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White Balance

As per the EOS 10D the 20D delivers an almost identical automatic white balance performance that is very good in natural light, acceptable in fluorescent light (cool bulb in this case) but poor in incandescent light. It's once more a disappointment that Canon still hasn't been able to get even close to delivering good incandescent (tungsten) automatic white balance. In addition to automatic white balance there are of course a range of WB presets, manual WB and Kelvin temperature. You can also now fine-tune the WB presets in the same manner as the EOS-1D Mark II (although with a nicer user interface).

Outdoor - Auto WB
Red: -0.0%, Blue: 0.7%
Excellent

Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 2.1%, Blue: -4.4%
Average
Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 10.5%, Blue: -16.4%
Poor

Long Exposure noise reduction / Night shots

The EOS 20D now allows you to enable or disable long exposure noise reduction via custom function 2. However once enabled the long exposure noise reduction works differently than the EOS D60 / EOS 10D in that it takes a 'dark frame' exposure immediately after the main exposure, this doubles the time taken.

Typical night exposure

30 sec, F5.6, Noise Reduction Off 5 sec, F6.3, Noise Reduction On

The five minute exposure (with and without NR)

The five minute exposures below turned out better (less noise) than the four minute test exposure we carried out in our EOS 10D review. Enabling noise reduction does appear to take care of most of the hot pixels although did leave small black 'pits' where a very strong hot pixel was removed. On the downside the second exposure actually took a total of 10 minutes. (PS. Apologies for the dirt visible on these shots, the sensor needed cleaning).

Noise reduction Off Noise reduction On
5 minutes, F22 5 minutes, F22

Flash

The 20D features the new version of Canon's E-TTL flash metering system. E-TTL II now utilizes additional 'distance information' provided to the camera by the lens (not all lenses provide this, see list earlier in this review).

Built-in flash Canon 550 EX direct
Canon 550 EX bounced Built-in flash

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

As expected the EOS 20D performs extremely well, its CMOS sensor delivering those trademark silky smooth clean images at ISO 100 and 200 with only a slight increase in noise at ISO 400 and 800. At higher sensitivities the EOS 20D continues to impress with visibly less noise than the EOS 10D at ISO 1600 and 3200. In the field the 20D provides you with full flexibility to shoot at any sensitivity without ever having to worry too much about noise.

One change over the EOS 10D is that the default image processing parameter set ('Parameter 1') has +1 values for contrast, saturation and sharpness. This produces 'punchier' images straight out of the camera which have slightly better immediate 'appeal' when viewed. However purists can still put the 20D into a 'neutral' setting by selecting 'Parameter 2' and get results which are very similar to the EOS 10D.

In-camera processing / sharpening (there's more detail in there)

Our only gripe if we were to isolate one would be that the EOS 20D's in-camera demosaicing / sharpening algorithms don't get the most out of the data delivered to them by the sensor. Close examination of JPEG's from the EOS 20D show us that the sharpening algorithms used are very similar to those in the PowerShot series of digital cameras. You can't deliver visibly more detail into the image (by increasing sharpening) without also making sharpening halos more visible. (Canon EOS Viewer Utility appears to use the identical processing / sharpening).

The flip side of this is the type of processing / sharpening used in the professional EOS-1D series of digital SLRs (and also in Canon's Digital Photo Professional RAW converter) which has the ability to sharpen the image without introducing halos (you just get crisp edges). When you see the difference between in-camera and shooting RAW and converting via DPP you realize that it's a pity Canon couldn't have implemented this more advanced processing / sharpening algorithm into the EOS 20D for in-camera produced JPEGs.

Note: The samples below were converted in DPP using a sharpness setting of +4 to demonstrate the higher end of DPP's sharpness, typically we preferred +2 or +3.

In camera JPEG
Sharpness +1 (default)
Canon Digital Photo Professional
Sharpness +4
100% crop
200% crop

Canon EVU vs. DPP

Canon EOS Viewer Utility
Sharpness +2 (High)
Canon Digital Photo Professional
Sharpness +4
200% crop
200% crop
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