Further thoughts on the SX50 long zoom in low light.

Started Jan 13, 2013 | Discussions thread
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VisionLight Veteran Member • Posts: 4,342
Further thoughts on the SX50 long zoom in low light.

The sun had dropped below the mountains and the only available light was from the still clear blue sky. It was time to put my SX50 back in its case and head home. But in the shade under the trees to my left was a female cardinal feeding on some seeds scattered in the snow. The light was so dim that my first thought was to smile at the sight of her colors and then keep walking. But on second thougt I wondered if I could catch the reflection of the remaining light off the snow, so back out came the SX50. As I walked towards the young lady and was closer than about 40 feet, she flew away. I moved away and she came back. One more time forward and one more time she left. So I backed up again to 40 feet and waited. Knowing at this distance that it would take about 1800mm to fill the frame with a bird this size, I turned on the 1.5 TC. But at ISO 400 this only produced a working shutte speed of 1/80th second @ f6.5. As I was setting the camera, the cardinal was jumping all over the place and wasn't staying still for more than a fraction of a second. A choice had to be made. In order to maintain some degree of detail in the feathers, do I go to a higher shutter speed to avoid shake while following the moving subject but loose that detail to noise from the higher ISO. Ot stay at ISO 400 and attempt to time the shot for the least movement. What was actually going through my mind though was that I was wishing for and extra stop of lens, say even f5 would be helpful.

In rapid succession, a debate on camera features was going through my mind. Yes, my crazy mind does work this way, even when shooting. Would another camera with a faster lens oft discussed here be better in this case. That would give me two plus more stops of sorely needed light. But the smaller zoom, even with TC help, would put less pixels on this jittery subject requiring greater work in post. (Note: no other features are being considered here, just focal length and aperture.) But then those pixels could be sharper due to a faster shutter and survive the crop in a reasonable manner. Following this were thoughts on what I might like to see Canon do in a future iteration of the SX line. A sort of "SX#0 X" model. The SX50 is a lot smaller and lighter than the Rebel line with a zoom lens, but packs in a great deal of "miniaturized" features and gives very decent results while doing so. What I wondered was if there would be a market for a model in between the size and weight of the two models. It would have a zoom in the same 50X range and at least a 1/1.7 12 meg sensor, but would be of a larger physical dimension to allow for a f2.8 to f5 lens. The lens would have to increase both in diameter and length, but could the engineers keep it to a reasonable size as a one piece kit does everything camera. I could do the calculations, but not necessarily the "magic" the Canon engineers do. Case in point, the current SX50. In order to get these upgraded features in a SX50 type camera, what does anyone else think about finding a larger (but not too large) camera acceptable? And probably a little more expensive as well. I think I would find it a very viable option for occassions like this cardinal in low light. Tell us what you think.

In the meantime, while I was thinking, the cardinal did settle down just a little and I tried the shot at ISO 400 and 1/80th second. Though she didn't stop moving, she did hold her head up for a split second with a fresh seed in her mouth. The SOOC image shows that a brighter lens or more light would have much improved the results, but good quick focus that impressed me in the low light did capture workable results. I kept the image plus one other to see what I could do with them in post. Following is my favorite of the two, first straight out of camera (SOOC) to show what the camera saw, then post processed to show what my mind's eye saw. The point is that the SX50 made a very good attempt in the conditions given, but I could have used a little more help.

Straight out of the camera from 40 feet at 1800mm, 1/80th second, f6.5 and ISO 400, this image was taken after the sun had set behind the mountains and was in the shade lit only by the open sky filtering through the trees. Without the reflection of the surrounding snow, the shot would probably not have been possible at all.

Although there was too much movement from the very nervous female cardinal to get a really sharp image at 1/80th second, Photoshop techniques did bring out a reasonably usable image more in line with what my eye imagined. A brighter lens would have gone a long way to getting a really good image.

So how much size and weight would you be likely to find comfortable to get a brighter lens and slightly bigger sensor on a SX50 type camera? Or do you think it's just fine like it is, does what it does, and there's no need? I really do like this camera, but then, sometimes I do get to thinking . . . .

Thanks for your comments,


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