Canon PowerShot D20

The D20 is the easiest waterproof camera to use, thanks to its array of chunky buttons and simple user interface. It delivers decent photos for web use, if all you want to do is point and shoot.


7.8
CNET Rating
3.0
User Rating

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


For anyone keeping track of Canon's waterproof camera range, you'll realise that it has been quite a while since the company's first model, the D10, made its debut. Since then, many other companies have made inroads into the space, delivering models with snappy performance and decent image quality, to boot. So does this newer model, the D20, have what it takes to stand apart from the crowd?

Design and features

The D10 was a curiously-designed beast, with rotund corners and a bulky shooting feel. The D20 is much more refined, and fits neatly into the hand without the risk of slipping out. It has a textured black plastic on all sides, while the buttons at the back are nice and large, making them ideal for underwater use.

Of all the waterproof cameras that have passed through the review process at CNET Australia, the D20 is without a doubt the easiest to use. The large buttons contribute to this, but it's more the menu system that makes this a no-fuss and painless user experience. Automatic mode is activated by default, but to enter into Program or any of the other scene modes, it's a simple matter of pressing the top arrow button on the four-way directional pad and then select your option.

The chunky buttons are textured too, which makes them easy to grip.
(Credit: CBSi)

At the top of the camera, the design is kept similarly simple, with a large power, shutter and playback button. The side doors are locked with a rugged toggle switch, covering all the important ports like mini-HDMI, USB and the battery/memory card compartment.

The D20 comes equipped with a GPS, which is easily activated or deactivated from the menu. Unlike some other cameras of this class, there's no option to drill down a little deeper in the geotagged information the camera can display on the screen and store with the image — for example, there's no options for appending city or landmark details in the EXIF data. You can, however, keep a track of your route using the GPS module, and plot this using Google Maps.

Compared to

Olympus Tough TG-1 Panasonic Lumix FT4 Canon PowerShot D20 Nikon AW100
12-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS 12.1-megapixel CCD 12.1-megapixel HS CMOS 16.0-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS
3-inch OLED (610,000-dot) 2.7-inch LCD (230,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (460,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)
Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m
4x optical zoom 4.6x optical zoom 5x optical zoom 5x optical zoom
25mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 28mm wide angle
GPS tagging GPS tagging GPS tagging GPS tagging
HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p)

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 1.41.50.4
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
  • 1.62.60.5
    Canon PowerShot D20
  • 1.61.80.1
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 1.810.3
    Panasonic Lumix FT4
  • 2.11.20.3
    Olympus Tough TG-1

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)

  • 10
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
  • 5
    Olympus Tough TG-1
  • 2.7
    Panasonic Lumix FT4
  • 1.2
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 1
    Canon PowerShot D20

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Canon rates the battery at 280 shots.

Image quality

The D20 produces shots that are fine for small prints or resizing for web use. It might be tricky to make decent enlargements from the photos it produces, because of the over-processing artefacts present on some images. The lens shows quite a bit of fringing on high contrast areas too, which can be difficult to hide in larger prints.

Colours are bright and punchy, with the D20 delivering accurate exposures that fall on the mark in most situations. Noise is kept under control until around ISO 400, when it starts to make an appearance in shots. It doesn't become a real problem affecting the clarity of shots until ISO 1600.

A comparison showing the two extremes of the zoom at its widest (28mm, top) and zoomed in to 5x optical zoom (bottom). There's little lens distortion at either extreme, which is pleasing.
(Credit: CBSi)

The design of the lens also has a tendency to exhibit lens flare when shooting in bright situations, if you don't shield the light from hitting it directly. Sharpness is decent, but the strong point of the D20 is its zoom, which extends to 5x optical and remains reasonably steady, even when you're at the extreme.

An example of lens flare affecting a shot.
(Credit: CBSi)

Movie quality is somewhat disappointing, only because it doesn't fully show off what this lens and sensor can really do. There's lots of grain present across the frame. Audio is fine for most purposes.

What the D20 does have up its sleeve is slow motion video recording. It drops the resolution down to 320x240 and shoots at 240fps, which is a very clever idea if you want to capture fast-moving fish or creatures beneath the sea.


Image samples

Exposure: 1/320, f/3.9, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/250, f/8, ISO 200

Exposure: 1/250, f/8, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/80, f/4.5, ISO 250

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

The D20 is the easiest waterproof camera to use, thanks to its array of chunky buttons and simple user interface. It delivers decent photos for web use, if all you want to do is point and shoot.

Canon no longer gives out official RRPs of its products, though we have seen it for sale in the region of AU$350-399 in various photographic stores across the country.

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fmarek
3
Rating
 

"Would not recommend for underwater use"

fmarek posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Built quality

The Bad:Sound

After some snorkelling sessions this cam has stopped recording clear sound. Basically when re-palyed on PC in full volume you can hear recorded sound as if it is in the background poor quality ... but at the same time there is a loud clicking noise "tick tick tick tick ..." on the foreground. This is not a coincident. It happened to my first brand new d20, then I took it to the shop for replacement and got new (same model). It was the end of the beach season, so I used it for outside shooting till next summer. Next summer I went snorkelling and guess what ... Same thing happened. Loud "tik tik tik tik" sound when replayed video recorded underwater and NOT underwater.
Advise: do not take it to shoot underwater. (Why would you buy it then ...)

fiurellu
3
Rating
 

"big disappointment on image quality"

fiurellu posted a review   

The Good:the HD video mode is good quality compared to competitors though it's got its own issues

The Bad:image quality and real bad under low luminosity

I've bought one and returned it 3 days later after comparing the image quality with the previous D10 and realising it was clearly inferior, which obviously I did not expect from buying a far more recent camera.

I compared it under different conditions of light: during afternoon under the sun, late afternoon, early evening, evening sunsetting and when it was about dark. I also compared it under water.

Apart from at night-time where there is less noise on the picture (but you can hardly see anything so you would not really use the camera much in this condition), at all other times including under water (albeit less clearly under water but I only did one test under water because I was not near the sea to be able to properly test it), it was far worse in terms of definition (not sure if this is the right word: I mean that when zooming on each picture you could see that the textures and details were nto at all as clear as on the D10).

The luminosity of the D10 was far better and the colour contrast too. under low light conditions, the pictures on the D20 were very grainy and not always well focused, not even trying to compare it to the D10.

The only area where the D20 was better is video as it's full HD but in low luminosity like early evening, the video is all dark and you can't see anything while with your eyes there is still plenty of light. With the D10 it was much better even if there was quite a bit of grain on the video.

The sound on the D20 is good and the colours and contrast other than that is pretty good on the D20 video mode and the mic is at the front of the camera, which makes it less susceptible to wind noise than if it were on the sides.

The video mode does have issues with focusing though as I found on several occasions the image was blurred at first and it took a while for the camera to adjust, or it would be in the middle of the video that the auto-focus would re-focus blurring the image for a second. It seems that the camera struggles if shooting while in motion and that also affects the image in the way that it deforms it, for exemple when walking at each step you make the image goes one way or another deformed a bit.

Last thing, the very slow motion that online reviews talk about, saying it's great... I really wonder if people writing them actually try the cameras instead of using other reviews to write theirs because the image quality is so low that it's missing the point. I must admit that on the other hand it is very fluid and fun to look at movements in very slow motion like this at 240 fps but with such a low image quality, there is no real point to it I find. At 120 fps, the image quality is standard video format before HD replaced it, with reasonable image quality on a small screen but it is far less fun because far less slow.

There you go, I think I've said most of what I had to say. I could illustrate my arguments with photos and videos if needed although I'm not sure when I'll be back on the website because I decided not to buy any compact camera for this summer as I am not enthousiastic about any of the new releases. I'm just hoping that many people will return D20s and write their deceptive reviews on it so canon take a bit more care and time and release a proper successor to their first D10.

Clement

 

Dunners posted a comment   
Australia

Canon really can exceed when it comes to 'ugly factor' on waterproof cameras.




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User Reviews / Comments  Canon PowerShot D20

  • fmarek

    fmarek

    Rating3

    "After some snorkelling sessions this cam has stopped recording clear sound. Basically when re-palyed on PC in full volume you can hear recorded sound as if it is in the background poor quality ... ..."

  • fiurellu

    fiurellu

    Rating3

    "I've bought one and returned it 3 days later after comparing the image quality with the previous D10 and realising it was clearly inferior, which obviously I did not expect from buying a far more r..."

  • Dunners

    Dunners

    "Canon really can exceed when it comes to 'ugly factor' on waterproof cameras."

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