Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Canon's HS (High Sensitivity) System
  • DIGIC 5 image processor
  • 50x optical zoom (35mm equivalent of 24-1200 mm)
  • True Lens-Shift Optical Image Stabilization
  • Fast maximum aperture range of f/3.4-6.5
  • 2.8-inch vari-angle LCD (461k pixels)
  • High-resolution EVF (Electronic ViewFinder)
  • Powerful manual pop-up flash unit
  • Hot shoe for external speedlites
  • Improved Smart AUTO (58 predefined shooting situations)
  • Full 1080p HD video capture
  • Intelligent IS
  • Zoom framing assist button
  • HDMI out
  • SD card slot accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards
  • Li-ion power source (up to 400 shots)
  • Pros
    • 50x optical zoom is a great feature
    • Zoom motor works fast, going from wide angle to full telephoto
    • Popup flash provides good low light results
    • Hot shoe also allows you to add an external flash if needed
    • SX50 works well in fully automatic mode
    • Camera is also a strong performer in manual and advanced modes
    • Most of the camera's control buttons are well placed and a good size
    • Large right hand grip is comfortable to use
    • Articulated LCD makes it easy to use the SX50 on a tripod
    • Optical image stabilization is a must-have feature on an ultra-zoom camera
    • Electronic viewfinder is nice feature to have
    • Good image quality
    • Separate battery charger included
    • Menu structure can be customized, which is a great feature
    • Shortcut button and customized settings on mode dial are great
    • Full HD video mode
    • Can customize the shooting information shown on the LCD or in the EVF

    • SX50 has smaller image sensor than what's expected in this price range
    • SX50's response times are a bit choppy, depending on scene
    • You'll see "busy" on the screen more than you should between shots
    • LCD screen is a little small
    • Sharpness and image quality in EVF could be better
    • SX50 doesn't automatically switch between EVF and LCD when you lift camera to your eye
    • Battery life should be better with such a thick battery
    • Zoom motor moves through zoom range almost too fast; difficult to stop on desired telephoto setting
    • Not enough of a "stop" between optical zoom and digital zoom settings
    • Menus change depending on which shooting mode you're using, which can be confusing
    • Some commands are placed in odd menu categories
    • No USB cable included
    • Four-way control button is poorly designed and is too tight to the camera body
    • High ISOs have excessive noise
    Timing Test Results
    • Power up to first image captured = 2.7 seconds (with start-up image turned off)
    • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
    • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
    • Shot to shot delay without flash = 2.7 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 2.3 seconds with review Off
    • Shot to shot delay with flash = 3.3 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 3.2 seconds with review Off
    • Continuous = 10 frames in 4.8 seconds @ 12M
    • AF Continuous = 10 frames in 11.7 seconds @ 12M
    • All tests were taken using a SanDisk Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
    Bottom Line
    With a 50x optical zoom lens, the PowerShot SX50 has one feature that's impossible to ignore. This camera also does a pretty good job with image quality and performance in most situations, while offering a large number of advanced features. However, there are also some very odd areas where Canon seems to have cut corners with this camera, making it tough to justify its $450 suggested price tag. If you can find it a lower price, it'll be easier to live with some of the issues for this model. And the 50x zoom lens is a great feature at almost any price.
    Pick This Up If...
    If you need a huge zoom lens in a camera with plenty of controls that can be customized, but you can live with some performance quirks.
    Finding just the right price point at which to offer a digital camera can be pretty tough for camera manufacturers, especially in the mid-range price points. For example, sub-$200 cameras are almost exclusively basic point-n-shoot cameras, while cameras in the $1,000 and higher range will usually be limited to advanced DSLRs or ILCs.

    In that mid-price range of around $500, though, the market is seeing a convergence of cameras. You'll find beginner-level DSLRs and other interchangeable lens cameras (ILC) here, as well as advanced fixed-lens cameras with large image sensors.

    Large zoom lens cameras tend to fit in this price range, too, including the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS model, which features a 50x optical zoom lens.

    With so many different options in this price range, it's important that the cameras makers here don't skimp on features or performance. In most cases, Canon certainly didn't with the PowerShot SX50. Beyond the huge zoom lens, Canon included an articulated LCD, an electronic viewfinder (EVF), full 1080p HD video recording, a popup flash, and a hot shoe.

    However, there are some really strange issues with the SX50 that leave this camera a bit behind others in the $400 to $500 price range. The camera doesn't automatically turn on the EVF when you lift the camera to your eye. The LCD screen only measures 2.8 inches diagonally, which is smaller than most cameras currently on the market. The menu structure is tough to navigate because it changes as you enter different shooting modes.

    Perhaps the strangest decision Canon made with the SX50, though, seems like a small matter at first: The manufacturer didn't include a USB cable with this camera's kit. Certainly, some photographers will have a spare USB in the house that will fit this camera, allowing you to download photos. But if you don't, the hassle of trying to locate a compatible USB cable after you've bought the camera is probably going to be very frustrating, especially if you only notice the lack of a USB cable when you're in a hurry, trying to download your first batch of photos.

    The overriding problem here is the fact that Canon chose to try to save such a small amount of cost with the PowerShot SX50 by omitting such an obvious component. Nearly every camera -- even the cheapest point-n-shoot models -- include a USB cable in the box. If you start to think about how Canon skimped on the USB cable, you may begin to wonder where else the manufacturer cut corners with this camera. And that's something you shouldn't have to wonder about for a camera in this price range.

    To be completely fair, I didn't find areas that raised significant red flags with this camera; just a host of minor issues that are often offset by a pretty nice advanced feature.

    The PowerShot SX50 HS seems to have a very sturdy build, and Canon did include a lens cap, a separate battery charger, and a neck strap with this camera. The EVF and articulated LCD are advanced components that you don't find on every large zoom camera in this price range.

    Beyond the lack of a USB cable, this camera does have a few performance oddities that make it a little difficult to fully recommend it. Still, that 50x optical zoom measurement is great and will make it much easier for some photographers to ignore the problems with this camera.

    One interesting advanced feature on the SX50 is the framing button on the left side of the lens housing. If you ever lose sight of the subject while you're at the maximum zoom setting, you can press and hold this button, and the SX50 will zoom out digitally, allowing you to reacquire the subject. Release the button, and the previous optical zoom setting will return, which saves you time versus zooming in and out with the zoom ring.

    As with most large zoom cameras, the PowerShot SX50 HS is an extremely bulky model. It measures more than 6.5 inches with the zoom lens fully extended. Canon included a wide right hand grip that makes it more comfortable to use this camera. The design of the SX50 looks a lot like other large zoom cameras, including what some may consider a pretty boring all-black design. This Canon camera has a well-built, sturdy feel to it.

    Most of the buttons on the PowerShot SX50 are well placed and are a good size. However, Canon did a poor design job with the four-way button, as it is too small and too tightly aligned with the back of the camera and with the spinable control ring. It's very difficult to press the four-way button without activating another button that you may not want to use.

    With such a large camera, it was important that Canon included image stabilization technology with the SX50, as camera shake is more common when you are shooting at the maximum telephoto setting. Still, you may want to invest in a tripod to use with this camera.

    The image quality of shots with the PowerShot SX50 is consistently good. Colors are vibrant and realistic. The SX50's autofocus mode works very well, resulting in sharp images. You may find a slight blur at the maximum telephoto, but you can fix that problem most of the time by using a tripod. With this camera, Canon has included the ability to shoot in RAW, which is something that past versions of ultra-zoom PowerShot models didn't offer.

    When using the popup flash, you should end up with some very good image quality with this model. Unlike many large zoom cameras, I noticed no vignetting in the SX50's flash images. You also can attach an external flash to improve low light image quality even more.

    Movie quality is good with the SX50, too, and the full 50x optical zoom range is available with movies. However, you don't have much available in the way of manually controlling the movie settings, which is common among Canon PowerShot models. You can shoot at three different movie resolutions; 480p SD, 720p HD, and 1080p HD.

    Even though the overall image quality is pretty good with the SX50, it's a little surprising that Canon chose to include a 1/2.3-inch image sensor, which is a size more like what you'd expect to find in a point-n-shoot camera. Cameras in this price range typically have a larger image sensor versus what Canon included with the PowerShot SX50 HS, such as the 1/1.7" sensor found in the PowerShot G15, PowerShot S110, etc. . This smaller image sensor is part of the reason that this camera's high ISO photos tend to have quite a bit of noise in them.

    Canon included a basic manual focus option with this camera, which works pretty well. However, it's a bit of a hassle to use, as the SX50 doesn't have a focus ring. Because the autofocus mechanism works very well, you probably won't use manual focus all that often.

    There are quite a few other advanced options with this camera, including the ability to shoot in full Manual mode. You can choose to assign one of your favorite features to the shortcut button on the back of the camera as well by using the on-screen menus.

    Overall, the menu structure with the PowerShot SX50 provides, not surprisingly, mixed results. On the plus side, there are a large number of features available through the menus, and there are quite a few chances for you to customize the camera. It's great to have so much control. You also can gain quick access to the commonly used camera settings through a popup menu.

    However, if you're someone who doesn't want to spend a lot of time wrestling with menu settings, you may find the menus pretty frustrating to use. The items listed in the menus can vary quite a bit, depending on which shooting mode you're using, meaning that one menu feature you used previously may be tough to find now if you're in a different shooting mode.

    As with many aspects of this camera, its response times are a bit uneven. The camera starts fast for a big zoom model, requiring less than 3 seconds to record its first image. And it moves through its zoom range extremely quickly, requiring less than 2 seconds. However, this is almost too fast, as you will have a very difficult time stopping the zoom motor on the exact telephoto setting you want. It's also very easy to move into the digital zoom settings, as the SX50 doesn't "pause" long enough at the end of the 50x optical zoom setting.

    You will notice some delays between shots with the PowerShot SX50 HS, depending on your shooting situation. The SX50 performs much better than a point-n-shoot camera, but its shot to shot delays don't match up with what you'd expect to find in a camera in this price range. Canon chooses to display a "Busy" message on the LCD screen when the shot to shot delays are extended, which doesn't occur often, but you'll see it in low light scenes where you aren't using the flash. Regardless, you'll become frustrated with the frequency of the shot to shot delays after using this camera for a few hours.

    Speaking of the LCD, it's a bit of a mixed bag here, too. It's great to have an articulated LCD that can twist and tilt with a large zoom camera, as this makes it easy to frame photos without having to bend over when you have the SX50 HS attached to a tripod. The LCD screen is very sharp and bright, even when shooting in direct sunlight. However, the LCD is on the small side at 2.8 inches diagonally.

    The SX50's electronic viewfinder is a nice touch, but it's not as sharp as I'd like to see. In addition, Canon skimped a bit here, too, as the PowerShot SX50 doesn't automatically transfer the view from the LCD to the EVF as you lift the camera to your eye to use the viewfinder. This is a disappointing feature and a bit of a hassle, as you must press the Disp button yourself to switch the view.

    Bottom Line - As you've probably figured out by now, there are a lot of things to like about the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS ... and several things to dislike. Canon included quite a few really nice advanced components and features with the SX50 -- the 50x zoom lens, an articulated LCD, an electronic viewfinder, customizable menus, and advanced manual controls -- that you'd expect to see in a camera in this price range. Then there's some really below-average features and odd omissions from this camera that really will leave you scratching your head. You have to wonder why Canon would include so many great features in this $400-plus camera, yet skimp in such obviously noticeable areas, such as with the lack of a USB cable, a smaller-than-expected image sensor, and no automatic switching between the EVF and LCD views. These omissions just make it feel like Canon cut some corners with the SX50. Even though this camera creates really nice images in a variety of shooting situations and has a good list of advanced features, there are other cameras in this price range or just slightly above this price range that can create even better images while including all of the advanced features you'd expect to find. Still, if you need a 50x optical zoom lens, there aren't a lot of fixed-lens options on the market in that zoom range. Overall, the PowerShot SX50 HS is a really solid camera. It's just unfortunate that Canon didn't go a little farther and include the features and components that would've made it a great camera in this price range.

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