My life in cameras: Part 3a Canon EOS 20D and EF-S 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 review

I am going to split these posts up into camera and lens because each combination is quite unique and I can show more pictures.

I already told you how I started with a simple point and shoot camera but soon bought a “real” camera. But the picture quality left something to be desired. The dynamic range was not great and digital noise was a real problem for any kind of low light shooting. Besides I was young and very much into buying things and back then the first digital SLRs came on the market. There had been a few before but in 2004 cameras and appropriate lenses were available from the big manufacturers. And it’s 8(!) Megapixels. You might scoff when today’s cameras have 20, 30 or sometimes 100 Megapixels but your fancy 4K television set as the same amount of pixels than this 16 year old camera.

So I chose the Canon EOS 20D an upper midrange camera. Of course I could have bought the cheaper consumer model (the 300D/350D) but elitist as I was I needed to buy one step above my photography buddy at the time. And let me tell you this was a dream camera for me. I owned and used this camera for longer than any other camera to date (7 years). It had the best control scheme with three buttons on top and a dial in front and in the back to control together six functions with just a finger press and a spin of the wheel. There was small LCD on top to show all the relevant parameters (something that is again fashionable today). The camera started up instantly and the auto-focus was incredibly fast and accurate.

But there was a major drawback. That thing weighed with the standard zoom lens almost a whole kilogram. Others things bothered me after a while too. Many of my pictures were askew because the viewfinder had neither a level nor any kind of cross hairs like my old Minolta A1. But nevertheless with this camera I learned the most about photography (in a technical sense) and had lots of great memories with it.

As I again wasted my student money on this frivolous purchase I only got the cheap EF-S 18-55mm kit lens and was unable to afford a better lens for years to come. In retrospect I should have bought the cheaper camera and maybe a better lens.

Canon EOS 20D and EF-S 18-55: Examples

Canon EOS20D: Red Train
“Red Train” (12/2004) Canon EOS 20D + EF-S 18-55@31mm(50mm) F4.5 1/15s ISO 400

I like to ride the train. It is my favorite mode of transportation. I took this picture in Hamburg while visiting friends. The whole main station in Hamburg is absolutely fascinating if you are interested in that sort of thing. Of course it was very dirty and full of strange people you might not want to meet after sundown. But it had such a bustling and active atmosphere. I always wonder where and why people travel when I visit a train station. Of course I was traveling back home that day.

This shot was actually quite lucky. It might look bright but the large hall was pretty dim. At least in a photographical sense as human eyes are much more adaptable to low light than camera sensors (although that is no longer true today). I steadied myself on a railing and took a few shots. This one turned out decently sharp.

Canon EOS 20D: City Plaza
“City Plaza” (12/2004) Canon EOS 20D + EF-S 18-55@18mm(28mm) F8 1/80s ISO 100

Technically this picture is unremarkable even terrible. The sky is too bright and the trees are cut off. But that is winter photography in Germany for you. Grey overcast skies that look terrible and drown out the contrast. But I chose this image for what it depicts. A German city plaza in an unremarkable mid sized industrial city. Well the city of Hagen is not unremarkable it has quite a unique history. But it is not a city foreign tourists would visit.

In 2004 the city was not in its best shape. Most industry was gone, unemployment was high and the shopping district took a lot of hits. But ten minutes away they rebuild the old bus terminal into a new pedestrian plaza with a bustling new shopping mall and the citizens seemed quite happy with the new development. This part though felt neglected like something from the late 80s still surviving into the 20th century. I am curios how the city looks like now as I have not been there in a while.

Also grey winter weather should not stop anybody from pursuing photography. Instead of happy colorful images how about something more solemn or sad. There needs to be photography with such undertones as well. I have lots of pictures documenting these grey cities.

Canon EOS 20D: Snowy Airfield
“Snowy Airfield” (12/2005) Canon EOS 20D + EF-S 18-55@18mm(28mm) F7.1 1/125s ISO 100

Another winter image. This time the sky was a bit more cooperative. This is part of the old airfield in Gatow in West Berlin. It is now an Air Force museum and I highly recommend a visit although it is not well connected by public transport. One reason why people visit Berlin is it’s history in the Cold War (as if this is all of Berlin’s history *sigh) and instead of going to the super touristy DDR Museum visit this one. It covers the history of the German Air Force from World War I to mostly the end of the Cold War. You also learn how the allies of course tried to use this base to spy on their enemy.

Canon EOS 20D: Cement Works
Cement Works (08/2009) Canon EOS 20D + EF-S 18-55@28mm(45mm) F6.3 1/800s ISO 100

Let’s skip the winter and take nice late summer stroll through river park and suddenly this cement works pops up. I am very much intrigued by industrial architecture but unfortunately my home has little of it left. In fact most western countries saw their old industry go and replaced by services. And what is left looks more like a giant hall and no longer the older style with pipes, chimneys, concrete boxes and so on. This little plant is a small reminder of a time that is vanishing in many advanced economies. But cement or concrete is one of the few industrial products still produced locally everywhere around the world. Behind this plant is an old industrial area with a huge power plant but also new housing. Instead of visiting the “Fernsehturm” have a look at “Rummelsburg”.

Canon EOS 20D: Yellow Tram
“A yellow tram” (05/2009) Canon EOS 20D + EF-S 18-55@28mm(45mm) F6.3 1/60s ISO 100

There is rubble and tram and this is so Berlin. In this area many of the old houses were being renovated and upscaled for wealthy newcomers and one would see these large containers full of rubble everywhere. Right behind is one of the many yellow trams. Some lines are called “party tram” because they would ferry tourists and party goers from one hotspot to the next to the detriment of the people living there. International tourism was not a net win for this city. It brought little money for the city or at least the money was not used to improve services and infrastructure. It raised the cost of living dramatically. It also destroyed whole neighborhoods with airbnbs and hip bars and cafes where the waiters would speak English to you. Nevertheless it is a nice place and the newcomers made it their expatriate home…it is not really Berlin anymore though.