Canon EOS 50D

      Photo Review 9

      In summary

      A high-resolution DSLR with features and performance to suit serious enthusiasts.Canon’s new 15.1-megapixel EOS 50D is a ‘big brother’ model to the popular EOS 40D (which remains in the company’s line-up) and a ‘little brother’ to the coming EOS 5D Mark II. Offering higher resolution than the 40D, it has a new DIGIC 4 image processor, which supports 14-bit image processing, improved noise reduction and 30% faster processing times. It also delivers continuous shooting speeds of up to 6.3 frames/second with a UDMA CompactFlash card. . . [more]

      Full review


      Canon’s new 15.1-megapixel EOS 50D is a ‘big brother’ model to the popular EOS 40D (which remains in the company’s line-up) and a ‘little brother’ to the coming EOS 5D Mark II. Offering higher resolution than the 40D, it has a new DIGIC 4 image processor, which supports 14-bit image processing, improved noise reduction and 30% faster processing times. It also delivers continuous shooting speeds of up to 6.3 frames/second with a UDMA CompactFlash card.
      Despite having smaller photosites than the 10.1-megapixel 40D, the 50D’s sensor is quite a different beast. New manufacturing processes, plus redesigned photo diodes and ‘gapless microlenses’ enable it to capture more light, thereby providing a better signal-to-noise ratio than the bare specifications imply. These changes have enabled Canon to boost the camera’s normal ISO range up to 3200 and add two ‘HI’ settings that take sensitivity up to an impressive ISO 12,800 equivalent.
      Like other recent Canon DSLRs, the 50D comes with Canon’s EOS Integrated Cleaning System. This, too, has been improved by applying a new fluorine coating to the low-pass filter to repel environmental dust. Stubborn dust particles can be removed automatically post-capture with Dust Delete Data logging plus Canon’s supplied Digital Photo Professional software.
      Physically, the 50D’s body and control layout are almost identical to the 40D. Both models feature magnesium-alloy casings with a rubberised cover on the grip. According to Canon, the 50D’s body has better environmental sealing than the 40D’s. Both cameras share the same accessories, including the BP-511A battery and ACK-E2 adaptor/charger, the BG-E2 battery grip, TC-80N3 remote control and WFT E3/E3A wireless file transmitter.

      What’s New?
      The most obvious differences between the two models are the name badge, the silver top to the mode dial, the addition of the Type C HDMI port on the side panel and the Live View icon above the Print/Share button. We found this a much easier way to engage Live View mode than pressing the Set button. The 40D’s Jump button has been replaced by a more useful Function button that can be programmed to access one of five settings: LCD brightness, image quality, exposure compensation/AEB, image jump or Live View settings.


      Front view of the EOS 50D with the EF-S 18-200mm lens that will be offered in the Premium kit.

      One major improvement in the new model is the Clear View LCD monitor which, although identical in size, has much higher resolution than the 230,000-dot screen on the EOS 40D. It also appeared to be more resistant to fingermarking than the monitor of any camera – digicam or DSLR – that we have reviewed recently, thanks to a dirt- and grease-resisting fluorine coating.


      Rear view showing the new LCD screen and re-jigged button controls.

      With similar specifications to the monitors on recent DSLRs announced by Nikon and Sony, the D50’s 3-inch display has 920,000 pixels (VGA resolution in RGB), a wide viewing angle and 100% field-of-view coverage. Three anti-reflection coatings ensure a bright, colour-accurate display that is an excellent complement to the camera’s Live View shooting mode. However, no change has been made to the viewfinder, which has the same specifications as the finder on the 40D.


      Top view of the camera body with the new mode dial and data LCD.

      The Live View mode on the 50D is designed to work like the monitors on better-quality digicams and provide a similar user interface for photographers. Autofocusing is, however, fairly slow in Live View mode because the system has more data to process than it has with most digicams and much larger optics to move. As well as using full VGA resolution, this function has been improved since the 40D with the addition of contrast-detect autofocusing and Face Detect AF.
      The face detection system is similar to those in Canon’s digicam range but it appears to operate only in Live View mode. The system can track up to 35 faces and the camera will superimpose a frame of the face it detects – which is usually the closest to the centre of the frame in group shots. Users can move the AF point to another face with the rear panel multi-control wheel. (This is not possible if the face falls outside the AF point array.)
      The silent shooting mode has been carried over from the 40D and offers the same two modes. Mode 1 works by first opening the mechanical shutter and then using an electronic shutter to make the exposure. It supports continuous shooting speeds up to 5.7 fps but is not usable with flash. In mode 2, continuous shooting is disabled and shutter cocking (the noisy part of the process) can be delayed.
      When the shutter button is pressed, only one shot is taken. If the shutter button is held down, the camera stops working until the shutter button is raised to half-way position. Only then is the shutter sound emitted, enabling users to delay the noise of the shutter release in quiet environments.
      Canon has also added a new shooting mode to the mode dial on the top panel. Dubbed the Creative Auto mode, it is designed for novice users. It has the same default settings as the Full Auto mode but allows users to adjust selected shooting parameters. These include flash modes, exposure levels, depth of field, Picture Style settings, drive modes and image size and quality.
      The camera’s user interface has also been redesigned, with a new Quick Control screen in the Creative Auto mode that displays key shooting settings on the LCD. It is accessed by pressing the joystick and you can move between settings with the joystick and adjust parameters by pressing the joystick in. (Similar systems have been used by Olympus and Sony for a couple of generations of DSLRs.)


      The new Quick Control screen in the Creative Auto mode.

      When you switch the camera on, a new Highlight Tone Priority icon (D+) appears in both the data LCD and the viewfinder if this function has been enabled in the Custom menu. The range of ISO settings covered by this function has been expanded from ISO 200-1600 to ISO 200-3200.
      The new image processor has also enabled Canon to add some new in-camera processing adjustments, including increasing the number of High ISO noise reduction settings to four: Standard, Low, Strong and Disable. A new Auto lighting Optimiser Custom Function has also been added to the Image category, with four settings: Standard (the default), Low, Strong and Disable.


      Four High ISO noise reduction settings are now available via Custom Function II, instead of the previous on and off settings.

      A new Peripheral Illumination Correction setting has been added to the first page of the shooting menu. Its purpose is to remove corner and edge darkening caused by light fall-off in certain lenses as well as darkening caused by uneven illumination. Processing can only be applied to JPEG images, although the lens vignetting characteristics are recorded in the image file. Vignette correction can be applied to raw images when they are converted with the supplied Digital Photo Professional software.


      Peripheral Illumination Correction setting has been added to the first page of the shooting menu.

      Interestingly, the in-camera processing uses vignetting profiles that Canon has already produced for approximately 125 EF and EF-S lenses. The camera is pre-loaded with 26 profiles and can store another 14 more.
      Autofocusing is essentially unchanged from the 40D, save for the addition of autofocus micro-adjustment- a feature found on the EOS-1 series of professional cameras – which is now available for the first time in a pro-sumer model. According to the 50D’s user manual, this adjustment is not normally required and should only be done if necessary. Its purpose is to allow photographers to make small and precise adjustments to the camera’s point of focus so it matches a particular lens or group of lenses. Adjustments for up to 20 lenses can be ‘registered’ in the camera and pre-set adjustments can be applied to all lenses or selected lenses.
      The auto ISO function has also received some attention and now covers a wider sensitivity range – up from ISO 800 on the 40D to ISO 1600 on the new camera. The camera seems to be programmed to use the lowest practical sensitivity setting, rather than relying on an ‘average’ ISO 400 value unless over-exposure was likely.
      Finally, unlike the 40D, the EOS 50D comes with an HDMI connection that allows users to view images from the camera on their HD TV sets. You’ll have to provide your own HDMI cable – and Canon offers the HTC-100 cable as an option. The camera automatically senses when it is connected to a compatible TV set and will switch to the full-size HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). When connected to a standard TV set, the output resolution is limited to 1280 pixels.

      Sensor and Image Processing
      Despite having smaller photosites than the 10.1-megapixel 40D, the 22.3 x 14.9 mm CMOS sensor in the EOS 50D is quite a different beast – although both sensors are designed and produced by Canon. New manufacturing processes have enabled Canon to by increase both the actual size of the light-sensitive area in each photosite for better light-capturing. The size of the microlenses covering each photosite has also been increased and new ‘gapless microlenses’ enable it to capture more light, thereby providing a better signal-to-noise ratio.
      With a pixel pitch of 4.7 microns square, the 50D’s photosites are smaller than the 5.7 micron square photosites on the 40D’s sensor but Canon claims the new design adds between one and 1.5 stops of light-capturing ability. This means, an image shot at ISO 3200 on the 50D should have similar noise characteristics to a shot taken at between 1000 and 1600 ISO on the 40D.


      The shooting menu has been expanded to include three raw settings: RAW, sRAW1 and sRAW2.

      The 50D now has three raw file options: the regular CR2.RAW at 4752 x 3168 pixels, sRAW1 at 3267 x 2178 pixels and sRAW2 at 2376 x 1584 pixels. Three JPEG image sizes, each with two levels of compression are also provided and simultaneous RAW+JPEG recording is supported for all image sizes and file formats. Typical file sizes and maximum burst capacities are shown in the table below. (The maximum burst figures in brackets apply to a 2GB UDMA card.)

      File format

      Image Size

      Size Setting

      File Size

      Maximum burst


      4752 x 3168


      16 (16)


      3267 x 2178


      16 (16)


      2376 x 1584


      19 (19)




      4752 x 3168



      60 (90)



      150 (740)

      3456 x 2304



      110 (620)



      390 (1190)

      2352 x 1568



      330 (1090)



      1050 (2040)


      4752 x 3168


      10 (10)


      3267 x 2178


      10 (10)


      2376 x 1584


      11 (11)

      Playback options are essentially the same as on the EOS 40D. Consequently, users can opt to display a single image or index of four or nine thumbnails. You can zoom in on the displayed image and magnify a selected area up to 15 times, rotate, protect or delete selected images and select Auto Playback to view a slideshow of all images on the memory card.


      Auto rotation of vertical shots is the default playback setting.


      You can magnify images up to 15 times in playback mode.

      Pressing the Info button lets you choose between four display options: single image with or without shooting data, image plus histogram and detailed shooting data or image plus histogram and abbreviated data. The histogram can be brightness only or brightness plus RGB. Highlight alerts can also be displayed.


      The detailed shooting data display with RGB histograms.

      Unlike some competing cameras, no digital effects or image adjustments can be applied in the playback mode. You can’t even change the Picture Style setting. This omission will only concern photographers who shoot JPEG images as all the necessary tweaking (including Picture Style changes) can be applied in the bundled Digital Photo Professional software when raw files are processed.

      The EOS 50D ships with two software disks. One contains latest versions of Canon’s digital photography software suite for Windows and Mac computers, which include Digital Photo Professional v.3.5, EOS Utility v. 2.5, ZoomBrowser and ImageBrowser 6.2, Picture Style Editor v. 1,4; PhotoStitch v. 3.2, WTF Utility 3.2, Memory Card Utility 1.2 and Original Data Security Tools 1.5 (Windows only). The other contains the software instruction manual in five different languages.
      EOS Utility v. 2.5 contains facilities for downloading image files, controlling the camera from a computer and adjusting camera settings from the PC. A new function enables photographers to set up automatic copyright information to be logged in image metadata when shots are taken. You can embed the photographer’s name, copyright notice and date/time of the shot automatically with this function, saving you the hassle of doing the job when converting or editing the image files.


      The image browser in Digital Photo Professional displays both JPEG and raw files.


      The Editor window provides a useful set of adjustment tools.


      White balance can be adjusted in three ways: with pre-sets, white point selection or via a colour wheel (shown above).

      Digital Photo Professional (DPP) contains a new function that lets you display the AF points selected by the camera when the shot was taken. It doesn’t work with images that have been re-sized and then converted and saved but it’s a useful facility when you’re sorting through shots. Noise reduction can now be adjusted on a scale of 0 to 20 (up from 0 to 10). Otherwise the application is essentially unchanged.
      You can view raw image files in ZoomBrowser but they can only be converted in DPP because Canon has removed RAW Image Task. Image files are easily passed from ZoomBrowser to DPP for processing but you might as well use the browsing/downloading facilities in DPP and give ZoomBrowser a miss.

      Test shots were taken in a wide range of weather conditions, covering both sunny and overcast days and varying light levels. Subjective assessment of test shots showed the camera’s exposure metering system to be accurate under most shooting conditions. Autofocusing was mostly fast and accurate, although we observed a tendency to hunt in dim lighting – which was probably due to the EF-S 18-200mm lens. There were times when it took up to two seconds to find focus. Some lapses in autofocusing accuracy were also observed, particularly in overcast conditions when the whole AF point array was used.
      Imatest showed resolution to be well up to expectations for both JPEG and raw files, although raw files converted into 16-bit TIFF format returned slightly higher figures. (Samples of both results can be seen below.) Colour accuracy was generally good, although saturation was slightly high in the red band. Skin hues were close to spot on and any shifts found in other hues were small enough to be insignificant.
      Resolution began to decline at ISO 800 but remained reasonably high at ISO 1600 and 3200 and only showed a significant drop at ISO 6400 and 12,800. The graph below shows the results of Photo Review’s Imatest tests.


      Interestingly, low-light performance was generally outstanding, with no visible noise in shots right up to ISO 1600 and very little noise at ISO 3200. By ISO 6400, noise was visible – although not obvious. Noise was evident at ISO 12,800, where we also noticed a raster pattern of lines across areas of the image with no detail. However, these images were printable at 15 x 10 cm size.
      We found the high ISO noise reduction reduced the visibility of colour noise at ISO 12,800, although the Strong setting tended to soften the image without removing the raster lines. At ISO 3200, the Standard and Low settings had only a minor impact but the Strong setting produced noticeable softening. Long exposure noise reduction produced little in the way of image softening at ISO settings between 400 and 3200. (Exposures at higher sensitivity settings were too short to really test this function.)
      We found the usual auto white balance problems in test shots under incandescent lighting but shots taken under fluorescent lighting had close to natural colours and both the pre-sets and manual measurement removed both colour casts. Flash performance was generally good and the flash could illuminate an average-sized room at ISO 200. Flash exposures were consistent all the way up to the HI2 ISO setting, showing the camera’s flash exposure system to be competent and effective.
      The test camera powered-up immediately and capture lag was negligible, both with and without pre-focusing. Image files were processed in roughly half a second. In our high-speed continuous shooting tests with a 4GB SanDisk Extreme IV card, the test camera recorded 20 Large/Fine JPEG frames in 3.2 seconds, which equates to a burst rate of just over six frames/second. It took 2.6 seconds to process this burst.
      In CR2.RAW mode, the camera captured 10 frames in 1.5 seconds, which is almost seven frames/second. However, it took 4.4 seconds to process this burst. With RAW+JPEG recording, we recorded 10 coupled image files before the buffer memory filled and the capture rate began to slow. In this shooting mode it took 9.5 seconds to process a burst of 12 RAW+JPEG images.
      In low-speed continuous shooting mode, shots were recorded at intervals of approximately three seconds and processed as they were captured. We saw no evidence of slowing in the capture rate for Large/Fine JPEG frames in a burst of 30 frames.

      As well as providing some significant improvements over the EOS 40D, the EOS 50D offers not just a better-built body but a significantly higher level of functionality than its parallel consumer model, the EOS 450D. The new camera also provides some real competition for Nikon’s recently-released D90. Offering many of the same professional features as the EOS 1D series of cameras, it is competitively priced for its marketplace slot. A comparison of key features of the EOS 50D and the Nikon D90 can be seen in the table below.


      Canon EOS 50D

      Nikon D90

      Sensor size

      22.3 x 14.9 mm

      23.6 x 15.8 mm

      Effective resolution



      Image processor

      DIGIC 4 (14-bit)

      EXPEED (12-bit)

      Shutter speeds

      30 to 1/8000 second plus bulb; X-synch at 1/250 sec.

      30 to 1/4000 sec. plus Bulb; X-synch at 1/200 sec.

      Max. burst speed

      6.3 fps

      4.5 fps

      ISO range

      ISO 100-3200 in steps of 1/3 or 1EV (expandable to H1: 6400, H2: 12800)

      ISO 200-3200 in steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1EV ((expandable to Lo: 100, Hi: 6400)

      Lens corrections

      Peripheral illumination

      Lateral chromatic aberration

      AF system:
      Focus points
      AF assist beam

      9 AF points (all cross-type). Central point extra sensitive for f/2.8 or faster lenses

      Multi-Cam 1000 module with 11 focus points (incl. one cross-type sensor)

      Microadjustment of focus



      AF in Live View

      Contrast detection with 3 AF area modes: Face Priority, Wide and Normal

      Phase difference detection in Quick Mode; Contrast detection with Face Detection in Live mode; manual focusing supported

      Exposure metering system

      35-zone full aperture

      TTL metering with 420-pixel RGB sensor

      Metering modes

      Evaluative, centre-weighted average, partial (~9%), spot (~3.8%)

      3D Colour Matrix, centre-weighted average, spot (~2%)

      Automatic image brightness correction

      Auto Lighting Optimiser for shooting and post capture

      Active D-Lighting for shooting; D-Lighting for post capture

      In-camera retouching



      Video recording



      Body construction

      Magnesium alloy body with water/dust resistance sealing

      Metal chassis with polycarbonate covers


      Pentaprism with 95% coverage (vertical & horizontal); 0.95x magnification; approx. 22mm eyepoint; -3.0 to +1.0 dpt diopter adjustment; interchangeable focusing screens (Ef-A screen provided)

      Pentaprism with 96% coverage (vertical & horizontal); 0.94x magnification; 19.5mm eyepoint; -2.0 to +1.0 dpt diopter adjustment; non-interchangeable focusing screen

      Storage media

      CompactFlash I/II, UDMA compliant


      Text input

      User copyright information via EOS Utility software

      Up to 36 alphanumeric characters available via LCD monitor and multi-selector


      Battery Pack BP-511A; CIPA rated for approx. 640 shots with 50% flash use and without Live View

      EN-EL3e Li-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 850 shots with 50% flash use and without Live View

      Dimensions (w x h x d)

      145.5 x 107.8 x 73.5 mm (body only)

      132 x 103 x 77 mm (body only)

      Weight (body only)

      730 grams

      620 grams

      RRP (body only)




      Raw images:





      JPEG images:








      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      Long exposure: 30 seconds at f/4, ISO 100.


      Night shot: 5 seconds at f/18, ISO 12800, no noise reduction.


      Night shot: 5 seconds at f/18, ISO 12800, Strong High ISO noise reduction applied.


      Flash shot: 1/160 second at f/5.6, ISO 100.


      Flash shot: 1/160 second at f/5.6, ISO 12800.


      Close-up: 200mm focal length, 1/40 second at f/5.6, ISO 200. (Note the attractive bokeh [out-of-focus areas])


      Portrait: 100mm focal length, 1/50 second at f/6.4, ISO 800.


      Very low light levels with incandescent lighting: ISO 12800, 1/160 second at f/5.6.


      200mm focal length, 1/160 second at f/6.4, ISO 800.


      50mm focal length, 1/10 second at f/6.4, ISO 800.


      130mm focal length, 1/125 second at f/5.6, ISO 200.


      185mm focal length, 1/160 second at f/5.6, ISO 100.


      110mm focal length, 1/50 second at f/5.6, ISO 200.

      Additional sample images can be found in the review of the Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens.





      Image sensor: 22.3 x 14.9 mm CMOS sensor with (15.1 megapixels effective)
      Image processor: DIGIC 4 (14-bit)
      Lens mount: Canon EF/EF-S
      Focal length crop factor: 1.6x
      Image formats: JPEG, CR2.RAW, sRAW 1, sRAW 2, RAW+JPEG supported
      Image Sizes: JPEG: 4752 x 3168, 3456 x 2304, 2352 x 1568; RAW: 4752 x 3168; sRAW1: 3267 x 2178; sRAW2: 2376 x 1584
      Image Stabilisation: lens-based only
      Dust removal: Canon EOS Integrated Cleaning System; Auto, Manual, Dust Delete Data appending
      Shutter speed range: 30 to 1/8000 second plus bulb; X-synch at 1/250 sec.
      Exposure Compensation: ±2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments; Manual and AEB (Settable in combination with manual exposure compensation)
      Self-timer: Electronically controlled timer with 2 or 10 second delay
      Focus system: TTL secondary image-registration, phase detection with 9 cross-type AF points; AF assist via multiple flashes from built-in flash; AF micro-adjustment possible
      Focus modes: One-Shot AF, AI Servo AF, AI Focus AF, Manual focusing (MF)
      Exposure metering: 35-zone TTL full-aperture metering; Evaluative, Partial (9%), Spot (3.8%), Centre-weighted
      Shooting modes: Program AE (Full Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Flash Off, Creative Auto, Program), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, depth-of-field AE, manual exposure
      Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Def. 1 ““ 3
      Automatic image brightness correction: Yes, Auto Lighting Optimiser, lens peripheral illumination correction, highlight tone priority
      Colour space options: Adobe RGB, sRGB
      Custom functions: 25
      ISO range: ISO 100-3200 (expandable to H1: 6400, H2: 12800)
      White balance: Auto, Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, White fluorescent light, Flash), Custom, Color temperature setting (2500-10000K); White balance correction and white balance bracketing features provided
      Flash: Retractable, auto pop-up flash; Guide No.: 13/43 (ISO 100, in meters/feet); Flash coverage: 17mm lens angle of view; Recycling time approx. 3 sec.
      Flash exposure adjustment: ±2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments
      Sequence shooting: 6.3 fps / 60 shot max burst (JPEG); 16 shots RAW; 10 shots RAW+JPEG
      Storage Media: CompactFlash Type I/II
      Viewfinder: Eye-level pentaprism with 95% coverage (vertical & horizontal); 0.95x magnification; approx. 22mm eyepoint; -3.0 to +1.0 dpt diopter adjustment; interchangeable focusing screens (Ef-A screen provided)
      LCD monitor: 3.0-inch TFT colour liquid-crystal monitor with approx. 920,000 dots (VGA); Brightness adjustable to 7 levels
      Live View modes: Quick mode (Phase-difference detection); Live mode, Face detection live mode (Contrast detection); Manual focusing (5x/10x magnification possible)
      Data LCD: Yes
      Playback functions: Single, Single + Info (Image-recording quality, shooting information, histogram), 4-image index, 9-image index, image rotate possible; zoom 1.5x to 10x; Jump 10 or 100 images, jump by screen, by shooting date, by folder; highlight alert
      Interface terminals: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, video out (PAL/NTSC), HDMI (Type C mini out); remote control (N3 type); wireless terminal for optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E3/E3A
      Power supply: Battery Pack BP-511A; CIPA rated for approx. 640 shots with 50% flash use and normal shooting
      Chassis material: Stainless Steel + polycarbonate with glass fibre
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 145.5 x 107.8 x 73.5 mm
      Weight: 730 grams (without battery and card)





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