Body and Design

Front of the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

Despite its giant lens, the PowerShot SX50 HS is still a mid-sized super zoom camera. Build quality is quite similar to that of Panasonic FZ200, which means that it has a plastic shell covering a metal chassis and lens barrel.

The biggest feature on the PowerShot SX50 is undoubtedly its lens -- no pun intended. This F3.4-6.5, 50X Canon zoom lens has a focal length of 4.3 - 215.0 mm, which is equivalent to an unreal 24 - 1200 mm. With that maximum aperture range, the SX50 has one of the slower lenses in its class, meaning that it allows less light through the lens. That's the trade-off that one will have to accept to have this much zoom power. Like that of its predecessors, the lens uses an ultrasonic motor (USM in Canon-speak), which allows for quiet focusing, which is especially useful when you're recording movies. While the lens itself isn't threaded, the optional filter adapter has 67mm threads.

The only other item of note on the front of the camera is the AF-assist lamp, located to the upper-right of the lens. In addition to its focus-aiding abilities, this lamp is also used for redeye reduction and for visually counting down the self-timer.

It goes without saying that a camera like this needs image stabilization. The SX50 has IS of the lens-shift variety, and uses Canon's Intelligent IS feature to select the right mode (panning, hybrid, dynamic, tripod, etc) for the situation. The camera has a dynamic mode to reduce extreme camera shake when recording movies, as well as a powered mode for shooting at full telephoto. Directly above that 50X lens is the SX50's pop-up flash, which is released manually.

On the rear of the SX50 HS you'll find its 2.8" LCD display, which is fully articulated and can rotate a total of 270 degrees. This allows you to shoot over the heads of people in front of you, or take photos on a tripod without straining your neck. The LCD can also put in the traditional position or closed entirely. While there are sharper LCDs out there (on the Coolpix P510 and Sony HX200V, for example), the one on the PowerShot SX50 is more than adequate. I was pleased with both the outdoor and low light visibility of the LCD. I'm not really thrilled with the sharpness and clarity of the viewfinder though, and find the LCD much more pleasant to use.

On the opposite side of the EVF is the button for entering playback mode. Keep going to the right and you'll find the dedicated movie recording button. Under that is the button that you'll use to select the focus point.

If you're attaching an external flash, do note that Canon models will work best, as they'll sync with the SX50's metering system. You'll be able to adjust the flash settings using the camera's interface, and you will also be able to use the AF-assist, redeye reduction, and high speed flash sync features of the flash. If you're using the really fancy flashes (580EX and above), they can also serve as wireless masters. Not using a Canon flash? Then you'll probably have to adjust the exposure manually.

On the right side of the camera, under a rubber cover, are the SX50's three I/O ports. They're for a wired remote control (new to the SX40), USB + A/V output, and mini-HDMI. Underneath those is the flap through which you feed the power cable for the optional AC adapter.

In your hand

The camera feels fairly solid, though the grip could be larger and less slippery. I'm mostly content with the control layout, though I can't stand the combination four-way controller / scroll dial on the back of the camera. The dial doesn't turn smoothly, and the way the two parts are flush with each other is uncomfortable. The SX50 is an excellent candidate for a supplemental zoom controller on the side of the camera, which you'll find on Nikon and Panasonic's flagship super zooms.

Full wide-angle (24 mm) Full telephoto (1200 mm)

Body Elements

As you can see, the PowerShot SX50 is a good-sized camera, so don't expect to be putting it into any pockets.

The PowerShot SX50 HS offers a 50X zoom lens spanning 24-1200mm (equivalent). Maximum aperture is relatively unimpressive though, at F3.4-6.5.

This image shows how much the SX50 HS's overall length changes when the zoom is traversed from its widest to longest focal lengths. As you can see, despite the massive zoom, the camera doesn't get a whole lot bigger when you zoom in.

There are two buttons on the side of the lens barrel. The uppermost activates Framing Assist - Seek. Hold this button down and the camera will zoom out, allowing you to reacquire your subject. Let go and the lens will return to its prior position.

The lower button is for Framing Assist - Lock. Hold the button down and the image stabilization system kicks in.

To the right of the hot shoe, on the top of the camera we have the power button, with the exposure mode dial next to that.

This is the combination shutter release button / zoom controller. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.6 seconds (don't worry, it moves slower in movie mode). I counted around thirty-eight steps in the camera's 50X zoom range.

The major focal lengths are marked on the lens barrel.

The HX50 HS's rear wheel is used for adjusting exposure, navigating menus, and quickly flipping through photos you've taken. The four-way controller does many of the same things, and also offers direct buttons for exposure compensation, focus mode, ISO, and the self-timer. Pressing the center button will open up the Function (shortcut) menu

The SX50 HS's LCD display is only slightly larger than the one on the SX40 (2.8" vs 2.7"), but it has twice the resolution (461,000 vs 230,000 pixels). It's still fully articulated, too.

Right above the LCD is the SX50's electronic viewfinder. Canon doesn't say how large it is, though I'd estimate that it's around 0.2". The resolution of the screen is 202,000 pixels -- same as on the SX40.

Since there's no eye sensor, you'll have to press the Display button to switch between the LCD and EVF. A diopter correction wheel nestles on its left side.

The button immediately to the left of the EVF is a customizable shortcut button.
The working range of the SX50 HS's flash is 0.5 - 5.5 m at wide-angle and 1.4 - 3.0 m at telephoto (at Auto ISO).
Over on the far right of the camera's top plate you'll find the flash button. This doesn't pop up the flash (you do that yourself), but it does let you adjust the flash mode.

If you want more flash power and a reduced chance of redeye, then you may want to attach an external flash to the hot shoe.

On the bottom of the PowerShot SX50 you will find a metal tripod mount (hidden in this view) plus the battery/memory card compartment. The door that covers this compartment is of average quality. You won't be able to get at what's inside the compartment while the camera is on a tripod.
When it's time to recharge the NB-10L, just pop it into this compact battery charger. It plugs right into the wall (in the U.S., at least) and takes 110 minutes to top off the battery.

Let's take a look at how it compares to other super zooms in terms of size and weight:


(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)

Volume (bulk) Weight (empty)
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 4.8 x 3.4 x 4.2 in. 68.5 cu in. 551 g
Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR 5.1 x 3.8 x 4.9 in. 95 cu in. 637 g
Nikon Coolpix P510 4.8 x 4.1 x 3.3 in. 64.9 cu in. 555 g
Olympus SP-820UZ iHS 4.6 x 3.1 x 3.7 in. 52.8 cu in. 485 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 4.9 x 3.4 x 4.3 in. 71.6 cu in. 537 g
Pentax X-5 4.7 x 3.4 x 4.2 in. 67.1 cu in. 507 g
Samsung WB100 4.5 x 3.1 x 3.4 in. 47.4 cu in. 403 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V 4.9 x 3.5 x 3.8 in. 65.2 cu in. 531 g

The PowerShot SX50 is bigger than average both in terms of size and weight.