Canon PowerShot D20
Category: Waterproof / Rugged Compact Camera
What We Like
- Rugged, uniquely styled body
- Good photo quality
- Auto scene selection, plenty of special effects
- Good LCD visibility in all conditions
- i-Contrast reduces highlight clipping
- Built-in GPS receiver
- Optional underwater housing lets you take camera even deeper
What We Don't Like
- Images slightly soft
- Frequent highlight clipping, chromatic aberration around high-contrast edges
- Lens is on the slow side (though no worse than many of its peers)
- Color cast underwater (even when using appropriate scene mode)
- GPS not as full-featured as some competitors
- Still no 'sweep panorama' feature
- Handheld videos are shaky; slower frame rate than most cameras, and only mono sound
The Canon PowerShot D20 is a capable compact camera that offers good photo quality (for its target audience), plenty of fun features and, of course, the ability to handle water, dust, cold, and the occasional impact. The fish-shaped body is made of a mix of metal and composite materials and is as solid as you'd expect from a rugged camera. The D20 is waterproof to 10m/33ft, shockproof from 1.5m/5ft, and freezeproof to -10C/+14F. It has two sealed compartments (one for the battery and memory card, the other for I/O ports), and they're locked so tightly that you'll never open them accidentally. We took the D20 in swimming pools and the ocean, and had no problems with leaks.
The D20 features a 5X optical zoom lens, with a focal range equivalent to 28-140mm. This lens doesn't let in a ton of light, with a maximum aperture range of F3.9-F4.8, which makes underwater photography that much more challenging. On the back of the camera you'll find a 3-inch LCD display with 461,000 dots, which offers good visibility in good light, low light, and underwater.
The PowerShot D20 has a decent set of automatic features, though it's a bit short on scene modes compared to some other Canon models, and it still lacks the 'sweep panorama' feature found on nearly all of its peers. The D20 has a no-nonsense GPS receiver, which records your location and altitude (above water only) into the metadata of photos and videos. While acquisition times are good in open spaces, the camera struggled in the city. The D20's focus times are very good in good light, and below average in low light. The PowerShot D20 offers decent battery life for its class (280 shots per charge), though that's with the battery-sucking GPS turned off.
Photo quality is typical for a low-end Canon compact, which is to say, pretty good most of the time. While exposure is accurate, the PowerShot does tend to clip highlights and display purple fringing - both common 'traits' of small-sensored cameras. The D20 produces photos that are a bit soft, though most buyers of compact cameras won't be viewing them at 100%. There's a bit of luminance (grainy) noise at low ISOs, but that's in exchange for very little detail smudging. At ISO 800 and above, expect noticeable detail loss, though photos are still usable for small prints and web viewing.
Under the sea, the camera displays a bluish cast in most photos, which is something we've seen on most consumer-level waterproof cameras. Thankfully, it's fairly easy to remove this with Canon's included ImageBrower EX software, or the third-party photo editor of your choice.
As with most Canon PowerShot these days, you can record 1080/24p video for up to 15 minutes, albeit with monaural sound. When taking handheld videos, we noticed that everything seemed shaky, which we were able to replicate again and again. This effect is not seen which recording movies on a tripod.
Overall, the PowerShot D20 offers a uniquely styled rugged body, good photo quality, and performance that'll satisfy its target audience. It wouldn't be our top choice for low light or movie recording, but for the photographer who will occasionally go underwater, the PowerShot D20 fits the bill. Keep watching the site for our reviews of its current peers, which we'll be rounding up into a group test later this summer.
Ergonomics & handling
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Movie / video mode
Photographers who want a compact camera that can go for a casual swim, hike, or diving trip.
Not so good for
Low light and flash shooters, manual control lovers, and movie enthusiasts
The PowerShot D20 is a good underwater camera, though it doesn't stand out in any particular area. It takes decent (though slightly soft) photos with pleasing colors (but expect a color cast when shooting underwater). Although light on features, the D20 is water, freeze, dust, and shockproof, and it didn't let us down in our testing.
There are 23 images in the PowerShot D20 review samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.
Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.
Canon PowerShot D20 Review Samples