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Canon SX50 HS Review

by
Posted

In the ever-increasing battle for the biggest, baddest megazoom on the planet, Canon has fired its latest salvo with the PowerShot SX50 HS. This digital camera's 50x optical zoom delivers the equivalent of 24-1200mm range from a 24mm wide-angle lens, and boasts several improvements over the PowerShot SX40 HS, an IR favorite and a popular Dave's Pick. But staggering range isn't all the SX50 HS offers. A refined 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor coupled with a DIGIC 5 processor was designed to provide enhanced image quality in a broader variety of shooting situations.

Improved autofocus. Canon says the PowerShot SX50's upgraded AF system delivers a 50% reduction in autofocus time and a 44% reduction in shutter lag when compared to the SX40. Canon told us it has worked to increase the AF speed of its new PowerShot cameras by strengthening the AF motors, cutting AF processing and reading scan times, improving the algorithm for lens movement, and reducing lens weight. The Canon SX50 HS also captures up to ten 12-megapixel JPEGs at 13 shots per second in High-speed Burst HQ Mode.

Increased stability. To support the megazoom performance of the PowerShot SX50 HS, the camera employs Canon's Intelligent IS optical image stabilization technology to add increased stability to super-long-zoom and low-light shots. Additionally, extreme telephoto lengths are bolstered by an improved Zoom Framing Assist function, which allows you to locate, track and capture subjects at great distances. The Zoom Framing Assist Seek button saves your previous zoom position, then zooms out to find your subject, then returns to your saved position when you release it. A second Zoom Framing Assist Lock button allows the camera to lock the image stabilization onto the center of the frame to compensate for camera movement and make it easier to keep your subject in the frame.

Design. The Canon SX50 HS looks similar to its predecessor, though its lines are no longer as curvy. The grip is more pronounced, and the Shutter button rests at a forward-sloping angle. Upgrades to the monitor include a slightly larger 2.8-inch, (approximately) 461K-dot vari-angle LCD. Canon also changed the button layout on the back, removing one button and making way for a larger navigational wheel. Overall, the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is just a fraction smaller and lighter than its predecessor, measuring 4.8 x 3.4 x 4.2 inches and weighing 21.3 ounces.

Video and other features. The Canon SX50 HS records video in full 1080p HD at 24 frames per second, 720p at 30 fps, and VGA resolution at 30 fps. The camera allows for zooming while recording, and captures stereo sound. Super Slow Motion modes record VGA and QVGA clips at 120 and 240 fps respectively, without sound. Other upgrades to the PowerShot SX50 HS include an improved Smart Auto mode that can detect 58 scenes (compared to just 32 for the SX40 HS), and the ability to capture 12-bit RAW or RAW+JPEG files, something previous models in the SX-line couldn't do.

One disappointing, but ultimately understandable spec about the SX50 HS is the lens brightness. Going from a 35x to a 50x zoom means the maximum apertures increased to f/3.4 at its widest and f/6.5 at its longest focal length, compared to f/2.7-5.8 for the SX40 HS. Guess you can't have everything.

Connectivity. The Canon SX50 HS can be connected to a computer or printer using a USB (2.0 High Speed) cable with a Mini-B plug on the camera side. The jack is a combined USB/AV port used for both data transfer and standard-def composite video/stereo audio output. There's also a Mini HDMI (Type C) port for high-def output, and a remote jack for an optional RS-60E3 wired remote. Note, however, that no cables are included in the retail box -- they must be purchased separately.

Additionally, the camera features a hot shoe for attaching a Canon Speedlite (or third-party) accessory flash.

Battery and storage. The Canon SX50 HS is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (NB-10L) and comes with a dedicated charger (CB-2LC). The battery is CIPA-rated for 315 shots on a single charge when using the LCD monitor, and 335 shots when using the electronic viewfinder. An optional AC adapter kit (ACK-DC80) is available separately.

The camera uses SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, and Eye-Fi cards are supported. Note that there's no internal memory available for storage. Still images can be recorded and stored as JPEG, 12-bit RAW and RAW+JPEG files. Videos are recorded and stored as H.264 MOV files.

Price and availability. The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS was priced at US$480 at launch in October 2012, $50 more than the SX40 HS cost at its introduction in 2011. However, we found it readily available at a number of retailers for US$450 or less.

 

Shooting with the Canon SX50 HS

By Roger Slavens

As the owner of a couple of longzoom cameras from several years ago -- when longzoom meant 10x or 12x optical range -- I was immensely looking forward to getting my hands on and trying out the Canon SX50 HS and its gargantuan 50x reach. I was also optimistic because of how the previous model, the 35x ultrazoom SX40, was so well-received by casual and enthusiast photographers alike. It also earned a rave IR review and a resounding Dave's Pick.

And I had what I thought was the perfect opportunity to put the SX50 HS to the test. I was about to embark on my annual trip to Phoenix to see my beloved Cleveland Indians (please, no pity) and some Spring Training baseball, and I didn't want to lug around my Nikon D7000 and assorted lenses as I hopped from ballpark to ballpark to catch five games in a four-day span. Besides, I simply didn't own a lens with anywhere near the power of the Canon SX50 HS and its 1200mm-equivalent maximum zoom. (But how many DSLR owners do? That's the overwhelming appeal of the camera -- it can deliver what few other cameras can, and at a very nice price.) In previous years, as I sat in the stands and took in the sights under the bright Arizona sun, I always wished I had a longer zoom to shoot with -- to get up as close to the action as possible. And now I did.

Design, ergonomics and controls. Before I set off on my trip, I spent some time getting myself acquainted with the Canon SX50 HS. Our reviewer of the camera's predecessor, the Canon SX40, thought the bridge camera was larger and heavier than other long zooms he had used. But I didn't have a problem with the size and heft of the new model -- it was pretty much what I had expected. Despite upgrading from a 35x to a 50x zoom lens, the SX50 is actually a smidge smaller and lighter than the SX40. The SX50 HS measures 4.8 x 3.4 x 4.2 inches and weighs 21.3 ounces, which is far more portable than a DSLR with a long telephoto lens.

Overall, the ultrazoom felt good in my hands, especially the sizable grip that juts out just far enough to be a perfect fit for my large palm and long fingers. You can use the Canon SX50 HS one-handed, but I was impelled to place my left hand underneath the body to cradle and support the lens, like I would have with a DSLR or bigger compact system camera. One minor quibble: I wish there would have been some rubberized, grippy materials on the camera's surface -- it's primarily smooth plastic -- and the token raised bumps of the right thumb rest that sits below the Mode dial seemed like more of an afterthought than a practical addition.

I liked how every control on the SX50 was easily accessible when the long zoom camera was held in the two-handed shooting position. The Shutter button and the zoom lever ring sit atop the slightly forward-sloping grip in perfect position for your index finger, while the Mode dial, dedicated Movie button, Playback button, four-way menu navigation/multifunction (ISO, EV, Macro/Manual Focus, Self-timer) button and Control dial, as well as the AF Frame Selector, Function Set, Display and Menu buttons, are all within your right thumb's reach. On the left side, the Shortcut button and electronic viewfinder Diopter dial can be quickly accessed with your left thumb, and the Flash button (on top) and Zoom Framing Assist buttons (Seek and Lock) with your left index finger.

Shooting modes. The Canon SX50 HS's physical Mode dial features full PASM controls, as well as an Auto mode that evaluates what you're trying to capture and selects from 58 different scenes to help you get the right shot off the cuff. The Mode dial also has a Movie Digest mode which automatically records a brief movie clip before each still shot, and then compiles all the movies into a single file as a digest of your shooting day. Additionally, there's a Sports mode that makes shooting action simple by continuously focusing on moving subjects. The Scene mode gives you access to a ton of special shooting modes, ranging from the SX50's High-speed Burst HQ mode that captures up to 10 JPEG frames in a second at full resolution (RAW is not supported) to Handheld NightScene and Panorama Stitch Assist. (I was disappointed that Canon hadn't implemented Sweep Panorama on this model.) The C1 and C2 custom modes let you quickly recall your favorite settings.

For those unfamiliar with Canon PowerShots, the Image Effects or Creative Filters mode is strangely labeled with an icon depicting two intersecting circles. Since the mode's default is High Dynamic Range, I could see where a new owner could think this was what the icon stood for. But this mode is a lot more than HDR, offering a total of 10 effects ranging from Fish-eye Effect to Color Swap. Later in the review you can see some examples of the nifty effects you can create.

There were a couple issues I had with the controls -- not in placement, but in operation. The built-in popup flash has to be raised manually -- the message "Raise the flash" will be displayed on the EVF or LCD screen when the light's too poor to operate without it -- and I found myself fumbling to raise it on more than one occasion. The second issue is a much more annoying one: You have to press the Movie button quite hard to start and stop recording. This can really jar the camera and throw your shot off in those last few frames, especially if you're zoomed in tight on your subject. Be prepared to have to edit those last shaky moments from your movies before sharing them. (Since we don't edit or process the videos we shoot for and share in our reviews, several of the ones I recorded were unusable because of this bothersome effect.)

Finally, though it's not exactly a shooting mode, it must be noted that the Canon SX50 HS captures 12-bit RAW files -- you can even shoot RAW+JPEG -- which marks a big step forward from its predecessor which only shot JPEGs. Adding RAW shooting definitely makes the camera more attractive to more advanced photographers.

Menus. We spend a lot of our time griping about the poor menu systems of a lot of the camera we review, so it's nice to be able to say that the Canon SX50 HS's menu system is relatively intuitive and easy to master. The Function menu (or the FUNC. menu, as Canon refers to it) gives you quick access to a selection of the most commonly used functions and settings on the camera in each shooting mode, including White Balance, Bracketing, Continuous Shooting, file size and type and more. However, be aware that the selections vary greatly depending on what mode you're using. For example, in Auto mode, the Function menu only controls Single/Continuous shooting, image aspect ratio, image size and image resolution. Overall, the Function menu is quick to use and helpful for most on-the-fly shooting decisions.

The main menu (or the MENU menu, as Canon refers to it) lets you access and adjust the SX50's more detailed settings, such as choosing from a myriad of AF options, turning off the digital zoom, adjusting the image stabilization and setting the Shortcut button.

EVF and LCD. The Canon SX50's 202K-dot electronic viewfinder provided a near 100% view, even at full 50x zoom. Most all the shooting and setting info you can see on the LCD screen, you can also see on the EVF, including the 2x3 grid, horizontal-axis level and histogram. You can even use the Zoom Framing Assist feature while looking through it. One quirk, which is either good or bad depending on your preference, is that you have to press the Display button on the rear of the camera several times (and cycle through the various options) until you activate the EVF -- there's no eye-detect function to turn it on. I found the EVF to be a welcome and decent, if somewhat dim, viewfinding alternative to the LCD screen.

The best thing about the 2.8-inch LCD monitor is its pop-out and full-swivel capability, allowing you to capture shots at odd angles, and even to shoot "selfies" easily if that's your thing. The 461K-dot resolution is passable, but it does become difficult to see in bright, direct sunlight -- though not as bad as some I've seen. The one thing that drives me crazy with certain LCDs is that, if you're wearing Polarized sunglasses in bright sunlight, when you switch from horizontal to vertical, you no longer can see the image -- you have to pop your sunglasses up and look at it with your naked eyes. It's a pet peeve of mine.

Performance and shooting. OK, finally to my shooting experiences with the Canon SX50 HS. I had high hopes for finally getting the closeup baseball shots -- mainly portraits but a little action, too -- I had long yearned to take during Spring Training games, and the camera didn't disappoint. (It really couldn't, given the perfect, bright and sunny Arizona spring weather.)

As we were taking our seats before the first pitch of the first game, my friend pointed out a photographer on the field who was carrying around a massive DSLR-and-500mm-telephoto-lens rig on a monopod. "Bet you can't beat that," he said, knowing that I was testing out a camera but not realizing exactly what power I held in my hands. "Bet I can bring the action more than two times as close," I retorted. And then I showed him what I meant, framing the pitcher in the LCD so tightly he seemed like he was standing right next to us. "Oh," was my friend's only reply.

I actually thought it would be quite laborious to frame and capture shots at medium-to-full (25 to 50x) zoom on the Canon SX50 HS, but after a few attempts at following the pitcher through his warm-up throws, I got a pretty good feel for it. That is, except for when I tried to frame the subject too tightly and he'd suddenly disappear from view. And then I remembered there was an even easier way to follow the action when zoomed in -- the camera's Zoom Framing Assist controls. By pressing the Zoom Framing Assist Seek button after I zoomed in, the camera zoomed back (at full 1200mm to 300mm) from the subject and showed me more of the scene in the LCD (or the EVF) so I could relocate my subject, move the camera and recompose quickly without having to reset the zoom. It's a great feature that I found myself taking advantage of over and over again.

Another thing that I was impressed with was the camera's Intelligent IS. At 50x zoom, even in full sunlight, I feared that I would be hard pressed to get tack sharp photos without a tripod or significant bracing of the SX50. But the Intelligent IS came through more often than not, even when my hands got a little shaky and my subject was moving. Every shot I took in the review and gallery was strictly hand-held.

Canon SX50 HS - The full power of the camera's 50x optical zoom plus Intelligent IS.
24mm equivalent (max. wide angle)
1200mm equivalent (50x optical zoom!)
It's a minor miracle that I could capture a wide-angle, 24mm shot of the crowd and most of the field, and then within seconds zoom in to 1200mm and catch the pitcher leaving the bullpen after his warmup.

Overall, I found the SX50 to be a moderately fast overall performer for an ultrazoom, especially in full sunlight. The regular Continuous Shooting mode (about 2.2 fps, according to our lab testing) served me well for capturing most of the shots I was looking to get, though I had to focus on static areas where I knew the action would be -- such as the pitcher's mound and at home plate. I'm not a good enough action photographer, nor do I think the Canon SX50 HS is the right camera, for trying to track and frame fast and unpredictable action while zoomed in, like a fielder trying to flag down a screaming fly ball or a runner racing off to first base.

I thought the full autofocus shutter lag to be a tad slow, but not unreasonable considering that it's an ultrazoom, and when I prefocused portraits or more static shots, the shutter lag was much faster. In scenes where the lighting was more dodgy -- in heavy shadows or indoors -- the Canon SX50 HS often struggled to find focus, even when the AF assist lamp came on. I'd say that in my subjective field testing, the accuracy dropped from about 90-100% in full sunlight to about 40-50% indoors with so-so lighting. This wasn't unexpected, nor is indoor shooting a particularly good use for the camera and its f/3.4 max aperture lens, despite the fact Canon claimed it had improved its low-light performance.

Canon SX50 HS - Examples of low-light shooting at ISO 3200
Unfortunately, most of the indoor shots I tried to take with the Canon SX50 HS were problematic, either struggling to find sharp focus or resulting in grainy, almost fuzzy images.

While the SX50 HS isn't what I'd call loaded with special modes and filters, it does have its fair share of them and I had fun trying them out at the ballgame -- especially the Miniature Effect filter that made the live action look like it was an extremely realistic diorama. The Super Vivid mode, conversely, was way over the top, especially when cranking up the sandy brown of the infield against super green outfield grass and the player's uniforms. I later tried more of the filters at my town's yearly fair, and captured a series of pretty nifty shots using the Ferris wheel as my subject, as well as a nice Color Accent image starring my daughter, her friend and their hot pink couture.

Miniature
Monochrome
Color Accent Toy Camera
Miniature
Some cameras have tons more creative filters, but I found most of the ones on the Canon SX50 HS to be easy to use and fun to play with -- except the HDR mode which doesn't work well unless you mount the camera on a tripod.

Image quality. I was extremely happy with the quality of the 12-megapixel images I took with the Canon SX50 HS, especially those I captured at ISO 400 and below. For the most part, the photos -- even at full 50x zoom -- were pretty sharp and dynamic. The colors are perhaps a little oversaturated, but that's what you can expect from most consumer-oriented cameras. And there's signs of chromatic aberration with bright pixels at medium-to-full zoom. Considering the combination of the tiny 1/2.3-inch-type sensor and the massive zoom lens, the results are still pretty impressive.

82mm equivalent focal length
585mm equivalent
You don't have to shoot everything at full 50x optical zoom with the Canon SX50 HS. It gives you a ton of versatility to frame and capture a variety of shots very quickly.

That is, until you take the camera indoors and have to shoot at ISO 800 and above. Noise reduction efforts really start to smudge the images, and those I took at IS0 3200 were downright fuzzy -- OK for small prints and posting on the web, but nothing you'd likely want to frame.

1,920 x 1,080
Progressive, 24 frames per second, H.264
Download Original (68MB MOV)

Video quality. I mentioned earlier my frustration with the Movie button, and how you have to press it so hard to stop recording that it goofs up the last few frames of your videos in the process. But otherwise, I found the Canon SX50 HS to be a decent video performer, delivering full 1080p HD movies at 24 frames per second. And, of course, the best part is you can zoom all the way out to 1200mm while recording, and back again. I was afraid that the sound of the zoom motor would overwhelm the audio, but as long as I did a slow, controlled zoom -- zooming in fast is much noisier -- it didn't seem to detract from the recording.

Summary. In most ways the Canon SX50 HS proved to be the long-reaching camera I had longed to use for capturing images of Spring Training baseball. And I strongly suspect it would be as perfect for shooting daytime travel, street, architecture, landscape and wildlife photography as it was for capturing the sights and action of a sunny ballgame.

It was also an equally impressive travel companion in terms of its size, simplicity to use and shooting flexibility. While I love my Nikon D7000, I don't always want to fuss with it -- especially when I'm on vacation and want to spend most of my time enjoying the moment, rather than working hard trying to capture it. The Canon SX50 HS proved to have ample image quality and advanced features to make it a great second or travel camera for serious shooters, and plenty of flexibility to make it a great primary camera for beginning and casual photographers.

 

Canon SX50 HS Lens Quality


24mm eq.
54mm eq.
1200mm eq.
2x Digital Zoom

Zoom Series: The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS' lens covers a very long 50x optical zoom range equivalent to a 24-1200mm zoom on a 35mm camera. At full wide angle, details are reasonably sharp throughout the frame, with a small amount of noticeable blurring and coma distortion in the corners (coma visible around the tree limbs against the sky). At full telephoto, the details of the stucco behind the clock face are very sharp though the clock face itself is a hint soft. Still, really good results. At 2x digital zoom, the SX50 HS does a pretty good job of maintaining detail definition (you can see where overpaint appears on the clock!), with only minimal interference from artifacts.


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Quite soft at lower left
20x Tele: Slightly soft at center
20x Tele: Mild blurring, lower left corner
   
50x Tele: A hint soft at center
50x Tele: Slightly soft at lower left

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS' zoom shows the strongest blurring in the lower left corner of the frame, with slight blurring in the other corners. However, blurring doesn't extend far into the image area. At 20x and 50x telephoto settings, blurring is moderate, though details are fairly soft throughout the frame in both images.


In-Camera JPEG
Wide: Some barrel distortion; slightly noticeable
20x Tele: Almost no pincushion distortion, not visible
50x Tele: Slight pincushion distortion, only slightly visible
Uncorrected RAW
Wide: Very high barrel distortion
20x Tele: Minimal barrel distortion, not visible
50x Tele: Slight pincushion distortion, not very visible

Geometric Distortion: In JPEGs, there is only modest barrel distortion at wide angle (0.5%), and practically no pincushion at 20x telephoto (less than 1%). Results are also good at full 50x telephoto, where only about 0.2% pincushion is visible. The PowerShot SX50's processor does a great job controlling distortion for such a long zoom.

As is often the case, uncorrected RAW files show much stronger distortion at full wide angle, where we measured about 3.7% barrel distortion that was quite strong. However, results at 20x and 50x telephoto were pretty good. (0.2% barrel at 20x and less than 0.1% pincushion respectively.)


In-Camera JPEG
Wide: Moderate but dull
20x Tele: Moderately high, but dull
50x Tele: Moderately high and bright
Uncorrected RAW
Wide: High and bright
20x Tele: Bright
50x Tele: Also quite bright

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration in JPEGs at wide angle is moderate in terms of pixel count, though affected pixels are quite dull with a faint blue tint. At 20x telephoto, the number of pixels is again moderately high to high, though they aren't that bright. Pixels become much brighter at full 50x telephoto, however. The Canon SX50's processor does a pretty good job suppressing lateral chromatic aberration in JPEGs.

As expected, uncorrected RAW files show much higher and brighter levels of chromatic aberration, most notably at full wide angle.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The PowerShot SX50 HS' Macro mode captures a sharp image with strong detail, particularly in the center of the frame, though exposure is a bit uneven this close. Right corners are shadowed and the entire left side is overexposed. Minimum coverage area is pretty small at 1.48 x 1.11 inches (38 x 28mm), which is quite good. The camera's flash is partially blocked by the lens at this range, which results in low exposure with a warm color cast. Thus, external lighting will be your best bet when shooting this close.


 

Canon SX50 HS Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
20x Tele: LCD Monitor
Wide: EVF
20x Tele: EVF

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS' LCD monitor showed about 100% frame coverage at both wide angle and 20x telephoto settings, while the electronic viewfinder showed just a smidge under 100% at both settings. Great results.


 

Canon SX50 HS Image Quality


Color: The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS produces good overall color, though saturation is a little higher than average almost across the board (except for bright yellows and some lighter blues). Reds, greens and bright blues are pumped a little high, though mean saturation is just slightly higher than most cameras in its class. In terms of hue, the PowerShot SX50 HS pushes a number of hues, such as orange toward yellow and yellow toward green. Cyans are also pushed toward blue (a common occurrence among digital cameras). Lighter skin tones show only a small nudge toward orange, though darker skin tones show a stronger warm cast. With an average "delta-C" color error at base ISO of 4.91 after correction for saturation, overall hue accuracy was actually a bit better than average.


Auto WB:
Slightly reddish
Incandescent WB:
Too pink-red
 
Manual WB:
Best overall, though a hint cool in the whites

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting best overall, with the most natural color, though it was a tad cool in some tones, like whites. Both Auto and Incandescent settings resulted in reddish casts, though Incandescent resulted in the strongest cast.


Horizontal: 2,100 lines
Vertical: 2,100 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,100 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction of the pattern occurred after 2,400 lines per picture height.


Wide: Bright
Tele: Fair
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows bright results at the rated distance of 18 feet, though the camera notably increased ISO to 320. The telephoto test came out a touch dim at 9.8 feet, even though ISO was also boosted to 320.

Auto flash produced reasonably bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining a little of the ambient light from the slower shutter speed of 1/20 second at ISO 320. The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS' image stabilization will help with camera shake at slower shutter speeds like this, but any movement of the subject could be problematic at this speed. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


80
100
200
400
800
1,600
3,200
6,400

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail looks pretty good at the lower ISO settings, though a small amount of softening and apparent "graininess" is mildly visible at ISO 80. Still, fine detail remains good up to ISO 400, where smudging in some areas becomes a little stronger, though actual noise grain patterns continue to be mild. ISO 800 marks the first big step away from good detail definition, as noise reduction efforts only continue to smudge fine detail and the effect increases through ISO 6,400, which appears quite fuzzy. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.


Printed: The Canon SX50 HS delivers nice printed image quality given its sensor size, especially at low ISOs. ISO 80/100/200 capable of a good 16 x 20 inch print; ISO 800 yields a good 8 x 10 and ISO 3200 a good 4 x 6.

ISO 80/100 prints look crisp and clear at 16 x 20 inches with good color renditioning, and producing suitable wall display prints up to 20 x 30.

ISO 200 also yields a nice 16 x 20, with only minor softening of detail in our target red swatch.

ISO 400 shows a sharp decline in image quality. 13 x 19 inch prints have noticeable softness in some areas and noise in others. This ISO is capable of a good, if still a bit soft, 11 x 14 inch print.

ISO 800 produces good 8 x 10s, although yet again with some areas on the soft side and others a bit grainy. 11 x 14s are too washed out here, so if you intend to print at that size it is best to remain at ISO 400 or lower.

ISO 1,600 makes a nice 5 x 7, again with minor instances of the issues mentioned above.

ISO 3,200 prints are good at 4 x 6, with nice color for this ISO. 5 x 7s are a bit too washed out to be called good here.

ISO 6,400 does not yield usable prints and is best avoided for printing purposes.

As with its predecessor the SX40 HS, the SX50 HS with its 1/2.3-inch type sensor does a nice job at lower ISOs and a fair job at higher ones. For great print quality you are best suited to remain at ISO 400 or lower, especially if printing sizes larger than 11 x 14 inches.


 

Canon SX50 HS Performance


Startup Time: The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS takes about 2 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's not bad for an ultrazoom.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag a bit slower than average at 0.48 second at wide angle, and 0.41 second at telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.067 second -- not the fastest on the market but still pretty quick.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is again on the slower side, capturing a frame every 1.9 seconds in single-shot mode for Large Fine JPEGs. However, a high-speed continuous mode captures 10 frames HQ JPEG frames at 0.08 intervals, or about 13 frames per second. Normal Continuous mode captures 2.24 Large Fine JPEGs per second (or RAW files at 1.19 frames per second).


Flash Recycle: The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS' flash recycles in about 4 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is good.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to justa hair below the 1/4 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, though the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the PowerShot SX50 HS' download speeds are fast. We measured 7,788 KBytes/sec.


Battery Life: The PowerShot SX50 HS' battery life has a CIPA rating of 315 shots per charge with the LCD monitor activated, and about 335 with just the EVF enabled, both of which are below average for its type.


 

In the Box

The Canon SX50 HS retail box contains:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Canon SX50 HS Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Whopping 50x optical zoom range from a generous 24mm equivalent wide angle to powerful 1200mm equivalent telephoto
  • Improved Intelligent IS allows for sharp hand-held shots, even at full zoom
  • Ergonomic design and build with a good grip and excellent control placement
  • Zoom Framing Assist helps you track distant, moving subjects and keep them framed
  • Great image quality for its class
  • Good lens performance with strong detail across the zoom range and good distortion control
  • Good noise control at lower and moderate ISOs
  • Shoots RAW as well as JPEGs
  • Vari-angle 2.8-inch LCD screen fully flips out and swivels
  • Electronic viewfinder with diopter adjustment
  • Relatively easy-to-navigate shooting and setting menus
  • Bright flash, with fast flash recycling
  • Fast High-speed Burst HQ continuous shooting mode (up to 10 full-res JPEGs at 13 fps)
  • Creative modes and filters are fun to use
  • Full 1080p HD video recording with stereo sound
  • Small macro area
  • Two custom modes, My Menu and programmable Shortcut button
  • Accepts 67mm filters (with optional adapter)
  • Fast image downloading
  • Electronic level
  • Wired remote jack
  • Hot shoe
  • Autofocus frequently struggles to lock in on subjects in low light
  • Slow lens also not ideal for low-light photography
  • Center frame details are a hint soft at some zoom settings
  • Blurring is noticeable in the corners in some shots
  • Uncorrected RAW files have lots of chromatic aberration and geometric distortion (typical of long zooms, though)
  • Higher ISO shots (above ISO 800) lose detail and become too blotchy and fuzzy
  • EVF doesn't automatically switch on when you look through it
  • Flash sometimes difficult to deploy quickly (doesn't automatically pop up)
  • HDR mode fairly unusable unless camera is mounted on a tripod
  • Full HD video limited to 24p
  • Sluggish cycle times
  • Autofocus speeds could be better
  • Below average battery life
  • No cables included

 

With a 50x optical zoom that delivers an amazing 24-1200mm-equivalent range, the Canon SX50 HS brings distant subjects up close and personal -- and it does so with intelligence and grace. Hand-held shots at full zoom and in good light are relatively easy to take, thanks to the SX50's improved image stabilization and Zoom Framing Assist function. And the end results are surprisingly sharp and pleasing for the digital camera's class and sensor size.

With results like these, the Canon SX50 HS will no doubt build a fervent following of zoom addicts among serious shooters and casual users alike. But the staggering zoom range is not all there is to the camera, which also features a bevy of advanced photographic options and a well-built design. The SX50 feels good in the hands, with a nice big grip to hang on to and a bevy of physical controls within easy reach. The full-swivel 2.8-inch LCD screen isn't the brightest on the market, but it's imminently useful for taking shots at odd angles. Besides, you can fall back on the camera's accurate (if a bit dim) electronic viewfinder if you prefer. The SX50's menus, thankfully, are simple and straightforward while unveiling a great deal of options -- such as RAW capture and full 1080p HD video recording -- for more advanced photographers.

Performance-wise, the Canon SX50 HS is like most other good superzooms -- a bit slow, but nothing that hampers shooting too much. That is, unless you're trying to use the camera in low light, where it often struggles with autofocusing. While the SX50's lens is sharp, it isn't very fast -- just f/3.4-6.5 -- compared to models such as the Panasonic FZ200 that boasts a constant f/2.8 aperture across its 24x zoom range. The Canon SX50 HS also doesn't fare well at high ISOs, producing blotchy and fuzzy images indoors and in poor light.

Despite such limitations, it all comes back to what the camera excels at: Taking sharp, detailed outdoor pictures on sunny days, with a massively long zoom lens than can bring you into the action like no other we've tested. The Canon SX50 HS is a fantastic everyday camera for beginners and casual photographers, bringing a ton of flexibility for most shooting situations, as well as advanced features they can grow into. It's also a near-ideal second camera for enthusiasts who don't always want to lug around a bulky DSLR system, but want good image quality and the luxury of a 50x reach. The Canon SX50 HS is definitely the best megazoom for stills we've reviewed to date, and certainly deserves a Dave's Pick.

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