A Look at what’s New
As we would expect with any new product, Canon has added new features and refined other features with the 50D. Here’s a closer look at what sets the 50D apart from its predecessors.
15.1 Megapixel CMOS Sensor
As mentioned, the Canon 50D has a 15.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, which is increased from the 40D’s 10 megapixel sensor. At the time the 50D was released, it had the largest megapixel count for an APS-C sensor.
The large sensor also results in large image files—approximately 5MB for a JPG and 20.2MB for a RAW file. Recognizing that some users won’t always need these super high resolution formats, Canon included two sRAW settings to assist with more manageable file sizes. sRAW1 results in a 25% smaller image, while sRAW2 provides a 50% smaller image, which is the equivalent of files captured at 7.1 or 3.8 megapixel resolutions, respectively.
DIGIC 4 Processor
Canon’s DIGIC 4 Image Processor moves the larger sized photos of the 50D at a faster pace than its predecessor. Although the 50D has a slightly lower burst rate of 6.3 frames per second, compared to the 40D’s 6.5 frames per second, keep in mind that the 50D is transmitting significantly more data. Given this, 6.3 frames per second is very respectable for the 50D. Furthermore, Canon was able to maintain 14-bit data for RAW images. The faster processing speed of the DIGIC 4 Image Processor also works hand-in-hand with UDMA cards to support fast writing speeds. In fact, with a UDMA CF card, you’ll be able to shoot at 6.3 frames per second for up to 90 JPEG or 16 RAW images. Using a standard CF card, you’ll still get a maximum burst up to 60 JPEGs.
Additionally, the new DIGIC 4 Image Processor provides for finer details and even more natural color reproduction, compared with the previous DIGIC III Image Processor. The DIGIC 4 also offers Peripheral Illumination Correction for up to 40 EF lenses, along with the improved Auto Lighting Optimizer, which corrects brightness and contrast automatically.
The 50D has a high-precision 9-point wide area AF that uses cross-type points at f-stops of f/5.6 or faster, making it possible for the camera to focus faster, more accurately, and in difficult lighting situations. The EOS 50D also has a diagonally mounted cross-type sensor that is sensitive to both vertical and horizontal lines at f/2.8, which improves operation in dim lighting conditions.
ISO Sensitivity Expandable to 12,800
The 50D’s ISO sensitivity is now expandable to 12,800. Even with the aforementioned increase in resolution, Canon has managed to reduce sensor noise, thanks to changes to the design of the microlens array as well as to the sensor itself. These changes made is possible for Canon to offer its widest range of ISO settings yet, ranging from ISO 100 to 3,200, with two higher settings: H1 is equivalent to ISO 6,400 and H2 provides an ISO equivalent of 12,800.
Even though Canon reduced the noise significantly, it’s best to avoid the highest ISO settings whenever possible since they still do cause some digital noise (as you’ll see in the test shots later.) Still, the expandability is nice, since sometimes it will mean the difference of a respectable shot or nothing at all. By combining the ISO expandability with the adjustable noise reduction feature of the camera, you’ll be able to shoot in situations that would have otherwise required a flash on previous cameras.
New, High-resolution LCD
The Canon 50D features a 3-inch LCD with 920,000 dots. This high-resolution display supports a VGA resolution of 640 x 480 RGB pixels, making it easier to view all of the fine details of a photo directly on the camera’s display. To help make the screen viewable in bright conditions, Canon built three anti-reflection layers into the screen. The LCD has a broad viewing angle of 160 degrees horizontally and vertically.
Creative Auto Mode & Quick Control Screen
For users who are just getting into photography and don’t understand how different shutter and aperture settings affect an image, Canon’s Creative Auto Mode simplifies things. In this mode, you can choose to blur or sharpen the background; control the firing of the flash; adjust picture brightness; change the picture style; access single, continuous, or self-timer shooting modes; and change the image recording quality using easy to understand and manipulate controls.
In both the Basic Zone shooting modes as well as the Creative Zone modes, you can access the Quick Control Screen by pressing the joystick straight down. From this screen, you’ll be able to easily change various settings, including drive modes and image recording quality. This screen also provides a good overview of current camera settings.
Live View Mode with 3 AF Modes
The Live View mode on the 50D offers face detection, which is something we haven’t seen with other Canon D-SLRs released prior to the 50D. This feature is pretty self-explanatory and can detect up to 35 faces in a frame and adjust the exposure of the image appropriately.
There are two other AF modes within Live View as well, namely Quick Mode and Live Mode. In Quick Mode, the dedicated AF sensor is used to focus in the same way as when you are using the viewfinder. Thus, the Live View image will be momentarily interrupted while the camera is focusing. If you want the Live View to display constantly, then use Live View mode, which uses the image sensor to focus. This mode will take longer to focus, but you won’t miss seeing any of the action on the camera’s LCD. Of course, you can always focus the camera manually in Live View mode as well by switching the lens to manual focus.
While in Live View mode, you can press the zoom button on the back of the camera to zoom in 5x and 10x. This helps you select and achieve the best focus.
To help you show off all of your fantastic shots, the EOS 50D has a HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output that allows you to display crisp, clear images on a HDTV. When the camera is connected to a HDTV, the resolution is set to match the TV and images are displayed in a full-frame 3:2 ratio with black bars to the left and right of the image.
Micro Adjustment of Focus
For serious photographers, the 50D lets you adjust the position at which the lens thinks the focus is perfect. The micro adjustment of focus feature is a 40 step scale from +20 to -20 units that let you finely tune the focus of the lens. You can apply changes as a constant offset to all lenses if the camera body is slightly out of adjustment, or you can record an offset for each Canon lens, with support for up to 20 different lenses.
The early problems that D-SLRs had with dust have largely been taken care of, thanks to new technologies such as Canon’s Self-Cleaning Sensor Unit, which was upgraded for the 50D with a fluorine coating on the low-pass filter for even better dust resistance. The Self-Cleaning Sensor Unit also uses ultrasonic vibrations to shake dust particles off of the low-pass filter in front of the sensor each time the camera is powered up or shut down. Another part of the dust removal system includes a software component which lets you map and save sensor spots as Dust Delete Data. This information is attached to the image file for removal during post processing using Canon's DPP software.