Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 24mm to 1200mm - Hands-on Review

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS 12.1 MegaPixel Hands-on Review

A sunny October Monday in New York City presented the perfect opportunity to take Canon’s new PowerShot SX50 HS 12.1 Megapixel “super-zoom” (or “bridge camera”) out near H and B Digital's Midtown store for a quick hands-on test.  This relatively compact, all-in-one camera is flat out amazing, with a first-ever 50 times optical zoom range, from a wide angle 24mm to a super-zoom of 1200mm (35mm equivalent).   

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

To put that range in perspective, I took a wide angle shot of all the people near a fountain in Bryant Park—at least 30 of them—and of the fountain and the trees and the first 15 floors of the building across the street; then I zoomed in on the sneakers of someone you can barely see in the first shot.  The resulting image, shown and discussed further below, is more than just adequate, it’s very impressive.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, 1/160 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400, at 125mm.

The SX50 produces good images all around, has quick, responsive autofocus, and is feature rich—feature loaded is more like it—with options for fully-automated shooting or a broad range of user controls.  In short, the SX50 is a great all-around camera, a perfect lightweight alternative to a DSLR for traveling or general purpose shooting.  

24mm to 1200mm Equivalent !?! (expandable to 2400mm!)

Again, the Canon SX50 boasts an astounding 24-1200mm optical zoom lens (35mm equivalent) that is expandable to a 2400mm digital lens, a zoom multiple of 50 times optically and 100 times digitally, enough to nearly instantly zoom in on the torso of someone sitting more than 100 feet away.  The lens is fortunately equipped with Canon’s Image Stabilizer, and you can use the viewfinder to keep the camera steady and generally trust the autofocus to hit the mark. 

To help keep track of your subjects at such extreme zoom lengths, Canon includes the very helpful and easy to use Zoom Framing Assist button, which quickly zooms the lens back out, allowing you to follow your subject, then zooms back in with the release of the button.  There’s also an auto tracking feature.  

Image Quality:  Very Good and Amazing at the Extremes

How are the resulting images?  Very good, and given the preposterously broad zoom range in such a compact camera, honestly quite amazing.  One cannot compare this camera to a DSLR—indeed, no SLR zoom lens that we're aware of offers anything near such range (the Tamron 28-300mm comes closest, and weighs and costs almost as much as the SX50; the optically superior Canon 28-300mm L costs $2,600 and weighs 3.7 pounds). 

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, 1/400 sec at f/5.0, ISO 250, at 70mm, cropped approximately 25%.

But at the wide and mid ranges, the SX50 produces typical Canon color quality, with appropriate saturation, consistent contrast, and relatively sharp edges, although I would not expect to crop much into a wide angle shot for, say, a large print.  Skin tones are natural and bright colors pop.  Metering is also typical Canon, consistent and reliable.  I can see landscapes coming out quite well.  

The below shot is presented for comparison purposes, shot at 24mm, and technically is not one of the better shots taken.  Still, the colors are fairly accurate.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS in Bryant Park; 1/500 sec at f/5.0, ISO 250, 24mm.

Are the SX50’s images tack sharp at 1200mm?  Maybe not, but compared to what?!?  I’d say they’re really pretty amazing.  

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, 1/1000 sec at f/6.5, ISO 250, at 1200mm.

Above is the uncropped shot of the sneakers of someone approximately 50 feet away that you can barely see in the previous shot.  The colors are great and the canvas and sole of the sneakers on the front shoe are pretty darn sharp.  Yes, there is some loss of detail on the eyelets, but I’m frankly very, very impressed with the results.

Pixel-peepers will no doubt bemoan the general flatness of the image (depth of field is hard to come by at this range) or the blue hazing on the rear shoes’ eyelets.  But perhaps they’ll be happier lugging around Canon’s $13,000 600mm f/4L IS II.  But for less than the price of Canon’s fantastic EF 2x III Extender that they’d have to attach the 600mm to in order to get the SX50's range, they could walk around with the SX50.  I’m in the latter camp.
Since I was out around noon, I didn’t really have occasion to test the higher ISO’s.

Hands On
Finally, as with most Bridge Cameras, the SX50 is relatively compact, much smaller than a DSLR.  External controls are very straightforward and not overwhelming, with the mode selector dial well-placed on top of the camera and Canon’s set of menu controls easily accessible on the back of the camera.  Exposure compensation, ISO, self-timer and focus modes (including manual focus override) are all easily controlled with the thumb dial.

I like the variable articulated screen, but love that the SX50 has a decent electronic viewfinder (EVF).  A DSLR shooter typically, I simply like holding the camera to my face.

The SX50 shoots in RAW image format and 1080p HD video with stereo sound, and has various face and subject-tracking modes, special effects and HDR options.

My one complaint is mostly a user-error issue:  minimal focusing distance is approximately 4 feet at zoom factors beyond 100mm.  Macro shooting is available from 0 inches, however, and I do a lot of macro shooting; I’m tempted to use the zoom in macro situations but end up zooming too far in for the camera to focus.  In short, the zoom is SO POWERFUL that it is difficult to keep yourself from zooming too far in…  Again, user error.

CONCLUSION:  The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is an amazing mid-sized camera.  It is perfect for those looking for a small, all-in-one walk-around camera or a DSLR alternative.  The SX50 would be a dream for traveling.  Image quality does not quite approach that of DSLR’s, but for most uses is more than adequate.  The camera is feature-rich but, as is typical of Canons, not overly complicated—it is simple to use right out of the box.  I highly recommend the SX50.

-Dan at H and B Digital

1 comment:

  1. Being disabled & unsteady on my feet, using the Cannon SX50 is a dream to use. No excess baggage to carry about. Super pics in any mode. I love the camera highly recommended.