Canon PowerShot D20 review: Canon PowerShot D20

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good GPS photo tagging; Waterproof; Can withstand impact; Good colour reproduction; Cool design.

The Bad Some chromatic aberration; Grain apparent at conservative sensitivities; Wind noise on movies, even with wind filter active.

The Bottom Line If you want to buy a rugged, waterproof camera, the Canon PowerShot D20 is the one to go for. It's easy to use and comes in a choice of three colours. Build quality can't be faulted and the buttons are responsive, with a satisfying action, unlike those on some rivals.

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The Canon PowerShot D20 is one of a growing choice of rugged, waterproof cameras designed for extreme travel and activity photography.

It can sustain a drop of 1.5m, freezing to -10C, and can be submerged in up to 10m of water. If you need to take it deeper than that, there's an optional housing that will let you go down as far as 40m.

You can pick one up from around £300 online

Design and build

It's a cliché, but you'll either love or hate the design. Personally, I love it. The body is two-toned in black and either yellow, silver or turquoise. It's garish, but if you were to drop it in mud or murky water, those colours would help you find it easily.

Canon PowerShot D20 test photo
Canon claims that the D20 can be submerged in up to 10m of water, dropped from a height of 1.5m and frozen to -10C.

I had no such problems when putting Canon's claims to the test, submerging it in a vase of water and then dropping it from a height of 1.5 metres. It survived both tests, although on the second drop it did blank the screen and ask to be restarted. This isn't something I can criticise as it's unlikely you'd want a video of it being dropped, so a safety measure of that kind won't spoil your footage.

The lens is entirely captive, which means it can only zoom to 5x. That's the price you pay for buying a body with no protruding parts to knock off, but it still delivers a range equivalent to 28-140mm on a 35mm camera. The aperture spread runs from a conservative f/3.9 in wide angle to a very respectable f/4.8 at maximum telephoto.

There's a 4x digital zoom option that you can disable through the menus. When combined with the optical zoom, the result is equivalent to 20x magnification. As you'd expect, there's some deterioration in the results caused by the camera cropping and enhancing the central portion of the image using an algorithm. But Canon deserves credit for producing an acceptable result.

The image below shows the same scene fully zoomed out, zoomed to the maximum optical zoom, and them zoomed again to the full extent of the digital zoom.

Canon PowerShot D20 test photo
The optical zoom runs to 5x magnification, equivalent to 140mm on a 35mm camera. You can push it to 20x if combined with the 4x digital zoom.

Its native resolution is 12.1 megapixels, delivering 4,000x3,000-pixel images, at sensitivities between ISO 100 and ISO 3,200, which you can extend by +/-2EV in 1/3 stop increments.

Maximum shutter speed in auto mode is 1/1,600 second, slowing to 1 second at best. If you want anything longer than this you'll have to switch to an alternative shooting mode, at which point you can push it to 15 seconds. Unless you have a sturdy surface on which to rest it, you'll need to use the standard quarter-inch tripod mount to hold it steady.

In common with most non-dSLR shooters, there's no viewfinder, so all framing and reviewing is done on the rear-mounted 3-inch screen. This was bright enough on the default setting to be clear and easy to use throughout my tests. You can switch between five brightness settings.

Canon PowerShot D20 screen
There's no viewfinder but the screen is bright and clear for lining up shots.

This is one of two rugged, waterproof models in Canon's current PowerShot line-up. The more conventional-looking D10, which shares the D20's resolution, has a shorter zoom and narrower sensitivity range. What really sets them apart is the inclusion of a GPS chip in the D20, which automatically geotags your photos as they're shot. This additional metadata allows applications like Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture to plot them on a Google Map so you can see at a glance where each was captured.

Stills tests

The D20 has five primary shooting modes and 17 scene modes. I performed my tests using auto mode to replicate the conditions under which most users will shoot with this class of camera.

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Where to Buy

Canon PowerShot D20

Part Number: CNETCanon PowerShot D20

Typical Price: £300.00

See manufacturer website for availability.