Canon PowerShot D20 review



The Canon PowerShot D20 is a rugged, waterproof point-and-shoot compact designed for people who want to take pictures outdoors in tough environments and in the water. It’s waterproof to a depth of 10 metres as well as dust and shock-proof.

With a 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor and a 5x stabilised optical zoom, it can shoot 1080p24 HD quality video and offers a raft of other video modes, including Super slow motion and Canon’s inovative Movie digest mode. You can also apply Creative Effects filters to video footage. The 3 inch LCD screen and big buttons make for easy operation in the water and other demanding environments and it’s also equipped with a GPS receiver that not only allows you to tag images with their location, but records a track log of your journey.

Using a compact point-and-shoot in the water brings its own particular handling requirements and the fact that the PowerShot D20 is designed specifically for the task provides it with some advantages. The big buttons help as does the 3 inch LCD screen, and the tough plastic exterior is capable of withstanding rough treatment. This is only the second D-series water-proof PowerShot though, and it would be good to see Canon take the concept further, perhaps with built-in flotation and a menu system that, like the physical aspects of the camera are designed to be used in demanding environments. It would also be a nice touch if underwater environments were recognised by the scene detection and, while I’m compiling a wish list, Canon really needs to address the continuous shooting performance on a camera that is all about recording action subjects.

To get back to the present, the PowerShot D20 is a very capable point and shoot both in and out of the water. Its size, design and price tag all point in one direction, this point-and shoot-compact is aimed at those who are serious about their outdoor and water-based activities and want a camera that’s purpose built to record them. It succeeds very well at that. Here’s how it compares to one of its big rivals from Panasonic.


Compared to Panasonic Lumix TS20 / FT20


The most obvious differences betwen the Canon PowerShot D20 and Panasonic Lumix TS20 / FT20 are physical ones. The Lumix TS20 / FT20 is much more compact and is almost half the weight of the PowerShot D20. Size and weight can be an important factor when you’re outdoors and carrying other kit, but it cuts both ways – the D20’s larger size and functional design makes for easier handling. It would be fair to say that the D20 looks and handles like it was designed for purpose, whereas the TS20 / FT20 looks like an ordinary compact that’s been sealed. Talking of which, if you plan on submerging more than a few metres, the D20 can safely dive to a depth of 10 metres compared with only 5 metres for the TS20 / FT20.

So much for handling, what about the specifications? The D20’s 5x zoom outreaches the 4x zoom on the TS20 / FT20, but it lacks the latter’s super-wide angle view which could be an important factor for landscape shooters, cavers, pot-holers and campers. The PowerShot D20’s 3 inch screen however provides a better view for framing up shots than the 2.7inch screen on the Lumix TS20 / FT20.

While neither has great continuous shooting performance at full resolution, the Lumix TS20 / FT20 does at least allow you to shoot an 8fps high speed burst at reduced 3.1 Megapixel resolution. The D20 has the advantage of being able to shoot full 1080p HD video compared with 720p on the TS20 / FT20, and both allow you to shoot with effects like Miniature, but the D20 is a more versatile movie camera with more modes.

Finally, the PowerShot D20 has a built-in GPS receiver which not only tags your photos with location data, allowing you to map them using software or on photo sharing websites, but also has a track log function so you can plot the course of a trip. Personally, I think this is a really useful feature, whether you just want to keep track of holiday snaps, or plot the route of outdoor expeditions.

Of course, features like GPS all add to the cost. The PowerShot D20 costs around twice as much as the Lumix TS20 / FT20. For some, the design, extra zoom range, greater depth, better video capabilities and GPS will be worth the extra. But if you’re looking for an all-round point-and-shoot compact for occassional use in the pool and at the beach, the Lumix TS20 / FT20 is probably a better choice.

See my Panasonic TS20 / FT20 review for more details.


Canon PowerShot D20 final verdict


The Canon PowerShot D20 is a point-and-shoot compact designed for use outdoors and in the water. The difference between the D20 and many other waterproof compacts, like the Panasonic Lumix TS20 / FT20 is that it’s been designed from the ground up for water-based and outdoor activities.

If you take those things seriously and want a camera to accompany you and record your exploits, the PowerShot D20 won’t disappoint. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for an all-round point-and-shoot-compact that you can occassionally take in and on the water without worring about getting it wet, well, there are less expensive options.

One of those is the original PowerShot D10. Currently, it isn’t massively cheaper than the D20, but expect the gap to widen. If you can live without HD video and GPS and can put up with a slightly reduced 4x zoom range and a 2.5 inch screen, the D10 remains an excellent choice for recording aquatic pursuits. See my Canon D10 review for more details.

But the D20 is a worthy successor that offers a great deal more for the price, not least a longer zoom, better quality video and built-in GPS. It’s a seriously rugged waterproof camera for those who take their outdoor and water-based activities seriously. Its only shortcoming is the lack of fast continuous shooting, were it not for that it would gain a Highly recommended rating. But in every other respect it an excellent choice for use in and around water and other demanding environments and is Recommended.

Good points
5x stabilised optical zoom.
Designed for purpose.
1080p24 video recording.
built-in GPS receiver with track log.

Bad points
Very poor continuous shooting.
Poor noise handling.
No ‘door open’ warning .
Relatively expensive.


(relative to 2012 waterproof compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:


17 / 20
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17 / 20
16 / 20




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