The Canon 20D Digital SLR Camera

Are you a speed shooter?

The Canon 20D digital SLR camera might be just what you need.

It's an exceptionally fast camera and its 8.2 megapixel sensor means that you can get fantastic prints up to 12x16 inches.

The Canon 20D digital SLR camera is geared toward pros, but priced with consumers in mind.

Approximate Price (Body Only): $1,300.00 USD


Who This SLR is For

canon 20d sample photo

Jumping children are a favorite subject

This Camera is for die-hard action and sports photographers.

No, it's not just for those guys who sit on the sidelines during football games.

The Canon 20D digital SLR camera is for anyone who loves taking photos of subjects in motion.

That is one of the reasons that I own one.

My photographic passion is dogs and kids. They never stop moving around.

I really enjoy capturing photos during the peak of action: right when a dog leaps into the water or when a kid is jumping in the air.

Both of these require a fast response, and the Canon 20D digital SLR camera delivers.

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Key Features

Here's a quick summary of what the Canon 20D digital SLR camera offers:

  • 9-point autofocus system
  • 5 photos per second up to a maximum of 23
  • Maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second
  • 0.2 second start-up time
  • Compatible with all Canon EOS lenses (over 50)
  • Color and black and white mode
  • 8.2 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 1.6 times crop factor
  • ISO settings from 100 to 1600
  • 1.8" LCD with 5 levels of brightness control
  • Stores photos on Compact Flash type I and II cards

It's pretty clear that the focus of the camera is on speed.

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There are only 3 issues that I have found using the camera:

  • Out-of-focus shots with predictive autofocus
  • Camera lockup requiring firmware update
  • Washed-out highlights
Predictive Autofocus

I have had some problems with the predictive autofocus on the camera. I take photos of moving targets all the time.

Predictive autofocus is designed to guess where the subject is going to be next, so that the focus in the photos you take is sharp.

I would estimate that this works about 50% of the time.

About half the shots I take are so blurry that I just wind up tossing them. That's why I take advantage of the fast frame rate the camera provides to shoot tons of photos.

Even if I have to ditch 20 photos, that's ok if 20 turn out the way I want.

Camera Lockup

The camera lockup on the Canon 20D digital SLR camera is more of a problem, but not something that can't be solved.

What do I mean by lockup?

The camera has a bit of a seizure, and stops taking photos completely. You can even turn it off and on and the problem persists.

My Canon EOS 20D locked up on me as I was taking shots of a parade. I finally had to remove the battery from the camera and put it back in.

That solved the problem for the rest of the parade, but I was concerned.

When I checked out the Canon support web site, I found that there was a firmware update. A firmware update basically improves the computer software running in the camera.

Since I downloaded the update and installed it on the camera, I haven't had the problem again.

Washed-out Highlights
canon 20d sample photo

Click to see larger

The 20D light meter seems to have a problem with really bright highlights.

In high contrast conditions (bright sun and shadow) the Canon 20D digital SLR camera wants to expose the photo so that there is detail in the shadows.

This in turn leads to highlights that are much too bright.

The photo to the right shows what's going on here. Notice how the areas in sunlight have almost no detail - they're just patches of white color.

Is this a massive problem? Not really. It's easy to adjust the camera settings so that it doesn't do this.

But since you probably want the camera to work straight out of the box, this is a drawback.

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How This SLR is Different

It's time to see how the Canon 20D digital SLR camera stacks up against the competition!

And by competition, I also mean the other Canon digital SLR cameras.

First, the Canon 20D is the second fastest camera after the Nikon D2Hs. The big difference? The Nikon costs about $2,200 more.

The Canon 20D does not have built in image stabilization like the Minolta Maxxum 5d, but you can use IS lenses with it.

Relative to the new Canon 350D (Rebel XT), the 20D is larger, heavier and it costs about $510.00 more. Here are some of the key differences:

  Canon EOS 20D Canon 350D (Rebel XT)
Max Shutter 1/8000 1/4000
Photos Per Sec 5 3
Max Photos 23 14
Autofocus 9-point 7-point
Weight 24.2oz / 685g 19oz / 540g
Dimensions 5.7 x 4.2 x 2.8 in 5 x 3.7 x 2.5 in

Basically, the Canon 20D digital SLR camera is a model for professionals, while the Canon 350D is aimed more at the consumer market.

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Look and Feel

The Canon 20D digital SLR camera is heavy.

canon 20d digital slr camera

It weighs in at 24.2oz / 685g (a pound and a half) for the body all by itself.

If you attach a lens that weighs 2.5 lbs, you're carrying around 4 lbs of camera. That can be a lot for a day hike.

I have carried this camera around quite a bit. With an average size lens on it, it's not too bad, but it does thump around a lot when I am walking.

It also gives me a bit of neck strain when I have the strap around it for 2 to 3 hours.

I typically take it on shorter hikes, or in instances where I know I will use the features that only a digital SLR can offer.


I really like the way this camera feels in my hand.

Canon took a great deal of care sculpting the camera body so it fits well and is easy to hold. The shutter button is right where you want it to be.

The Canon 20D digital SLR camera is great for those with large hands. A small sized digital SLR camera can make your hand cramped, especially if you take a lot of photos.

The grip is solid and non-slip, so you don't ever feel like you're going to drop your $1,300 camera on the pavement.

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How It Works

In use, the Canon 20D digital SLR camera performs as it should.

Focus response is lightning fast, even in low-light conditions, where most digital cameras have trouble.

When I press the shutter button the camera responds, so when I see something starting to happen I can capture it.

canon 20d sample photo

I really like the continuous drive on the 20D. Key point: most people won't use it.

I do because I take sequences of dogs playing with toys and kids on jungle gyms. I need the continuous drive to take shot after shot.

I don't want to be waiting for my digital SLR to catch up right when my son looks at me and smiles.

It's key moments like this that make for great memorable photographs.

So far, I haven't missed a single one.

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The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Fast responsive one-shot autofocus
  • Fast continuous photo capture
  • Comfortable feel and grip
  • 8.2 megapixels for large prints
  • Expensive
  • Large size, heavy weight
  • Inconsistent predictive autofocus
  • Camera lockup without firmware update
  • Bright highlights

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Price Analysis

Since it was released in 2004 a lot of retailers carry the Canon 20D digital SLR camera. You've got a lot of choice when it comes to price.

You can start by comparing prices at C|NET and PriceGrabber.

Because it is aimed at professionals, it's harder to find the camera at retail stores, but I have seen it at Best Buy and Circuit City.

Best Deal on the Canon 20D

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Photo Samples

Here are some sample photos taken with the Canon 20D digital SLR camera.

Click on any one of the photos to see more samples. I tried to get as much variety into the samples as I could, including color, light and motion.

Hopefully these will give you a good sense of the type of photos the 20D can take.

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