The Canon EOS 50D hasn't exactly been a well kept secret, but that doesn't make the launch of a new advanced DSLR from the manufacturer any less exciting.
Building on the "prosumer" platform currently represented by the long-running 40D, the 50D ups the ante with 15.1 megapixels, a bright and wide viewfinder, a nine-point AF system, and sensitivity to ISO 12,800.
Side-by-side comparison: EOS 50D vs. EOS 40D
Most exciting to tech heads will be the fact that Canon is debuting its next-generation DIGIC IV processor in the 50D. Providing the expected speed improvements required to handle the 50D's significantly larger captures, Canon's latest internals continue to offer 14-bit A/D conversion and live view support. In fact, several other DIGIC III functions, including Canon's Auto Lighting Optimizer (which corrects for high-contrast/backlit scenes), have been made faster and more accurate via the latest chip.
The 50D's nine-point AF system uses cross-type sensors at all points for improved focusing accuracy. As with the 40D, the center point has improved functionality for lenses faster than f/2.8. A micro focus adjustment system courtesy of Canon's high-end pro cameras is also incorporated.
Likewise, the 50D uses lens peripheral elimination technology adapted from Canon's professional line to automatically correct vignetting in camera. The 50D ships from the factory with 26 lenses pre-registered, and expand its repertoire of recognized glass to include up to 40 lenses.
As suggested above, the 50D uses an all new 15.1 megapixel, APS-C sized sensor with a 1.6x crop factor. Native imager sensitivity on the new model extends all the way to ISO 3200, but the fun doesn't stop there: the 50D includes two expansion settings that push the maximum ISO a total of two stops, to an impressive ISO 12,800. If leaked higher-sensitivity shots from this camera are to be believed, expanded settings on the 50D should be thoroughly usable should the need arise.
Resolution on the 50D's 3.0-inch LCD is a simply phenomenal 920,000 dots – the perfect compliment to the new model's face detection equipped live view mode. To this end, Canon also wisely opted to suppement the infrequently used Print/Share button with a dedicated live view function that provides quick access to on-screen composition and settings in shooting mode.
The 50D's optical viewfinder is roughly the same as its predecessor, sporting a unit with a 95 percent, 26.4 degree field of view and 0.95x magnification. As before, focusing screens are user interchangeable.
Visually, the camera retains the basic form factor of its predecessor, with a rugged magnesium shell and a straightforward arrangement that's persisted in Canon's prosumer line for awhile now. The 50D does shave a bit of weight from its predecessor, but in terms of size, look, and feel, the total package remains largely unchanged.
In spite of new processing technology, a 50 percent resolution increase over its 40D predecessor takes its toll on the 50D's shooting speed and continuous-shot buffer numbers. Compared to the 40D's claimed 6.5 fps high-speed continuous performance, the 50D manages only a nearly-as-fast 6.3 fps. The buffer supports up to 60 full-res JPEGs (down from 75) using a standard CF card, or up to 90 shots using UDMA compliant memory.
It's also possible to shoot up to 16 frames (down one, from 17) in full-res raw mode with the 50D. For shooters seeking raw-file performance but a smaller total capture, the 50D includes lower-resolution raw capture options as well.
Basic user-controlled exposure modes are, of course, all here – we'd expect nothing less from a semi-pro camera – but the 50D also carries over the 40D's list of scene presets for automated shooting and adds an interesting new auto mode of its own. The 50D's Creative Auto setting makes exposure compensation, picture styles, and other exposure and processing settings easily accessible from a single screen. Additionally, simplifying touches like a "Background Blurry/Background Sharper" slider, which adjusts aperture settings according to user selections on this easy-to-understand scale, make the 50D Canon's most broadly accessible prosumer DSLR yet.
Creative Auto Mode screen capture
Morevoer, there's no doubt that Canon's taking aim at Nikon's very solid D300, responding point for point from a specs perspective to what the Nikon brings to the table. With all of the features outlined above, plus HDMI compatibility and a durable 100,000 cycle shutter, Canon is clearly targeting not only serious shooters looking to move up, but professional and semi-professional photographers looking for a second or backup body with the 50D's impressive potential.
We'll be interested to see if this great potential translates to excellent performance when the Canon EOS 50D heads out for retail deliver in October. Canon's suggested retail price for the 50D body only (concurrent with this announcement, the manufacturer is also releasing a new EF-S 18-200mm "ultrazoom" lens as a kit companion to the 50D) is right at $1400.
Canon EOS 50D Specifications:
|Sensor||15.1 megapixel (effective), 22.3x14.9mm CMOS|
|Lens/Zoom||Canon EF/EF-S mount
|LCD/Viewfinder||3.0", 920K-dot TFT LCD with live view; pentaprism optical viewfinder with diopter adjustment, 95 percent coverage
|Shooting Modes||Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Depth of Field Priority (A-DEP), Manual, Auto, Creative Auto, Scene
|Scene Presets||Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Night Portrait, Flash Off
|White Balance Settings||Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom, Kelvin
|Metering Modes||Evaluative, Partial, Center-Weighted, Spot
|Focus Modes||AI Focus, AI Servo, One Shot, Manual
|Drive Modes||Single, Continuous, Self Timer
|Flash Modes||Auto, Forced On, Forced Off, Red-Eye Reduction|
|Self Timer Settings
||10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
|Memory Formats||CF Type I or II, UDMA compatible
|File Formats||JPEG, RAW
|Max. Image Size||4752 x 3168
|Max. Video Size
|Zoom During Video||N/A|
|Battery||Rechargeable 1390 mAh lithium-ion, 640 shots
|Connections||USB 2.0, AV output, HDMI mini out, remote terminal
|Additional Features||Live View, DIGIC IV Processor, Auto Lighting Optimizer, 9-Point AF System, 6.3 fps continuous shooting, EOS integrated cleaning system