I've owned the 20D since 2004 and my main criticism is it's dynamic range compared to print film (which I preferred to slide film because of difficulties shooting dark/light scenes).

Can anyone tell me how much of an improvement the latest technology is (eg 7D) and whether full frame sensors are much better again? Using this site http://www.dxomark.com, it looked like there isn't significant improvement (not what i wanted to hear) so I thought I would ask people about real life usage.


  • Any current full frame camera, plus quite a few APS-C ones as well, will blow the doors off the 20D for dynamic range (amongst other things) at this point. As Itai noted, the K-5 is an APS-C which exceeds the DR of medium format and the Nikon D7000 isn't far behind. The 20D is a good camera, but the current lineup of all major players exceeds it. – John Cavan Jan 9 '11 at 21:51
  • Excellent question. Not many people seem to consider this when looking at new cameras. – AJ Finch Jan 11 '11 at 13:06
  • My view on this seems a bit controversial, and it is more on overall image quality, not so much DR: From what Ive seen in real photos (not lab tests) is that digital cameras evolved rapidly up to 2009 with the introduction of cmos microlenses. Since that it is mostly on the feature side they improved. The thing is that images from older cameras have a lot of noise in the dark areas, visible even on downscaled images, while newer cameras 2009+ has noise if you view at 100% crops, but it goes away when you print/resize for screen. I assume you are not printing A0 posters. – Michael Nielsen May 15 '13 at 6:15
  • pixelpeeping high iso tests between canon and the sony based cameras, you see a mnarginally smoother result from the sony based cameras but it is also less detailed. dpreview.com/reviews/pentaxk5/20. try iso 6400. Very small differences. – Michael Nielsen May 15 '13 at 6:30

I guess you don't call 3 EV significant? I would say, it is, but it is subjective. Even one EV is a big, step as it represents twice the contrast for each additional stop.

DxOMark says the DR of the Canon 20D is 11 EV while the Pentax K-5, which is the top model in terms of DR now, shows 14.1 EVs. There are a few models that capture above 13 EVs.

EDIT: With respect to full-frame vs non-full-frame, the current state is that besides the Nikon D3X, the top performers in terms of dynamic-range are either cropped-sensor (Pentax K-5, Nikon D7000, Fuji S5, etc) or medium-formats.

Side note: You may notice that it took years of improvements in conventional sensor design to catch up with the Fuji S5 Pro.

  • 1
    Thanks for reply - we must be looking at different data, this link... dxomark.com/index.php/en/Camera-Sensor/Compare-sensors/… ...says 11EV (20D) Vs 11.7EV (7D) - even 13EVs would sound like a fair improvement. – user3131 Jan 9 '11 at 21:08
  • @Steve - DR is only one aspect. High ISO performance, shutter speeds, frame rates, and a lot more go into the difference if you compare the 20D to something like the 7D. Having said that, if you aren't feeling limited by the 20D and you enjoy what you see, then why change? Any and all upgrades should be compelling, otherwise it's just an never-ending cycle. – John Cavan Jan 9 '11 at 21:53
  • @Steve - You just chose a poor example. DxOMark shows you the ranking of all sensors, so you do not even have to guess which camera ranks higher in any metric. Here is the link of cameras ordered by dynamic range: dxomark.com/index.php/en/Camera-Sensor/Sensor-rankings/(type)/… – Itai Jan 9 '11 at 22:00
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    @Itai - thanks, that link is much clearer - it does just show that the increase in DR in the canon range over 6 years is minimal, especially when you look at the same graph for Nikon and Pentax. – user3131 Jan 9 '11 at 22:10
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    @Matt - I know and they do. The trouble I always have with DxOMark is that it boils down each thing to one number. If you compare the DR of the K-5, S5 Pro and 1Ds Mark III you can that the K-5 is superior at DR at ALL ISO sensitivities. This not the case of the K-5 vs S5 Pro. See for yourself: dxomark.com/index.php/en/Camera-Sensor/Compare-sensors/… - Click on the Dynamic Range tab to see what I am referring to. – Itai Jan 10 '11 at 2:32

In my experience, I've noticed much more fine detail in shadows and highlights when I upgraded from the 20D to the 5D mk II. Of course, the increas is only beneficial until you display the images on screen - whilst you consider the current range of sensors use 14 bit depth to capture the intensity of each colour component in the image, graphics cards only work to 8 bits per channel; obviously if you're printing, then you can use the luxury of 16 bits per channel, but you're stil going to be limited by the colour gamut of your printer.

The extended bit depth is especially useful if you shoot in RAW mode, and you need to do some exposure compensation off camera. The later cameras are a lot more forgiving than the 20D is, but it is still better to get it right "in camera".

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