Canon EOS 50D Preview

canon eos 50d

Update: See our Full Canon 50D Review

Canon EOS 50D

Seriously, I'm not a morning person. Bearing in mind that we've just had a bank holiday weekend and, like many people, today was my first day back at work, I would have preferred a nice, gentle, ease-back-into-the-grind kind of a day. But no, Canon has something they want to demonstrate to me in person. In London. So instead, I'm up at the crack of dawn to catch a busy commuter train to the capital and then play human-sardines on the underground across London before I've even had my first cup of coffee of the day. Having only used the tube off-peak as a tourist previously, I wasn't aware you could actually get that many people in a train carriage. Not an experience I relished, and all because Canon has a brand-new-exciting something they want to show off. Oh, this had better be good.

A cup of coffee, a glass of orange juice and a Danish pastry later, all courtesy of Canon, and I'm feeling much more upbeat by the time I sit down with the lovely Canon people to see their new range of products that form their Autumn Range, the most important of which being a new SLR model.

I'll be honest; I wasn't expecting the 50D. I was anticipating something else, possibly of a lower denomination, but hey, everyone likes surprises. Canon start by proudly telling us that there are in excess of 30 million EOS cameras out there, so you could be forgiven for wondering how much difference one more is going to make, but the Canon EOS 50D digital SLR is here and this is why you should be interested.

The first important thing to mention is that Canon hasn't brought this camera out as a replacement for the Canon EOS 40D, but rather as a model to run alongside it. Above it is actually a more accurate description, because the Canon 50D has a number of improvements over its older brother.

As usual, there are all the standard upgrades we've come to expect with the launch of any new camera. The Canon EOS 50D digital SLR comes with a 15.1 megapixel APS-C sized sensor, and to negate the problems caused by increasing pixel density, the sensor has been specifically redesigned to allow this increase without the image quality degrading or noise levels increasing. Combined with the new DIGIC IV high performance processor the image quality is superb.

Noise reduction is obviously something that Canon have taken very seriously with the development of the EOS 50D, as the maximum ISO is now up to a staggering 12800. Obviously, this provides a real challenge in terms of minimising image noise, but the sensor tinkering carried out by Canon's development team appears to have stepped up to the mark.

The Canon EOS 50D is also a very fast camera. Not only will this little beauty shoot at a speed of up to 6.3 frames per second, but it will maintain this speed for up to 90 JPEGs when using a UDMA card. Blistering! The 9 point auto focus system matches this speed, and the auto face recognition is brilliant, if only for watching the little white squares follow your friends and family around the screen. Yes, of course the Canon EOS 50D digital SLR has Live View, with the options of standard, quick, or face recognition software, so those picking the Canon EOS 50D up as their first SLR will find comfort in the familiar viewing method found on compacts.

Apparently, the UK measures its rainfall on a scale of 1 to 16 (or something like that), with 1 being a light drizzle and 16 being a torrential downpour. The "Environmental Protection" on the Canon EOS 50D means that the camera can resist level 10 (10mm per hour) for 3 minutes before getting too wet to work and popping inside for a cup of tea. However, because the Tokyo met office use the same scale, but theirs goes all the way to 80 (at which stage animals start pairing up and boarding boats) the official statement from Canon is that the EOS 50D's wet weather limit is "light rain". This is still a great advance, as it means you don't need to worry if the Canon EOS 50D digital SLR is exposed to a few drops of the wet stuff, and in all probability, you will want to get out of the rain before the camera needs to.

OK, so these are just my initial thoughts on the camera that I formed during the brief time I had with the Canon EOS 50D. However, there are a few little gems on this camera that have really impressed me and go to show that Canon actually listen to their customers and take on board what they have to say.

    1. One touch setting review button. Canon probably have a specific and much more concise title for this, but essentially it's a button which, when pressed, displays all the main image settings currently in use (motor-drive, exposure, ISO, image adjustment settings etc) and allows them to be amended and adjusted quickly and simply. Whereas previously if you wanted to change the ISO or add an image effect you would need to scroll through endless menus, this function allows it to be done almost immediately with the selector wheel on the back of the camera.
    2. Live View button. When the direct print button isn't in use (any time when you're not direct printing from the Canon EOS 50D in other words), it has an alternative purpose; it activates the Live View function. Whilst this may seem a simple thing, it has been missing from previous cameras, with the Live View requiring endless menu scrolling to activate. I've had many a conversation with customers attempting to locate and turn on the Live View function, and now it's sooo simple you have to wonder why it was never done before. Thank you, Canon!
  1. 40D Accessory Compatibility. OK, so this isn't exactly a new development, but it's an important and, I believe, a really good thing for Canon and their users. The brand-spanking-new Canon EOS 50D takes all the same accessories as the 40D; the batteries, the remotes and even the battery grip! They'll be no long wait for the peripheral accessories to follow as they're already available. What's more, if you're a 40D owner looking to upgrade or purchase an additional body, you'll be able to continue using any accessories you already have. Not only will this save you, the customer, money, but it also says good things about Canon. It often seems that manufacturers look for excuses to sell us new versions of stuff we already own, but here Canon have done the opposite, and I think they deserve credit for that.

So who might this camera be for? Well, the functions, specification and performance of the Canon EOS 50D digital SLR set it above the EOS 40D at the 'advanced amateur' level and I think that the people that fall into this group will be able to achieve great things with this camera. But I can see another market for the EOS 50D. It shares so many qualities and functions with the EOS 1D cameras that I can easily see professional users choosing the EOS 50D as their back up camera. Sure, the 5D sits marginally higher up the EOS hierarchy, but not all photographers want the larger sensor, particularly those in the wildlife or sports field. Add to that the fact that the Canon EOS 50D is twice as fast as the 5D in terms of frames per second and offers significantly higher ISO options, and Canon's new kid on the block is likely to suit the EOS 1D user far more than the 5D.

I for one look forward to finding out more about the EOS 50D over the next few months, hopefully via an extended loan period. I'm off to grovel to the upper management...