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Canon PowerShot D20

12.1MP | 28-140mm (5X) Zoom | $295/£279/€306
Click to read full review >>

While other camera manufacturers have been making rugged cameras for many years, Canon didn't enter the market until early 2009 (preferring to create optional waterproof housings for many of its 'regular' compacts instead). Canon's first truly waterproof digital compact camera, the PowerShot D10, had a rather unique (and chunky) design, but its solid performance photo quality earned it a 'Highly Recommended' badge in our 2009 Waterproof group test.

Three years later, the PowerShot D20 emerged, whose colorful, curvy but less bulbous design appears to have been be inspired by tropical fish. The D20 offers a host of improvements over its predecessor, that include the use of a CMOS sensor (which Canon touts as 'high sensitivity'), plus a 5X zoom lens (versus 3X), larger/sharper LCD, built-in GPS, and 1080p video recording. While the D20 can be submerged as deep as its predecessor underwater (10 meters), it's slightly more shock resistant and able to take a slightly higher drop than before (1.5 versus 1.2 meters).

Specification Highlights

  • 12.1 effective megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor
  • F3.9-F4.8, 28-140mm lens (5X)
  • Optical image stabilization with 'Intelligent IS' feature
  • 3.0 inch LCD with 461,000 dot resolution
  • Built-in GPS with logging function
  • Waterproof to 10m, shockproof from 1.5m, freezeproof to -10C
  • 1080/24p movie mode

While the D20 has the same number of pixels as its predecessor - that's 12.1 million - its use of backside illumination technology promises better low light picture quality. That said, the D20's lens is on the slow side, with a maximum aperture range of F3.9-F4.8. This compares especially badly next to competitors like the Pentax WG-3 and Olympus Tough TG-2 (at least at wide-angle) - so the sensor has its work cut out for it.

The PowerShot D20 features an F3.9-4.8, 5X optical zoom lens, with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 28-140mm. The folded optics lens design allows the camera to stay relatively slim.

 

The PowerShot D20 is a compact camera made of a mix of metal and high grade plastic. It's much more stylish than the original D10, and a welcome change from the boxy, industrial designs of most of its peers. The D20 is available in blue, silver, and yellow (color selection may vary in your country).

The PowerShot D20 fits well in the hand, though the placement of the zoom controller (shown below) is awkward.

It's also easy to confuse the power and playback buttons, as they feel identical.
At the top-right of the back of the camera is a thumb rest, two buttons for controlling the zoom, and a dedicated movie recording button. The placement of the zoom controller feels rather awkward when holding the camera with one hand.

The camera's 3-inch LCD has good sharpness for composing and reviewing photos. Above water, we found both outdoor and low light visibility to be adequate. Underwater, the D20's screen was bright enough to locate and track fast-moving fish.

The D20 has a pair of sealed doors. While each door has just one locking mechanism, that's okay, since they're nearly impossible to open accidentally.

The camera's I/O ports can be seen here, and include USB+A/V output, HDMI, and DC-in.

The D20 can spend up to an hour underwater at depths of up to 10 meters (33 feet). If you want to go even deeper, then you may be interested in Canon's WP-DC45 housing, which increases the maximum depth to 40 meters. Being a waterproof camera, it should come as no surprise that the D20 is also dustproof. According to Canon, the camera can take a drop from 1.5 meters (4.5 feet) onto a plywood surface - it may not fare as well when it hits concrete or asphalt (as is the case with its competitors).

Shooting Modes

Shooting modes include Smart Auto (which selects one of 32 scene modes automatically), Program mode (which lets you directly adjust more options), and numerous scene and special effect modes. Thanks to its dedicated video button, the D20 lets you record movies in any shooting mode, complete with scene selection and special effects.

The main menu is attractive, easy-to-navigate, and offers 'Hints & Tips' that explain what each option does. The Function menu is your shortcut menu, and allows you to quickly adjust white balance, ISO, the self-timer, and more.

When it comes to taking pictures underwater, the PowerShot D20 offers two dedicated shooting modes (underwater and underwater macro), as well as an underwater white balance preset. While the camera can use its GPS (described below) to tell you your altitude, it does not work when you're diving.

As with the vast majority of low priced compact cameras, the PowerShot D20 offers few manual controls. The most interesting is buried in the scene mode menu, and is called Long Shutter. Here, you'll be able to select shutter speeds ranging from 1 to 15 seconds. Other manual controls are custom white balance and exposure compensation.

GPS

Probably the most notable feature on the PowerShot D20 (aside from the fact that it can go underwater) is its built-in GPS - something not found on its predecessor. This is a no-frills GPS that will locate you and track your position, and that's it. No landmarks, maps, or compass here. Location data can be embedded into both stills and videos.

The GPS Logger function will turn the receiver on occasionally (even when the camera is switched off), to update your location. These logs can be imported into Canon's Map Utility software, which will show your route, and where photos were taken. This feature puts a considerable strain on your battery, though.

The GPS menu on the PowerShot D20 is very simple. You can turn the receiver on or off, and decide whether you want the battery-draining logging feature active. In playback mode you can display your coordinates and altitude (which is provided by the GPS and not a manometer).

On the relatively open terrace outside DPReview headquarters, it took the D20 about 90 seconds to acquire its location. Down on the ground, surrounded by mid-rise buildings, the camera struggled to figure out where it was, and eventually gave up. This is not usual for cameras with built-in GPSs. As expected, the GPS does not work underwater.

Movies

One of the big differences between the PowerShot D10 and D20 are in the movie department. The D20 can record videos at 1920 x 1080 (24 frames/second) with monaural sound. Video length is file-size limited to 4GB, so the camera will stop recording after 15 minutes at the 1080p setting. You can also record video at 720/30p or VGA, with 30 and 60 minute time limits, respectively. You'll find movie samples on the next page.

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Comments

Total comments: 123
12
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 10, 2013)

From this lineup, Lumix and Nikon are about the only ones you would not be ashamed of being seen as a user.

There rest are just Comedy Central.

.

1 upvote
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 10, 2013)

not even...
Nikon: Not good for: Frequent shooting in bright light, pixel peepers, or those who want long battery life
Panasonic Lumix: "Photo quality is typical for this class. Fine details are often smudged and chromatic aberrations can be strong at times." Not good for: Low light

0 upvotes
tommy leong
By tommy leong (Aug 10, 2013)

does GoPro and Astac 7200 fit into this category ?

0 upvotes
Rod McD
By Rod McD (Aug 10, 2013)

Hi DPR, thanks for your review.

People buy these things because there's no alternative other than a bigger camera and a housing. I'd like to see a manufacturer opt for a new approach. Year after year your reviews (and others) comment on their small sensors and poor IQ. The internet is also littered with leak complaints and poor company response on guarantees.

There seems to be a view that wilderness/outdoor/water sport followers don't value better IQ, which is absolutely untrue. And that serious photographers should have a D4 in a housing. Try stuffing one of those in your life jacket. The middle ground - the old Nikonos - is gone.

We need a manufacturer to make a robust, WR, direct light path camera with an APSC sensor, a fixed 24-85eq zoom (or primes) and real "O" rings. One 25mm "O" ring cover could give access to an SD card, a shaped battery and USB plug. Add a decent grip. And useable with gloves please.

Yes it would be bigger and cost more. But worth every cent.

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
6 upvotes
Treeshade
By Treeshade (Aug 10, 2013)

Most of these cameras are not only water-proof but also shock-proof - they are not just for diving, but also for skiing, skating, mountain-biking, etc.. It would be really difficult to shock-proof an APSC standard zoom.

Imagine the thickness of a 58mm fliter that would not break when dropped to the ground with a 1kg body crushing it.

But I agree that it would be fantastic be have, for example, a weatherproof tough X100s.

1 upvote
breth
By breth (Aug 10, 2013)

Agree with Rod. I can't be completely sure, but I believe there is a good market out there for a WR aps-c sensor serious compact. Not only would it be the backpacker's ultimate camera for convenience, I think that perhaps it would also interest streetshooters who like to get photos in the rain, or other less than perfect conditions.
If Ricoh-Pentax would use their expertise in designing cameras like this, I see no reason why a serious WR compact would not be a hit. A WR Ricoh GR would perhaps not have to be much bigger than it already is - and even if it would be, it still would be very attractive to a lot of backpackers.

1 upvote
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 10, 2013)

I'd settle for a waterproof RX100.

it would seem like a reasonable compromise.

2 upvotes
KonstantinosK
By KonstantinosK (Aug 10, 2013)

I'd even be happy with a waterproof DMC LX7. But even this seems highly unlikely to happen...

2 upvotes
monkeybrain
By monkeybrain (Aug 10, 2013)

I completely agree with all these comments. A waterproof and ruggedized Ricoh GR or Nikon Coolpix A would be a great outdoor sport camera. Also, Nikon wants to revitalise the Nikon 1? Bring out a fully waterproof and shockproof model with a couple similarly toughened primes to match. It's already got the great autofocus that would be good for skiing etc. Nikonos reborn!

2 upvotes
LaFonte
By LaFonte (Aug 10, 2013)

It is extremely expensive to make waterproof "real" camera that would withstand more than a year of use. On all professional equipment you have to regularly change the o-rings and take pretty good care of the housing. A grain of sand can make waterproof camera no longer waterproof.
All of those small wp cameras are basically with planned 1 year obsolescence. They are cheap inside so if they start leaking, then you throw it away and get new one. Many of those would leak after some time, some even after first dip :-)
You definitely don't want a wp expensive camera like rx100 or x100 and nobody will make it. If you need wp you will buy a marina case that is probably more expensive than the camera itself, but it will protect your equipment.

0 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Aug 10, 2013)

Sony rx100 option here below.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/909217-REG/Ikelite_6116_10_Housing_For_Sony.html

0 upvotes
tiberius_dinu
By tiberius_dinu (Aug 10, 2013)

I have bought the Lumix TS5 and I'm very pleased with it. The image quality is as good as it can be in this class but would not care more about. I do shoot Canon 6D but I can not take in the water or running or snorkeling. The video is as advertised and it looks awesome and that was one of te reasons I opted for TS5. I had no issues with the wifi and it connects smoothly to my ipad, iPhone and the LG android I'm using. Neat to be able to control the zoom and the settings in the camera remotely.

Thanks for the reviews I did follow them and it did help me.

Cheers

T

2 upvotes
PicOne
By PicOne (Aug 10, 2013)

Would have liked to have seen some mention/discussion of options out there using dedicated or aftermarket housings in conjunction with standard compact cameras. Ie. Can u get a better performing camera + housing for not much price difference?

1 upvote
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

This is the review you should have made to begin with instead of giving every single rugged camera its own review. Why do you assign these cameras for review rather than the many mirrorless cameras you have skipped or may be about to skip over like the GF5, G5, GF6, G6, E-PL5, NEX-5R, NEX-3N, just off the top of my head. Not a single one of your six individual rugged reviews got even 100 comments. I guarantee you that any one of the cameras I mentioned would get more than 100 comments if it was still the current model.

5 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 10, 2013)

We don't judge success by comments - if we did, every other news story would be about Adobe Creative Cloud.

16 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

Simon Joinson himself said that you judge success by traffic and I'm sure there's a strong correlation between number of comments and number of page views.

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 10, 2013)

bah! come on!
no harm was done.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

We're talking about cameras that should have been reviewed and weren't, not whatever your definition of "harm" is.

0 upvotes
monkeybrain
By monkeybrain (Aug 10, 2013)

I doubt there is a correlation between comments and page views. Most page views surely come from people who are not registered members of the site. DPReview reviews cameras that will generate more page hits, so why budget DSLRs are reviewed in a timely fashion and also consumer friendly cams like these rugged cameras (summer's almost over though, these are a bit late I'd say).

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 10, 2013)

If you honestly think that a review with 50 comments and a preview with 700 comments are equally likely to have the most page views between the two, you are completely delusional. More likely is that you just don't understand correlation very well.

2 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (Aug 11, 2013)

Barney makes a good point. A doorstop from Nikon will generate 10 times more comments than an unusual or outstanding camera from a small fry like Ricoh.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 11, 2013)

Nikon Coolpix AW110 Review: 77 comments
Ricoh GR Review: 214 comments
Panasonic GX7 First Impressions Review: 702 comments (and counting)

Want to try again?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 29 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Aug 12, 2013)

Mikhail - please stop it.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (Aug 12, 2013)

Can you be more specific? What I've done here is to refute people's factually inaccurate statements, is that not allowed? Or if I have myself said anything inaccurate in this chain of replies, please explain that as well. Thank you.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 123
12