We don't have to tell you that cameras today-digital and film-are as much electronic as optical devices. And as such, they can be loaded up with a dizzying array of chip-based features. These can range from mildly hidden (a menu switch for a mechanical function, say) to the really obscure (option 3B on custom function 37 in setup menu F…), to outright undocumented. And while we've run into hidden features that might be, well, better off hidden, many of them can be useful, or just plain fun. With this profile of the Canon EOS 20D, we're inaugurating a regular feature on the lesser-known bells and whistles of popular SLR models.
Documentation report: We are happy-and also slightly frustrated-to report that the 20D is one of the best documented cameras out there. Even the eagle-eyed denizens of the PopPhoto.com forums couldn't find a single "secret" feature. If the 20D can do something, you'll find it in the instruction manual, which is generally clearly written but, of necessity, dense. And so while the manual is good at explaining the how of an operation, it's less effective at explaining the why. But then, that's what Pop Photo is for. Also, note that Canon has posted an expanded description of EOS 20D functions at www.photoworkshop.com/canon, under Tips & Techniques.
1- Color boost: Does it look like you get more vivid, saturated color when using a scene mode, such as landscape or portrait, than when you use a standard exposure mode like program or manual? There's a good reason for that: it is more saturated in the scene modes. The 20D is factory set to use Parameter 1 (vivid color) with scene modes, while Parameter 2 (natural color) is the default setting for standard exposure modes. Want vivid color as the default? Go to Parameters in the menu, and switch it to Parameter 1. It will stay put until you change it again. Want even more color boost? If you select a Set, you can make a custom color profile of contrast, sharpness, saturation, and color tone (i.e., skin tone). (Para-meter 1, vivid color, is the default with the EOS Digital Rebel, both original and XT flavors. Go figure.)
2- The ultimate point-and-shoot mode? The EOS 20D's A-DEP, or automatic depth-of-field, mode sets a focus point and aperture to ensure that the nearest and farthest subjects are in focus, and moreover, makes the calculation with one press of the shutter button. OK, you knew that, but have you been reserving this mode for landscapes-if you use it at all? It's also great for shooting irregularly arranged groups of people (like at your family barbecue), where you don't have time to check whether every person is in focus. Also just the thing for self-timer travel shots. Caution: A-DEP will set a fairly small aperture when subjects are widely spaced from the camera. Make sure you have sufficient light and/or a high enough ISO setting for a decent shutter speed.
3- Outer space can be noisy: The noise-reduction setting on the 20D (custom function 2, setting 1) is, obviously, for reducing noise in long exposures (1 sec or longer; it causes a processing delay of a second or two between shots). A growing use
for this is in astrophotography, which is regaining popularity due to the growth in digital SLRs. For tips and techniques, beam over to www.canon.co.jp/ imaging/astro/index-e.html. (The EOS 20Da model, available so far in Japan only, features live preview for manual focusing, and a modified infrared filter that enhances transmission of light of wavelength 656 nanometers-deep red-for better image quality during astrophotography. Would also make for good terrestrial infrared photography. Stay tuned for details.)