I appreciated the simplicity of the EOS 20D's control layout. Most buttons control two settings, each of which can be adjusted with one of two dials. So, for example, when you hold down the ISO/Drive Mode button, you can cycle through the Drive options by spinning the dial on top of the camera and through the ISO settings by spinning the dial on the back.
Using the LCD menus is equally straightforward: you open them with the Menu button, scroll through the options with the rear-mounted dial, and make selections with the Set button in the middle of the dial. I like this interface much more than the multiple-button system on the Canon EOS-1D Mark II, which requires too much attention. The only thing that I found slightly awkward was holding down any of the three buttons mounted on top of the camera while turning the top-mounted dial.
The Canon EOS 20D offers an excellent feature set for its semipro class, adopting numerous capabilities from the much more expensive EOS-1D Mark II. At the top of its list of new features are an 8.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and Digic II processor for improved performance. The sensor is APS-C-size (22.5mm by 15mm), so you'll need to apply a 1.6x lens-conversion factor.
The 20D takes all of Canon's EF and EF-S lenses, and it's compatible with a wide range of EOS flashes and accessories. You can purchase the camera body only or buy it in a kit with the EF-S 18mm-to-55mm, f/3.5-to-f/5.6 lens. Either way, Canon provides a generous software package, including Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, a panorama-stitching program, a remote-capture program for controlling the camera from a computer, and the excellent Digital Photo Professional 1.2 for processing raw files.
The 20D also supports Canon's optional DVK-E2 data verification kit, which allows you -- or more likely, your lawyer -- to verify image authenticity. To personalize the 20D's controls, there are 18 custom functions available.
Canon has made a host of improvements over the EOS 10D. Among the most notable are its top shutter speed of 1/8,000 second, nine-point autofocus, white-balance fine-tuning and bracketing, and black-and-white mode. You can now select the sRGB or Adobe RGB colour space independent of the image parameter set.
The two standard parameter sets adjust contrast, sharpness, colour tone, and saturation for a more or less punchy look, and you can create three custom parameter sets as well. Light sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to ISO 3,200, and noise reduction is selectable.
Metering options include evaluative, center-weighted, and partial. Flash metering is improved, with Canon's E-TTL II system, and there's a flash-exposure lock as well. Unfortunately, Canon decided against adding spot metering to the 20D, but for most purposes, the partial metering will suffice. It covers 9 percent of the viewfinder image, the approximate area of which is marked with a circle on the focusing screen.
The screen itself is new, and although it's quite good, I think it would have been a nice touch for Canon to implement interchangeable screens. You can select three types of autofocus: One Shot; Predictive AI Servo for tracking moving subjects; and AI Focus, which automatically switches between the two other modes, depending on whether anything in your scene is moving.
For those times when you'd rather let the camera do the thinking, there are five scene modes available via the mode dial (the no-flash mode doesn't quite qualify as a scene mode in my book), along with a fully automatic mode. There's also an automatic depth-of-field mode, which ensures that everything in the area of your image covered by the autofocus points is sharp. The 20D also supports the PictBridge and Canon Direct Print standards.
A voice-annotation feature and automatic sensor cleaning would have been useful additions to this camera -- next time, Canon?