Canon PowerShot D20 Review

October 3, 2012 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


After 3 years, Canon have updated their waterproof camera, the D10. Now, the PowerShot D20 comes with a larger 5x optical zoom, the same 12 megapixel resolution and a slimmer, squarer body. The sensor has new HS technology for good low light performance and there's also a 3 inch LCD screen. The protection that the camera gives has also been expanded and in this test, we'll be seeing if it can step up to the mark. The Canon Powershot D20 costs £299.99 / $349.99 and is available in blue, yellow and silver.

Ease of Use

The Canon Powershot D20 is by no means a carbon copy. It updates the D10 model that was released way back in good ol' 2009. There are a few notable improvements, but mainly we weren't happy with the noise performance of the D10. The D20 now has HS sensor technology which improves on noise and increases low light performance. Therefore the D20 should show considerable improvement in that department.

Just by looking at the Canon PowerShot D20, you can see some considerable changes in the design department. Out goes the rounded, pebble-like shape for a more boxy, squared off number. The lens sits in the top corner - similar to the Olympus Tough models - with the flash directly to the side. The left side sweeps in towards the bottom like a wave but creating sharper corners and cleaner lines. The D10 had only two buttons on the top plate whereas the D20 has the playback button added there. It can be easily distinguished between the three so there shouldn't be too much of a problem even when underwater. On the back, the buttons are large and textured plastic for grip in cold or wet conditions. However the video button remains shiny chrome metal.

A number of new features have been added to make the Canon PowerShot D20 much more appealing to the travelling photographer. Video has been upgraded to Full 1080 HD and a HDMI port has been added to view video and stills. The zoom has an extra stretch as it now goes up to 5x optical. It starts at 28mm which gives it a top end of 140mm. Also, GPS has been added to the camera so you can correlate your pictures with your location when you get home. These can be posted on Google Maps for your friends to see.

The body is thicker to accommodate the protective shell and it also adds a nice weight to the unit. The obligatory screws are visible to give it a nautical theme as though it's been riveted. For some reason, customers expect to see the camera bolted together like a ship if it can go into water. If not, they want smooth, seamless lines.

Olympus mju 9000 Olympus mju 9000
Front Rear

The resistance has been increased in the shockproofing allowing for an extra foot in height but freeze and waterproofing have remained the same at -10 and 10m respectively. Rubber seals line the doors to the battery/memory card compartment as well as the door that hides the HDMI and USB ports. The locks on these doors aren't hard to open. They have a double locking system on them so if you were to catch the lock accidentally, it's unlikely that it'll fling open allowing water to gush inside. We would have liked to see a metal tripod bush on the camera to ensure longevity for photographers that shoot long exposures a lot. Still, this is a more “on the go” camera so it's likely tripod use will be kept to a minimum.

Canon introduced a new strap connector on the PowerShot D20 which is a lot stronger than the traditional D-ring type found on other digital compact cameras. It uses a latch and lock system but then gets let down by using a traditional attachment to the locking nut. The D10 had a long metal cord supplied which was great for snorkelling/light scuba use.

Canon have utilised the same menu system that's been found on their digital cameras for a few years now. Anyone with a current Canon compact will find it familiar. Newcomers to the brand will see that it's very well laid out, with bright and bold colours. There are two main menu systems. The menu button at the bottom of the camera on the back accesses more indepth options such as AF systems, Flash settings, exposure details and how the camera shows you a picture once it's been taken. There's also a second tab for the set up menu which allows you to change features such as the brightness of the screen, how the camera records files, the date/time and GPS settings.

Olympus mju 9000 Olympus mju 9000
Front Waterproof

For more instant features that are commonly used when shooting, pressing the Function button (denoted with the term FUNC.) in the centre of the navigation pad opens up access for ISO, White-Balance, Resolution, Aspect Ratio, Self-Timer, GPS and metering among others. Icons have been selected for their universal appeal but a small explanation of the mode will flash on screen for a few moments when you first rest on it. Pressing up on the navigation pad opens up the Mode Menu. This determines what mode the camera is in such as Auto, Program, Underwater/Underwater macro, Snow, Scenes and Video (allows for more control).

The Canon PowerShot D20's start-up time is impressive. From the switched off position, we managed to get the camera on, focused and taking a photograph in 1.7sec. Many cameras sit around the 2.5sec mark so this is fast. The continuous mode has no burst setting. It plods along from the start but will fire out 2fps (frames per second) which is very respectable.

An interesting point about the D20 is that it holds no internal memory. This is usually reserved for the Canon compact elite; such as the IXUS range or G series. Maybe Canon thought it was one more thing to worry about when waterproofing? Whatever the reason, if you don't have a card, you're not taking pictures. The camera does take up to and including SDXC which allows for huge capacities. Perfect for taking on a long holiday; which is exactly what the camera is designed for.

Olympus mju 9000 Olympus mju 9000
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

As with any digital compact camera, the playback mode can be accessed by pressing the button (on top of the camera) whether the Canon PowerShot D20 is on or off. Both menu buttons work. The Function button again accesses most used features such as Delete, Star Rating, Lock Image, Image Search, Slide Show and Print List. The Main Menu copies several of those but expands the Print Options to allow bulk lists of images to be selected for printing. The Set-up menu is also there.

Some basic editing can also be done in playback. For example, you can add colours/accents to the picture resize it, trim it, adjust Red-Eye or add iContrast (Canon's dynamic range boost).

The usual tightly packed Canon software & documentation pack is included in the box. It features a Getting Started manual in 17 additional languages to your own which is why it's so big. It's commonplace to put the full manual on a CD these days to save money, paper and - therefore - size of packaging. In addition to this, a second CD features Image Browser EX 1.0, Camera Window 8.7 and Photostitch 3.1. Alongside the software, there's also a USB cable, separate charger (unfortunate extra bulk if travelling), battery and strap.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.


We were looking forward to testing the ISO settings of the Canon PowerShot D20. The new HS technology should make it a lot better at noise control, as it will allow you to ramp up the ISO further than what was possible in the D10. However, we're not here to compare between the two, it's just useful to have a benchmark. Low ISO performance of the D20 is exceptional. At ISO 100, you can be mistaken for looking at a picture from a larger sensor camera. Edges are sharp and surfaces are smooth with not an iota of noise. ISO 200 and ISO 400 yield similar results although at full magnification it's possible to see an ever-so-slight drop in sharpness. Subjects out of the focus field appear rough as though affected by noise.

ISO 800 sees a surge in noise but nowhere near the scale that we're used to seeing on a digital compact camera. Again we had to go to full magnification to get an idea of the changes that are happening to the picture. There's a slight roughing of edges and noise is starting to creep in. Go to ISO 1600 and there's a definite increase in noise presence. Image quality starts to break down to intolerable levels. If you need to go to ISO 1600 or higher, use a flash in low light and keep the ISO down. Although noise has invaded all parts of the photograph at this stage, the picture isn't in a place where it can't be used. Colour is widespread through images at this setting and edge definition has been compromised but you can still see detail and colour.

There are 6 ISO settings available on the Canon PowerShot D20. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


We used the Unsharp Mask tool to see if sharpening could benefit the Canon PowerShot D20 pictures. We're impressed with the sharpness but using a sharpness tool in an editing suite will benefit.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

We think the 5x lens suffers quite a lot and this is especially evident in the chroma images. We found it present in nearly every photograph. It's the worst at the edges of the frame where all lenses decrease in quality.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


Example 2 (100% Crop)



The macro feature of the Canon PowerShot D20 is phenomenal. At wide-angle, the camera can focus at practically point blank range. This is most likely for the underwater macro mode.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


With the flash off, the wide angle setting causes a definite vignette at the corners of the frame. The loss of light is even throughout. At full zoom, there's still faint darkness at the corners which is unfortunate. We put it down to the lens being more geared up for underwater photography. Adding flash exacerbates the vignetting at wide-angle but does eradicate it at full zoom.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (140mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (140mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

There are two Red-Eye reduction options when flash with Red-Eye has been selected. They're accessed by pressing the menu button in flash with Red-Eye. Pressing menu brings up the Red-Eye correction and lamp. There are four combinations and all are as effective as each other. In fact we didn't get any Red-Eye in the first place. The inclusion of that menu at this point is brilliant. It prevents the need to scrawl through menu systems wasting time.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Correction

Red-eye Correction (100% Crop)


The Canon PowerShot D20 has a proper night shot mode which goes on step further than traditional ones. Canon have named it Long Shutter mode and in the function menu it allows you to adjust the shutter speed from 1 second to 15 seconds. In Program mode, the camera won't allow long enough exposures for night shooting on a tripod.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot D20 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 25 second movie is 106Mb in size.

Product Images

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Front of the Camera

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Isometric View

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Isometric View

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Rear of the Camera/ Image Displayed

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Rear of the Camera / Function Menu

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Top of the Camera

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Side of the Camera


Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Side of the Camera

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Side of the Camera

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Front of the Camera

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Front of the Camera

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Memory Card Slot

Canon Digital IXUS 990 IS

Battery Compartment


Our initial thoughts about the Canon Powershot D20 weren't good. It has a rather poor dynamic range which really shone through on the first set of pictures we took with it. The camera's metering prefers the darker areas over the light and will happily bleach out the sky to keep the shadows. With i-Contrast, the camera should be able to recover shadows, so it's worth exposing for the sky, o at least 60% sky, 40% ground, then use i-Contrast.

Canon want people to go out and have fun with the PowerShot D20. They want it to be used on extreme holidays such as skiing and scuba-diving. That's why it's so arduous and also maybe the reason why the Snow setting has it's own dedicated place in the primary Mode Menu. Many people are into filters right now so it's good to see ones such as Toy Camera, Miniature and Fish-Eye.

The stiffness of the buttons (necessary for the waterproofing) became easier to use as time wore on and we found it a pretty good camera to use on a day to day basis. The Canon PowerShot D20 has an unusual design and we got one or two admiring glances as we strolled through town with it. The build quality is great. It has a tough exterior but it's easy to use. It does get let down by a plastic tripod bush and the quality of the lens but other than that, it's an all round good camera.

Image quality is hit and miss. We have a lot of over-exposure thanks to the poor dynamic range. Noise is considerably better controlled than the previous D10 could ever do. Real life shots do spring up some noise that a controlled light test doesn't show and we did get more noise at lower setting than we'd like. It's worth noting that the screen bears little resemblance to what is actually recorded. Some of our shots looked monochrome on the screen but had a decent amount of colour on the computer.

The Canon PowerShot D20 is for travelling yet you have to take a separate charger and figure 8 cable. That's not very appealing to the traveller looking to take this around the world. The lack of internal memory is likely that way for a reason but won't help when you're at the top of Machu Picchu and you run out of memory. Still, if you prepare yourself, charge the battery and take a couple of spare cards, you should be good for a couple of days regular use.

The Canon PowerShot D20 is certainly a camera worth looking at but you need to ask yourself if you can sacrifice dynamic range for point blank focusing. If you can, then take a look at this camera.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Canon PowerShot D20 from around the web. »

Canon's second underwater-dedicated compact camera, the PowerShot D20, is chocked full of impressive features and functions that include a 12.1MP HS System, a 28mm wide lens with 5x optical zoom, GPS tagging, Full HD movie quality and a bright 3-inch LCD display.
Read the full review » »

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.
Read the full review » »

We’ve tested a whole bunch of tough, rugged and waterproof digital compact cameras. They may well be shockproof, freezeproof and dustproof too, but, truth be told, no company has got the full package quite right after many years' worth of attempts. Can the Canon PowerShot D20, the company’s update to the PowerShot D10, with its radical, almost wave-shaped design change this?
Read the full review »



Type 1/2.3 type back-illuminated CMOS
Effective Pixels Approx. 12.1M
Colour Filter Type Primary Colour


Type DIGIC 4 with iSAPS technology


Focal Length 5.0 - 25.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 28 - 140 mm)
Zoom Optical 5x
Digital Approx. 4.0x (with Digital Tele-Converter Approx. 1.5x or 2.0x and Safety Zoom¹). Combined Approx. 20x
Maximum f/number f/3.9 - f/4.8
Construction 12 elements in 10 groups (2 UD lenses, 3 double-sided aspherical lens, 1 single-sided aspherical lenses)
Image Stabilisation Yes (lens shift-type), 2-stop. Intelligent IS


Type TTL
AF System/ Points AiAF (Face Detection / 9-point), 1-point AF (fixed to centre)
AF Modes Single, Continuous (only available in Auto mode), Servo AF/AE¹, Tracking AF
AF Point Selection Size (Normal, Small)
AF Lock On/Off Selectable
AF Assist Beam Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Closest Focusing Distance 1 cm (W) from front of lens in macro


Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (Centre)
AE Lock On/Off Selectable
Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction
ISO sensitivity* AUTO, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200


Speed 1 - 1/1600 sec. (factory default)
15 - 1/1600 sec. (total range - varies by shooting mode)


Type TTL
Settings Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Underwater, Custom


Monitor 7.5 cm (3.0”) PureColor II LCD (TFT). Approx. 461,000 dots
Coverage Approx. 100%
Brightness Adjustable to one of five levels. Quick-bright LCD


Modes Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Synchro
Slow Sync Speed Yes. Fastest speed 1/1600 sec.
Red-Eye Reduction Yes
Flash Exposure Compensation Face Detection FE, Smart Flash Exposure
Flash Exposure Lock Yes
Built-in Flash Range 30 cm - 3.5 m (W) / 1.0 m - 3.0 m (T)
External Flash Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1
Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2


Modes Smart Auto (32 scenes detected), P, Movie Digest, Portrait, Smart Shutter (Smile, Wink Self-Timer, FaceSelf-Timer), Handheld Night Scene, Low Light (3.0MP), Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Underwater, Underwater Macro, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, Stitch Assist
Modes in Movie Smart Auto (21 scenes detected), P, Portrait, Miniature Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Underwater, Underwater Macro, Snow, Fireworks, iFrame Movie, Super Slow Motion Movie
Photo Effects My Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color)
Drive modes Single, Continuous, Self-Timer
Continuous Shooting Approx. 1.9 shots/sec.(until memory card becomes full)¹²


Image Size 4:3 - (L) 4000 x 3000, (M1) 2816 x 2112, (M2) 1600 x 1200, (S) 640 x 480
16:9 - (L) 4000 x 2248, (M1) 2816 x 1584, (M2) 1920 x 1080, (S) 640 x 360
3:2 - (L) 4000 x 2664, (M1) 2816 x 1880, (M2) 1600 x 1064, (S) 640 x 424
1:1 - (L) 2992 x 2992, (M1) 2112 x 2112, (M2) 1200 x 1200, (S) 480 x 480
Resize in playback (M2, S, XS)
*XS is half the length and width of S
Compression Fine
Movies (Full HD) 1920 x 1080, 24 fps, (HD) 1280 x 720, 30 fps, (L) 640 x 480, 30 fps
Super Slow Motion Movie (L) 640 x 480, 120fps, (M) 320 x 240, 240fps
Miniature Effect (HD, L) 6fps, 3fps, 1.5 fps
iFrame Movie (HD)
Movie Length (Full HD & HD) Up to 4 GB or 29 min. 59 sec.¹
(L) Up to 4 GB or 1 hour²
(Super Slow Motion Movie) 30 sec.


Still Image Type JPEG compression, (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system, Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Movies MOV [H.264 + Linear PCM (monaural)]
GPS Log LOG [NMEA 0183 message format compliant¹]


Canon Printers Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and Canon Inkjet Printers supporting PictBridge (ID Photo Print, Fixed Size Print and Movie Print supported on SELPHY CP & ES printers only)
PictBridge Yes


GPS Yes¹, GPS tagging, GPS Logger, automatic time update
Red-Eye Correction Yes, during shooting and playback
My Camera / My Menu Start-up image and camera sounds customisation
My Category Image tagging feature
Intelligent Orientation Sensor Yes
Histogram Yes
Playback zoom Approx. 2x - 10x
Self Timer Approx. 2 or 10 sec. or Custom
Menu Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, Ukrainian, Romanian, Farsi, Malaysian,Indonesian, Vietnamese


Computer Hi-Speed USB (MTP, PTP) dedicated connector (Mini-B compatible)
Other HDMI Mini Connector (HDMI-CEC compatible), A/V output (PAL/NTSC)




PC & Macintosh Windows 7 SP1/ Vista SP2/ XP SP3
Mac OS X v10.6 - 10.7


Browsing & Printing ImageBrowser EX
Other PhotoStitch, Map Utility


Batteries Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-6L (battery and charger supplied)
Battery life Approx. 280 shots¹ (Measured with GPS features off)
Approx. 300 min. playback
More than 48 hours using only GPS Logger
A/C Power Supply Optional, AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC40


Cases / Straps Soft Case DCC-550
Accessory Kit includes: Shoulder Strap, Carabiner Strap, special Neoprene Pouch, Float, Silicon Jacket.
(optional straps are not designed for underwater use)
Waterproof / Weatherproof Case Waterproof Case (40m) WP-DC45 [with attachment for underwater external flash]
Waterproof Case Weight WW-DC1
Flash Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1
Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2
Power Supply & Battery Chargers AC Adapter Kit ACK-DC40, Battery Charger CB-2LYE
Other Canon HDMI Cable HTC-100


Operating Environment '-10 - 40 °C, 10 - 90% humidity
Waterproof to 10m (IEC/JIS IP Protection Rating IPX8 equivalent)
Dustproof (IEC/JIS IP Protection Rating IP6X equivalent)
Shockproof to 1.5m drop¹
Dimensions (WxHxD) 112.3 x 70.8 x 28.0 mm
Weight Approx. 228 g (including battery/batteries and memory card)

Zoom ¹ Depending on the image size selected.
AF Modes ¹ Some settings limit availability.
Continuous Shooting ¹ Under conditions where the flash does not fire.
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
Movie Length ¹ The following Speed Class memory cards are required for maximum record time: (HD) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 4 or above. (Full HD) 1920 x 1080 Speed Class 6 or above. (iFrame) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 6 or above.
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
GPS Log ¹ Complies with the NMEA (National Marine Electronics Association of the U.S.) 0183
GPS ¹ GPS use may be restricted in certain countries or regions. Use of GPS should comply with the laws and regulations of the country and area in which it is being operated including any restriction on the use of electronics.
Battery life ¹ Using the batteries and memory card format supplied with the camera (where included), except where indicated.
Operating Environment ¹ The shock resistant testing methods are unique to this product and do not guarantee against damage or malfunction of the product.
  • All data is based on Canon standard testing methods (according to CIPA Standards) except where indicated.
  • Subject to change without notice.
  • *Standard Output Sensitivity / Recommended Exposure Index.
  • According to ISO 12232:2006 (20th April 2006) which specifies the method for assigning and reporting ISO speed ratings for digital still cameras.

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