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Canon 20D versus Canon 50D

The Canon EOS 20D and the Canon EOS 50D are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2004 and August 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The 20D has a resolution of 8.2 megapixel, whereas the 50D provides 15.1 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 20D vs Canon 50D

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 20D and the Canon 50D. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 20D – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 20D vs Canon 50D
Compare 20D versus 50D top
Compare 20D and 50D rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 50D is somewhat larger (3 percent) than the Canon 20D. Moreover, the 50D is markedly heavier (7 percent) than the 20D. It is noteworthy in this context that the 50D is splash and dust-proof, while the 20D does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 20D» 144 mm 106 mm 72 mm 770 g 700 n Aug 2004 1,499- i Canon 20D
Canon 50D« 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
Canon 80D« » 139 mm 105 mm 79 mm 730 g 960 Y Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
Canon 7D II« » 149 mm 112 mm 78 mm 910 g 670 Y Sep 2014 1,799 i i Canon 7D II
Canon 70D« » 139 mm 104 mm 79 mm 755 g 920 Y Jul 2013 1,199- i Canon 70D
Canon 60D« » 145 mm 106 mm 79 mm 755 g 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
Canon 7D« » 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 40D« » 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 n Aug 2007 1,299- i Canon 40D
Canon 30D« » 144 mm 106 mm 74 mm 785 g 750 n Feb 2006 1,399- i Canon 30D
Canon 350D« » 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899- i Canon 350D
Canon 10D« » 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 850 g 500 n Feb 2003 1,999- i Canon 10D
Canon 300D« » 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899- i Canon 300D
Nikon D200« » 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699- i Nikon D200

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The 50D was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 13 percent) than the 20D, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 20D vs Canon 50D

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the 50D is 2 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.6. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Technology-wise, the 50D uses a more advanced image processing engine (DIGIC 4) than the 20D (DIGIC 2), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Canon 20D and Canon 50D sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the 50D offers a higher resolution of 15.1 megapixel, compared with 8.2 MP of the 20D. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.69μm versus 6.42μm for the 20D). However, it should be noted that the 50D is much more recent (by 4 years) than the 20D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

20D versus 50D MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Canon 20D» APS-C 8.2 3504 2336-21.911.072162Canon 20D
Canon 50D« APS-C 15.1 4752 3168-21.811.469663Canon 50D
Canon 80D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.613.2113579Canon 80D
Canon 7D II« » APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.411.8108270Canon 7D II
Canon 70D« » APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p22.511.692668Canon 70D
Canon 60D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366Canon 60D
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466Canon 7D
Canon 40D« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.370364Canon 40D
Canon 30D« » APS-C 8.2 3504 2336-21.510.873659Canon 30D
Canon 350D« » APS-C 8.0 3456 2304-21.810.863760Canon 350D
Canon 10D« » APS-C 6.3 3072 2048-21.110.957157Canon 10D
Canon 300D« » APS-C 6.3 3072 2048-21.010.854455Canon 300D
Nikon D200« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.558364Nikon D200
The 50D offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The 20D lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison: Canon 20D vs Canon 50D

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 20D and the 50D are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 20D and Canon 50D along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Canon 20D»optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Canon 20D
Canon 50D«optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 6.3 Y n Canon 50D
Canon 80D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 7.0 Y n Canon 80D
Canon 7D II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 8000 10.0 Y n Canon 7D II
Canon 70D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 7.0 Y n Canon 70D
Canon 60D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 8000 5.3 Y n Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Canon 7D
Canon 40D« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 6.5 Y n Canon 40D
Canon 30D« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Canon 30D
Canon 350D« »optical n 1.8 115 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon 350D
Canon 10D« »optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon 10D
Canon 300D« »optical n 1.8 118 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n Canon 300D
Nikon D200« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Nikon D200

Both the 20D and the 50D write their imaging data to Compact Flash cards.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Canon 20D»Y-----1.1---Canon 20D
Canon 50D«Y----mini2.0---Canon 50D
Canon 80D« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0YY-Canon 80D
Canon 7D II« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 7D II
Canon 70D« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--Canon 70D
Canon 60D« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 7D
Canon 40D« »Y-----2.0---Canon 40D
Canon 30D« »Y-----2.0---Canon 30D
Canon 350D« »Y-----2.0---Canon 350D
Canon 10D« »Y-----1.1---Canon 10D
Canon 300D« »Y-----1.1---Canon 300D
Nikon D200« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D200

Both the 20D and the 50D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 20D was replaced by the Canon 30D, while the 50D was followed by the Canon 60D.

Review summary: Canon 20D vs Canon 50D

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 20D and the Canon 50D? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 20D:

  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2004).


Advantages of the Canon EOS 50D:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (15.1 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 36%.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (DIGIC 4 vs DIGIC 2).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 118k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6.3 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (800 versus 700) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.1).
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (13 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years of technical progress since the 20D launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 50D is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 1 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

20D 01:10 50D

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 20D or the 50D handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 20D»-HiRec-rev- Aug 2004 1,499- i Canon 20D
Canon 50D«HiRecHiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
Canon 80D« »HiRec84/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2016 1,199 i i Canon 80D
Canon 7D II« »Rec84/1004/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 1,799 i i Canon 7D II
Canon 70D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jul 2013 1,199- i Canon 70D
Canon 60D« »Rec79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 40D« »HiRecHiRec4.5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299- i Canon 40D
Canon 30D« »HiRecHiRecrevrev- Feb 2006 1,399- i Canon 30D
Canon 350D« »80/100HiRecrevrev- Feb 2005 899- i Canon 350D
Canon 10D« »-HiRec-rev- Feb 2003 1,999- i Canon 10D
Canon 300D« »-HiRec-rev- Aug 2003 899- i Canon 300D
Nikon D200« »HiRecHiRecrev5/5- Nov 2005 1,699- i Nikon D200

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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