Canon EOS 50D Review

Canon EOS 50D
Note: The Canon EOS 50D has been replaced by the Canon EOS 60D.
In-Depth Review

Serious amateur and semi-professional photographers are the target market for the Canon EOS 50D - the same market that its predecessors, the 40D, 30D, 20D, ... were targeted to. Like its predecessors, the 50D can be used in fully automatic point and shoot mode or anything between this mode and complete manual control. Thus, the actual market for this camera, like the others, will range from novices who want great quality images from a fast, great handling, great quality camera to full-time professionals who know that even the prior Canon xxD models deliver the image quality and features they need for advancing their career.

The Canon EOS 40D is a mature product - itself being the result of many upgrades over the years. Improving upon this camera is no small task. The sensor is one of the big features we typically see upgraded in a new model and this is the case with the 50D. However, having grown used to seeing 2 megapixel increases in the APS-C-sized (1.6x) sensor DSLRs, I was surprised to see a huge 5 MP increase - a 50% gain in pixel count - in the 50D.

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsViewfinderDLA*
Canon EOS M1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0  f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .87x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .85x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .85x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .85x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .87x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.7µm4752 x 316815.1 .87x95%f/7.5
Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .80x95%f/6.8
Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D1.6x22.2 x 14.7mm5.2µm4272 x 284812.0 .80x95%f/8.3
Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm5.2µm4272 x 284812.2 .87x95%f/8.3
Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm5.7µm3888 x 259210.1 .81x95%f/9.1
Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm5.7µm3888 x 259210.1 .80x95%f/9.1
Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm6.4µm3456 x 23048.0 .80x95%f/10.2
Canon EOS 300D Digital Rebel1.6x22.7 x 15.1mm7.4µm3088 x 20566.3 .80x95%f/11.8
Canon EOS 70D1.6x22.5 x 15.0mm4.1µm5472 x 364820.2 .95x98%f/6.6
Canon EOS 60D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 .95x96%f/6.9
Canon EOS 50D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.7µm4752 x 316815.1 .95x95%f/7.5
Canon EOS 40D1.6x22.2 x 14.8mm5.7µm3888 x 259210.1 .95x95%f/9.1
Canon EOS 30D1.6x22.5 x 15.0mm6.4µm3504 x 23368.2 .90x95%f/10.2
Canon EOS 7D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm4.3µm5184 x 345618.0 1.0x100%f/6.9
Canon EOS 6D1.0x35.8 x 23.9mm6.54µm5472 x 364820.2 .71x97%f/10.5
Canon EOS 5D Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.25µm5760 x 384022.3 .71x100%f/10.1
Canon EOS 5D Mark II1.0x35.8 x 23.9mm6.4µm5616 x 374421.1 .71x98%f/10.2
Canon EOS 5D1.0x35.8 x 23.9mm8.2µm4368 x 291212.8 .71x96%f/13.2
Canon EOS-1D X1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.9µm5184 x 345618.1 .76x100%f/11.0
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV1.3x27.9 x 18.6mm5.7µm4896 x 326416.1 .76x100%f/9.1
Canon EOS-1D Mark III1.3x28.1 x 18.7mm7.2µm3888 x 259210.1 .76x100%f/11.5
Canon EOS-1D Mark II N1.3x28.7 x 19.1mm8.2µm3520 x 23368.2 .72x100%f/13.2
Canon EOS-1D Mark II1.3x28.7 x 19.1mm8.2µm3520 x 23368.2 .72x100%f/13.2
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.4µm5616 x 374421.1 .76x100%f/10.2
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm7.2µm4992 x 332816.6 .70x100%f/11.5
* Learn more about DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture)

New with this review is the additional right-most column in this chart - "DLA" or "Diffraction Limited Aperture". This number is the result of a mathmatical formula that approximates the aperture where diffraction visibly starts affecting image sharpness when viewed at full-size on a display - the aperture where the image starts becoming less-sharp due to diffraction. Along with the resolution increase each new model brings us, the narrowest aperture we can use to get pixel-sharp images gets wider. With the 50D, even an f/8 aperture is narrower than optimal for on-screen pixel sharpness.

Important note: The 50D delivers higher resolution images than the 40D and the final output size along with the viewing distance determines the diffraction limited aperture in real-life applications. In the film days, few people viewed their results enlarged anything close to the 100% on-screen view we are commonly using now.

The progression from sharp the soft is not an abrupt one - and the change from immediately prior models is not abrupt, but the DLA keeps creeping down. Check out this specific ISO 12233 chart results comparison. The mouseover feature will show you the degradation at f/11 compared to f/5.6.

As I mentioned in the Canon EF-S 18-200mm Lens Review, there is not much optimal-image-quality aperture range left to work with when using a slow or lower quality lens.

As pixel density increases, lens aberrations are magnified and more readily apparent at a 100% viewing size. Thus, higher quality optics are required to make optimal use of each pixel. This is another blow to the slow lenses as they are often of a lower optical quality as well. Of course, if necessary, you can always reduce the size of the 50D pics to get the same or better quality images that a lower resolution body delivers from a lower quality lens or narrow aperture setting.

Increased pixel density also exaggerates any camera shake at capture time - increasing the value and need for IS or a good support.

Increased file size is another side effect of a higher resolution sensor. Two separate identically framed scenes delivered an average RAW file size of 21.4 MB (50D), 16.6 MB (XSi), 13.6 MB (40D) and 11.3 MB (XS). Shooting at full resolution is not required, but memory is cheap - why not capture all of the detail possible?

If you have read any of the site's other recent Canon EOS DSLR camera reviews, you will recognize the following color block test that clearly shows and compares sensor noise. Click on the color block image below to view a pair of image quality comparisons between several current-at-review-time DSLR cameras. This comparison was previously featured on this page, but has been moved to its own page to avoid (especially for mobile users) the large file download required.

Canon EOS 50D ISO Comaprison

If you read the image quality discussion on that page, you can skip down to the emboldened "new sensor".

The first thing you will likely notice in the comparison is that the 40D and XSi samples were boosted by 1/3 stop in post processing. These two cameras produce an image 1/3 stop darker at the same camera settings. Various testing results showed reasonable consistency to this difference. The actual exposure samples from the 40D and XSi are available in the bottom set of mouseover bars for comparison. The difference is only 1/3 of a stop, but that is a helpful gain for the 50D and Rebel XS / 1000D.

Running a mouse straight down over the various camera model ISO setting labels will show you the difference in visible detail and the effective magnification of the sensor. As a generalization, higher resolution sensors show more detail than lower resolution ones. Focal length limited photographers (those needing more reach) will especially appreciate the extra detail the 50D delivers for them (there is more headroom for cropping).

As sensor density increases, so too does high ISO noise - unless improvements in the sensor and subsequent image processing are made. We have been seeing these improvements as the DSLR lines mature. What the above crops show - and what I've been seeing, is that the 50D has slightly more noise than the 40D at identical high ISO settings. Only a slight gain in noise from a sensor with 50% more pixels is still quite an accomplishment in my opinion.

Another fact made obvious in this comparison is that the 50D has two additional stops of ISO settings available - up to an incredible ISO 12800. Well, incredible until you look at the results from this ISO setting. They are ugly - I think there is more noise than subject at 12800. It looks to me like marketing wars between the competition are driving us places we don't want to be. To Canon's credit, ISO 6400 and ISO 12800 are extended settings and available only after being enabled in the proper custom function.

I actually had to use the extended ISOs while testing the camera. I shot a late-in-a-cloudy-day soccer game (no lights) with the 50D and a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS Lens. I started the game at ISO 6400, f/2.8 and quit mid-way into the second half at ISO 12800 and 1/640. Parents were turning car lights on to illuminate the game soon after I stopped - and the game was called just after that. The pics are poor from an image quality standpoint, but I have pics - and there was no alternative.

My noise observations thus far were made with noise reduction omitted from the equation. Noise reduction is an available in-camera (Standard/Weak/Strong/None) or post-processing option. Noise reduction makes a big difference in the images - both for the good and for the bad. The good is obviously that there is less noise in the images. The bad is that noise reduction can reduce image sharpness and visible detail. The goal is to find the best compromise. The "50D with NR" mouseover bar shows samples of Canon Digital Photo Pro (DPP) noise reduction settings ranging from 1,2 (Luminance, Chrominance) at ISO 100 through 8,14 at ISO 12800. I personally would rather have a little noise and retain the detail than remove all the noise and much of the detail with it. Fortunately, everyone can have their preference.

Another set of mouseover bars included above are "50D Sharpen=2" and "XS Sharpen=0" with the number indicating the DPP sharpening amount applied to the image. The Rebel XS / 1000D is so sharp at a "1" setting that moire can be seen in the image. The story behind the 50D samples at "2" starts with the ISO 12233 chart results from the 50D and Canon EF 200mm f/2.8 L II lens. Even at f/5.6, the results were not quite as sharp as I expected them to be. I next shot the ISO chart with the Canon EF-S 65mm F/2.8 USM Macro Lens. The results were very similar to the 100mm Macro. So, I shot the same test with the amazing Canon EF 200mm f/2 L IS USM Lens. While these results were slightly better (to be expected), they were not strikingly better. The test chart is very harsh on cameras and lenses, but does show even small differences. Canon support has not been able to get me the reason for the slight softness at the pixel level, but because it is present in even the best lenses, I'm going to *guess* that the anti-alias filter may be a little stronger relative to the individual pixels on this sensor.

While not quite as sharp at the pixel level, the 50D is still pulling more detail out of the scene. The fabric example above show this. As you drag your mouse pointer up and down over the 50D and 40D labels, watch the tiny threads appear in the 50D image that are not present in the 40D image.

Downsizing an image makes it sharper (if proper sharpening is applied) and reduces the visibility of noise. Reducing the 50D image to the pixel dimensions of the 40D results in very similar noise levels and the 50D retains better sharpness and details. The 50D has two small RAW image format options (sRAW1 and sRAW2) available (reduced size JPEGs are of course available). With no noise reduction applied, shooting in the 3267 x 2178 sRAW1 format results in much less visible noise - ISO 3200 results actually look quite good and ISO 6400 becomes usable. I don't find sRAW1 images to be any sharper than RAW, but sRAW2 (2376 x 1584) images are very sharp. When all 3 RAW formats are processed in DPP to the 3267 x 2178 sRAW1 size, the full-sized RAW files produce sharper details with a more fine-grained noise. Applying noise reduction on the reduced RAW image until it is similar in sharpness to the sRAW1 image makes both images very similar in noise levels. So, the primary gain I see for using sRAW is in reduced file size - 24,680 KB vs. 15,571 KB vs. 11,647 KB. in one ISO 3200 comparison example.

At higher ISO settings, a detailed subject is going to show less noise than a smooth subject with no noise reduction applied - the details hide the noise better than evenly colored surfaces. As discussed before, noise reduction reduces the visible details - but smoothly colored surfaces do not have much detail in the first place. So, noise reduction can be more heavily applied to non-detailed images. Following is a comparison example with color blocks. Notice that at ISO 3200, color blocks themselves look dramatically better with noise reduction applied.

I spent a lot of my 50D review time pixel peeping between these 4 bodies. After using the 50D for a week in Acadia National Park (Maine, USA), I had already proven to myself that the camera functions very well. But I found the pixel-level image sharpness from this camera very difficult to evaluate - more difficult than any Canon DSLR I've reviewed to date. Some shots seem very good and others slightly softer than I think they should be. I use full-frame bodies for most of my work, but need a 1.6x FOVCF body for reviewing EF-S (and similar) lenses. Image sharpness is an important lens feature to evaluate and at this time, I must choose between the 40D and 50D for my future review body. Image quality is the most important criteria for my decision. Because of the extra detail the 50D is pulling in, my current plan is to go with Canon EOS 50D for this work.

Overall 50D image quality including the color it delivers is excellent. But, I expected that. The auto white balance in the first fabric crop was slightly different from the 40D, but I did not notice any big changes overall.

Most people will find the new sensor to be the most significant 50D feature upgrade from the 40D, but what about all of the other features? Well, the 40D is an excellent camera - with years of technological advances already put into it, it already has most of the features needed even by a seasoned professional. Let's take a look at a couple of the 50D's additional new features - starting with the back of the camera. Use the mouseover bar below the image to see how these DSLRs compare.

Canon EOS 50D Back Comparison

Next to the new sensor, the biggest new feature (in my opinion of course) is the new 920,000 dot/VGA resolution, 3.0-inch Clear View rear LCD screen. This LCD is the same size as the EOS 40D camera's LCD, but it has four times the pixel count. While I didn't have any trouble with the 40D's LCD (I live by the histogram), the higher pixel count really shows when you are reviewing an image at 100% and, especially useful to me, when using zoomed Live View. The quality of the image displayed on the new LCD is noticeably better - higher contrast and better color. The difference is "Clear" when reviewing an identical image on the 50D and 40D LCDs side-by-side.

You will also notice that a couple of the functions on the bottom row of buttons have been shifted. The big news for the buttons is that the "Print" button now has a function that I will actually use - it starts Live View. Live View itself keeps gaining functionality. The Canon EOS 50D features three Live View auto focus modes: "Quick Mode AF," "Live Mode AF," and "Face Detection Live Mode AF". Quick Mode focuses quickly using phase detection (dropping the mirror to do so) while Live Mode AF and Face Detection Live Mode AF use contrast detection (these modes are painfully slow). Face detection works - put a face in the center of the frame, start AF and then move the camera around - Live View will track the face it found. Actually, it can detect up to 35 faces - and since it is using contrast detection AF, it is not limited to the 9 phase-detection AF points. Your faces will need to be relatively still for focus to keep up with them - don't plan on shooting sports in this mode. Optional Live View grid displays aid in composition.

A new graphical look to the menu system comes along with the higher resolution display. I like it, but don't find the change to be important to me. Some settings changes are accomplished slightly differently (better), but again, nothing significant to me. As much as I like and have grown to use the "My Menu" customizable menu, I'd like to see it able to contain a scrollable number of options instead of being limited to what fits on one screen.

Pressing the Multi-controller (joystick) results in a new Quick Control Screen displayed on the LCD. The Multi-controller can then be used to navigate this display and the Main and Quick Control Dials can be used to change the basic shot settings displayed.

Not visible on the back is the new HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port provided for displaying 1920 x 1080 still images on an HD TV.

Differences on the top of the camera include a now-silver-colored mode dial that has lost the "C3" custom setting mode and gained a "CA" (Creative Auto) setting. Creative Auto mode allows the photographer to adjust the shot settings using easily understood words instead of using f/settings and 1/xxx time value shutter speeds. These settings are displayed on the rear LCD while adjustments are being made. A wide range of control is available. Learning the controls available to you is a great first step in gaining control of your images.

A total of 15 modes are available. Beginners can select the green square (fully-automatic point and shoot mode), then move up to the Basic Zone pre-defined modes and graduate into the more advanced Creative Zone auto and manual control settings. I highly recommend you learn to use these advanced modes if you are serious about your photography - the concepts are not hard. To answer a FAQ - I use M (Manual) and Av (Aperture Priority) modes 99.5% of the time and Tv (Time value/Shutter Priority) the other .5%.

A very nice new feature for beginners and those not wanting to worry about settings is the availability of RAW capture even in the green square auto mode. Full RAW post-processing options are now available for everyone that wants to perfect their shots after capture.

50D Top Comparison

The overall size, shape, grip, weight, build ... of the EOS 50D is basically identical to that of the EOS 40D. That is a good thing - both are very well built and ergonomically-designed with controls at logic locations.

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon PowerShot G1 X4.6 x 3.2 x 2.6"(116.7 x 80.5 x 64.7mm)18.8 oz (534g)
Canon PowerShot G124.4 x 3.0 x 1.9"(112.1 x 76.2 x 48.3mm)13.7 oz (389g)
Canon PowerShot G94.2 x 2.8 x 1.7"(106.4 x 71.9 x 42.5mm)12.9 oz (365g)
Canon EOS M4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3"(108.6 x 66.5 x 32.3mm)10.5 oz (298g)
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7"(116.8 x 90.7 x 69.4mm)14.4 oz (407g)
Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700D5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1"(133.1 x 99.8 x 78.8mm)20.5 oz (580g)
Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1"(133.1 x 99.8 x 78.8mm)20.3 oz (575g)
Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1"(133.1 x 99.5 x 79.7mm)20.1 oz (570g)
Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4"(128.8 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)18.7 oz (530g)
Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4"(128.8 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)18.6 oz (527g)
Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200D5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1"(129.6 x 99.7 x 77.9 mm)16.9 oz (480g)
Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1"(129.9 x 99.7 x 77.9mm)17.5 oz (495g)
Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4"(128.8 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)18.4 oz (522g)
Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4"(126.1 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)17.5 oz (497g)
Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6"(127 x 94 x 65mm)19.9 oz (564g)
Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6"(127 x 94 x 64mm)19.0 oz (539g)
Canon EOS 70D5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1"(139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5mm)26.7 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 60D5.7 x 4.2 x 3.1"(144.5 x 105.8 x 78.6mm)26.6 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 50D5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9"(145.5 x 107.8 x 73.5mm)29.1 oz (826g)
Canon EOS 40D5.7 x 4.4 x 2.9"(145.5 x 112 x 73.5mm)29.5 oz (836g)
Canon EOS 30D5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9"(144 x 105.5 x 73.5mm)28.1 oz (796g)
Canon EOS 20D5.6 x 4.2 x 2.8"(144 x 106 x 72mm)27.5 oz (781g)
Canon EOS 7D5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9"(148.2 x 110.7 x 73.5mm)32.2 oz (914g)
Canon EOS 6D5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8"(144.5 x 110.5 x 71.2mm)26.6 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark III6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0"(152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm)33.5 oz (950g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark II6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0"(152 x 113.5 x 75mm)31.9 oz (904g)
Canon EOS 5D6.0 x 4.4 x 3.0"(152 x 113 x 75mm)32.0 oz (906g)
Canon EOS-1D X6.2 x 6.4 x 3.3"(158 x 163.6 x 82.7mm)54.0 oz (1530g)
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 157 x 80mm)48.5 oz (1374g)
Canon EOS-1D Mark III6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 157 x 80mm)47.6 oz (1349g)
Canon EOS-1D Mark II N6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 158 x 80 mm)55.5 oz (1574g)
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III6.1 x 6.3 x 3.1"(156 x 159.6 x 79.9mm)49.5 oz (1404g)
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 158 x 80 mm)55.2 oz (1564g)

Inside the Canon EOS 50D is a new DIGIC IV processor. While you probably will not notice a big speed improvement over the 40D in any of the 50D's functions, the 50D with UDMA CF card support will process much larger image files at about the same frame rate as the 40D.

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter LagVF Blackout
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D4.028/11407/875ms 
Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700D5.022/306/675ms 
Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D5.030675ms 
Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D3.734690ms130ms
Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D3.734690ms130ms
Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D3.4170990ms130ms
Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200D3.0696  
Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D3 / 28305110ms150ms
Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D3.553690ms130ms
Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D3 / 1.5n/a590ms
Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D3.02710100ms170ms
Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D3.0144100ms170ms
Canon EOS 70D7.040/6515/1665ms97ms
Canon EOS 60D5.3581659ms100ms
Canon EOS 50D6.3901659ms100ms
Canon EOS 40D6.5751759ms100ms
Canon EOS 30D5.0301165ms110ms
Canon EOS 20D5.023665ms115ms
Canon EOS 7D8.0110/13023/2559ms100ms
Canon EOS 6D4.573/125014/17<60ms 
Canon EOS 5D Mark III6.065/16k13/1859ms125ms
Canon EOS 5D Mark II3.978/31013/1473ms145ms
Canon EOS 5D3.0601775ms145ms
Canon EOS-1D X12/141803836-55ms60ms
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV10.01212840-55ms80ms
Canon EOS-1D Mark III10.01103040-55ms80ms
Canon EOS-1D Mark II N8.5482240-55ms87ms
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III5.0561240-55ms80ms
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II4.0321140-55ms87ms

Six.three frames per second is very fast. This rate is exceeded by a significant amount only by the 1D Series cameras in Canon's line. With a SanDisk Extreme III 16GB CF Card (fast, but not UDMA), ISO 100, a wide open aperture, fast shutter speed and lens cap on, I am getting the rated speed (or slightly faster) for 16 RAW shots, followed by 7 shots at about 4.4 fps. Subsequent shots are taken at about 2 fps. Increasing the ISO to 1600 drops the second figure to 5 and increasing the ISO to 3200 drops the second figure to 3 but the 16 figure does not change. Here are some audio clips that likely won't make the top-played list on your IPod.

6.5 fps Burst
Single Shot
Live View Quiet AF - Mode 1, then 2
Canon EOS 40D, then 50D, then XSi/450D Burst Comparison

The 50D's shutter sounds like the 40D's - reasonably quiet. The Live View quiet AF modes are especially quiet. Use the mouseover bar below to see the 6.3 fps rate in action.

50D 6.3 fps Burst Example

01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10

Throw away every other image in the above sequence and you will have approximately the same results as the Rebel / xxxD series cameras would give you in a burst. A longer shutter lag with its accompanying long viewfinder blackout time is another sports photography issue Rebel / xxxD series camera users are going to have to account for. The fast frame rate and short shutter lag (only the 1-Series bodies are faster) give the 50D a responsive feel. This is a really nice advantage of the xxD series over the Rebel / xxxD series - it is especially important when shooting sports.

Sports is also an area where AF performance is seriously tested. The Canon 50D has inherited the 40D's auto focus system including nine cross-type sensors effective with f/5.6 and faster lenses and a high-precision diagonal center cross-type AF point that's effective with f/2.8 and faster lenses.

It doesn't take a fast AF system to capture stationary subjects - including portraits of still people. Someone running toward the camera, however, is an entirely new challenge. While not as fast as the 1-Series cameras, the 50D is definitely better than the Rebel series /xxxD cameras in the AF speed and accuracy category. My keeper-rate experience from these bodies directly reflects this statement. Note: To answer a very frequently asked question, I shoot sports using the center AF point, AI Servo AF mode (the camera predicts where the subject will be when the shutter is opened), IS turned off, Av or M exposure mode and auto or custom white balance.

For even more precise autofocusing, the 50D allows AF Microadjustment as we first saw in the 1D III. This is an excellent feature that lets you perfectly focus-calibrate either the camera individually or your lenses individually to the camera. If a camera or lens is significantly miscalibrated, it should be sent to Canon for adjustment, but for the rest, I suggest running the lenses through an easy focus calibration procedure.

50D Focus Microadjustment Example

The example above shows the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II Lens at f/1.2 being run through the focus microadjustment process in increments of 5 on a Canon 1Ds Mark III.

There are many methods to focus calibrate a lens to the camera, but they all have the same goal - find the sharpest setting for the combo. Under good light, setup a flat focus target with obvious, contrasting lines/patterns (a newspaper, poster or similar printed item will work fine). Lock your camera onto a good tripod at the distance you would be most likely to use the lens at (optimally) and aimed directly at the flat focus target. Get your exposure setting correct at the lens' widest aperture (makes evaluating the test pictures easier). I select center-point-only for my focus point and use the 2-sec self-timer drive mode with mirror lockup engaged. Then, go into the menu to C.Fn III-7 AF Microadjustment (Custom Function Menu III, function 7). Select "2:Adjust by lens". Then shoot a test shot from a -20 setting to a +20 setting using increments of 5 between each shot. Load the pics into a computer (or review at 100% on the LCD) and determine which 2 settings were sharpest at the location the focus point was placed. Now shoot the test again using the 6 settings between and including these two settings - adjust by 1 between each shot. You may want to shoot multiple test shots at each setting with the lens defocused to be ultra precise. Determine which setting was optimal and make it the final setting for the lens. Repeat the focus adjustment process for the rest of your lenses if necessary.

There are a few limitations to the AF Microadjustment feature. First, a maximum of 20 lenses can be calibrated to a camera. The 50D recognizes a lens by the model (a lens + extender is counted as a separate lens). So, if you have two Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS Lenses that you use on the same body, you need to pick a calibration setting that is the best compromise between the two lenses. The AF Microadjustment feature does differentiate between the original, II and subsequent versions of all EF lenses. Since you can only select one calibration setting per lens, you are forced to select the focal length to calibrate to on a zoom lens (Canon suggests the longest focal length as this is the most focus-critical).

The Auto ISO feature Canon has been giving us to has taken a big step toward what I've really been looking for in its 50D implementation. The lowest ISO setting this feature will choose is now ISO 100 - down from ISO 400 - in all modes except portrait, when flash is used and - in M (Manual) mode. The big remaining step in my opinion is to make auto ISO work in M mode which would give us "Aperture and Shutter Priority" auto exposure. I want to set the aperture and shutter speed and let the camera determine the ISO setting needed to correctly expose the images. As it is, the 50D's Auto ISO sets the ISO to 400 if manual mode is selected - and to 100 if Portrait mode is selected.

Another feature new to the Canon EOS 50D is Peripheral Illumination Correction (PIC).

Canon EOS 50D Peripheral Illumination Correction

As you can see above, no correction results in over 2 stops of vignetting in the corner of this lens. Turn on the in-camera PIC and the in-camera JPG is corrected by about 1.5 stops in this example. RAW images receive an instruction for DPP to correct shading by an amount = "70" - which turns out to be slightly less than the in-camera JPG correction. Of course, RAW images can be adjusted to the level of correction desired when post processing in DPP. And, the DPP RAW correction feature is not limited to the 50D. Data from 20 Canon lenses is included in-camera for this function with additional definitions registerable through EOS Utility (included).

The 50D has a new self-cleaning unit that includes a fluorine coating on the low-pass filter for better dust resistance. While 6 weeks may not be enough time to fully evaluate this feature, I am very pleased so far. I have not cleaned the sensor yet. I was swapping lenses with the four DSLRs compared in this review a large and equal number of times. These lens swaps were done both inside and outside. The 40D did not fare nearly as well as the 50D did. It had a significantly higher amount of dust on its sensor at the end of these comparison tests than the 50D did. Any reduction in time spent cleaning the sensor is valuable to me.

Historically, only Canon's 1-series bodies were weather sealed. With the 40Dd came partial weather sealing and the 50D has received similar partial weather sealing. I'm not ready to get my 50D wet, but every avoided repair is a big deal in both time and money.

Canon 50D Mounted Lens Comparison

See-Thru:  Front | Back        Frame:  Front | Back

Like the 40D, with a 100,000 actuation-rated shutter, the 50D should fire away for a long time

ModelShutter Durability Rating
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D100,000
Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100Dn/a
Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D100,000
Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D100,000
Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D50,000
Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D50,000
Canon EOS 70D100,000
Canon EOS 60D100,000
Canon EOS 50D100,000
Canon EOS 40D100,000
Canon EOS 30D100,000
Canon EOS 20D50,000
Canon EOS 7D150,000
Canon EOS 6D100,000
Canon EOS 5D Mark III150,000
Canon EOS 5D Mark II150,000
Canon EOS 5D100,000
Canon EOS-1D X400,000
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV300,000
Canon EOS-1D Mark III300,000
Canon EOS-1D Mark II N200,000
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III300,000
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II200,000

I obviously haven't covered every feature of the 50D in this review (there are a mind-numbing amount of them). The 228 page 50D owner's manual (link below) will cover all of the details for you. There are many remaining features we have seen in other Canon DSLRs available in the 50D - including great ones like Highlight Tone Priority.

Who should buy the Canon EOS 50D?

If you are still shooting film, the 50D would be a great choice for conversion to digital.

If you are still shooting with a point and shoot camera, all of Canon's DSLR's will deliver much better image quality (especially at high ISO settings - see the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi / 450D review for a comparison), much shorter shutter lag and much faster AF.

If you are currently using one of the Rebel / xxxD camera bodies, the 50D is a very nice upgrade. The first thing you will notice is the more-solid feel with a larger, more-controllable grip. The 50D is more rigidly built (magnesium alloy and stainless steel vs. stainless steel and polycarbonate), has partial weather sealing and *probably* has a longer shutter life. Making setting changes is faster with the additional controls provided (although cell phone texting masters may prefer the Rebel's push buttons). When shooting, the 50D's speed and responsiveness are very noticeable due to faster AF, a much shorter shutter lag/mirror blackout time and much faster frame rate. The 50D also offers Kelvin white balance, a fast 1/8000 shutter speed (vs. 1/4000) and 25 custom functions (the XSi / 450D has 13). The 50D has a larger pentaprism viewfinder (vs. pentamirror) and has a PC port for controlling studio lighting (the XSi / 450D requires a hot shoe adapter for this function).

The 50D has ISO 3200 (plus the extended options) and has a top LCD. The 50D will flash synch up to 1/250 sec while the XSi / 450D maxes out at 1/200 sec (both can utilize high speed synch for faster shutter speeds - but at a loss of power). The 50D has additional focusing screens available and supports WIFI and GPS.

The Rebel / XSi's advantages include smaller size and lighter weight. If you are carrying your camera most of the time and using it very infrequently, the Rebel could be a better option for you. It's other big advantage - price - is attractive to all of us. The XSi is a lot of camera for the price. One minor additional advantage of the XSi / 450D is that it can be controlled by the less expensive Canon RC-1 and RC-5 Wireless Remotes.

If you are serious about shooting action, the 50D is a much better choice. If you need more-professional reliability, the 50D is the better choice. If you are serious about your photography in general and can afford the higher price, the Canon EOS 50D is my recommendation over the XSi.

If you are using one of the xxD bodies, the reason to upgrade to the 50D becomes more compelling as your model number goes down. Those of us using the 40D have the hardest decision to make - some of us will make the move, others will not. I'll let you decide which option is best for you. The enhancements over the 40D are nice, but are certainly less compelling than for those with the 10D or 20D. As I write this review, the 40D remains available (and I suspect it will for a while) - with it's lower price, it remains a good option also.

If you are shooting a Canon EOS 5D, I would stay with what you have unless a specific new feature is especially important to you. When it was first announced, the 50D received a lot of attention - until an unusual second Canon announcement was made. The Canon EOS 5D Mark II immediately gained the spotlight. Upgrading to the 5D Mark II is a much better option - This is a much bigger upgrade. Price and initially, availability, are the downsides.

When you buy a Canon DSLR, you are buying into an incredible family of lenses and other accessories. The camera body is of course the base and a lens is the other essential piece of kit.

Canon EOS 50D Mounted Lens Comparison

Use the mouseover links above to compare the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens, Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens, Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens, Canon EF-S 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens mounted on the 50D. The 50D is available in several kit versions including most of the lenses shown above - and the current discounted price of the 50D + 28-135 kit is a great deal. Because the quality of the lens makes a big difference in the image quality delivered by a DSLR - especially one with the resolution of the 50D, I recommend buying (now or later), one of the better Canon general purpose lenses available. At this review date, the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens is my most-recommended 1.6x lens with the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens being excellent alternatives.

With your body and lens selected, the only required hardware or software that is still missing is a big, fast CompactFlash Card. Everything else comes in the box including various straps, cables, software (including DPP), a battery and a charger. The first non-essential you will probably want is a case - and the Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 20 is a great choice if you are not using the optional Canon BG-E2N Battery Grip. Though long-lasting (rated for 800 shots), a second Canon BP-511A Battery is nice to have.

What's my conclusion? The Canon EOS 50D delivers excellent image quality from a solid-performing body.

Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

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Canon EOS 50D
Canon EOS 50D gives the Canon EOS 50D an overall 4.5 rating
Manufacturer ID: 2807B006
Review Date: 2008-11-13
Last Updated: 2008-11-14
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