We dig deep and uncover more capability than you may have suspected
4- Yes, Virginia, there is mirror lockup: It's explained in the manual, but it's easy to overlook that the 20D has mirror lockup, since there's no external switch for it. Go to custom function 12, and set selection 1. The shutter release becomes a two-stage process: one press locks up the mirror, the next press fires the shutter. And yes, we think it should be an external switch, too. Caution: Remember to switch the camera back to normal operation immediately after the shots with mirror lockup, or you'll miss some pictures during normal shooting.
5- Warp speed: Go to custom function 8 and set it for "ISO expansion." That's Canonese for the user's ability to set ISO 3200 (it comes up as "H" on the top LCD control panel). Noise tested in the Pop Photo Lab to moderate (and fairly low in the moderate range, at that). So yes, you'll get some graininess, but it's not at all a bad tradeoff for candlelight shooting.
6- It's such a card: The 20D default setting is what we call "play mode": It lets you fire the camera in every mode without a CompactFlash card in the slot. And while we love play mode, it can lead to those embarrassing moments. (Remember how silly you felt when you forgot to load your film camera?) To prevent this, go to the menu, select "Shoot without card," and switch to Off. You can always go back and play later.
7- Not quite infrared: If you go to the confusingly named Parameters in the menu, you can select b&w shooting. Go one step deeper in the menu and you can choose a filter effect; red filter will give you the darkest skies. While you're poking around in the Parameters menu, also try boosting the contrast one notch to amplify the red-filter effect. On a clear, blue-sky day, you can get something reminiscent of infrared b&w without the Photoshop. Want lighter green foliage? Try the green filter effect, though it won't darken skies as much. We've found that setting a custom color temperature of 10,000 degrees Kelvin (select K on the top control panel, then go to Color temp. in the menu to dial in your setting), or shifting white balance to amber and magenta (in the menu, select WB SHIFT/BKT and move the dot on the graph to A/M) can also lighten green foliage. Don't forget to cancel these settings for normal shooting.
8- Cross processing! Yes, the white-balance shift and the color-temperature control are there for subtle fine-tuning. (You know that you don't need an 81A warming filter with the 20D, right? Just go into WB SHIFT/BKT in the menu and move the dot to A for amber.) But if you go hog-wild with the color controls (boost saturation in Parameters, then try amber and magenta shifts on green foliage, or blue and green shifts on cityscapes), some effects are almost like cross-processed film. Again, remember to cancel settings for normal shooting.
9- Keep that color for your files: The instruction manual duly warns that "JPEG images captured with the parameter set to B/W cannot be converted to color," but that doesn't stop you from maintaining full-color, full-info images while you're shooting b&w. The RAW + JPEG capture (in the Quality setting) simultaneously stores a RAW file (with all color info) even with a b&w JPEG, and you can work on them with Canon's raw converter, which comes in the 20D box. Same deal with any JPEG done with far-out color settings. Note: We're talking big files here, so choose your memory cards accordingly.
10- Do the safety shift: Decades ago, safety shift was a common feature on amateur 35mm cameras. If you had the camera in shutter-priority, say, and the light was too low for the available apertures, instead of just blinking at you angrily, the camera would intervene automatically and set a slower shutter speed. Same deal for aperture-priority. And now you can have safety shift on your 20D: just go to custom function 16 and set selection 1. We leave it on all the time. Why not, if it saves you time twirling a dial-or prevents a missed shot?
Plus, two battery bonus points!
1- The spare you didn't know about: If you have a Canon camcorder that uses the BP-512 or BP-514 Li-ion rechargeable batteries, you can also use those cells in the EOS 20D, though they're a slightly different shape.
2- Vertically unchallenged: Like the idea of the vertical grip BG-E2 but don't necessarily want to spring for another BP-511A? (Or you just want to leave your spare on the charger? Good idea.) It's not really a secret, but the BG-E2 will work just fine with a single 511A (or 512 or 514).
Note to SLR shooters: We will be profiling the inside dope on other popular models. Go to PopPhoto.com to report your own observations.