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Canon 20D versus Canon 7D

The Canon EOS 20D and the Canon EOS 7D are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2004 and September 2009. 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 7D provides 17.9 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 7D

The physical size and weight of the Canon 20D and the Canon 7D are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth 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 the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 20D vs Canon 7D
Compare 20D versus 7D top
Compare 20D and 7D rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 7D is notably larger (8 percent) than the Canon 20D. Moreover, the 7D is markedly heavier (12 percent) than the 20D. It is noteworthy in this context that the 7D 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.

Concerning battery life, the 20D gets 700 shots out of its BP-511A battery, while the 7D can take 800 images on a single charge of its LP-E6 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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.

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» 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 700 n Aug 2004 1,499- i Canon 20D
Canon 7D« 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 7D II« » 5.9 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 32.1 oz 670 Y Sep 2014 1,799 i i Canon 7D II
Canon 70D« » 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 920 Y Jul 2013 1,199- i Canon 70D
Canon 60D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
Canon 5D Mark II« » 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50D« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
Canon 40D« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 750 n Aug 2007 1,299- i Canon 40D
Canon 30D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.9 in 27.7 oz 750 n Feb 2006 1,399- i Canon 30D
Canon XT« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 19.0 oz 400 n Feb 2005 899- i Canon XT
Canon 10D« » 5.9 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 500 n Feb 2003 1,999- i Canon 10D
Canon Rebel« » 5.6 in 3.9 in 2.8 in 22.9 oz 400 n Aug 2003 899- i Canon Rebel
Nikon D200« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 32.5 oz 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699- i Nikon D200

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 20D was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 12 percent) than the 7D, 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 7D

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the 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 7D 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.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Canon 20D and Canon 7D sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the 7D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 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 4.31μm versus 6.42μm for the 20D). However, it should be noted that the 7D is much more recent (by 5 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 7D MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the 7D has a markedly higher DXO score than the 20D (overall score 4 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.1 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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 7D« APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466Canon 7D
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 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50D« » APS-C 15.1 4752 3168-21.811.469663Canon 50D
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 XT« » APS-C 8.0 3456 2304-21.810.863760Canon XT
Canon 10D« » APS-C 6.3 3072 2048-21.110.957157Canon 10D
Canon Rebel« » APS-C 6.3 3072 2048-21.010.854455Canon Rebel
Nikon D200« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.558364Nikon D200

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The 7D indeed provides for movie recording, while the 20D does not. The highest resolution format that the 7D can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 20D vs Canon 7D

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 20D and the 7D 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 7D along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, 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 7D«optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Canon 7D
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 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 6.3 Y n Canon 50D
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 XT« »optical n 1.8 115 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon XT
Canon 10D« »optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon 10D
Canon Rebel« »optical n 1.8 118 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n Canon Rebel
Nikon D200« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Nikon D200

Both the 20D and the 7D 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 7D«Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 7D
Canon 7D II« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 7D II
Canon 70D« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--Canon 70D
Canon 60D« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 60D
Canon 5D Mark II« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50D« »Y----mini2.0---Canon 50D
Canon 40D« »Y-----2.0---Canon 40D
Canon 30D« »Y-----2.0---Canon 30D
Canon XT« »Y-----2.0---Canon XT
Canon 10D« »Y-----1.1---Canon 10D
Canon Rebel« »Y-----1.1---Canon Rebel
Nikon D200« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D200

Both the 20D and the 7D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 20D was replaced by the Canon 30D, while the 7D was followed by the Canon 7D Mark II.

Review summary: Canon 20D vs Canon 7D

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 20D better than the Canon 7D or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Canon EOS 20D:

  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 90g or 10 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (12 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2004).


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 7D:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (17.9 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 48%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • 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 (8 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 modern: Reflects 5 years of technical progress since the 20D launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 7D is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 3 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 03:11 7D

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 20D and the 7D in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available 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 7D«HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
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 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50D« »HiRecHiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
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 XT« »80/100HiRecrevrev- Feb 2005 899- i Canon XT
Canon 10D« »-HiRec-rev- Feb 2003 1,999- i Canon 10D
Canon Rebel« »-HiRec-rev- Aug 2003 899- i Canon Rebel
Nikon D200« »HiRecHiRecrev5/5- Nov 2005 1,699- i Nikon D200

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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