Canon’s EOS 50D DSLR Announcement


Today Canon announced a new digital SLR, the 50D. This is a successor to the 40D, and looks like competition for Nikon's D300. Even though I don't use Canon gear anymore, I still follow the news on it because I find it interesting to see what direction the market is going.

The last few models in this line from Canon (30D, 40D) have been a little uninspired, and brought few new changes or real advances. At that time, Canon had the market cornered pretty well and Nikon (and other manufacturers) were all fighting for a piece of it. They got lazy. I suspect the Nikon D300 was something of a wake-up call to Canon, because the 50D has certainly made some changes!

In fact, a lot of the 50D's new features make it look like it's playing catch-up to the D300: a high-res 3-inch screen, per-lens autofocus adjustment, noise reduction options, and HDMI-out, for example. Other features are a definite advance over the D300: most notably an ISO setting of 12,800, but also a 15 megapixel sensor.

I really thought the megapixel war was over, at least for most prosumer cameras. Year after year I'm surprised to see that point-n-shoot cameras get more squeezed in, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that prosumer-oriented DSLRs also keep getting bumped. The new 15 megapixel sensor really doesn't capture that much more than the 10 megapixel sensor of the Canon 40D: just 864 pixels (wide) and 576 pixels (height) more. The 50D's 15 megapixel sensor difference is hardly worth comparing to the Nikon D300's 12 megapixel sensor: just 464 pixels (wide) and 320 pixels (height) separates them.

The ISO difference is substantial, however. (Well, assuming the quality delivers!) Compared to the Canon 40D, the 50D offers a two-stop advantage! That will make it much easier to get a good shot (or even just "get a shot") in dark environments. This also lets you get a higher shutter speed is not-as-dark light, but I'm more interested in the low-light performance.

The other piece to the "low-light performance" equation is the autofocus. My experience with the Canon 20D (which claims to focus in -0.5 EV) was quite poor compared to the Nikon F100 (which claims -1 EV) and D300 (also -1 EV). Manually focusing may still be necessary.

Lastly, I find it a little curious that the 50D doesn't use a new autofocus module. I am still amazed at what a great job the D300's 51-point system is capable of, and Canon not upgrading the 50D's makes it stand out (to me) as a significant omission.

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