SX50 Mini-Review Take Two - SX50 vs SX40 Head to Head from 24mm to 100mm

Started Nov 17, 2012 | Discussions thread
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VisionLight Veteran Member • Posts: 5,737
SX50 Mini-Review Take Two - SX50 vs SX40 Head to Head from 24mm to 100mm

Before getting to this second installment of the SX50 mini-review, I would like to once again thank everyone who contributed to the discussions in the first go around. Many interesting everyday practical matters about using the camera were brought up, tested when necessary, and further discussed. Some items may have been included in other threads, but it was good to get them together in a single discussion, especially for those who are new to or are thinking about getting this camera. For anyone interested, a link to the first installment will be included at the end of this page. But first, for those who missed them, we'll talk a little about the discussions in Take One.

Addendum to SX50 Mini-Review Take One:

Dale Buhanan brought up a number of items. People basically agree that the SX50 handles and focuses much faster than the SX40 in bright light, but Dale and I both did tests on their focus speed comparison in very low light. There were interesting results. For white or gray objects, focus spped was slow but about even. But objects with colors had different results with the SX50 faster or SX40 faster dependent on those colors. Dale noticed that the focus assist light colors of the two cameras are different, possibly leading to these results. While doing these tests, Dale also noticed that the EVF on the SX50 appears noticably larger with the text easier to read on the newer camera. It appeared to me that eye relief was also a bit longer, as the bezel does not smudge my glasses like the SX40's does.

I hadn't paid attention to the new grip until Dale mentioned it. It's actually much surer in your hand with less chance of accidently having the camera slip from your grasp. Plus there's an added bonus of making the camera much steadier in preventing vertical shake when hand holding the long zoom.

Mario started a discussion about the Focus Assist Lock. After a number of tests, I believe people are starting to agree that while a pretty neat tool for stabilizing the viewfinder, there is probably little or no effect on the actual image for still photography. We did not discuss video. And this gives me one more chance to rant a little about its placement. When I grab the camera, my left thumb naturally hits the FAL. I worry that not noticing and hitting another button (e.g.ON/OFF) at the same time may have unwanted effects. Maybe it's just me. Let me know what you think.

CaptainEJR noticed the purple fringing in the comparison photos. It does appear that it can be pronounced on the SX50 for high contrast edges in very bright light, but gets much better when luminance levels go down a little.

And in answer to a post from Beach Bum, a new member, we once again discussed the reduced light path in the big lens and it's f-stop transitions. A chart showing at what focal lengths the minimum f-stop steps down for the SX50 is included in the first thread. The SX50 at 840mm is actually slightly faster than the SX40 and only goes to f6.5 somewhere between 975mm and 1025mm.

So thanks to all for some great observations and contributions. Now to the main subject of this second in a series of SX50 mini-reviews:

SX50 vs SX40 - Head to Head in the 24mm to 100mm Zoom Range - SCENE ONE:

When I first bought my SX40, I was thrilled by the long zoom and the ability to catch all sorts of subjects far in the distance. It was a while before I realized that it also had a 24mm to 100mm range that performed much better than I would have expected. In the first edition of these mini-reviews, we looked at the comparison of the SX50 and SX40 at 500mm and 840mm (or around that for the SX50). This time we'll look at the shorter side of the range where a lot of everyday shooting will occur, including scenics. Sure I'll throw in a few long zooms, mainly because I can't resist, but comparisons will mostly be at the short end.

Instead of setting up both cameras as closely alike as possible, this time I tried something different. That is, seting up each camera with what I think are its best settings. The SX40 matched its settings in the first review, but since the SX50 has what I think are two very worthwhile improvments, they were both dialed in for the shoot. It makes sense since one of the reasons one buys an upgraded camera is for its new features. So the "advantage" the SX50 may have in this head to head, besides superfine mode, is turning on Dynamic Range Control for both auto highlights and for auto shadows. As stated in the first review, this tends to give a flatter, brighter initial image, but with more details at either end of the luminance range from a perceived increase in dynamic range. It may be a digital increase and not an upgrade to the sensor, but it appears to work. And the flat, bright effect is easily corrected in post. At the end of the first scene of comparative images, I will post a corrected image for your review.

For the test, the cameras were tripod mounted, both set to their lowest ISO and both set to evaluative metering and Av mode. Sharpening, contrast, etc. are all at default. The test was during the mid-day hour in bright southern sky sunshine with some clouds and a light breeze shaking the leaves on the trees. The SX50 went first, progressively set for 24mm, 40mm, 55mm, and 90mm for the first scene; and 24mm, 35mm, 55mm and 90mm for the second. Except for the 24mm images, the SX40 sequence for each scene was composed in its EVF to match the same angle of view as seen on the SX50 EVF without regard to focal length, as close as the motorized zoom would allow. I had to be in Tarrytown, NY on business that day, so at lunchtime I took the cameras to the River Walk on the Hudson, just south of the 3 mile long Tappan Zee Bridge.

The first scene is pointing into the hidden sun, with the New York City skyline about 23 miles south on the mid left side. I chose this scene not only for its broad range of shadows, midtones and highlights, but also to see what havoc the railroad ties fading into the distance in bright contrasty sun would play on the two cameras. And I just liked the 24mm composition. So here are the first set head to head, SX50 @ 24mm first, SX40 @ 24mm second, SX50 @ 40mm, etc., etc.

SX50 at 24mm. Superfine with auto highlight and auto shadow DRC turned on.

SX40 at 24mm. Fine

The combination of Superfine and Dynamic Range control (DRC) on the SX50 is doing their jobs. At 400%, more details are available in the brightened shadows with no noticable increase in noise. And the sky shows higher definition and separation of the clouds. The details of the clothing of the track workers are also more easily discernable, as is the license plate on the maintenance truck. The sun flare on the truck is also more tightly controlled.

Focus for both images is on the cross members of the power stantion in the middle trees, and that focus at 400% is about dead even between both cameras. Highlights on the line shakles on the top two cross members, however, are better controlled and sharper on the SX50.

Going around the edges of the images is an interesting comparison. The SX50 gives the impression of having more details because the DRC lightens the shadows and better controls the flare in the highlights. But the SX40, with the non-flattened higher contrast sometimes appears sharper. The answer here may very well be up to the post processing decision of the user, but I tend to like having the extra details of the SX50.

Purple Fringing (PF) is mostly seen only around the edges of both images, but it is more pronounced on the SX50, especially in the back-lit upper left trees. But the SX40 has some along the right bottom tracks that does not show up in the SX50.

And now, those tracks. I followed them at 400%, side by side and inch by inch from the bottom right all the way up and over. And once again it's a toss-up between a little more but slightly lighter detail in the SX50 vs an apparent sharpness derived from higher contrast on the SX40. But what I didn't expect was that the power stantions in the distance on the SX50 are much sharper with greater contrast than on the SX40. So are the NY City skyline on the left and the power lines on the upper middle right. So, overall, at 24mm I would score this one for the SX50.




The results at 40mm are basically the same as at 24mm. For the SX50, PF is now a little better controlled and catching up to the SX40. For the SX40, the far power stantions are now catching up in sharpness and contrast to the SX50.




The SX40 still continues to win for PF in the trees, but again also shows PF in the tracks where the SX50 doesn't. An interesting observation is that the SX40 is starting to catch up to the SX50 in shadow detail. But the SX50 still controls highlights better.




It's starting to become rather difficult to tell the two cameras apart, even at 400%. Could we now be in the heart of the zoom range? Maybe the second set of comparison images will tell.

But before we do that, here are a couple of extra images from the SX50. The first shows the results of just a little post processing to bring up the tone levels of the DRC image. It now begins to match the higher contrast of the SX40 while also maintaining a little more detail.

Using both auto shadow and auto highlight in Dynamic Range Correction on the SX50 can produce flat results but with slightly more detail and dynamic range. As shown in this image, it is easily corrected in post with a little tone and levels adjustment while maintaining the details and range.

And I couldn't resist, so here's the distant NY City skyline and George Washington Bridge with the full optical power of the SX50's 1200mm. Not too shabby for over 20 miles away.

The New York Ciy Skyline and George Washington Bridge in the haze from more tha 20 miles up river with the 1200mm optical zoom of the SX50. This is an uncropped image with the bridge adjusted slightly darker in post.

SX50 vs SX40 - Head to Head in the 24mm to 100mm Zoom Range - SCENE TWO:

The second scene was chosen for its more neutral even lighting, a good example of a landscape image not as hard on the cameras.




Results between the two cameras are relatively even. The SX50 still has slightly more PF in the trees against the sky, but still has slightly more details in the shadows. What's surprising, however, is that the bridge at 400% shows more contrast, and thus perception of sharpness. Once again, I'll score this focal length for the SX50.




For 35mm, the observationsare the same as for 24mm.




The SX40 is now catching up to the SX50 and its higher contrast here is making for a very pleasing image straight out of the camera. Score this one for the SX40.




Once again it is hard to tell which image is from which camera. Though we haven't comparison tested the cameras from above 100mm to below 500mm (500-840mm was tested in the first mini-review), 100mm may be the beginning of the sweet spot for these lenses. These images are definitely a toss-up.

Now once again, I couldn't resist, showing the long reach of the two cameras.

First at optical:

This time the SX40 is first at 840mm optical zoom. More area is included than in the longer SX50 below.

The SX50 at 1200mm optical zoom gives closer details of the reconstruction work area under the roadbed.

And next with the Digital 2.0 TC engaged:

Again the SX40 is first at 1680mm Digital TC 2.0 zoom.

The SX50 however gives a closer inspection of the workers stopping for lunch with its 2400mm Digital TC 2.0 zoom. This image shows the lower left corner of the one above it.

These are a good comparison of the range of these cameras, but I suggest here that the comparison be done a little differently. Everyone usually compares the 2°-3° longest telephoto view against the 84° angle at 24mm. While we as humans can perceive this 84° angle in the periphery of our vision, we usually only pay attention to about 46° degrees, or about the angle of view of a 50mm lens. So when you're doing your comparison, start with the 55mm images above and then compare those to the 24mm images to see how wide the lens is, and then 55mm to the long end to see its reach.


I hope this mini-review segment has been helpful to those deciding to upgrade, or just choosing between the two cameras. Maybe it may also help you choose another camera instead. That's quite fine, happy to help. But what I think it does show is that either camera is a versatile instrument, and either, with practice, can take wonderful pictures. I'm still leaning to the increased features of the SX50, but I'm glad I stil have both (or at least my wife now has the SX40, but I can use it - I hope).

Because of the larger file size of the superfine SX50 files, I'm starting to come up against the monthly limit. So it may be a couple of weeks before the next installment. But I hope to be working on it, dealing with practical issues mentioned in other threads and in PMs that you have been sending me.

In the meantime, please add your comments and observations and questions to this thread. Together we'll continue to see what makes these cameras tick, and hopefully take even better pictures.

For those who missed TAKE ONE of these mini-reviwews, here is the link:

Thanks for looking,


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