Canon EOS 50D

15.1-megapixel SLR with image stabilisation.

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Canon EOS 50D
  • Canon EOS 50D
  • Canon EOS 50D
  • Canon EOS 50D

Pros

  • Massive 15.1-megapixel resolution, incredible LCD display, fast burst mode, fairly good Live View mode, option for an image stabilised kit lens, ISO 6400 and 12800

Cons

  • A little more chromatic aberration than usual, 95 per cent viewfinder coverage

Bottom Line

The 50D is an absolutely fantastic mid-level SLR. It offers the highest resolution in its price range and packs in a bevy of features, including Live View, a speedy burst mode and ultra-high ISO sensitivities, making this a winner for any professional or enthusiastic amateur.

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The SLR market has been heating up in recent months, with the category's two big guns slinging several punches at each other in the form of new products. Canon is the latest to land a blow with its new and improved mid-range unit, the 50D. The successor to the 40D, this unit packs a wallop with a huge 15-megapixel resolution, as well as a greatly improved screen and the option for an optically stabilised kit lens. This makes it an extremely attractive option for high-end users.

A resolution of 15.1 megapixels is absolutely massive and it makes the 50D one of the highest-resolution cameras on the market ahead of the EOS 40D’s 10.1 and the Nikon D300’s 12.1. We were extremely impressed with the overall image quality and while not many people will see the full benefit of the increased resolution it will certainly be felt by some.

Detail was incredible, as you’d expect. Directly out of the camera shots were a little soft for our tastes, but this can easily be corrected in post processing. Nonetheless the level of detail was prodigious and will produce excellent prints regardless of size. When it comes to detail at large magnifications, the 50D is currently king of the hill.

We tested using the 18-200mm EF-S kit lens, which comes with built-in image stabilisation. During our testing with noticed a decent amount of chromatic aberration at times, both inside and outdoors. There was some haloing on our contrast test charts and purple fringing outdoors, but minimal softening towards the corners of the frame.

One of the other noteworthy features of this unit is the ridiculously high ISO sensitivities on offer. The 50D by default caps at ISO 3200, but delving into the menu allows you to unlock not just ISO 6400 but ISO 12800 as well. ISO 12800 is pretty much useless due to the sheer quantity of noise produced; however, ISO 6400 is passable for small prints and everything below ISO 3200 is fine for basically anything. The 50D’s overall noise control is excellent and competitive with other SLRs on the market.

Colour balance was great, too, with accurate hues and nothing strongly oversaturated. The automatic white balance often performed well, but most users will probably stick to the manual and custom modes for the majority of their shooting.

Autofocus times were excellent. Despite only having a nine point autofocus system, compared to the 51 points found on Nikon’s monster, the 50D held its own very well. Its burst mode also performs excellently, capturing 6.3 frames per second. While top-tier SLRs may capture up to 10fps, this will be adequate for all but the most demanding situations.

Live View returns once again and the implementation is pretty good. It has several focus modes. Many will be familiar with the older one, which temporarily flips the mirror out of the way, but face detection and contrast detect are also both included this time around which provide a more accurate if much slower option. It's still far from perfect but it is useful in some situations, for example during macro photography.

Live View is also helped by the incredible 3in, 920,000 pixel display which is one of the best displays on the market. It really helps when framing shots and allows you to study your snaps in depth and pick up any errors on-camera. Canon has also included a second display on the top right of the unit and this houses all the settings and picture information, leaving the main display purely for Live View and playback. Users should note that the viewfinder on this unit only offers 95 per cent coverage, which is a little disappointing when compared to the 100 per cent offered by some of the competition.

Dust reduction also returns and it is useful as always. It operates by shaking the sensor slightly before power up and will be beneficial to anyone who routinely change lenses during a shoot.

With the new improved Digic IV processor, the 50D has some surprisingly robust automatic features. The new creative automatic mode and a host of scene options mean slightly less experienced photographers won’t be left out in the cold. The interface will be familiar to users of the EOS 40D or EOS 1000D, as the same tiered structure is present here. It is easy to use and, unlike some other SLRs on the market, users won’t be swamped by a hoard of buttons. The scroll dial may take some getting used to, though; it takes the place of the second wheel that would ordinarily rest on the unit’s back.

The 50D feels solid and robust. Its grip is quite chunky and it sits comfortably in the hand. Sporting the trademark rugged, boxy, black design of past mid-range SLRs it won’t win any fashion contests but it does the job nicely.

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