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Friday, June 1, 2012

Canon EOS 50D Review- Initial Impressions

Canon EOS 50D Review- Initial Impressions: So recently I added a 5D for my full frame photography kit, and now the Canon 50D to do APS-C work. One is the family wagon, and the other is the sports car- metaphorically speaking. I chose the 50D because of its rigid and excellent body style, lighter weight, lower price, and yet highly featured set against the 7d to which I previously owned and subsequently sold.

I don't want video on a DSLR at this time, and rarely shoot above 3200 ISO. Also, and quite frankly, I didn't want to spend a lot of money on an APS-C body. The 50D ticked nearly every box initially, including weather sealing, so that was the choice I made. Now lets see how my initial impressions bear out.

Canon EOS 50D 15.1 BODY ONLY Price Check
When B&HPhoto and Video had one at 9+ condition with the box, I jumped on it for $615.00 USD. It arrived in like new condition, zero trace of any use either on the camera or the box itself. Even the manual is unopened. B&H typically under score the condition of their used equipment, unlike Adorama of late. This particular 50D was in open box new condition as far as I can see.

I've used the Canon EOS 50D before so it is pretty familiar to me. I'll go ahead and give my "first" impressions anyways considering its been a couple years since I've used it (or the 40D for that matter) since in some respects it will be like using for the first time.

Auto Focus- The AF system is very quick (faster than the 5D's), and accurate right out of the box for me on 3 different lenses I used on it. I find 9 AF points to be simple but effective and that they don't clutter up the view too much, each seems sensitive but especially the center AF point (as it should be considering how it's built up).

Shutter Cycle- The shutter/mirror cycle is very quiet, the return is quick and black out minimal. Live view volume is excellent excellent in this regard because it offers choices. The two live view silent options are just icing on the cake for sleeping subjects or other opportunities that require a quiet camera. Silent mode 2 is very quiet indeed, and very welcome. It's high speed shutter/mirror sound is also surprisingly quiet- few will hear you fire off 5-10 images in rapid succession. Great for wildlife and stealth photography alike.

Handling- The body is an absolutely wonderfully built piece of metal and rubber (better than the 7D around the card door area where I found the 7D to flex and creak). It somehow feels lightweight but not hollow or cheap in any respect. The grip is a tad softer and cushier than my EOS 5D, but not spongy, rather it is a nice soft firm feel if that makes any sense. This has to be one of the most comfortable DSLR grips I've ever used, if not taking the cake. The rubber has the right give, texture, and curves that just really make it feel great in the hand- light or heavy lenses alike.

It's well balanced and the controls are surprisingly in excellent locations- I didn't think I'd like the row of buttons on the bottom instead of the left hand side, but I do. The rest of the body has a very "Canon" familiarity that made getting to know the 50D almost instantaneous for me. The menu system too is quite easy to navigate and seems less complicated or heady than the 7D's did. I might have to compare them side by side again to be 100% sure of that impression, but I'm pretty sure of it.

Image Quality- Reviewing the images I've taken so far and yes, I admit the sensor isn't as good as the 7D's or 5D's for that matter. But it's close enough to that mark, and that's just fine with me considering my needs. I find the sensor needs a bit of TLC when making exposures, and keeping the ISO level down is a good idea too if you can. Banding shows up if images are underexposed so you have to be careful if banding is an issue for you. She's a temperamental little beast in terms of IQ but if you pay attention you can get around it just fine. I'll venture to ISO 6400, but very cautiously and paying very close attention to the final exposure. The image below is ISO 6400.

ISO 6400 converted in ACR, not too shabby actually

For me it's as simple as going to my 5D for lower light higher sensitivity photography when the going gets rough. Up to ISO 1600 the 50D is just fine and dandy without having to worry,  and up to ISO 2500 is completely acceptable. Using the smaller SRAW1 and SRAW2 settings and developing from ACR helps matters greatly for even higher ISO images. Lower ISO's are outstanding, all the way up to ISO 800. ISO 100 is clean and full of detail and dynamic range- as the next two samples clearly show.

ISO 100, good clean blue sky

There's plenty of resolution and image quality/size options to keep myself happy for the work it's intended to do- especially with high end zooms or prime Canon lenses. Even the 28-135 USM IS lens is very decent on the 50D, especially when you get a good copy like I have. Below, this was shot at f/8, the APS-C sensor taking clear advantage of the sweet spot of this lens.

Again ISO 100, tons of detail for big prints

Preliminary Conclusion-

The 50D seems to be the best APS-C Canon DSLR to compliment the 5D for me- for the price. I'll say it again, there's a lot of camera for the buck here especially in the condition I got mine in. The 50D almost feels like a steal for 600 bucks. In fact, it is.

I'm keen on choosing equipment that matches or exceeds its intended role, and the 50D will do just nicely for the role it will fill. I simply do not need to spend another grand for a camera that will do the jobs I want for it.. I'd recommend the same for any photographer when making a choice of camera- know your needs first (key point here) and the work you'll be doing with the tool before you buy the tool. You'll not only save yourself a lot money, but even better get the right tool (camera) for the job.

I'm considering on following up with a full fledged review on the 50D for those who are interested in looking at the used market and want to know how the 50D compares to today's newer cameras for the price. There is a TON of things to discuss about the 50D that haven't been mentioned yet. Just a ton of good stuff.

Stay tuned.

Canon EOS 50D 15.1 BODY ONLY Price Check



  1. Rock on with the older camera articles carl. I find them very helpful for photographers who are shelling out bricks of cash on new cameras, and hardly anyone else is doing this kind of journalism on camera equipment. Not all of us have endless wallets and would like to know the great deals out there just like this one. I like that you are clear about what you sacrifice and gain for the money, that is honest.

    keep groovin'! -Bill

  2. Once more I read a review, and once more I want to buy some gear :-)
    But having a small budget for hobbies, makes it at tough call. I sure would like a Pentax K-5 or the new OM-D E-M5, or ... but then there is also lenses etc. to buy. One could go back to daddy's old analogue Nikon. Old manual lenses should be cheap, right?. But it is not exactly cheap to get the quality scans into digital, and that kind of limits your lust for experiments.

    There is probably not one-size-fits-all. But for a beginner it is both macro, family-shots inside at christmas evening, kids and pets running, portraits, landscape, vacation ...
    Sounds like fast AF, fast lenses, and a good flash. Maybe most could be done with one good zoom.

    I would be really interested in finding out what really is a deal, and what is not. But isn't this price very close to a completely new nikon d5100, and would that not be the better camera of these two? Too many choises and too little time and cash to try it all :-)

  3. Better is subjective, my subjective opinion is that the 50D is far away and above a better camera than the 5100.


  4. Agree the Canon 50D was and is a better camera than it was ever given credit for.
    For someone who wants to photograph sports, but, cannot afford a 7D, the 50D is the best choice.

  5. For sure there is a price advantage. But I've used both bodies and the AF isn't that much better practically (I stress practically) than the 50D with a fast focusing lens (same lens on each body). I found the 50D to be a highly capable camera in this regard and will definitely note an extensive section on its capabilities (mainly with samples and settings).

    The 50D suffered from a timing issue more than anything else, and the hype Canon put out about the gapless microlenses making a huge difference in IQ lead people to believe the camera would have better performance at higher sensitivities than reality born out.

    Lesson learned, marketing can be detrimental the reputation of your company unless used correctly.



  6. So when talking about the camera as a tool, we have an important difference to for instance nikon 5100? Haven't handled the nikon, but the Pentax k-5 certainly stands out when you pick it up, both feel and good access to settings (only tried in a shop).
    I am impressed with the 6400 iso. Not having tried "older" cameras, it is difficult to understand how big or small progress have been in real-life usage.
    How is focus-speed in places where you cannot fire a flash? Say a wedding in a church, or christmas eve at home?
    What is your intended use for this camera? You didn't say, just that it fitted your intended role for it.

  7. Ill get into those questions a lot more in the final upcoming review.


  8. I agree with Carl, I have also an EOS 7D and I have to say that the Eos 50D performance is not far from the 7D.