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  Reviews by: Matthew Kieren  

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Canon EOS 20D

Review Date: Jan 17, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,284.99 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Super fast speed, easy to use, quick responsive controls, excellent battery life, silky smooth images, great price!
Very few; please read my review below.

I received my 20D in the mail today! Along with the 50mm f/1.8 lens (I didn't buy a kit lens, so this is all I have to begin with). I also have a Bigma 50-500mm on the way (it'll probably get here in 3 or 4 days). This will be my first dSLR. I am upgrading from an Olympus C-5050Z (a very fine P&S camera I might add, it served me well).

I've only used the 20D for about 4 or 5 hours. Here is what I think of it so far, and things that I've noticed about it that I like or dislike:

The Good:

1) Amazing speed and incredibly responsive controls! Everything is SUPER FAST and instantaneous. You can start using the camera the instant you turn it on or come out of sleep-mode.
2) I love having both the control wheel and the joystick. I personally think they are well designed. I can see where someone with big hands might have trouble with the joystick. It works great for me though.
3) It has a very well-rounded balance of quality features, such as a DOF-preview button, mirror lock-up, date/time battery backup (probably lasts for 4 or 5 years minimum and is easy to replace yourself), easy to use controls (some may disagree, this is up to personal preference, I say it is easy and quick to use), etc.
4) Excellent battery life! Even after 4 or 5 hours (lots of flashes, lots of LCD use) the battery isn't even showing that it's half drained. Note: P&S cameras rely more on the LCD display, so that is one reason why P&S cameras have a shorter battery life.
5) You can take pictures very rapidly. While the camera is flushing the buffer out to your CompactFlash card, you can continue to do other things like navigate the menus, adjust settings, even take more pictures if there's enough room in the buffer.
6) Silky smooth images at last!! Goodbye color noise!! Smile
7) I let my girlfriend give it a try, and she went CRAZY with it! She never did that with my previous cameras, so I was kind of shocked at first. I think one of the reasons is because she could take pictures so rapidly without having to wait for the camera to catch up. She was moving around taking pictures so fast that she almost appeared as a blur to me! Smile She was also very impressed with the amazing quality this camera produces.

The Bad:

1) Sometimes the auto-focus has trouble locking on a target in low light conditions. (Even with a fast lens, 50mm f1/.8.) I've noticed it usually happens when you are targetting a "smooth" surface. If you focus on a contrasty edge, then it works perfectly. This probably sounds much worse than it really is -- don't worry, the auto-focus is very good.
2) This one isn't Canon-specific -- sensor dust. It's an issue that a lot of dSLRs have. There are some cameras that use ultrasonic vibrations to help clean the sensor, but unfortunately they are few. One potential problem with relying on ultrasonic vibration to clean the sensor is that the dust gets kicked around and can eventually end up back on the sensor. (In other words, even the ultrasonic vibration technology isn't perfect. There is no easy solution to this problem.)
3) The CompactFlash door is on the right side, and your palm rests against it. Sometimes it wiggles a little (just a tiny little bit). I wish it was a little more solid. I can end up squeezing the camera pretty hard if I'm taking an important shot. I think it's okay though, it could be worse. This is a "nitpicking issue," it probably won't bother most people.
4) Some of the controls are a little stiff. They might loosen up a bit after extended use. Although I'd rather have them stiff and sturdy than loose and ready-to-fall-off like some cameras. It also helps protect against accidentally bumping a control and changing a setting during a critical time.

The Ugly:

0) I haven't found anything at all that really bothers me. Yes there are some issues (like above in "The Bad" section), but what camera doesn't have it's bad points? There is no such thing as a perfect camera. Nothing in this world is perfect. You are getting "more than you should" at this price. The pictures that come out of this camera are as good as much higher priced pro-cameras. The only major difference is that the higher priced cameras have a few extra features, and a higher megapixel rating.

Other Notes:

1) If you are upgrading from a P&S camera, you might notice that the images from the 20D appear quite soft at first. From what I've gathered by researching this online, it is very normal. P&S cameras always oversharpen images because that's what average consumers look for (super sharp images over quality). Professional dSLR cameras don't sharpen by default because it is assumed the user is knowledgeable enough to do the sharpening themselves in Photoshop (or similar programs). Sharpening it yourself is ultimately better because you have more precise control over the process, and the algorithm on your computer is virtually always better than what is offered in-camera.
2) dSLRs do not have a live preview on the LCD screen. Since I'm upgrading from a P&S Olympus C-5050Z with live preview, I wondered "why can't they do it??" After doing some research I discovered it is because of the way the viewfinder works. When you look through the viewfinder, you are looking through the lens you have attached. If you look at the viewfinder on a P&S camera, and you look on the opposite side of the camera, you'll see it goes straight through and not through the actual lens. A dSLR uses mirrors. The mirror is in the way of the sensor when you are looking through the viewfinder, so that's why there is no live preview. When you press the shutter button all the way down, the mirror flips up and the sensor is exposed (the viewfinder also momentarily blacks out). Why is this better you ask? Because it's like looking through glass window. Which has the higher resolution and best color reproduction; your own eyes, or a "TV?"
3) I've noticed some posts with the question, "how can I turn the shutter sound off?" Don't ask this question, people will laugh at you. Smile There is no way to turn it off. P&S cameras try to make you feel like you own something more expensive by playing back a sound file through a tiny speaker. dSLRs do the *real* thing.
4) Here's an important tip about inserting the battery. When you insert the battery, be sure you push it down all the way until it clicks and the white hook grabs it. Otherwise when you try to close the battery door it will bend a little bit on one side and be uneven.
5) For those who haven't heard this tip before: When you attach or detach the lens from the body it is best to keep the body upside down with the sensor facing the floor. This way you can keep dust from falling in and onto the sensor to a minimum. Just be careful, don't drop anything expensive. Smile
6) Also, I recommend that you turn the camera off before changing the lens. In theory, leaving the camera turned on while changing the lens can attract more dust because the sensor is carrying a charge. (Thanks Nill Toulme.)

I hope this mini-review helps someone out there. I know a lot of people already know this stuff. I wrote this primarily for people who are considering to buy a 20D and are looking for information to help them decide, and also for those dSLR newbies out there like myself.

Happy shooting! Smile

[ Matthew E. Kieren ]
Canon EOS 20D :: Canon 50mm f/1.8 II :: Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3