Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
Category: Super-zoom Compact Camera
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Review
Conclusion - Pros:
- Very good photo quality for a super-zoom
- Enormous 50X, 24 - 1200mm equivalent lens
- Optical image stabilization, with Intelligent IS feature that selects the right IS mode for you
- Sharp, rotating 2.8" LCD display with 461,000 pixels offers good outdoor and low light visibility
- Full manual controls, now with RAW support
- Smart Auto mode picks a scene mode for you, can even tell when babies are smiling or sleeping (well, it tries)
- Plenty of scene modes and Creative Filters
- Dynamic range correction and HDR features improve image contrast (though a tripod is recommended for the latter)
- Customizable button, menu, and spots on mode dial
- Electronic level (single-axis)
- Handy Zoom Framing Assist feature lets you quickly recompose when at the telephoto end of the lens
- Records Full HD (1080/24p) video with stereo sound, use of optical zoom, and continuous AF
- Support for external flash, wired remote, and lens filters
Conclusion - Cons:
- Likes to clip highlights (hint: use DR correction)
- Noise becomes pretty intense at ISO 800 and beyond
- Redeye a problem (though removal tool in playback mode helps)
- Electronic viewfinder isn't great
- Slow max framerate of ~1fps with AF (but increasing to 2fps with AF/AE lock and 12.8fps in High Speed Burst HQ mode)
- Lens is on the slow side (in terms of maximum aperture); tripod almost a necessity when shooting at 50X zoom
- ISO fixed at 80 at shutter speeds at or below 1 second
- Below average battery life
- Rear dial is flush with four-way controller, difficult to turn
- Movies are a bit choppy due to 24 fps frame rate; no manual controls available
- Can't access memory card when using a tripod
- Cheapo bundle puts manual on CD-ROM, doesn't even include a USB cable anymore
For photographers who just can't get enough telephoto power, there's the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS HS. This camera packs a whopping 50X, 24 - 1200mm lens, which is more than you'll find on any other super zoom on the market (at least for now). While having all that telephoto power sounds appealing, keep in mind that you'll need to either use a tripod or crank up the ISO a bit in order to get a sharp photo at full telephoto, and of course the latter comes with a penalty in image quality. The SX50 HS has received a nice face-lift since last year's PowerShot SX40, with good control placement and solid build quality. The only thing I don't really like is the rear dial, which is flush with the four-way controller and difficult to turn. I think this camera would also benefit from having a side-mounted zoom controller, which you'll find on some of its competitors.
A few other things about the SX50 HS's monster lens: it has a maximum aperture range of F3.4-6.5, so its on the slow side (certainly compared to the constant F2.8 of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200). The camera features a handy Zoom Assist feature which lets you quickly zoom out, recompose, and then return the lens right back where it was before. Naturally, there's an image stabilization system built into the lens, and the SX50 HS can select the correct IS mode (e.g. panning, macro, dynamic) depending on the situation. On the back of the camera is 2.8" LCD display with 461,000 pixels (both numbers are improvements since the SX40) which can flip to the side and rotate 270 degrees. You can also compose photos on the camera's electronic viewfinder, though I wouldn't, as it's pretty lousy. The PowerShot SX50 HS supports an external flash, filters (with an optional adapter), and a wired remote control, among other things.
The PowerShot SX50 HS has the standard 2012 Canon feature set, and that's mostly a good thing. Point-and-shoot photographers can simply set the mode dial to the Smart Auto position and let the camera do the rest. It'll select one of fifty-eight scene modes for you, with the ability to detect when you're using a tripod, or whether the baby in the frame is sleeping or smiling. There are also a host of scene modes and 'Creative Filters' (special effects) at your disposal. One of them is an HDR (high dynamic range) feature, which dramatically improves image contrast, though a tripod is essentially required. There are two other tools for improving contrast: DR and Shadow Correction, though you'll need to be in one of the manual modes in order to use those. DR Correction is especially helpful at reducing the highlight clipping that is a big problem on this camera.
The SX50 HS allows you to manually adjust the shutter speed and aperture, white balance (with fine-tuning), and focus. While you can bracket for exposure and focus, you can't do so for white balance. One good piece of news is that the PowerShot SX50 HS supports the RAW format, where prior models did not. The camera also features a customizable button, menu, and spots on the mode dial. One beef I have with the SX50 HS (and several other recent Canon models for that matter) is that the ISO is fixed at 80 when the shutter speed is 1 second or less, even in full manual mode.
The SX50 HS's movie mode hasn't changed, which means that it records Full HD video at 1080/24p with stereo sound for up to 15 minutes. While you can use the optical zoom and image stabilizer, there are no manual controls available, aside from a wind filter and mic level adjustment. It would be nice if Canon brought their cameras into the 21st Century and increased the frame rate and offered some real manual controls!
Canon seems to have made a concerted effort to improve performance in the SX50 HS compared to its earlier generation super-zooms and it has certainly done that. Is the SX50 HS now the fastest super zoom in the land? No, but it's pretty good. The camera starts up in a very respectable 1.2 seconds, which is better-than-average. Focus speeds are 50% better than on the SX40 (per Canon), bringing them up to 'average'. I didn't find shutter lag to be an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were in the 2-3 second range. The PowerShot SX50 HS has several continuous shooting modes. The fastest one, High-Speed Burst HQ, takes ten shots in a row at 12.8 frames/second. Unfortunately, the LCD is blacked out during shooting, so you can't track a moving subject. If you want to do that, you'll have to slow things down considerably, to 1-2 frames/sec (depending on the quality setting). The SX50 HS clears its buffer quickly, so there are no long delays after a burst of photos is taken. One of the weak spots on the SX50 HS is battery life, which is not only worse than on the SX40, but 30% below its peers.
Image quality is good, and at low ISOs it is certainly comparable to the best super zooms on the market. The SX50 HS's biggest flaws are in the exposure department. The major issue is highlight clipping, which is a common problem on cameras with small sensors (which is to say, most compacts). You can reduce this quite a bit by using DR Correction, though noise levels will increase when using that feature. You can also shoot Raw if you want to recover a little of that lost highlight detail. The SX50 HS also overexposes at times and while its predecessor did not have any issues with redeye, that's not the case with the SX50 HS. Thankfully, there's a tool in playback mode which will remove it for you.Otherwise, you'll get good color and relatively sharp subjects when shooting with the PowerShot SX50 HS. Noise levels are low until around ISO 800 in low light and ISO 1600 in good light. Again, shooting in Raw mode will allow you to take more control over noise-reduction for better image quality if you have the time.
The Final Word
If you're looking for a camera that can really cover some distance, then you should certainly be looking at the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS HS. With its 24 - 1200mm equivalent lens, there's really no type of scene it can't capture, given favorable conditions. I wouldn't say it's a great camera for low light or fast action, as its lens is slow and continuous shooting lackluster (although if you don't mind shooting JPEGs only and sacrificing exposure control there is a 12.8fps scene mode). If shooting fast-moving subjects is something you're into, you should really be considering Panasonic's more expensive Lumix DMC-FZ200. But if you're looking for something to capture the moments on your exotic vacations, then the SX50 HS is worth checking out.
Some other super zoom cameras to consider include the Fuji FinePix HS30EXR, Nikon Coolpix P510, Olympus SP-820UZ iHS, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, Pentax X-5, Samsung WB100, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Ergonomics & handling
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Movie / video mode
Travel photography, where the 24-1200mm lens is really invaluable for framing everything from intimate interiors to distant details
Not so good for
Shooting action, sports or kids playing - the slow lens and limited continuous shooting options will quickly become frustrating.
The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS boasts the most ambitious lens of any camera in its class, and in favorable conditions it's hard to beat in terms of framing versatility. Image quality compares well to its competitors, and we like the camera's ergonomics (although a zoom control on the lens would be very welcome) but where the SX50 HS falls down is highlight clipping in JPEGs, a relatively slow lens and sub-par operational speed, which compares rather poorly to its peers.
About Jeff Keller
Jeff Keller is the Founder and Publisher of the Digital Camera Resource Page. When it was created in 1997, DCResource was the first digital camera news and review site on the Internet. Jeff's love of gadgetry introduced him to digital cameras in the mid-90's, from which his passion for photography developed. Until recently, Jeff ran DCResource from his home in Oakland, CA, and will be joining the dpreview team full-time in spring 2013.
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