Canon has produced a worthy successor to the EOS 10D with this model, endowing it with class-leading 8-megapixel resolution, excellent image quality across a broad range of ISO settings, and fast performance. With a sturdy, well-designed body and an intuitive control layout, the EOS 20D is a pleasure to shoot with. It still lacks a spot meter and isn't without minor flaws, but serious amateurs and pros who need a compact, affordable Canon dSLR should put this camera at the top of their lists.
If you'd like to stay closer to the £600 mark and don't need raw-image-processing software, an optional battery grip, or 8-megapixel resolution, consider Nikon's 6-megapixel D70. Its performance isn't quite as fast as that of the semipro 20D, but it offers the excellent image quality and sophisticated controls that avid photographers demand.
Shooting with the Canon EOS 20D is a pleasure. Its solidly constructed 680g body is nicely compact for an SLR and feels well balanced in the hand. The rubberised grip is comfortable, and all of the controls are easy to reach. I photographed events with the 20D for several hours at a time without feeling any strain.
I tried a few different lenses, and with a large 70mm-to-200mm zoom, the body started to feel a little small. Attaching the optional battery grip might be a good way to give it the bulk and weight that will make it a sturdier counterweight to a big lens.
Aside from making the EOS 20D slightly more compact than its predecessor, the 10D, Canon has altered the controls slightly. The power control and the command-dial lock are combined on one switch, making room for a little joystick controller that you use to select autofocus points, pan around images in review mode, and shift white balance. I found the controller to be easy to use and precise, despite its small size. If you have large hands, however, you might want to give it a try before you make your purchase.
Since the EOS 20D is fairly compact, there isn't a lot of room for multiple LCDs and rows of dedicated buttons. To change resolution and compression settings, you have to go into the main LCD menu, and the display of current settings is limited to what will fit in the small, top-mounted status screen. This didn't cause any big problems, but I did wish that there were a constant ISO display along with other exposure information, both on the status LCD and in the viewfinder.
The 20D is hardly the only SLR that makes this omission, and I think it's a significant oversight. Digital cameras give you the ability to change your ISO setting as often as your shutter speed, so they should also give you a way to keep an eye on your current selection without having to push buttons.