speed with the other cameras is video. It can record Full HD 1080p video, but only at 24fps.

Display and menus. The Canon D20's 460K viewfinder is quick and responsive, exhibiting minimal motion blur. It's also bright and contrasty. Colors are good, though slightly saturated, and although lacking an anti-reflective surface, the LCD is viewable in bright sunlight. Of the two competing cameras with manual focus (the other being the Pentax WG2), the Canon D20's is more precise and easier to use. Menus and settings are legible, navigation simple and intuitive. As you scroll to choose a particular function or setting, a brief description of what it does is displayed on the bottom of the Canon D20's screen.

Handling and operation. Although it can be shot one-handed, the Canon D20 feels and works better when your left thumb is nestled along the camera's strange-looking left side, with the right thumb sliding between the sloping wide-angle and telephoto buttons. Among the six contenders, the Canon D20 is big; and bigger than most PowerShots on the market. According to our lab tests, the Canon D20's power-up, shutter lag, and recycle times are average or slower, but we found them fast enough that we didn't miss a shot. However, the burst mode is somewhat disappointing — only 1.9fps, but at least there doesn't seem to be a buffer limit. Meanwhile, Mode selection is somewhat deceptive. After pressing the Mode button, only a half-dozen modes (Auto, Program, Underwater, etc.) are displayed. You have to scroll down five positions before activating the foldout menu with 16 additional modes. On the other hand, pressing the Canon D20's Func/Set button brings up the easy-to-set, context-sensitive Function menu.

Performance and image quality. Shooting the Canon D20 underwater is as easy and comfortable as taking photos in your living room. In Underwater mode in daylight conditions, the camera's smarts varied the ISO between 100 and 200. We rated the photos very good, with good exposure and good color. Daylight out-of-water shots were about right considering the high dynamic range subject, though the zoomed shot is a lighter than it should be. Overall quality is Good.

Video looked good, better than the other cameras in our shootout.

Meanwhile, video kept good focus, and the color and exposure were good. Above water, however, everything went quite red. We rate the video overall as Very Good.


Wide Angle
Telephoto

 

Terrestrial
Above water
Underwater
The Canon D20 showcases good image quality across a variety of shooting situations.

 

Canon D20 Lens Quality

The Canon PowerShot D20 features a 5x optical zoom lens, equivalent to a 28-140mm zoom on a 35mm camera.


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Very soft at upper right
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Mild blurring, upper left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Canon PowerShot D20's zoom shows strong blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, and blurring extends a bit into the image area from the right. At telephoto, performance is much better, with only mild softening in the corners.


Wide: Virtually no barrel distortion; not visible
Tele: A moderate amount of barrel distortion, only slightly visible

Geometric Distortion: There is surprisingly no visible distortion at wide-angle, and only a moderate amount of barrel distortion (~0.4%) at telephoto. The PowerShot D20's processor clearly works hard to keep things under control here.


Wide: High
and very bright
Tele:
Low

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is high in terms of pixel count, and pixels are quite bright. This distortion also extends somewhat far into the image area. Telephoto, however, shows less noticeable distortion, with faint red and blue pixels suggested.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Canon PowerShot D20's Macro mode captures sharp details at the center of the frame, though with noticeable blurring and chromatic aberration in the corners of the frame (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is 1.44 x 1.08 inches (38 x 28mm), which is quite good. The camera focuses so closely that the flash exposure is quite uneven, with strong shadowing and a hot spot at the edge of the large silver coin.


 

Canon D20 Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Canon PowerShot D20's LCD monitor showed about 101% coverage at wide-angle, and about 99% coverage at telephoto. Thus, accuracy is pretty good, just a little loose at wide-angle and a little tight at telephoto.


 

Canon D20 Image Quality


Color: Overall color is very good, though bright yellows are somewhat muted and pushed toward green. Strong reds, blues, and greens are only a little oversaturated, much less than we usually see here. Hue is off for colors like yellow, orange and cyan. Dark skintones are fairly accurate, as are lighter skin tones, with both showing a small push toward red/pink. Overall, though, very good results here.


Auto WB:
Good, though slightly warm
Incandescent WB:
Too pink
 
Manual WB:
Very good

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting much best overall, though Auto white balance was only slightly warm. Incandescent produced too strong of a pink cast.


Horizontal: 1,700 lines
Vertical: 1,700 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,400 lines per picture height.


Wide: Bright
Tele: Bright
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows bright results at the wide-angle rated distance of 11 feet, though the camera increased ISO to 800. At telephoto, results are bright at 9.8 feet, also with a hefty ISO boost to 800.

Auto flash produced bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining some of the ambient light by using a slower shutter speed of 1/20 second, and raising ISO to 320. The Canon PowerShot D20's image stabilization should help with the slower shutter speed, but any subject movement could be problematic at this shutter speed. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


100
200
400
800
1,600
3,200

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is moderate at ISO 100, though with visible softening beginning as early as ISO 200 and increasing from there. Chroma (color) noise isn't too bad overall, and luminance noise increases moderately. Noise suppression, however, blurs fine details. That said, results at ISO 3,200 aren't the worst we've seen, with even hints of detail still present in the red skirt. See Printed section below for more on how this affects printed images.


Printed: Good 13 x 19 inch prints from ISO 100; ISO 800 shots make a good 5 x 7; ISO 1,600 images look good at 4 x 6.

ISO 100 prints look good at 13 x 19 inches, with some noise in the shadows and slight softness. Colors are also slightly faded, and the lower left corner is very soft, something of an underwater mode that makes the images appear as if they were shot underwater whether they were or not.

ISO 200 shots have grainy shadows at 13 x 19 inches, and elements are soft enough that we prefer the 11 x 14 inch print.

ISO 400 shots are usable at 11 x 14 inches, but really look better printed at 8 x 10.

ISO 800 shots are also usable at 8 x 10 inches, but better at 5 x 7.

ISO 1,600 images are a bit soft at 5 x 7, but 4 x 6 inch prints look great. And finally, at this size, the soft corners are no longer an issue.

ISO 3,200 shots are not usable and this ISO best avoided.

Overall, a decent performance from the Canon D20, though we expected a little better from Canon after three years. Still, the corners were soft on the D10 as well, and that softness didn't go away until 5 x 7 then, so at least they're consistent. You can get a decent 4 x 6 at most ISOs, though, which is reasonable for this camera class.


 

Canon D20 Performance


Startup Time: The Canon D20 takes about 1.6 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's about average for its class.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.33 second at wide-angle and 0.39 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.073 second, not the fastest out there, but still pretty quick.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is a bit slow, capturing a frame every 1.93 seconds in single-shot mode. The Canon D20's full-resolution continuous mode is rated at about 1.9 frames per second, which is also slow.


Flash Recycle: The Canon PowerShot D20's flash recycles in about 6.4 seconds after a full-power discharge, on the slow side of average.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was only able to focus down to just below the 1/2 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, though the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Canon PowerShot D20's download speeds are fast. We measured 7,269 KBytes/sec.


Battery Life: The Canon D20's battery life has a CIPA rating of 280 shots per charge, which is about average.


 

In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

  • Canon PowerShot D20
  • Battery pack NB-6L
  • Battery charger CB-2LY
  • Wrist strap WS-DC8
  • Strap mount
  • USB interface cable IFC-400PCU
  • Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra battery pack for extended outings
  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 8GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 16GB should be a minimum.
  • Small camera case

 

Canon D20 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Curvy and comfortable to hold
  • 28-140mm zoom lens, the Canon D20 has a solid zoom range
  • Large 3-inch LCD display perfect for outdoor viewing, even in bright sunlight
  • Simple, easy menu navigation
  • Diverse array of shooting modes, filters and effects -- including, appropriately, Fisheye
  • Manual focus capability
  • Intelligent Image Stabilization
  • Nice still and video image quality, with good exposure, color and image detail
  • Full 1080p HD video, but only at 24 frames per second
  • Wind-noise reduction
  • Built-in GPS
  • Underwater Macro mode helps with closeup shots
  • A little awkward to operate one-handed
  • Bigger than most other waterproof cameras in its class (though this could be also seen as a positive, depending on what you're looking for)
  • No in-camera panorama mode
  • Power-up, shutter lag and shot recycle times at best average
  • Chromatic aberration and corner softness were high at wide angle

 

Big and bold, Canon's first foray into folded optical design was certainly a success, even if wide-angle optical quality suffered a bit. The Canon D20's overall performance put it at the top of both our Waterproof Camera Shootout 2012 and 2013 Best Waterproof Cameras Shootout (Canon didn't introduce a new waterproof model in 2013) in a fairly close race. Its large display performed well outdoors, and the Canon D20 captured good quality stills and video. Chromatic aberration and corner softness were quite high, but the Canon D20's positives far outweighed those issues. When it comes to outdoor and underwater performance, the Canon D20's results speak for themselves, with good color, good detail for the category, and satisfying pictures. We gave it a solid Dave's Pick for being one of the best (if not the best) compact waterproof cameras on the market.

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