The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, launched in September 2012 is the World’s first compact with a 50x zoom. Twice as long as the 25x zoom of the Panasonic Lumix FZ200, it out-distances the 30x Sony Cyber-shot HX200V and Fujifilm HS30 EXR by a similar factor. Even the Nikon P510 and the Olympus SP-820UZ iHS at 42x and 40x respectively aren’t really within touching distance. If you crave a massive zoom lens in a compact camera this is as good as it gets. And though the SX50 HS is pretty much all about getting in close to distant subjects, it also has a very capable 24mm wide angle – so it’s equally good for shooting landscapes, interiors and large groups.
The SX50 Hs replaces the 35x SX40 HS which remains part of the PowerShot line up. In addition to the substantially longer telephoto the newer model has an upgraded LCD screen with 460 thousand dots. Increasing the screen size from 2.7 inches to 2.8 inches may seem like an almost pointless change, but it’s enough to make a difference and the 4:3 proportions mean the SX50’s screen actually provides a larger viewing area for stills shooting than models like the Lumix FZ200 which have a 3:2 screen.
Other improvements include faster burst shooting, a wider ISO sensitivity range with an 80 ISO base extending to 6400 ISO and some new additions to the creative effects. There are also physical changes with a slighly restyled body featuring a relocated Framing assist seek button and a new Framing assist lock button on the lens barrel. But probably the biggest news for enthusiast photographers is the introduction of a RAW shooting mode, which puts the SX50 HS on a par with the Lumix FZ range that has offered this feature for some time.
Compared to Panasonic Lumix FZ200
The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and Canon PowerShot SX50 HS share a number of things in common beyond their appearance, but lets start with that. Both are closely matched in terms of size and weight and have quite similar styling, especially now the SX50 HS has been ‘squared up’. On the inside, both have 12 Megapixel sensors and both now offer RAW shooting in addition to JPEG modes. Despite the different size specifications the LCD screens are similarly sized and share the same 460k dot resolution. And they also offer similar range of manual, semi, and fully automatic exposure modes.
So much for the similarities, there are a lot of differences too, let’s start with the most obvious one. The PowerShot SX50 HS has twice the zoom range of the Lumix FZ200. They start at similar 24mm and 25mm wide angles respectively, but the SX50 HS goes all the way to 1200mm where the FZ200 stops at 600mm. The comparison makes the FZ200 look puny, but 600mm is a long telephoto and will get you close enough to most things. Where the SX50’s extra reach will come in handy is for photographing small things that are a long way off, like birds, or, who knows, maybe even celebrities. That said, it’s equally important to note the Lumix FZ200’s zoom has a fixed f2.8 aperture, compared with f3.4-6.5 on the SX50 HS. This not only makes the FZ200 more capable in low light, with a two stop advantage over the SX50 HS when zoomed in, it means it’s possible to achieve more shallow depth of field for portraiture and medium to long telephoto shots.
Though their screens are similar, the Lumix FZ200’s elecronic viewfinder has a much higher resolution than the SX50 HS’s and provides a brighter, more detailed and ultimately more comfortable view. And the FZ200 provides a button for toggling between the screen and EVF. All of which adds up to a better all-round viewing and handling experience than on the SX50 HS.
The FZ200 also features a greater abundance of physical controls than the SX50 HS and provides more customisation options. There are no fewer than three programmable Fn buttons, as well as a barrel switch for focus mode selection. There’s also a dedicated button for selecting continuous shooting modes and the FZ200 offers a wider range of burst options.
Both cameras have a dedicated movie record button and are able to use thier optical zooms during recording. The Lumix offers a best quality 1080p50/60 option compared with 1080p24 on the SX50 HS. While film fans love the film-like quality of 24p video, the 50/60p mode on the FZ200 provides the scope for high quality slow motion playback at 25/30fps. Both offer two slow motion movie modes, but the FZ200’s is HD resolution compared with VGA on the SX50 HS. Both cameras have a standard hotshoe as well as the built-in flash, but the FZ200 additionally provides a socket for an external mic.
In terms of image qualiy, there’s little to choose between these two models, and now that the SX50 HS can shoot RAW, we can say that applies to both the in-camera JPEGS as well as RAW files. Finally, depending on where you are in the World, the FZ200 will cost you up to around 25 percent more than the SX50 HS.
Price differences aside, the choice really comes down to what features are most important to you. The Canon offers unmatched zoom range together with some great creative modes and versatile video options and, now, the ability to process your own RAW files. But in many ways, the FZ200 still provides more for enthusiasts to get their teeth into. The lens may lack the Canon’s range, but it’s wider aperture provides more opportunities in low light and for creative depth of field effects. Its viewfinder is better than the SX50’s and it offers more customisation options. If those advantages add up to more than the zoom reach and you’re happy to pay for any difference in price, you’ve got your answer.
Check out my Panasonic FZ200 review for more details.
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS final verdict
With the PowerShot SX50 HS Canon clearly had one aim in sight – to outdo every other super-zoom manufacturer in the market with a longer zoom range. It has succeeded and then some. To put it in context the SX50 HS’s 24-1200mm equivalent range gives it more scope in terms of available focal lengths than most DSLR owners have in their bulky and heavy camera bags. There’s virtually no situation it doesn’t equip you for.
The addition of RAW shooting is a smart, if belated move, Canon having finally woken up to the fact that its absence was losing the company sales to Panasonic’s FZ models. And there’s the slightly bigger, higher resolution LCD screen, another improvement that was probably long overdue.
So, for jaw-dropping zoom range, the PowerShot SX50 HS is now the new gold standard. Anyone who’s bought a new super-zoom primarily for its long telephoto reach now has a new goal to aspire to, but that desire might not be so widespread as you’d think. Sure, there are those who will trade in their 25x, 30x and 42x models simply because they must have the biggest, and also some because they genuinely need a 1200mm zoom. But if I was the owner of a PowerShot SX40 HS I don’t think I’d be fretting too much. With probably the same, or a least a similar sensor, the same Digic 5 processor, movie modes, exposure modes, viewfinder and similar burst shooting, it’s really mostly about the lens.
That argument also holds for first time buyers. Ask yourself how important the 840-1200mm section of the SX50’s zoom range is to you, and whether you’re likely to take advantage of RAW modes. If the answers to those questions are ‘not that much’ then the older SX40 HS may be a better buy, so long as you can find it at a suitably discounted price; see my Canon SX40 HS review for more details. Taking that one-step further, ask yourself how important the 600-1200mm range is, as if again it’s not that critical, then Panasonic’s FZ200 will cover the range up to 600mm with a brighter and constant f2.8 aperture, along with including a more detailed viewfinder and a microphone input to boot.
That said, we are talking about super-zooms here, and there’s no arguing that the SX50 trumps everything else in terms of its epic range. That, plus the addition of RAW modes and other improvements add up to a highly capable and well balanced model highly deserving of the Cameralabs Highly Recommended award. As the latest version of a series of best-sellers, there may also already be some keen prices available.
(relative to 2012 super-zooms)
16 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20
18 / 20
16 / 20