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Review: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

Review: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

I am continually searching for the perfect camera: full-frame quality with a wide angle and super-long telephoto zoom lens in a small light form factor. It must also include great auto focus and high speed frames per second. Unfortunately, this camera may be a little tough to find, I’m definitely going to need to compromise.

The most important feature is the small light form factor: This is going to be a camera I carry around when I am hiking and shooting nature photos and it must have an eye-level viewfinder. It’s especially tough to work with only an LCD screen when you’re shooting out in bright sunlight, especially when you’re trying to capture nature with a long zoom lens.  The camera also needs to work for  travel and family photos.

surf400pxMy latest search has led me to the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, a super-zoom compact-style camera. This camera has an amazing zoom range, 24 mm to 1200 mm (35 mm equivalent). That’s not a typo. They have added RAW imaging, which is a great selling point. I have tried some others, but this was the camera I purchased.

Is this going to replace my DSLR with interchangeable lenses and compact point-and-shoot? Sure, in certain situations. Unfortunately, no camera is perfect for every situation. There are many factors that include cost and portability. Let’s face it, most people shoot most of their photographs with a cellphone and seem to be satisfied with the results. It’s the ultimate example of convenience. The problem with the super-zoom style camera is two-fold: a very small aperture, which mean a problem shooting  in low-light situations and it’s relatively small sensor isn’t going match up against the more advanced and expensive cameras.

bird300But take a realistic view of what you are shooting and what you are doing with most of your photographs. When is the last time you made a print larger that 16 by 20 inches? Most people haven’t made a photo print in years. The tech world has driven us to Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Snapshot for sharing our photos.

Canon advertised the PowerShot SX50 HS as: “The world’s first 50x Optical Zoom (24-1200mm) and 24mm Wide-Angle lens with Optical Image Stabilizer delivers magnificent images whether you are up close or far away.” Now there are others that have hit the 60x zoom range.

If you’re looking for a super-zoom style camera, there are plenty to choose, plus a few new ones out this spring.

finepix200pxFujifilm - FinePix S9200 50x zoom (20-1200 mm lens – 35mm equivalent) The camera is due out in March and is priced at $329.95.

nikon200pxNikon has introduced its new COOLPIX P600 60x, which now features 60x zoom (24-1440 mm lens – 35mm equivalent) with built in WiFi. The camera has a list price of $499.95 and is due to be released at the end of February.

lumixPanasonic now features its Lumix DMC-FZ70K Digital Camera with 60x optical zoom (20mm to 1200mm lens – 35mm equivalent), which gives you more wide angle. The camera has a list price of $399.99.

sony200apxSony Cyber-shot Digital Camera HX300 features a 50x zoom (24-1440 mm lens – 35mm equivalent). The camera has a list price of $499.99.

olympus200apxOlympus has announced the Stylus SP – 100 featuring a 50x zoom (24 mm to 1200mm lens – 35mm equivalent). This camera, which is due out in April, has Dot Sight, a special red light that Olympus says is projected onto a glass panel under the flash, which makes it easier to zero in on the subject with the lens zoomed out. This really will solve a problem and has me interested.

I have found my photography seems to fall into categories: cellphone, which is the camera I always carry, and I also like the conventional compact camera. It’s such an improvement over my iPhone with its built-in flash and zoom lens. It even lets me auto bracket for some amazing HDR (high dynamic range) photography. Next is my Canon  SX50 HS. It’s  light, easy to carry on a hike or take on vacation. The range of 24 to 1200 mm is the perfect range. I used it recently at a memorial when a friend asked me to take pictures. The camera was quiet and I could take pictures discreetly from the back of the church and from my seat.

It’s also my main camera for hiking and nature walks. When my main focus is getting exercise, not taking photographs, trying to carry a DSLR with heavy long telephoto lenses is out of the question. I am willing to take a hit on the quality, as there is a difference when I compare the photographs. Of course, most of my photographs end up on Instagram, Facebook and Flickr, where you probably can’t see the difference.

Most of the super-zoom cameras, including the Canon SX50 HS, have an eye level viewfinder. This is a critical feature because it’s almost impossible to use the normal LCD screen on the back when you are zoomed out all the way because of the bright sun.

While the SX50 HS does have a sport mode that does an adequate job of focusing in on the moving subject, it’s tough to follow the subject as the view screen goes black after the first frame. It did do a nice job of stopping the action most of the time. You need to predict where the action is going. It can be a hard adjustment if you’re used to working with a DSLR with a mirror that goes up and down and lets you see the action as you shoot. Again, it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.

twobirds600pxThis would be nice camera to shoot outdoor sports when you’re a long way from the action like a youth soccer game. Sometimes it’s nice to sit and relax at your kid’s game and take a few photos. This camera brings the action to you.

The camera does work the best if your subject is still. I did have a hard time following birds in flight.

Overall, I am very happy with the camera until the next version comes out with more zoom and built in WiFi. Keeping up with technology is always tough. I never look back after buying a camera. It’s always tough to decide on the right camera as the next version is usually better and cheaper, but sometimes you need to take the plunge.

One of the great features is the Zoom Framing Assist button on the side of the lens. It allows you to zoom out and then by pressing the button, pull the lens back, letting you find your subject. It then lets you zoom back to your original zoom setting. Trying to find your subject, like a bird in a forest or the wetlands, can be very tough when you are zooming out a full 50x (1200mm). This feature really helps.

Another feature is the Zoom Framing Assist Lock button, which helps you focus in on your subject and keep them in the center of the frame.

If you’re looking for a camera to capture high-quality images in low-light, this might not be the camera for you. The Canon PowerShot SX50 worked fine at ISO 800, but it isn’t going to keep up with the high-quality from the new DSLR cameras, which have no problem hitting the ISO 3200 mark.

The camera stats include:
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS  – 12.1 Megapixel with the DIGIC 5 Image Processor
Zoom lens: 50X (35mm film equivalent: 24-1200mm)
LCD Screen: TFT Color Variable angle 2.8-inch LCD
Maximum Aperture: Wide angle: f/3.4 and Telephoto: f/6.5
Top shutter speed: 1/2000
Flash: Built-in plus hot shoe
Storage: SD cards
Image stabilization: Yes

Canon SX50 camera2-600pxFor my test I did send a few images to Costco to see how they would look making 12 by 18 prints priced at $3.99 each. The prints from Costco looked good, but they don’t always match my computer screen. They always come out a little dark, so I have learned to compensate by making the prints a little lighter. I know there is some way to add a screen profile to my computer, but I have never figured it out.

I picked up the prints the next day and was pleased with the results. They would have looked fine at the 16 by 20 inches, the next size up. One of the photos was taken at full zoom and the other at half and they both looked great. Remember, this was under ideal light. I was able to have great lighting on the birds, allowing me to shoot at a fast shutter speed, reasonable aperture and low ISO. Also, I did pick photographs where the camera focused correctly. The camera isn’t perfect, there were a few misfires when it came to focus and stopping the action.

I did find that it was better to set the exposure on minus one-third using the priority setting with RAW plus JPG. Under exposing seemed to give the photographs a little more detail especially since most of the birds were white and would tend to fool the cameras exposure. It was imperative to get a good exposure for a good image. You don’t have the same kind of exposure latitude compared with a quality DSLR shooting RAW images. The sensor is so much smaller. There is a difference.

I have been happy with the camera and it has worked for me. I am looking forward to seeing how the camera manufacturers try to add new features to this category of super zooms. It never seems like the camera has quite enough zoom, aperture size for low light or high enough quality imaging.

This camera comes close and is almost as easy as carrying my iPhone. And since adding a super long zoom to a cellphone seems to be one technical problem no one has figured out, this camera category should be around for a long time.

My added accessories for the camera included  a collapsible rubber shade, UV filter for protection, 58 mm adapter filter ring, extra batteries and charger.

robert.lachman@latimes.com

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2 Comments

  1. February 23, 2014, 10:05 am

    I do agree that super zoom cameras are the way to go. Mine is a Panasonic FZ150. The great benefit is weight, size, and the ability to quickly adjust from wide angle to zoom. DSLRs are too cumbersome for those who travel and hike. Compacts, although small, have limited capabilities.

    By: coastcontact
  2. February 28, 2014, 10:10 am

    The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is commonly referred to as a “bridge camera” or super-zoom. Although not as compact as a pont and shoot these cameras typically have the same photo sensor as a compact camera but have some of the power of a DSLR. The beaty of not have to change lenses when going from wide angle to zoom makes them a delight to use. Mine is a Panasonic DMC-FZ150. The results compared to my wife’s compact justify their somewhat larger size. On a trip to Europe last year I saw just one person using a DSLR. His wife was assisting in changing his lense. Unless there is a significant improved technology I have bought my last camerea.

    By: coastcontact

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