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Canon PowerShot D20 review: Canon PowerShot D20

The D20 is the easiest waterproof camera to use, thanks to its array of chunky buttons and simple user interface. It delivers decent photos for web use, if all you want to do is point and shoot.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables | Smartwatches | Mobile phones | Photography | Health tech | Assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Lexy Savvides
4 min read

For anyone keeping track of Canon's waterproof camera range, you'll realise that it has been quite a while since the company's first model, the D10, made its debut. Since then, many other companies have made inroads into the space, delivering models with snappy performance and decent image quality, to boot. So does this newer model, the D20, have what it takes to stand apart from the crowd?


Canon PowerShot D20

The Good

Very easy to use. Big buttons are ideal for underwater. Tough and rugged design.

The Bad

Images look rather soft. Videos are grainy. Sluggish performance.

The Bottom Line

The D20 is the easiest waterproof camera to use, thanks to its array of chunky buttons and simple user interface. It delivers decent photos for web use, if all you want to do is point and shoot.

Design and features

The D10 was a curiously-designed beast, with rotund corners and a bulky shooting feel. The D20 is much more refined, and fits neatly into the hand without the risk of slipping out. It has a textured black plastic on all sides, while the buttons at the back are nice and large, making them ideal for underwater use.

Of all the waterproof cameras that have passed through the review process at CNET Australia, the D20 is without a doubt the easiest to use. The large buttons contribute to this, but it's more the menu system that makes this a no-fuss and painless user experience. Automatic mode is activated by default, but to enter into Program or any of the other scene modes, it's a simple matter of pressing the top arrow button on the four-way directional pad and then select your option.

The chunky buttons are textured too, which makes them easy to grip.
(Credit: CBSi)

At the top of the camera, the design is kept similarly simple, with a large power, shutter and playback button. The side doors are locked with a rugged toggle switch, covering all the important ports like mini-HDMI, USB and the battery/memory card compartment.

The D20 comes equipped with a GPS, which is easily activated or deactivated from the menu. Unlike some other cameras of this class, there's no option to drill down a little deeper in the geotagged information the camera can display on the screen and store with the image — for example, there's no options for appending city or landmark details in the EXIF data. You can, however, keep a track of your route using the GPS module, and plot this using Google Maps.

Compared to

Olympus Tough TG-1 Panasonic Lumix FT4 Canon PowerShot D20 Nikon AW100
12-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS 12.1-megapixel CCD 12.1-megapixel HS CMOS 16.0-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS
3-inch OLED (610,000-dot) 2.7-inch LCD (230,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (460,000-dot) 3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)
Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 12m, shockproof 2m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m Waterproof 10m, shockproof 1.5m
4x optical zoom 4.6x optical zoom 5x optical zoom 5x optical zoom
25mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 28mm wide angle 28mm wide angle
GPS tagging GPS tagging GPS tagging GPS tagging
HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p) HD video (1080p)


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
    Canon PowerShot D20
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 1.810.3
    Panasonic Lumix FT4
    Olympus Tough TG-1

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)

  • 10
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
  • 5
    Olympus Tough TG-1
  • 2.7
    Panasonic Lumix FT4
  • 1.2
    Nikon Coolpix AW100
  • 1
    Canon PowerShot D20

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Canon rates the battery at 280 shots.

Image quality

The D20 produces shots that are fine for small prints or resizing for web use. It might be tricky to make decent enlargements from the photos it produces, because of the over-processing artefacts present on some images. The lens shows quite a bit of fringing on high contrast areas too, which can be difficult to hide in larger prints.

Colours are bright and punchy, with the D20 delivering accurate exposures that fall on the mark in most situations. Noise is kept under control until around ISO 400, when it starts to make an appearance in shots. It doesn't become a real problem affecting the clarity of shots until ISO 1600.

A comparison showing the two extremes of the zoom at its widest (28mm, top) and zoomed in to 5x optical zoom (bottom). There's little lens distortion at either extreme, which is pleasing.
(Credit: CBSi)

The design of the lens also has a tendency to exhibit lens flare when shooting in bright situations, if you don't shield the light from hitting it directly. Sharpness is decent, but the strong point of the D20 is its zoom, which extends to 5x optical and remains reasonably steady, even when you're at the extreme.

An example of lens flare affecting a shot.
(Credit: CBSi)

Movie quality is somewhat disappointing, only because it doesn't fully show off what this lens and sensor can really do. There's lots of grain present across the frame. Audio is fine for most purposes.

What the D20 does have up its sleeve is slow motion video recording. It drops the resolution down to 320x240 and shoots at 240fps, which is a very clever idea if you want to capture fast-moving fish or creatures beneath the sea.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/320, f/3.9, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/250, f/8, ISO 200

Exposure: 1/250, f/8, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/80, f/4.5, ISO 250

(Credit: CBSi)


The D20 is the easiest waterproof camera to use, thanks to its array of chunky buttons and simple user interface. It delivers decent photos for web use, if all you want to do is point and shoot.

Canon no longer gives out official RRPs of its products, though we have seen it for sale in the region of AU$350-399 in various photographic stores across the country.