Canon PowerShot D20 £349.99
18th Jun 2012 | 12:00
Canon introduces its latest underwater compact, the PowerShot D20
Canon's second underwater-dedicated compact camera, the PowerShot D20, is chocked full of impressive features and functions that include a 12.1MP HS System, a 28mm wide lens with 5x optical zoom, GPS tagging, Full HD movie quality and a bright 3-inch LCD display.
This rugged point-and-shoot model, priced at a competitive £349.99 in the UK and $349 in the US, follows in the footsteps of its brother the Canon PowerShot D10; one of the first to provide underwater shooting capabilities in the compact camera market. It is set to compete against the likes of the Panasonic FT4 and Fuji XP150.
Expected not only to surpass the quantity and quality of technology fitted in its predecessor, the Canon PowerShot D20 has a wealth of added functions and settings that pitch it as one of the most feature-laden underwater shooters currently available.
These features include a new underwater macro mode, Intelligent IS to keep photos and videos sharp throughout a range of shooting scenarios, a sensitivity range that reaches up to ISO 3200, plus increased video options that range from Full HD at 24fps to Super Slow Motion, ideal for documentary-style underwater shoots.
Sensor: 1/2.3 type back-illuminated CMOS, f/3.9-f/4.8
Lens: 5.0-25.0mm (35mm equivalent 28-140mm), 5x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom
LCD screen: 7.5cm PureColor II LCD (TFT), 461k dots
ISO range: ISO Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Dimensions: 112.3 x 70.8 x 28.0mm, 228g (with battery and card)
Built with the adventure-seeker in mind, the camera is waterproof to a depth of 10m (33ft) or, coupled with the optional WP-DC45 waterproof case (which costs around £200/$350), shooters can plummet to 40m (130ft). It can withstand knocks and falls of 1.5m (5ft), is freeze-proof to -10C (14F) and provides protection against dust and debris.
The GPS Logger tags images with location data, enabling you to track your shooting adventures using the supplied Map Utility software and Google Earth. It also carries a bevy of pre- and post-shoot photo effects, a Movie Digest creator, Smart Auto, with 32 scene options for capturing photos and 21 for movie making.
Build quality and handling
One word that sums up the look and feel of the Canon PowerShot D20 is 'rugged'. Portability, and debatably aesthetics, are sacrificed to facilitate a more robust build quality. The unit is flatter than the bubble-like build of its predecessor, resembling an everyday compact camera, with one notable design alteration; it dons an undulating curve along one side, perhaps resembling a fish tail or even shark bite, to keep with the aquatic theme.
The camera feels reassuringly heavyweight in the palm, with strong airtight seals protecting the camera's innards.
The camera's menus are delivered logically, with nothing unordinary presenting itself. On the whole, the buttons are presented in a sensible layout, but some may argue that the thumb pad wastes valuable retail space on the rear, and the shutter's position between the on/off switch and the playback mode could lead to confusion.
What is more, unlike the PowerShot D10's central lens position, the Canon PowerShot D20's design sees the lens wedged at the top-left of camera, making it trickier to compose shots. In fact most of the images gained during our review were taken one-handed.
This may be viable for most shooting scenarios, but in situations such as underwater or in low light environments, handling the Canon PowerShot D20 may become more difficult.
What's more, photographers can only tie the wrist strap to the left-hand side, which can be restrictive. This is especially disappointing for those upgrading from its underwater predecessor, who were offered the choice of four ports. The camera also lacks a framing grid, which may hamper some users when composing frames.
Handling the camera isn't as smooth sailing as is often experienced with Canon's fleet of cameras, most notably due to a slow and sluggish performance. In most situations autofocus copes well, but in low light situations, the autofocus really struggles and often refuses to shoot without flash, which is altogether weaker than expected.
The recycle time between shots is incredibly long, and waiting to change functions between shots is equally drawn out. We found the only way to focus on a subject is to depress the shutter fully, then to hold for another second or so for the shot to fire. There is then another delay of a few seconds while each image is written. As a result the D20 is not a suitable buy for those looking to capture photos of sports and action, wildlife or impatient children.
The LCD screen is viewable at nearly all angles, and is wide enough to offer users a great scope for composing. Brightness is adjustable in the settings, but we found the factory default to be on par.
The Canon PowerShot D20's metering system met our expectations for a camera in this pricing bracket. Photographers have three options in Program: Evaluative, Centre-Weight and Spot, all of which provided promising results.
Using Auto mode we found the camera has a slight tendency to meter for the highlights, generating a slightly underexposed image, but nothing that drastically alters the overall quality of the shots. We found Auto white balance wanting - rarely did it factor in changes in light. So for a higher quality of results, we advise you use Program, since this allows you to set the camera so it is better able able to reproduce colours accurately.
Our sensitivity tests returned images that are altogether rather pleasing, with ISO 100 through to 200 showing little signs of noise or quality degradation. At ISO 400 during close up inspections noise starts to appear, while the camera's processor makes valiant attempts to smooth the telltale whisperings of noise away.
At ISO 800, noise really begins to emerge, but it isn't until ISO 1600 that grain becomes visible. When we reach ISO 3200, images are often overexposed, with inaccurate colour and loss of detail. In comparison with many of its peers, the Canon PowerShot D20 actually performs rather well in sensitivity tests, and even using the extreme ISO setting provided above average results.
Although the monochrome filter adds mood to images and video, we are disappointed by the lack of contrast it delivered.
Colour reproduction at low sensitivity settings meets our expectations for a camera of this price point.
Colours and detail were captured adequately during our underwater tests.
Even at full zoom, we were unable to detect any major chromatic aberrations.
Beach huts in normal mode.
Using the Fisheye filter can distort images, which can be effective when photographing architecture.
Behind the beach huts in normal mode.
The Super Vivid colour option adds an extra level of interest to muted and flagging frames.
Purple beach huts in normal shooting mode.
The Canon PowerShot D20 injects a shot of colour saturation into images and videos with Super Vivid mode.
The beach in normal shooting mode.
Taken at the maximum wideangle setting.
Taken at the telephoto max zoom.
On the whole, image quality on the Canon PowerShot D20 was of an impressive standard. Only its handling let it down.
Overall the camera meters well in Auto and Program modes. In Auto, however, there can be a slight bias to underexpose.
Purple Flower in normal mode.
Purple flower in Poster Effect.
Purple flower shot with the Colour Accent filter.
Purple flower with Colour Swap filter.
Purple flower with Fisheye effect.
Purple flower shot with the Miniature effect.
Purple flower shot in monochrome.
Purple flower with the Toy Camera effect.
Purple flower in Super Vivid mode.
Slight white balancing issues were noticeable while shooting underwater, but thanks to the chunky buttons, options can be changed easily.
The camera's Macro function in Auto mode reproduced details and colours accurately.
The dedicated Underwater Macro mode worked well when shooting at close range.
A house when zoomed out all the way.
The same house, photographed at maximum zoom.
Some flowers shot when zoomed out fully.
The flowers shot after we zoomed in all the way.
Sensitivity and noise
Full ISO image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Canon PowerShot D20, we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Canon PowerShot D20 is capable of resolving up to around 20 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 100, score: 20 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 200, score: 20 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 18 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 16 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 14 (click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: 12 (click here to see the full resolution image)
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
This chart shows a big improvement in signal to noise ratio results over the Canon PowerShot D10, and although beaten by the Olympus TG-810 these results show that noise is aceptable across the entire sensitivity range
These results show that the Canon PowerShot D20 has a consistantly good dynamic range from a sensitivity of ISO 100 to 3200, although there is a big drop at ISO 6400. However, compared with the Canon PowerShot D10, there is a big improvement.
The Canon PowerShot D20 is designed as an underwater point-and-shoot compact camera, and in that respect it doesn't disappoint. What is more, it's packed with such a great variety of features that those using it in aquatic environments can also make use of many of its functions, in particular its GPS logger, Full HD or slow-motion movie capture and dedicated shooting modes.
The Canon PowerShot D20 coped admirably in underwater shoots, with seals remaining airtight and no evidence of flooding. The dedicated underwater shooting modes made operation straightforward, and the quality of results met our expectations within this genre of compact camera.
While the Canon camera excelled as an underwater point-and-shoot, we discovered that as an everyday compact it left us wanting more. Operation was incredibly sluggish, with focusing, shutter lag and recycle speeds taking several seconds to process.
The Canon PowerShot D20's robust build quality ensures it will take more than just a few beatings, freezes and deluges. With that in mind, the PowerShot D20 is a fantastic shopping choice for anyone with a penchant for adventure and water activities.
Generally speaking, the image quality supplied met our expectations, offering well exposed shots that were rich in detail and accurate in colour values.
However, its main shortfall comes when handling the camera. While it is undoubtedly easy to use, its operation is sluggish and awkward, failing to charm photographers who may want to purchase it as an everyday shooter.
Looking at the camera in this respect, there are a vast number of competitor and same-brand models that provide better performance and results at a similar price.