Leon Neal kindly modelling the camera.I attended the UK launch of the new Canon 50D at Jacob's Pro Lounge Yesterday. I have to say, for the price and size of this camera, its rather impressive.
Before I carry on with my observations, I need to point out that this was an early pre-production model. Experience has shown that final products are a lot more polished in all aspects of performance, so take this into account.
Firstly, a quick run down on the main specs of the 50D. Amazingly, the camera has a 15 Megapixel chip. To get this kind of size would have set you back well over four times the cost of the camera a few years ago. The other astonishing, and so far for Canon, unique thing about the 50D is its ASA range, which goes from 100 to 12,800. All of this is married to a continuous shooting speed of 6.3 fps. It also has a nine point AF system, of which all nine are cross-type sensors. The sensor is self cleaning. Lastly, the flash sync is 1/250th.
In had a few minutes to play around with the camera and took a few test shots. The camera falls to hand very nicely and anyone who has used a digital EOS in the past will feel right at home. The size of the camera feels a little smaller than a 5D and feels good in the hands. The focusing was quite nippy and managed to lock on to focus with accuracy. Having shot a fast sequence in AI Servo mode whilst photographing a friend walking through the shop, there were around 20% not quite pin sharp. However, as this is an early prototype, that's actually not bad at all.
Having looked through the test pictures I shot with the camera, the auto white balance worked very well and very little was needed to do as far as colour balance was concerned. I ended up shooting from 1600 to 12,800 ASA to see how the chip performed. All the way up to 3200 ASA, the pictures were stunning; very smooth with very accurate colour. There was no visible noise at all, even in shadow areas. The story changes a bit at 6400 ASA where noise is present, but still much less than even the brilliant 5D. At 12,800 ASA, as one would expect, noise is abundant. However, the level of noise isn't too distracting, and has the look of 1600 ASA colour neg film, pushed one stop. A bit of Noise Ninja (my favourite noise reduction software) and the image looks great. Even without filtering, the image is more than useable and I wouldn't hesitate using this setting when the situation dictated it.
One very neat accessory which wasn't available at the launch is the very neat WiFi transmitter which looks and fits on like a grip extension. Its a very neat solution and I'm sure will come in very handy for a lot of news and sports photographers.
So, would I get one? My short answer is no. The only thing that puts me off is the x1.6 crop factor. This is fine and is an advantage when using long lenses. However, I tend to like working in close, and it just wouldn't fit in with my approach to picture taking.
The best thing from my experience with the camera was that it gave me an insight as to what we might expect from the replacement to the Canon 5D; the 5D MkII (or 6D, or what ever its going to be called) is going to be stunning. For me, that's the camera I'll be waiting for. With a bigger full frame chip, and I would guess a higher mega pixel count, we are in for one hell of a camera. Roll on September and Photokina!