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Canon EOS 50D Gordon Laing, October 2008
 
 

Canon EOS 50D intro

Canon’s EOS 50D is the company’s latest semi-professional DSLR. It comes one year after the popular EOS 40D, but doesn’t replace it – as yet anyway. Both models will co-exist in the market at different price points, at least for the rest of 2008.

Externally the EOS 50D greatly resembles the EOS 40D. The dimensions are identical and there’s only a slight difference in weight with the new model coming in a few grams lighter. Most of the major differences are internal, with the headline feature being a significant boost in resolution from 10.1 to 15.1 Megapixels using a newly designed APS-C CMOS sensor. This takes the EOS 50D comfortably beyond the 12.2 Megapixels of the cheaper EOS 450D / XSi which itself had leapfrogged the EOS 40D.

Squeezing 15.1 Megapixels onto an APS-C sensor also makes it the highest pixel density from Canon to date – which understandably raises concerns over noise levels and dynamic range. Canon claims it has countered this by implementing gapless micro-lenses to maximise sensitivity, while additionally optimising the placement and size of the photodiodes.


Canon EOS 50D


Confident in its new sensor’s greater efficiency, Canon’s additionally boosted its maximum sensitivity from 3200 ISO on the 40D to 12,800 ISO on the EOS 50D, complete with four levels of High ISO Noise Reduction. So has Canon really managed to match or even improve on the 40D’s performance while delivering 50% more Megapixels and four times the maximum sensitivity? You'll find out in our full review.

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Canon EF 70-200mm f4L IS

The Megapixel-count may have increased by around 50%, but there’s only a fractional drop in continuous shooting performance with the EOS 50D boasting 6.3fps to the 40D’s 6.5fps. Image processing is courtesy of the latest DIGIC 4 which offers ‘Peripheral Illumination Correction’ on JPEGs to reduce the effect of vignetting where the image darkens towards the corners. Staying on the subject of lenses, the EOS 50D also features the welcome facility of fine-tuning the AF on lenses, inherited from Canon's pro range.

Click here for the Canon EOS 50D video tour
 

Physically speaking the big new feature is a higher resolution screen. The 50D’s screen may measure the same 3in as that on the 40D, but it now boasts 920k dots to the 40D’s 230k. This is the first VGA monitor from Canon and matches the resolution of recent higher-end Nikon and Sony bodies. The 50D also becomes the first Canon DSLR with an HDMI port.

So just one year on from the already capable EOS 40D, Canon has increased the total pixel count by 50%, while quadrupling the sensitivity and packing-in all the latest features - apart from a movie mode anyway. Many of these upgrades are in reaction to Nikon's D300 which out-featured the EOS 40D when launched, and remains one of the most powerful bodies today.

So the big questions are whether the EOS 50D's feature-set is a match for its arch rival, and crucially if Canon's managed to match or exceed the earlier 40D's high ISO performance despite a 50% hike in Megapixels. Find out in our full review where we'll examine the new features in practice and directly compare the 50D's quality against the 40D and Nikon's latest D90. As always, you can see a demonstration of its key features in our Canon EOS 50D video tour.

Testing notes

We tested a final production Canon EOS 50D running firmware version 1.0.1. Following our convention of testing cameras using their factory default settings unless otherwise stated, the EOS 50D was set to Large Fine JPEG quality, Auto White Balance, Evaluative metering and the Standard Picture Style; High ISO Noise Reduction and the Auto Lighting Optimiser were set to their default Standard settings. Highlight Tone Priority was disabled. Note: we the disabled Auto Lighting Optimizer for our high ISO noise tests. Image Stabilisation was enabled for all handheld shots and disabled for tripod-based tests.


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