Shooting display

During shooting, the SX50 can provides plenty of information on its LCD or EVF, including a histogram, electronic level, and grid lines.

Exposure mode dial options

Let's begin our discussion of the PowerShot SX50's feature set by going over the items that you'll find on the mode dial. They include:

Option Function
Movie mode While you can record movies in any mode by using the red button, here's where you'll find the Super Slow Motion and iFrame modes. You can also take stills while simultaneously recording video in this mode.
Creative Filters mode Take photos with special effects, which include HDR, fisheye, miniature effect, toy camera, soft focus, monochrome, super vivid, poster effect, Color Accent (selective color), and Color Swap. Many of these have a sub-menu which lets you adjust the color to your liking.
Special Scene mode Pick the situation and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from portrait, smooth skin, Smart Shutter, high-speed burst HQ, handheld night scene, snow, fireworks, and Stitch Assist.
Sports mode This scene gets its own spot on the mode dial. The camera will use focus continuously and defaults to burst shooting in this mode.
Movie Digest mode Records 2-4 seconds worth of silent 720p video with every still shot. At the end of the day, these clips are compiled into a single clip which is supposed to summarize the days events.
Smart Auto mode Point-and-shoot, with the camera selecting one of 58 possible scene modes for you. Some menu items are locked up.
Program mode Automatic shooting, but with access to all menu options. A Program Shift feature can be activated by halfway-pressing the shutter release button and then pressing "up" on the four-way controller (AE lock). After that you can use the scroll wheel to move through various shutter speed/aperture combinations.
Shutter priority (Tv) mode You choose shutter speed and the camera picks the aperture. Shutter speed range is 15 - 1/2000 sec. Note that the ISO sensitivity is locked at 80 when the shutter speed goes below 1.3 seconds.
Aperture priority (Av) mode You choose the aperture and the camera picks an appropriate shutter speed. The range is a rather tight F3.4 - F8.0.
Full manual (M) mode Choose both the shutter speed and aperture yourself, with the same ranges as above.
Custom mode 1/2 Store your favorite camera settings on these two spots on the mode dial.

Lots to talk about before we can continue to menus. If you're of the point-and-shoot persuasion, then look no further than Smart Auto mode. In this mode the camera will select one of fifty-eight scene modes for you. It can tell when the camera is on a tripod and adjust settings accordingly, and it even knows the difference between a smiling and sleeping baby (though when I tried this with the PowerShot G15 it kept switching between the two).

High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode

I want to quickly mention a few of the Creative Filters and Scene Modes on the PowerShot SX50 and will begin with HDR, which stands for high dynamic range. In this mode, the PowerShot SX50 will take three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value (which you cannot adjust). Those three shots are combined into one, with the end result being a photo with better shadow detail and fewer clipped highlights. Since the camera doesn't take the shots quickly enough for handheld usage (in most cases), you will probably need to use a tripod. Here's the effect of the HDR feature on our purple fringing torture tunnel:

HDR off HDR on

As you can see, there's a huge improvement here. Highlight clipping is way down, the ceiling is much more visible, and the sky has changed from white to blue. I'm a fan of HDR features in general, but wish the SX50 could shoot fast enough so that a tripod wasn't needed.

DR (dynamic range) Correction

The one feature from that list that I want to illustrate is DR correction (formerly i-Contrast). This feature's goal is to reduce the highlight clipping that is a common issue on the SX50 and cameras like it. In order to do so, the camera must raise the ISO to as high as 320, so noise levels will increase. I think it's worth the trade-off, though, as this example illustrates:

DR correction Off DR correction Auto DR correction 200% DR correction 400%

Thanks to miracles of Photoshop, I was able to put together this comparison without using a tripod (which is what got me in trouble with Stanford last year). The DR correction feature certainly works as advertised, especially when you get to the 400% setting. Unlike the HDR comparison earlier, you don't get any shadow detail back. You can, however, turn on the camera's shadow correction feature to resolve that issue. Why would you use DR correction over HDR? It's simple: because no tripod is necessary.

Scene modes

Some of the notable scene modes on the PowerShot SX50 include:

  • Smart Shutter: choose from smile detection, or wink and face self-timers; smile detection waits until someone in your photo smiles, and then it'll start taking photos; the wink self-timer takes a photo two seconds after someone in the frame winks at the camera; face self-timer takes a photo 2 seconds after a new person (presumably the photographer) enters the frame
  • High-speed Burst HQ: the camera takes ten photos in a row at 13 frames/second; do note that the LCD goes black while shooting is in progress, making tracking a moving subject nearly impossible; since the ISO is set to Auto, photos may be noisy
  • Handheld Night Scene: the camera takes several exposures and combines them into a single photo, which reduces blur and noise; the results are best suited for small prints or web viewing
  • Stitch Assist: helps you line up photos side-by-side for later stitching into a single panorama (using the bundled software); I keep waiting for Canon to make add a "sweep panorama" feature to their cameras, but they are yet to do so.

Manual controls

Manual controls include shutter speed and aperture priority modes, as well as manual white balance and manual focus. Unlike its predecessors, the SX50 can also save photos in the RAW image format, a feature enthusiasts are bound to like. White balance options include two custom slots (for use with a white or gray card) as well as fine-tuning (pictured below).

For ultimate control over white balance, the SX50 HS allows you to fine tune the response along blue-amber / reg-green axes.

You cannot, however, set the color temperature, nor can you bracket for white balance. You can bracket for both exposure and focus though, which is helpful. As noted earlier, there are two spots on the mode dial on which you can save your favorite camera settings. And let's not forget the electronic level (single-axis), which should reduce the amount of crooked horizons in your photos.

For more information on the SX50 HS' features, go to the next page, where we'll explain its menu options in detail.