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Canon 20D vs 5D

The Canon EOS 20D and the Canon EOS 5D are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2004 and August 2005. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (20D) and a full frame (5D) sensor. The 20D has a resolution of 8.2 megapixels, whereas the 5D provides 12.7 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon 20D versus Canon 5D
Canon 20D Canon 5D
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Canon EF mount lenses Canon EF mount lenses
8.2 MP, APS-C Sensor 12.7 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 100-1,600 (100 - 3,200) ISO 100-1,600 (50 - 3,200)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
1.8 LCD, 118k dots 2.5 LCD, 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
5 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
700 shots per battery charge400 shots per battery charge
144 x 106 x 72 mm, 770 g 152 x 113 x 75 mm, 895 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 20D and the Canon EOS 5D? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 20D and the Canon 5D is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon 20D vs Canon 5D
Compare 20D versus 5D top
Comparison 20D or 5D rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 5D is notably larger (13 percent) than the Canon 20D. Moreover, the 5D is markedly heavier (16 percent) than the 20D. It is noteworthy in this context that the 5D 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. A larger imaging sensor (as in the 5D) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (20D). You can compare the optics available 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 want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Canon 20D 144 mm 106 mm 72 mm 770 g 700 n Aug 2004 1,499i
 
Canon 5D 152 mm 113 mm 75 mm 895 g 400 Y Aug 2005 3,299i
 
Canon 5D Mark IV 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i
 
Canon 5DS R 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i
 
Canon 7D II 149 mm 112 mm 78 mm 910 g 670 Y Sep 2014 1,799 i
 
Canon 5D Mark III 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499i
 
Canon 60D 145 mm 106 mm 79 mm 755 g 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399i
 
Canon 7D 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699i
 
Canon 5D Mark II 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499i
 
Canon 50D 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Canon 40D 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 n Aug 2007 1,299i
 
Canon 30D 144 mm 106 mm 74 mm 785 g 750 n Feb 2006 1,399i
 
Canon 1D Mark II N 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1565 g 1200 Y Aug 2005 3,999i
 
Canon 350D 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899i
 
Canon 10D 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 850 g 500 n Feb 2003 1,999i
 
Canon 300D 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 n Aug 2003 899i
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

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 20D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 55 percent) than the 5D, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 20D features an APS-C sensor and the Canon 5D a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the 5D is 156 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 20D and Canon 5D sensor measures

With 12.7MP, the 5D offers a higher resolution than the 20D (8.2MP), but the 5D nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.25μm versus 6.42μm for the 20D) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the 5D is a somewhat more recent model (by 11 months) than the 20D, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The resolution advantage of the Canon 5D implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 5D for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.8 x 14.6 inches or 55.5 x 37 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17.5 x 11.6 inches or 44.4 x 29.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.6 x 9.7 inches or 37 x 24.7 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 20D are 17.5 x 11.7 inches or 44.5 x 29.7 cm for good quality, 14 x 9.3 inches or 35.6 x 23.7 cm for very good quality, and 11.7 x 7.8 inches or 29.7 x 19.8 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon EOS 20D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon EOS 5D are ISO 100 to ISO 1600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-3200.

20D versus 5D MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the 5D has a markedly higher DXO score than the 20D (overall score 9 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.9 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Canon 20D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.911.072162
 
Canon 5D Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912none22.911.1136871
 
Canon 5D Mark IV Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591
 
Canon 5DS R Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/30p24.612.4230886
 
Canon 7D II APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.411.8108270
 
Canon 5D Mark III Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381
 
Canon 60D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366
 
Canon 7D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466
 
Canon 5D Mark II Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579
 
Canon 50D APS-C 15.1 4752 3168none21.811.469663
 
Canon 40D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.370364
 
Canon 30D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.510.873659
 
Canon 1D Mark II N APS-H 8.2 3504 2336none22.311.297566
 
Canon 350D APS-C 8.0 3456 2304none21.810.863760
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157
 
Canon 300D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.010.854455
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
Neither the 20D nor the 5D offer Live View, so that they cannot project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen. Moreover, both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 20D and the 5D 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 viewfinder in the 5D offers a wider field of view (96%) than the one in the 20D (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the 5D has a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.56x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 20D, the Canon 5D, and comparable cameras.

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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)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
 
Canon 20Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Canon 5Doptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n n
 
Canon 5D Mark IVoptical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 1/8000s 7.0 n n
 
Canon 5DS Roptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Canon 7D IIoptical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 Y n
 
Canon 5D Mark IIIoptical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 n n
 
Canon 60Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 1/8000s 5.3 Y n
 
Canon 7Doptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
 
Canon 5D Mark IIoptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 3.9 n n
 
Canon 50Doptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 6.3 Y n
 
Canon 40Doptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n
 
Canon 30Doptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Canon 1D Mark II Noptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 8.5 n n
 
Canon 350Doptical n 1.8 115 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Canon 10Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Canon 300Doptical n 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 20D has one, while the 5D does not. While the built-in flash of the 20D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the 20D and the 5D write their files to Compact Flash cards.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS 20D and Canon EOS 5D and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Canon 20DY-----1.1---
 
Canon 5DY-----2.0---
 
Canon 5D Mark IVYmonomonoYYmini3.0YY-
 
Canon 5DS RYmonomonoY-mini3.0---
 
Canon 7D IIYstereomonoYYmini3.0---
 
Canon 5D Mark IIIYmonomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Canon 60DYmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Canon 7DYmono-Y-mini2.0---
 
Canon 5D Mark IIYmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Canon 50DY----mini2.0---
 
Canon 40DY-----2.0---
 
Canon 30DY-----2.0---
 
Canon 1D Mark II NY-----1.1---
 
Canon 350DY-----2.0---
 
Canon 10DY-----1.1---
 
Canon 300DY-----1.1---
 
Nikon D200Y-----2.0---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the 20D and the 5D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 20D was replaced by the Canon 30D, while the 5D was followed by the Canon 5D Mark II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon website.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 20D and the Canon 5D? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 20D:

  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (144x106mm vs 152x113mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 125g or 14 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (700 versus 400) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (55 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2004).


Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.7 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 25%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (9 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.9 stops ISO advantage).
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (96% vs 95%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.56x).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.5" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (230k vs 118k dots).
  • 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 modern: Was introduced somewhat (11 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 5D emerges as the winner of the match-up (10 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

20D 07:10 5D

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 20D and the Canon 5D place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 20D or the 5D perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Canon 20D..+ +..o.. Aug 2004 1,499i
 
Canon 5D88/100+ +oo.. Aug 2005 3,299i
 
Canon 5D Mark IV+ +87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i
 
Canon 5DS R+83/1005/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i
 
Canon 7D II+84/1004/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 1,799 i
 
Canon 5D Mark III+ +82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499i
 
Canon 60D+79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399i
 
Canon 7D+ +84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699i
 
Canon 5D Mark II91/10079/1004/55/5.. Sep 2008 3,499i
 
Canon 50D+ ++ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Canon 40D+ ++ +4.5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299i
 
Canon 30D+ ++ +oo.. Feb 2006 1,399i
 
Canon 1D Mark II N.......... Aug 2005 3,999i
 
Canon 350D80/100+ +oo.. Feb 2005 899i
 
Canon 10D..+ +..o.. Feb 2003 1,999i
 
Canon 300D..+ +..o.. Aug 2003 899i
 
Nikon D200+ ++ +o5/5.. Nov 2005 1,699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Canon 20D:
Check Ebay offers
Canon 5D:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Canon 20D vs Canon 5D

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon 20D Canon 5D
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Canon EF mount lenses Canon EF mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2004 August 2005
    Launch Price USD 1,499 USD 3,299
    Sensor Specs Canon 20D Canon 5D
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 22.5 x 15.0 mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 337.5 mm2 864 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 27 mm 43.3 mm
    Crop Factor 1.6x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 8.2 Megapixels 12.7 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3504 x 2336 pixels 4368 x 2912 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.42 μm 8.25 μm
    Pixel Density 2.43 MP/cm2 1.47 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 3,200 ISO 50 - 3,200 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 2 DIGIC 2
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 62 71
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.9 22.9
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.0 11.1
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 721 1368
    Screen Specs Canon 20D Canon 5D
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.56x 0.71x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 1.8inch 2.5inch
    LCD Resolution 118k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon 20D Canon 5D
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy50 000 actuations100 000 actuations
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Canon 20D Canon 5D
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 1.1 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon 20D Canon 5D
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type BP-511A BP-511A
    Battery Life (CIPA)700 shots per charge400 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 144 x 106 x 72 mm
    (5.7 x 4.2 x 2.8 in)
    152 x 113 x 75 mm
    (6.0 x 4.4 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 770 g (27.2 oz) 895 g (31.6 oz)

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