Canon EOS 50D

The 50D is remarkably similar to the 40D in terms of performance, looks and features — but if you can spare the extra cash, it's a much nicer package.

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Almost exactly a year after Canon's genre-busting 40D was unleashed onto the world, the 50D has entered the fray. It's a step up — not a replacement — to the much admired work-horse. But the 50D is certainly no show pony given that, at least from the outside, it looks almost identical to the 40D.

The model we received to test included the new EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens, sold as the EOS 50D Premium kit. It's an ideal model for the mid-range to advanced DSLR user — but it's also a very forgiving camera to better your craft on. But when push comes to shove, is it good enough to fend off competitors like the Nikon D90?

If you're familiar with the layout and design of the 40D, as well as the rest of Canon's EOS family, the 50D will come as no surprise. Put the two models side by side and the superficial differences are hardly noticeable — the label badge on the front, and the new chrome coated dial on the top will be your only real giveaways.

Even though it may not look it, the 50D's entire body has been redesigned around the new 15.1-megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor and the Digic 4 processor. It's also marginally lighter. Like an annoying younger sibling that insists on mimicking everything that its older brother does, it's still a hefty unit, weighing in at 730 grams without lens or battery. As a result the unit feels sturdy, and with the kit lens it bumps up the weight even more.

The camera fits comfortably in your hand thanks to the streamlined grip on the right-hand side, and all buttons and switches are within easy reach. It's good to see that the Direct Print button that was once the bane of the 40D's existence now has a more useful second function — doubling as the toggle for Canon's Live View function.

Menu interfaces and visuals have also been overhauled and they generally look better than those in the 40D, thanks to the new LCD screen. There's now also a mini-HDMI output on the right side of the camera, as well as the standard USB connectors, covered with two tough plastic flaps.

One of the most significant changes you'll notice from the 40D, at least on first inspection, is the LCD screen. It's a vast improvement on its predecessor, upped from 230,000 to 920,000 pixels. It renders colours accurately and with far greater detail than before, making even the dullest picture look vibrant — in fact, pictures often look better on-camera than they do on a computer screen. Complete with a brand new anti-reflection coating, expect to finally be able to see images in brightly lit environments. However, it's not foolproof, and on very sunny days it was still a struggle to see the images without shadowing the screen with a hand.

Creative Auto mode is a new addition to the 50D, and essentially acts as a slightly more advanced automatic mode. Choose between a blurred or sharp background and the ability to adjust the brightness, but that's all the control you get. It's a curious inclusion given that someone new to DSLRs will most likely go for a more entry-level model in Canon's line-up such as the 1000D or 450D rather than the mid-range, semi-professional 50D.

Live View in the 50D is also a significant improvement from its predecessor on the 40D. Automatic focusing is now much easier to use, and face detection is another notable inclusion, working effectively even in low light conditions.

Curiously, Live View is now only available in manual exposure modes, not in automatic or any of the preset function modes (portrait, macro etc) — something which seems odd given that it's a feature that will appeal to those upgrading from a point and shoot, expecting a similar configuration in automatic modes on a new DSLR.

There's now the added option to capture RAW images at lower resolutions, in sRAW1 and sRAW2 mode. We can see advantages and disadvantages on both sides here — it's nice to have the option of shooting at a lower resolution for RAW, but unless you have limited space on your memory card and need to shoot smaller images, it's just as easy to reduce the resolution in post-processing.

If you are expecting the latest and greatest in DSLR features on the 50D, there's one whiz-bang option that is notably absent — video recording. Though it's not a considerable disadvantage to exclude this feature, it is still an interesting move on Canon's part given the recent announcement of the Nikon D90's video mode (even if there are several quibbles with its operation and performance). The next camera in Canon's line-up that will feature high-definition video recording is the 5D Mark II, a professional model with a price tag to match. While it's likely to be a mainstay of the (presumably named) 60D, as well as other newer models in the mid-range/semi-professional DSLR category, the 50D will unfortunately have to do without.

It won't be a problem for photography purists who believe that a camera should only take pictures, but for anyone else tossing up between features in name alone, it may be the deciding factor that pushes them toward a Nikon.

Performance and Image Quality
There are no real surprises here when it comes to performance — especially when compared to the 40D — but a couple of features still caught our attention. The Digic 4 processor definitely produces cleaner images than the Digic 3, and the 15.1-megapixel sensor is a considerable boost in resolution from the 40D's 10.1 version.

Start up time is blisteringly fast — in fact, removing the rather fiddly lens cap on the 18-200mm takes longer than it does for the 50D to power on. Continuous shooting speed is down to 6.3 frames per second, from the 40D's 6.5, but given the considerable jump in resolution to achieve a comparable rate is pretty impressive. Up to 60 shots can be taken in one go, though only shooting in JPEG, not RAW. Writing to standard, rather than faster-rated Compact Flash cards, is also quick enough for standard users. However, wildlife and sports photographers should consider investing in a faster card for maximum performance.

As usual with Canon, and just as in the 40D, colours are rendered beautifully — if a little oversaturated at times.

EF-S 18-200mm IS lens
For new Canon converts and existing devotees, if you fork out an extra AU$900 on top of the 50D's AU$1,899 asking price, you'll get the premium kit, which includes the 50D body and the new EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.

As kit lenses go, the 18-200mm is an impressive unit, but it's far from the holy grail as it does have a couple of annoying features. Depending on your shooting situation, the in-built flash often has trouble reaching over the lens and illuminating the entire frame — shadowing is sometimes a problem when the flash bounces off surrounding surfaces. It's not a big problem for most photographers who opt for an external speed light unit in these situations though.

It's also sturdy; so much so that, like William Howard Taft, its weight often gets the better of it. Try shooting something with the lens pointing down and partially extended, and feel the "magic" of autonomous zoom — the rest of the lens will extend all on its own. Of course, it's a problem that can be overcome by holding the lens securely when taking these sorts of shots, but it's still somewhat disconcerting to feel it have a life of its own.

At the maximum telephoto reach of 200mm, there is a slight amount of distortion of parallel lines, though nothing so extreme that wouldn't also be noticeable on other lenses in its class. The in-built image stabilisation, which is one of the key selling points of the lens, isn't always effective — shoot in low light situations without flash, even at an ISO of 1600 and above, and there will be a small amount of blurriness when you view images at full magnification.

Speaking of ISO, there is a remarkable amount of detail in shots captured at ISO 1600, with little discernible noise. Levels can even be bumped up to as high as ISO 12800 in the customisable settings — although with the amount of noise at this level, it seems as if this setting is here only for absolute last-ditch emergency attempts at taking a shot. Autofocus is similarly accurate, and an improvement on the 40D with the inclusion of trickle-down features from the professional 1D Mark III model we saw last year.

Though the 50D isn't the successor to the 40D, it offers numerous improvements that may be worth the upgrade — or the outright new purchase — depending on your priorities. After having experienced the quality and depth of colour in the new LCD screen it will be very difficult to go back to the 40D and to other comparable models in its class. If you do a lot of on-camera reviewing and value an improved screen, consider the 50D. For most other uses though, it performs (and looks) remarkably similar to the 40D, making the choice as much about price as it is about features.

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pinto posted a comment   

can anyone please tell me the difference between D50 and 550D? I am confused which one to buy...Thank you in advance for your answers.


wheelie posted a review   

The Good:ergonomics buttons, inituitive to use function, nice weight

The Bad:no video mode like 5D or 500D

Get the 18~200 len kit, the only len ever needed,couple it witha wide angle 10~20, you can leave all the lens behind.

the colours are just amazing, and LCD screen brilliant.

I find it easy to use - many dials, couple of buttons and become second nature in no time.
Rating posted a review   

The Good:image resolution

The Bad:buttons underneath the LCD screen

this is an upgrade to my 30d (my first dSLR), which I still use.

the 50d has taken nearly 7000 images since purchased, from landscape to portriat to macro to sport, indoor and outdoor.

very versitile and forgiving with it's higher resolution (8megapixel 30d v 15megapixel 50d) which gives less noise when shooting in higher ISO settings, great for indoor or nighttime sports/landscapes and when cropping images when editing photos.

would I buy another? short answer is YES.... long answer - seeing the advantages of more megapixels, I'll seriously consider a 5d MkII with it's 21megapixels and full frame sensor....if I have the cash of course! cheers.

Peter T.

Peter T. posted a review   

The Good:Wide range of functionality that is easy to access.

The Bad:None so far

I bought my 50d a couple of months ago; upgrading from a 400d. The 50d does everything that I require of it. I enjoy its wide range of functionality that is easy to access and use.


vk2gwk posted a review   

The Good:excellent picture quality, versatile

The Bad:no real minuses

Upgraded from a 400D and have this camera for 9 months. You really have to read and re-read the manual en try out all the different features to get familiar with the whole range of possibilities of this excellent body.

Using it with a EF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM for day to day shooting and a EF 100-400mm F4.5 - 5.6 L IS USM to get distant things a bit closer. Works very well together but can get a bit heavy at times...


jd posted a comment   

Could cnet reviewers include whether a PC (Prontor Compur) flash synch connector is available, please? Flash on camera has always been considered a bit of a disaster and so having a flash well off camera is highly desirable for natural lighting.


Snappy posted a review   

The Good:Superb LCD, Start up time, multiple image formats

The Bad:On, Off Switch

Had this camera for two weeks with the only thing to fault is the location of the on off switch. It is in placing with the standard top end Canons not the 350D which I have come from. Camera seems big at first but after a short while it's amazing how it feels just the right side of sturdy for slow speed shots with little shake. I use if with a 17-85 IS USM the shots are quick and clear.

With many options for the semi-pro to play with on the camera and with the provided software. It produces just as good photos in a first time user with the preset modes. The range of settings is very impressive 2 or 10 second self timer, multiple shots or high speed, etx.. A buy you won't be disappointed in.


KegRaider posted a comment   

The Good:Awesome Photos

The Bad:Huge with the 18-200mm lense attached.

I have had this camera for about 2 months and absolutely LOVE it! The pictures it takes are fantastic, even for a non-photographer like myself. I was tired of our 'pocket' digitals taking grainy/blurry photographs of the kids, so I upgraded to this.

As I mentioned, the only fault is that it is huge with the lense attached. That said, it is only because as a society, we are so used to electrical devices getting smaller and smaller. Anyone remember the first JVC video camera!?

Once you take hold of it and snap a few photo's, you'll be glad you spent the money on such a quality camera. Honestly, who can put a price on great memories?


Mark posted a comment   

The Good:Everything, it's an excelent camera

The Bad:um well, not sure, cant fault it!

Well worth the money. i got it body only and attatched a 38mm 28-200mm lense i had from a previous camera.... should have got the 18-200IS lense. Great camera but read the instruction book! there is more to this camera than you think.


HappyShooter posted a comment   

The Good:Quality built; quality photos; flexible assignment of functions

The Bad:Buttons on back overly sensitive

I upgraded from 20D; what a jump! Great camera. I love the flexibility to assign menu items and functions to different buttons. The buttons on the back are sensitive, more than the 20D, so that I have to switch off the camera if I carry it around.

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User Reviews / Comments  Canon EOS 50D

  • pinto


    "can anyone please tell me the difference between D50 and 550D? I am confused which one to buy...Thank you in advance for your answers."

  • wheelie



    "Get the 18~200 len kit, the only len ever needed,couple it witha wide angle 10~20, you can leave all the lens behind.

    the colours are just amazing, and LCD screen brilliant.



    "this is an upgrade to my 30d (my first dSLR), which I still use.

    the 50d has taken nearly 7000 images since purchased, from landscape to portriat to macro to sport, indoor and outdoo..."

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