SX50 Mini-Review Take One - Initial Observations, SX50 vs SX40, and Images

Started Nov 10, 2012 | Discussions thread
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VisionLight
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SX50 Mini-Review Take One - Initial Observations, SX50 vs SX40, and Images
Nov 10, 2012

With Superstorm Sandy and no power or communications for a week, followed by a Nor'easter and a half a foot of snow, I have not had a lot of time to play with my new SX50. But after two weeks of owning it, I have now taken about 100 images and can start my mini-review. (Note: all data and images are based on using mostly Tv mode, some Av mode and some P mode for flash. I have not tried AUTO. BUT, I may be expanding my horizons and (gulp) trying AUTO mode in the future. Even us old dogs can learn new tricks, so stay tuned for a possible thread on my observations.)

Initial observations:

I'm going to have to get used to the new button placements. With the SX40 I've learned to hit all buttons without taking my eye from the EVF. What I do like on the SX50 is that the picture review button is placed away from the right back edge of the camera. Many times while placing the camera in its bag, I've accidently hit that button and turned the camera on. The switch between the ISO and selftimer buttons is going to take a while since I use both often. The switch of the zoom assist button will also take a while, moving from my right thumb to my left thumb. I actually liked that button's placement on the SX40. But I'm also going to have to relearn how to hold the camera since my left thumb now naturally falls across the two zoom assist buttons. I have already hit them a couple of times by mistake. Now one thing I do not like is the new larger raised dots on the right thumb rest (15 higher larger dots on the SX50 vs 18 smaller dots on the SX40). I find the new layout uncomfortable and actually distracting. Otherwise, the new camera handles just like its older sister and is very familiar in my hands. I've even set the EC at a default of -1/3, just like the SX40.

SX50 vs SX40 telephoto images side by side:

In my SX40 mini-review 11 months ago, I displayed comparison pictures of a cupola on my friends property. Although she moved south and no longer owns the property, the new owner is also neighborly. So it's back to the cupola, which you'll see has been somewhat damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The comparative images were tripod mounted with IS left on for both cameras. Both are set at evaluative metering and all settings equalized between the cameras as close as possible, except that the SX50 is Superfine. Both compositions were also matched as closely as possible at 840mm and around 500mm. For most practical purposes, the images from both cameras are nearly the same. I'll get more into the Superfine in a moment, but some of you may see the slight difference here.



07_SX50_0035 490mm SUPERFINE - Tripod mounted SX50 from 100 feet at around 500mm



08_SX40_1335 485mm FINE - Tripod mounted SX40 from 100 feet at around 500mm



05_SX50_0033 772mm SUPERFINE - Tripod mounted SX50 from 100 feet at around maximum optical zoom of SX40



06_SX40_1334 840mm FINE - Tripod mounted SX40 from 100 feet at maximum optical zoom of 840mm

SX50 Superfine vs Fine:

Here are two comparisons for your judgement, one at 2400mm using 2.0TC and one at 1200mm. For general viewing, again they look pretty much the same. But in this case, doing a little pixel peeping, superfine does in deed carry the day. In the bright light of these examples I do not really see the increased noise (at least in the blue channel) that I've heard about. This of course bears further testing, especially in the green channel where noise may be more apparent. But so far, I do like Superfine and since its memory footprint doesn't bother me, I've set it as the default on my SX50.



04_SX50_0029 1200mm FINE - Tripod mounted from 100 feet



03_SX50_0028 1200mm SUPERFINE - Tripod mounted from 100 feet



02_SX50_0027 2400mm FINE - Tripod mounted from 100 feet




01_SX50_0026 2400mm SUPERFINE - Tripod mounted from 100 feet

Telemacro:

One of the first things I wanted to know about the SX50 was how its telemacro "feature" compared to the SX40. In my mini-review of the SX40 I posted images showing that the SX40 could focus on an object 1¾ inchs wide from 4½ feet away with its full optical zoom and 2.0TC (effective 1680mm lens in full frame equiv.). Here is a 1200mm image with additional 2.0TC with the SX50:



SX50 at 2400mm (2.0TC) from 4 1/2 feet gives a horizontal field of view of 1 3/8 inchs

So, a horizontal field of view of 1 3/8 inchs can be captured at the minimum focus distance of 4½ feet with the SX50. Since many of the uncropped images I've posted here over the last 10 months have been of flora and fauna only an inch or two in size, I guess I'm going to get even closer to nature in the coming year. I'm looking forward to it.

In addition,here is another close-up showing nice clarity of a back-lit fabric leave taken from about 10 feet at full optical zoom:



SX50 at 1200mm optical zoom from about 10 feet shows the details of a back-lit fabric leaf

Focus Speed and Zoom Assist:

Like most others have reported about the SX50, I also find that in medium to bright light that the focus speed and shot to shot handling has improved greatly from the SX40. Well done. HOWEVER, in side by side tests with the SX40 in dim to dark conditions, the SX40 has won every single time. In fact, sometimes I found the SX50 to be down right slow after the SX40 already obtained focus. Maybe it's just my unit, but I ask others who have both cameras to give it a try. Interesting results.

The speed of the zoom assist coupled with the faster focusing in bright to medium light really impresses me. The second zoom assist button also cme in very handy to stabilize the 240mm zoom. With the SX40 I was not very good in tracking birds in flight. But the other day three hawks were circling my home hunting for a final meal in the setting sun. Although I knew I would only get silhouettes in the fading light, I grabbed my SX50 and set the 2.0TC. Using the Zoom Assist set to medium, I was excited as it was finally easy to zoom in and focus on the gliding birds who were flying high enough to half fill the frame at 2400mm. Four shots and four in focus hits . Also took a fifth shot as one came gliding down through the treetops. Although I erased the first four as just silhouettes and tests, I liked the composition of the last one and it showed that the camera responded right on time to capture the hawk as it hit the opening.





Using Zoom Assist, I was able to track this hawk from about 200-300 feet high down through the treetops, zooming in and out, and was able to capture it just as it hit the opening, in focus no less.

Dynamic Range Correction and Landscapes:

As I reported in a reply to another thread, I like highlight control on the S100 and did not like shadow control on either the S100 or the SX40. In either case I felt the shadow control produced too blotchy and noisy a result for my taste and I would rather handle it in post. Since the SX50 now has both like the S100, I immediately set and liked the highlight control for brightly lit scenes. To reply to the other thread, I then tested shadow control in auto one more time. And I was surprised with what looked like better results than the other cameras. Now I did not yet push it to deeper shadows, but gave it easier targets to start. And it handled them quite well. The downside is that when both highlight and shadow is set, resulting images are very flat and need level or curve adjustment in post. But the added detail and dynamic range, at least so far, is worth it. Here are some landscape examples. See the captions for more data on each:





Highlight control was used to retain the details in the white snow of the plant that survived Sandy and emerged from the snow. The original was a little too blue, so I added a 50% No. 85 filter in Photoshop and tweaked the highlight levels to 245.



I went down to Swan Lake at the Preserve to check how much damage the storms did. This landscape used both highlight and shadow control with the original image being very flat but full of detail. I created four layers (the snow, the sky, the mountain and its reflection, and the skky reflection in the lake) and enhanced each separately to create the final image. I think it was worrth the trouble, given the good bones from the original.



This image from the Preserve was also taken with highlight and shadow control, adding detail and range to both the shadows and the snow. The flat results were also enhanced in photoshop by ading separate levels adjustments to the snow, the luminance levels of the combined grasses and highlights in the woods, and the trees themselves.



This image, taken from my kitchen window the evening after the nor'easter, had auto highlight control turned on to maintain details around the bright highlights. Its only post was the removal of the edge of a roof eave in the lower left side (can you find it or did I do a good enough job?) The image itself was certainly bright and colorful enough to need no other post. And I just love sunsets from the comfort of my window.



Flash:

It took some testing, but I finally was able to set the C1 mode of my SX50 with usable flash settings for 2 foot to 12 foot subject distances. First thing that I noticed is that setting white balance to AWB works better than setting it to Flash. Also that an FEC of -1/3 to -2/3 coupled with an EC of -1/3 also tended to give better results. With the SX40 I usually attached a Canon Speedlight for best results, but I wanted the convenience of not having to do so with the SX50. I'll still do that comparison, internal vs speedlight, but at a later time with the SX50. Here are some flash examples, first at close distance and then a wider field. The vine tomato was from about 2½ feet and results are pleasing to me. The kitchen utility area image shows the effects of different lightings in the room which was not corrected by the DIGIC5 processor (see the green on the near cabinets from the flourescent lights in the family area of the room and the red highlights from the overhead halogens). I've read that the DIGIC5 will automatically correct these differences in AWB under some circumstances, but apparently not when using Flash. By the way, the kitchen was a gift to my wife when I retired. I've been a photographer, worked in high finance and technology and various other fields, but I have always been first and foremost a carpenter. My shop may now be closed to the public, but I still custom designed and personally hand built the entire kitchen for her, using handpicked red oak timbers and age old techniques and joinery. I proudly tell people that, except for the wall studs and attaching my crown mouldings, there is not a single nail used in the entire kitchen (you're only seeing about a quarter of it). I do love photography, but designing and building cabinetry and furniture is where my head is really at. But I digress. Back to the pictures:



Vine tomato study with the onboard flash of the SX50 from about 2 1/2 feet.



The DIGIC5 did not correct for the multiple light sources in this SX50 onboard flash kitchen image. AWB however did a much better job than the Flash White Balance setting did. Overall, the flash did do a very nice job of lighting this wide image without all the room's lights turned on.

The Bottom Line (so far):

Except for the cupola pictures above, I haven't posted anything here showing the huge strength of the SX50's massive zoom with its tremendous wide range. That's basically a done deal and many have already celebrated it here. So will I in future threads. But I did want to give some initial observations of some of the other facets of this very versatile camera. And after two weeks of (limited) use, the bottom line is that it is definitely a keeper. It has enough new features to differentiate it from its older sister and yet still feels comfortably similar. Image quality appears to have improved, slight as it may be, with the superfine setting, and dynamic range can be helped with the combined highlight/shadow settings (again, with help in post). And I can't wait to start aiming its 2400mm (2.0TC) lens at nature's tinier offerings from 4½ feet. Top it all off with the deal I boughtit for at $383.99 (see http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50140830  ) and it is definately a great purchase.

So now as life starts getting back to more normal around here, I will be able to use it more and test its varied other capabilities. And thus report back here in the next thread. In the meantime, everyone else enjoy your new SX50s. It's a fun and capable camera.

Comments, observations and questions welcome,

Vision

 VisionLight's gear list:VisionLight's gear list
Canon PowerShot S100 Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Canon EOS 5D Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM +4 more
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