Compared to...

As usual for our studio image quality comparisons we selected the nearest competition by category, specification, price and feature set. In this respect, the EOS 50D sits squarely in the popular enthusiast/semi-pro sector, a category bookmarked by the Sony A700 and Pentax K20D at the less expensive end of the scale and Nikon's D300 at the other extreme. All offer relatively pixel dense APS-C-sized sensors and pentaprism viewfinders, rugged construction and, in most instances, a fast continuous shooting rate. We have also included the EOS 40D in this comparison. According to Canon it is not being replaced by the 50D but will sit alongside the new model in the Canon DSLR line-up.

Camera Body only price Sensor
(effective pixels)
Pixel density
Canon EOS 50D $1350 15.1 MP CMOS; 22.3 x 14.9 mm (1.6x crop) 4.5
Canon EOS 40D $920 10.2 MP CMOS; 22.2 x 14.8 mm (1.6x crop) 3.1
Nikon D300 $1550

12.2 MP CMOS; 23.6 x 15.8 mm (1.5x crop)

Sony A700 $1100 12.2 MP CMOS; 23.5 x 15.6 mm (1.5x crop) 3.3
Pentax K20D $900 14.6 MP CMOS; 23.4 x 15.6 mm (1.5x crop) 4.0

Lenses used

For direct comparisons we always use sharp prime lenses stopped down. Here we have used the Canon EF 50 mm F1.4, Nikon 50 mm F1.4, Minolta 50mm F1.4 and Pentax FA 50 mm F1.4. The higher pixel density (finer pixel pitch) of the 50D means that any diffraction effects are more visible than on the other cameras tested here, so has been tested at F8, rather than F9. The result is that the 50D shots will tend to be more prone to softness as areas of our scene fall out of depth-of-field.

Studio scene comparison (JPEG)

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot taken from exactly the same tripod position. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F).

Canon EOS 50D vs. Canon EOS 40D

Camera settings:

  • Canon EOS 50D: Canon EF 50 mm F1.4 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 100
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Standard), Self-Timer (with MLU), ALO disabled
  • Canon EOS 40D: Canon EF 50 mm F1.4 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 100
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Standard), Self-Timer (with MLU)
Canon EOS 50D
Canon EOS 40D
4.4 MB JPEG (4752 x 3168)
3.2 MB JPEG (3888 x 2592)

Let's start by comparing the 50D to the 40D which is still part of the current Canon line of DSLRs. The step from the EOS 40D's ten megapixels to the EOS 50D's fifteen megapixels equates to 864 more horizontal columns and 576 vertical rows. In theory this means an increase in resolution of just over 20% in each dimension. In practice the picture looks different though. As we've mentioned previously in this review, in terms of per pixel sharpness the 50D cannot keep up with its older sibling and shows only very marginally more detail (despite the fact that Canon told us the strength of the AA filter remains unchanged for the new model). In fact, the 50D's output and a 40D image scaled up to match are virtually indistinguishable (thanks to Picture Style the tone and color responses between these two cameras is as good as identical).