Canon EOS 50D Review – Best Of Modern Ages

Canon has just unveiled the EOS 50D, almost precisely one year after the launch of the EOS 40D. According to the company, the 50D will not be a replacement model but rather a sister model to the 40D.

In recent years, Canon has introduced new models around every 18 months; but, this year has been exceptionally active, and newcomers like the Nikon D300 have garnered a lot of interest in the section of the market that is served by the 40D.

The Canon 50D is simply a 40D body that has been wrapped around a newly designed 15-megapixel sensor. This sensor finally fixes the issue in which Canon’s XXD series lagged behind the company’s entry-level line in terms of the number of megapixels it could capture.

Canon asserts that despite the greater resolution, image noise has been improved as a result of the new sensor’s design, which includes new manufacturing techniques, revised photodiodes, and microlenses. This is something that we will be putting to the test in the next paragraphs.

The addition of a brand-new LCD panel with a higher resolution is the second significant alteration that has been made. The fact that it has 920,000 dots indicates that it is capable of displaying 640 by 480 RGB pixels, which essentially makes it a VGA standard monitor. The screen has three layers of anti-reflection technology integrated into it, which try their utmost to make it usable even in bright environments.

What’s new / what’s different

15.1 megapixel CMOS sensor

The APS-C sensor used in the Canon EOS 50D has a higher pixel count than any other Canon sensor to date. The manufacturer claims that the improved production techniques, in addition to the revised photodiodes and tiny lenses, enhance the sensor’s capabilities for receiving light. Because they have increased the ISO sensitivity range to 12,800, it is clear that they are feeling secure (100-3200 standard range). DIGIC 4 image processor, 14-bit analog to digital converter

The EOS 50D is the first Canon SLR to have the new DIGIC 4 processor, which is quick enough to write photographs with a resolution of up to 15 megapixels to the memory card at a rate of up to 6.3 frames per second. Canon asserts that using a UDMA card would increase the buffering, which will then enable the camera to take up to 90 JPEGs in a single burst. DIGIC 4 is also responsible for the slick new user interface.

Gapless Microlenses

It would appear that the sensor of the Canon 50D possesses what are essentially gapless microlenses, which considerably boosts the effectiveness of each individual pixel. To see how the EOS 40D stacks up against the EOS 50D, click on the comparison image above. Enhanced capabilities for viewing the content in real-time

Using a contrast-detect autofocus system

It comes as no surprise that the EOS 50D has a contrast-detect autofocus system (and, naturally, face detect AF).

EOS Integrated Cleaning System: an overview

The EOS 50D features a new fluorine coating, which is now standard throughout the whole EOS line. Canon claims that this new coating results in an enhanced system for the EOS 50D.

LCD with a new Clear View of 3.0 inches

An area in which the EOS 40D was really starting to lag has been addressed in the EOS 50D with the addition of a new 920,000-pixel (VGA x RGB) screen. Based on our preliminary comparisons, this screen appears to be even better than the one that can be found on the Nikon D3, which is saying a lot considering that the Nikon D3 already had a lot going for it (by virtue of its lower reflectance and wider viewing angle).

Display for Quick Controls

Taking a page from Olympus and Sony’s playbooks, Canon has expanded the functionality of the info panel found on the EOS 40D such that the joystick controller can now be used to control anything displayed on the screen.

Mode d’auto-creation créative

A new variation of the program mode automatically handles the camera’s focus and exposure settings, and it employs straightforward sliders to let users adjust the background sharpness (depth of field), as well as the AE compensation.

Correction of the Peripheral Illumination (PIC)

The vignetting correction is specific to each Canon lens and is pre-programmed using the company’s extensive lens database.

There are four different degrees of high ISO noise reduction.

The Canon EOS 50D is the first digital single-lens reflex camera from the company to provide four distinct degrees of high-ISO noise suppression (including OFF).

Option for extra tiny sRAW files.

The EOS 50D has an additional RAW shooting mode as if the EOS 40D did not already provide you with a sufficient number of options regarding file size and image quality (so you can now capture RAW files at 15.1MP, 7.1MP, or 3.8MP).

Modifications made to the user interface

The user interface of the EOS 50D has been stylishly redesigned thanks to DIGIC 4, and it now has some extremely nice ‘fades’ that transition from one menu option to the next in the menu.

Better environmental sealing

According to what we have been informed verbally, the body of the 50D offers better environmental sealing than the EOS 40D owing to slightly different construction and tighter seals. This is in comparison to the EOS 40D’s body, which had poor environmental sealing.

The output of HDMI

An HDMI output that’s compatible with HDTV televisions is one of the new features of the EOS 50D.

AF Microadjustment

The AF micro adjustment capability, previously only available on higher-end EOS models, is now available on the 50D. You have the option of adjusting all lenses by the same amount or up to 20 lenses independently, with each adjustment allowing for +/- 20 increments.

Design

The only thing that has been altered on the front of the camera is a label that now reads 50D rather than 40D, and a closer inspection of the camera in its whole does not reveal very many other differences. The top of the mode dial is now silver rather than the previous dark gray color, and it has a brand new mode labeled “CA” (Creative Auto).

But there is one more modification, which is one that we are pretty delighted to see, and that is the addition of a helpful purpose to the button that says “direct print.” The button that was highly derided for printing now serves dual-use and provides quick access to live view.

The structure and materials are carried over from earlier EOS x0D cameras, with the majority of the front and back of the camera being made up of a two-piece magnesium shell. Canon claims that this time around, the production tolerances have been improved, resulting in closer shut-lines and a better degree of protection against the weather.

Side by side

When compared to the 40D, it is difficult not to question whether it would have been quicker to shoot the two items simultaneously in PhotoShop rather than taking the pictures of them to side by side. However, we have not received any complaints regarding the 40D’s design; therefore, it is possible that Canon’s choice to not make modifications solely for the purpose of making changes is justified.

Within your grasp

The EOS 50D feels precisely the same in your hand as the EOS 40D did, and just as we stated about that camera, it is strong, trustworthy, and “fully sorted” in terms of its ergonomics. (Extremely so in comparison to the Rebel range of cameras that came before it).

LCD Monitor

The presence of a vastly better LCD is one of the most noticeable distinctions between the two versions. However, the resolution has increased from 230,000 dots to 920,000, despite the fact that the size has remained the same at 3.0 inches. This is practically the same as increasing the resolution from 320 by 240 RGB pixels to 640 by 480 RGB pixels, which brings it up to the same level as the most recent high-end Nikons and the Sony A700. It also has a three-layer anti-reflective coating, which, in comparison to the coatings found on the other cameras in the workplace, appears to be very amazing.

LCD control panel

A large LCD control screen can be found on the top of the camera, and it displays a great deal of information on the various exposure settings and camera settings. The primary numeric area of the panel also serves a dual purpose in providing other kinds of information, such as the “Busy” alert and the ability to pick an AF point, among other things. It looks like the panel is the same as the one that can be seen on the 40D.

Mounting Options

Base or Tripod Even though it hasn’t been given much of a chance to grab the tripod plate, the tripod mount has managed to keep its original position. The connector is safeguarded by a rubber cover (for communicating with the optional WFT-E3A wireless grip).
Lighting from within

It has a guide number of 13 (about 3.3 meters at 17 mm / 2.3 meters at 85 mm; ISO 100), a wide-angle coverage of 17 mm, and an E-TTL II pop-up flash, which is the same as the 40D, 30D, and 20D. With support for E-TTL II, information about the distance between the lens and the subject is now included in the calculation of the necessary flash power. 1/250 of a second is the flash sync speed.

AF Assist

The autofocus assist on the Canon 50D is provided by the built-in flash, much like on most of Canon’s prior DSLR models. You are required to elevate the flash unit, which will strobe in order to give illumination to the AF system when there is insufficient light. This is in place of having a separate lamp that would aid the AF system.

Flash from the outside

The hot-shoe of the EOS 50D is compatible with flash units made by Canon as well as those made by third-party manufacturers (sync only). As is the case with the built-in flash, the hot shoe has support for E-TTL II metering, which derives the necessary flash power from the distance information provided by the lens.

This is compatible with each and every Canon lens (although distance information is only provided by lenses with ring-type USM motors). You’ll also notice the new weather seal surrounding the flash, which is designed to operate in tandem with the more recent 580EX II Speedlite.

Lens Mount

Because the EOS 50D features a standard metal EF / EF-S lens mount, it is compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses, in addition to third-party lenses that are compatible with the mount. All lenses are subject to a field of view crop (also termed focal length multiplier) of 1.6x since the sensor is smaller than a 35 mm frame. As a result, a 17 mm lens delivers the same field of view as a 27.2 mm lens on 35 mm film.

Included Within the Packaging

The EOS 50D may be purchased as either the body itself or as a package with either the EF-S 17 – 85 IS or the EF-S 18 – 200 IS lenses. Both of these lenses are interchangeable. The following items are contained within the body-only box:

  • body for the Canon EOS 50D Digital SLR camera
  • Eyecup Eb
  • battery pack with lithium-ion chemistry model BP-511A
  • Charger for batteries, model CB-5L (or CG-580).
  • Neck strap
  • Connector USB
  • Video Cable
  • CD-ROMs
  • Solution Disk for the Canon EOS
  • EOS Utility
  • ZoomBrowser EX (Enhanced)
  • Remote Capture
  • The Professional Digital Photographer
  • Manuals / Reg. card

Viewfinder

The 0.95x magnification viewfinder from the EOS 40D is carried over to the EOS 50D. It has a well-designed structure that prevents distortion and corner softness. In the same way as in earlier versions, the eyepiece rubber may be removed, making it possible to replace it with the eyepiece cover, a different eyepiece, or an angled finder.

Displays that focus on

The 40D’s ability to shift focusing screens is carried over to the 50D, which means users with special requirements can continue to do so:

  • Standard precision matte ef-a coating
  • the focusing screen that was provided for you, was bright and had a standard matte
  • Matte EF-D Precision with a grid
  • a surface with a matte finish, which makes manual focusing simpler, and the inclusion of a grid pattern
  • Super Precision Matte Ef-S Finish
  • even more matte, but obviously a touch darker, suitable for lenses with an aperture of F2.8 or faster
  • Screen for focusing as it was provided with the installation arm
  • The variety of focusing screens available for the EOS 50D.

Viewfinder view

A little ‘D+’ sign appears in the viewfinder to indicate whether or not the Highlight Tone Priority setting is enabled.

In automated AF point selection mode, the AF points picked by the camera are momentarily highlighted when you commence AF (half-press the shutter release / AF button), and in all other modes, the selected AF point is highlighted. The behavior of the AF point has not changed. In the setting that allows for automated AF point selection, the AF point won’t get highlighted until after an AF lock has been obtained. When there is just one AF point set, it will flash twice: once after you are halfway through the shutter release, and again when it has locked (or not at all if no AF lock was possible). When using AI Servo AF mode (with the shutter release button held down halfway), the selected AF point only blinks once before beginning to track AF.

Storage Space for Batteries

The door to the battery compartment of the EOS 50D is just a simple clip that locks it, and it’s located at the bottom of the hand grip. The door panel itself may be removed (to make way for the optional battery grip). The BP-511A lithium-ion battery pack, which is included with the EOS 50D, has a capacity of 1390 mAh and operates at 7.4 volts (10.3 Wh). The cable that connects the optional AC adapter’s fake battery to the camera emerges via a little rubber flap that is located on the inner edge of the hand grip (the one that is closest to the lens mount).

Charger for the Battery

The CB-5L battery charger is included with the Canon EOS 50D digital single-lens reflex camera, and it is comparable in size and weight to the chargers that came with earlier EOS x0D SLR models. Charge completion is indicated by a blinking LED that is located on the top of the charger. The charging process takes around 90 minutes.

Wireless Battery Grip for WFT-E3/E3A Devices (optional)

The EOS 50D is compatible with all three of the battery grips that were available for the EOS 40D. The BG-E2 (which is identical to the battery grip included with the EOS 20D and 30D), the BG-E2N, which is essentially identical to the BG-E2 but features rubber seals around the door of the battery compartment, and finally, the WFT-E3/E3A wireless battery grip. One thing that the WFT-E3/E3A does not do is supply any additional power to the camera. As you can see, the design of the WFT-E3/E3A is different from the BG-E2 series since it does not include the false battery stalk. Instead, the battery for the camera is kept within the camera itself, and the grip simply snaps into the underside of the camera (and communicates through a new connector).

You will be able to shoot wirelessly (802.11b/g) directly to FTP servers if you have a WFT-E3/E3A, and you will also be able to have two-way communication via PTP and HTTP. In HTTP mode, you will have full remote control of the camera, including the ability to watch a live view, make adjustments to the settings, and snap pictures. Although only tiny flash drives can be powered by the grip, the USB port may be used to save directly to external USB hard disks and supply GPS data from USB GPS devices. The USB port is located on the bottom of the gadget. Images taken using the 40D.

Storage Space for Compact Flash Cards

The door of the Compact Flash compartment on the EOS 50D may be opened by sliding it towards you and then flipping it outwards. This compartment is located in the back corner of the hand grip. After the CF card has been ejected, the door itself swings open on a metal hinge and provides ample space for removing the card. On the quick control dial, the CF activity light may be seen at the bottom right corner. The Canon EOS 50D supports not just Type I and Type II Compact Flash cards, but also the faster and more modern UDMA standard as well as the Compact Flash + standard. The Canon EOS 40D only supports Type I and Type II Compact Flash cards (including the >2GB, FAT32 types).

Connections

The connections for the Canon 50D are all located along the left side of the camera, below a rubber flap that has been split in half. In all intents and purposes, there are now two columns of connections, each of which has its own cover. PC sync and the remote terminal (N3) are located on the left side, and video-out and USB 2.0 are located on the right (Hi-Speed). The 40D does not come equipped with an HDMI port, however, the 50D does.

Controls

The exposure Mode Dial is located on the top of the camera (to the left).

The dial that controls the camera’s exposure settings may be found on the top of the device, to the left. This governs the operation of the exposure, which can be entirely automated, a preprogrammed scene composition, a flexible program, a variety of manual and semi-automatic options, or one of the three places designated as “camera user.”

These exposure modes are separated into two categories: basic and creative in the user handbook that comes with the Canon camera. One of the user-customizable setting banks (C3) seen on the 40D has been removed from the 50D, but in its place is a mode called Creative Auto (CA). The new model provides an easier-to-use interface that makes it possible for the user to configure the exposure not in terms of the exposure parameters but rather in terms of the image outcomes that they wish to achieve.

Basic zone exposure modes

Full Auto and the six scene exposure modes are referred to collectively as the “Basic Zone,” and while in this “Zone,” certain settings are either fixed, limited, or unavailable, as shown in this table. Full Auto is the only exposure mode that can be used in conjunction with the scene exposure modes. The second table provides extensive information on the variable settings. The user now has the option of shooting RAW files in Basic zone modes, which was not previously available.

Fixed settingsFixed or limited settingsUnavailable settings
Metering mode (Evaluative)AF modeCustom functions
Color space (sRGB)Drive modeAE lock
Flash compensation (0 EV)Flash modeBracketing
Exposure compensation (0 EV)Picture Style 
ISO sensitivity (Auto)  
White balance (Auto)  
Focus point selection (Auto)  

In the basic zone, the camera will indicate that blur may occur due to slow shutter speeds by blinking the shutter speed on the LCD panel and viewfinder status bar. This is done in order to warn the user that blur may occur.

There are few possible configurations available in the Basic zone.

IconBasic zone modeAF
mode
Drive
mode
Flash
mode
Picture Style
Fully Automatic Exposure

Camera has complete control over exposure, point-and-shoot operation.
AI Focus• Single
• Self-Timer
• Auto
• Red-eye
Standard
icon portraitPortrait

Apertures are kept as large as possible (small F number) to produce a shallow Depth of Field (blurred background).
One Shot• Continuous
• Self-Timer
• Auto
• Red-eye
Portrait
icon landscapeLandscape

Apertures as small as possible (large F numbers) for the largest depth of field.
One Shot• Single
• Self-Timer
• OffLandscape
icon macroClose-up (Macro)

Aperture is kept to a medium setting to ensure the subject DOF is deep enough but the background is blurred.
One Shot• Single
• Self-Timer
• Auto
• Red-eye
Standard
icon sportsSports

Shutter speed is kept as high as possible to ensure capture of fast moving objects.
AI Servo• Continuous
• Self-Timer
• OffStandard
icon nightNight Scene

Allows for slow shutter speeds combined with flash to illuminate foreground and background.
One Shot• Single
• Self-Timer
• Auto
• Red-eye
Standard
icon flashoffFlash off

Disables internal and external flash for taking automatic slow exposures.
AI Focus• Single
• Self-Timer
• OffStandard

Creative zone exposure modes

There are six different exposure modes, and among them are the ones that are most used among the camera’s prosumer and professional users. These modes make all of the menu functions and camera settings available to the user, and they may be combined in any way they see fit. In the manual exposure modes (Tv, Av, and M), you control the shutter speed with the main dial (top), and you control the aperture with the quick control dial (rear). You may reverse the operating orientation of these dials by pressing the C.Fn IV-4 button.

IconDescription
icon CACreative Auto

A new mode in which exposure is set using two sliders – one representing depth-of-field, the other representing brightness, essentially sticking a ‘results-orientated’ face onto the aperture-priority mode.
icon modepProgram Auto Exposure (Flexible)

Very similar to AUTO exposure but you have access to all the normal manual controls, can set the ISO, exposure compensation, use AE lock, bracketing etc. Program AE is flexible which means that you can select one of a variety of equal exposures (in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps depending on C.Fn I-1) by turning the main dial. Example:
       
 • 1/30 F2.8 (metered)
 • 1/20 F3.2 (turn left one click)
 • 1/15 F4.0 (turn left two clicks) etc.
icon modetvShutter Priority Auto Exposure

In this mode you select the shutter speed and the camera will calculate the correct aperture for the exposure (depending on metered value; metering mode, ISO). Shutter speed is displayed on the viewfinder status bar and on the top LCD, turn the main dial to select different shutter speeds. A half-press of the shutter release causes the camera’s exposure system to calculate the aperture, if it’s outside of the camera’s exposure range the aperture will blink. You can select shutter speeds from 30 to 1/8000 sec in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps depending on C.Fn I-1.
icon modeavAperture Priority Auto Exposure

In this mode you select the aperture and the camera will calculate the correct shutter speed for the exposure (depending on metered value; metering mode, ISO). Aperture is displayed on the viewfinder status bar and on the top LCD, turn the main dial to select different apertures. A half-press of the shutter release causes the camera’s exposure system to calculate the shutter speed, if it’s outside of the camera’s exposure range the shutter speed will blink. The range of apertures available will depend on the lens used but 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps can be selected via C.Fn I-1.
icon modemFull Manual Exposure

In this mode you select the aperture and the shutter speed from any combination of the above (plus BULB for shutter speed, apertures limited by the lens used). Top dial selects shutter speed, rear dial selects aperture. Half-press the shutter release and the meter on the viewfinder status bar and top LCD will reflect the exposure level compared to the calculated ideal exposure, if it’s outside of +/- 2EV the indicator bar will blink either + or -.
icon modeadepAutomatic Depth-Of-Field AE

In this mode the camera automatically controls the depth of field (via aperture) to ensure that all the subjects covered by the focusing points, from those close to the camera to those far away from the camera remain sharply defined.

Controls at the very top of the camera (right)

The LCD status panel is located on the top of the camera on the right side. Directly above this are four buttons, including one for the LCD backlight and three control buttons (see below). The primary dial and the button that releases the shutter are located in front of these. The AF-ON, AE-Lock, and focus point selection buttons are located along the rear of the camera, directly ‘under your thumb.’ To change the settings, you must first push the button once, then spin the dial, and last, you must half-press the shutter release button to go back to shooting mode (or press another button).

When compared to the 40D, the functionality of the three buttons located directly above the status LCD has not changed.

Top panel buttons

The following table provides an explanation of the connection between the various buttons on the top panel settings and the parameters that may be modified by rotating either the main dial (top) or the fast control dial (rear).

ButtonMain dialQuick control dial
meteringwbMetering mode

 • Evaluative (35 zone)
 • Partial (9% of screen)
 • Spot (3.5% of screen)
 • Center Weighted Average
White balance

 • Auto
 • Daylight
 • Shade
 • Cloudy
 • Tungsten
 • Fluorescent
 • Flash
 • Custom
 • Kelvin temperature (2800 – 10000 K)
afdriveAuto focus mode

 • One Shot (focus lock on half-press)
 • AI Focus (locks but monitors movement)
 • AI Servo (continuous predictive focus)

AI Focus mode initially locks just like One Shot mode but monitors the focused subject, if the subject moves it will automatically switch to an AI Servo operation.
Drive mode

 • Single shot
 • Continuous L (3 fps)
 • Continuous H (6.5 fps)
 • Self-Timer 10 sec
 • Self-Timer 2 sec

You can optionally combine self-timer with mirror lockup (to reduce mirror induced vibration) via C.Fn III-6.
isoflashcompISO sensitivity *

 • Auto
 • 100
 • 200
 • 400
 • 800
 • 1600
 • 3200
 • H1 (6400)
 • H2 (12800) (enabled via C.Fn I-3)
Flash compensation

 • +/-2 EV
 • 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps (C.Fn I-1)

* Shown in 1-stop steps, 1/3-stop ISO steps can be selected via C.Fn I-2.

Under your thumb buttons (Shooting mode)

ButtonOperation
afonAuto focus start

The AF-ON button allows you to trigger auto focus independently of the shutter release ‘half-press’. The EOS 40D is the first EOS x0D series to get the AF-ON button and indeed it’s a fairly recent new feature to even Canon’s professional EOS-1D series. Note that you can re-program the exact function of the AF-ON button via C.Fn IV-1 or you can switch the AF-ON button and AE/AF lock button via C.Fn IV-2 (all custom functions detailed in the menus section of this review).
icon aelockAE / FE Lock

Press to trigger automatic exposure and lock the exposure for the next shot. Hold the button to lock the exposure for more than one shot.
icon afpointAF point selection button

Press to choose a single AF point, turn the main dial or the quick control dial to scroll around the available AF points. Alternatively you can also use the new multi-controller to select a point directly (press the selector for the center point). The exact function of this button can be programmed via C.Fn III-3.

Under your thumb buttons (Play mode)

ButtonOperation
icon thumbThumbnail index / reduce

If in single view play mode, pressing this button will switch to a 2×2 thumbnail index, press again for a 3×3 index. If already magnified pressing this button reduces the magnification level.
icon magEnlarge

Press to magnify the current image, there are fifteen steps up to a maximum magnification of 10x. Once magnified you can use the multi-controller to move around the image.

Controls on the back of the camera

The rear controls of the EOS 50D have a configuration that is almost identical to the one seen on its predecessor. To identify the only two points of differentiation, you will need to examine them extremely carefully. The JUMP button has been removed from the 40D and replaced with a FUNC. a button that offers greater customization options. Now, there is a button labeled “Direct Print,” which, in addition to its primary purpose of printing, now also serves as a “live view” button.

Shooting mode

ButtonOperation
icon menuEnter / Leave the Menu

The camera menu is described on the following pages of this review. [clip]
icon infoInformation

Displays current camera settings / information (two styles are available). [clip]
pstylePicture Style

Displays the Picture Style selection / adjustment screen. [clip]
FUNC.FUNC button
one
This button by default takes you to the Live View function settings, however it can be configured to one of five different functions via C.Fn IV-7.
multicontrollerMulti-selector

By default a press of the multi-selector takes you straight into the Quick control screen. However, you can customize it to provide direct selection of AF point via C.Fn III-3 instead.
icon reardialQuick Control Dial

With the power switch in the third position (one step past ON) the Quick Control Dial can be used to change exposure compensation (steps depend on C.Fn I-1).
icon setSET button

This button by default has no function in shooting mode, however it can be configured to one of four different functions via C.Fn IV-3.

Play mode

ButtonOperation
icon menuEnter / Leave the Menu

The camera menu is described on the following pages of this review. [clip]
icon infoInformation

Press to change the type and level of information shown along with the image:

 • Large image + status line (shutter speed, aperture, comp, filename, card)
 • Large image + status line + image size & quality + image number
 • Small image + status line + lum histogram + detailed shooting info
 • Small image + status line + lum histogram + RGB histogram + detailed shooting info
icon playPlay

Displays the last image taken (or the last image on the card). The EOS 50D is a shooting priority camera, which means that no matter what is displayed on the rear LCD this will be canceled if any of the camera’s photographic functions (example half-pressing the shutter release or AF-ON) are accessed.
icon eraseErase

Press to erase the current image, displays an OK / Cancel dialog.
icon reardialQuick Control Dial

Turn the Quick Control Dial to browse through images (the main dial can be used to jump images).

Image Quality

ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels

The ability to raise the sensitivity of the sensor of a digital camera is referred to as the ISO equivalent setting. The “volume” (gain) of the sensor’s signal amplifiers is increased in order for this to operate properly (remember the sensor is an analog device).

When you magnify the signal, you also boost the noise, and the noise becomes more apparent as the ISO value increases. At greater sensitivities, a lot of today’s cameras also make use of noise reduction and sometimes even sharpness decrease.

We take a series of pictures of a GretagMacBeth ColorChecker chart in order to determine the amount of background noise (controlled artificial daylight lighting). The exposure is calibrated to the ISO (for example, ISO 200 and 1/200 of a second to maintain exposure uniformity between cameras).

Our in-house developed and patented noise measuring software is then applied to the picture sequence (version 1.5 in this review). To obtain further details, please go here. (It is important to keep in mind that the noise levels that are displayed on the graphs above cannot be compared to those that are found in other reviews.) The temperature in the room is around 22 degrees Celsius (or 72 degrees Fahrenheit), and sunshine mimicking lighting is used.

Comparison of the Canon EOS 50D, Nikon D300, Pentax K20D, and the Sony DSLR-A700
Aperture Priority, Manual White Balance, Default Parameters (Standard PS), High ISO Noise Reduction (Default; Standard), JPEG Large / Fine

The Nikon D300 was used with a Nikkor 50 mm F1.4 lens, manual exposure, manual white balance, default parameters (normal), high ISO noise reduction (normal), and JPEG large/fine compression.

Pentax K20D using a Pentax 50 mm F1.4 lens, set to Aperture Priority, Manual White Balance, Default Parameters (Bright), High ISO Noise Reduction turned off, and JPEG Large / Premium compression.

Minolta 50 mm F1.4 lens, manual exposure, manual white balance, default parameters (Standard), high ISO noise reduction (normal – default), JPEG large/fine settings on the Sony DSLR-A700 with firmware version 2.0.

Noise reduction at high ISOs performed in-camera

The EOS 40D was the first Canon camera to include the “High ISO Noise Reduction” feature. The previous iteration of this function only provided one degree of noise reduction, but the most recent iteration provides three levels of noise reduction (Low, Standard, and Strong), each of which may be modified by using C.Fn II-2. There is also an option for “Off,” which goes without saying.

You can see that the ‘on’ choices seem to apply a reasonably balanced combination of chroma and luminance noise reduction by looking at the graph that is located below.

The impact of noise reduction is rather little when it is set to the “Low” level, however increasing it to “Strong” results in a loss of clarity that is noticeable from ISO settings that are relatively low. The ‘Standard’ choice appears to be, depending on your preferences, a rather decent compromise to work with. But you may always try experimenting with other options.

Please be aware that selecting the “Strong” setting decreases the amount of buffer space available when using the continuous drive, and that even when the “Off” setting is selected, the JPG engine will still reduce noise in the image in some way. Shooting in RAW is your sole choice if you wish to entirely eliminate noise reduction (NR).

RAW noise

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s compare the raw output of the ten-megapixel 40D to that of the fifty-megapixel EOS50D. After disabling any in-camera noise reduction and processing the photos using Adobe Camera Raw (without NR), we have achieved the closest thing possible to an “even playing field” in order to evaluate the relative noise levels produced by the sensors of the two different cameras.

Because the Canon 50D has a greater pixel count, there will invariably be more noise visible at the pixel level. In theory, it is reasonable to anticipate that this extra noise will average out so that the total image noise will remain largely unchanged.

However, the output of the 50D at high ISOs exhibits significant chroma noise, particularly in the blacks. This is mostly caused by pattern noise (also known as “banding”), although it is not immediately apparent in the crops.

Because of this, it is quite difficult to get rid of noise in post-processing, which means that the high ISO output of the 50D isn’t necessarily as usable as the output of the 40D.

Noise in RAW format at ISO 6400 and 12800
The 50D generates a considerable amount of noise when set to Hi1 and Hi2 (which correspond to ISO 6400 and 12800, respectively).

Both of these options should be strictly reserved for usage in the event of an emergency. If you compare these crops to the ones labeled “NR OFF JPG” from the previous section, it is also made abundantly evident how much noise reduction the JPG engine of the 50D still applies even when the noise reduction setting is toggled to the “Off” position.

Specifications

Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor *• 22.3 x 14.9 mm CMOS sensor
• RGB Color Filter Array
• Built-in fixed low-pass filter (with self-cleaning unit)
• 15.5 million total pixels
• 15.1 million effective pixels
• 3:2 aspect ratio
Image processor *DIGIC 4
A/D conversion14 bit
Image sizes *• 4752 x 3168
• 3456 x 2304
• 2353 x 1568
File formats *• RAW (.CR2; 14-bit)
• JPEG (EXIF 2.21) – Fine / Normal
• RAW + JPEG (separate files)
• sRAW1 (7.1 MP)
• sRAW2 (3.8 MP)*
Lenses• Canon EF / EF-S lens mount
• 1.6x field of view crop
Dust reduction• “EOS Integrated Cleaning System”
• Self-cleaning sensor unit (filter in front of sensor vibrates at high frequency at start-up and shutdown – can be disabled)
• Dust Delete Data – Data from a test shot is used to ‘map’ dust spots and can be later removed using Canon DPP Software
Auto focus• 9-point TTL CMOS sensor
• All points cross-type for lenses of F5.6 or faster
• Center point additionally sensitive with lenses of F2.8 or faster
• AF working range: -0.5 – 18 EV (at 23°C, ISO 100)
Focus modes• One shot AF
• AI Servo AF
• AI Focus AF
• Manual focus
AF point selection• Auto
• Manual
Predictive AF• Up to 8 m
AF assist• Stroboscopic flash
AF microadjust• +/- 20 steps
• Adjust all lenses by same amount/individually adjust up to 20 lenses
Metering• TTL 35 zone SPC
• Metering range: EV 0.0 – 20 EV
Metering modes• Evaluative 35 zone
• Partial (9% at center)
• Spot metering (approx. 3.8% at center)
• Center-weighted average
AE lock• Auto: One Shot AF with evaluative metering
• Manual: AE lock button
Exposure compensation• +/-2.0 EV
• 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
Exposure bracketing• +/- 2.0 EV
• 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
Sensitivity *• Auto ISO (100-1600)
• ISO 100 – 3200*
• 0.3 or 1.0 EV increments
• H1 (6400) and H2 (12800) expansion*
Shutter• Focal-plane shutter
• 100,000 exposure durability
• 30 – 1/8000 sec
• 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
• Flash X-Sync: 1/250 sec
• Bulb
Aperture values• F1.0 – F91
• 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
• Actual aperture range depends on lens used
White balance• Auto
• Daylight
• Shade
• Cloudy
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent
• Flash
• Custom
• Kelvin (2500 – 10000 K in 100 K steps)
WB bracketing• +/-3 levels
• 3 images
• Blue / Amber or Magenta / Green bias
WB shift• Blue (-9) To Amber (+9)
• Magenta (-9) to Green (+9)
Picture style• Standard
• Portrait
• Landscape
• Neutral
• Faithful
• Monochrome
• User def. 1
• User def. 2
• User def. 3
Custom image parameters• Sharpness: 0 to 7
• Contrast: -4 to +4
• Saturation: -4 to +4
• Color tone: -4 to +4
• B&W filter: N, Ye, Or, R, G
• B&W tone: N, S, B, P, G
Image processing *• Highlight tone priority
• Auto lighting optimizer (4 settings)*
• Long exposure noise reduction
• High ISO noise reduction (4 settings)*
• Auto correction of lens peripheral illumination (vignetting)*
Color space• sRGB
• Adobe RGB
Viewfinder• Eye-level pentaprism
• 95% frame coverage
• Magnification: 0.95x(-1 diopter with 50 mm lens at infinity)
• Eyepoint: 22 mm
• Interchangeable focusing screen Ef-A standard (2 other types optional)
• Dioptric adjustment: -3.0 to +1.0 diopter
Focusing screens
(optional)
• Ef-A (Standard Precision Matte – included)
• Ef-D (Precision Matte with grid)
• Ef-S (Super Precision Matte for easier manual focus)
Mirror• Quick-return half mirror (transmission:reflection ratio 40:60)
• Mirror lock-up (once or multiple exposures)
Viewfinder info *• AF points
• Focus confirmation light
• ISO sensitivity
• Shutter speed
• Aperture
• Manual exposure
• AE Lock
• Exposure compensation amount
• AEB level
• Spot metering area
• Flash ready
• Red-eye reduction lamp on
• High-speed sync
• FE Lock
• Flash compensation amount
• ISO speed (while changing)
• WB correction (while changing)
• Highlight tone priority icon *
• B&W mode icon
• Warnings
• Maximum burst for continuous shooting
• Buffer space
LCD monitor *• 3.0 ” TFT LCD
• 920,000 dots *
• 7 brightness levels
• 160 ° viewing angle
• Dual anti-reflection *
LCD Live view*• Live TTL display of scene from CMOS image sensor
• 100% frame coverage
• 30 fps
• Real-time evaluative metering using CMOS image sensor
• Best view or exposure simulation
• Silent mode
• Grid optional (x2)*
• Magnify optional (5x or 10x at AF point)
• Three AF modes – Live mode/Quick mode/Face Detection*
• Histogram*
• Remote live view using EOS Utility 2.0 (via USB or WiFi/Ethernet using WFT)
Record review• Off
• On (histogram via INFO button)
• Display mode same as last used Play mode
• 2 / 4 / 8 sec / Hold
Playback modes1. Single image with exposure, file number, storage slot
2. As 1 but also image count and quality
3. Detailed exposure information, thumbnail and luminance histogram
4. Less detailed exposure info., thumbnail, luminance and RGB histograms
Playback features• Optional blinking highlight alert
• Optional AF point display
• Magnified view (up to 10x)
• 2×2 or 3×3 thumbnail index
• Jump (by 1, 10, 100 images / by screen or date)
• Delete / Protect
Flash• Auto pop-up E-TTL II auto flash
• FOV coverage up to 17 mm (27 mm equiv.)
• Guide number approx 13 m / 43 ft (ISO 100)
• Cycle time approx. 3 sec
• Flash compensation +/-2.0 EV in 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
• X-Sync: 1/250 sec
External flash• E-TTL II auto flash with EX-series Speedlites
• In-camera flash configuration (currently only 580 EX II)
• Wireless multi-flash support
• PC Sync
Shooting modes *• Auto
• Creative auto *
• Program AE (P)
• Shutter priority AE (Tv)
• Aperture priority AE (Av)
• Manual (M)
• Auto depth-of-field
• Portrait
• Landscape
• Close-up
• Sports
• Night portrait
• Flash off
• Camera user settings 1
• Camera user settings 2
Drive modes• Single
• High-speed continuous: 6.3 fps *
• Low-speed continuous: 3 fps
• Self-timer: 2 or 10 sec (3 sec with mirror lock-up)
Burst buffer *• Large/Fine JPEG: 90 frames (with UDMA card)
• RAW: 16 frames
Orientation sensorYes
Auto rotation• On (recorded and LCD display)
• On (recorded only)
• Off
Custom functions *25 custom functions with 74 settings in 4 groups
Menu languages *• English
• German
• French
• Dutch
• Danish
• Portuguese
• Finnish
• Italian
• Norwegian
• Swedish
• Spanish
• Greek
• Russian
• Polish
• Czech *
• Hungarian *
• Romanian *
• Ukrainian *
• Turkish *
• Arabic *
• Thai *
• Simplified Chinese
• Traditional Chinese
• Korean
• Japanese
FirmwareUser upgradable
Portrait grip• Optional WFT-E3/E3A
• Optional BP-E2N battery grip
• Optional BP-E2 battery grip
Connectivity*• USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
• Video out
• HDMI connector*
• N3 type wired remote control
• PC Sync flash terminal
• Communication terminal on base for WFT-E3/E3A
Storage*• Compact Flash Type I or II (inc. FAT32)
• Supports UDMA cards *
• Canon Original Data Security Kit supported (“Original Image Data”)
• No CF card supplied
Power• Lithium-Ion BP-511A rechargeable battery (supplied & charger)
• Supports BP-511 / BP-511A / BP-512 / BP-514
• CR2016 Lithium battery (date/time backup)
• Optional AC adapter
Wireless connectivity
(optional WFT-E3/E3A)
• Mounts on base of camera and also acts as vertical grip
• Has its own BP-511A battery
• Wireless 802.11b / 802.11g
• Wireless security: WEP, TKIP/AES, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK
• Wireless methods: Infrastructure or Ad Hoc
• Wired ethernet (100 Base-TX)
• Transfer: FTP, PTP (remote control by computer), HTTP (view / remote fire)
• USB host capable: External hard drives, flash drives
• USB comms: GPS devices (records coordinates and altitude in image header)
Dimensions146 x 108 x 74 mm (5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in)
Weight *• No battery: 730 g (1.6 lb)
• With battery: 822 g (1.8 lb)

Overall conclusion

This month, precisely eight years ago, Phil published his review of the Canon D30 on his website. An important step forward for digital photography, this camera was Canon’s first single-lens reflex (SLR) model to be “designed in-house.” But in addition to that, it was the very first model in a highly successful family of cameras, of which the EOS 50D is the most recent descendent. Since the year 2000, technological advancement has occurred at the speed of light; nonetheless, each generation of x0D cameras has made its imprint on the market as well as the photography community, and there is no reason to expect that the next generation, the 50D, would be any different. Is that not the case?

The body of the 50D is constructed out of magnesium and, much like its predecessors, it is beautifully made. However, this version boasts enhanced environmental sealing. In addition, Canon has had more than eight years to perfect the handling of the camera, and it has done an excellent job with this. The ergonomics feel like they have been taken care of, all of the controls are in the appropriate locations, and even the Direct Print button, which was quite useless before, now has a function: When you press it, the live view mode will be activated. The Quick Control screen is another helpful feature of the app. You may reach this newly redesigned menu by pressing the SET button. This menu provides access to the most often used settings on your device. Even those who have never worked with an EOS camera before will have little trouble learning their way around the 50D. The Quick Control screen and the redesigned menus both look fantastic on the new 3.0-inch VGA screen since it is brighter and cleaner.

The performance of the camera is also not anything that can be considered lacking in any way. The camera is always available when you need it, and it is very astonishing how quickly the enormous 15-megapixel data are being produced, processed, and transported via the image pipeline. Powering on the device takes virtually no time at all. The new DIGIC IV processor that Canon has released certainly holds its own.

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Image output that is both detailed and tidy (but not as detailed as we would have expected from a 15 megapixels sensor)
  • Effective The choice to prioritize the highlight tone produces a highlight roll-off that is seamless.
  • Large range of picture parameter change, often ranging from minus four to plus four.
  • Noise in chroma and brightness is well under control at higher sensitivities
Need Improvement
  • Poor performance in terms of the white balance in artificial light
  • When compared to the EOS 40D, the shadow areas have a narrower dynamic range.
  • Per-pixel detail not as excellent as on high 10 or 12 megapixel cameras
  • The camera cannot produce its full potential without the use of high-end lenses.
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Image Quality
Performance
Value
The EOS 50D must be able to compete successfully in a segment of the DSLR industry that is notoriously cutthroat. At this time, it is around $500 more costly than the Canon 40D, approximately $500 more expensive than the Nikon D90, and for an additional $100, you may get a Nikon D300. In looking at the differences in the specifications of the EOS 40D and the test subject, it would appear that you pay a significant premium for the 50D's additional megapixels. However, as we have discovered throughout this review, you do not get a significant amount of additional image quality for your money. The Canon EOS 50D continues to win our highest prize, although taking into account its price point as well as our mild worries regarding its pixel-packed sensor, it only manages to achieve so by a hair's breadth.

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Canon EOS 50D Review - Best Of Modern AgesThe EOS 50D must be able to compete successfully in a segment of the DSLR industry that is notoriously cutthroat. At this time, it is around $500 more costly than the Canon 40D, approximately $500 more expensive than the Nikon D90, and for an additional $100, you may get a Nikon D300. In looking at the differences in the specifications of the EOS 40D and the test subject, it would appear that you pay a significant premium for the 50D's additional megapixels. However, as we have discovered throughout this review, you do not get a significant amount of additional image quality for your money. The Canon EOS 50D continues to win our highest prize, although taking into account its price point as well as our mild worries regarding its pixel-packed sensor, it only manages to achieve so by a hair's breadth.