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Canon 20D User's Guide
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Canon 20D

Top of the Canon 20D. This one came from here. I'd also get it here and here.

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Back to top of 20D Users Guide.

Skip to Rear Panel Controls or Side and Front Controls.

Left side:

Control Wheel: I leave this on P, Program exposure. This lets the 20D select the aperture and shutter speed, which it does perfectly all by itself.

If I want different shutter speeds or apertures than the 20D's Program mode selections, I spin the front dial to select other combinations. Easy! Spinning the front dial in the Program mode is much faster and easier than switching to any of the other modes.

I'll use Tv ("Time value") if I want to select a certain shutter speed only, in which case the 20D selects the aperture. I never use this.

I'll use Av ("Aperture value") if I want to select a certain aperture only, in which case the 20D selects the shutter speed. I only use this when testing lenses and need exact apertures. I don't use this for real photography.

M is manual exposure. You have to select the aperture and shutter speed the hard way: with more knobs. I'll only use this if I'm photographing something weird that requires me to lock down the exposure and keep it from changing. This most often is outdoors at night.

A-DEP is a goofy mode which is supposed to select the aperture based on how much depth-of-field you require. I've tried it, and never use it.

The Green Rectangle mode sets everything all by itself. It disables much of the other adjustments about which I'll be writing in these pages. I only suggest the green rectangle mode for loaning your 20D to your mom. There's nothing wrong with it for starters, but defeats most of the adjustments you're here to learn.

The other modes are cute scene presets (portrait, sports, etc.) I don't use them. Instead I use Program mode and spin the front dial as needed to select fast shutter speeds for sports or big apertures for portraits or small apertures for landscapes. Many of the adjustments I'll be explaining are locked out in these preset modes.

Feel free to use any of these modes if they work for you. If you want to make more advanced adjustments in the future you may have to change to one of the P, Tv, Av or M modes above.

Right side:

Canon 20D Top LCD

Canon 20D Top LCD

Light Bulb: Press this to light the LCD display.

AF - WB: Tap this, and now the two control dials can change these. It will stop accepting input 6 seconds after you're done twiddling, or the instant you tap the shutter button.

AF mode is shown on the right of the LCD, it shows AI FOCUS. WB is shown on the left of the LCD, it shows AWB.

Important: these, as all the buttons, only work if you've first woken up the 20D by tapping the shutter button! Once the 20D is awake and you've tapped the AF-WB button:

Tap the AF-WB button and now the front dial, seen at the top of this picture, selects the Autofocus modes. I explained these on the first page.

Tap the AF-WB button and now the big dial on the back of the camera selects among the various White Balance options. See my White Balance Examples page and my White Balance page for the specifics.

Press the shutter to get back to shooting. You can leave the 20D alone, or press the AF-WB button again to get it out of the adjustment mode.

DRIVE - ISO: This button works the same as the AF-WB button. It will stop accepting input 6 seconds after you're done twiddling, or the instant you tap the shutter button.

Tap it and the front dial selects the drive modes. You see the self-timer mode selected on the LCD. Other options are single frame (semi-auto in firearms terms), shown as one rectangle, and continuous (full -auto in firearms terms) shown as a rectangle with a beard (more rectangles) growing out of the bottom right.

I prefer continuous, which means the 20D shoots at 5FPS for as long as you hold the shutter button. Single mode makes only one shot, no mater how long you hold the button.

Tap it and the big dial on the back selects among the various ISO (light sensitivity) settings. It goes in full stops - only 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,600 are selectable. I love it this way - I never want to twiddle with middle ones like 320 or 640 which the 20D can't do. ISO 3,200 is locked out to prevent people from using it by accident and complaining about noise and grain. You have to enable it in Custom Function 08. Once you've set Custom Function 08 to ON, ISO 3,200 is selected as "H," one click past ISO 1,600. I do wish Canon allowed setting 1/3 stop ISOs between 1,600 and 3,200, since only at these very high speeds is there any real difference in noise at 1,600, 2,000, 2,500 and 3,200. The 20D and 30D only allow setting 1,600 or 3,200, not 2,000 or 2,500.

I set 100 outdoors, and higher ones as I need them. There is NO Auto setting, as I love using on my Nikons. (There is a partial auto setting in some of the scene modes selected on the left top dial, which I don't use.)

Rectangles, Circles, Lightning Bolt and +/- (Metering and Flash Brightness) Button: This button works the same as the other two buttons. It selects meter mode (the rectangle and circles) and flash brightness (the lighting bolt).

You spin the front dial to change the exposure meter modes. I explained the Meter Mode selections on the first page. I always use evaluative, which is the dot and circle inside the rectangle.

Flash brightness is set with the rear dial. I leave it on 0. + makes it brighter and - makes it darker.


Canon 20D rear

Canon 20D Rear Panel

Note: Canon color-codes buttons in blue and silver to correspond to their functions in playback or shooting. I may use these colors in the text to clarify. They aren't links unless underlined.

MENU: Calls up the menus. I explain these menus on my Canon 20D Menus page.

INFO: In playback, this button cycles through three kinds of display: 1.) Just the image, or 2.) image with file number, frame counts and f/stop and shutter speed, or 3.) a page of more data and a useless single-channel histogram.

If the LCD is off , you're in shooting mode and pressing INFO calls up a screen of data related to the pictures you're about to take. It calls up the current time and date, exposure compensation, WB and color parameter settings, available memory and etc.

JUMP: If you have the menus up, JUMP jumps to the next of three color-coded kinds of menu items: Shooting, Playing and Wrench.

If you're playing an image, press it and you'll see a scroll bar appear on the image. Now the big rear wheel jumps 10 images forward or back per click.

[ > ] (Play): Plays images. Press again to turn them off.

Trash: Delete image. To delete an image, press the trash button, spin the dial one click clockwise to highlight "Erase" and press SET.

/ ON OFF: Power switch. The top "/" position enables the big dial to set exposure compensation, which makes images darker or lighter. Note how the "/" line connects to the big dial. In "ON" the big dial still works in the menus and everything else, but it won't set exposure compensation. You may wish to use the "ON" position to prevent accidental changing of the lighten/darken value. This value is shown on the top LCD and in the finder as a bar under a dotted line. In the photo of the top LCD above you can see this line on the bottom center of the LCD. In the photo the bar is at -1/3, my usual preference for the 20D.

Big Dial: Spin this to select items as shown on the two LCDs and explained throughout this article.

SET: This is the button in the center of the big dial. It rotates with the dial. I had to be sure I had it rotated so it said "SET" and wasn't upside down ("13S") for the photo. Don't worry, it does the same thing all the time.

Red light on bottom right of Big Dial: This lights when the memory card is working. Leave the memory card alone while it's lit. It only lights for short periods of time when taking pictures, or stays lit and flashing when downloading a lot of photos.

Unmarked Button above Big Dial: This is a 9-way navigation button. You can push it in 8 directions, or push it straight in.

In playback it lets you scroll around the image after zooming in. It ignores you if you're not zoomed in, or are in the multi-image playback mode.

In shooting it ignores you, unless you first press the top-right [+] button (explained below). After pressing the [+] button, the unmarked button allows you to select the autofocus sensor, which you'll see highlighted in red in the finder. You'll also see a cryptic [   -   ] display on the top LCD, which is a rough representation of the selected AF sensor.

Move the unmarked button to select the AF sensor. Push the unmarked button straight in to select the center sensor, which is very handy. Push it straight in again to light all the sensors, which lets the 20D select the sensor automatically.

This button has nine direct positions and selects that sensor directly, regardless of the currently selected sensor. Unlike Nikon, it doesn't move the selection around by clicks.

Example 1: if you have the bottom sensor selected and want to select the lower left sensor, just press the button to the lower left. Pressing it to the upper left, as you'd do on Nikon to move it a click, would select the upper left sensor.

Example 2: if you have the right sensor selected and push the button left, you'll get the left sensor directly. You won't move a click to the center sensor as you would on Nikon. You get the center sensor by pushing the button straight in.

You can let the unmarked button move the AF sensor without needing to press the [+] button first in Custom Function 13.

Top Rear Corner

Canon 20D Top Corner

Canon 20D Top Rear Corner

* (star), Checkerboard, (-) Button: This is on the top right of the rear of the 20D.

In playback: Zooms out (-), or if you're zoomed all the way out, the next push gets you into the 9-image display mode (checkerboard).

During shooting: * is Exposure Lock. Press * to lock the exposure. You'll see "*" in the finder to confirm after you've pressed it. This is the easy way to set the exposure in difficult (contrasty or backlit) light by pointing at one subject, locking the exposure and recomposing.

For instance, with strong backlight, zoom into the face, tap the * (see "*" in finder to confirm that the exposure is locked) and zoom back out and recompose for your photo. This is much faster than other ways of setting exposure. Of course in a backlit case you should be using fill flash, too.

It should be marked AEL. Sorry.

You can change the function of this button in Custom Function 04.

Once locked, it stays locked. I wish it unlocked if I pressed * again. Pressing it again merely locks it to a new setting Even taking a picture won't release it. You have to press one of the top AE-WB or DRIVE-ISO buttons to release it.

If your flash is on, it locks flash exposure, too. You'll see FEL (Flash Exposure Lock) blink in the finder right after you press it.

Flash Tip for the "*" Button:

Preflash - Eyes Closed
No preflash - eyes open
Normal Flash: Blinking
Press "*" Button First: No Blinking

The 20D, like most cameras, fires a preflash a fraction of a second before the actual photo is taken to set how bright the flash should be. Then it takes the picture a fraction of a second later with a second pop of the flash. Most of the time the first pop of the flash starts people and pets blinking, which almost guarantees that their eyes will be closed in the actual photo!

Use the * button to pop the preflash before you take a flash picture of people or pets. Now, so long as the * stays lit in the finder, the 20D will only fire one flash for each photo, which won't cause people to blink the moment before the photo is taken. Be sure to press * again if you change your distance.

[+] - (+) Button: This is on the top right of the rear of the 20D.

In playback: Zooms in (+), or if you're in the 9-image display mode (checkerboard), returns you to an individual image.

During shooting: [+] allows you to change the selected AF sensor or sensors. I explained this above under the Unmarked Button above Big Dial.

SIDE and FRONT CONTROLS back to top

side of Canon 20D

Canon 20D Front and Side Controls

Lightning Bolt (top): Press it to pop up the built in flash. That's all it does. Unlike Nikon, you change the flash brightness (exposure compensation), if needed, with the flash exposure compensation button on the top of the camera.

The finder flashes BUSY while the flash recycles.

Big Unmarked Button (middle): Press it to unlock the lens for removal. Hold it in and turn the lens so the red or white dot goes towards the top of the camera to remove it. To mount another lens you merely match the red or white dot on the lens with the red or white dot on the 20D and rotate it until it clicks and locks automatically.

Teeny Unmarked Button (bottom): Press and hold it to preview if the background will come into sharp enough focus to be distracting. It probably will make the viewfinder get darker; ignore that. Photographers call this button the "depth-of-field preview button." This button was important for film cameras, but since you get a better view playing the image back on the LCD, today this button is for a quick check of the background when making portraits.


My 20D User's Guide continues below.

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It's all here free for the reading (but not copying).

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Custom Functions

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