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Performance (speed)

Whether you're taking pictures of your kids or trying to get a photo of that elusive sea turtle, you want your camera to be responsive. With one exception, the PowerShot D20 holds its own in the performance department. The D20 starts up in roughly 0.8 seconds, which is quite good for a compact camera. The user interface is snappy, with no waiting for menus to come up. Changing settings is quick and easy, though deleting photos takes more steps than it should, as the camera lacks a dedicated button for this purpose.

In good lighting, autofocus performance is very responsive, with focus times hovering around a half second. The D20 doesn't fare as well in low light, taking upwards of two seconds to lock onto its subject. Underwater, the camera focused well, though we were shooting in good light most of the time. Regardless of where you're shooting, you'll wait for two seconds without the flash to four seconds with it.

If it's continuous shooting you're after, the D20 can keep firing away at 1.9 fps, until your memory card fills up. That's not bad, though some of its peers are capable of shooting considerably faster (but not for very long).

The PowerShot D20's battery life of 280 shots per charge is decent (but not spectacular) for a compact camera. You should be able to get through a day of shooting without having to recharge. Keep in mind that the battery life number above is calculated with the GPS turned off. With it turned on, expect battery life to be considerably shorter - especially if you have the logging function turned on.

Image Quality

Above water, the PowerShot D20 produces fairly good photos for a camera in its class. Images are on the soft side at very close examination, though you'll only notice this when viewing the photos at 100% on your computer - something most potential D20 buyers probably won't end up doing often. Color saturation is pleasing, capturing the beauty of Maui just as my eyes saw it on a recent vacation. Photos do have a bit of grainy luminance noise to them, though that's in exchange for less detail smudging than many other compact cameras.

Bright Light, Low ISO
Photo have pleasing (though not overly saturated) color and accurate exposure.

ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/9
When you view images at 100% though, you'll find that they're on the soft side.

At high sensitivities (ISO 800 and above), details start to get lost, which is what you'd expect from a small-sensored camera. Photos taken at ISO 800 and 1600 are still usable, but only for small prints or web viewing.

Low Light, High ISO
At ISO 1600, you'll see that there's quite a bit of detail loss on the books.
ISO 1600, 1/13 sec, f/3.9

While exposure is mostly accurate, the D20 does struggle with highlight clipping, which is common for a compact camera. You can reduce some of this by using the i-Contrast feature, which is covered in our full review of the PowerShot D20.

The crop above is a rather extreme example of strong lateral chromatic aberration, which you'll find in several places in this image (and others in our gallery).

ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/8

Both chromatic aberration (as well as purple fringing) are common on compact cameras like the D20. With a bit of processing you can reduce this unwanted effect. It's pretty bad on some images in the D20 (mainly at wide-angle), but it's only likely to be if you crop-in or view at 100% that it'll be a real problem.

Underwater results from the D20 are similar to images captured with other competitive compact underwater cameras: mixed. Setting up underwater photos is difficult - especially when you're snorkeling (when both the photographer and the subjects are in constant motion), which in practice means that blur-free images are rare. During our shooting, of the photos that were sharp, we noticed some noise (not unexpected) and a color cast that was nearly universal on all the underwater cameras we tested (despite using the underwater scene mode). Because the D20 doesn't shoot RAW (and we wouldn't expect it to) this means that post-capture corrections must be applied to JPEGs.

Nearly all of the underwater photos we took with the PowerShot D20 and its peers had some kind of color cast. A simple 'Auto Color Balance' in Photoshop, along with a levels adjustment, took care of that in a few seconds, but of course, this does mean the final image has been compressed twice (not a great idea from the point of view of critical image quality).

For more sample photos and analysis, please read our full review of the PowerShot D20.

Video Quality

As mentioned on the previous page, the PowerShot D20 can record video at 1920 x 1080 (24 fps) for up to fifteen minutes. Below are two samples, taken both above and below sea level.

Sample Video 1

This movie, taken right on the beach (hence the water drop at the top of the screen), shows how the D20's video quality performs in daylight:

1920 x 1080, 24p, 36 Mbps, 19.5 MB, 11 secs Click here to download original video

We noticed something odd about this sample (and it's not the drop of water on the top): it's very shaky, despite image stabilization being turned on. We were able to replicate this nearly every time here in our studios, though it's only when the camera is being handheld. We scoured the Internet and found some other sample videos with the same problem, so we're confident that this is not specific to our camera.

Sample Video 2

Naturally, everyone wants to see what an underwater movie looks and sounds like. Here's a somewhat shaky video of the author chasing a fish in Maui.

1920 x 1080, 24p, 36 Mbps, 49.5 MB, 8 secs Click here to download original video

As with the underwater stills, this video has a slight color cast. If you're skilled with video editing software, this can be corrected. If not, then the results are still good enough for sharing.

Final Thoughts

The PowerShot D20 offers a uniquely designed body that be plunged underwater or dropped (a little bit). It's a solid everyday shooter that takes good quality photos for its class, though they're a bit soft, and can suffer from highlight clipping and fringing at times. The D20 performs well in most respects, save for low light focusing, which is sluggish. Battery life is average for the rugged camera class.

Canon has packed a nice set of fun features into the D20, plus a few manual controls as well. It also has a built-in GPS receiver which, while not as elaborate as what some of its competitors offer, does its job well. The D20 can record video at 1080/24p, though subjects can get 'shaky' at times, which isn't something you want to see.

Click here to read the full conclusion from our Canon PowerShot D20 review

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Comments

Total comments: 123
12
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

does GoPro and Astac 7200 fit into this category ?

0 upvotes
Rod McD
By Rod McD (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

I'd settle for a waterproof RX100.

it would seem like a reasonable compromise.

2 upvotes
KonstantinosK
By KonstantinosK (11 months ago)

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

2 upvotes
monkeybrain
By monkeybrain (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

bah! come on!
no harm was done.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

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 (11 months ago)

Mikhail - please stop it.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (11 months ago)

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