Book Report: 20D eBook

What's Next (October 2005)

As the Canon Rebel XT eBook took shape, a parallel design process was producing the EOS 20D eBook. Now it arrives in time for the picture taking season.


Professional photography demands that the tool be as professional as the photographer. When Canon created the 20D they were responding to the need to develop a camera that transcended their Professional EOS 10D which had enriched a generation of digitographers. A generation in digital terms is really only about 2.5 years, but I digress.

Here are some of the pages from the Canon 20D eBook. Of course here you can't experience all the interaction and information at full resolution, but tomorrow you could be. Click on the image to stop / start it.
When we created the DSLR: Canon 20D eBook we knew our audience needed information as solid as the camera. The number of ideas per page in these titles is large. The design makes it all as interesting and readable as it is informative. No sense going on a learning safari if it isn't fun, too. So here is a fine-tuned eBook that concentrates on the things that will benefit you the most.

A lot of it seeks to energize (or re-energize) the mental circuits that led you into photography in the first place. Every good photographer experiences the joy of getting the image right. This eBook helps get it right with the EOS 20D.

Where the predecessor 10D had a 6MP image and produced shots that were the envy of many advanced enthusiast photographers, it cost a bundle--$2000 for the body in 2002 dollars, and it wasn't the fast shot-slinger people really craved. Photojournalists, for instance, need a camera that delivers positive feelings in every way. Speed of review, instant triggering, ergonomic sensations during use and confidence in the tool's every move.

With the 20D, all the good aspects of the 10D were retained. Ergonomic feelings especially. Everything else was improved, enlarged or sped up. Within the 20D Canon's Digic II core computer is buzzing. Grabbing a shot, then grabbing a peek at what you did is virtually instant.

No less than 9 focus points zero in on your subject (the 10D had seven as does the XT) and it speeds up Continuous fps mode to a finger-numbing 5 frames per second. You can't count aloud to five faster than the camera can shoot five shots. The 20D crunches images so quick that you can shoot 5 fps in some modes almost forever. For that, you'll need a high speed CF card. Animating the Continuous mode images is very interesting. The eBook gives embedded interactive examples right in the page.

The 20D has a large, bright viewfinder with pentaprism image folding. Images here are larger than in the Rebel XT--a feature often appreciated by anyone using manual focus.

For strictly pro use, the 20D has a special mode useful only with big, honkin' Canon super tele optics, and of course, they make a bunch of those. Long Canon lenses have a button to STOP the auto-focus on demand. It can get out of hand on some subjects, but sometimes you will want to use that button for other things. Like triggering the image stabilizer, for instance. So the 20D lets you set this up several different ways.

Ever wonder why Canon long lenses are white? Trademark? First aid? Just to be different? Nope. Most pro camera gear is black, including most lenses. You know, just to look more Johnny Cash. Canon realized that by turning away heat (that white finish) keeps the inner bubble of air cooler. Cooler = less turbulent; less optically active (heat waves distort light). And most of the interior of long lenses is a bottle of air, so white it is. And cooler they are. So white is literally an optical call.

All through the 20D eBook, you get stories, side trips, factoids and infobites that explain stuff like this. The 20D is perhaps Canon's best balance of capability, professional ergonomics and features, speed and form they've produced. For the professional photographer, it's one of those "of course" acquisitions. For the advanced enthusiast, it may well be worth saving up for.

Photoshop Atomics

Canon got smart with the 10D. They included a bundled copy of Photoshop Elements with the camera, and repeated that very good idea with the EOS 300D and 20D. All of our Canon eBooks come with a whole chapter about adapting many of the iNovaFX Photoshop Actions to Photoshop Elements. Over 60 PSE processes are packed into 20 interactively illustrated pages.

But if you are a pro, you have Big Photoshop, and probably Photoshop CS2 by now. For this program--and your professional bottom line--we include the complete suite of iNovaFX Photoshop Actions. At last count there were over 530 of these. Not a misprint.

These are world-class, completely original processes you run within Photoshop to automate complex procedures. Some of these literally contain over 150 precise steps--way too many to describe one at a time to create some quick effect. But with them you can turn portraits into paintings, brides into cover-girls, piles of pictures into pages of layouts.

Every pro wants new ways to sell images. A whole attic full of graphic treatments awaits you. Certain iNovaFX Actions make watercolors, drawings and artful alterations that Photoshop's manuals and even advanced Photoshop Magazines simply can't get into, because the Actions are way too complex.

Some iNovaFX Actions do things you would normally do with glass or polycarbonate filters: Grad filter effects, Cross star filter effects, Diffusion filter effects, Vignette effects and more. But in the computer, you get to undo. The effect is not part of the shot and with many of the results, multiple layers in the result invite further custom treatment.


When you open up the instruction manual for the 20D, Canon gives you a very clear set of pointers on how each button functions. Nothing in the manual helps you become a better photographer. This is where the eBook and the manual part ways.

Of course--read the Manual. Knowing what button achieves what function is essential and the eBook goes over every one of them -- and every menu item -- as well. Better for you to hear it in the sterile surroundings of the Manual and then hear it in the context of WHY you want to punch that button in the eBook. Two heads are better than one.

Where the main manual tells you that RAW images can be produced by the camera, almost all of its discussion on the subject is concerned with how many RAW shots will be collected with certain settings. The EOS Digital Software manual goes farther but how do you use non-Canon software? Enter: Uwe Steinmueller.

Uwe brings a whole second volume to the table. RAW Materials is a separate, linked, seamlessly accessed eBook that takes RAW by the reins and shows you how to get more out of it with several software approaches.

The Long Way Home

None of these eBooks are a short course in anything. They're all deep, rewarding and give you a working knowledge of those photons you keep trying to corral, those colors you keep collecting and those creative flashes you keep pursuing.

Along the way, every button, every menu page, every feature and every boundary inherent in the subject cameras are confronted and seen for their ability to help you take better images. How can knowing where the boundaries lie help your shots? Ask an ice skater who skates to the edge yet stays on her feet. Ask a detail that stays in the frame.

You'll find out things about your eyes, your sense of inner photo editor and your latent skills in timing, seeing and orchestrating decisive moments that no camera manual on this planet ever gets into. Yet vision is what a camera mechanically mimics, and that editorial critic is what you alone can supply, so we see them as essential understandings and skills.

Why is this eBook not just a run-down on every technical point? Because photography isn't about cameras, it's about photographs. Canon made this camera so you could take photographs. Not so you could spend time thinking, "Gee, Fn 09: Shutter Curtain Sync option 01 = Second Curtain. That means sooo much to me." Having a camera isn't about gloating over your purchase, it's about getting that shot.

What you want to see is something more like this (paraphrased from the eBook):

It's a neat image, but doesn't that car look a little like it's backing up? That's what you get with First Curtain Sync. It fires the flash at the top of the exposure, and when that exposure is a significant portion of a second, the streaks from moving subjects continue forward of the flash. Rollover to see the effect of Second Curtain Sync, which fires the flash at the instant the shutter ends the exposure. The "curtain" nomenclature? That's an obsolete carry-over from film SLRs that had twin curtain shutters.

Now when your head hits the pillow, you'll have something to think about. "I wonder what the effect of photographing a dancer would be using Second Curtain Sync? Or maybe it would look better with First Curtain. Hmm. I'll bet it depends on the way she's moving. I can't wait to try it tomorrow."

Interactive rollover and rollover/click images are on nearly every page as features of the camera are compared. You'll see unambiguous comparisons of every sort that expand your working knowledge of how various settings, options, alternate techniques and new ways of solving "issues" can be applied. Shooting a picture is more than just pressing a button, it's a creative act with you in the center of the action. Many viewers see just the subject of the shot in a print or display, but the more you put into the picture, the more they are really seeing you.

Like articulate speaking, photographic creativity is something that comes out of you, not something that drifts into your camera. Without you, the camera is a battery powered paperweight. But with this eBook, you learn the vocabulary of creative photographic experiences.

The goal, as in all the previous eBooks from DigitalSecrets.Net, is to make the camera completely transparent in your hands--to demystify its buttons, menus and dials, to be sure, but to make them and all of their exotic operations into commonplace tools for your personal creative process.

Numerous examples and hundreds of InfoBites make the process a pleasure. People write us thank-you notes all the time. Here's one from yesterday:

"I am COMPELLED to thank you and Uwe for the outstanding material you have prepared in the DSLR: Nikon D70 eBook CD (That one came out a year before the 20D eBook, but is organized around the same core ideas and structure). I've enjoyed photography for more decades than I'd care to recount, and made the switch to digital several years ago.

Your book is the "one stop shop" that explains, instructs and illuminates what is really happening inside that "box"....good on you!

I appreciate your efforts on this work, thank you!" --Steve Chanel, Bel Air

Now you're not going to let the guys with the Nikon version of this eBook have all the fun, are you...

Photoshop in 7 Easy Lessons.

Sure, you can spend years learning every last thing about Photoshop. But how do you open this program for the first time and come up to speed in two hours? With Chapter 3 in the eBook.

(Already proficient in Photoshop? Step away from Chapter 3. Move along, now.)

Here, the full version of Photoshop becomes an easy program to wrap your brain around because at its core, Photoshop is really a collection of easy to use operations. But what Photoshop's Manual doesn't tell you is what we tell you right up front: Do these seven little lessons and you--the digital photographer--will be achieving results it takes years worth of experience in a darkroom to do with film images.

Photoshop isn't daunting--it's just a little strange at first. Do the seven lessons and you'll be inventing, improving and staying up late with the world's coolest video game. The one that makes your pictures more like Ansel Adams' pictures.

And Uwe Steinmueller's second-level set of Photoshop lessons will introduce you to the wonderful world of Layers. Pretty soon your spouse will be saying, "Hey, it's late. Are you coming to bed or what?"

Yes, Photoshop is that addictive once you've smoothly made it up the entrance ramp.

But wait, there's more...

Is this for real?

Press a button, do this:

Yes, it's real--one page with 16 images on it floating above the paper, twisted into place. You even have control over the color of the paper (here made the same as the color of this web page), and it's ready for printing on one sheet of letter paper. Read on.

Hard Software.

From the beginning we've included custom software for the full version of Photoshop in all of our eBooks. You have the camera, and if you've obtained the editing software that matches its performance, you will have moved up to Photoshop.

Photoshop Actions allow you to try things very quickly. One made the shot with the 16 pictures above. That's one Action? Yes, and it takes only one letter page (US Letter or A4) to pop out the print so you can hand it off to customers. Variations allow vertical and horizontal images without the twist to be generated, too. Just pop your 16 images into a folder (or organize them in Adobe Bridge) and hit the button.

iNovaFX Actions fix problems, iron out oddities (like barrel distortion, for instance, for pro architectural photographers), enhance images in a huge range of ways, present images in novel interpretations, expand your photographic range (how about ISO 6400 with your 20D?), and convert your images into stunning graphic interpretations. There's even a group that emulates some very striking contemporary motion picture visual treatments. Sin City, anyone?

Dragonfly face here has benefitted from two things found in the eBook.

#1, he was shot using a Canon f/1.8 auto-focus, auto exposure macro lens that costs about $160 if you know how to acquire it (and yes, we clue you in because there isn't a photo store out there that knows how to sell it to you), and

#2, he was treated with the iHalcyon filter that makes him look like a shot made with a Victorian era color film, if such a thing had ever existed. Rollover the image with your mouse to see the effect.

The iHalcyon series (as in "halcyon days of yore") is a color version of a nostalgic image interpretation that seeks to transcend mere Sepia treatments. Click on the frame and you'll see the cold variation that looks more like a moon-lit horror movie interpretation of Mister Monster Bug.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Shoot a portrait and process it with the iHalcyon Actions and print up the best looking one for your office wall. Some day a customer will want one just like that. Yes, you say, but it will cost you a little extra.

There are four variations in the series and they can all be produced with one click using an original idea we call the "Carnet" meaning a book of tickets you can buy all at once. In this case, you get to see all of the variations at one time, each landing in your Photoshop History palette as named Snapshots.

Since we value individual creativity, each iHalcyon Snapshot is multi-layer, allowing you to further manipulate the image until you have achieved your own personal version. So four basic variations can now become several million degrees of tweak.

The Action that builds the transparent 35mm frame at the top of this page has 148 precise sequential operations to build that image out of your 20D photo, so just listing them on a page wouldn't help. You'd never get them right if you had to do them manually, and neither would I.

Starting with the EOS 300D eBook we've expanded our software support to Photoshop Elements, and that continues with the EOS 20D eBook. Adaptions of select iNovaFX Photoshop Actions are now presented as processes you can achieve with Photoshop Elements 2 and 3. Chapter 11 gives you 20 pages of fun you'll never find in the Photoshop manual.

Fish Story Part II. The big one that didn't get away. Roll your mouse over this image to see what the all new iBCSigma8.atn Actions do to this unique lens.

Aw, gee. Do I have to own that lens to play with images? Not actually. You could use a rather normal image with the Action and get the striking interpretation found under the above image. Click+hold and ye shall find.


Every idea that's worth parking in the back of your head is worth tagging as "memorable." We tag these ideas as InfoBites, which are single paragraph ideas worth calling out as extra-noteworthy. You're not going to memorize them, but they'll be there for you when the time is right because we've given them the InfoBite logo and your brain knew that you would need this factoid later, so it parked the data in a special place in your brain reserved for purple items.

Here's a sample:

In the Medium/Normal Quality setting, you may be able to shoot literally a hundred or more images without feeling the motor drive slow at all. That Medium frame is plenty large enough to produce outstanding 11 x 14 inch (280 x 356 mm) prints at a near-optimum 178 ppi.

See how they work? It's insidious, but completely painless. You will never be able to pick up the 20D again in your entire life without remembering there's a logical way to get a hundred or more high quality shots in a single, uninterrupted gulp. Not only that, but you've been reminded gently that Medium frames make great looking 11 x 14 prints.

InfoBites tell you how the 20D can be used for time-lapse IMAX movies (seriously), how Program Shift works better here and not there, how Manual mode's metering can deliver spot-meter results into your exposure calculation, how NR mode is sometimes a Bad Idea, how AI Servo AF can help or hinder a shot, how rules of thumb help and when you need to be cautious where you put your thumbs. This list could go on for days.

I wonder which InfoBite tells me about the camera strap that improves my photography while costing as much as a first-class postage stamp?

And who would ever believe that a simple strap like that could actually improve my photos?

It's in there. Along with why this notion works.

Because this is an eBook, you search for the key word "strap" and you'll find it within seconds. Along with the explanation and some funny strap stories, too. But I digress...

In-camera Filters.

White balance can color a shot correctly or incorrectly. Special iNovaFX Photoshop Actions fix the ones where you had the camera mistakenly set to the wrong WB, but the 20D's WB circuits are much more talented than even Canon was willing to admit.

Included on the eBook package is a special set of 12 color effect filters you can put into your camera with less than one minute's work. Once they're in the camera, you can call them up at any time and instantly add a color filter effect to your shot before the image is captured. In-camera color filters for digital still cameras originated here.

Raw Power.

Uwe Steinmueller, King of digital RAW image techniques, has contributed a whole extra volume to the DSLR eBook. Here you will find out how to control RAW images with several software packages, interpreting the results to best effect.

Over the Top.

There are long lists of data, a complete listing of Canon's recommended lenses for the 20D, plus a whole section on third-party optics and accessories. There are tips on lighting, publishing, Internetting, an interactive Appendix and extended Gallery of EOS 20D images.

DSLR: Canon 20D.

556 8.5 x 11 -inch pages, over 1400 images, charts, illustrations, graphics, tables and animations. 500+ exclusive iNovaFX Photoshop Actions. Macintosh and Windows compatible. Display software, demo software, test images and much more. $49.95 + shipping. Available Nov 7, 2005. Pre-orders now.

Some of the same images appear here and in the Rebel XT eBook pages. Both cameras traveled with me as these eBooks were being produced and their images are within 1.3% of each other, so example shots from one are valid for the other.

It Keeps Getting Better Department:

Firmware Update 2.0.3 for the 20D. Just CLICK and follow instructions.


Complete Digital here for an informative comparison of the 20D and 350D.

Imaging Resource here for a report on the 20D.

Digital Photography Review here for their 20D review.

Luminous Landscape Field Report here on the 20D.

itscanon is © 2005, Peter iNova. All rights reserved. Images by the author. They're © 2006, too.
Note: This is a private series of page not supported by or associated with Canon Inc.