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?
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.
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.
|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)|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon rates the battery at 280 shots.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.