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Performance & Photo Quality

Back when I reviewed the PowerShot SX40, I complained that its performance - especially in terms of autofocus -- was not competitive. Canon must have been listening, as they've reduced focus times by 50% on the SX50, and shutter lag by 44%. That doesn't mean that the SX50 is suddenly blazingly fast. Rather, it's just average now, with cameras from the likes of Panasonic still quite a bit faster.

This next table summarizes the SX50's performance in a number of areas:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares

Startup

1.2 secs Above average
Autofocus 0.2 - 0.5 sec (W)
0.5 - 1.0 sec (T)
Average
Autofocus
(Low light)
~ 1.0 sec Average
Shutter lag Not noticeable Above average
Shot-to-shot
(JPEG, no flash)
~ 2 secs Average
Shot-to-shot
(RAW, no flash)
~ 3.5 secs Average
Shot-to-shot
(with flash)
~ 2.5 secs Average

As I said, the SX50 is now average in most respects, and not a class-leader.

There are four full resolution burst modes on the PowerShot SX50, though one of them (Continuous LV) is for manual focus and fireworks mode only, and will not be included in my chart below. That leaves us with regular continuous (locks AE/AF on first shot), continuous AF (adjusts focus and metering between each shot), and High-speed Burst HQ, a scene mode. Here's what kind of performance you can expect for each of those:

Image quality Continuous Continuous AF High-Speed Burst HQ
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG Unlimited @ 1.0 fps Unlimited @ 0.7 fps N/A
RAW Unlimited @ 1.1 fps Unlimited @ 0.7 fps
Large/Fine JPEG Unlimited @ 2.0 fps Unlimited @ 0.8 fps 10 shots @ 12.8 fps
Tested with a SanDisk Class 10 UHS-I SDHC card

First, the good news: the PowerShot SX50 can keep shooting until your (high speed) memory card fills up, even with RAW files. There's no waiting for the buffer to clear, either -- even with RAW. The bad news is that the burst rate isn't terribly impressive, especially if RAW images are involved. You can shoot faster using the High-Speed Burst HQ mode, though do note that it's only for JPEGs, limited to ten shots, and the ISO is set to "auto", so images may be noisy.

Battery life

The SX50 HS uses the same NB-10L lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. This battery holds 6.8 Wh worth of energy inside its plastic shell, which is about average for a super zoom camera. Here's how the SX50 compares against other mega zoom cameras in terms of battery life:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 315 shots NB-10L
Fuji FinePix HS30EXR 600 shots NP-W126
Nikon Coolpix P510 240 shots EN-EL5
Olympus SP-820UZ HS N/A 4 x AA
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 540 shots DMW-BLC12
Pentax X-5 500 shots * 4 x AA
Samsung WB100 N/A 4 x AA
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V 450 shots NP-FH50

* With NiMH rechargeable batteries
Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

You already know that the SX50's battery life is quite a bit lower than that of its predecessor. For the cameras that I have numbers for, the SX50's battery life is nearly 30% below the group average. So, you might want to pick up a spare battery, with a Canon-branded NB-10L setting you back around $39.

Image Quality

Indoors

Photos are taken under indirect lighting provided by two Smith-Victor Q80 lamps at a focal length of 35mm (equivalent) and an aperture of F5.6 in manual exposure mode.

Okay, now it's time to see how the PowerShot SX50 performed across its ISO range in normal light. As usual, I'm using our standard studio test scene, which means that you can compare the results with other cameras I've tested over the years (Panasonic FZ200, anyone?). Remember that the crops below only show a small area of the total scene, so click to view the full size images too!

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200 ISO 6400

The first three crops and nice and clean, with vibrant colors. While there isn't much of an increase in noise at ISO 400, the photo does get noticeably softer. That trend continues at ISO 800, though that photo is still completely usable. At ISO 1600 we start to see some actual noise, and a drop in color saturation. I'd recommend stopping here if you're a JPEG shooter. The noise and softness continue to increase at ISO 3200, and I wouldn't even bother with the top setting.

I'm going to do another RAW vs. JPEG comparison, this time at ISO 3200. Can we turn that photo into something you can print? Let's find out:

ISO 3200
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 7.3 RC)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

Ahh, detail. That's what you get back by shooting RAW here, and it's a welcome sight compared to the soft mess that is the JPEG. After some easy clean-up work in Photoshop, that ISO 3200 shot has gone from useless to usable.

Nighttime

This shot was taken in manual exposure mode at an equivalent focal length of 24mm and an aperture of F5

It's around Christmas time, so the San Francisco skyline has a few extra decorations, as you can see. While I used manual exposure to bring in enough light here, you can do the same by using Smart Auto or one of the scene modes. There isn't too much highlight clipping here, with even the US Bank sign being sort-of legible. The buildings are nice and sharp. There's very little noise to speak of, and purple fringing is minimal.

Normally I like to show you how the camera performs in low light across its ISO range. Unfortunately, Canon won't let me do that. As on some of their other recent cameras (such as the PowerShot G15), they lock the ISO at 80 if the shutter speed is below 1.3 seconds. That makes sense from an image quality point-of-view, but putting such limitations one of their flagship cameras (especially in "M" mode) is as dumb move on Canon's part.

With that in mind, there's a big jump in the thumbnails below, from ISO 80 to 800, then continuing all the way to 6400.

ISO 80 ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200 ISO 6400

Besides the fact that there's a fair amount of detail smudging at ISO 800, there's also a big change in color, with a noticeable green cast appearing at that point. I probably wouldn't go above ISO 800 in very low light situations, unless you plan on shooting RAW (more on that below). ISO 1600 is for desperation only, and I would avoid the top two sensitivities at all costs.

Can we make that ISO 1600 night shot look better by shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing? Let's find out:

ISO 1600
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 7.3 RC)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

The first thing you get back by shooting RAW is normal color! You also get back some detail, but not a ton. Still, it's worth shooting RAW if you're at ISO 800 or 1600 in low light, but don't expect great results at higher sensitivities.

Macro

Our usual macro test subject looks very good here. The thing that stands out the most to me are the colors, which really "pop". The subject is nice and sharp, with the "smooth" appearance that one usually sees on Canon cameras. Noise is not a problem here, nor would I expect it to be.

The minimum focusing distances range from 0 cm (that's not a typo) at full wide-angle up to about 30 cm at around the 20X position. The distance continues to increase along with the amount of zoom power, until it starts to go back down (to 1.3 m) at the full telephoto position.

Red-eye Reduction

The PowerShot SX50 tries to eliminate redeye in two ways. First, it'll fire the AF-assist lamp a second or so before the photo is taken, with the goal of shrinking your subject's pupils. I've found that this rarely works. The second part of the removal system is a digital system (which needs to be turned on in the Flash Settings menu), which tries to get rid of any redeye that shows up in a photo.

Straight out of the camera, both redeye reduction features turned on
After a trip through the redeye correction tool in playback mode

As you can see, neither of those methods completely worked. All is not lost, though -- there's a removal tool in playback mode that was able to get rid of the red, so definitely try that if your flash photos have redeye.

Distortion (at wideangle setting)


There's very mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the SX50's 24 - 1200 mm lens - most likely since Canon is correcting for this automatically. There's some very slight corner blurring in real world photos, and thankfully no sign of vignetting (dark corners).

Overall Image Quality

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the photo quality on the PowerShot SX50 HS. Its biggest problem, by far, is that it loves to clip highlights. The solution is to use the DR Correction feature that I mentioned earlier, though keep in mind that noise levels will increase as a result. You can also use the HDR feature, but that (usually) requires a tripod. The SX50 occasionally overexposed a bit at times, as well. Aside from that, the news is good. Colors are saturated, subjects are sharp, and noise levels are comparable to the best super zooms in this class (at least at lower ISOs).

As you've seen, the SX50 isn't the greatest when the ISO gets to around 800 though, and the slow lens makes that happen quicker than I'd like. As long as you don't expect the PowerShot SX50 to be the low light champion of the world, you'll probably be happy with what it can do. If you are taking a lot of action or low light shots, then you should probably be looking at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, with its constant aperture F2.8 lens. While purple fringing occasionally popped up in the photos I took with the SX50, it wasn't nearly bad enough for me to consider it a problem.

So that's my opinion -- now it's time to make up yours. Have a look at our photo gallery, maybe printing a few of them if you'd like, and then decide if the SX50's photo quality meets your expectations!

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Comments

Total comments: 19
iCloud

I want to know how the image quality compares between the SX40 and the SX50 .. Thank you.

I photograph wildlife and birds .. I am not so much concerned about the ability to track and capture as the ability to capture with the best image quality .. I do not need the extra zoom of the SX50 as I live in the woods and cannot see very far because of the trees.
I want to know if the SX40 is better at capturing birds say taking off and landing due to having a significantly faster shutter speed by 40%.
I want to know if one them is better at capturing say two birds together like one behind the other because it has more depth of field in say sport or bust mode.
I am confused the by stats that say the aperture is wider on the SX40 as some reviewers have said that they both the same at 35X zoom.

1 upvote
Leandros S

The SX40 has an f/2.7 to f/5.8 lens rather than the f/3.4 to f/6.5 of the SX50, so at least at the wide angle end, the SX40 has the potential to use more light. If you wanted to shoot at a particular ISO and shutter speed, then the SX40 could still do so in slightly darker conditions. However, this may to some extent be compensated by better stabilisation and/or autofocus allowing for longer exposures with the SX50. If your subject is moving, however, a shorter shutter speed may be required, so then the SX40 may be the better choice.

Image quality wise, there isn't much between the two if you compare them at the same ISO.

1 upvote
Clark7766

Canon and Nikon aren't the only ones in the game. I have a Panasonic Lumix FZ 47, discontinued, 12.1mp 24x optical, 25mm - 700mm and a Panasonic Lumix FZ 70, 16.1mp, 60x optical, 20mm - 1200mm, and if you go into digital mode you can double that to 120x or 2400mm without a lot of degradation which I have been very successful with on a tripod and doing moonshots. Then you can go even further than that up to 300x but anything above the 120x is junk.

0 upvotes
dogsbone

Primary use is along the waterfront and in awkward locations where I need a movable viewing panel.

Used an SX10 with great results.... but has been dropped enough to look for a back-up (and hoped for an up-grade with similar features).

The SX50 HS does not seem to be an upgrade... only a compromise (SX10 was more versatile and less cumbersome to use.

0 upvotes
nlhiestand

All of a sudden (in the last few months), the resolution on pictures taken by my Canon PowerShot SX50HS has become very bad. I think I must have accidentally changed things. Can someone help?

0 upvotes
BobFoster

Thanks for the most thorough review I’ve seen so far. I’m looking to upgrade from my SX10 and have to say I’m torn between this and the FZ200 - wanting a thorough review of that one, which seems quite a revolution in a different direction. I suspect Canon has much the superior in camera jpeg. I would have liked a comment about the famously slippery and dodgy “control wheel” of the SXx predecessors and whether it’s been worked on.

1 upvote
Berrin

I had Canon SX40 and I was happy in general for 2 years. Some how I felt maybe better to update. I sold it. And I got Canon SX50. MP is 12 and sensor is 3.4, and I don't need that much zoom and I felt low light is not good other than if you are using hand handle night mode which needs waiting time in every click :/ I'm taking my kids swimming and water polo games the most.
I'm planning to give back the cam in couple of days and get the SX40 and I need advise.
Thank you all.

0 upvotes
Sdaniella

Powershot SX60 HS: 3.7-242.0mm f/3.4-6.5 (21-1365 FF)
Canon 79.3∠1.09 ∅ 3.4 ev (Wide: 3.7/3.4=1.09)
Canon 1.5∠37.23 ∅ 6.5 ev (Tele: 242/6.5=37.23)

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 9 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Sdaniella

Powershot SX50 HS: 4.3-215.0mm f/3.4-6.5*
Canon 71.6∠1.26 ∅ 3.4 ev (Wide)
Canon 1.7∠33.08 ∅ 6.5 ev (Tele)

*∠ for 4:3 (not 3:2 in previous comment below)

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Sdaniella

Canon:
SX50 4.3mm-215.0mm Zoom Lens
Max.Ap.Diam: 1.3mm (4.3/3.4) Wide
Max.Ap.Diam: 33.1mm (215.0/6.5) Tele
Horiz.AoV: 71.31° Wide
Horiz.AoV: 1.64° Tele*

fyi:
Visual Diameters of celestial objects viewed from Earth:
Sun: 31.6′ – 32.7′ (Div by 60'/degrees)= 0.5267° to 0.5450°
Moon: 29.3′ – 34.1′ (Div by 60'/degrees)= 0.4883° to 0.5683°

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angular_diameter

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 14 minutes after posting
1 upvote
EdLu

DPReview, please report the sensor size in mm. The designation 1/2.3" is inscrutable to most people. The sensor size of the SX50 is 6.17 x 4.55mm, I believe, which is very small.

3 upvotes
RuiYang

You are right. The sensor is as big as Sony Xperia Z2 phone camera sensor. This is, IMO, just not good enough.

0 upvotes
PhotoPoet

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced a camera recall.
Camera recalled due to a chemical used in the rubber part of the viewfinder can cause skin or eye irritation or an allergic reaction to the user.

Read more: http://www.wbaltv.com/money/canon-powershot-sx50-hs-digital-cameras-recalled/24937146#ixzz2vqJWbmBq

0 upvotes
Schira

If you have a hard time making up your mind, search for santu.brahma on facebook and look at his galleries... https://www.facebook.com/santu.brahma

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Philscbx

Lumix-dmc-G6 has external mic in the same class.
Sensor Size -
Canon - 1/2.3" (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
Lumix - Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
Explain This Difference before I explode...
Why are specs mixed format? To keep us confused?

I try to give best advice to new students - now I'm handicapped with non standard specs between models.

2 upvotes
DavidSBSF

I just saw a friend's shot of the full moon at maximum telescope- unbelievable, hand held, too. The definition of the craters were something but seeing the jagged edge of mountains really stunned me. His telephoto shots of pelicans on Richardson Bay are really impressive. I would like to see a larger sensor to match its RAW capability, but the price is certainly right.

2 upvotes
gerrychick

I have one amazing

0 upvotes
ali k

It's amazing camera.but f/3.4 seems not very well.

1 upvote
ezak

Must have in the future; information about the Minimum LUX, in video mode. So we can determine how good is the camera shooting in night light!
I realize manufacturers are dogging this issue deliberately so that less educated consumers will fall into very mediocre product. And to be fair. it is not only Canon, but all manufacturers. So Lets Ask For This Important Information!

4 upvotes
Total comments: 19