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Canon unveils entry-level pro digital SLR
Thursday, August 19, 2004 | by Rob Galbraith

Canon today has unveiled the EOS 20D, an 8.2 million image pixel, 5 fps digital SLR aimed squarely at the working photographer on a budget.

Though described as the follow-on to the Canon EOS 10D, the EOS 20D isn't really that. In our view, the new model instead marks Canon's move upmarket from the midrange digital SLR category that they created with the EOS D30 several years ago.

While the initial selling price of the 20D will be roughly the same as the EOS 10D when it first shipped in 2003 (about US$1500 in the US), and the 20D sure looks like the 10D too, in almost every other way the specifications of Canon's latest digital SLR suggest it's targeted at newspaper photographers in smaller markets, up-and-coming wedding shooters and others who need both a responsive, versatile camera and a high-quality, high-resolution image file. It looks like Canon set out to build the EOS-1D Mark II's little brother.

Here's a quick taste of what this camera will offer:

  • 8.2 million pixel photos (final image dimensions are identical to the EOS-1D Mark II on its highest resolution setting)
  • 5 fps shooting rate (for anywhere from 20-44 consecutive frames in our testing when the camera is set to Large Fine JPEG)
  • 65 millisecond shutter lag specification, 115 millisecond mirror blackout time and 0.2 second camera startup time
  • New 9-point AF system designed to offer more precise focusing of static subjects as well as improved tracking of moving subjects
  • A top shutter speed of 1/8000; a standard top flash sync of 1/250
  • E-TTL II flash exposure control

canon_eos_20d_front.jpg

In addition to the list above, and other features you'll read about on the pages ahead, a number of oddball 10D-isms have been dispensed with, including:

  • The CRW format and its two files for every RAW format photo (the one-file-per-photo CR2 format takes its place in the 20D)
  • The inability to adjust image processing parameters when the camera is set to Adobe RGB (the 20D offers the same control over processing parameters regardless of output colour space)
  • A power-up time of over 2 seconds (the 20D, by comparison, comes to life in a speedy 0.2 seconds)
  • Slow writing to the CompactFlash card (in our tests the 20D is instead among the fastest writing cameras around)
  • An image review system that's only semi-functional until the image buffer has been cleared to the CompactFlash card (with the 20D, photos can be selected and magnified even as photos are still being written)
  • An LCD review screen that displays photos as lighter and brighter than they actually are, even on its dimmest setting (the 20D's review screen provides truer overall image brightness)

Add it all up, and the new model from Canon looks to be closer in spirit to the EOS-3, Canon's entry-level pro film camera, than it is to the EOS 10D it replaces. Okay, make that a mini-EOS-3, since the 20D is considerably smaller and lighter than the film camera that hit the market back in 1997.

All this appears to spell good news for the Canon shooter with the desire for a pro level digital SLR, but not necessarily the funds for an EOS-1D Mark II. Or any Canon pro shooter needing a second body or a smaller, lighter body than is currently available at the hefty upper end of Canon's digital SLR lineup. We've only had a preproduction 20D in-house for a short time as this is being written, but so far we're optimistic that the camera will deliver on its promise of strong performance at a reasonable price when it ships in mid-September 2004.

This preview report is broken down into three sections - an overview of the camera's features, a closer look at some of what's new in Canon's upcoming digital SLR as well as detailed specifications.

Thanks to Chuck Westfall, Deb Szajngarten and Geoff Coalter for their assistance in the preparation of this article.

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