Canon EOS 50D Review

While the Canon EOS 5D Mark II has been getting all the hype since it’s release. However, the 50D which came out about the same time has been getting virtually zero publicity because of it’s bigger brothers full-frame sensor and video capabilities. So let’s take a good look at the EOS 50D and see if it is really worth an upgrade or if its just a minor refresh of the previous 40D.

Overview

The Canon EOS 50D is a 15.1 megapixel DSLR with an APS-C sized sensor. The 50D is available in a body-only or as a kit with a 28-135mm f/4-f/5.6 IS lens. If you are getting into a DSLR for the first time, the kit lens is actually a really nice general purpose lens which, by itself, sells for $410 making the kit with the lens a really good bargain.

Features

50d_front As already mentioned, the 50D features 15.1 megapixels, built-in sensor cleaner, ISO ranges from 100 – 6400. Besides some better overall specs, what really makes 50D different from previous models is the high resolution LCD display. With a large LCD with high resolution you can really see when an image is clear and sharp. Another enhancement over previous models is face detection when in Live View mode to help focus on individual faces.

Product Features
  • 15.1-megapixel CMOS sensor with improved noise reduction
  • Enhanced Live View shooting includes Face Detection Live mode
  • New Lens Peripheral Illumination Correction setting; HDMI output
  • Capture images to Compact Flash Type I or II memory cards (not included)
50d_back Technical Details
  • Camera type: Digital single-lens reflex AF/AE camera with built-in flash
  • Image sensor size: 22.3 x 14.9mm
  • Compatible lenses: Canon EF lenses (including EF-S lenses)
  • Lens mount: Canon EF
  • Sensor type: High-sensitivity, high-resolution, large single-plate CMOS sensor
  • Effective pixels: Approximately 15.10 megapixels
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2 (horizontal: vertical)
  • Color filter system: RGB primary color filters
  • Low-pass filter: Fixed position in front of CMOS sensor
  • 50d_left Dust deletion feature: Yes
  • Recording format: Design rule for camera file system 2.0
  • Image type: JPEG, RAW (14-bit Canon original), sRAW, RAW+JPEG
  • File size: Large/fine: 5 MB (4752 x 3168); large/normal: 2.5 MB (4752 x 3168); medium/fine: 3 MB (3456 x 2304); medium/normal: 1.6 MB (3456 x 2304); small/fine: 1.7 MB (2352 x 1568); small/normal: 0.9 MB (2352 x 1568); RAW: 20.2 MB (4752 x 3168); RAW+large/fine: 20.2+5 MB (4752 x 3168); sRAW 1: 12.6 MB (3267 x 2178), sRAW 2: 9.2 MB (2376 x 1584); sRAW 2+large/fine: 9.2+5 MB (2376 x 1584)
  • Color space: sRGB, Adobe RGB
  • Picture style: Portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome, user defined 1-3
  • Image processing type: Auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten light, white fluorescent light, flash, custom, color temperature setting
  • Auto white balance: Auto white balance with image sensor
  • 50D_right Color temperature compensation: White balance correction: +/-9 stops in full-stop increments; white balance bracketing: +/-3 stops in full-stop increments
  • Viewfinder type: Eye-level pentaprism
  • Coverage: Approximately 0.95x (-1m with 50mm lens at infinity)
  • Eyepoint: Approximately 22mm
  • Focusing screen: Interchangeable (Ef-D: grid lines, EF-S: point of focus, EF-A: standard focusing screen)
  • Mirror: Quick-return half mirror
  • Depth-of-field preview: Yes
  • Autofocus type: TTL-CT-SIR AF-dedicated CMOS sensor
  • AF points: 9
  • Metering range: EV 0.5 to 18
  • Focusing modes: Auto, one-shot AF, predictive AI Servo AF, AI Focus AF, manual
  • AF point selection: Automatic, manual
  • Selected AF point display: Superimposed in viewfinder and indicated on LCD panel
  • AF-assist beam: Small series of flashes fired by built-in flash
  • Metering modes: 35-zone full-aperture metering: evaluative, partial (9 percent of viewfinder at center), spot (3.8 percent of viewfinder at center), center-weighted average
  • Metering range: EV 1-20
  • Exposure control: Program AE (shiftable), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, depth-of-field AE, creative auto, full auto, programmed image control modes (portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, night portrait, flash off), manual exposure, E-TTL II autoflash program AE
  • ISO speed: Automatically set: ISO 100 to 6400 (in 1/3-stop or 1-stop increments); basic zone modes: ISO 100 to 3200 set automatically; extension settable: ISO 12800; high-tone priority settable: ISO 200 to 1600
  • Exposure compensation: Manual: +/-3 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments
  • AE lock: Auto and manual
  • Shutter type: Veritcal travel, mechanical, electronically controlled focal-plane shutter
  • Shutter speeds: 1/8000 to 1/60 second, X-sync at 1/250 second; 1/8000 to 30 second, bulb
  • Shutter release: Soft-touch electromagnetic
  • Self timer: 10- or 2-second delay
  • Remote control: Yes, with N3-type terminal
  • Flash type: Retractable auto pop-up
  • Flash metering: E-TTL II autoflash
  • Recycling time: Approximately 3 seconds
  • Flash-ready indicator: Viewfinder icon
  • Flash coverage: 17mm lens angle of view
  • FE lock: Yes
  • Flash exposure compensation: Up to +/-2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments
  • Compatible flash: EX-series Speedlites
  • Drive modes: Single, high-speed continuous, low-speed continuous, and self-timer
  • Continuous shooting speed: 3 shots/second to 6.3 shots/second
  • Live View shooting modes: Live View, remote Live View (with a personal computer installed with EOS utility)
  • Live View focusing: Manual, autofocus
  • LCD monitor: 3-inch TFT color LCD
  • Resolution: Approximately 920,000 pixels
  • Coverage: Approximately 100 percent
  • Brightness adjustment: 7 levels
  • Interface languages: 25
  • Display format: Single image, single image + image-recording quality/shooting information, histogram, 4- or 9-image index, magnified view (approximately 1.5x to 10x), rotated image (auto/manual), image jump (by 10/100 images, index screen, by shooting date, by folder), slide show (all images/selected by date/folder)
  • Image protection: Yes
  • Erase: Single, check-marked images, or all (except protected images)
  • Compatible printers: PictBridge
  • Printable images: JPEG compliant to design rule for camera file system and RAW/sRAW images
  • Interface: USB 2.0, NTSC/PAL selectable, HDMI mini out
  • Battery: Rechargeable battery pack or AA alkaline batteries
  • Camera width: 5.7 inches
  • Camera height: 4.2 inches
  • Camera depth: 2.9 inches
  • Weight: 25.7 ounces (body only)

Setup

While you  can certainly take the camera out of the box and start shooting, I will run through the setting changes that I did and why.

C. Fn I : Exposure
Custom Function 3 changed to 1 to enable ISO expansion. This is needed to shoot at ISO ranges above 3200.

C. Fn II : Image
Custom Function 3 changed to 1 to enable Highlight Tone Priority. This enables Highlight Tone Priority which can help from overexposing important aspects of your image. Note however that when this is enabled, you will not be able to go over ISO 3200 regardless of the previous setting.

C. Fn III : Autofocus/Drive
Custom Function 3 changed to 1 to enable Multi-controller direct. This option enables you to select the autofocus point by using the multi-controller (mini joystick).

Live View Function Settings
Live View Shoot set to Enable to allow for Live View mode

Expo. Simulation set to enable so the LCD show how the exposure will look when the shot is taken

Grid Display was set to the rule of thirds overlay

Other Settings

Image quality was set to RAW.

Highlight Alert was enabled in order to show “blinkies†on the LCD to show overexposed areas

Finally, I made sure the date and time was correct, dropped in a compact flash card, formatted it and I was ready to go.

Using the EOS 50D

The first thing I get asked is “How good is the ISO performance?” so let’s start there. By default the 50D can shoot ISO 100-3200. If you enable ISO Expansion then you have ISO 6400 (H1) and 12800 (H2). However, just because you CAN go up to ISO levels like that doesn’t mean it really usable. The following image demonstrates the ISO performance from ISO 800 – 12,800.

50d_iso

As you can see, the ISO performance even up to ISO 6400 is actually pretty usable. Keep in mind that no noise reduction software was used to create this image, this is right out of the camera. Even some basic noise reduction will clean up the ISO 6400 images while the ISO 12,800 images would require some significant noise reduction to really make them usable.

Differences from the 40D

After the ISO question, the second most common question is “Is the 50D worth upgrading from the 40D?” so let’s compare a few key features between the two:

40D

50D

10.1 megapixel 15.1 megapixel
Live View Live view with Face Detection
sRAW Mode 2 different sRAW modes
ISO 100 – 1,600 ISO 100 – 12,800
230,000 pixel display 920,000 pixel display
RCA video output RCA/HDMI video output

While not everyone will need the new features, I certainly think that many people who are more serious shooters like wedding photographers will really appreciate the high ISO performance, the larger megapixel count and the high resolution display. Those are certainly the key selling points for me.

50D Coolness Features

We have already looked at some of the biggest of the 50D’s features but there are a number of features hidden in the 50D that are actually pretty cool even if they don’t make the short list that everyone talks the most about.

  • Peripheral Illumination Correction: This feature corrects vignetting that happens with certain lenses
  • Live View Enhancements: Two different focusing modes are now available as well as a new face detection system for locking focus onto faces.
  • User Settings Modes: Two modes on the main dial allow you to create two custom modes for your custom settings.

How big are the images?

Well, they are pretty big. The following chart shows typical sizes for the different quality modes:

RAW 19.7mb
sRAW1 12.1mb
sRAW2 9.2mb
JPEG Fine 5.3mb

Coming from using a 30D (8 megapixel) this means that my storage requirements have just doubled.

Does it take good images?

Of course it does. Here are some samples:

_MG_6478

ISO 100 f/22 1/100 12mm

_MG_6485

ISO 3200 f/4.0 1/60 12mm

_MG_6513

ISO 100 f/4.0 1/1600 18mm

_MG_6553

ISO 200 f/16 1/160 24mm

The 50D Controversy

There is quite a lot of debate about the sensor’s pixel density and how the smaller pixels and density are a recipe for more noise. While this is a very hotly debated topic a lot of it depends on your shooting situation. You will most certainly see extra noise in areas of images that are underexposed while if you are shooting well, or slightly overexposed images you can really move up into the higher ISO ranges. As we have discussed in previous articles, digital sensors loose detail in underexposed areas while maintaining more detail in overexposed areas, thus its safe to slightly overexpose to help reduce noise and maintain detail. A good rule of thumb is to overexpose by 1/3 – 1/2 of a stop, even more if you can without clipping. Learning the nuances of how your particular camera works and where it’s unique “sweet spot” is will help you to get the best images from your camera.

Is the 50D the best choice for you?

You are the only one that can decide if any particular piece of equipment is the right choice for you. What I did was to rent the body from Borrowlenses.com for a week to really put it through its paces and do some major comparisons. After using it in a variety of conditions, I knew it was the right choice for me at this time.

KerryG

Kerry Garrison is a wedding, portrait, and product photographer living in southern California. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 3 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms. Kerry's work can be found at http://kerrygarrison.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/KerryGarrison

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